Parrots & Palm Trees – My Tropical Home ( Part 1 )

kitchen living area

As I’ve already mentioned, now that I’m living in a rental that’s entirely magnolia, I often find myself wistfully thinking about the flat we lived in above the shop in Knutsford, whose beautifully colourful surroundings we had to leave in January for pastures new; more specifically, magnolia pastures new. I’ve already shared with you my Enchanted Garden bedroom, and shown you how I created my bathroom on a budget in Part 1 & Part 2, so I thought today’s grand tour could be of our open-plan kitchen and living areas.

T.V room

I remember first going to see the property back in 2009, and after we’d been shown the shop floor by the estate agent, and Mabel had done an excited poo (!) in the basement (the shame!), I remember (Mabel’s a dog by the way!) being shown up to the little flat upstairs, up some rickety old stairs, onto a teeny little landing space at the top, with low ceilings, dark wooden beams, and wonky floors and doorways; it was like stepping foot into The Haunted House at the fairground. At the front of the property were two bedrooms, both with tiny windows facing north, so both rooms were really dark. And the bathroom had barely a window at all, just a slit at the top of one wall, so this was dark too. Things weren’t looking great.

So when we entered the living room and saw that through an archway, this pokey, dark flat opened up into a wonderfully light, bright and surprisingly large open-plan space, with big windows letting all the sunshine in, I was over the moon with relief. I’m all for dark rooms, but I need daylight most of the time. The rooms that were dark were ones I’d transition through (hallyway, bathroom), or ones that would benefit from being dark (bedrooms, T.V. area), but the one that mattered, the one where I’d be spending all my time cooking and relaxing and reading in, was light, bright and airy (not that you’d know it looking at the pictures below).

The kitchen before we moved in

The kitchen before we moved in, looking ever so glamorous

The T.V room before we moved in

This would become our lovely T.V. room eventually

These were the first rooms we tackled when we first moved in, as we just couldn’t cope with the landlord’s decor or the fusty old kitchen, so as soon as we could, we ripped everything out. This might not have been the best decision ever made, as we ended up cooking in a microwave sat on a cardboard box for a few months while we saved our pennies for a kitchen; but we managed to cope. As I cooked our dreaded microwave dinners (I’ve never owned a microwave before or since), I thought about how I wanted to decorate this space and the ideas started to bubble away along with the ready-made meals.

The light, bright space, for some reason, spoke to me of a tropical, shack style room with mismatched furniture and birds tweeting in the background (please don’t ask me why….I can’t explain), so that was the start of the scheme. I knew the larger room would be painted in a light colour, and I knew the TV room would be dark for nighttime snuggles, and I knew that somehow I needed to tie the two rooms together style-wise so they looked coherent despite being such contrasting colours, and so off I went on my little design journey (that took longer than I’d care to mention really) in search of the perfect solutions.

Stripping out the kitchen - you're ever so lucky, you get to see various shots of my husband's legs!

Stripping out the kitchen – you’re ever so lucky, you get to see various shots of my husband’s legs!

The very first thing we did was install a new kitchen (and toss the microwave away). I knew it would be Ikea as we were on a tight budget, and I knew I wanted a stripped back industrial look to fit in with the look I wanted to create, so I was delighted to find the Udden freestanding series (discontinued I think) which was not only cheaper than a fitted kitchen, but also had a vintage retro look that I liked. I wasn’t too keen on the bright white plastic looking doors, but I knew further down the line that I’d paint them, which I eventually did in Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, Country Grey. I mixed these units up with a stainless steel console shelving unit, and a tambour cabinet to hide the boiler, to make it a little more mismatched, and popped in some bespoke oak apple crates to create some extra storage and keep it looking a bit on the rustic side.

Ikea Udden range

The kitchen area

The kitchen area

Next came the fabric for the curtains, which was Kenzo’s Jungle. Tropical fabrics are all the rage now in both homes and fashion, but me having an on-trend kitchen and living room happened by sheer accident, as I don’t tend to follow trends that much. I’d fallen in love with this fabric years ago and when I decided that I wanted a ‘tropical shack’ look (whatever that might be?!), I knew my old love was perfect for it. But then, suddenly, tropical became the thing, and all these lovely fabrics were being shown to me by the reps, and I had a major wobble. My head was being turned by the newcomers!

In the end, however, I remained faithful to the Kenzo one, and once I’d made that decision, and had my starting point, I was then able to go on to pick lots of other lovely fabrics to go with it. These ended up being a collection of various branded designer fabrics, combined with vintage fabrics such as the one used for the chairs and the sweet little yellow bird fabric on the cushion, both sourced on eBay. However, I did make sure that one of the new tropical fabrics that I’d been so tempted by eventually made its way into my home, by covering some of my lampshades in it! (Matthew Williamson’s Sunbird, below).

Kenzo's 'Jungle' used in the curtains; vintage eBay fabrics on the chairs and cushion

Kenzo’s ‘Jungle’ used in the curtains; vintage eBay fabrics on the chairs and cushion

From top left, clockwise: Hera Jungle (used on cushion), Eliza Cream (cushion), Mawston Meadow Grass (lampshade), all Liberty. Matthew Williamson's Sunbird (on the trio of lampshades on retro arc lamp)

From top left, clockwise: Hera Jungle (used on cushion), Eliza Cream (cushion), Mawston Meadow Grass (lampshade), all Liberty. Matthew Williamson’s Sunbird (on the trio of lampshades on retro arc lamp)

Designers Guild Uppsala fabric used on retro dining chairs

Designers Guild Uppsala fabric used on retro dining chairs

As I love to decorate with one-off pieces, you’ll notice, with the exception of the reproduction Saarinen table that I just couldn’t afford to buy original, that the rest of the pieces are all vintage, and wonderfully individual. My vintage retro dining chairs and fantastic oak sideboard were eBay finds, as were the vintage floral floor lamp and 1950’s sofa (yes, I do spend my life on eBay, if you’re wondering!) which I recovered in a bright green canvas, and there’s the sweetest old white and blue dentist’s cabinet that I’ve had for years. As mentioned earlier, the French iron conservatory chairs got recovered in a vintage fabric, which was certainly very different from their previous (pink) upholstery in their previous life in my previous kitchen! And my favourite piece of all time for this room was the old wire storage rack which I knew, as soon as I saw it, would be perfect for all my interior design magazines and wine bottles!

Reproduction Saarinen table with marble top

Reproduction Saarinen table with marble top

Saarinen table and magazine rack to the right

Saarinen table and magazine rack to the right

The chair in its previous pink cover!

The chair in its previous pink cover (please excuse the elastic band on the right hand picture!)

Finally came all the little finishing touches; the gorgeous Moroccan inspired tiles from Fired Earth used for the splash backs at the kitchen and sink, the vintage parrot postcards hung with clips onto the wire magazine rack, the vintage Vernon Ward flamingo prints used to cheer up the sideboard, and the bird and flower vases displayed with all my interior books.

'Arabesque' tiles from Fired Earth

‘Arabesque’ tiles from Fired Earth

Vintage sideboard with Vernon Ward flamingo prints

Vintage sideboard with Vernon Ward flamingo prints

Vintage parrot postcards

Vintage parrot postcards

Vintage bird vases

Vintage bird vases

I hope you enjoyed reading about the kitchen/living area of the open plan part of the flat, next time we’ll talk about the T.V. room. And in the meantime, if you have any comments or make-overs you would like to share, I would love to hear from you, as always x

Join the conversation

  • Nadia - 4 years ago

    Fab blog as always had forgotten how gorgeous the flat looked wonderful to be reminded love Ma x

    • Carnival Of Colour - 4 years ago

      Get you leaving a comment on a blog! You’re getting ever so good as this online malarkey Ma xx