The Enchanted Garden

main bedroom

There has been a lot of change in my life recently. The last five years of my life have been spent running an interior design shop in the heart of a lovely little Cheshire town called Knutsford, and me and the family (husband, two dogs, and mad cat) living in the apartment above the shop. But in January, some serious multi-tasking went on as I closed the shop, moved house, set up my new interior design brand Carnival Interiors, and started working on the launch of this blog. It was all a bit stressful, but the overriding feeling was one of excitement. Yes, it was sad that after all my hard work I had to close the shop, but it meant that we were living in a beautiful little house in the countryside, and I could finally concentrate on my interior design business and blog. Change can be scary, but really positive too.

My previous shop, Aunty Mabel’s Seat, Knutsford

The one thing I’m not loving however, is that we’ve moved from a home that we’d decorated to my idea of heaven, to a rental house that is entirely magnolia. I don’t do magnolia! I’ve nothing against the colour per se, or anyone who likes its calming magnolia-ness, it’s just that I need colour and pattern and lots of stuff to look at, for me to feel calm and happy, it’s just the way I’m made. So despite my lovely landlady telling me I can decorate, and despite the fact that having a whole new house, to decorate in a whole new way, makes me more giddy than a giddy thing, while I’m saving up my pennies to do so I’m finding myself daydreaming about the home we’ve left behind. In particular, it’s the room that we decorated first that I’m missing the most, our cosy, enveloping, snooze-inducing bedroom.

mabel on bed

People sometimes ask me how I come up with a scheme. Well, I need to have a starting point, and then everything rolls out from there in a very organic, and sometimes slow, way. I’ll never be the sort of efficient interior designer who is given a brief, and then a week later impressively delivers a detailed scheme board and product list for my client! I have my own little way of working I’m afraid. For this room, my inspiration initially came from walking our dogs in stunning Tatton Park just up the road from the flat. I was loving the green fields against moody dark skies, the limes and yellows of the trees and grasses, the swans on the lake, and the deer mooching about in the dusk; I wanted to bring the outdoors in and feel like we were sleeping under the stars. So I was imagining mauve-grey painted walls (moody sky), an emerald silk from Designers Guild on my headboard (green fields), a picture of a swan above my bed, and it was all going rather well, until….I laid eyes on Cole & Son’s ‘Geisha’ wallpaper. It was love at first sight!

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It was perfect. With a dark blue background and a silver moon shining down on the water, how could I not feel like I was sleeping under the stars? All I needed to do was shift my thinking away from Tatton Park and towards the beautiful enchanted garden that I imagined the lovely geisha was gazing at. Thoughts took me back to reading The Secret Garden as a child, and I had hazy visions of crumbling old statues, ivy crawling up the walls and the hoot of an owl in the distance. I got quite carried away with myself.


So, I had my starting point, and the rest needed to flow from here. Decision number one was to put the wallpaper on all four walls. Our bedroom was north-facing, with a tiny window. When faced with naturally dark rooms, instead of trying to make them lighter with white or pale coloured paint, which never works, I prefer to go with the darkness and make them into cosy, snug, cocooning spaces. The most important aspect of decorating to consider when doing this, is to plan your lighting carefully so that rather than looking dark and dingy, you create an atmospheric and inviting space that tempts you in.

I think a bit of fabric choosing went on after that, which is always a bit of a time consuming exercise for me, as I like to jumble lots of different colours and patterns together, and for nothing to match too perfectly. At this point in developing a scheme, you will normally find me with multiple fabric books strewn around the room, and me stood in the doorway, or balanced on a chair, just staring at the options. My husband finds this to be the strangest custom and always asks me what the hell I’m doing! And I’ll reply, “I’m just having a stare”, like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. But I’m not an instant decision maker, so I have to ponder things gently, and somewhere along the way the answer will percolate to the top of my mind and I’ll know it’s the right one.

Designers Guild came up trumps for nearly all the fabrics in this room, my particular favourite being the embroidered silk used for the curtains, which I thought would look like flowers growing up the walls; all part of my ‘enchanted garden’ vision, you see. I was lucky enough to already own the antique French bed and pair of ‘fauteuils’ (chairs, to you and me), their green paintwork also appealing to my little garden theme, and so they were allowed to enter the scheme just on merit of being useful and beautiful. However, pretty much everything else that I placed into the room after that was introduced for a specific reason, for some subtle hinting toward the enchanted garden idea. I’m not a fan of overly themed rooms, but I do sometimes like to have connections to my idea; mostly these connections aren’t seen or noticed by anyone looking in, they’re just a story for myself that helps with my creative process.

curtain corner

So, the 1920’s mirrored chest of drawers was the surface of the lake, that the swans on the wall above the bed, were swimming in (obvs!!). I knew I needed to use the Murano chandelier I’d purchased a while ago, because quite clearly (!) its arms were in fact the necks of swans. And imagine my delight when I came across a vintage print of the ballet ‘Swan Lake’, well, I was beside myself. I just had to have it even though it didn’t quite fit in the room. Now, at this point, I’d prefer it if you didn’t call the funny farm and request they take me away; that just wouldn’t be very friendly.

swan chandelier

I collected many creatures to live in our ‘garden’ with us: a tray with a fabulously dressed duck on it by Ibride; a greyhound lamp from Abigail Aherne; a vintage print of deer by artist Vernon Ward; and various birds perching and flying around the room; but I think my favourite had to be the statue of the wolf because he was, of course, howling at the moon in the ‘Geisha’ wallpaper. He was!

armoire corner

Now, you simply can’t spend time outside without a picnic blanket, so we had a bed throw made from a beautiful tartan by Osborne & Little. I didn’t really think “oooh I must have a picnic-blanket-bed-throw” ‘cos that would be weird; I just liked the fabric, thought it went well with all the others, and thought it would make a beautiful throw….but when I realised that it hinted to a picnic blanket, well, need I say more?!

cropped orchid view

We also had some animal skins to keep us warm at night. Well, they weren’t really animal skins, they were a faux-fur throw and a shaggy rug, but they definitely kept us warm. And we even had a tree stump table to put our ornaments on, every garden should have one. But to top it off, we placed a stone planter on the wall and an antique outdoor bust on the stump, because no enchanted garden could be complete without the crumbling old statues I’d imagined!

stone planter

In the end, it all came happily together to produce a room that, although not to everyone’s cup of tea (my step-father called it the ‘goth’ room!), my husband and I absolutely loved, and we would spend hours curled up on the bed with the dogs and cat, the twinkling lights illuminating our books or magazines or laptop, winding down after a long, busy day and getting ready for sleep. It became our little retreat from the world, our very own enchanted garden retreat, free from clutter, full of things we loved, and somewhere that we could truly relax in.

I hope you have a room that makes you feel like that!

main bedroom

(And just ‘cos I like a good ‘before’ photo, here’s the room before I got my mitts on it)

bedroom before