Shop vintage in Aberdeen: Old Togs New Tricks Vintage Fayre

The season of vintage fairs is starting to kick off again now the school holidays are finished and I am super pleased to be taking part in my first fair since a big fire ruined the Nina’s Apartment shop back in April this year. On Sunday 4th of September you can find me selling my quirky collection of wares at the Old Togs New Tricks Vintage Fayre in Aberdeen, in industrial cool club Underdog down in the basement of the Brewdog Castlegate pub on Union Street. It is held on Sunday the 4th of September, 12noon to 5pm. Admission free.

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I am proud to be sitting amongst some of the best vintage traders in the area, all of whom dedicate their time sourcing high quality authentic vintage, which is not that easy nowadays. Coming to a fair like this will therefore be a great opportunity to pick up that original retro lamp shade, sixties coffee set, crazy psychedelic seventies dress or just something beautiful that has no other function than to sit on a shelf and gather dust. There will be furniture, home decor, records, clothing, jewellery, ceramics and collectables. Plenty to rummage through and fill your house with, that’s for sure. And if you like your beers better than your handbags, then you can always join in with the beer tasting.

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The first Old Togs New Tricks Fayre held in May 2016 – photo: Underdog

Here’s the impressive line-up of traders:

V1 Vinyl
Nina’s Apartment
Peapod
Quinneys Antique Jewelery
Very Vintage
Curtis & Clementine
Kelly & her collection
Milly & Lucy
Grab Ur Coat UK
Re-Store
The Closet – Vintage
Louis Little Haven
Beard Oils ….

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Photo: Underdog

I have been told there will also be music, food and drinks – a welcome change from the usual pink cupcakes and tea in floral teacups served at many a vintage fair. There! I said it! Please don’t shoot me! I am looking forward to it anyway, I hope you do too.

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Photo: Underdog


Old Togs New Tricks – Vintage Fayre

Sunday 4th of September 12noon-5pm
Underdog, Brewdog Castlegate – Union Street Aberdeen
Entry free

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House tour: a small converted farmhouse in the Netherlands

On my travels through the Netherlands this month I popped into my friend Frederiek’s house in the tiny village of Huizinge, north Groningen, who lives there with her partner Wimer and their three-year old son Teun. Huizinge is a beautiful characterful village surrounded by endless flat green fields and far horizons. Frederiek and Wimer recently bought one of the old houses and brought it right up to date with a gorgeous interior full of vintage finds, contemporary art, minimalist touches and plenty of house plants. 

Although the house inside doesn’t look anything like it originally was, Frederiek and Wimer didn’t have to do a lot of structural work to the building themselves when they bought it. “We bought the house casco (Dutch for a ‘shell’ building ed.), so it was mainly the inside that still needed to be finished. That way we were able to make the interior just the way we wanted which was great because we were looking for a blank canvas to work with”, Frederiek says. As a result the house is now much more suitable for modern living. The small rooms in the front of the house were originally living room and storage but are now the two bedrooms and the old animal barn got converted into a spacious and very bright kitchen-dining room.

Frederiek (here pictured with my husband)

The couple, who both work in the creative sector, have a keen eye for finding design on a shoestring budget and were lucky enough to salvage the large globe lights from a building in Groningen that was about to be demolished. Other vintage finds are the mid century dining chairs, sofa and armchair and the beautiful old tall glazed cabinet that came out of a cafe. Teun’s nursery is an eclectic collection of heirloom furniture from Frederiek’s family. 



Despite the huge transformation there are still many original features which give the house a lot of character, such as the old barn windows, wooden doors and beams, now all painted in a fresh duck egg blue and warm greys. The seamless minimalist grey Egaline floor was poured throughout the house and forms a nice contrast. This type of floor is normally only used as under flooring but when mixed slightly different and coated it works well as a finished product too. Oh, and it is highly practical – what else would you expect from the Dutch?

A glass fronted extension looking out onto the garden and adjoining fields forms their bright ‘sitting room with a view’ including a wood burning stove, wall to wall book shelves and plenty of space for little Teun to play. 

Their drive to make the house their own doesn’t stop here though. Having only moved in last December the energetic couple is already working on their next design project: the garden studio / guestroom. No doubt this will look just as stunning as the rest. I can’t wait to see it!

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Vintage trader of the month: Louis Little Haven

Every month we let you discover a different vintage trader in the North east of Scotland. This month we are putting the spotlight on yet another vintage shop that not everyone might have heard of: Louis Little Haven in the small village of Durno, a few miles outside Inverurie. When I think of the true meaning of ‘vintage’, I feel this shop embodies it perfectly with its pretty romantic florals, pastel colours, dainty tea sets, quirky collectables and solid old wooden furniture. This gem, tucked away in rural Aberdeenshire, is owned by Melanie Wilson who not only has an obsession with old china but is also a great lover of dogs. It was opened in 2013 and named after her beloved labrador Louis, who sadly passed away last year. Her new buddy bassett hound Briony has since joined her on her treasure hunts and can usually be found sleeping in the corner of the shop. 


How did you end up having this shop, Mel? Where does the treasure hunting bug come from?

I’ve collected since the age of ten, starting off with handbags and hats and moving on to teacups where I became obsessed! My mum would often take us around Thainstone (carboot sale ed.) on a Sunday and in addition to that I come from a family who can’t throw anything out as “it could be useful”. Growing up across from my grandparents’ farm also had an influence. I loved having a “nosey” to see what treasures could be found. I still can’t help myself when I see a shed!

What makes your business special in the area?

I am breathing new life into the old village shop in Durno (we have found some great black and white photos of what it used to look like), so I feel I am bringing something to the local community here. Everyone is always welcome to pop in for a look around or just a chat.


What is the weirdest and most beautiful item you have ever had in your shop?

I have had a few strange itemd in stock as I like picking up unusual things but at the moment it is definitely a Victorian Scottish pottery spittoon in the shape of a shell. I have had lots of beautiful things as well and those are really hard to part with! I’d say two of the items that stick to mind are a gorgeous blue 1940s Paragon tea set and a stunning 19th century 8ft kitchen larder cupboard.

What is the best thing about doing this job?

I don’t consider it a job, rather a passion I have had for as long as I can remember and I feel lucky to do what I do. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and finding out the history behind the items I’m buying. I’d like to think I am a curator of beautiful things who finds them their new home, their next chapter in life. 

What is the hardest part in running a vintage shop?

Finding good quality, beautiful pieces and trying to keep them at a reasonable price. 

Why should people buy vintage, in your opinion?

There is a charm to vintage items, they don’t make things anymore like they used to. Buying vintage also means buying a little piece of history. I always think that if the tea cups I sell could talk about all the stories and gossip they have heard, wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Louis Little Haven, Mel and Briony the dog can be found here:

Durno, north of Inverurie (off the A96). 

Open: Friday 10.30am-3pm, Saturday 10.30am-4pm, Monday 10.30am-3pm

Online:

Facebook

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And at some vintage fairs in the area.

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Treasure hunting in France: brocante!

I am just in my second week of a four-week long trip through France and boy, am I loving it! It was a long drive, but it’s great to have the car with us to go wherever we want. I am thoroughly enjoying the warm climate, the food, the old villages full of character and oh yes – the brocante. What’s brocante you say? Well, it’s basically French old junk with some real gems amongst it if you look for it. You can find rural barns, town shops and Sunday fleamarkets full of vintage, antiques or just second hand, usually advertised by a hand painted sign on the side of the road.

Brocante market near Auch,  Midi-Pyrenees

Brocante market near Auch, Midi-Pyrenees


You come across plenty ‘brocante’ signs while driving across the country, but if you really want to plan your treasure hunting while in France there is a useful website listing loads of local markets by area called www.brocabrac.fr

I have just downloaded the app that goes with it. An app? A brocante hunting app. Amazing. 

Wish I could bring home some more of the fabulous pieces I have spotted so far. Shame the car is packed full of camping gear, two kids and my husband’s racing bike in the roof box. Quelle dommage! Need to plan a future trip with a large van – on my own next time. 

Au revoir, I will keep you posted!

Vintage and retro brocante shop in Mirande, France

Brocante shop in Mirande, Midi-Pyrenees

Vintage trader of the month: Curtiss and Clementine

Every month we are putting the spotlight on one of the many vintage businesses around the North East of Scotland, often hidden away in corners or back alleys. This month we are showcasing a vintage trader up in the north of Aberdeenshire: Curtiss and Clementine, located inside the little treasure trove shop called HQ in the harbour of Banff. This business is owned by Rachel Kennedy, who specialises in vintage finds and collectables from sometimes as old as the 19th century. Being a historian, Rachel certainly knows her stuff and she is a star at finding unusual items with a past. If you are looking for quirky and wonderful vintage, visit Banff and make a day of it!

Rachel, where does the name Curtiss and Clementine come from?

The idea for my business grew out of a passion for history, so when it came to thinking of a name it felt right to look at my own family history and my mixed English and Scots parentage. I spent a lot of time with my paternal Scots grandmother as a child, whose maiden name was Clementine McGregor, before moving here from London ten years ago. Lawrence Curtiss was my maternal English grandfather. Sadly, I never knew him and since the Curtiss surname hasn’t carried on into the next generation, I thought it would be nice to use it as a way of remembering his side of the family.

How long have you been running the shop?

The shop where I am based is called HQ, we opened last July so we are coming up to a year. I share the space with another local business called Threadbear, who are based in Banff and make hand-made gifts and home furnishings.


What made you want to start selling vintage?

Being involved in vintage and antiques and having my own business has given me the chance to follow a dream. I’ve been a fan of vintage since the late 1980s during my art student days when I used to love visiting all the second-hand shops in Brighton, but I started collecting as a child (glass animals, then clay pipes after a bit of random digging in our front garden in London!) and ended up working in museums as a curator, so I’m probably programmed to seek out vintage objects, especially if they have a good design or are a bit unusual. I also love 20th century studio ceramics and glass and pretty much anything eighteenth century, which was my area of expertise, so selling enables me to indulge in all my interests and passions!

What makes your business special in the area? 

When I first started my business a few years ago initially from home, there were only a couple of vintage businesses that I was aware of and no vintage shops or fairs at all in or around Banff. Things have changed since then, which is great, but it has been exciting to be part of starting something new. Together with the vintage fairs that I run as well, I feel I am offering a unique shopping experience for the local community here in Banff and Macduff as well as visitors to the area. I also try and source items that have a local connection (like the vintage milk bottles from local dairies I have in HQ at the moment) which has been a nice way to offer more personal items to local customers.


What is the weirdest item you have ever had in your shop? 

Oh, that’s easy! I have in stock at the moment a miniature china figurine called a Frozen Charlotte or Charlie. It’s teensy. Made from glazed bisque porcelain with hand-painted black hair. These dolls were made in Germany from the mid 1800s to 1920s, originally as bath dolls I think, but became popular in the States after a poem called Young Charlotte, about a young woman who froze to death whilst driving in an open carriage with her beau on New Year’s Eve. These tiny dolls are now very collectable although many find them creepy – you can sometimes find them in mini metal coffins which is quite macabre.

What has been the most beautiful item you have ever had in the shop? 

I was lucky enough to find in France last year an absolutely beautiful lidded pot by Arabia Finland, in mint condition. It was hand-painted in a gorgeously rich, dark cobalt blue design onto a translucent fine white China. The design was very simple and was signed ET, for one of their most respected designers Esteri Tomula, who worked at the factory between 1947-84. From my research, it appeared to be a studio production from the 1950s which was unusual and so quite rare too. The combination of beauty, design, rarity and condition just made it a very striking thing and a lovely pot. The icing on the cake was that it was bought by an artist who really loved it.


What do you like about your job? 

Can I say everything? (Laughing) I love being independent, my own boss. I love hunting out the stock, researching it, displaying it and meeting customers. I really do learn something new every day and that keeps it all interesting and stimulating. It also gives me a chance to talk about the history of an item and to share what I have learned with customers which is very rewarding. It’s such a privilege too, to handle items that are 50, 100, sometimes even 150 years old, especially if I get to meet the current owners who know the history of these items. Hey, I’m even getting a bit fitter from all the heavy lifting of boxes that I do with my fairs..

What is the biggest challenge?

In today’s current economic climate, I would say being a sole trader in anything is really tough. You have got to work hard to keep motivated and be sensitive to market trends as well as stay true to your own ideas. Selling is probably the biggest challenge and I think most vintage businesses and antiques dealers feel that. I also think that although the idea of vintage is really growing in Scotland, the idea of buying second hand doesn’t appeal to many and it’s a challenge to try and change that.


Why should people buy vintage?
Actually, I wouldn’t say people should as its a personal taste but, I do believe that in today’s world of limited resources, it’s a much greener way to shop. I also think that buying vintage ensures a variety in your wardrobe or home and that has to be a good thing in my book. Buying vintage can also stimulate discussion between the generations which I love (eg where on earth did you find that? Or, I used to have one of those when I was young) and allows for self-expression too, which can be hugely creative.

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You can buy Vintage from Curtiss and  Clementine here:

Shop – HQ, 8b Quayside, Banff AB45 1HQ. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30-4pm

Vintage fairs:

Rachel organises several fairs a year at Banff Castle:

  • Saturday 9 July, 10am-4pm
  • Saturday 10 September, 10am – 4pm.

Rachel is also a regular exhibitor at the Aberdeen Antiques & Collectors Market, which takes place every month at the Hilton Tree Tops Hotel, Aberdeen.

Online:

Facebook

Etsy

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Spotlight on design: Anna Hayman

I love patterns, textiles and creative people who are making fabulous home accessories. I recently came across British designer maker Anna Hayman on Instagram (Instagram is great for discovering new artists!) and her posts always make me smile. Anyone who has followed Nina’s Apartment knows that I am a sucker for colour and bold Scandinavian-style patterns so it comes to no surprise that this creative lady’s work caught my eye. Such vibrant prints, beautiful florals and bold colours – her images just make me happy each time they come across on the timeline. I decided to get in touch with Anna and find out more about her work and what inspires her. With her collections appearing in more shops and exciting collaborations on the horizon it sounds like she really is one to watch! I hope you will agree with me that Anna’s designs are gorgeous and worth featuring on the blog today.

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Anna, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m from an artistic and musical background, with a bit of retail management and window dressing thrown in. Although I’ve been piano teaching most recently, I had a shoe brand for six years (2006-2012) before having children, so ANNA HAYMAN DESIGNS is my ‘round 2’ business-wise. I’m an unstoppable creative person and most of what I do is completely self-taught.

How long have you had the business for?

The business has been a gradual build up over the last year or so, I keep saying ‘I’m launching all the time’, as the brand, message and signature style of my designs takes shape, and the use of them changes and develops. I’m not one for beginnings and endings and things being pinned down, as then the work has freedom to evolve. As I do more and more designs they develop a look and feel which is exclusively mine, so I’m planning to keep the branding solid then the designs can vary from season to season. It helps if I use the same methods, i.e. lino-cutting to create them, then it makes a ‘family’ of work.

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When you travel, what kind of things do you photograph / take home that may inspire your work?

Flowers, flowers and more flowers! I’m on an Art Nouveau tip currently and completely obsessed with arts and crafts, and Art Deco patterns. It will always be florals for me, with some geometrics thrown in. Colours are important too, darker gemstones are my fling right now so I’m looking at Lapis Lazuli and Mystic Topaz. Mid tones are trending out so I’m looking more at dirty metals, dark greens and pastel shades.

What or who else inspires you in your work?

I re-read a lot of the same source books, Celia Birtwell, Biba, William Morris, Rennie Mackintosh, and Sixties patterns. Pinterest is a massive influence, the richness, variation and ease at which you can consume images, and feed your mind, is a daily essential for me. In terms of contemporaries, Iris Apfel, Cressida Bell, and Abigail Borg are people I look up to in terms of their colour use, style and finesse.

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How would you describe your home and interior style?

I’m on a knife edge this week as we are waiting to exchange on the most beautiful 1920’s house, with original windows and fireplace, in rural East Sussex. I’m planning to go to town on decking it out in vintage patterns, it’s going to be a serious print frenzy, I love the idea at the moment of matching wallpaper and upholstered furniture, with matching crockery. And clothes! It has a huge garden which I would like to set up a heavily glazed office in to work from so that I’m surrounded by nature. A massive hammock is on my shopping list.

What does an average workday look like for you?

Mid-week days are my work days, my children are small so it’s a juggling act, but I have a lovely studio in Lewes where I can work quietly from 9.30am-3pm. My husband and I are both work-mad, so we do a lot in the evenings and weekends where sociable! It’s never hard to be ‘disciplined’, I can’t wait to arrive at work in the morning and get creative. I do a bit of everything in a typical day; design work, discussing forthcoming projects with factories, sales, admin, website updates, marketing, making prototypes, finding new leads – there’s a lot to do. Having said that I’m taking the summer to produce a new body of work really in readiness for next year so it’s in a more creative phase right now, the bit I most enjoy.

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What are your plans for the next 12 months? Any exciting events/collaborations or other things lined up?

As well as selling my ceramics collections in shops, I am focusing on the prints, with collaborations in mind. I’m exhibiting at Top Drawer in January which is a huge trade event at Kensington Olympia. This will hopefully open more doors in terms of licensing work, (where a company buy and use my prints). I have some collaborations I’m working on at the moment but I’m afraid I’m sworn to secrecy! Watch my Instagram account (the hub of the business) for news on these. I have a lot of irons in the fire and am really intrigued to see what 2017 brings. I think it will be a really fantastic year.

You can currently buy ANNA HAYMAN DESIGNS ceramics and textiles online via her website.

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What inspired me this week: bohemian meets mid-century

I am currently working with a lovely family on the redesign of their living room in a new built home near Aberdeen. A wonderful project as they asked me to combine the mid-century modern and scandinavian style with a touch of bohemian. Right up my street, I love it! Needless to say I have spent a lot of time on Pinterest, finding plenty of inspiration. Here are some of the most beautiful images I gathered on my board this week. If anything, they show that mid-century modern or Scandinavian decor doesn’t have to mean minimalist at all.

If you want Nina’s Apartment to restyle your home, please find out more details here.

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Vintage trader of the month: The Closet

The North east of Scotland really is full of gems when it comes to vintage shops and traders selling their finds online or at local fairs. They are all spread widely, hidden in quiet corners and back alleys and often still unknown to many in the area. I felt it was time to shine a light on the people who dedicate their time to the trade and travel far and wide to find the best vintage treasures. This month we meet Elane Colville-Arthur from The Closet, vintage clothing store in Aberdeen.

The Closet, based in Aberdeen city centre, was established in 1980 (1980! That makes it vintage in itself!) and was originally located in the now gone Woolmanhill Court. Nowadays it is tucked away in a little alleyway called Jopps Lane, parallel to George Street. The boutique, dedicated to fashion, is an absolute treasure trove of gorgeous vintage clothing and accessories, with the odd groovy retro lamp or coffee set thrown in with the eclectic mix. Elane owns the business since the summer of 2005. I asked her about what makes her so passionate about vintage.

Elane, please tell us how it all started for you at The Closet

I’m one in a long line of “custodians” who have looked after the shop – or this is how I like to view my position. When I purchased the store – after dropping in one lunchtime on hearing a rumour she was for sale – she was already in her current location. One month later I was handed the keys and opened. No stock take, no till even and a mountain of old clothing to work through. Weirdly enough I had worked in a vintage clothing store in Melbourne, Australia years before whilst traveling and the store was called Out of The Closet! It seemed like fate. When I contacted the owners of the store in Melbourne they said “you can’t see green cheese”… Typical Ozzy reply! Since then I have given the shop a brand and established her place on social media. My hope for the shop in the future is that another young woman or guy will come along and carry on her journey.

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Why are you so passionate about vintage?

I’m passionate about everything in my life – this is how I’m made – 100%, full speed ahead, life is too short not to enjoy yourself, cup half full kinda’ girl, so I’m the same about my beloved vintage. I’ve had a love affair with vintage all my life. I think it comes from being part of a large family and having to deal with hand me downs, but I also have a strong yearning to make my own way, not follow the herds and to stand out and be different. No one can accuse The Closet stock of being boring or run-of-the-mill! I love to search out and find those one-off pieces. If it’s boring, I don’t accept it. Sometimes this attitude can work against me being in a town in the North East of Scotland as I think my eccentric, colourful stock is probably more suited to a larger city where people are keener to stand out. But, then again, we do have our fair share of customers who love our collections and keep coming back.

I love finding one-off beauties and rare pieces. To then find them their forever homes is the icing on the cake! It is great when a fellow enthusiast come in and finds her perfect piece. I like pieces from so many eras but have a special place in my heart for all things Art Deco and the 1970’s. Two entirely different eras but I love them both. You also can’t beat the quality of the garments and the craftsmanship of the designers and manufacturers of the past. I have often had scouts in from design houses in London looking for pieces to inspire new lines and they have informed me that they often are able to re-learn ways of constructing pieces due to vintage finds. A wonderful cycle of fashion.

What makes The Closet stand out from other vintage shops in the area?

The Closet is special and unique in Aberdeen as she is the oldest surviving vintage shop in the area. We have been joined in the last few years by many other stores and many more traders but The Closet has the heritage and pedigree plus kudos of a long history. Can you believe she was originally called a “period shop”? She is special as we do not only sell vintage fashion (accessories etc) but we also hire out original clothing items from the past for vintage themed events. It has been more than once that we received the “best dressed” award at a party. It is so much fun to be part of this.

What is the weirdest and most beautiful thing you ever sold?

Ha! This is a tough question as I’ve had many strange items in over the years including a monkey hide coat (which we turned away!) and crocodile skin bags with their feet still attached. The most beautiful thing …. also hard! I’m a Libra and very visual. I can see beauty in fabrics, cuts, colours and prints but also in the arm of a chair or leg of a table. I recently re-homed a French lace wedding dress to a beautiful young bride. That was truly special.

What do you like about your job?

What’s not to like? I love being my own boss. I love the varied and interesting people I meet. I love all the wonderful vintage traders I’ve met over the years and how so many of them are now friends who have helped and supported me through many turbulent times. I love finding stock. I love the thrill of the chase. Treasure hunting and equally finding the perfect home for the pieces. I love the stories behind the scenes too! I once had a gents 3-piece suit, painstakingly stitched together by a young bride-to-be’s father (after he came home from his hard days work) to allow him to give his daughter away in style! That suit was named “Made with Love” and was re-homed quickly!

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What is the biggest challenge in running your vintage business?

The biggest challenge is translating my passion for what I do into paying for the ‘real-world’ things like rent and bills. This is the grown-up part to the business and for a creative person this is not so easy. I persist though and thus far I have managed to carry on.

Why should people buy vintage?

People should buy what they love – if that happens to be vintage, all the better! Buying vintage clothing means they are buying, undoubtedly, good quality original and often classic pieces. They are helping the planet by recycling and reloving items. They are buying quirky and individual pieces. They are using their creativity to put items together, to go their own way and not follow the high street “trends”. They are being themselves.

Visit The Closet:

32 Jopps lane, Aberdeen
tel 01224 625450
www.theclosetvintage.co.uk

Opening times
During school term times – Sun & Mon closed / Tues & Wed 9.30am-2.30pm / Thurs 9.30am-4pm / Fri & Sat 9.30am-5pm
In school holidays: Sun & Mon closed / Tues – Sat 9.30-5pm

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Mid century modern furniture in a victorian house – how to get it right

mid century dining set in swedish cottage
image: The Vintage Cabin


I often get people telling me:”I love mid century furniture but it doesn’t suit our older style house. I disagree with that. I believe that the clean, simple design of mid century furniture suits most properties, whatever the age of the house and no matter whether you live in the city or countryside.
If you happen to live in an old house with lots of character, a minimalist, understated piece of furniture would create a nice contrast and compliment the features of the house rather than compete with it. Likewise, a Victorian property with high ceilings and large bay windows forms a perfect back drop to show off the clean lines of a mid century modern armchair, sofa or sideboard. So if you recognise yourself in that quote above, please don’t feel you have compromise on style, just because you think a country cottage doesn’t go with a sleek teak sideboard. Think outside the box! Be brave and mix it up, you might surprise yourself.

mid century modern furniture in victorian house

This beautiful Victorian apartment in Manchester features many mid century modern pieces, which look fabulous combined with the high ceilings and architectural features. A nice combination form the minimalist teak wall unit, the heritage colour green, herringbone floor and the oversized drapes. Very stylish. Image via Seeds and Stitches

mid century armchair and bookcase in georgian house

This bright Georgian house in Islington, London with its old shutters, decorative ceiling and original fireplace, gives a nice contrast with the 1950s design of the armchair and bookcase. Great little pop colour of the standard lamp too. Image via Design Milk

orange retro lamp above a mid century dining table in cottage
I love this little dining room with the old floor boards, bright orange retro pendant light and mid century dining set. This would look great in any country cottage. Image via Desire to Inspire

Small danish teak mid century sideboard in swedish house
If you live in a small cottage, apartment or your living room just isn’t very big, try finding a smaller mid century sideboard. Keep the room light and bright and combine it with  some vintage finds and a statement armchair for an eclectic, scandi look. Image via Desire to Inspire

For more ideas on how to create a beautiful interior using mid century modern furniture, have a look on Nina’s Apartment’s Pinterest Board.

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Five tips to promote your creative business online

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I meet many talented local artists, makers and people who aspire to or have just set up their own creative business. I have met lots of them since I started my own business five years ago – but also before that in my previous job as marketing/audience development consultant in the arts sector. Most of them are women, trying to build a business that will fit around their family. I am no different. And we all struggle with the same question: how do we best promote what we do and where?

I have always worked on a shoestring budget, or actually no budget at all and have somehow managed to get my name known by quite a lot of people in the area and steadily grow my business. How did I do this? Don’t get me wrong – I have still plenty to learn and improve in how I run and promote my business – you live and learn and fall and get back up – but today I will share some of the things that have helped me promote my business  online and ‘get my name out there’ in the first years of setting up.

1. Be social

Before we get into the online bit, here is tip one: networking is very important, both online and offline. Knowing lots of people helps. Go to local business events, workshops, talks. Speak to people, exchange business cards, ask questions. Chances are you will always come away with at least one new idea, useful contact or bit of info that will help you move forward. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to new people at such events, but just remember that people are all there for the same reasons: they want to learn something new and meet new people. So don’t be shy, because you have something pretty cool to talk about: your business.

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Online marketing means you have to be on social media – there is no way around it. But it is fun, mostly free (with a much bigger effect than any paid advertising will ever have) and with the right approach it can really make your brand and product stand out and reach a big audience.Yes, it can be all consuming and rather addictive even, but if you choose your accounts wisely and set dedicated time aside to update them regularly (or use an app like hootsuite to schedule posts and update them all simultaneously for you), then it is not so daunting.

I won’t go into the detail of every social media platform, as most of you are on it already and plenty info can be found on the internet, but it seems that Facebook and Twitter are still the most popular. On Facebook you can easily set up a Page for your business, sharing news and photos, videos and links. Nina’s Apartment currently has just under 5,000 Likes which didn’t happen overnight but grew through being engaging, entertaining – paying for some posts every now and then (you can boost a post to reach more people for not too much money if you have something very important you want to share) and just generally being active on it. I love Facebook and the interaction with customers and ‘Likers’ and it is also pretty easy now to integrate apps such as the Mailchimp newsletter and Shopify (the online shop system I use).

Twitter is very different for example, with the added challenge of saying something worth reading  in only 140 characters. However, I find Twitter particularly useful for following professionals, journalists and bloggers in the industry. If you are active on Twitter and start to reply to tweets by people you want to connect with (or be seen by), it is not too difficult to all of a sudden be speaking to a celebrity! That’s the beauty of social media – the formal barriers are not there and people are generally more easily approachable. And so should you be.

2. Be human

Social media is about showing the human face behind your business. It is about connecting with your customers, lowering the threshold, having a conversation. Smile, be nice, be yourself. Your website can be more static and informative – your social media activity however should be fun. An informal, friendly voice talking about what you do and why you do it, rather than a one-way stream of information about opening hours and what you have on offer this week. Listening to people as much as talking to them (and not at them – get it?) is a helpful way to find out what your customers need and think of your business. The ultimate goal of being on social media is to make people want to be part of what you do, to love your brand and tell others about it. Because once you get the ball rolling, social media really is ‘word of mouth on steroids’.

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3. Be consistent

To establish your business name and brand (and remember, a ‘brand’is not just a logo, it is the whole package: from type font to customer service!) you want to create recognition. A consistent use of logo, colours, images, type font and tone of voice are therefore pretty important in order to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing. Decide how you want to be seen, what look or style you want to portray and stick with it across all of your marketing. It will make your material online and offline look professional, coherent and recognisable.

4. Be pretty

I am not talking about your looks here. I mean the way your business is portrayed in everything you put out. If you design or craft things you want to sell or get seen, make sure your photography is up to scratch too – and consistent. Ever been on Etsy? You are probably drawn to those pictures that are really making the product stand out: white back ground, no clutter, beautiful styling. Keep this in mind when taking photos of your own products. Don’t make things too complicated though, just use what you have already and your imagination. I take all photos on my iphone 5, usually against the same concrete wall background (consistency!), then editing them with the built in image app or putting filters on them in Instagram. There are lots of great free mobile apps available too to turn photos into videos / slideshows, add text, or turn them into collages. All very useful to make your product look pretty and draw attention to your business on social media.

 

 

5. Be everywhere

Having an actual website is still a good idea, despite having your social media accounts. A website is your base, your home, the place where all your social media leads back to. This can be an online shop or a blog (my website/blog is built on WordPress) or a professionally built website – that is up to you. But everything you put out on social media should lead back to the base. And make sure you can be found. Paying a bit on Google Adwords is worth it if you want to drive people to an online store or actual local shop with an address. There is an awful lot to learn about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which I am still learning more about. Basics? Pay attention to all descriptions, words you use in titles, image captions, links – and get others to link back to your website too.

An email newsletter is a great tool to directly contact your customers. Collecting email addresses is therefore a good idea next time you are at an event or fair. Apps Like   Mailchimp are free and easy to use and make your newsletters look professional and attractive. These apps also offer very useful insights in who opens and clicks on links, telling you a lot about those people who are most interested in what you do.

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As for social media, pick a few social platforms that you like and are happy to commit to on ideally a daily basis – yes you need to post frequently! My opinion on what social media work best? Facebook is great for building a local audience, getting your posts shared, talking to your customers, promoting your product and sometimes finding a buyer for it. Twitter is great for following people in the industry and connecting with professionals – and so is LinkedIn.

Pinterest…oh Pinterest. My favourite! Great for inspiration and highly addictive, but it can also be another tool for yourself to promote your products/business – linking back to your website. Did you know that red items photographed against a white background are the most ‘pinned’ images on Pinterest? Together with those that contain text? I know, so much to learn.
Instagram, another favourite of mine, has the benefit that any photo can be made to look pretty cool with the available filters. Instagram is great to feature your products but you can also share fun, informal photos of yourself at work or the things that matter to you, finding like-minded people all over the world, fellow creatives and also get (local) people to follow what you do. Basically, it is just another platform to show off what you do and build your reputation. I know a lot of people who successfully use Youtube or Vimeo as well to boost their reputation and follower numbers. How about creating little ‘how-to’ videos or demos about what you do? Or a tour around your shop or studio?  Videos have the added bonus of rating higher on Facebook, reaching more people.

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Last but not least: start a blog. Don’t like writing? Just post beautiful pictures. A blog is another way of creating a following and adding something to the online mix. It is something I personally love doing and am committed to. I love writing. I blog about my business, but also about interior design in general, the styles I like, things that inspire me, etc. The goal of my blog is to provide a beautiful, entertaining and informative site that people like looking at and reading – with the additional opportunity for them to buy my products/services if they feel inspired and want to find something beautiful for their home.  So I am not trying to flog my products and services constantly – because that would be plain annoying – but rather aim to offer an attractive ‘package’ that hopefully makes people want to come back to again and again because they like hanging out with me and my brand. And that is the key in all social media: be social, not pushy. And just be yourself.



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1:1 Surgeries
For small creative startup businesses

Feeling inspired and want to learn more? You can now book a 1:1 surgery with Nina Eggens of Nina’s Apartment. Nina has over fifteen years experience working in marketing and pr in the creative sector – plus she knows first hand what it is like to start a creative business from scratch. She is passionate about helping others start up their own creative businesses and can help you feel more confident in promoting yourself and your products online and offline. A 90 minute session costs £45 and could include an online marketing ‘health check’, practical help in setting up social media accounts or simply the opportunity to ask lots of burning questions about promoting what you do and what to do next in your journey of setting up your business.

Get in touch for more information.