Space to Sparkle

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Vintage sparkle, 99p from eBay


This year I had the joy of a two week break over the festive season and how did I spend part of it? Tearing through the house with a mania never before witnessed by poor, bemused hubby.  3 boxes and 6 bin liners later, one of my local charity shops got a bumper door drop.  And me? I felt like I did in the first week of the new school term when your new pen hits your newly margined page with an absolute, unwavering commitment to writing neatly…

Decluttering can be overwhelming when you like to collect things. It can be awkward knowing how and where to start; time-consuming going through cupboards and drawers that overflow with things that were once useful; and even guilt-inducing because you’re afraid to part with the lowliest of treasures. But, ultimately it’s important to make room now and again for new treasures, physical and emotional.

I’m a big fan of the past – its secrets and stories. This year though, I’ve started the new year, not just with a big old clear out, but with a new adventure too. It’s not easy, embracing change, creating space for the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable and the strange. Ultimately though, it’s rewarding and it’s important. Space allows us to grow in new directions. Change allows us to find bits of ourselves we never new existed – strengths and weaknesses both. That’s how we learn.

There’s probably something in one of those boxes or bin liners that I’ll  recall one day and wish I’d kept. That’s ok – I’ll content myself with the knowledge that it’s in a better, more loving home! The important thing is that in my clearing out I found space for a new treat, the pretty vintage brooch pictured above.  It was tarnished and shabby before I attacked it with gusto and a good dose of Autosol :)) Now it sparkles.

Therein lies the moral of the tale – don’t be afraid to create space, in your head, your heart or your home. Space is good – it gives you more room to sparkle 💖

Rosie xx

 

Cosy Coats

It’s Autumn, my favourite time of year. Crunchy leaves, beautiful light and an excuse to wrap up in warm clothes and boots. It’s also great to pop into my local charity shops and see rails of cosy knits instead of spaghetti-strapped vests and dresses. Summer clothing isn’t fun for pale, burnt-in-minutes redheads!

Green however is fun, especially when it’s as bright as the colour of this gorgeous coat. It jumped off the rail of the recently refurbished Save the Children shop on Botanic Avenue, Belfast. It was £10 which is more than my usual charity shop budget and worth every penny. Unworn, it’s a flattering fit with big pockets and cute buttons. Perfect for skinny jeans or a work day dress.

I’ve noticed lots of gorgeous coats on my charity shop travels lately. The good news is that coat fashions rarely change much so if you have your eye on an expensive version on the high street, think about checking your local charity shop first for a more affordable option.

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Whether your style is military, loosely tailored or cape, you might just the find the perfect coat for a fraction of the cost if you go charity shopping first. And don’t forget to add a vintage brooch!

I’d love to hear if you find something special so get in touch on Twitter at girlovesvintage.

Rosie xx

Vintage Bordeaux

Sometimes you get your vintage fix in the most unlikely sources. This time it was in Bordeaux, a city more renowned for its vintage wine than vintage finds. We had booked into a new B&B, Casa Blanca, a chance find on booking.com which was only open a few weeks and at that stage completely unreviewed. We got a feeling that it was our kind of place from the few pics we saw of the renovation work that had been taking place in the preceding months.

Our kind of place it was. From the stunning tiled hallway to the scandi-influenced rooms, this beautiful 200 year old building had been thoughtfully rejuvenated and given some serious care and attention by Hannah and Gildas, its guardians. A seriously cool haven from the 36 degree heat on our first day, we spent a week here and loved every second.

Perfect vintage treats were everywhere, from the Singer sewing machine stand wash-basin, to the use of beautifully stripped back pine doors as headboards and gorgeous old rugs. Obviously Hannah knew nothing of my vintage fashion obsession so to find a fine selection of fashion photography books, memoirs and magazines on the coffee table was serendipitous. They were frequently thumbed through over a glass of wine during our stay.

Hannah’s background in haute couture was quietly obvious everywhere – little hints to her love of design and style.
In my opinion, a love of vintage, a love of that which has come before and deserves protection, always hints towards a certain kind of person. A person who cares; who believes in legacy and heritage; who’s concerned about detail and quality. That just about sums Gildas and Hannah up. As hosts they couldn’t have done more – our holiday started with something of a mild stutter and without their kind help could have ended earlier than planned. Mr GLV was already planning flights home.  I witnessed fork lightning for the first time during a mental thunderstorm and again Gildas came to our rescue when cote de boeuf dinner plans were scuppered! One of our highlights during our week was dinner at Chez Boulan in Les Chartrons district – recommended by Gildas strangely enough. Turbot to die for, amazing oysters and service that supported rather than patronised our stuttering French.

It’s really, really refreshing, in a world where the corporate one-size-fits-all mentality is so prevalent to see a young business like this doing the opposite – going out of the way to help, to make your stay easy and simultaneously homely and interesting. The care that Hannah and Gildas have shown to restoring Casa Blanca was shown again and again to all of their guests. People who have a love of vintage are usually pretty lovely people – I know that all too well from the people I’ve met through the vintage community.

It’s not often I wax lyrical about anything other than vintage bags and brooches here, but I genuinely believe that exceptional moments deserve a mention. Just so happens that our exceptional moment was a week long in a very special place! Look forward to making a return visit some day soon.

Rosie xx

PS If you’re planning a visit to beautiful Bordeaux some day, just search Casa Blanca Bordeaux on booking.com

My Favourite Charity Shop

It might seem a bit odd to have a favourite charity shop…but I do. It’s my local Save the Children store on Botanic Avenue, Belfast and I absolutely love it. The staff and volunteers are fantastic – welcoming, friendly and always delighted to have a chinwag about the day. Every time I pop in there’s a smile and a kind word. I’ve found so many beautiful treats in that little shop from clothes and curtains, to jewellery and homeware. And best of all I only work 5 mins walk away which makes for a perfect lunchtime rummage!

So when I saw the door closed for renovation and workmen in the building, I had a minor conniption! Firstly, my favourite charity shop fix was out of bounds for a few weeks and secondly, I had that horrid feeling that things might change…in a not-so-good way. I didn’t want it to be anything other than what it was – perfect for a vintage rummager!

I needn’t have worried.  Today I called in for the first time and it was the same shop, with added sparkle! The staff and volunteers were full of smiles, there were opening-day choccies on the counter, and the layout was accessible and bright, with fantastic stock on the rails. It had changed, but in exactly the right way.

Naturally enough I didn’t leave empty handed – I never do. As you know I have a blue and white obsession, and a jug obsession (£2) – in fact I think I have all the obsessions!  I also added to my collection of gorgeous vintage earrings (£1)  – I’m still trying to work out the signature on the back. And the butter knives (£5) – I picked up a box of six from this very shop in navy a few years ago with navy handles. These cream ones will make for a cute mix and match at dinner time.

Change is good, especially when it’s done with care and attention to what has gone before. Well done Save the Children, the spirit of friendliness and the thrill of a find is still there!
Your loyal supporter,

Rosie xx

A Proper Place

img_0441Growing up in rural Northern Ireland was often a privilege – long summer days spent roaming ‘the fields’ with my brother and sister; late evenings with neighbours and cousins playing football until the light went out of the sky; the excitement of the mobile library visiting with unknown pages to devour. There was another side of life at that time too though, the one where the sound of army helicopters filled the quiet sky and when ‘bombscare’ was an all too familiar term to a child.

I was a bookish young girl. I loved to read, I loved the escape, the excitement of entering new worlds and characters becoming friends. I was intrigued by the adventures of The Four Marys in Bunty, I yearned for a midnight picnic like the girls at St Clare’s and oh how much did I want homemade lemonade like the Secret Seven! Those books were so removed from me and my experience of childhood, then Joan Lingard came along and nudged my imagination closer to home!

The Sadie and Kevin series of books pictured (£1-£2, Oxfam) feature these central characters who were from Belfast, Protestant and Catholic respectively. The first book in the series The Twelfth Day of July is the beginning of their love story. They meet as teens and their relationship is set against the politics of the time – the absolute antithesis of my Enid Blyton reading!

And yet I loved those books. As a country girl, Belfast was exotic. I remember reading about Sadie and Kevin heading up Cave Hill to eat fish and chips, and thinking I’d definitely do that one day. The dialogue was so real, the characters so finely tuned, and the idea that we could all get through the challenges we faced, despite our different backgrounds and experiences, was so vivid. Sadie and Kevin personified hope, even though as a child I probably didn’t quite realise what it was that I loved so much about them.

When I first saw A Proper Place on the shelves of Oxfam Books, Botanic a little while ago everything I loved about reading those books came flooding back and I’ve been picking up the series, book by book again in Oxfam since. I’m still missing Hostages to Fortune but I know it will turn up.  I was a bit fearful of re-reading something that meant so much to me, and I was worried about losing the magic. I needn’t have been. Having lived in Belfast now for almost 20 years, I feel even closer to Sadie and Kevin. Their story is just as powerful now as it was then, perhaps for different reasons.

This bookish country girl DID eventually find her own Belfast boy although I haven’t yet had my fish supper on Cave Hill!  And while NI is not a perfect place yet (we still have a way to go) it has a proper place in my heart.

Rosie xx

Hooked on the Past

When we moved into our home, it still had lots of beautiful Edwardian details that had thankfully survived almost a century of change. There were obvious things like the stained glass door and tiled fireplace and then there were the small details, the things that lots of people wouldn’t even give a second glance. The little rosewood ‘men’ that cover the keyholes, the deep and intricate skirting boards, and even the tiny brass lock on the under-stairs cupboard. These are the things I love.

We inherited a wood-panelled downstairs toilet – nothing fancy but again a little room that had remained relatively untouched. On the walls were these beautiful, decorative hooks – the kind that you just don’t see any more. Heavy, quietly ornate but unfortunately covered in layer after layer of paint, we left them in peace initially. With lots of work to do in the house they were ‘something to come back to’.

And so, full of spring plans and projects, we decided to give this room some attention over the Easter weekend. It needed a lick of paint and a lot of decluttering so hubby used the occasion to reinstate one of his favourite gadgets (heat-gun) and finally, off came the hooks for some much needed TLC. There was scraping and scratching until the paint was finally off and dull brass was revealed. Time for my favourite product – the magpie girl’s best friend – Autosol metal polish! Purchased to clean the chrome on a motorbike, I’ve never known anything like it to bring shine back to metal. A few hours of elbow grease later, hubby had made quite a difference. The elegant hook was shining like a new penny and the detail on its tip was just perfect.

It never ceases to amaze how lovely little objects like these end up slathered in layers of magnolia paint, hidden from view, their quality and character lost. I know to many people they’re just hooks.  To most people probably. To us, they are worth the hours of scraping and polishing because they are beautiful, unique and another tiny part of the history of our home. They’ve carried a lot of coats over the years! Yes, we’re sometimes stupidly sentimental and that’s ok.

Who knows, the people who come after us might choose magnolia again (please no!) but at least we’ve given them some respite, no matter how brief.

Rosie xx

Charity Shop Mystery

Something I really love about being obsessed by vintage is the fact that you often come across finds that spark an additional interest. Thanks to my love of sparkly old brooches for instance I’ve really increased my knowledge of vintage costume jewellery. When I find a piece or a signature I don’t recognise, I love to find out more.

When I came across this 1920s auction catalogue for £1 in my local Oxfam charity book shop, addressed ‘Clarence Place, May Street, Belfast’ the vintage sleuth within was awakened. I didn’t recognise the location – I know Clarence Street and May Street but Clarence Place was a conundrum to me. I love my city and I love uncovering its secrets, so a few minutes of googling and I was able to place it – http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/lanyon/5.html

It’s a stunning Victorian building, known as Clarence Place Hall, designed by the infamous Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon, as in Charles Lanyon, the architect behind Queen’s University & Belfast Castle among many other stunning sites. It’s actually close to the infamous Ross’ auction house in the city centre and was originally Diocesan Offices, a hall, reading rooms and offices for the Church of Ireland Young Men’s Society. Although I walk past the building almost every morning, now home to a local estate agent, I never gave it a second glance! How blind we can become to the amazing things around us sometimes.

And so having located the building, I noticed when I opened the catalogue there was even more local history to discover. The auction catalogue featured a local artist, William Gibbs (W.G) Mackenzie, a man previously unknown to me, but judging by the sale list, a prolific painter who featured a lot of Northern Irish locations in his work. I found myself googling again 🙂 He was clearly a man of talent but as the catalogue says, ‘never attained the popularity which his undoubted talent would have commanded had he been more forceful and self-assertive’. There’s something simultaneously sweet and sad about that line, isn’t there…I was really delighted to find out online that his work is now included in collections at Belfast City Hall and the Ulster Museum. In fact, one of his pieces ‘Street Scene with Newspaper Vendors and Boys Playing a Game Of Spinner’ sold in 2011 for $13,559. Recognition at last.

Then, out of the catalogue fell a photo. A picture of a very dapper man painting the portrait of a rather important looking gentleman. There’s no inscription on the back and I’ve not been able to confirm the identity of either man, despite plenty of online hours searching, but I’m really hoping that the picture is ‘modest and retiring’ Mr Mackenzie! That really would be quite an insight. And I wonder how many of the items listed under ‘furnishings’ in the catalogue might be in that very photo.

So my mystery is going to take a little more time to solve! I’m hoping I’ll get a bit of help in the process. In the meantime, I’ll be taking a much keener interest in Clarence Place Hall on my daily travels into work. What a reminder of the joy I get from my charity shop travels too.

Rosie xx