posted by Natalie Paddick

The thing about Interior Design it can be subliminal… What makes a vibe in a room? Sometimes it can be the décor .. And the rest of the activity bonces from that kinetic spring board… Other times is about the ambience, the aura of a place and where it takes you whilst you are there…Sometimes there is just simply magic in a space… But mostly it is about the people in that interior space that makes the rest of the room worth taking into consideration … And Langan’s had it in all aspects …

I couldn’t sleep last night, so as ever I continued to stroll through the back streets of my memories and was amused when I ventured upon the mid 1980’s to 1990’s and my family’s relationship with Langan’s Brasserie, Stratton Street, Mayfair, London…

Back in the day Langan’s Brasserie, if you don’t already know it, was a very trendy place to be seen, set up by Peter Langan, a notorious Irish entrepreneur with an eye for the style of the moment and a reputation for his drinking exploits; his partners in this restaurant were Sir Michael Caine, him of the acting fame and Richard Shepherd a renowned British Chef. Langan’s opened in 1976. A big part of the special ambience of Langan’s was created by Peter Langan, he knew that people expected a show and he was prepared to give it to them drunk or sober.. The thing is that sometimes the performance takes over, his antics were legendary….

Langan’s is based on a French restaurant style and quickly became hugely successful, these days we have chains based on a similar basis such as Café Rouge and Cote. The interior design was based around an open plan room with round tables each covered with two white table clothes thrown over them at different angles, the idea being that when you made a mess of the top layer, this would be removed providing a clean one underneath! French practicality andstyle genius at its best! Placed around the tables sat square and oval backed chairs upholstered in red and greenish velvet, the fabric, by the time I went there, had taken on more of a shabby chic look, which added to the style of this more laid back approach to catering. The wooden floor boards had the essential worn look of a well frequented French Café. The walls were decorated with clusters of classic brass French swan neck lamps with assorted glass shades dotted about on the saffron coloured walls. Interspersed by some very expensive Fine Art some painted by the artists of the moment such as Freud and Bacon, who apparently painted in lieu of good Brasserie grub. David Hockney designed the menu, which remains very similar to this day..

So to the grub, Langan’s served what is termed British nursery style food, such as Banger’s and Mash and Fish Pie along with French classics such as Moules Marineirs and Escargots a la Bourguiguonne or if you prefer Snails in Garlic Butter. The bar was cunningly situated by the front entrance, a location questioned by Sir Caine as, in his opinion, it would inevitably create a bottle neck as people entered the establishment; Peter Langan, with his extensive knowledge of the restaurant trade knew that there was nothing better than making a place look busy, thus making it look attractive to the passing clientele. Another ingenious trick used in the interior design by Peter was to orientate the tables in such a way as to make the diners as visible as possiblemaking sure that everyone at each table could be viewed by the other dinners, creating Theatrical magic, this worked well when hosting the myriad of celebrity diners who frequented the restaurant. There was however an upstairs for guest who may have wanted a little more privacy and less of being ogled at as the celebrity’s intrigue. But to be truthful the only reason for going to Langan’s was to be part of the wealthy celebrity hubbub, to see and to be seen, like most of these celebrity haunts. Just great fun…

This haunt was a must visit for my mother being the ultimate social butterfly and having read about Langan’s Brasserie in amagazine and hearing allabout it from her two favourite multimillionaire gay friends Alan and Ray. Who were already regular clients, this restaurant suited them particularly well as they liked the simpler style of cuisine on offer here. It was not uncommon for Alan to supply a restaurant with his favourite delicacy, a tin of corned beef in preferenceto anything on the restaurant menu. Alan and Ray had never ventured to far from their comfort cuisine from their uncomplicated northern roots, somethings money does not change. My mother, the doyenne of all social affairs, was particularly good at organising Alan and Ray’s collective social events and got straight into organising a visit.

One of the other reasons this restaurant was right up my mother’s‘alley’, was because of the abundance of celebs and the relaxed attitude of this eating house to its clientele’s more extreme behaviour. For a time it eventook over from her other more formal favourite stomping-grounds of the moment, such as Le Caprice and l’Escargot. The latter of which, became a regular haunt of her husband’s, Trevor with his secretary, much to the irritation of my mother. But that is another story.

My mother, Alan, Ray were mostly the central hub of a group of friends and colleagues, with various other bit players who would join them from time to time for the typical long lunches and revelry that was part of Langan’s ethos. It was not unusual for the restaurant to have very inebriated lunch guest still seated andliving it large with a table cluttered with bottles of booze late into the afternoon, not to mention on occasions Peter Langan himself sleeping off a lunchtime bender under one of the tables.Indeed Peter Langan was renowned for his drunken antics including crawling around on the floor biting women diner’s ankles, or insulting one of the celebrity guest, when it took his fancy. All this went on whilst the long suffering staff attempted to lay tables around the inebriates for the evening service. So in short this was the perfect place for the fun of the mid 1980’s, non-PC lifestyle of the moment, which my mother loved... She bloomed and sparkled…

Trevor, who was in fact a business colleague of Alan was also invited to some of these gatherings, despite my parents outlandish relationship which was one of either open hostility toward each other or just the simmering undertones;depending on what had gone on during the previous week between them, it was never an easy fit! Alan a fan of my mother delighted in stirring the pot, which only added to the open antagonism. At other times Trevor and Alan would mostly be trying to set up deals with each other and other members of the cartel, this was after all the 1980, and everyone was trying to do the Michael Douglas, Wall Street deal ….This period was Money, money, money… And this crowd had it in abundance or so they lead each other to believe. There were always deals going on for big money, each member pretending to be the others best friend, whilst financially stabbing the other in the back in the final pay out. This consortium had the vital link to Jersey and other off shore islands, a loop hole that these days the government has mostly ‘corked’…. My mother delighted in it all floating around the table looking like Joan Collins from Dynasty. It was a colourful time.

The more familiar the crowd became with Langan’s and the staff the more drunk and wild they got, my mother had the most annoying habit of asking each and every staff member their name, mostly young men and then would become overly familiar with them as the wine surged through her veins… Mum loves to be in the know, flirting with them, as you might imagine being her daughter I found it excruciating, albeit I should have been used to it by now!… However inadvertent this fliting may have been it was a trade mark of my mother that was bound to frankly, piss Trevor off! She would pass it off as ‘social networking’ to get the best service for the table as a whole and to be fair it most probably worked.. To be honest any male between 8 and 80 was on her radar, mum just loved the attention! Usually, toward the end of the meal they would all top up their luncheon drinks with the ‘stickie’s otherwise known as the death nail liqueurs. Which rendered most incapable…

On one beautiful summer day, the entire cohort of characters were due to meet at Langan’s for the annual general meeting of one-upmanship and skulduggery. The event to be hosted ‘mostly’ by Trevor and his gluttonous Jersey based lifelong friend and lawyer Martin, Martin had made his notorious name by being involved with various scams of the 60, 70 and 80’s, not least the Channel 5 perfume fraud, all of which, netted Martin £millions. My beautiful mother being the ultimate party girl had arrived early on that day, with little table gifts for the wives and girlfriends attending the luncheon, a little twist that she liked to do. She had just purchased them on her way to the Brassiere from the renowned, Butler & Wilson costume jewellery shop in South Molton Street. On arrival at Langan’s she was wearing a couple of her purchases, huge dangly earrings and matching diamanté spider broach on her new outfit, every attention to detail as ever. Whilst decorating the table adding the extras and chatting to the staff, my mother glanced up at the entourage of people arriving, who were relatively quickly hustled up the stairs, I have to tell you my mother never misses a trick, her eyes were fixed on the crowd ascending the stairs, she was delighted when she recognised two of the party, Mick Jagger and what would appear to be Ronnie Wood amongst others. Never one to miss a social experience… She shot up the stairs like gazelle after them, slowing at the top landing with stylish aplomb and hovered, checking out the ‘competition’… Having evaluated the opposition, she scooted down the stairs and called the manager over to tell him that she had decided that her table party would be better placed upstairs. Ever eager, well at least to her face to please a regular client, the manager agreed to see what he could do to accommodate her wishes.

The door opened and closed and my mother craned her head to see who was arriving, as luck would have it .. Michael Caine and what would appear to be Michael Winner entered nonchalantly into the house.. And walked over to a table close to the one my mother had been recently decorating… A dilemma! Upstairs with the rock and roll stars, possible at a table not quite close enough to properly eaves drop or mingle. Or nestled downstairs with a celebrated English legend and actor and his friends which she could observe… Decision made... She called to the manager ‘no, no leave everything as it is, thank you’.. The ever obliging staff, started to relay the table…

As the friends and associates arrived, meeting each other with the usual bonhomie and excited chat, courtesies and all social niceties prevailed. The best wines were being ordered by the double bottles and the gathering was under starters orders. Another intrigue, Trevor was never allowed to order the wine on these occasions as he would just order the house wine and why not, Trevor could never be considered a wine connoisseur, whilst Martin was a wine snob, this was all about polishing egos and Martin’s ego, much like his personality….Was voluminous. Martin a big man with a square jaw, sausage shaped lips that moved at odds with what he was saying, sometimes he suffered with a severe case of halitosis.. Martin liked to place himself opposite mirrors or shinny surfaces so that he could watch and admire himself, which he did quite unabashed. Martin’s third wife was with him on this occasion, as opposed to one of his girlfriends; she was a bright woman of great humour, strength and mischievous intent, Angela was usually subject to Trevor’s misogynistic comments…Mostly she handled the situation well, until Trevor mentioned her weight, knowing it was her weak point, like most women this is a sensitive subject and in the circumstances given Trevor’s portly stature, it was really pot, kettle, black! Angela tolerated him but loathed him in equal measures, which always became apparent once she started on the stickie’s. So this was going to be another illuminating occasion in the fun surroundings of Langan’s..

Ed and Janet joined the entourage, although not usually one of the founding members of this merry band. Ed a very large black man with a lascivious nature, seemed to appear metaphorically speaking from the shadows, no one was really sure what business he was involved in; what we did know, was he was involved in gunrunning and diamonds, these days it all seems a bit farfetched but that was the 1980’s/90’s for you! Once in Barbados when we were all out in another restaurant, my mother took her camera out to take some pictures of the assembled table and I have never seen so many men move so quickly to duck out of the way of the camera lens. She was politely told never to take photos of ‘this’ company again by Martin! Give Ed a few bottles of drink and he became the hulk and completely uncontrollable. Janet on the other hand who had met Ed on a Concord flight, when she was an air hostess, was timid and well bred, but always rather sad, she had “managed” to have two children with Ed, I say managed because he was not happy about their appearance, but had finally accepted them. A further bone of contention between them was that he would not leave his wife and marry Janet, which obviously made things a little complicated, there was a lot of sadness in her eyes as they followed Ed’s every word and move around the table.

Alan was the money maker in the relationship with the younger Ray who he indulged. He had made his money in Thermolite back in the day and Ray had been one of the lorry drivers working for the firm. They were both northerners from a working class background and made no bones about the fact that they were in a long standing gay relationship, which considering the period was very forward thinking bearing in mind some of the feelings of the time depending on who you spoke to. Alan always had the beady eye to the chance, he was an older version of how I imagine Oscar Wilde would have looked had he lived a longer life. Alan was full of contradiction and could be extremely vicious. But mostly before he drank too much he was the epitome of conviviality wanting to be the centre of controlled charm. With Alan’s business acumen and skill he had transformed their lives to one of monstrous wealth. Ray had spent his adult life following the bountiful Alan from board meeting to board meeting, sitting in hospitality of some description drinking.. Being board, Alan was an alcoholic and Ray was double.. So quite often when you met up with them Ray was still drunk from the night before, but what struck me about Ray is that he always seemed to give the appearance of just emerging freshly scrubbed from the shower and would break the ozone level with the copious amounts of cologne he had on… But wow, to say that they looked out for my mother would be an understatement and I respected them for that… And so the luncheon rolled on …

Food was now discarded and more wine and stickie’s were being consumed and the conversation was loud, very loud… Some people were smoking cigarettes but the men were smoking the expensive cigars provided by Langan’s. Martin was making eyes at himself in the mirror turning his head slightly from side to side allowing the smoke to tumble out of his engorged rubber lips. Nobody could love themselves more than he did.. He was immune to the conversation going on around him, completely consumed by his own image and self-importance. The now drunk table had descended into nowhere land, Ray was wearing the designer earrings given to the other ladies as gifts by my mother as if they were cheap cracker versions of jewellery. It was evident that my mother was not amused. There was now a general assent and decent of the stairs by various party members going to use the toilets, which was a masterclass in trying to look sober, sexy and elegant all at the same time. Ray who was now so drunk was scaling the stairs on his hands and knees, none of the staff seemed to be too worried as Ray made it to the top of the stairs and was crawling along the floor in the direction of the toilets… Sometime later Janet descended the stairs, completely normally as she had not drunk to the excesses of some of the others. She informed the table that Ray had been sick into the plant display and was currently laying prostrate next to it on the rug, unconscious… My mother who had also not drunk the same as the rest … Quietly took to her feet and walked up the stairs in the manner of a screen siren on a Fred Astaire film…. Smiling as she went..

Various members of staff were now going up and down the stairs as discreetly as possible with various cleaning equipment, I had no doubt my mother was up there trying to wake Ray and bring him round, she was a dab hand at dealing with situations like this with Alan and Ray. Trevor not a seasoned drinker and clearly wanting out of what might be a scene was now panicking, clearly he wanted to make his exit stage left, as quickly as possible… He was flapping to get the bill and he had taken his propelling pencil out which in real terms meant that he was now carving up the bill for payment amongst his revelling pals. Alan was now vaguely aware that his pal Ray had caused a distraction upstairs was doing as he always did, digging into his pocket and peeling off notes from a large wad of cash that he always kept to hand for moments like this… Alan always clocked a waiter that he made a fuss over whilst at any establishment, giving them a large gratuity before the meal had even got underway. This ensured that if he or Ray got blind drunk then he would have an ally… I had seen this tactic many times before.. He waved the waiter over and placed another amount of scrolled notes in his hand and mumbled something to him… And the waiter disappeared presumably to deal with Ray’s fallout.. Literally.

Eventually my mother descended the stairs, smiling and looking glamorous as ever, clearly she had organised the staff to deal with the ‘incident’ upstairs.. Which to be fair they were very good at… Trevor was itching to get out, he was squirming there was no way he wanted to be part of this scene, it had all gone too far, as it inevitably always did.. Figures were banded around the table and payments were being quickly made.. Martin was forced to stop looking at himself in the mirror and make his payment, Angela, his wife, having sustained a number of savage verbal blows from Trevor’s had over indulged herself in the stickie’s and was now slowly sliding off her chair, red lipstick smudged across her mouth… Ed, now standing, eyes overtly large was nervous looking in all directions as if he was under siege. He was ready for a quick getaway, cradled in his arm was a full bottle of what looked like Brandy, Janet was making mewing comments in an effort to make this very large man sit down but it was to no avail.. Alan, despite being very inebriated was now unsteadily on his feet… There was a general alcoholic paranoia in the air.. If I had the sense of humour I have now I would have shouted HMR&C…And watched the fallout.. And I don’t just mean from our table! But I did not have to…

At the top of the stairs appeared a now upright Ray with Alan’s paid up waiter, standing to the left of him in support. Rather brilliantly, Ray’s ears were still sparkling as he was still wearing the diamanté earrings, Ray smiled down in the general direction of the table, he was not looking too bad under the circumstances, he was talking loudly but no one understood what he was saying, this personal language was known affectionately to the group as ‘Raymonees’. As my eyes looked at up at him, I turned my head toward the now concerned polarized men of the group all looking up at Ray as if waiting for divine intervention, there was a sort of sobriety momentarily in the moment a stopping of time. Ray slowly stepped down the stairs as if preforming a stage appearance aided by his waiter. As he reached the bottom few stairs the waiter lost or released his hold. As if in slow motion, Ray lurched forward and to the right taking the last few steps at speed, he took a right about turn that propelled him full on into the mirror at the bottom of the stairs.. There was a consecutive intake of breath…

Ray had effectively face-kissed the mirror at speed, the vision took on a Tom & Jerry animated theme. Ray remained sort of stuck to the mirror for a moment or two as it slowly but spectacularly cracked in shards of glass around his body and then Ray legs slowly gave away and buckled underneath him and he peeled away from the surface like a banana that had been thrown at a window and could no longer retain the hold and dropped to the ground. The glass mirrored exploded and broke free from its frame into a mass of individual lethal shards of glass, raining down on their aggressor like a swarm of bees….

When this horror film spectacle came to an end it was clear that Ray was alive but he was injured and covered in blood, in irritation Ray let out a comment although in Raymonee, loosely translated as “Fuck it”!... Now this is the thing … In any other normal world the men at our table should have run to help and deal with the situation… They did run … But not in Ray’s direction … Trevor, Alan and Ed stampede for the exit in what was clearly blind panic.. Fighting each other to get out of the door like a scene from the Keystone Cops, bodily pushing each other out of the way. Ed being the larger won the fight and was propelled onto the streets still holding onto the bottle of Brandy, closely followed by Alan… And Trevor expelled himself like a bullet after them… There was a slow moving bus crawling down Stratton Street, Ed jumped on it pulling a very unsteady Alan on board after him, Trevor presumably in his blind terror, pushed the portly Alan further on the bus and jumped on behind him.. All three were last seen disappearing off up the Stratton Street toward Piccadilly. Martin pulled his drunken wife off her seat and frog marched her out of the door in haste after the other men and were off up the street, Martin hailed a taxi and bundled his wife unceremoniously into the cab.

What happened to Ray, well an ambulance was called and he was despatched to hospital with my mother where he received a large number of stitches to his face and shoulder.

Sometime after this incident by way of compensation from his ‘beloved’, Alan bought Ray a top of the range Bentley. Which on first outing Ray threw up all over the back seat …

I would like to tell you that they were all too shame faced to EVER go back to Langan’s ever again, but this was not the case! There was one other notable incident..

Sometime in the 1990’s, when my parent’s already hostile relationship had become more antagonistic, they were now mainly living apart except for any social events which Trevor may privately organise, thinking that his wife would not find out about, my mother like a detective would always know about a social event and would turn up unannounced and uninvited, putting Trevor on the back foot.. Particularly as Trevor’s secretary usually was invited! Now, my mother’s Birthday was on the horizon and this always meant a family fallout was guaranteed. We, her children and our respective partners had decided on doing our own thing for my mother’s birthday this year in the vain hope of avoiding another family drama. So when we got a letter from Alan suggesting a party at Langan’s we politely and quickly declined. Trevor was equally invited to the Langan’s bash and was also invited to pay toward this extravaganza on his wife’s behalf… Alan knowing full well that their relationship was on thin ice…

Trevor, who had no intention on this planet of attending another farcical alcoholic shindig with the crowd at Langan’s, with his wife at centre stage, also declined.. That should have been an end to it..

The grand birthday bash a table of 20 plus close friends of this period who were shipped in from all over to celebrate.. Alan had decided to kindly pay the bill and no expense was spared.. My mother was let in on the act and she delighted in receiving a budget for the table decorations and party bling.. The guests arrived and by all accounts the party was going great guns and my mother was as ever the centre of attention and adoration … As the party got underway, my mother made her way to the toilet when she exited she came across the charismatic Chris Evans, who was the embodiment of the 1990’s celebrity television and radio face. He had obviously become aware of the noisy party and kindly given her a kiss on each cheek wishing her a happy birthday… He asked if she would like to play a trick on her guest suggesting that when she sat back at her table he would come over, pretending to know her of old and embrace her.. Just to impress her friends … This was just up my mother’s street… And of course amused the relaxed assembled crowd..

Well as they say … Would you Adam & Eve it! Sometime prior to the attendees of the party arriving, Trevor strolled into Langan’s for his prearranged business meeting and was shown to his table downstairs where he waited for his guest, despite having been given the date and the location of his wife’s party some months earlier, it had clearly slipped his mind or he had dismissed it, most probably both. This is typical of Trevor mercurial style, when I was a child I likened him to the cartoon character Mr Magoo a wealthy short, stout bald man who suffers with short-sightedness and as a result gets into a series of comical situations, this is compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit there may be a problem in the first place!However, through uncanny streaks of luck, the situation always seems to work itself out for Magoo, leaving him no worse than before. Classic Trevor! Trevor is not near-sighted he is more, ‘short sighted’ of the potential consequence of any of his actions…

And so the theatre at Langan’s continues! Puffing on his cigar and sipping his house wine from the sanctuary of the his table.. Trevor was quietly pondering on the up and coming business luncheon. Suddenly he was pulled back to reality from his scheming; by something that caught his eye by the bar, standing there were a number of people he knew, which immediately alarmed him. He slid behind the pillar so that he would not be noticed and observed from what he considered was a safe place.. More people known to him arrived and they were all embracing each other in an excited manner. He pulled back behind the pillar again and tried to make sense of it, his nerves were peaked as he had no intention of letting on that he was in the building. Puffing more deeply on his cigar and taking a large swig of wine.. He looked round again and in walked Martin and Angela with Ed and Janet… “Curiouser and Curiouser thought Trevor”… As yet the preverbal ‘penny had not dropped’!… Panic was now setting in.… The door opened again and in walked his business companion, spotting Trevor he waving effusively in Trevor’s direction. Trevor quickly jerked far back behind the column, knocked over his wine breaking the glass and splashing the contents up the wall onto Langan’s renowned artwork.. Staff hearing the recognisable noise immediately made their way attentively to the table to deal with the situation, inviting Trevor to stand up so that they could wipe down the lap of his light suit now puddled in wine in the crutch area.

Trevor did as he was asked and stood, shaking his business companion hand and turning his back to the party crowd at the bar so as not to be noticed. Glancing furtively over his shoulder at the party of people he could see that they were making their way to their table.. Trevor took his chance he informed the staff that he no longer wanted to sit downstairs after all, he wanted to have a table upstairs immediately. The ever accommodating Langan’s staff agreed and requested that Trevor and his guest follow the waiter upstairs... The staff member led the way through the other dinners tables toward the stairs, Trevor pushed his lunch guest first and followed conspiratorially behind holding a napkin over his groin in an attempt to hide the damp patch and not to put the other dinners off their meal, in case they thought he had wet himself.…

Half way across the floor disaster struck my mother walked through the door with Alan and Ray… Trevor the least subtle person in the world, did an about turn and charged back to the table, mumbling that he had forgotten something, on arriving back at the table he threw himself back behind the column onto the chair; peeking out at the understandable confusion on the waiter and business colleague face, Trevor gesticulated to them and waving them on upstairs..And they duly complied... Now all Trevor had to do was to get himself upstairs and keep out of view.. Red and sweating.. The penny finally dropped… It was his wife’s birthday party!! Hearing much applause to the arrival of the birthday girl… He took his chances ducked out from the table and hotfooted it up the stairs clutching a serviette to his scrotum…..

It was no good the food sat half eaten and cold in front of Trevor, he could not concentrate, on his business meeting; he could hear shrieks of laughter from downstairs from voices he could recognise.. Trevor made his excuses and got up from the table leaving his companion with his half-finished food, and made his way to the toilets were he hid until his guest had left… Thereafter Trevor loitered around the toilet and upper floor areas. One down twenty odd to go… Most normal people would just front it out and leave the premises, not Trevor that is just not his “style” He was plotting his dramatic escape..…

Whilst Trevor was loitering around at the top of the stairs. Various members of the party passed him to use the facilities whilst he feigned interest in the artwork on the walls, by standing to close to it and showing them only his back. He came up with the genius plan of opening one of the windows, in a quiet moment when there were no clients or staff around and escaping across the outside of the building via the fire escape…. Finally he released the latch on the window and started to push the stiff window open… Before he could raise a leg to get out of the window …A very loud alarm went off through the Brasserie, alerting the staff that there was a potential runner. Staff arrived from all directions to capture the potential culprit.… Only to find it was a very red faced Trevor… Who explained that he was feeling too hot and needed fresh air.. All was forgiven and the window was closed… There was no immediate escape… So Trevor continued to sit around upstairs and made a more forensic investigation into the wall art to pass the time as the afternoon wore on..

Finally he could stand it no longer he decided he was going to take the plunge, to walk down the stairs and leave Langan’s via the front door!.. He had based this decision on the law of averages that my mother’s birthday party guests would by now be too inebriated and the party would be in such full swing that he could just escape via the front door like normal clientele with no one noticing him, particularly if he moved at speed. In my opinion this was the flaw in his otherwise well thought out plan. I mean who sprints through a laid back restaurant like Langan’s like an Olympic runner with a bad stain on the front of his trousers?

Trevor picked his moment and shot down the stairs at break necked speed, Trevor is no light weight, so it was quite a sight for the dinners to see.. And people looked up at the stampeding noise. Trevor had not banked on the restaurant downstairs being quite so busy, which meant that he had to adopt a slalom ski style type of manoeuvre around the tables, chairs and clientele. Finding this route blocked he back doubled and attempted to move in another direction as people out of courtesy were shunting their chairs tightly under the table in order to try and let what looked like a man in panic pass.. Presumably they thought the poor man had got quite a serious problem due to the state of his trousers and were therefore in some sympathy with him..

Then mid blind panic, he heard my mother’s voice calling… ‘Trevor, Trev over here’…It was all in vain …To late …He shrugged his shoulders turned, composed himself as much as he could.. And made his way to the assembled table.. My mother and her friends had assumed that he had arrived to surprise her and he adopted the same lie.. He had no choice but to order a number of large bottles of the best Champagne and play along. My mother having spotted the stain on Trevor’s groin, tried to secretly bring it to Trevor’s attention by pointing at it and gesticulating that Trevor should pull his shirt out to cover the discoloration in the material. Which Trevor ignored. Having made the attempt to make merry with some of these people, he made his excuses for the second time this lunchtime and handed over a wodge of cash to Alan toward the party costs… He waved goodbye to all, after participating in a number verses of Happy Birthday to my mother and left as quickly as he could…Taking a taxi straight back to his office…

Some hours later the receptionist at Trevor’s office called up to his office, where he was sitting in a meeting with his secretary, “Mr Wynne-Jones, there is a call from Langan’s will you take it?” Somewhat bemused and concerned that he might be called back to the revelry and further alarmed that his secretary would think that it might have been having luch with his wife, he took the call from another room. “Yes”… “Mr Wynne-Jones this is Langan’s Brasserie, you have left without paying your bill, please may I take details of you credit card.” … You could not write it … Except I have…

You could only liken this adventure to Trevor taking his two alcoholic elderly Geordie aunts to Claridges, London for high tea. Sometime later he received a phone call to his office from the Matradee asking Trevor if his aunts wished to return the two trademarked ashtrays to the hotel or if he would prefer the cost to be added to his monthly bill …

You see, to me there is interior design that surrounds every story …. And Langan’s and its style added to this one …

If you enjoy this story about my life I will keep you briefed on the ones to come …



posted by Natalie Paddick



I have ‘just’ over 25 years of The World of Interiors and Vogue, so I thought it would be fun to look back in time.. & see what was going on in the design & style world back then…

I pulled January 1994 off the shelf in my office.. Sat down and started flicking through the glossy pages that so allured and enthralled me back in the day… I don’t collect the magazine now & nor do I really buy it, although it has to be said that on the odd occasion.. Well… Let us put it this way .. It calls to me!…

The World of Interiors is largely of a particular style, which is opulent and niche and requires more than a certain amount of money, it is the Royalty of interior design magazines & dare I say it .. It knows it! … So why do I still hold on to twenty five years of the publication.. Because it takes me back to a period of my life that I loved … Pure opulent design.. & lush memories from the past …

Two articles attracted my attention, ‘this time’.. One, a double page spread of a collection of HARLEQUIN coloured & styled cups and saucers.. I love tea cups, I never drink out of a mug … Unless I really have too, which is almost never!.. The shape & colour of the tiny vessel pulls me in, I just enjoy the moment of a cup of ‘weak black Earl Grey’ in a decent teacup.. I guess we all have that inanimate object that we have some sort of affinity with & the teacup and saucer is mine! Well it is in this article anyway!

I have finally persuaded my husband that I should have a large selection of them… I only ever want to use them, not to collect them .. If they get ever get broken that is sad but I will move on to the next one .. The colours that I like at the moment are dark blue, white with a hint of gold on occasions. That is my colour pallet.. However …I have resisted the urge to collect completely, as my mother had a large collection of tea and coffee cups, displayed all over the house, even in the bathroom and downstairs toilet, some of her enormous collection were chipped and broken, some had been re-glued & bodged together, some were worth a fortune. She had every colour, design & shape.. God forbid you put your full cup of tea down on a table because when you went back to reclaim it .. It was gone.. Lost among the myriad of other hot beverage receptacles, never to be seen again… So as yet I have put that particular hobby on hold.. I hear my husband breathe out in relief! But what I would say is that I really do like them..

Continuing my forage through 1994 World of Interiors, it is obvious that interior design styles, furniture and design themes are in the main cyclical, we are still doing what we have always done, reinvent what has already been invented.. Albeit with a little twist.. The second article that caught my attention today is COOL, CALM & COLLECTED… By decorator Frederic Mechiche, his beautiful styling of a Paris apartment on Avenue Foch in what can only be described as ‘18 century Hollywood ambience’, is sublime … I really like his work, it is worth a look at Google images, he likes stripes, as do I. His bold design themes using key pieces of furniture are at the centre of his concepts and it pulls me in.. It is full on in your face drama, there is nothing demure about it.. It is 18 century SEX ON LEGS! …

There is little or no colour in the interior design of this particular flat, the nicotine stained walls are the backdrop to the drama of the story and the furniture and object d’art become the characters, isolated from each other sat in their particular spot on the stage all waiting for their moment to shine … But showing reverence for the time being to the play yet to be performed… The characters in the oil paintings look on, the audience have taken their seats housed in their gilded frames set at low level on the wall, making sure of their view… The paintings gold frames paying homage to the chairs frames, with gilded delight…. Let’s play on …

The glazed mirrored glass doors in the dinning room allow and encourage the flow of the flat and are to me a masterclass in style.. I love the modern take, it brings the room alive, for me, but then you know how much I love mirrors! The stark nature of the dining room almost with an abattoir’s style.. Shocks, particularly by today’s standards with all the Knick-knacks and bits and bobs we like on our dining table.. The window with the matching stripped curtains copying the fabric on the chairs in the sitting room.. This pulls this play into focus.. The washed cotton style calico fabric mummifying the table & chairs.. Is really quite disturbing … But .. You can just imagine the colours & drama of that table covered in brightly coloured food screaming for you to eat it as it drips lusciously onto the table cloth… I love the idea of taking a chair at this dinner table whilst being stalked and looked down on by the guarded columns that stand in reverence viewing the situation from above.

Having finished my meal you can move to the bedroom above with the mirrored glazed wall bathed in delicate lighting, now this is a place to have fun…. The strips of the fabric more bold … This interior design is not for the faint hearted .. But it is sure as hell .. For decadent and louche… Living and having fun … I love it … & it still works today …


posted by Natalie Paddick

One of my favourite pastimes, as you know if you read my blogs is flicking through my beloved glossy magazines, when I get a moment… A few months ago I was looking at the adverts in the back pages; I am always fascinated to see what is selling… I noticed a picture of some really beautiful little ceramic knobs.. I instantly liked them for two reasons, firstly they were different from what is on the market at the moment and secondly they were being sold in collections of multi-designs, which really appealed to me... You can of course buy them in matching groups, if that suits your design remit…. It is really quite on trend at the moment to use different styles of door knobs in contrasting colours that complement each other and this is a really good way to update a cupboard or a cabinet in a really short timescale.

Sometimes you just want to rejuvenate an item of furniture without too much fuss; these are the “go to” item, for me. Once I had seen these beautiful little creations from the company “These Please”,who hand make and hand paint each unique piece in designs to suit all the rooms in the home, including the babies room … For me, it was all about finding the right item of furniture to show case these little beauties…

And this cabinet was the perfect candidate …

The lovely people at“These Please” kindly sent me a set of 20 shiny ceramic door knobs… To update this time worn, quirky chest of drawers, I wanted to keep the rustic look of the drawers, so all I needed to do was to replace the knobs, which are extremely well made, easy and quick to fit. My only tip would be that when fitting, if using tools, do not over tighten the securing nuts as you could possibly crack the knobs…

Just look at the difference…. I think the pictures speak for themselves….

If you would like to get some of these beautiful door and drawer knobs, which are sold at an extremely reasonable price point.. Contact / 01435 817153. The knobs come in various set sizes and modules, which have circumference dimensions of between 2.5cm – 4.5cm. You can choose from a large number of designs, styles and colours….

Go to the site and check them out you won’t be sorry …..


posted by Natalie Paddick

I was talking to a friend on Twitter the other day, who is selling her home and it occurred to me how difficult and unsettling this process is… Not to mention the stress of trying to live in a home that has to look like a show home … I have sold and styled a large number of houses, for ourselves and for clients so I thought that I would share a few helpful tweaks with you…

Declutter – Obvious! But the advice is don’t declutter too much! What does this advice even mean? Basically it means tidy up your rooms take out any ‘stuff’ that makes a room look messy, clear surfaces. It is key to make a room look like it has free open space… But don’t make the rooms look sterile, for example leave the odd attractive ornament on show, to give the room a bit of ‘panache’. Remember the proportions of a room and work with that. Try and make key focal point in each room. If the rooms are very large, then be more expansive. People like to buy into a lifestyle, so make yours look attractive. [Which of course I know it is *winks*] Quirky is okay but not too distinctive or individual!

Fix, Clean & Freshen Up! – Obvious [again], but so often people do not do it!?? You would be surprised at how many people think that they don’t need to clean an item because they are taking with them? No! and No! Again! Clean everything in your home! Inside and out! Make your home sparkle! Polish and clean to your hearts content, if that is not a direct contradiction in terms! Trust me when you get to the end of your cleaning frenzy, you will wonder why you don’t always live in this stratospherically clean new lifestyle. Well to be honest you will only feel this sense of euphoria, for a brief period! Because you have now imbibed so many cleaning chemicals that it has gone to you head in the form of endorphins. As this wears off, it becomes clear to you that keeping your domicile as tidy as this, whilst the house is on the market, can become more than a bit tedious, if not almost inhuman! But needs must! Don’t tidy up before each viewing, you have to keep it clean as you go forward with the sale. You are going for the ‘wow’ factor and the ‘curb’ appeal! All buzz words but you have to keep your spirits up in the face of possibly months on the market, whilst you live in your own show home!

You have to take on board that, although this is your home ….It is no longer really your home, it is your bargaining chip to your future life … What I am saying is keep your chin up and/or drink wine, which also helps! .. Start getting detached from your house … Not easy … But necessary!! Stiff upper lip and all that!

Get a theme going – Sounds obvious, again, but it is about drawing people in, making them believe that this is their new Utopia, I know this all sounds a bit exaggerated, but buying a house is a big deal… The most expensive purchase most people are going to make…Let’s move on to Estate Agents!! Pick carefully, make sure that they do all the viewings, I have worked with estate agents that try and get you to “show” the house for them… No! Keep your distance from a potential purchaser and don’t forget, you are paying the estate agents fees, and that is not going to be cheap! I think it’s essential to tell the estate agent how the house is to be viewed, for example, which rooms to go into first, so there is some sort of story being told, making the visit flow….Be strong with your agents. Have a viewing plan.

I have experienced on many occasions when a property does not sell in the first couple of months, the Estate Agents sometimes try to put pressure on you to reduce the price… If you don’t feel this is right don’t… For the record I have never reduced a price of a property because, if someone is interested they are entitled to make a fair offer for your house, on the other hand if you have reduced the price, a potential viewer then sees your property on line, they can sometimes think that there is something wrong with the property or that you are desperate to sell and it will / can put people off viewing. Don’t get me wrong estate agents are very good at their job, but it is a job! They want to get your house sold as quickly as possible and pick up their fee. Also keep in mind, they put the price on your house in the first place! They have done viewings, hundreds of times over, they can get a bit laissez faire. I once sold a house to Freda, from the iconic pop band Abba, so star struck was ‘our’ estate agent … He forgot if he was working for me or her, [she was lovely, by the way]. And I had to ‘re-focus’ his mind on the fact that it was us paying his bill! So take the estate agents advice, but don’t be afraid to make your own rules, it is your house / asset after all!

The Kitchen – Is the most important room in the whole house, it is worth the most per square foot, in the whole house and can make or break a deal, prevent or prompt a potential buyer into submitting the all-important offer..

Here are some simple ways you can update the look of your kitchen, for example replacing the cabinet handles on the kitchen doors for a different or more contemporary style, can actually make a dramatic difference. There are so many styles of handles can be purchased very reasonable with a quick Google search. Important Tip - Make sure you measure the screw holes in your cabinet doors accureratly, the last thing you want is new handles that do not fit to the existing holes!

Once you have cleared the surfaces, which makes the kitchen look bigger, find a feature bowl and fill it with fruit.... Or, I am a particular lover of glass vases full of eggs …. I think it is the earth mother in me?

Be sensible accentuate the positives, for example if there is a nasty stain on any of the worktops, why not disguise it by putting a strategically placed chopping board over it then place a plate of cheese and grapes on top! You are not being deceitful you are selling a perception, anyway the survey the buyer should have will pull up any relevant faults, but by this time your buyer is already hopefully sold on your house and a small stain won’t put them off. … Remember, all houses come with their quirks and foibles… That is part of their charm.

Another great and simple tip of mine, is to get a recipe book stand, find one of your favourite cookery books, and flip it open on a lovely picture and showcase it on the stand! Simple but this will just remind a potential purchaser of just how delicious this room is going to be for them. People love food, hence we have so many cooks and cooking programmes! Even I blog about food and my favourite recipes.

If your oven /cooker /Aga is a bit old, looking sad, buy some bright fresh new T-towels that you can bring out on visiting days and hang them decoratively over the oven door handles which hides a multitude of sins and freshens the look! This sounds mad, honestly I am a ‘bit’ but it works. I have always liked to bake bread, on a viewing day the delicious smell of a loaf in my bread machine cooking away makes the room and house smell delicious.. I have also been known, when selling a property in the winter time to stand over an Aga stirring a large pan of drinking chocolate! Silly but really it helps the purchaser get into the mood! And anyway my children are always ready for a hot chocolate! .. So it made sense to me!

Sitting Room – Make it look as spacious as possible, people want to relax in this room, but they like it to look stylish, too … Buy some new bright colour coordinated cushions, to spruce up the look, if you have the budget, you could always put in some reasonably priced blinds to match, there are many companies that will make bespoke blinds at great prices. Please do not make the mistake of just buying one or two cushions, more is better, don’t make it look like you are desperate, that is worse than having no cushions at all! If you don’t like cushions [men don’t seem too], get a few feature throws for a bit of bling. Clean up the side tables and get some mood / ambient lighting to set the scene, all the lifestyle stores sell these items at reasonable prices or there is of course our on-line, buddy! Remember to switch them on for the viewings and turn the main light down for the maximum effect… If the room is large, strategically placed vases of flowers can make a big impression. Not necessarily just cut flowers, buy some good quality fabric flowers and top up the look with a few sprigs of real greenery from the garden, which can easily be changed to keep the display at its best. Top tip, put a cap full of bleach into the water, no too much, but what this will do is keep the water clear, this tip also works well with real cut flowers too, there is nothing worse than murky, stinky water in a flower arrangement! [Well there is, but let us not go there in this article!]

Many viewings are of course during the evening so why not put an open bottle of wine on a table with a couple of glasses and some nibbles? This will make for a relaxing homey environment… And you get to eat and drink it later! If it is winter light the fire, if you have a working fireplace - obviously! Otherwise it is not advisable! Make sure you light the fire in advance so it is crackling away when your viewers arrive, don’t light it too early so that it is just a damp squib when they arrive, it is all about planning and strategy. If it is summer (see my previous blog) fill the fire place with candles, doesn’t matter if its candles in bottles or candelabra’s, just remember to light them before your viewer/s arrives… It will give the most amazing atmospheric feeling… It will feel like home …. [Theirs!]

Bedrooms – Eeeeek!! This can be a bit of a minefield… I drove my children mad … Once, [actually I drive them mad quite a lot!] It is so difficult to get young children to keep their areas tidy and you will drive yourself mad if you even try! … Just go with it, the best you can! Decorate a high shelf or two that is out of the child’s reach making the feature look cute. Put a big old basket, chest, designer bucket, whatever suits in a corner of the room - this can be a life saver! It makes tidying as quick as quick, you can ‘lob’ all the toys in the basket at the last moment, making the room look tidy! Teenagers are a little more challenging, in every respect! I have no idea why they revert back to being ‘mucky’ cavemen as they get older? It is a mystery? … There is no point in fighting them! .. You have enough on your plate, so my advice is to short circuit the shouting and do a quick daily circuit around their rooms and ‘mess’ areas. I know I should make them clean up … But trust me when selling a house it is just not worth the agro, there is enough stress already! Also Fabric Freshener comes in handy, if you know what I mean!

So back to bedrooms …. Clean crisp bedding is obviously essential, try to withhold any need you might have to use “overly” patterned sheets or too vibrant colours. Keep the theme cool and sharp …

Again pinch ‘that’ tip from the sitting room, putting stylish new cushions at the head of the bed, plumped up and perky… Make your bedroom look sumptuous.. This is the relaxing area… Make sure there is a mirror or two in the room, you know what I think about mirrors …. If you don’t, I will tell you .. I love them, they are my go-to interior design tip! Strategically placed they open up a room, reflecting, refracting and making the perspective of the room appear bigger and brighter. Add ambient lighting with a couple of well chosen bedside lamps. They can add a sculptural feature and change the dynamics of the mood – Try a dimmer too! Add a throw, for a bit of sumptuous charm…

Really / Really important … I have worked in hotels where they completely overlook the ‘blinking’ obvious! No make-up or hair drying / styling areas, a necessity in a bedroom! I cannot express how important this is… If you have a dressing table … Great .. Set it up! A mirror, perfume / cologne bottles [with a spray or two before the viewing], a pot plant on the table, better than cut flowers as it will last longer.

Perhaps a nice stylish tube / tub or two of hand or body cream. If you must have your make-up on show, moderate it, put what you need in colour co-ordinated bowls, and make sure it looks fresh and clean. If you do not have room for a dressing table then mock one up! A chest of drawers will suffice as a substitute, put a mirror on it or on the wall to maximise space. The reason I say this is because it is an important style tip, men and woman feel that they have a private ‘personal’ styling space, essential. How many times have you gone on holiday to a hotel or stayed in a villa and found yourself doing your make-up whilst balancing your make-up bag on your lap, trying to get close enough to a miss-placed miniscule mirror on a wall that is placed at the wrong height! Don’t even get me started on sitting on the floor blow drying your hair! The same situation applies to men…. Most probably not the makeup bit!

Again, you are not selling your house in a completely perfect condition, no one does, houses have foibles! It is a living entity and therefore needs maintenance, if someone puts in an offer, then of course they are going to do a more forensic investigation of the property. That being said, if for example, your carpet is not in the best condition think about an “on trend” rug, there are loads on the market, which can add a new dimension to a room.. PS! Try and find a place to put a full length mirror in the room, if you can’t find a place what about putting one on the inside of the cupboard! Or just outside in the hallway…

See Part two below .......


posted by Natalie Paddick

Bathrooms & The Little Girls Room – Make sure it smells nice! You can hide air fresheners discretely in the room. New fresh towels are a must! A must! They are your stage set for colour, you can move them out of the room when not being used for a viewing, and they give a fresh crisp and clean feeling! Good quality hand soap and hand cream, always looks and smells nice too. Always check the toilets before a viewing …! A new loo seat in a colour coordinating style to your towels can harmonise they the whole look. In some of the bathrooms I have used horizontal poles on hooks over which I draped magazines… Let’s face it people read in toilets and the magazines add a splash of colour and pizzazz. Make sure they are new magazines .. If you get my drift!

Halls and General Areas - Make sure there is good access, don’t let dozens of shoes block the floor area, remember this may well be the first viewed area when your potential purchaser pop’s their head through the door! Make a statement, this is your big chance! Open up the area with the strategic use of mirrors and maybe a statement piece of art work. Hallways in old houses can sometimes be quite dark, a good way around this can be the use of feature secondary lighting, such as plug in socket lights on a wire cord. When using this type of lighting make sure the spot light is focused on a subject.

Gardens & Outside Areas – Apart from keeping them tidy, it is always important to make a view, a focal point or two! It does not matter if it is summer or winter, you want to give your buyer an idea of how lovely it will be to relax in this space. If the outside area is small, make it appear to be bigger! Again mirrors! Wall mounted planters or just some simple but bold flushes of colour are essential. If the garden is bigger… Personally I love a water feature, and there are so many to suit any design or budget. But it can be expense work, so if you feel you do not want to run to that, put out a table and chairs, in the summer use cushions make a splash of comfort, pop a jug of orange juice and some glasses on the table, Pimm’s if you prefer! Because I am a avid cook I usually have a cake or two around for the children, pop one on the table with a couple of plates for your “guests”!.. Just for the look, this gives an image of how they can relax and / or entertain in their new home. If you don’t cook improvise with some posh biscuits… Make it look normal and natural, you have to sit somewhere whilst there is a viewing, why not outside? I know it sounds a lot… First impressions count! … You have to pull out all the stop’s my friends!

If it is winter, leave the table and chairs out, keep them clean and pop some colourful foliage on the table in some lovely pots / Baskets … Choose a colour scheme that suits your design… Colour in winter is a challenge, but evergreens with brightly coloured berries are in abundance……

If you have the opportunity to have some pots, hanging baskets or window boxes go for it, especially to the front of the house. First impressions again! Secure them well! ….

Lighting – Go around your house, switch the main lights off and the side lights on, check the focus of the lighting – ambience! Consider if it is worth the relatively small investment of dimmer switches as an option for the main lighting so you can select the effect creating an atmosphere. If any light bulbs have blown …. Change them!

If your kitchen is dark, work tops hidden under overhead cabinets.. Why not brighten things up with under counter / cabinet lighting. Mains, low voltage, LED and battery there is a simple solution, which will not require an electrician or in fact any real DIY aptitude on your part. This can be unbelievably effective and can really make a difference to the feel of the room.

Storage – Whenever I look at a house for ourselves or for a client, storage is one of the things I consider high on the ‘tick box list’. You can kill a viewing dead with not giving the impression that the property has a good amount of storage space. If you love books and magazines and have a collection they can look great if organised. Put them in piles of similar size and quantities. Erect the shelves according to the size of the books, biggest books at the bottom, largest at the top, it makes a great feature and gets them out of the way. I have been known to use utilitarian garage storage shelving, it is brilliant, it is cheap and easy to erect, you can choose the dimensions of the shelves to suit your items and they come in a range of sizes and frame colours – and they are very strong and durable! In fact they are perfect in children’s bedrooms to get the clutter off the floor, but make sure like all items of furniture that they are securely fixed to the wall! Just in case your ‘little darlings’ find them an interesting climbing frame!

Do a purge, you don’t want to take all this unused ‘stuff’ to your new home, it takes up space AND it will cost you money to get moved there, when in reality you are only going to throw it all away once you get there! Cut out the middle man! Put clothes that you are not going to use away, I store them in suitcases and hat boxes on the top of my cupboards, which look great and it is another way to get things out of the cupboards and make space. What about shoe boxes, they can be easily obtained on line and are a fab way to sort your shoes and they stack neatly. It is good advice…. One big job done ready for your move to your new home, which will reduce the stress levels … Now there is a plus!

Just a thought! (A big thought)

If you have not already utilised every conceivable option to maximise your property … Here is another idea to throw into the mix? Is there any extra leverage in say, a loft or garage conversion, this may seem like a massive expenditure! But just obtaining the planning consent will add immediate sales and value to your property with a minimal investment.

One last thing … It is so disheartening when you have made all this effort and a viewer comes into your beloved home, flits about the place like they own it already, makes one or two disparaging remarks and the odd very negative comment AND looks down on you like you are a second class citizen. This happens, you do and will have to suffer this indignity but it is always the means to the end! Grin and bear it, they just may buy it!

Don’t get jaded, hang on in there! When you’ve had a number of viewings, but still no offers… It is easy to get a bit low … Don’t

The” purchaser can very often be the last person you would imagine! But there is a purchaser for every home. Just keep the faith and keep the house looking like a designer shop…

I have had some very odd viewings over the years, one old couple, two ladies, after the viewing sat in the garden on the outside bench and ate their sandwiches! Needless to say they did not buy the house – Day trippers - Yeh!! On another occasion, [another house] I used to try and keep our delinquent cats out of the house, believe me they were not socially acceptable! Unfortunately, the Estate Agent left the door open and our most outrageous Bengal cat … strolled nonchalantly into the kitchen to join the assembled family of potential purchasers. Without further ado or formality, in my beautiful kitchen, Bangers the cat started to vocalise in a very animated way, “retching” and “retching” as if she had swallowed her entire body weight in fur balls! The guttural howling was spectacular, it was like a soundtrack from a horror film which culminated in her regurgitating one half of a masticated baby squirrel! Hideous and disgusting in equal measures … The family were ushered out of the kitchen, ‘quickly’ and that was the end of that viewing! …. No, they did not buy the property, but as far as we are aware needed no long term counselling either!

Finally, there was one occasion when a person was so enamoured with the prospect of replacing our lives with theirs in our property, that when viewing they asked me where we ate our dinner? I was a bit bemused by the question as the property had a large kitchen with centre island console that sat eight. Plus a separate twelve seater dining room and a sitting room large enough to comfortably house a table for six should you want to eat whilst watching the TV… Eventually I came to my senses and responded … ‘If you buy the house …. You can of course eat wherever you want!’ … They did not buy the house, perhaps due to confusion as to the eating arrangements – Who knows!

But the person who did buy the property I thought was a fantasist, not a purchaser! Posing in every room, hand on chin, hand of hip … Looking pensive, looking important… He requested I take his ‘selfies’ in every one of his various states of repose and in practically every room! Frankly I thought this man was a complete waste of time.. WRONG .. As I said – You never can tell - He was the one that bought the house!

So good luck, keep up the hard work, maybe get a few interior design magazines to give you some ideas …. And soon you will be moving into your new home …. X


posted by Natalie Paddick

A cross over between Interior Design & Photography


As you might imagine this engagement was my idea of bliss, a cross over between two of my favorite topics and my client hired me because of my … well quite frankly “out-there” style of photography .. So here are some of the pictures …. 



These photo’s were to promote Hennessy Antiques re-launch of his massive collection of ‘object d’art’ destined for the largest South African Antiques Trade Fair. They were to be shipped from the UK in three massive containers.



The pictures were shot in a massive two storey warehouse, with two specialist cabinet makers madly polishing and cleaning the furniture … It was a cold April 2014 … And the stench of the liquid polish pervaded the atmosphere … 






I particularly like these shots, the brief from the client being “make them dramatic and bring out the spirit of the furniture’s character”, if you like bring them alive … This gave me the scope I relish and artistic licence - free rein with a still life ..   



posted by Natalie Paddick

Winter Landscaping .. Making a Space Look Bigger …  With or Without your Neighbours Help!

Over the winter, we had the opportunity to make a client’s outside space look brighter and bigger. The property a new build home had a small dark front courtyard, as a result of the neighbour’s large misshapen overhanging fir tree. The courtyard had dark gravel, weeds and a great deal of debris which dropped from the overhanging branches and not to mention the droppings from the pigeons living in the foliage overhead! Not a pretty sight!

Now the obvious solution to this is to approach the neighbours and come up with a reasonable solution to either reduce the tree in height, thus stabilising the tree or as the tree was so misshapen take it down completely and replace it with something more suiting to the location. Or so you would think! It is a potential ‘neighbouring dispute’!

Your rights within the law in this country is if a neighbours tree, shrub or bush overhangs you perimeter creating a problem. You are entitled to remove the overhanging branches up to your boundary line only, making sure before you do this that the tree concerned does not have a preservation order on it! Again it is good neighbourly behaviour to advise your neighbour that you are going to do this. You must ask them if they require any branches and leaves that belonged to the boundary hedge back as they are your neighbour’s property. You can’t just throw them back into the garden of your neighbour as this is considered fly tipping! Our clients are Malaysian, just arrived in this country to their beautiful new home. The law in Malaysia is that if your neighbour trees, shrubs etc. overhang your property then the owner of said tree has to have them removed at their cost. A much more sensible option?

If you have tried to negotiate with your neighbour over the reduction of the “high hedge” impacting on your property, and they are being difficult about it, then another way of dealing with this issue is to approach your local council under the High Hedge act; Anti-Social behaviour act of 2003. The council will then mediate on your behalf for a fee of circa £400.00. If found that the hedge is too high and therefore anti-social they will enforce the owner of the hedge to remove/lower the height of the hedge at their expense. However this can be time consuming!

Our clients being very reasonable, honourable and decent people requested that I went around to speak to the neighbours on their behalf to explain the problem …. Here we go! So first I wrote to the neighbours explaining the situation, (they were not unaware of the problem, the developer had already written to them about the issue and I had a copy of that letter.) A week later, I rang the gate bell of the neighbours and the automated gates opened.. I walked in and went to what looked like the front door. No one came to greet me. So I went back to the gate and rang the bell again assuming that the owners would talk to me over the intercom. Nothing happened apart from some very strange incomprehensible electronic sounds out of the speaker … I waited and waited … But after about 5 minutes still nothing happened….With the exception of the electronic gates opening and closing .. So I moved on to the other neighbour who had other tree’s that were overhanging my clients garage to advise them that we were going to take the branches down. This neighbour was full of courtesy and was happy for us to take the damaged trees down. As a gesture of good will I offered to replace the trees with some new more appropriate specimens of her choice. Simple!

Suddenly, I became aware that someone had come through the electronic gates behind me. I approached the women, smiling (I had no reason not to smile!) As I got closer I could see that she was extremely agitated. I said ‘Hello’ … ‘I am working next door and your fir tree is overhanging my client’s garden creating a mess and shade …. My clients would like to remove the overhanging branches as they are undermining the roof of their garage….. ‘This women went ballistic … She pulled on to her hair saying that she was about to wash it and I had disturbed her… She said she hated the developer … And that her house was here first! …(This was not going according to my plan!) .. This woman continued to rant, her voice rising in volume’  … It was spectacular in a bizarre way … I started to wonder what I had said that had produced such a hysterical Cruella de Vil performance; it was like the moment in the film when Cruella realises her two Hench Men had lost the valuable puppies!!

I am not a wall flower, (anyone that knows me will tell you that!) But I am all for peaceful negotiation where possible. So … I tried in vain to pacify this enraged contorted puce faced women. I pointed out the facts in as nicer manner as possible. Best tactic I could think of when dealing with a screaming hysterical banshee. She threw her hands up, pulled further on her hair and screamed that she was going to see me in court! Rolls eyes … Like I have said before Interior Design & Landscaping is a dangerous career!

The problem I have found with this job and dealing with my clients neighbours over the years is that in most cases it is not about the problem in hand, in this situation, for example, the overhanging branches. It is about something far deeper… No one likes change and jealousy’s set in … And become deep seated… It is ‘road rage’ on a property level …

Subsequently, I received a three page letter from this woman’s husband to the office. Stating that my ‘invasion’, (ringing the gate bell!) Had upset his wife, his letter was full of misinformation that was completely irrelevant to the situation in hand. The overhanging branches! It was full of vitriol, personal insults and information on how important their lives are over a menial like me? I am not without caring for people’s emotions and personal feelings, but some rational approach needs to be taken?

Yes I really have to deal with this type of nonsense regularly! More often than you would think! ..My advice if you have a neighbouring dispute is; try and stick to the point! Most neighbours just want what is reasonable .. It is not a personal attack on the way you choose to live your life .. Try and negotiate for a happy all round solution to the problem … Try and take your neighbours feelings into account … Don’t turn it into a war .. And I should point out that it does not matter how long your house has inhabited its location if the local planners have approved planning then there is nothing you could do about it! Move on!! Please note I understand these things can be difficult … But be reasonable ….

The upshot of all this … Is that my courteous Malaysian clients are still dealing with these neighbours writing polite letters in order to negotiate with these people … But these disputes can go on for ever! …

So in the meantime … Our brief was to make the dark courtyard brighter. We replaced the dark gravel with bright creamy white Travertine paving slabs. Put in a huge, nearly 4ft high pot with a bespoke stainless steel water feature in the corner of the courtyard. Installed uplighters and down lighters in stainless steel, which creates views, atmosphere, movement and sound and in the evening focal point oasis of light. Installed a bespoke wooden planter filling it with sculptural plants, which as they grow will give shape and form. This completely opened up the area, made it feel much larger and to some degrees has actually defused the darkness caused by the overhanging trees. 

Footnote! Before we stopped working on this project, albeit we are going back later in the year to do the front garden and a conservatory. The tree neighbour’s husband came by to look at the landscaping … Interesting that it is fine for him to come over unannounced and walk onto the property with his friend to look at his overhanging tree! Double standards? Any way he told our workmen that because our neighbours had made the fateful mistake of landscaping their front garden; would mean that no tree surgery was ever possible! I roll my eyes! This is of course just rubbish and another excuse not to do anything about the tree! The point is that the branches, if not the tree will need to come down at some stage … You wonder what the point of the battle is? Like I said it is all about control, jealousy and unreasonable behaviour … I will keep you briefed on what happens next! …. But the courtyard looks fabulous … Result!  


posted by Natalie Paddick



I came across this article ‘what I wrote’ some years ago for a magazine; they called it “An expert in the field; designer Natalie Paddick offers her top advice on refurbishing and re-designing you home ....”

But it sort of works at this time of year!! ...

Befitting the month of March and all the ‘hare-brained’ ideas, that I have! ...... I am drawn to the subject of property refurbishment ........

First ... The sensible advice ... Hire a professional!! There I have said it!!

However if you are as Mad as a March Hare and are embarking on a DIYing property restyle then check out some of this advice! Before any refurbishment project make sure this new adventure is within your budget, experience, knowledge and within your capabilities!! Be warned, once you start a refurbishment you just can’t stop, it is intoxicating ... So let us get down to the business ....

All refurbishment projects when you do them yourself as opposed to having to adhere to a defined budget when I do it professionally; are almost always more expensive, usually more time consuming than you had envisaged and can be a little bit stressful at times!! But for my money there is nothing more fulfilling than a new design project .. I love it! ....

Okay ..... You have a great idea about extending, redesigning and improving your property, usually fuelled by the odd glass of vino! Or possibly watching Grand Designs .... First thing to do is the research .. A great way to start is by looking at interior design magazines and books, a brilliant source of inspiration, this can also be done on the net, but is not as relaxing ... If you are looking for specific furniture, lighting or products; don’t just Google, for example ... Stools ... Google ‘Wooden Kitchen Bar Stools’ then go onto images .... Far quicker and much more visually stimulating than scrolling through loads of web literature .... 

Before you start knocking the walls down, it is a good idea to photo the property before any work is done ... I then scribble my idea’s over the pictures and the tear sheets from the magazine pages I have ripped out! I am lucky I have a partner who reconstructs my idea’s, gets a tape measure out and actually makes them work on paper. If you don’t have one of these useful people, approach a good architect, again here do the research ... You want a designer who is on your wave length, if you choose an architect that does not interpret your design idea, you end up with an expensive bill and not the plans you wanted. If planning permission is required it is essential to get a local architect as they will have had the interface with the actual planning officers in your area, plus this tip applies to tradesmen too ....

When thinking about what you can do to your property think about bringing in as much light as possible ... However you can get it!! ... For example in this county, because of our weather we have a tendency to put heavy curtains in the window reveals. This reduces the clear window opening and so also reduces the area for light to flood in ... Go for the curtains but ensure the poles or tracks are wide enough so that the curtains can be opened fully off the windows ... It is always great to bring the outside in .... Sun tubes are exceptionally good for areas where there is no natural light.

Most planning departments have a very useful drop-in meeting centres with a planning officer, where you can discuss your proposals, before the expense of a formal planning application ..... Beware!!! .... This does not always mean that your plans will receive consent... On one of our projects we received a refusal, point blank on a leisure complex we wanted to build, from if I might say a rather obsequious, jealous, single minded planning officer .... (I should add here that I like and admire all planning officers!!) ...And they do a brilliant public service!! .... NP/ME Ltd are nothing if not tenacious ... We dealt with each point of the refusal in detail and refuted the information with specific responses, photo’s, positive neigbour feedback and re-submitted the information at a full planning committee ..... This resulted in a unanimous approval ... But you should know that .... patience is a virtue and it is not cheap! ...

Planning issues and rules relating to property can be unexpected ... Such as protected fauna and flora and rules about what you can and cannot remove from the structure of the building. We had a situation where we had to stop work for several weeks whilst an inhabitation of jackdaws living in the roof space had their chicks and thereafter all vacated the premises ... On another restoration project we had to build into the design a wooden panel that had been in the property for years ... On both accounts rightly so .... But don’t even get me started on all the customs we had to comply with whilst working in France ... But that is for another blog!! 

If you are refurbishing an old property, don’t be to quick to rip out all the old .... Mixing styles old and new works ... Free your mind and be objective, the effect can be dramatic ... I like under flooring heating, it makes sense on every level if you can put it in, it frees up wall space, economical and it’s a lovely form of warmth, a brilliant invention .... We install it in our projects where feasible, in some older properties, it has been a case of mix and match with radiators!

When it comes to the kitchen, the hub of the house, it can be worth taking professional advice .... Always, always, always try and get the maximum amount of worktop space. You can mock-up the area with sheets of cardboard and tape ... Just to make sure you have the right layout for appliances, cupboards and work surfaces, it is easy to get it wrong ... Consider the positions of the all important power points and where you are going to site the TV. Italian designer kitchens are all very well, but you can easily cut the costs dramatically ...You can get very good quality kitchens from the DIY warehouses, especially in the almost constant sales promotions. Or buy the basic carcassing from a usually cheaper web based outlet and face the units with good quality doors ... Then look online for designer door handles .... Bingo you can cut your costs substantially!! Kitchen worktops are expensive .... Shop around if you are looking for granite, quartz or ceramic and consider Silestone as an alternative ... Back in the day, they used to create worktops with tiles, if you get the right tiles and grouting this can again dramatically cut your costs! And even wood from reclamation centres, which is then sealed with Danish Oil, looks stunning ... The look is of pure natural quality ..... 

Interior decoration ..... Very subjective; my experience tells me .... Don’t go overboard with designer paints and all the other fluff ... Designer paint has it’s place, don’t get me wrong, but you can have pretty much any colour you like at a very affordable price. Apply this tip across the board with all products. Always get a paint tester pot, but remember they will be the plain matt finish without for example, the silk or gloss effects etc. So if that’s a finish you want the tester will look slightly different ... When you paint your tester on the wall, look at it over a couple of days.....  Sunny day, evening, cloudy ... The spectrum of our lovely weather ... Check out the look!! ....

So you have created the beautiful canvas ....... Adding your furniture, fixings and accessories .... At this stage you have over spent your budget! Trust me I know I am right!! ... In your mind when you started this project you imagined all new stylish furniture fitting into your newly created haven .... I regularly work for a lady who has two large stores of furniture, from when she down sized, so all her furniture does not fit in her new apartment ... She has a tendency to regularly get her beautiful antique wooden furniture painted in light colours ... Eek .... This works well in her new surroundings ... But destroys the lineage of the antiques!! .... So we have come to the understanding that she only has the no value items painted .... So painting and re-styling furniture can be a good way to upcycle for a new look. So go back to looking at the magazines for inspiration and use key pieces to make the design work ... If you are a women that tends to be cushions and throws with vases and candles ... If you are man .... It can be other key pieces such as statuary, paintings, books and lighting ... I know .. I know ... I am being very sexist here ... I have worked with the genders and styles the other way round too!! .... And I am the sort of key pieces type of woman ...


For Me!!’ I love mirrors ... Mirrors can open up a dark place and widen a corridor, or reflect your beautiful designs, if placed properly they to can bring the outside in .... Now you have finished sit down and enjoy a well deserved moment of reflection .....     

“The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March!” Lewis Carroll’s – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland .... 


posted by Natalie Paddick

The Making of the Rockery .....
Sipping wine in our garden resting between two gruelling but exciting jobs, in a beautiful location in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire ... The immortal words were uttered........ “WE NEED A VIEW!” ... A light bulb moment!!!????
Our house which was the Folly in the style of a Greek Temple; had once been the 100th room of the McAlpine Estate. The original owner of the main house had counted all the rooms and found that there were only 99, disliking uneven numbers. He commissioned the 100th room to his estate with the construction of a Folly. We rebuilt and refurbished the Folly into a bijou but stylish home; but that is for another blog! ... The Folly is in the centre of a plot of land surrounded by enormous beech tree’s and manicured laurel hedges...... There was I thinking we were going to have a break from work... But no a plan was hatched ...  Immediately and detailed sketches and drawings were worked on... Conversations with local planners took place to check what building regulations are requirements were needed.... 

The first of a number of issues relating to the build was that we could not break through the underground chalk membrane as this would affect the Thames Water regulations. This is a problem if you are intending to dig deep! ....There was no way of knowing where the chalk started and the clay stopped, the only way this could be tested was to start digging! A risk as the project was very grand, the  dimensions of what at the time was referred to as the ‘hole’. Were 35ft deep, by 50ft wide, by 75ft long. We had already ordered and paid for 200 tons of rock that were due to be delivered from a quarry in Yorkshire. We decided to dig! Hell!! .... You don’t do this unless you are mad or committed, fortunately we are both and it was a landscape designers dream!  

Having checked with all local authorities to see if there are any underground utilities running under the property, The Southern Electricity Board (SEB), sent a team of people with all sorts of gadgets to make sure we were okay to dig. The paperwork came back with the green light ...... Day one the digger started, clearing the area getting it ready for the crane to come in..... The quantity surveyors calculations, stated that we would need three eight wheeled lorries in constant daily rotation for approximately three weeks..... The crane was capable of lifting one ton of soil per scoop. Boy it was going to be exciting!..... The digger started, I was in the Folly working when the was an explosion like I have never heard, and all electrics went off! Opening the front door .... All eyes were on the hole that the digger had just dug, there was much scratching of heads and bemused looks ... It would appear that we had hit a 4 inch high voltage mains electrical cable and put a nick in it!!
Within fifteen minutes you could hear sirens blaring, cars hooting and general mayhem off in the distance? ..... Then three siren blaring cars skidded to a halt outside our gate, a number of panicked looking men came flustering into the garden. The Southern Electricity Board had not identified a major electricity cable running across the garden. The digger had hit the cable and blown all the electricity at the local sub station; which had knocked out most of the electricity in Henley, not least the traffic lights and all the banks electronic communications!! ....  ‘Opps’!! The site was shut down, SEB workers arrived and there was much panicking!! Emergency cables were set up and order was eventually restored electricity wise to the local area!! 

As you can imagine this sort of high lighted the project to the press and the locals. Not least delaying the project whilst we fought with the SEB as to who was to blame and who was to pay for the reinstatement of a new electricity cable. Eventually the SEB  agreed that they had not highlighted the cable to us and offered to go halves on it’s relocation!! ... We declined to pay for their mistake and they then spent a week relaying a cable at their cost! ... And so we started again!

As the ‘hole’ got bigger it became impossible for the digger to get any deeper so, we used the crane to drop the digger into the ‘hole’. Once we got to the desired depth and width, we shuttered the base with timber sheets in readiness for the pouring of concrete for the pool base. Because of the complexities of the design the company Ready Mixed Concrete had to mix a special concoction of concrete with a water proofing additive, the same mix that was used in the construction of the underwater harbour in Tokyo. When they came to pour the concrete they bought a camera crew, as they were going to use the project in their new sales promotion documents! 

We ploughed on, installing steal re-enforcement around the entire sunken construction.... But we had another problem, we had become a sight seeing location by interested locals...The Folly was on a private single track road, so viewing traffic along with our constant use of the road taking away spoil, was impacting on our neighbours .... It is always important to keep the neighbours happy where you can!! ... A local reporter turned up at the property to interview us.... It turned out that the rumour was that Michael Jackson had purchased The Folly and was digging an underground tunnel to the nearby Friar Park Estate, which was up the road to us and was the home of George Harrison .... Friar Park is the most beautiful landscaped estate, which has secret tunnels running under it from place to place... But we had no intention of digging into George Harrisons house... As you might imagine!!!

So we were forced to erect shields to protect our new found fame! But this interest came at another cost ... One day the local authority's turned up unannounced; we had been informed on and if it was not to be Michael Jackson’s secret hide away, they assumed we were mining for minerals!! Give me strength!! ... I mean really can’t anyone do a bit of landscaping construction in their garden? After much discussion and grumpiness on their part, they agreed we could continue, but they were going to keep an eye on us!! At this moment and the memory of such negativity from others my quote would be Carp Diem .... And ignore the bank balance!!
There was one very frightening moment, (outside of the bank balance!) At 3 am in the morning; I stood at the top of the ‘hole’ and my partner stood at the bottom. It was pouring heavy rain and we needed the walls of the ‘hole’ to hold before the last pouring of the concrete. As the walls were made up of clay, the weight of the rain could at anytime undermine the sides of the construction. Now that would be expensive!! Fortunately we had put extra support on the road side of the construction in order to prevent us taking out the road in case we had this exact situation! The next morning one side had collapsed, in the process it had demolished all the steal reinforcement on that side of the ‘hole’ making it look like bent safety pins! ... More reconstructive work was needed ...
The Butyl liner arrived, which was made to a special size and was so heavy the crane had be used to get it off the lorry and in place.... All the rocks had been sized an numbered in order of where they were to be placed, the smallest rock was half a ton and the largest 7.5 tonnes; because of their weight there was no second chance in placing them, it was a very precise business!! ... Some of the stones had to be drilled so they could be held in place with stainless steal pins ....   

I can still hear the noise of the cranes loud alarm system screeching, warning lights flashing, when we tried to place the largest rock on the podium stone. The wonderful crane driver, rocked the boom so that the rock swung backward and forward; I thought the crane was going to fall into the rockery. But this crane driver was highly skilled, he placed the rock with perfect precision..... In a conversation with him afterward he said that it was an unnerving moment in his life, but he was used to pressure as he currently held the title of the United Kingdoms heavy weight bench pressing title!! ....
The rockery had three 100mm (4”) outlets, which pumped water loudly all day. It had a cut of switch at night, you could hear it firing up in the mornings.... It was an amazing site .... We bought in another digger to excavate a valley to the rockery and heavily landscaped the whole area ..... On one occasion we were woken in the middle of the night with helicopters and flood lights scanning at low level over the rockery... It was in 1999, after the appalling attack on George Harrison, by an armed intruder, who had stabbed him. The police were searching the area for any accomplices and they thought that maybe they were hiding in the rockery. We would also have the odd balloon flight going over the top of the house to take photographs, they would wave and call to us in the garden!   

It was beautiful in every way, it played the centre of stage at many a bohemian party and private events. We swam in the pool and climbed the rocks. I loved it and was passionate about it. We have done many other landscaping projects, but the rockery was for us! We sold the house to a pop star and moved on to our next project. But we had created a ‘Folly with a View’; that will remain there long after we are gone and always be in my heart forever! 


posted by Natalie Paddick


Situated in the heart of Mayfair is the very stylish Avery Row with its trendy bespoke shops, cafes, exclusive restaurants and designer pubs. This area is sandwiched between South Molton Street, Brook Street and Oxford Street, the area was once referred to as Poverty Lane, reflecting the nature of the neighbourhood at the time. How the times have changed .... Darling!!!. The twisty turny lanes actually follow the route of one of London’s most famous lost waterways the Tyburn. Avery Row takes its name from the bricklayer who cleverly paved over the waterway to make the streets. 

Avery House, circa 1800 was a brothel with and a thriving business! When we took the project on with a commercial brief to turn it into a prestigious office head quarters, it was in massive need of modernisation and refurbishment. We opened up the roof and put in a stylish roof garden, but under the local regulations this could only be used at certain times of the day. The basement was vast with old brick walls, but was running with water and needed tanking. It was a big project.
The finished product was stunning, even if I do say that myself!! It was put on the market and was quickly snapped up by Cartier Jewellers at the highest per square foot cost in Mayfair at the time. I should say it is a headquarters building not a stash for their jewellery, in case anyone is thinking of doing a heist off the back of this blog!! No workshops there!! But respecting their privacy there is no photo’s of the interior here either.
As a matter of interest, a lot of the jewellery companies in London do not advertise their workshops, Cartier itself was in 1997 robbed, by a gang of thieves, who came in via the skylight, it was alleged at the time that they stole more than £30 million, however Cartier later denied that it was that amount! Police had no idea how the robbers knew where the workshop were as they had no signage. I have been into one of the workshops at another occasion. Which is no longer there, (so you can’t torturer it out of me!) Whilst I was in the workshop one of the jewellers poured a bag of cut diamonds into my hand, he asked me how much they were worth? It was £30,000.00 .... Cool!! But I was not allowed to take them home!!
I have also worked at Garrard & Co, Mayfair, London – The offices desperately needed upgrading and refitting. Whilst I was there I was given a tour of the workshops, there was some beautiful jewellery. I was lead into a small room with an old man sitting at the table with multi-layered glasses on. He was working on a solid gold castle encrusted in diamonds for a client. It was huge and possibly the most garish thing I have ever seen. But I suppose each to their own! I mention this just encase any of you would like to buy me something .... I like modern and stylish !!!


posted by Natalie Paddick

A Christmas Blog .....
Photographs of Project Nordrach House, Somerset ...

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly Little Blog, to raise the Ghost of an idea, of the things I hold dear at this time of year! 
Which shall not put my dear readers out of good humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me ... (Hopefully!!) ... “Bah!!” Said Scrooge .... “Humbug!” ...

“If they would rather die?” Said Scrooge; “They had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail “..... “Marley was dead: to begin with!”
“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. Or indeed a festering Minced Pie?”

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed.”
“Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pockets.” 
“Why do the spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?” (Really mine is a white wine!!)

“They are what they are, do not blame me!”

“I wear the chain I forged in life!” 

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, the present and the future. And I will honour my friendship with you all my friends.” Thank you for the fun ....

There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour ....
I have had fun this year ... And I wish you all the best of Christmas ..... And a Happy New Year ....


posted by Natalie Paddick

Thought I would update you on our WoodAcre development in Wells, Somerset. These new builds are now almost finished and ready for sale.  Two shiny new five bedroom properties in a stunning location waiting for someone to breathe their personal stamp on them and give them their own history .... Here is a quick look at the development!!

By the way, I have written two other blogs about this site, the first was in October 2013, when we used the old tatty bungalow that once stood on this plot for a photo shoot, called ... Welcome to Wonderland. Also in March 2014, I took another .. Fun Look at Our Building Site! Which was taken as you can see when the new buildings started to take shape and raise themselves out of the ground.

Change is never easy, but we must all except that it is necessary to move forward, the property was purchased, we undertook the planning and redesigning of this space. However one of the neighbours had very different ideas. He put in a request for the existing timber, falling down old derelict wreck of a bungalow to have a heritage listing!! PLEASE!!.... This of course was never going to happen, but it did succeed in delaying us starting on the project which, what he did not calculate meant it would all take longer ... And for him too!


It is of course understandable that people around any potential building site are going to panic about the pending new project. But progress must go forward. It is or can be frustrating living next to any noise and disruption. We are used to these concerns and are very understanding of neighbours feelings and worries.

The houses are of timber frame construction with stone and render cladding, contemporary with a twist of the historical Wells old stone masonry. In principal like all things they should go up like a dream!!! However when levelling the ground we found that we hit an unexpected layer of bedrock causing a bit of a headache to our structural surveyors, break through or build off was the question! Eventually we had to do both! Things in the building industry never go as smoothly as the high octane excitement of the initial ideas and planning and purchase... But on you must plough ... And keep smiling!!!  

We always try and build with the idea of bringing the outside in so these properties have vast walls of glass and large and beautiful roof glazing with associated lighting .. This works particularly well in the staircase areas, housed in the stone turrets The houses are light and airy, with large open spaces, achieved using massive double pocket doors which side and hide in the ground floor walls. Again it is critical to us to find and make as much storage as possible on any project we do .. To be frank there can never be enough!!

Although they are modern buildings we felt it important to bring in a hint of the local area to the buildings so incorporated the local stone in certain key area's. The kitchens have great working spaces .. Which to me is particularly important as I love to cook... The outside area's stretch all around the buildings and are opened with lawned gardens. Just ready for who ever buys them to give us a budget to landscape them to their taste and bring the outside area to life... exciting!!! Many ideas spring to mind! 

I will bring you the finished pictures in a future blog, as here I have provided the sales CGI images, we have had two offers to purchase so far, but I just wanted to share with you how we had got on so far ... And by the way the neighbours are now happy with the outcome so all is good and great progress has been made! 

To keep you in the loop, one of our next projects is a 14 century town house which was an Inn, back then and was called the Three Horse Loafs as apparently you could put anything into a loaf of bread!!! Horse included apparently!! I am sure we will find this has a few quirks to focus our minds!!! I'll keep you briefed!!  



posted by Natalie Paddick

In February 2013 I wrote a blog and a number of magazine articles about the TB Hospital on top of the Mendips in Somerset, called Nordrach House, This is a short blog on how we refurbished it, lived it and loved it...

"Well I want to do it!!" "Really Natalie do you not think we have enough to do?" "No I think it will be fun and I think it will be easy!! You will enjoy it!!"( Famous last words! ) This is never a convincing argument with my husband and partner, but to be fair I sort of got my own way .... And so we bought the shambolick wreck! Upsticks from our previous home in Henley-on-Thames to rural Somerset. Trust me quite a cultural change!!

Nordrach House is a 6,000 sqft property with 6 bedrooms, a kitchen you can swing a number of cats in, (two Bengals spring to mind! Which we own.) Dining Room, Sitting Room, Double Office annex, games room with Pavilion and conservatory...  The garden was just shy of 7 acres of woodland and fields all in a general state of dilapidation and dereliction! But the property boasted fantastic Victorian features, such as an incredibly long entrance hall with white and black dot ceramic tile flooring, enormous rooms with 11 foot high ceilings, massive cast iron Gothic windows and the most over grown and never weeded central courtyard. Yes okay a challenge ... 

So began our new relationship with the Nordrach Sanatorium, which had initially been developed from Willoughby's Farm in 1899 by two Doctors, into a much needed TB Hospital; 700 feet above sea level where the air is pure and clean! The demand for this type of cure at the time was so needed that they opened the doors before they had even finished the decorations, at a hefty fee of £20 per week!

Patients were mostly to live in the timber pavilions erected in the gardens and grounds, where they were subjected to an open window, breathe the fresh air policy. One patient, (who I do not believe I am related too!) Sneaked out to the local Wellsway Inn for a drink or four! He was seen by one of the many doctors that worked at the hospital and reported. On his inebriated return to Nordrach he was to find his bags packed and a carriage ordered for him! I should point out at this stage that the Sanatorium had it's own liquor menu, which the guests were required to order from! At the hospitals uplifted prices!! 

Thankfully TB was successfully conquered in the UK, although I understand it is making a worrying come back! So the Nordrach Sanatorium metamorphosed into a refuge from the second world war bombing in Bristol for Hungarian refugees and later a home for orphaned children. Later it was turned into a private Country Club with golf course; which prompted the local butcher; to say to me, "nod, nod, wink, wink, you know what I mean!!" I didn't but I later found out, it was his way of alluding to the fact that the Country Club was a front for a house of ill repute, hosting wild parties, women of the night and excessive drug taking! ...Shocking ... Giggles!!  Eventually it found it's way into the hands the fruit and vegetable empire, the Stokes family of Bristol, who refurbished and upgraded it into a Laura Ashley style of decor circa 1980. When we bought it had not been redecorated since!

Well now I have told you the good sell!! We arrived there in April 2005 to the most evocative smell of wild garlic, growing in abundance in the woods, a plant that has both beauty in it's flowers and evokes very happy memories for me. Hell this was a exciting challenge! Some of my memories of us first moving there; are switching on the boiler in the house the pipes ran under the floor boards up the long halls, which made whooshing and clanking noises ... It reminded me of Dobby, the house elf and his cohorts from Harry Potter, scurrying up and down the house setting things right and making ready for the morning, however it terrified the children!! We would look out the windows on some mornings and see deer, foxes, rabbits on the lawns. The next door neighbours prize chickens, which our cats would on occasions kill and bring back through the cat flap! Making the neighbours rally against us, threatening the cats with certain death... To avoid further upset the cats had to be kept in the house with all the windows shut in the heat of that first summer, with an Aga running - that was not fun. (However, you should know that cats are the only legally free roaming animals in the UK!) On a lighter note we also had a local lesser known lizard that came to see us. It was idillic fun. If not utter madness!!

Once I was woken in the middle of the night by our son, saying "Mummy there is a bat sleeping on my pillow." "No, you are fine go back to bed!!" As my conscience awakened, I realised I had better go and comfort him from this bad dream. I went into his room switched on the bed side light only to be hit full in the face by a startled bat that was happily cuddled up on his bed. I freaked, ran for the door and shut it behind me with him still in there. Holding the door handle to make sure it would not escape. Shouting good words of advice and comfort through the door! "Keep your eye on it, I will get your father! Don't under any circumstances open this door!" "But mummy it’s dive bombing me!" "It's fine, it is just playing ... It likes you!" (You can rely on me in this type of crisis .. Leave small child in room with potential man eating bat!) On the plus side he shouted back through the door. "I will Mummy!" Fishing nets, buckets, blankets were all brought to the rescue in the hope of returning this poor tiny animal back to the wild!! Only to have our daughter complain the next morning, that we were bad parents for not waking her, so she could have been part of the rescue! And our other little boy, wondering what else this house was going to throw at him? "Do we have monsters too?" (You never get it quite right as a parent!) 

We undertook extensive re-wiring, plumbing, refurbishments, it was like the painting of the Severn Bridge; cranes were hired to remove the many massive heating oil tanks that had been put into the courtyard. The policy seems to have been as one item expired another was just added. JCB's were deployed to remove the landfill that was the wood! Seven water tanks the size of a Fiat 500 in the roof were cut out and dismantled, some with lovely messages, signed by the tradesman! One with a less than complimentary comment about the "Gaffa"! The kitchen was to die for, four oven Aga, double electric oven and induction hob all installed and upgraded. It was a mammoth task, but the end result was a beautiful family home, not to mention the 375 metres of material for the curtains, the downstairs windows had a two and a half metre drop!... And did I mention it had a large wine store!! Delicious ... We fought a lengthy battle with the local planners for a large sports complex with indoor pool, granny flat and garages. And a separate stable complex in one of the fields. And we won a unanimous victory .... We gave Nordrach back it's life as a house!    

One of the other stories of Nordrach is that it is plagued with Jack Daws nesting year after year in the enormous roof space. They return to roost every year, building nest after nest, one on top of the other, for years... And boy do they make a mess! But we had to live with them and they with us! Producing many chicks, which would fall out of their nests on a regular basis, meaning the children would have to protect them from the aforementioned Bengal cats, until their parents came and taught them how to fly.  But a big problem for us was we needed to get them out of the roof space for hygiene reasons. It took two men dressed in what looked like Nuclear fall-out suits, a week to get rid of all the debris, nests and deceased birds and rats  ... Disgusting!! 

A very touching story of living in that pile of history, was the occasional pilgrimages of friends and relatives of people who had lived or been associated with the house. They would turn up with pictures and stories about the house in a former life. My most heart breaking memory is of a very elderly slightly infirm gentleman coming to the house, in a rickety old car. His mother was a TB victim who had lived at Nordrach, she was unable to pay the fee's at the hospital, but somehow his father who was a Mason, had secured her a place. We sat and had tea and cake with him as he told us his story of his sisters and him, he showed us pictures of him outside Nordrach House, the tree we were having tea under was featured in his pictures. He was three years old at the time and was only allowed to view his mother through the window to her bedroom, which was my husbands office. Sadly she died, he never got to hold her, just heart breaking!! He was shown around the house, invited back if he ever wanted to come. I wrote to him on occasions and sent him Christmas cards up until his own death... A part of the houses rightful heritage ....

We lived there for just over five years, had the wildest parties, that is for another blog!! In latter years one of our children also had wild parties, just without telling us! Massive family Christmas's, wonderful and fun times. Nordrach was at such an altitude that in the summer, you could really burn when the sun was out and when it was cold, it was very cold, with waist high snow, effectively blocking us off from the world for days. It was a great fun moment in time ... Not an easy project .. But to be fair what is? The time came when splendid isolation had run it's course and we became bored of being taxi drivers to the children! And I had spied a new project to be had!!  So we sold and moved on with great memories leaving Nordarch to another family, a proud and stately home again and a happier place. And keeping our secrets and memories alive in it's old but solid walls ... 


posted by Natalie Paddick

There are so many things one could say to welcome in the New Year
So many possibilities that could come our way 
This Poem sort of says it for me
DOORS ....
By Carl Sandburg
An open door says, “Come in.”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
Why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
Why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.
So I wish you all a Wonderful Happy New Year
And may all the doors you go through this year
Have open possibilities for you and I ....

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