Hearth of the Home

Heart of the home….a well oiled phrase we are all familiar with. I think in 2019 for many households the kitchen is the first room that comes to mind. Where the household comes together to enjoy their favourite past-time (eating) and if they’re lucky take part in conversations. Renovation projects and layouts of modern builds dictats (due to demand) that this is more often than not the hub of the home. Most will either have islands or breakfast bars, where the family can get together during mealtimes or simply have the option to sit nearby and interact with the house chef while they prep for dinner. Alternatively the home will have an open-plan living space that incorporates a living room and kitchen dining space. Many fortunate people have bast enough a kitchen space that they can even have a secondary lounge sofa area, often with beautiful bespoke bi-fold doors that lead to the garden and offer the opportunity for seamless alfresco dining.

For a Surrey flat in this budget our kitchen is actually fairly generous, but the living area doesn’t fall in to any of the above categories. Due to it’s location next door to the master bedroom the cook is separated from the entertaining action when getting the feast ready, and their certainly isn’t room for any seating to allow for any company during the prep process. In fact after attempts to keep Si company while he cooks, I now realise my presence is more of a nuisance.

The lounge has very much become the hub of the home for us. It’s unsurprising when you consider that in my family home the lounge always held that status too. My parents haven’t updated the layout to more contemporary tastes -by making the ground floor open plan (it’s not a practical choice for everyone) – so the lounge with it’s numerous sofas, the big TV and the coffee table always equipped with biscuits and crisps has always been the cosy destination that we’d congregate to watch cheesy and comforting TV like Strictly.

With out dark teal walls, the living room in the flat has become that hugging sort of space too. It’s dark in that positively enveloping way and allows us to snuggle effectively in that precious one hour we get together each night when Si is home from work. It’s where our souls are combined again after separation (wow, that was vomit inducing) and it’s also where we fuel our bodies (also fairly important). It’s where I do the majority of my work too, in part because the sofa we have is the comfiest place for my bum in the flat, but also just because it’s my happy place, and when you’re happy you’re often more productive….unless of course your a tortured musicians that revels in misery and heartache.

But the part of the lounge that really cements its pulsating centre status is the fireplace. I’m pretty sure it was one of the aspects of this flat that sold it to us, I guess because it is ingrained in my mind that a fireplace amplifies the cosy. While it can actually emit heat, even when it’s not used it still creates a certain warmth. I think we associate them with that chocolate box imagery of the perfect family get together, with burning embers and that comforting crackle. We think of Christmas vignettes, a dog panting belly exposed in front, or a mantle decorated with personalised trinkets and memories of loved ones.

I knew that I would make a real effort to enjoy that fireplace in terms of styling. I was so chuffed that despite buying a 1970’s flat we had a lounge equipped with a fireplace. Sure, it wasn’t the period feature I’ve always dreamed off. It doesn’t have beautiful original tiles, or intricate iron castings but it’s still there, and there was/is still opportunity to enjoy its existence.

It’s actually a fairly modern looking fireplace of creamy marble with silver hardware and faux pebbles where the functional part is. In all honesty it would look most fitting in a room with white wals and very minimal/sleek styling, but I think we’ve managed to make it work in the room that we wanted to create – which is a heady and colourful maximalist mixture of old and new.

The obvious first purchase to make to enhance the fireplace area was a mirror. And for a while I was looking for a very ornate gold antique mirror. I found numerous ones on Facebook Marketplace and in charity shops, but for some reason I kept resisting a purchase. I think the more decorating and adding of ‘things’ I did in the room I realised a simpler mirror would work better. From an investment point of view I also thought a more timeless/simpler mirror would also be sensible in that it would work wherever we end up next.

Of course the go-to for a simple but beautiful mirror is West Elm (goes into dreamlike state). There is quite literally nothing I don’t like from West Elm. I always think it must be so easy to create a good space if you’re well off, because you’d just go to West Elm and recreate the showroom spaces in your house with all of their products. But alas budget commands a different route to decorating our home…which is actually completely fine by me. I like a challenge and there’s a great satisfaction about creating a home via thinking outside of the box a bit. So after much searching via my usual bargain destinations I came across this amazing mirror from Wayfair (which is by far one of my favourite home websites right now). It hadn’t been a struggle to find circular mirrors, but it had been hard to find one to rival the size of the impressive West Elm one, so I was ecstatic to find this Point Accent Mirror by Canora Great in gold which was 80cm x 80cm. We saved ourselves £162.01 on this Wayfair one AND it’s 4cm larger! In this case size IS everything. The closest other alternative we could find was the Patsy Mirror from Habitat, but that was £108 more than the Wayfair one we found. So if you can’t afford something you’ve fallen in love with I thoroughly recommend you heading to Wayfair to see if you can find a good dupe.

Another key part of the fireplace is the Chinese girl print by Vladmir Tretchikoff, which I fell in love with when I first saw it on someone’s Instagram feed. Part of me hated that I wanted something that was prevalent and so known (within the home instagram community at least ) but I just adored the colours and knew it’d be the perfect addition to our living room. But I didn’t want to get one of the modern reproductions, so I have been keeping an eye out in local antique shops and was joyous to find one in a Kingston treasure trove. Although it was never intended to be a mantle object I kind of like it casually leaning….for now at least. I like how to distressed creamy frame links to the creamy fireplace too.

The platform at the bottom has become the obvious resting place for our candle collection (my favourite being by Bolt and Star – Sandalwood and Sicilian Bergamot) – although since Nimbus the Siamese cat has temporarily joined the @athomewithegg clan we’ve had to rethink this. There’s also some incense sticks and a holder…but the same applies here, definitely not inquisitive cat-friendly. It’s also where I relocate my ailing plant family when I feel like they are in need of some more Vitamin D as the sunshine tends to stream over that area of the lounge with reasonable wattage.

There’s also a couple of pictures frames purchased from my local RSPCA charity shop. The first one I created a collage using mini Instax photos from our California road trip. The second I put it in some old black and white Photo Booth strips taken from a time I used to go to cool trendy London clubs/restaurants that tend to always house them.

To the side is now a Facebook Marketplace purchase – a large handmade pot from Portugal that a lady kindly delivered to me for a ridiculously cheap price tag of £15. Inside it I have a particularly fluffy breed of Pampas grass (which I found on the side of the road a couple weekends ago). Originally this was in the bedroom, but we’ve recently moved it into the living room and we love how the beige fluff pops against the deep backdrop.

As you will see from the pictures feature I’ve tried to create a bit of a Halloween vibe this well….well I basically bought a pumpkin and put it on the marble, then lit some candles. Better than nothing though right?

You can also see a line of faux ivy that I got from a local Garden centre, intended for extra festive styling come December, but apparently I couldn’t wait!

My ultimate vision was having the fire on during Winter and snuggling up in a blanket drinking hot chocolate in front of it, lit by it’s flattering glow. Sadly we can’t afford the gas bills of that dreamy set up, so we will have to imagine that actual function bit. But I’ll still enjoy my winter evenings in front of our hearth….or is that heart.

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