#ourkidslivehere: A new family and interiors Instagram hashtag challenge

interior and family hashtag challenge

Do you love stylish interiors but also have kids? Do you know they can actually be compatible together?!

Sometimes it’s just a case of seeing how others do it, to inspire you to do the same. What hacks do they use? How do they make the shared room for the kids work both practically and aesthetically? Where the heck do they put all the ugly toys?!

That’s why Coral Atkinson (@coral.atkinson, founder and creator behind the beautiful Velveteen Babies) and I (@theottohouse), have decided to start a new hashtag challenge which we hope will encourage people to share, and be inspired by, stylish and creatively decorated homes which have our family lives at the centre. Our homes may not always look straight out of a magazine but they do have life to the fullest enjoying every inch of them. You will be able to find all this inspiration under the hashtag #ourkidslivehere and you can add your own pictures to the feed too by popping the hashtag in the caption underneath your picture. We would love you to feel free to include your kids in these pictures if you like, but without them is totally fine too (we don’t want anyone ‘styling’ their kids into a shot just for Instagram!) We will share our favourites on our Instagram stories and, at the end of each month, our favourite picture will win an amazing prize from an incredible independent interiors based brand! So, be sure to follow both our accounts so you don’t miss out on the news including which fabulous prizes we have coming up!

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Top 20 Toddler and Cotbed Duvet Bedlinen Sets

Stylish toddler and cot bed duvet cover sets

Recently a friend asked me for recommendations on where to find reasonably priced but tasteful toddler or cot bed sized bedlinen. It’s a question I’ve been asked before, and from my own experience looking for bedlinen for our girls, I knew it would be a challenge to answer! I opened up the question on my Instagram stories and was absolutely overwhelmed with responses from you all agreeing that there really isn’t much out there under £30… many people even made their own duvet covers as they couldn’t find anything which tickled their fancy.

If you take away one thing from this blog post though, I would suggest you find your bedlinen set(s) at the same time as choosing your duvet. Toddler or cot bed sizes vary greatly from one store to another and I feel it is harder to find nice bedding that will fit in with your style or scheme, than it is to find a duvet insert of that size, so to increase the amount of choice you have, choose the bedlinen set first.

So I went on a very long trawl across the internet and found twenty sets that I really like. I’ve split them into a budget category and an investment category. I hope it helps!

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Behind the scenes of a national interiors magazine home photoshoot (the tips, the secrets, the things I found surprising)

photoshoot for interior magazine

Last year our home was photographed for a national interiors magazine. It was a something I’ve dreamt about since a teenager (indeed, I even photographed my bedroom and sent the photos to The Times Weekend Style Magazine with that goal in mind when I was 14,) and I count myself very blessed to have had the opportunity to tick it off my bucket list so to speak. It was one of the most fun, interesting, revealing and nerve-wracking days I’ve ever had.

Let me tell you about how it all works – the tips, the secrets, the things I found surprising.

Firstly it all came about through Instagram. Like so many people these days, a journalist saw pictures of our home on my account and messaged me to see if I was interested in being in a magazine. I googled the person like crazy I was so convinced it was a hoax, but once I had done enough research to convince myself – and the husband – that this person wasn’t going to come to the house and just pilfer our belongings (haha, as if there’s anything to pilfer) we organised a date and I set to work tidying, cleaning, rearranging and rearranging again. Oh, and again.

Suddenly all the imperfections your eye becomes oblivious to overtime, now stand out like a kid in uniform on a mufti day. ‘That skirting board isn’t quite flush to the floor, this walls a bit bare, isn’t it? That sofa is looking really tired and I’ve never really liked those cushions, why haven’t I updated them? Where are we going to put the plastic toys? Why have we got so many dvds again? Are you sure they haven’t made a mistake? They’re just gonna arrive, take one look, and walk straight back out the door.’ Over and over, repeat, repeat.

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Our girls’ shared bedroom with bunk beds

house bunk beds in girls shared bedroom

DISCLAIMER: These bunk beds were purchased by myself, with 50% off, in exchange for an honest blog post and pictures of the product. This is the first time I have collaborated on something like this so do let me know what you think and please ask me any questions you have about the bunk beds – all thoughts and words are, and always will be, my own!

As our youngest daughter began to outgrow her cot, it felt natural to look towards bunk beds as a solution for our girls’ shared bedroom. Not to mention our eldest daughter has been asking for them for a while now, and kept telling people, ‘when we move to the big house, we’re going to have bunk beds and I’m going to sleep on the top and Betty will sleep on the bottom…’ I’m not entirely sure where she got that idea from as we never promised anything specifically, but our hope was to have bunk beds set up in the new house as a surprise when they arrived.

Anyway, as regular readers of this blog will know, the house sale fell through at the last minute so we’re still in our old house for the moment (you can read what happened here), but babies carry on growing, and cots don’t grow with them, so we decided to find a new solution even if it meant building new bunk beds that we’d have to dismantle a few months later.

Due to our youngest being only 20 months old, we were keen to get a bed with the bottom bunk bed close to the ground, which this house bunk bed from House About Kids does perfectly. The ladder is also on a slant, has handles and wide steps, which is perfect for our girls who aren’t as physically confident as other kids their age. In fact, we visited a friends house at the weekend who have the Ikea Kura Bunk (another serious contender for us) but Darcey struggled to go up and down the ladder so I’m glad we didn’t go for that one just yet. As the years pass, I also think this bed has plenty of room to reinvent itself . I’m looking forward to making sweeping canopy’s, hanging plants, adding greenery and more fairy lights, maybe curtains of some sort for the bottom bunk, I could go on…! (**insert husband rolling eyeballs here**)

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Buying and Selling our Home – The Reality

Victorian Terrace Hallway and Entrance

If you’ve been following me for a while here, or on Instagram, you’ll be well aware we’ve been trying to move house.  Despite having only lived here for just over two years now, we always saw this house as a vessel to get our foot on the bottom rung of the property market.  We renovated and decorated with that in mind (the house is completely painted in white, for instance) and nearly all our decisions have been rooted in the thought that this house, although much loved, is fairly temporary.

To cut a very long (16 month) story short, after heaps of house viewings and offers falling through on other houses, a few weeks ago we were finally very close to moving.  A three bed Victorian semi-detached with a drive and a garden, on a quiet road in a fantastic catchment area – just what we wanted and the perfect home to (maybe, once we’ve caught up on sleep!) expand our precious family in.  We’d had the survey done on the house we were moving to and so far, despite being in a chain of five, everything had gone smoothly.  We’d had a builder friend of ours come and see the house and we’d drawn up plans to reconfigure the downstairs.  I was pinteresting like MAD for inspiration, and even spent a whole evening looking at different hinges and brackets for kitchen units on the IKEA website.  Our hearts and minds had already moved…

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How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

Following on from my blog post last week about what to expect when buying furniture at auctions, here are some very important tips you should know before embarking on your bargain shopping spree at your local auction house…

Measure up! I have a little notebook I take around with me everywhere with all the important dimensions of our home in.  You never know what you’re gonna find on that day, so although you might go in thinking, I need a desk that is ‘xyz’, you may get there and find a gorgeous mirror and end up wondering what the heck is the distance between ‘abc’ instead.  I asked, Catherine Hockley, director of our local auction house, Andrew Smith & Son, to share some tips on finding something that is the right fit for you: “Our salerooms are very large and so some items look small in them – always bring a tape measure, or borrow one from us, and make sure that the item you are bidding on will fit through your door or up your stairs.”

She also goes on to say, “Check the condition well before you buy, for wobbly legs or sticking drawers etc.  Most things can be easily mended, but make sure it is within your capabilities or you will end up paying for restoration.”

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11 steps to buying furniture at a real-life auction

How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

After my popular post last week about how we’ve furnished our home on a budget, I’ve had so many questions about all the auction bargains we’ve collected over the years that I thought it necessary to write up a little guide so that you can start buying amazingly priced, but beautiful, good-quality furniture for your homes too.  In a poll created on my Instagram stories, 87% of you shared you have never bought anything at auction which shows it is a massively underused tool amongst our generation.  Despite the gracious words of my husband… “as long as they don’t all start coming to our one and bidding against us for the good stuff”, I’ve decided to utilise that old cliché of ‘sharing is caring’… so here are the basic steps for how it works logistically which I hope will give you the confidence to explore this option further…

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How to furnish your home on a low or non-existent budget

How to furnish your home on a low budget - girls kids bedroom

Does anyone else love those kinda interior articles where they pick an expensive ‘investment piece’ and then source a budget option that is often very similar?  I love it when magazines and bloggers try to make their content accessible to people like us who have a realistic budget and can’t blow the families’ winter shoes and coat budget on a new lamp.

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated though, because even the ‘budget option’ makes my debit card quiver with anxiety, which, all things considered, is a bit unfair on the author really.  Everything is relative and they can’t please everyone.  I’m sure spending £179 on a coffee table IS a budget option for someone, and, in a similar vein, when I suggest spending £40 on a coffee table as a bargain, others may disagree with me too.

With that in mind though, I’d love to let you know about some of our own resources for spending less money as well as sharing a few of our mistakes so you can learn from them…

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Why we loved Mill Farm Eco Barn and you should donate so you can go too!

In March 2017 we were absolutely delighted to spend five days at the wonderful Mill Farm Eco Barn which is the same holiday home that you can win a three night stay in by donating to the Spend for Syria 2017 Just Giving charity campaign. I was so pleased when Emma and Neil agreed to donate this prize (worth £600) because I really wanted to offer everyone an opportunity that we have tried and tested ourselves.

The Eco Barn, which is located in the village of Winterton-On-Sea and situated minutes away from the Norfolk Coast, sleeps up to eight people plus two babies (as there are a couple of cots available) and comes with a gorgeous open plan living space, four bedrooms, two en suites and a family bathroom. Not only does it pride itself on its sustainable build and eco amenities, but it is also an incredibly child-friendly place to stay.

I hate to admit since having children, I often find holidaying more stress than it’s worth. Due to the financial commitments of buying our first home and renovating, we have only been on a few short stays in the UK, but to know I was going to be somewhere where the owners totally ‘get’ what young children require was such a weight off my mind! The Barn already comes equipped with story books, plastic tableware and cups, highchairs, black-out blinds in every room (can I get an Amen?!), baby and toddler appropriate toys, puzzles and board games, as well as a large games barn with bikes to borrow, table tennis, boules, table football and so much more.

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A personal story from our friend in Syria

One of the many reasons I have a heart for Syria is because we have friends living there.  There’s nothing like being in the comfort of your parents’ home in the middle of beautiful rural English countryside, sitting round the kitchen table as a teenager and tucking into your mum’s delicious roast dinner, whilst dear friends tell you about how their young niece would hear bombs going off on the school run, to make you realise how unjust this world can be sometimes and what an embarrassingly privileged life I lead.

I am so honoured to be able to share with you snippets from a Skype conversation I recently had with one of our friends, as I was hoping to share a more personal account of what life is like in Syria and some of the motivation behind the #SpendforSyria2017 charity auction.  Sometimes, we get so used to seeing tragedy on our television screens or scrolling through the BBC News app, that it can desensitise us to the individuals living with it everyday.

Whilst our friend, Sophie, is a lot more privileged than most in Syria due to having Western contacts and her husband, Tom, has US citizenship which enables travel and freedom of movement (he was born and grew up in Damascus but studied for a degree in the US,) I hope it gives you a little more insight into life there and how it has affected people, just like you and I.  Please note for safety reasons, all names have been changed in this interview.  Sophie speaks incredibly good English but some words have also been changed from the original interview for translational purposes…

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