Interiors: Heart-centred design

#whatkatydidUK, Amy Kirkwood, beach house designLeigh-on-Sea’s Amy Kirkwood is one half of Beech House Property Renovation (www.beechhousedesign.co.uk.) She reveals why it’s important to get to know your home, how to speedily update your living space and reveals what inspires her…

Q How did you get into interior design and property renovation?
A I am first and foremost an artist and designer, with a passion for colour and pattern. But, I have always carried a flame for beautiful interiors, and more so after travelling extensively and owning my own properties that I have renovated as well. It seemed only natural, when the time was right, to revisit my love for interior design and fuse it, now, with my studio practice and our family property renovation business. I also make bespoke lampshades and create abstract paintings for interiors.

Q What’s the biggest project you’ve ever taken on?
A I have project managed a new build home, with Dave building it, where I worked with the client to design and style the interior. We are currently planning, designing and project managing the total overhaul of a Thirties’ bungalow on the coast of Essex into a two-storey beach house. Continue reading

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Interiors: Bright ideas in the home

House of Lovely Stuff, Essex LivingFrom renovated sofas to bright colours on your wall, Leigh-based House of Lovely Stuff’s Jo Bolter tells why it pays to be bold when it comes to interior design…

Q How did House of Lovely Stuff come about?

A I grew up in a house sewing, designing, drawing, cooking, making and creating. But like most families I had no idea that normal people did this as a job, so I left school and started working in a local bank. I met my husband who was a graphic designer and art director and we’ve always enjoyed a shared interest in photography, going to the cinema, gigs, galleries and decorating (the designing bit) our home.

House of Lovely Stuff, Essex LivingBut the catalyst came one day when our youngest daughter came in from school moaning about her homework. It was Eighties week and she had to design an Eighties outfit. I happily explained to her that when I was her age (in the Eighties) I spent hours and hours designing clothes and occasionally making them for fun. My husband said, “Really? You designed and made your own clothes? Why did you stop?”

The answer was sad but simple. The school system/syllabus doesn’t value creativity so when it came to choosing my options I could only choose one creative subject. I loved cooking and I loved textiles. I chose home economics and then as I concentrated on passing my exams.

A couple of weeks later my mum decided to buy a new sewing machine. She asked if I wanted her old one, it was a bit tired but could do a job. I made a cushion. It went okay. I made another one. I started to match fabrics together, playing about with angles, prints and textures. I was happiest experimenting and making. Friends started to take notice. Then I was asked if my cushions were for sale. Sure, I said. And before I knew it a few more friends and friends of friends were interested. Continue reading

Vegan beauty menu at Essex’s the Beauty Shop

Vegan beauty, Katy Pearson, #whatkatydidUK

Vegan: From kitchens to salons

IN the past decade, the number of people who consider themselves vegan has rocketed from 150,00 in 2006 to 542,000, according to the Vegan Society and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

And it’s also becoming a growing trend among our celebrities, with the likes of comedian Russell Brand saying “I don’t see why someone should lose their life just so you can have a snack”. A vegetarian since the age of 14, he went vegan in 2011.

It’s no surprise then, that veganism is now stretching from our kitchen tables to our beauty regimes.
Superdrug’s budget B Beauty vegan range has just launched and the Body Shop, Odylique and Hourglass are just a few of the brands with entirely vegan make-up ranges.

Now Essex’s Beauty Shop is among a handful of the county’s businesses capitalising on the trend, by offering a unique vegan beauty treatment menu.

So how did the idea for the menu come about, I ask salon owner, 26-year-old Courtney Smith? Continue reading

A me&i moment…

me and i, police, #whatkatydidUK

Nee-naws: My Sonny Jim in one of his terrific me&i T-shirts

When I was about 18, Ann Summers parties were a big thing. Cocktails and smutty chatter were the main thrust of the night. I actually know a girl who bought THREE rampant rabbits.

Fast-forward a decade, a few of us had our own mortgaged places, a few were married, a few even had a baby or two, and Jamie Oliver bashes were the way to spend an evening, a glass of wine in hand. I once spent an RIDIKULOUS amount of money on a squirrel-shaped nutcracker – that broke the first time I attempted to crack a nut with it.

Now a mama to the most darling of little lads, I think I truly realised that I’d entered another era when I threw my own me&i party. It was a lunchtime affair. With tea and coffee and cakes. And babies crawling around our feet. And the most LOVELY clothes for little ones (and, er, mums.) Continue reading

My chat with… Martina Cole

Martina Cole, Katy Pearson, #whatkatydiduk, Essex girl

Essex girl: Bestselling author, Martina Cole (c) Charlotte Murphy

She has been writing bestsellers for 25 years and has achieved sales of over fourteen million in the UK alone. Here Martina Cole chats Essex girls, cockle sheds and loving bad boys…

WHAT IS YOUR SECRET VICE?

Emmerdale! On my life I have to watch Emmerdale, because of Cain Dingle. I’m trying to get up an online petition that he has to take his shirt off in every episode. Whether it will happen we don’t know but we can only hope. My other secret vice is I go to Leigh cockle sheds some times. When my daughter was very little I used to take her down the cockle sheds – she was six months old when she had her first jellied eel. And I still love it down there.

WHEN ARE YOU AT YOUR HAPPIEST?

I think when I’m with my grandchildren probably now, coz I’m getting on a bit. I do travel extensively though.

WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN ESSEX?

There’s so many to choose from, but one of my favourite places is the Boatyard in Leigh. It’s beautiful. Great food. I used to live on Benfleet Road. It was beautiful. It was like a footballer’s wife’s house. Had an indoor swimming pool, the lot. I loved it. When I moved over to Kent my daughter thought we’d gone poor. She said to me, Mummy have we gone poor, and I said not really, no! Continue reading

My chat with… Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates, Katy Pearson, Footloose, #whatkatydidUK

Footloose – Gareth Gates as Willard (c) Matt Martin

WHEN I chat to Gareth Gates – star of Footloose – the Musical coming to Basildon’s Towngate Theatre on August 21 – he is fulsome in his praise of our county.

“I love Essex,” he confesses. “It’s a great place, fun. My best friend in the world, Matt, he lives in Essex. He lives in Southend, so I’ll be staying with him probably while I’m performing.”

In fact, it transpires he even owns a house here.

Six students at Rayleigh’s Masters Performing Arts College actually have the Pop Idol’s runner-up as their landlord.

“I own a house in Leigh-on-Sea – a student house,” he explains.

“Matt [Plummer] is the principle of Masters – the performing arts college – and I bought a house literally down the road from there in Leigh for the students.

“I’ve got six students living there.”

So, he’s no stranger to Southend or even Basildon – where he has performed before. Continue reading

Mums about town: Family fun in south Essex, Aug 11-Aug 20

the Princess Emporium, priory park, essex

Find the fun: The Princess Emporium will be at Priory Park tomorrow

Play in the Park. Friday, August 11. 10am-12.30pm. Free. Suitable for all ages. 
There will be water play, playdough, songs time with instruments, some books and arts and crafts. Oh and bubbles. Find the fun at Priory Park (the green space behind the museum.) Bring sun hats, sun cream, snacks, water, blanket, activities/toys to share.

Caterpillar Club. Tuesday, August 15. 10am-12pm. £6 per child. Suitable for one to four-year-olds.
A fun morning of indoor and outdoor activities for pre schoolers at Langdon Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Lower Dunton Road, Basildon. Booking essential, call 01268 419103. Continue reading