Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips


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2 essentials for a workspace that sparks creativity

I’m just about to start planning my office (did you catch my blog post on the ergonomics of working from home?) so I’ve been doing my research into what makes a good workspace. Earlier this week I shared some photos of the offices of my favourite bloggers and now I’m taking inspiration from creative professionals in order to identify what I need (and don’t need!) to make my home studio a productive space to work.

A 2014 report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers found that our physical surroundings can have a huge impact on how much work we get done. And this was the same in all four countries assessed (Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway if you were curious). Consequently, it is fair to say that our working environment can have a dramatic effect on our mood. In order to ensure that your own office area sparks your creativity, here are the two things you need for a beautiful workspace.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s home office

1. Natural light and plants

Whether you’re looking to create the grandeur of a Victorian study or to relax in a sleek, modern home office, studies suggest that a workspace should always have natural light and plants. Plants increase the level of oxygen in a workspace whilst natural light is instrumental in allowing people to think with a clear head. An example of a workspace that makes excellent use of natural light comes from the creator of cult show Mad Men (above).

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Why I didn’t buy my dream home

You know when you have an idea of your perfect home in your mind – go on, picture yours now… You’d hope to one day be able to buy that house and move in with a perfect blush pink sofa and two fluffy cats, right? Or maybe that’s just me. But anyway, you know what style you like, the type of building you’d choose and the location you’d love. So why, when I was searching for a property to buy, didn’t I buy my dream house?

The dream cottage from House and Garden

It’s not as simple as ‘I couldn’t afford dolls-house-esque Georgian mansion I wanted”. I found plenty of beautiful homes within my budget (though I wanted to get a good deal, naturally – I’m a thrifty gal after all) but none of them quite came up to scratch. I wasn’t being picky – they we’re all homes that only two years ago I could never have dreamed of owning – but for a whole year, every house I viewed or came close to buying ended up not being ‘the one’. Here’s why:

It was too small. I quickly found out that the trouble with picturesque cottages is that they’re too small. I’ve stayed in SO many lovely holiday homes that are small but perfect-formed, so I thought that this was the style of house I wanted to buy. But when I started looking at them with the reality of actually living there, I realised it would be a struggle. The rooms in cottages are so cosy, but tiny. Even the windows were too small, meaning that most rooms were dark even in the midday sun – no good for a full-time blogger, eh?! I can’t even remember how many times my husband banged his head on the low beams! Sorry quaint holiday cottage, you’re not the house for me.

Beautiful home and garden by photographer Rachel Warne

The road was too close. A couple of the perfect cottages we looked at were just too close to the road. Some were main ‘A’ roads, while others were tiny village roads. Either way, the proximity of the road always seemed to cause a problem. It could be that there was no nearby parking, it was sometimes a noisy truck-route and in other places it was difficult to even get out of the driveway onto the main road. Sorry ‘excellent road links’ house, I won’t be parking in front of you.

It was listed. And even though this means the building is packed full of beautiful original features, gorgeous inglenook fireplaces and beamed ceilings, I didn’t want to take on this responsibility. As you know, I like to do a lot of DIY work myself and I couldn’t imagine being restricted by the listing requirements. The listings often covered things like the colour of the front door (that’s conservation areas for ya!), the style of windows (cold non-double glazed, for a start) and the roof tiles. Considering that I love to learn new skills and DIY as I go, it seemed unlikely that I’d want to stick to the listing restrictions and keep things exactly as they are. Sorry ancient house, you’re no home of mine.

The dream garden from Sequin Gardens

There was no garden. Okay, not true – they all had gardens. But the trouble was the tiny size of the garden. Or the overlooked nature of the garden. Or the neighbour who was sitting in their garden, which backed onto our kitchen window. Odd configurations of the plot was a big factor in the decision not to buy most of the houses we saw. Considering that we like to work in our garden and host gatherings around a BBQ it was important that we had a usable outdoor space. And even the most perfect ‘how does your garden grow’ plots were too small to put up a shed. Having space to build a workshop was one of our ‘essentials’ so that my artist husband and I can work together, so if there was no room for a sizable shed, we walked away. Sorry cottage garden, I won’t be mowing your lawn.

The good news is that, in the end, I actually DID buy my dream home. I just didn’t know that this house was what I was looking for when I started my property search. It’s about twice the size of any other houses we saw and has a garden that we can grow into. We can park easily and the no-through road rarely sees any traffic. Other houses in the area have been altered and updated without any problems with planning and I love that I can DIY everything myself. Hi happy home, I think I’d like to move in.

The moral of my story is to keep an open mind when house-hunting. After countless viewings, I said to my husband “let’s just look at ANYTHING within our budget” even if it doesn’t seem right. The very next day a square 1950s house came onto the market and I booked a viewing with this new ethos in mind. I very nearly cancelled that appointment a few times because I was sure this house wasn’t the right one for us. But when we arrived at the quiet location and walked up the long garden into a house with more rooms than we knew what to do with, I was so pleased that we’d given it a chance.

Good luck with your house hunting guys!


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4 ways with windows to create a bright & airy home

One of the things that I’m trying to achieve in my home is a feeling of brightness and airiness. I’ve been painting dark walls in fresh white paint, and have positioned mirrors at suitable points around the house to reflect the light. But I’m sure that there’s more I can do to achieve a home filled with bright natural daylight. And I’m sure I’m not the only person to want this kind of effect in my home. Today I’m sharing my ideas for increasing light levels in the home, without resorting to daylight bulbs..!

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1. Goodbye Curtains

Firstly, let’s look at the ways to maximise the amount of light coming in through your existing windows. If you’ve got heavy curtains hanging at your windows, lets take them down. Either replace them with floaty-light voiles or consider whether you can go without curtains altogether. If the window isn’t overlooked, or is already frosted, maybe those curtains aren’t necessary. This will ensure that the maximum amount of light possible enters through these windows.

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2. Hello blinds

If you do need to cover the windows for privacy or at night, a practical option is to install blinds inside the window recess. Go for blinds that fold or roll right away, such as venetian blinds or roller blinds. I chose vertical blinds for my living room and they open from the centre so can be pulled back to expose the entire window. Any of these types of blinds will allow loads of light into the room but still allow you to maintain your privacy at night. And you’re able to control the amount of light coming in through the window by angling the slats to direct the daylight away from your laptop screen.

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How to reinvent a second-hand kitchen

Buying a kitchen second-hand may seem unheard of, but it can be a great way to update your home on a budget. So many people think that their only option is a basic store-bought kitchen, but there are alternatives out there – purchasing a designer kitchen second-hand is the future. You can get great quality at a fraction of the original custom-made price. However, when a kitchen has been designed for a different home, how do you personalise it to suit yours? Here are some tips:Paint is Your Best Friend

When you buy a second-hand kitchen, paint becomes your best friend. You can use it to transform the entire room, from the cabinets to the walls. You will be surprised how much painting your cabinets can lift the entire room, making it brighter and much more pleasant.

Change Up the Cabinets

With cabinets making up such an important part of the kitchen, changing them can have a big impact on the design. You could paint them, as we mentioned above, or replace the doors with glass. If you’re feeling brave (and you keep your cupboards tidy!) you could take the doors off completely. Is that too much commitment? Just replace the handles – chrome handles instantly update a kitchen, or you could find quirky vintage ones.Replace the Worktops

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Interior design trends – soft minimalism

I love the idea of a minimalist lifestyle. I guess that’s because I’ve got so much clutter in my life! Dreaming of open spaces and white walls provides a complete contrast to my life at the moment. With boxes half-unpacked and not knowing where anything is, I could really do with implementing a few minimalist ideas in order to sort my life out right now! Even though I couldn’t really survive in a white box home (I’m a tea-spiller, after all) I can definitely get behind the ‘soft minimalism’ interiors trend that is everywhere at the moment.Maybe it’s because Pinterest offers ‘picked for you’ pins that I’m seeing so many minimalist interiors on my Pinterest feed. And the more I pin, the more similar images Pinterest serves up. Soon my whole profile will be overrun with soft minimalist inspiration and, to tell you the truth, I’d be happy with that. Soft minimalism is definitely the way I’d like my home to be in the future. We’ve made a start with white walls and laminate floors, but what else is needed to achieve this look? Here’s some key soft minimalist decor ideas that I definitely want to use in my own home…

Soft minimalism inspiration from LionsHome.co.uk – image source: Bloomingville

1. Sleek storage

All the pieces of furniture from the soft minimalism trend seem to be scandi-inspired furniture designs. The lines are straight, the storage is neat and the handles are unfussy. It’s simple, thoughtfully designed and well made. It’s all about practical storage that looks gorgeous too; well, if you want a minimalist home, you’re going to have to hidethe clutter somewhere! And that’s the whole point of soft minimalism: it’s not necessarily about getting rid of your things, just storing them away neatly. Furniture for this trend is usually white, black or natural wood.

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Key ingredients for a perfect bedroom

If somebody asked you what your dream bedroom would look like, what would you say? What kind of vision do you have? I know exactly what I want my own bedroom to look like – in fact, I’ve already started decorating it; check out my flooring blog post with step-by-step GIF of my progress! The trouble is, I can’t really put into words the style that I like. It’s kind of minimalist but not at all stark. Does that make sense? Sometimes, it can be really hard to convert mental images into the real deal. So if this conundrum sounds familiar to you too, today’s blog post should come in handy. Here’s a list of key ingredients and some useful tips to help you design the perfect bedroom.

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The bed

For most of us, the bed is the most important part of any bedroom design. Beds come in all shapes and sizes, and there are styles to suit all tastes and budgets. Some people long for luxury hotel style leather headboards or dramatic four-posters while others dream of a rustic log cabin vibe with solid wood headboards and a sturdy frame. Whatever your style, don’t rush into making a decision when it comes to finding the right bed. You’ll need to find a mattress that you struggle to part with (like I did) and a frame that matches your vision and complements your theme. My bed frame is taking 45 days to be delivered but it’ll be worth the wait to get the right one. Take a tour of some bed stores, try some mattresses for size, and search online for inspiration. If you have an idea in mind, and it’s a little avant-garde, you may also find it easier to source what you want on the Internet.

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Household DIY – How to install laminate flooring

I’ve recently laid laminate flooring in two rooms of my home and I can honestly say that it was a really easy process. I thought it would take days to install but we were finished within a couple of hours. As long as you have the right equipment – a saw, knee pads and a laminate flooring installation kit (including packers) you can easily lay this type of flooring yourself. Here’s how to do it, step-by-step:Clear away any existing carpet, tiles or pieces of old underlay. Give the room a sweep to make sure you’ve cleared all the debris from the surface, and vacuum the floor to pick up the smaller pieces of dust. If you’re laying the laminate onto a concrete floor you’ll need to start with a damp-proof membrane before adding a layer of underlay.If you’re starting with a wooden floor, you can go straight to laying the underlay. There are plenty of options for underlay out there; foil-coated sheets that insulate the floor, rolls of foam to cushion the laminate or fibre boards – which is the option I went for.This simply evens out the floor so that the laminate flooring will look perfectly flat when fitted. It also adds an extra layer of insulation and, if you’re using it on an upstairs room, it can add a little sound-proofing so you don’t feel like you’re walking about inside a drum, and causing a lot of noise in the rooms below!

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AMAZING news – my blog won the award for Best Homes & Interiors Blog 2017

I’m SO excited to tell you the wonderful news that my thrifty little lifestyle blog has just been announced as the winner of the Best Homes and Interiors Blogger Award 2017!! I still can’t really believe it and I’m grinning like the cheshire cat right now!The news has just been shared by the award sponsor Tile Trader and it’s already made the headlines on the East Anglian Daily Times website – here’s a screen shot and link to the article if you’d like to have a read.Thank you all for voting for my blog in the competition, I really appreciate you taking the time to support me and it’s all for a fantastic cause – the prize is a donation of £200 to a homelessness charity in the winner’s local area. I’m delighted to be able to use my little blog to boost the funds of a brand new support service in Suffolk “The Bus Shelter”.

Beautiful photo of the bus renovation project by Jane Gould, image from The Bus Shelter Facebook page

The charity is currently renovating a donated double-decker bus to turn it into a safe space for rough sleepers to stay. But ‘sleep is just the beginning’ (the charity’s motto) as the bus will also offer advice, cooking and washing facilities, and ongoing support. It’s a truly inspirational charity and the project is in progress right now so please get involved if you can – all donations really do make a difference and will help to get The Bus Shelter on the road sooner. You can read more and donate on their Facebook page here.

Thank you all once again for voting for my blog – it’s made a huge difference to a local charity as well as made me indescribably happy! I’m super excited  that I also receive a commemorative plaque for the award to put on the mantlepiece woo, can’t wait for that to arrive in the post – I’ll be sure to share a photo of it on Instagram @cassiefairy when it’s delivered. Thank you for continuing to support me and helping to put Suffolk blogs on the map in this national award competition 🙂


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Where to find bedding in mid-century colours

Hurrah! We finally have some new bedding for our new bedroom. After weeks spent stripping off wallpaper, days painting layers and layers of while emulsion to cover up bright peach walls, and even more hours spent laying beautiful laminate flooring, I think it was about time that we got a little reward for all our hard work. And what do you want when you’ve just turned a room into a perfect white cube? Colour, that’s what! Looking back over my last few home blog posts, I think you can tell the direction in which I’m heading with my interior decor. In fact, it’s no secret that I love mid-century modern design – I’ve had teak furniture and geometric patterns in my home for years. But this time, I’m taking the OTT garishness down a touch. I’m pairing simple white walls with natural textures, so that my mid-century design pieces really stand out and take centre stage. The bedroom is no exception. Where we previously had an eye-catching DIY feature wall made from the pages of old books, I’ve now decided that the bed itself should be the feature in the room. I’ve bought a sleek Hygena bed from Argos (which will take another month to arrive) and it’s undeniably mid-century in design. So I already had this in mind when it came to choosing some new bedding.

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Minimalist mid-century modern window dressing

There’s a lovely big window in our living room. It lets in so much natural daylight and offers a lovely view over the garden. In fact, it’s pretty-much the only feature of the room at the moment, so I want to make the most of it. I wanted to give it a sleek, contemporary window-dressing but still wanted make sure that I can still get the maximum amount of light into the room. Here’s what I decided to do…I’ve always hung curtains in the past.

But this time, covering up the window with heavy curtains didn’t seem like such a good idea. As a blogger I’m always on the hunt for natural light to help me take photos so it wouldn’t be sensible to cover up the main source of daylight in the house, would it?! And as much as I love my bumble-bee curtains, I don’t think they are even the right size for the window. I decided that my old curtains will get a new home in the guest bedroom and I’ve invested in a blind for the living room.Pinterest has changed my style.

I used to quite like fussy window dressings. Y’know, blousey roman blinds with floaty voiles over the top. Or blackout roller blinds with thickly lined curtains in the winter. But since I started planning my new home on Pinterest, things have changed. I found myself drawn to minimalist interiors, white walls and rooms with lots of natural light. I started pinning images of shutters, chunky wooden venetians and long, sleek vertical blinds.I wanted maximum versatility.

I wanted to cover my windows in order to enjoy some privacy in my home, but I didn’t want to block out the outside world completely. And I wanted to control the amount of light coming into the room; sometimes too much sunshine is as bad as too little light. So the idea of shutters went out of the window (excuse the pun). Even though the angles of the shutter could be tilted, a solid frame would inevitably block out more light than I wanted. That said, curtains were too ‘open or closed’ for me too, and even voiles seem to make a room darker.

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