My Pretty Clean

Never judge a book by its cover. Unless it's a book about gorgeous traditionally made cleaning products and the front cover looks something like this.

This week I tackled the aftermath of Half Term and it was not a pretty sight. But, much like that first visit to the gym after an over indulgent Christmas, a brand new kit made the whole thing more pleasurable. And what a kit it is. The Mangle & Wringer natural cleaning range from brilliant Yorkshire firm www.plainuseful.com, is literally a fairytale product range. Here's why...

The Mangle & Wringer Story
It's 1920s London and a young kitchen maid by the name of Bette Smith has
her sights set on a better life. She works hard for her high society employees and progresses up the household hierarchy to Laundry Maid and then Ladies Maid before she falls in love, marries and moves to Glocestershire to start a family. Here she sets up a laundry business and becomes known locally as Mrs Mangle. Later her daughter - nicknamed Little Miss Wringer - becomes her protege and together they rock the housekeeping world with traditional recipes for cleaning products that work wonders.

Sadly their was no Fairy Godmother included in my £32.50 Starter Pack, so it was left to me and a brand new pair of Marigolds. But the beautifully packaged products, the fact that they are made from 100% natural ingredients and the rags to riches tale behind them was enough to see me through. And the end result? Kitchen and bathrooms that sparkle like glass slippers.

Mangle and Wringer Starter pack £32.30 www.plainuseful.com
Housekeeping box £5.99 from www.homebargains.co.uk

Good for Glass spray

Laundry Powder and Natural Bleach

Kitchen Cleansing Balm

Back in the day, there was no luxe brand packaging to evoke housewife envy. But the original Kim and Aggie will no doubt be delighted to see what Mangle & Wringer founder Vanessa Willes has done with the recipes she had past down to her. The full product range is available from just £5.60 for the must-have Spray and Go. For more 'useful and beautiful' cleaning equipment than you can shake a goat haired duster at, click here: www.plainuseful.com


Mid-Week Candy Craving

Oscars on Sunday, Brits today and a cheeky Tuesday night gig squeezed in-between. I was wondering if this week could get any more star studded when I had a light bulb moment. Well OK, several lightbulbs arranged around a a 24inch galvanised vintage metal frame. Because nothing says star quality like a letter light. The question is, which way to go?

Arrow? For directing naughty boys upstairs to bed? … For sending a subliminal message on down days? … For showing unwanted guests the door? 

This way for Broadway lights at bargain prices www.made.com

Initials? For £299 I could shoo my shrinking violet here: www.letterlights.co.uk

Word up? In case you're loved one needs things spelling out. You can custom-make your point in huge light-up letters at www.etsy.com

Ampersand? OTM key as advocated by Chanel? Certainly has attitude… & what?
 Get diva style & then some from this fab seller…  www.staidanshomewarestore.co.uk

Star? Simple. Does exactly what it says on the galvanised tin www.made.com

Wait, I've got it... The perfect one letter message to inspire some star quality in my home...

Let it B
B Awesome
B Yourself
B the Best you can...

And the award for the Coolest Interior In The World Ever goes to….
 Let me grab my hairbrush, I've got a speech to prepare.

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The Candy Files

This week's highs and lows of a hopeless housewife...


70s Revival

I'm a product of the 70s - there, I've said it - so its current revival is fine by me. I've bagged the skinny flares and I'm working on the hair growth. Interiors wise I'm channeling the vibe too. And its starting with sideboards. This sleek, teak one reminds me of my youth. www.ebay.co.uk


Fine and Candy

House Boots

It's edging towards March which means I need to reign in the central heating bills. These babies are helping me through a difficult transitional period. www.thewhitecompany.com


Candy Pandy

Hurricane Half-Term

The storm has passed and the boys are back at school. I'm currently sifting through the debris of half-term and can identify a beloved vase as the only known fatality. Cupboards have been looted of all edible goods and this morning there were sightings of the missing homework. Let the clean-up commence. Aid-volunteers welcome.

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Denim - a perfect fit for a fashionable home

How much new season denim is too much? Skinny flares, midi skirt, cropped jacket, boyfriend shirt, bo-ho dress… suddenly double denim seems lame.

And why stop at clothes? I basically live in my jeans. It's the ultimate basic. Stylish, practical, hardwearing. When you think about it, demin is the perfect fabric of life. It's entry into the home fashion charts is surely long overdue.

In the home, as in fashion, denim and leather is the classic combination. Rustic, laid back and on-trend bohemian, it is the colour that works with everything. The new (old) neutral. I love this patchwork room divider - what a great way to re-work the denim scrap heap that quickly forms in a house full of growing kids and slavish fashion victims. You can learn how to make your own here: www.marthastewart.com

Denim is the master of reinvention. Back every season with a new twist; a fresh shape or a different wash. So I like the idea of updating vintage furniture with denim too. I've got a pair of old G-plan chairs that I picked up for next to nothing and are simply begging to be young again. At just £15.50 a metre I will be giving them a DIY denim look with this fabric: www.janeclayton.co.uk

And if it's good enough for David and Victoria, it's good enough for me. Matchy-matchy denim is now totally acceptable. Do it with a fab feature wall in this gorgeous Folia Sefa wallpaper from Harlequin. www.fashioninteriors.co.uk

Style goddess Alexa Chung was typically strides ahead of the trend with her AG Jeans collaboration and a sell-out capsule collection that makes denim appropriate for any occasion.

So here's my take on a capsule denim collection for the home. A few basic items that will nail the trend and for which you will be grateful, season after season.

1. The Cushion

Fash-up that battered leather sofa with a cheap and chic cushion. This is from the new drop at H&M and costs just £7.99. Buy yours here: www.hm.com

If you're quick you could also bag a bargain from www.houseoffraser.co.uk This pretty frilled scatter cushion has just the right amount of girliness about it and currently in the sale, is only £6.

2. The lampshade.

On a cool standard lamp, or a ceiling light in a teenage bedroom, the lampshade is an easy update and this plain denim drum shade is simply perfect.  £35 from www.notonthehighstreet.com 

3. The Bean bag.

It will be hard to see where my son ends and the furniture begins once he's slouched in this denim bean chair from www.coxandcox.co.uk. It's even got pockets man. How cool is that? Just add attitude.

Make yourselves comfy fashionistas, this trend has staying power.


Mid-Week Candy Craving

Bombay Dreams

It's that time of the week when we could all do with a bit of a pick-me-up. That's why I've chosen Wednesday to bring you my weekly House Candy Craving - the one item that is currently satisfying my interiors appetite.

This week I am inspired by all things Indian, thanks largely to some new, colourful telly addictions. Indian Summers, Sunday 9pm Channel 4, is slotting nicely into the period drama gap that Downton left behind. Not to mention providing plenty of House Candy in the form of palatial colonial summer houses.

Fast forward to present day and we've got Desi Rascals, Tuesday 8pm Sky Living, to look forward to. The latest structured reality show is what happens when you mix TOWIE and Bend It Like Beckham. Look out for Bangra-bling a-plenty.

I'm checking in at The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the end of February when the sequel to another English-Goes-To-India-And-Falls-In-Love story brings further beauty and colour to the big screen.

India is where it's at and I'm feeling it at home with this beautiful Antonia bone inlay chest from www.grahamandgreen.co.uk (above)

This is my go-to store for modern-exotic pieces and has a fabulous choice of sari inspired furniture and accessories to chose from.

With emerald still charting high on my fash-ometer, this green one hits all the right notes for me, but teal or yellow are equally equipped to add instant Indian spice to your space.

I'm dreaming of sipping Bombay Sapphire in the early evening sun. Oh and a handsome Maharaja wafting me with giant Palm leaves. Perfect… Innit.


The Candy Files

Introducing The Candy Files, where each week I'll be charting the highs and lows of a hopeless housewife.

This week...


Enough of the hibernation, fresh sheets smell of Spring. These linen-look lovelies are from www.heals.co.uk


Fine and Candy

Essex? Too glam. Chelsea? Too posh. Paris I can do.
Reem Banter, French stylie... Totes Bon.
£11.89 from www.amazon.co.uk


Candy Pandy

Fake tan spills suck. Protect your white bits people. Beauty is a messy business. 

What's going up and down in your world this week?


50 Shades of Fabulous

The new 50 Shades movie opens this weekend and I'm biting my lip with excitement. This calls for a refresher course on a few basic rules of S&M. Simple & Monochrome masterclass? Step seductively this way:

Rule 1) There are no grey areas. When you mix black and white, you get fabulous. Understood?

Rule 2) Invest in the right kit. This style is all about attention to detail. Visit on-trend retailers such as www.bodieandfou.com for art prints and accessories guaranteed to satisfy your needs.

Rule 3) Take it like a man. This can be a masculine world. If you like great big, flouncy florals, hit the panic button. 

Too harsh for you? Start soft and delicate. Think period details...

…and art print walls

Rule 4) Dare to bare. Naked windows, check. Stripped floorboards, check (all the better to hear those stiletto heels)  Leave your slippers at the door.

Rule 5) Keep it kempt. Monochrome maniacs are all about order. Books? stack 'em. Clutter? Clear it. Maintain some discipline, got it? 

www.boconcept.com has some awesome storage solutions that can help you get everything stylishly under control.

Rule 6) Look natural. You know you've nailed it when even your mess looks stylish. But beware - pared down minimalism is an art form. If you have to try too hard to look this good, you don't make the grade.

www.loaf.com Does a neat line in laid-back luxe to help you relax into the vibe.  

Rule 7) WOW me. It might be an expensive, state of the art music system, or the odd designer chair … (I will be disappointed if Grey doesn't own a Le Corbusier) £3,126 from  www. healssofas.co.uk

For actual take-your-breath-away beauty you really can't beat a bespoke chandelier… 

No billionnaire budget? Try this for starters: Only £90 from www.ikea.com

Rule 8) Know your limits. In the bathroom

In the bedroom…

Woods wallpaper by www.cole-and-son.com

The beauty of S&M is that you can take this theme wherever you want. But work it your own way for maximum effect. Not everyone can live with a zebra skin in the hall.

Walk on the wild side or go Moroccan monochrome here: www.made.com 

Rule 9)  Relax. 

Remember - you are free to leave at any time and return to your Cath Kidston bedspread. Simple & Monochrome is your choice and it's not for everyone.

Framed print also from: www.made.com

Some more S&M accessories to have fun with here: www.houseoffraser.co.uk

Rule 10) Absolutely. No. Lip-biting. 

Not ready to commit? Let's talk about it...