[Mini Style] Stella's new bedroom revamp

If you happen to have kids, then you probably won't be surprised to hear that the only room that's actually finished in our new pad, is neither the living area or our master bedroom but my daughter's bedroom. When you move across continents with a toddler, end up living out of suitcases in rented temporary accommodation for over two months, and finally settle in a new home, the priority is really to keep the troops happy and avoid as many diplomatic incidents at bedtime as possible. So there you go: we may not have any bedside tables, lamps, or shelves yet, but man, Stella's room is (almost!) done and is definitely one of my proudest projects to date - the 'almost' bit is because I still have a few tricks up my sleeve including an 'S' letter neon sign to install so there will probably be a room makeover part deux soon!

Stella's new bedroom in the desert: a soothing yet playful  space in grey neutral tones with hints of bright pink of course

Stella's new bedroom in the desert: a soothing yet playful  space in grey neutral tones with hints of bright pink of course

When we found the dream rented pad in Dubai a few weeks ago, I immediately started going slightly mad on Pinterest - click here to see the Pinterest board I created and used for inspiration. The main priority was a toddler bed to replace the baby cot she had in London. As you can see on my Pinterest board, I got slightly obsessed over a house-shaped bed I had seen many versions on blogs and magazines and really wanted that to be the focal point of the room. Not just because it looks totally gorgeous and undoubtedly highly Instagram-worthy (I actually want one for myself!) but also because it was going to be her first ever 'grown-up' bed so I wanted it to make a statement: something she could get excited about at bedtime with a practical side too i.e. not being able to fall off during the night (as you can imagine I wasn't very keen on getting ugly bed-guards at all!). 

I looked relentlessly for one in Dubai shops without success, and considered having one shipped over from Europe but shipping costs were just killing my tight budget... I then found a recommended local carpenter willing to make one and within my timeframe. We had it made as a single bed instead of toddler size so one of us can lie down with her to read stories in the evening. It's simply the feature of the room and the white frame against the grey walls just works wonderfully.  Everything else fell into place. If you love this bed too you'll be happy to hear you can get an exclusive discount from the company I used. See full details below. 

Stella is a massive book worm and her collection is never ending, so I was keen to create a little reading corner to read her latest favourites (Julia Donaldson's The Snail and the Whale is the current go-to of the moment). I get asked a lot about cool ideas for storing and displaying kids books (as opposed to hiding them away) and a front facing wall bookcase is always a good and easy way to show off your kid's reading materials. 

As for the colour of the walls, I had a few on my wish list, including a beautiful bright pink. I decided to let Stella decide - it's her bedroom after all and she's aware enough to be able to choose these kind of things now. I presented her with my shortlist of two Jotun A4 samples: Jazz Grey, and Princess Pink. Unsurprisingly she picked grey. This is a child who loves to play with trains and trucks more than with dolls and princesses so I expected nothing less from her. The overall scheme makes the room a really soothing yet playful space with just a few hints of bright colours (you know how much I like a bit of neon pink...).

There was only a handful of pricey elements of the whole revamp (most of which we already owned, thankfully) including the pink Elephant stool, the desk/chair set from My 1st Years in the UK and the sheep bookcase from Rowen and Wren. The rest has been sourced on a VERY tight budget locally. If you scroll down to the end of the post, you'll get the full shopping list for each item of the room and the total budget. Luckily the bedroom has a full wall of incredibly spacious floor to ceiling built-in wardrobes so that saved us the big bucks on standalone wardrobes and storage furniture... 

Finally the thing that can make or brake a room is lighting. The original light fixture (scroll down to the bottom to see the 'before' shots) made me shiver just looking at it and we had to replace it with something that didn't break the bank - as we are renting. Thank god for IKEA and their affordable pendant lights. The one we chose is made of paper and can be shaped is different ways to look like a floating cloud. It was love at first sight. 

Stella absolutely loves her new room and spends much more time there than she used to in London so it feels very rewarding to see her enjoy her new space after months of camping in travel cots and suitcases. Here is a list of most of the items you can see in the pictures. If I had had to buy every single piece, the entire project would have costed just over 6000AED which I think is not bad considering the space. 

Oh and in case you wondered what it looked like before I got my paws on it, this is Stella's room 'before' shot... 

So, what do you think of the look of her new bedroom? Would love to get your feedback on the revamp and hear some of your own makeovers in the comments below... 

[Star Tips] 5 simple ways to turn your rental into a home

Are you renting out your pad? Feeling a bit deflated thinking your hands are tied when it comes to decorating? Are you living in magnolia hell but don't know what to do about it for fear of kissing your deposit goodbye? Read on my friends cos I have just spent the past few weeks styling our new rented pad in the desert, and learned A LOT along the way. It's still a major work in progress but I can already share a few key principles with you so you don't have to sweat as much as I did.

Stella + the Stars new rented HQ, filled with bargains and statement lighting (and missing artwork)... 

Stella + the Stars new rented HQ, filled with bargains and statement lighting (and missing artwork)... 

Life is funny sometimes, isn't it? One tends to rent for years trying to scrape together enough for a deposit and if you're lucky (or some sort of human-squirrel hybrid, depends how you see it), you get to own your place at some point in your life. Mr Stella + the Stars and myself did all that, in the right chronological order and then three months ago, went slightly backwards and left our beloved East London (owned) pad behind to find a new (rented) place to live in the desert. More on the fun and games of this new adventure here. So I am now on the other side of the fence and renting a place again after almost nine years of blissfully decorating our homes without ever being accountable to anybody and certainly not to a landlord. As fate would have it, I worked with a few clients last year, helping them revamp their rented properties without breaking the bank, and over the past few weeks, well, I had to apply my own principles to... myself. Obviously every situation is different, every tenancy agreement has different clauses, every landlord has his/her various levels of flexibility but these five general tips should be useful to the majority so I thought i'd share them with you. 

1. Style the place like you own it

I know, I know, I know, we've just established I/you don't own the place, so why would you spend money on redecorating it when you know you might not be in it in a couple of years? It's such a common thought that I have heard countless times and I really believe it's a slightly depressing way of looking at it. How about flipping the coin: This is the place I am going to spend every single day, for the next 12 months, at least, so it should be a beautiful, cosy place that makes me feel happy to hang around and that I enjoy getting back to at the end of each day? See where I am going there? There are so many ways to make a rented pad your own, and make it feel like a proper home without wasting too much energy and money, and I'd like to show you in the next few weeks that you really don't need to sell a limb to make it look stylish. Which brings me nicely to point numero deux.

2. Personalise the hell out of your pad

If I had a dirham for every time someone has told me: "but I don't want to spend too much on this or that because I am renting so it's a waste", I would have enough cash to be living in one of the Sheik's palaces by now. Adding personality doesn't mean wasting money, or trashing a rental and it certainly doesn't mean bordering bankruptcy. You may be mourning the fact that you can't pick the most beautiful floorboards, or knock down walls to transform that pokey living room into a bright open-plan space. So, get over it and start thinking outside the box: artwork, colourful throws, patterned cushions, statement lighting, funky trinkets, good candle holders, and any accessories you can think of: these are your new friends now. And can you see what they all have in common? They're all potentially cheap as chips and can be moved to the next place. If you can't change the structure or the colours, just go big on the accessories, and you will be amazed how you can just transform the look of a room with cleverly chosen decorative pieces. 

3. Don't be a snob

Ok, so this is the only bit where you are allowed to pull the 'but we're renting' card. If you want to decorate your new rented place on a budget, It's understandable that you might not want to invest in timeless, super expensive pieces for each room. The solution? Just don't be a snob. I love discovering places that no one would put a foot in and finding absolute bargains. Yes some might have been made in China, and yes most of them might not be with me in a couple of years. But who cares? My advice is shop around and don't just stick to the usual suspects. I found some gems in places like Pan Emirates, and Home R Us, both of which I was told were 'not going to be my vibe at all'. I am not saying I would furnish my entire pad there, far from it. But don't let an ugly showroom put you off. I even found a few items at local supermarkets, and I am not ashamed to admit I bought some replicas of classic chair designs for our dining room. That's the key thing when shopping for a new place: mix your existing pieces with affordable options from the high street, sprinkle a few carefully chosen accessories from trusted designers and Bob's your uncle. There are so many places beyond IKEA, you just have to go out and browse. 

4. Go mad with rugs

You're renting, so chances are, you haven't chosen the flooring of the property. And you've ended up with slightly bland cream-coloured tiles or ugly carpets, tired looking wooden floors or laminate. Either way, no biggie, just cover it all up with beautiful statement rugs. Rugs can completely transform a room, add texture and character, and are super duper easy to pack, unpack, transport and store, so you can just take them with you next time you move. I am partial to a vintage Moroccan rug but they can potentially lead to bankruptcy so have a look for Berber-style rugs on the high street. 

5. Get your paintbrushes out

Changing the colour of your walls, is probably one of the cheapest and most transformative things you could do to your pad and If you live in Dubai, the costs are even lower than in the UK so I would say just GO. FOR. IT. Erm, actually before you go for it, and head to your nearest paint shop, make sure you check the terms of your tenancy agreement and speak to the owner of your place, but to be honest the majority of landlords don't really mind what you do and as long as you to return the property in the same state/colour as you left it so if you are willing to paint it back to magnolia/cream/off white or whatever colour your rental was in the first place, you should be allowed to paint any room in any colour you wish. We have so far repainted my daughter's room in Jazz Grey, and the master bedroom in blush pink?! Full post with tips on choosing paint colours for your walls coming very soon... 

Oh and bonus tip, just because: get your lighting right. Do you know the first thing we did the minute we moved our stuff into our new pad? We replaced all the boring and ugly light fixtures with quirky (yet affordable ones) from the high street. All you need is an electrician (or a DIY savvy partner, which is not the case in the Stella + the Stars HQ I am sad to report), and a roll of bubble wrap (for packing the old ones). The whole living area and Stella's room (that's a total of four dull pendant ceiling lights), set us back just 600dhs (that's just over £100) so it's really worth the effort. You can store all the existing fixtures in the new light boxes and store them until it's time to move out.  

Voila! There are many more ways to add personality to a space without upsetting your landlord (I'll do another post soon with more tips!) but this is a great way to get going if you have just moved into a rented property and don't know where to start. 

Happy decorating! 

PS: In totally unrelated news, Stella + the Stars has been nominated in the Amara Interior Blog Awards again this year, but this time in the Best International Interiors Blog category (massive YAY). If you're a fan of Le Blog, and have 16 seconds to spare, please pretty please, vote for us so we can make it to the shortlist again. CLICK HERE TO VOTE and thank you! 

[Chez Moi] Settling into a new pad in the desert

Stella + the Stars new desert HQ slowly taking shape

Stella + the Stars new desert HQ slowly taking shape

Well, hello there! We are officially back in business. Yes, after a three-month hiatus, Stella + the Stars and, more importantly, Le Blog is back from the dead and finally alive again. Did you miss us?! You may wonder what happened in the past quarter. Well, a total whirlwind of moving, settling, house hunting, and decorating, that's what. Myself, Stella and Mr Stella + the Stars have moved continents, left our lovely East London pad at the end of April to start a brand new life in Dubai. The past few weeks have been the most surreal roller-coaster. There have been laughs, tears (lots), grunts of frustration, squeals of excitement, 'What the f* have we done?" whispers.. But, I am happy to report that we are finally settled in our new life and happy as clams, despite the scorching heat - that feeling when you hit 50 degrees (that's celsius by the way, peeps, not Fahrenheit!) is hard to describe with actual words. 

The to-do list has been something else, even for someone with OCD tendencies like yours truly, and the hellish level of bureaucracy here is simply indescribable. From visas, to residence cards, house hunting malarky, tenancy agreements, and generally starting from scratch on pretty much everything you can think of, I certainly haven't had a chance to stop and smell the roses (well, cacti more like).

But the most exciting part of the whole move has probably been finding and decorating a new (rented) pad. Don't get me wrong, it's been the most ridiculously soul destroying process at times, and I have just developed chronic selective amnesia as a coping mechanism to avoid having a nervous breakdown. Let's just say I had to kiss a bunch of frogs (43 to be exact) to find THE gem but fast forward 12 weeks and here we are, in this new place we finally started calling home. 

There is a massive '5 tips to style a rented pad from scratch' coming your way very soon, trust me.

I know it sounds naive, but after 12 years settled in our London pad, I had totally forgotten what house hunting was like and how challenging it is to find the right place especially when you switch from owning your place to becoming a tenant again. Imagine trying to find your way around Tinder after being married for years and you get the picture. Despite every single agent telling me what I wanted was impossible to find (have we met?!) and that I should choose a place that ticked 70% of my boxes... Well, it took 43 viewings (gulp) but I am happy to say that they were all wrong and we found our home. What can I say, when you know, you know. 

Decorating the new Stella + the Stars HQ has started in earnest (you can check my instagram feed for some sneak peeks) and I'll be reporting back regularly on progress on Le Blog. 

So, what can you expect on Stella + the Stars going forward, you may wonder? Well, my motto certainly hasn't changed. I believe you don't need to sell a limb to be able to have a beautiful home, rented or not. I am on a mission to help you inject a little bit of fabulousness into your living space, one design dilemma at a time, while keeping that 'affordable' box well and truly ticked. 

I have a bunch of wonderful new interiors brands, designers and boutique based here in the Middle East that I have recently discovered so there will be plenty of spotlights on those. I'll also bring lots of tips on how to decorate a rented pad from scratch without having to max out a bunch of credit cards, based on my experience over the past few weeks. I hope I can still inspire you to apply my tips to your own place, wherever you are. 

So welcome to Stella + the Stars 2.0. I hope you enjoy the (camel) ride. 

New beginnings for Stella + the Stars

Warning: Make sure you're sitting down for this one as it might be the most random/surreal/mad/unexpected/[insert preferred expletive here] kind of post I have written on this blog. 

Stella + the Stars is turning one next week. If you knew me before Le Blog, you might remember how my journey started last year, and how it went from this epiphany I had while off work on maternity leave with my daughter Stella to... well, this blog and all the paying interior styling gigs that have come along with it. Not to make an actual living, mind, but in mama terms, well, enough to pay for childcare (most months!) and sometimes even a little bit on top. I felt emotional just reading my first ever post... Click here to reminisce with me

So, I am about to drop the biggest bombshell since I started this little adventure almost a year ago. Typical isn't it? You come up with an idea, it takes you months to gather the courage and the brain cells to actually make it happen; after a few months of craziness it actually gets you somewhere and you slowly start moving on from the unavoidable 'what the f*ck am I doing?!' mindset to, 'right, I kind of got this!' territory... And then, just like that, something totes bonkers happens that can be incredibly exciting, but also the shittiest timing in history. And that's exactly what is happening .

Stella + the Stars is moving to the desert... No, it's not a joke, I swear. Surreal, yes, but also actually happening. Bear with me. A few months ago, hubby got offered an incredible opportunity to work from the Dubai office of his company. Yes, Dubai, as in the Middle East, six hours away from London, where it's very, VERY hot in the summer, and you can ski on an artificial slope, in the middle of the desert, after a shopping spree in the world's biggest mall. That Dubai.  

So, what did we do? We went there at the end of last year, on a massive recce, with a bunch of checklists, full of stupid columns (pros, cons, 'can be handled', 'definite deal breaker', and so on...), without a clue what to expect (we were all Dubai virgins back then). We just wanted to see it for ourselves. Make our own bloody decision not based on someone else’s opinion on what they’d heard, rather than actual knowledge of having been there.

So, we went, we saw and we made the decision to conquer. Leaving everything we know in London to settle in a crazy new place with a bunch of people we've never met. For a year or two. Maybe more. New beginnings, I warned you, didn't I? What we had on the 'pros' column: adventure, all-year-round sun, daily access to the beach, kid-friendly heaven for Stella (it's beyond friendly, it's kids-snogging at this rate), actually affordable childcare, expat comfort, tax-free, crime-free, and finally, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I won't bore you with the list of endless 'cons', as I can imagine we all know what they are (including  clichés and  stereotypes). 

Compared to Mr Stella + the Stars - who, although he travels more than a jet setter, has never actually lived outside the UK - it was a little easier for me to compute, as this will be the 4th time I pack my shit and move across countries. But the first time uprooting a family. Since we got back from our trip, Stella has just been screaming at random moments: 'When are we going to Dooooooobai?! Where is the SANDPIT?! Where is the FIIIIIISH?!' so, oddly, she's been the least of our worries in terms of upheaval. She's two, hopefully she won't remember and we'll come back enough for her to get her fix of her favourite London people..

No, my main anxiety, came from Stella + the Stars, my 'second' baby, and what the hell I was going to do with the blog, my styling job, after months of slaving away to get it to a place where success seems so much more accessible. It just felt so heartbreaking to have to leave it all here to start from scratch... But luckily, on our trip I made some really brilliant connections with fellow bloggers and interiors brands, coming back with some potential opportunities I never thought existed.

So, to quote the motto of the lovely Jenny for Mothers Meeting, where I happened to get my shit together a couple of years ago and got the inspiration to make Stella + the Stars a reality: IT'S NOT THE END, IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING... I bloody hope it's true. 

And so the adventure starts for us, next week. I hope you can stay with me on this journey, even if it's just by watching from afar. I promise I'll keep the true spirit of what Stella + the Stars is all about: making you feel happy by giving you inspiration to make your home unique - no matter how deep your pockets are. Maybe with just a more global angle! This blog has always been about being a source of inspiration on all things interiors, home décor and design, while keeping that 'affordable' box well and truly ticked. And that, my friends, Middle East, or not, will never change. 

As-salamu alaykum, peeps... 

PS: Fancy staying at Stella + the Stars HQ while we are away? Well, click here and our house is yours...

[I'll be taking a little break for the next few weeks from the blog, while we travel and settle on the other side of the world, and hope to resume normal service at the end of June. You can still find my daily crazy updates on Instagram of course!] 

[Star Tips] How I added pops of colour to revamp a white office space...

[Star Tips] How I added pops of colour to revamp a white office space...

I have just completed my first corporate styling project, and used pops of colour, statement pieces and quirky accessories to revamp a PR office in Central London. I thought I'd share these with you as well as the result, as, although it's a big office space, not an actual house or flat, the principles of interior styling are often the same and you might get some inspiration and tips from the project to apply to your own home. So ready for the full tour? 

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