Baskets, lots of baskets and colourful handwoven rugs is the approach I’m taking to decorating our old farmhouse in the Algarve. Yes, I know, I never really mentioned it before… In a nutshell, for the last three years, we’ve been slowly doing up an old quinta, taking our time to figure out how to best renovate and furnish…
Last year, we made the biggest transformation to date and created a big open space with a dining area and proper, grown-up white kitchen; you know, the kind that has an island and more cupboards than you know what to do with. Yes, it’s heaven, I won’t lie! We also created two bathrooms re-jigging the original layout but it definitely feels like the right thing and a huge improvement. But it doesn’t stop there! Next we are converting outhouses into guest rooms (see the red door of one of them below) and working out what to do with the wild walled garden… but it’s taking shape slowly. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be directing you to a page on Airbnb – eek!
In the meantime, I just wanted to show you some of the housey bits and pieces I’ve been doing on the inside. When we bought, we inherited a whole house of dark-wooded furniture, a lot of which I’ve kept and am sanding down and painting white or have repurposed, eg. using a little marble-topped table as a sink stand in the bathroom… Never having really done a house up before, I’m learning as I go, but relishing the opportunity to create my dream interior. Maybe not Pinterest-eat-your-heart-out yet, but hoping to get there someday! Anyway, here are some snapshots which I’ll talk you through!
The main hallway is a work in progress! I still need to source some wall lamps (I’m thinking industrial, but not too industrial style lanterns) and considering painting the wooden stands white. The chest and olive dish were in the house already, the colourful basket from Zara Home and the plain baskets from a big local supermarket. I love the eucalyptus wood stool too, which I found in a nearby shop.
SETTING THE TONE
Although we’ve gone second-hand on a lot of things, like two huge white sofas in the living room (there’s some great second-hand warehouse and auction houses in the Algarve), the one thing I spent some money on this holiday was carpets. I found some beautiful, handwoven Alentejo rugs in a lovely, if slightly pricey, interiors shop near where we live, and decided they were just the thing to stamp the right look and feel on the house. Fun, inviting and really setting the tone for the house, I think I learnt quite a serious life lesson: if you’re going to spend money, spend it on carpets! We’ve also used local Santa Catarina tiles throughout, I’m obsessed with the pale pink colour which varies slightly with each tile. The only problem is if you don’t varnish them (which I don’t want to as you loose the beautiful soft matt look) you do have problems with oil stains, so in the kitchen I’ve covered the work area floor with cheap rugs.
SAND IT DOWN
This table and chairs (table before pic below) were nice dark, but so much nicer white, right? I hand-sanded down with not too much effort – I’ve used a small sanding machine before, but it was more trouble than it was worth tbh. Then I painted two coats with regular wall paint we had left over and then a couple of thin layers of a gloss paint to protect the table top and chairs as these will probably be outside for a lot of the time and a table top will get so much wear anyway. I did a little sanding on top of the white paint to give a bit of a distressed look, but didn’t bother too much as I reckon it will happen naturally anyway!
Picking up baskets at local markets, the big supermarkets and Zara Home is such an easy way to add pretty character to a room. They can be used for anything and everything, from storing magazines and toys to wood and gardening equipment.
We’ve kept the bathrooms really simple and only used tiling for the shower, leaving the rest white walls and tiles. The bath we bought on eBay in the UK and had shipped over. Sounds mad, but we found a great shipping company which doesn’t cost a bomb. So whereas baths like this cost near a 1000 euros in Portugal, we managed this for less than half and I found the taps and feet very cheap on eBay too – just need to find a gold-coloured pipe to match!
These old glass flagons were something we inherited with the house. I need to give them a proper wash but love how they look all standing in a line. I think any collection of similar items can work well grouped together as a feature. I’m tempted to get more! There are weekend flea markets that rotate around the local nearby towns, and this is exactly the type of thing you can get there.
Fresh wildflowers in jam jars is a favourite of mine. I picked up three of these lovely handled jars at Zara Home and stuffed them with pretty blooms from the garden. The power of flowers to transform an interior never fails to amaze me and always completes any table, shelf or bathroom.
SHED SOME LIGHT
Industrial style or original lighting is all the rage at the moment and gives a cool edge to any interior, either one that’s quite minimal or has elements of modern. This silver lamp is one I bought from eBay (I think, or a discounted lights webshop) I have two other big ones for the living room, but need all the wiring and chain bits to go with. Below, a bathroom wall lamp, also eBay, and two hall lamps from the market, 5 euros each… We’ll see how they fare! Also, although we have all these overhead lights, I actually much prefer lamps and floor lamps for light at lower levels. I get very stressed out by strong overhead light. My husband thinks I’m weird, but I know there are others like me out there!
This stunning Moroccan cot was a second-hand find (thankyou Mum!) and the Toast throw was originally green. Somehow it ended up in a hot wash, lost its colour and now perfectly matches the cot. Serendipitous or what! The point being matching up colour accents in furniture and furnishing is a nice way of tying things together. I’m a right interiors guru, me. But seriously, any house doing-up tips extremely welcome! Hope you enjoyed this post and if you’d like more interiors related content let me know…