The first thing you notice about Rachelle Blondel and Tif Fussell’s homes is how warm and welcoming they are.
Bright, floral patterns and a charming and eclectic array of hand-crafted furnishings, knick-knacks and vintage furniture make up the decor, creating an inviting, cosy feel that somehow manages to encapture contemporary style and comforting nostalgia.
Blondel and Fussell are both established bloggers in the crafts world (Tif has dottieangel.blogspot.com while Rachelle has talesoftedandagnes.blogspot.co.uk), and their own homes are testament to their skill.
Peeking around Blondel’s farmhouse in Yorkshire, or Fussell’s stateside mock Tudor home, not a single room doesn’t have one of their own creations added to it, from patchwork blankets, crocheted tea cosies, and reupholstered furniture.
Now, the friends are sharing their home-style secrets and ideas in a new book called Granny Chic. Based on their own interiors, it’s packed full of ‘recipes’ for crafty creations, from knitted bunting and patched-fabric lampshades to lacy doilies.
Blondel and Fussell have always been creative types, even preferring colouring pencils and embroidery to traditional toys when they were kids, but they’d encourage anyone to give it a go.
“Believe you me, we both have cupboards of shame where the abandoned projects are hidden,” says Blondell. “But you learn each time and practice does make perfect.”
And the benefits are endless. Granny Chic harks back to the make-do-and-mend ethos, and getting crafty in your home can help save money. Instead of throwing away tea towels, clothes hangers, and old chairs they can be kept and transformed into kooky centrepieces. More importantly, it’s fun and rewarding.
“Proudly holding up something you have made yourself is a most satisfying feeling,” says Blondell. “There has also been many a time when it has been a practical problem-solver to make something, when money is tight or you really can’t find just the right thing you’re looking for.
“We also love that individual feel that crafting and making things gives. It can also be a bit of a lifesaver and has seen us both through some really low times when a bit of mindless stitching, shuffling furniture or hooking can transport you away from the murky depths.”
Being short of time needn’t stop you getting creative - after all, it doesn’t matter how long a project takes. “And crochet squares or small pieces of stitching can be carried with you and whipped out and worked on for five minutes,” adds Blondell. “If you want to do it you will find the time.”
The book also features photos from both authors’ homes, providing inspiration for your own decor and insight into their personal style.
When it comes to furniture, Blondel and Fussell like to mix and match modern pieces with vintage finds and regularly go out to find something with a bit of history. “We prefer to scout out the real thing, along with bashed-in corners, rusty bits, chips and dents. This is what gives it its story - where it has been, who it belonged too,” says Blondell.
And the title, Granny Chic, couldn’t be more perfect. “Our grannies’ houses were a safe haven as children, and full of wonder and delight and things you weren’t allowed to touch!
“But for us it’s a way of presenting these pieces in a fresh way with clean lines and mixing it up with modern furniture. It’s what makes granny chic both comforting but exciting.”
Feeling inspired? Here’s a ‘recipe’ from the book to get you started...
A most sensible fabric rug...
“One morning I awoke with the notion that I would indeed pull up the wood effect lino that furnished our kitchen and hallway floors and paint them a delightful manor house grey...” Blondell writes.
“Happy as I am with the result, I needed a little something to break up the colour and protect the floor from certain members of the household who are unable to use the door mat. So, unable to find a suitable rug, I decided to make this rather hard-wearing fabric one that would indeed have taken pride of place in our grannies’ hallways.”
Ingredients: non-slip rug backing; a sturdy piece of fabric or pieces of fabric patched together; fabric glue; fabric scraps and doilies, lacy bits or other embellishments that catch your eye; fancy coloured thread; matt varnish; your handy dandy sewing kit.
Method: Measure the exact size that you would like your rug to be and cut this size out of the non-slip rug backing.
Using this as a template, lay it onto the wrong side of your chosen fabric and draw around the non-slip backing. Mark a 5cm border around it. This is your cutting line. Cut out the fabric, following the line, then remove the non-slip rug backing template. Fold over the 5cm border, as if making a hem, and press well so that you have a sharp edge. Glue the border down, making sure you get plenty of glue on the edge to prevent the fabric fraying. Leave to dry completely. Turn to right side, then glue or stitch on patches of fabric, fancy stitches, a doily or whatever takes your fancy.
When you are happy with your rug, paint it with the first coat of varnish, working it well into the fabric. Leave to dry.
Turn the rug over and varnish the underside. This gives the rug a little more protection and stability. Repeat the last two steps at least four times, or more if you would like a very long-lasting and well-wearing rug.
Once the rug is completely dry, tack the prepared non-slip rug fabric to its underside and lay it on the floor. Admire, keeping a close eye out for any wayward animals who may feel it’s a suitable place to rest!
Just a note:
Keep your rug clean with a quick lick of the mop and swift sweep of the brush. No soaking or washing... that just wouldn’t do!
:: Granny Chic by Tif Fussell and Rachelle Blondel, with photography by Catherine Gratwicke is published by Kyle Books.