A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Get Inspired: Using Garden Mirrors

Using Garden Mirrors - tips and inspirations

We talk a lot about bringing the outdoors in, but now it is meant to be getting warmer – although the wind is howling outside and I am typing in my biggest jumper with the heating back on – I want to talk about bringing the indoors out. Wandering past a flower shop in Madrid last weekend I was really taken with the gorgeous display of flowers along mirror lined shelves and it got me thinking about how to use garden mirrors.

I love these shutter style mirrors (above); the display is so playful and tells a story. I really love the idea that my garden could have some little story corners. Mirrors are such a fun way to create a garden drama.

This picture of an outdoor bathroom really made me smile, I might not go as far as installing the sink, but how gorgeous does the mirror look in this setting? Seeing something unexpected like this in an outdoor setting never fails to make me smile and look again, and that’s a great feeling to bring to a garden I think. Continue reading

Fabulous Lighting Inspiration From Madrid #happyandhome

This week’s happy and home comes from Madrid, where I spent the weekend celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. What an incredible city, the colours and energy hit you straight away, the escalator at Madrid airport is like entering a whole other dimension of home possibilities. Madrid is full of great value, fantastic little bars and eateries, many with the most brilliant contemporary decor.

I don’t know about you, but when all my home inspiration starts to come from things I read about, I can lose interest in interiors rapidly.  Madrid was just what I needed, to see stunning design ideas come alive. After Iceland the weekend before last, I had a busy three days at home painting and finishing my office for the magnetic office wall project, which I am very close to sharing the final reveal for. The one thing I don’t have is a lampshade, and having spent hours online hunting, seeing some amazing real lampshades In Madrid made me smile and renewed my enthusiasm.

I love how airports quickly conjure the mood of the city or country, arriving at Madrid airport there were hot air balloons and bright colours everywhere, it really lifts your energy levels, just like Madrid itself.


Fabulous Lighting Inspiration

These oversized colourful lampshades were in the hostel we stayed in Las Musas, I really love the black and gold and think it would add some drama in our living room.

These basket lampshades were in a bar in the fabulous Calle de Panzano, a street lined with a fascinating mix of new and old bars and eateries, all with a really strong foodie offering, so a brilliant place for a night of tapas. Aren’t they fun!

These cubes created interest, a screen and a place to grow plants in a bar, the bare oversized light bulbs are a popular and fun look.

La Tape is a modern tapas place, this jumble of lights went through the roof from the ground to first floor. Bit ambitious for a home maybe, but a brilliant example of how much fun was had with light in Madrid!

Madrid reminded me how much inspiration we can obtain from thinking about how design in public places makes us feel, it really encouraged me to enjoy and have fun decorating my home.  I will leave you with these bottle lampshades in a gin bar in Madrid, I had no idea what a huge importer of gin Madrid was – it is a great place to try some new gins, this bar we visited had over 50. These funky upcycled lights are made from clusters of gin bottles.



Last week on Happy and Home

I loved seeing Stephanie’s craft room taking shape, it is lovely to follow a through line each week, it’s really interesting reading and seeing the next instalment. Becky’s ideas for recycling a jam jar made me smile, so pretty, and it is always great to see new ideas from Jane from Maflingo.


Written a post full of home love? Join up with #happyandhome

To join in, just pick a recent post that shares your love of life at home, or why not share just one picture or 3 happy and home things, click on the blue button to add your post link.

Add the badge to help spread the word. I will be reading, tweeting and sharing on whichever other social platforms best suit your post.  I will be pinning here.

Please join in by commenting and/or sharing socially too – we all want our posts to be seen and shared, so pick some posts that resonate or inspire you and share them! I’ve asked the lovely people at WayfairUK to play along with sharing too, and suggested they have a weekly browse here for new bloggers to follow and work with.

Use the hashtag #happyandhome on Instagram and Twitter and tweet me @pennyalexander_ if you spot a post you think should be featured next week.

I will share some of the posts that inspired happy homes the following week. Let’s get happy and home! Penny x


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Happy and Home at A Residence blog

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7 ways to use a mini greenhouse, plus a giveaway

ways to use a mini greenhouse

We may dream of a potting bench and a full size greenhouse, but even the smallest greenhouse can be a garden powerhouse, a brilliant way to extend your gardening seasons and save money growing your own plants from seed. It’s something kids will enjoy and a great way to ensure plants get a great start in life. if you have ever planted out only to have your seeds come to nothing in unseasonal weather conditions, a greenhouse could help keep your spirits and your plants up. It is hard knowing where to start, so here are a few ways to use a mini greenhouse in your garden: Continue reading

Icelandic Home Style #happyandhome

I still haven’t been in my own home for much more than a couple of days in the last week. So this week Happy and Home comes from Iceland where I have been lucky enough to participate in a gourmet food press trip to Hotel Ranga and meet old friends who live here.

I met two Icelandic girls in 1997 when I worked as a chambermaid at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and have kept in touch and remained friends all these years – it was wonderful to see how our lives had moved on in nearly 20 years, and I’m still fascinated by tourism and hotel life! This was my third trip to Iceland, knowing someone in a country makes you feel at home so quickly. Icelandic people are incredible, warm and welcoming and incredibly good fun. They know how to tell great stories and are really knowledgeable about their country.

So Iceland always feels like a kind of coming home to me. The colourful corrugated iron cladding you can see pictured above, at an Ice Cream farm we visited, always conjures Iceland to me.

We drove through the landscape, newly awoken from a dark, cold winter and each time it appeared, the sun made the land truly come alive.

I took this picture of a little summerhouse, I love the red roof against the blue sky, nestled beneath the mountains. I can see why Iceland has become such a popular tourist attraction, we all want to unplug and escape. Continue reading

Industrial Style with History at the Newly Refurbished Malmaison Edinburgh

Industrial Style with History at the Newly Refurbished Malmaison Edinburgh

After an incredible week in a motorhome on a family road trip around Scotland, Visit Scotland treated us to a night at the Malmaison. Our motorhome trip was awesome and I have so many stories to share, I don’t know where to begin yet!  It was such cosy family trip, our bed on board was so comfy, but it there is always room for a little luxury at the end of a road trip.

My stay at Malmaison has given me lots of ideas for my magnetic office wall project too. I love the industrial feel, and with it a sense of history, Leith is steeped in maritime history.

Love the maps on the wall, we have custom map wallpaper in our hallway and it is a massive talking point. Cool to have USB chargers by the bed too! Continue reading

15 Things to Do in the Garden

15 great garden projects, make a scarecrow, make the garden bird friendly, make a miniature garden, plant a wildflower patch, plant sunflowers, make a herb garden, weed, prune, clean up garden furniture, upcycle metal chairs, pot houseplants, lots of lovely inspiration!


About this time of year I start to get itchy green fingers and long to make the garden look great. We’ve has big tidy up and the kids are really enjoying playing outside much more and the light evenings, but they are also keen to get planting. It is National Garden Week so I have teamed up with some other garden loving bloggers to share some great ideas for things to do in the garden.

Continue reading

16 Feature Wallpapers That Take You Places

Feature Wallpaper that takes you places  


Homes are great to come home to, but why shouldn’t they be able to take us places too? Wallpaper seems to be a blossoming trend once more, with sales steady rising, particularly for use as a feature wall. I absolutely love the idea that wallpaper can transport us somewhere else, into a forest or a sea of flowers. I love the idea of bringing nature inside, and the photo quality prints are just amazing these days, a far cry from the spider plant conservatory mural my parent’s ripped off their bedroom wall when we moved to a new house in 1984. Continue reading

Put the Spring in Your Bedding & A Little Giveaway

Spring Bedding Inspirations, duvet covers to bring some Spring and summer colour to your bedroom  

I looked at the home improvements list on our fridge the other day, we are ticking so many things off at last. One thing we have been meaning to sort is duvets and sheets, as whenever we go to make a bed we never seem to have quite the right sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers to hand. With the spring bank holiday behind us and April ahead, it feels like a great time to sort spring bedding.

I love the set we bought last Spring in the sale at Wayfair. It has tiny swallows and flowers on it and the cotton is so soft, but also seems to hold the shape of the duvet and feel like a giant fluffy cloud. Spring bedding was a popular post and giveaway last year – bedding is such a wonderful treat to yourself, and a very affordable way to transform a room – so I thought I would share some more spring bedding picks today, plus you can win £50 worth of bedding of your choice. Continue reading

31 Inspiring Women You Need to Have a Cup of Tea With

Cup of tea


A cup of tea can be amazing, with the power to transform our perspective, I’ve had some amazing conversations over tea, that have certainly changed the course of my life. Now ActionAid have taken that inspirational feeling a step further and launched Tea and Inspiration, a way for everyone to combine tea, the people that inspire them, and raising money. Simply invite some friends over for tea and cake, include some women who inspire you, and collect money for ActionAid. Everyone wins.

To kick this brilliant initiative off and inspire you to host a real life tea and inspiration party, I thought I would invite some of the women who inspire me, to share who they would bring with them as a plus one to a ‘Dream Tea and Inspiration Party’.  These women all write blogs, champion great causes and share so much wisdom, I learn so much from them all, and would love to be able to have a cup of tea in real life more often. But I was also really curious to find out which women inspire them. They didn’t disappoint.

I think you would agree, this tea party, if it ever happened, would be utterly amazing. In fact, this reminds me a lot of the 1980s play Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, in which an phenomenol group of women from history share a dinner party…

Continue reading

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