#topstylefiles

The Alchemist

I am rarely rendered speechless or lost for words. Wait, I shall rephrase that; I am never lost for words. Because even when I am, I always spout some sort of nonsense to fill the gap: it's a dreadful affliction to be honest... but anyway. When I walked through the doors of this impressive, seafront beauty there was a definite silent pause. A ‘pinch yourself’ moment too, because I couldn't quite believe it was real. It's like when you see the Manhattan skyline for the first time - you knew it was there all along, but you didn't really believe it was. Well it was just like that.

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And even if that grey October day, when I made the trip to Bangor to meet Peggy, owner and curator of this outstanding abode, had slightly dampened my spirits, one step inside this place and I was immediately uplifted, transported to a world filled with joyous, exotic colour. Hailing originally from Belfast, I wanted to know more about the road that had lead the seasoned city-slicker and her crew to this seaside gem in the heart of Ballyholme. “I was in Bangor to view a completely different house and noticed this one was for sale - a Victorian mid-terrace overlooking the water. I had no idea what condition it was inside, but my gut said that this was the one for me. We arranged a viewing and when I stepped inside the hall and saw the period features: ceiling rose, cornicing and deep skirting, that was it.”

 

And as you wander through the myriad of perfectly proportioned rooms, it’s clear to see exactly what she means, as those period features sing out from amidst the daring decor, tying together the opulent, decadent colour palettes which permeate the house.

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Beyond the captivating entrance hall, chock full of ornate antique mirrors and gallery walls theatrically covered in colourful paintings and artwork, is the anchor of this home, a vast, north-facing kitchen, with the Irish Sea right in it’s sights. And with it’s deep bay window and moody, dark colour palette, this room caters for practically every need imaginable. Indeed, it is Peggy’s favourite room in the house. “Our long, narrow kitchen with it’s snug at the back and stove for fires on cold days is undoubtedly my favourite spot. The opposite end has a dining table in the bay window overlooking the water. It is a hardworking room - snug, kitchen, diner - but I painted everyrhing out in black so it is fairly seamless and therefore quite restful for such a practical space.”

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Painting things out to suit her colour preferences is something this lady completes with relative ease. When asked about any DIY conquests that she’s particularly proud of, she references the extensive bar housed in that very same kitchen. “What is now the bar was originally cream kitchen shelving. I removed the shelves, added mirror to the back panel and installed glass shelves. Bottles and glasses that had been previously stored in cupboards were displayed and voilà! A home bar.” And her tipple of choice from said bar? ”I don't drink often enough to justify opening an full size bottle of wine (and Phil doesn't drink wine so I can't split a bottle) so I keep little quarter bottles of wine on the top shelf and treat myself to a nice Rioja the odd evening in front of the fire.”

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Stood in this snug little space, in what feels like the very centre of the whole house, you can envisage just how cosy an evening spent here would be. Any book recommendations to curl up with? “Don't get me started on books! I've recently finished reading everything by John Boyne. A must-read is his recent novel The Heart's Invisible Furies. I also love books exploring past lives and reincarnation. My favourite is Old Souls by Tom Shroder. I snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire in the kitchen, with the aforementioned Rioja. Total bliss.” And it certainly sounds it. So whilst with all this talk of Rioja and blankets I could have happily just nestled down in that very corner, a tour of the rest of the house was being offered; an offer I couldn’t refuse.

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Onwards and upwards, we travelled to the first floor to witness the most decadent bathroom I have ever seen with my own two eyes, complete with freestanding roll-top bath, original fireplace and a luscious, black velvet chaise longue. If you’re partial to a theatrical interior, this room has the power to make you go weak at the knees; I may even have drooled a little bit as I stood staring in amazement. The adjoining sitting room, with it’s enviable sea view - the pièce de résistance in this equally opulent space - is a hostess’ dream, and with oversized Chesterfield sofas and a thoroughly inviting ambiance, it feels like a cocktail or two here must be the order of the day,.

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With a deft hand for a layered scheme, it’s clear this lady knows exactly how to build depth and also where to show suitable restraint, when it comes to styling the maximal way. “Balance is key” she says. “There's a fine line between layers of curated items and junk shop!” So in maximalist decor, if more is more, how do you know when enough is enough? “I feel it in my gut. When styling, I build up layers of items with varying heights and textures, usually several little groups of three. My internal monologue as I go sounds like this: ‘Better...better...better...Ugh! Rewind!’ “

 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things to note at this point, is that Peggy has only in recent times begun to showcase her skills in dark decor, having always favoured a more minimal approach in her previous homes; hard to imagine when she could give even the experts a lesson in maximalist style. “I will never be minimalist ever again! My minimalist era was before I found my confidence, when it was safer to stick to a neutral palette and keep everything pared back. My maximalism came from having confidence in my own tastes, allowing myself to be heart-led and my personality to come to the fore.” Confidence in reflecting your own personality in your home; there’s a definite lesson in there...

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On up to the second floor, location of the master bedroom and children's rooms, each decorated to cater to the preferences of a child, whilst still maintaining the level of style achieved throughout the rest of the home. A feat in itself, since often people struggle to create stylish schemes in children’s bedrooms whilst still making these spaces a stimulating, child-friendly environment. The master suite houses another Victorian fireplace with an original marble surround that only be described as majestic. Along with several other nooks, rooms and crannies that we got a peek into along the way, this area of the main bedroom is still a work in progress - Peggy has recently found another perfect mirror for above the fireplace and her current project involves getting this painted and up onto the wall.

 

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A self-confessed pro at scouring Buy and Sell sites and Used Furniture shops, her penchant for collectible items doesn’t end at mirrors, “I always have my eyes peeled for blue and white ginger jars. They are neutral and go with everything.” A love of a home bargain is something I think all of us interior lovers appreciate, so the pre-loved approach in a home finished to this standard is refreshing to hear. But in her opinion, what's worth splurging on? “Something you absolutely love. There are some pieces that you just know you will always love, pieces that when you first see them, your heart rate speeds up, pieces that you are still thinking of a week later. Those are worth splurging on, because they will make you happy every single time you see them.”

 

To be inspired further, follow Peggy on Instagram @interior_alchemy

 

Superstylin’

I'd say, in my approach to both interiors and clothing, I'm a maximalist. With minimalist edges, perhaps. When it comes to dressing up, I love a dramatic silouhette, with minimal accessorising. Other times, I feel more like keeping my get-up simple - a casual t-shirt and some snug-fitting denim. But those times I’ll let the add-ons bring the drama; a statement shoe in animal print or some super-bold colour. Disclaimer time - I'm no style expert, nor guru, and I don't claim to be. What I do have, however, at the ripe old age of thirty-eight, is a sense of my own personal style. I'm not the kind of girl who's always immaculately turned out - au contraire, I like my clothing lines to be a little blurred, imperfect and rough around the edges. My choices aren’t always fashion-focussed; instead I aim for a more intuitive approach, knowing what works for me, what makes me feel good and applying those rules to my wardrobe purchases. And then, pour moi, it comes down to the detail. What is it that makes an outfit pop? And having thought about my approach to styling an outfit, I decided to compile a list, for your eyes only (lucky old you, eh?!), of the five things I go to, to do just that. By seeking out these outfit quirks, that funky little feature becomes the focal point, whilst the top that you've worn the last five times you crossed the door becomes the background palette. Et voilà...

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Shoes by Moda in Pelle for House of Fraser

 

The shoe

The heel height matters little. In my humble opinion, a shoe easily adds the ultimate dash of personality to an outfit. And as we ladies know only too well, regardless of the kind of day you’re having body-wise, shoes never let you down. They never make your bum look big, don’t show all your lumps and bumps and, on a particularly good day, they have the power to stretch us another five inches so that everything feels that wee bit more in proportion. Don’t be afraid to impulse buy a pair of electric blue stilettos or a pair of animal print pumps that you don’t have an outfit in mind for, for these very shoes will be the saviour when you stand in front of the mirror thinking “this ensemble just needs something else”. And they’ll always be there to bring the pizazz - they never ‘don’t fit anymore’ - that’s why they’re always an investment.

 

The bra

Blush lace bralet by Toshop

Blush lace bralet by Toshop

Controversial, perhaps? Agreed; this one’s not for all of us. And I realise that I sound like a real tart with a heart with it, but gals, this is a thing. I love the simplicity of a white t-shirt, a white vest in summertime. But I also need my twist on it, my little personalisation, si tu veux. A nice undergarment can do that. Pick your favourite colour - a neon pink strap, a flash of blue or just plain black with a sexy hint of lace (I am not recommending all-out bedroom calibre here.) We see a little, we don't need to see a lot. But there's personality there; playful and fun. We like that in our wardrobe.


The accessory

This might be a fabulously dangly, spangly pair of earrings. It might be a cool pair of sunnies (more often worn on your head in Northern Ireland) that are very ‘you’. It might even be a signature ring that you wear, day into night, with every outfit. Adding a statement accessory that adds intrigue or captures attention, instantly makes an outfit more interesting. So you can mix it up and experiment with different high street ‘trend pieces’, or alternatively, find your own statement. Perhaps that means a well-made, stylish piece that’s your signature go-to item - something that identifies your taste and is synonymous with you. There’s something about having that kind of ownership of your style too - like saying “This is me; I know what I like.”

Sunglasses by Lines and Current  |  Sheer bodysuit by Zara

Sunglasses by Lines and Current | Sheer bodysuit by Zara

Earrings by Warehouse

Earrings by Warehouse


The clutch

Clutch bag by Topshop

Clutch bag by Topshop

Go to town on this one. Like the shoes, it never lets you down. Go all-out with colour, texture, for this really has a lot of outfit pulling power. And for real flair, make it a contrast, in as many ways as you can, to your other outfit bits and bobs. Note - we all have our own way, but personally, I’m not into a matchy-matchy approach to dressing. I think, if anything, a good clash brings more to a look than trying to match your lip to your shoes. So don’t be afraid to clash things a little - it’s interesting.


The lip

Most of us enjoy the transformative effect of make-up. But for me personally, finding time to experiment with eye make-up is a luxury I just don’t have these days. I love to see a well made-up eye but I know I won’t be able, on most occasions, to replicate it. What I can always find time for though, is throwing on a lip. I revel in the possibilities too; so many options, pretty much fool-proof in terms of skill level required, and with the ability to instantly glamourise. No. Brainer.

Mac Matte lipstick in Heroine  |  YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in Black Red  |  Chanel Rouge lipstick in Passion

Mac Matte lipstick in Heroine | YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in Black Red | Chanel Rouge lipstick in Passion


The true joy in this list is that there's no major outlay. Buying a new lippy and a pair of earrings to transform an outfit you already own won't see the Visa burst into flames as you try to insert it into the card reader (well, unless you plan on doing it every day). But these magical little updates WILL transform “the outfit I wore last time I saw her” into the  “I am loving your look today” outfit. Promise.


M x

 

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

What is it about New York? It’s lure is unquestionable, but what is it, precisely, that draws us to this restless city and it’s non-stop noise? It’s different for each of us and if you’ve been before then it will undoubtedly have taken your heart a little bit (I defy anyone to say they’ve visited and not loved it.)