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How to Transform a Shabby Chic Bureau

Many of us need a place to sit and work and often end up taking over the kitchen table. If you don’t have space for a big desk, consider revamping an old writing bureau.

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These units are compact and slim-line, so fit neatly in a hallway or corner of a room.

They cost between £20 and £40 from charity shops or can be picked up cheaply on Ebay. Ours took a weekend to transform. Ideally, take the furniture outside to work, and always cover the area with dust sheets to protect your surroundings as you work.

Choose a bureau with pretty detailing and give it a make-over.

You will need
solid wood bureau (£20 from local charity shop)
bucket of water
sugar soap
pan scourer sponge
old soft cloths
fine & medium sandpaper
Dulux Trade quick drying wood primer undercoat in white, £11.48 per litre, B&Q
Acrylic Eggshell paint in chosen colour, £15 per litre, the Little Greene Paint Company
4 hinges (if old ones are damaged) £2.90 each, eBay

Ideally, take the furniture outside to work, and always cover the area with dust sheets to protect your surroundings as you work.Old furniture is often very dirty, and it needs to be clean before you start work. Use warm water and sugar soap or a household cleaner to get the surface clean, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth.

Take off the doors, remove the hinges, any other catches, and the stays on the flap down piece, and put to one side. If the top section behind the flap has a partition, gently remove it too – it is likely to be held in by small nails so can be carefully levered out. If there are any loose pieces, now is the time to glue them back in place. Allow the glue time to dry before proceeding. If there are any large dents, cracks or holes you can fill them with wood filler, though if you’re happy with an aged finish these imperfections can add to the charm.

Use fine sandpaper to ‘key’ the surface, which will smooth any imperfections, as well as help the paint adhere. Wipe away all dust with a cloth, then paint the whole piece with a primer/undercoat and leave to dry thoroughly. Follow with two coats of cream eggshell paint allowing each to dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Once the paint is completely dry, rub the painted surface with medium grade sandpaper to expose the wood beneath giving a distressed finish. The places to work are those that would naturally get wear and tear over the years – notably corners, edges and handles.

Clear the dust away with a clean cloth, then stand back to see if you want to distress more. Do a little at a time until you get the finish you like – there is no right or wrong – it’s personal choice. Just a few edges gives a softer look, or for a more dramatic finish, you can do the panels and sides too.

Replace the stays that hold the flap down panel, as well as any other catches removed earlier. Sticky drawers can be made to run better by rubbing a white candle on the edges and runners

Add the Final Flourishes

Personalise your piece with a pretty stencil and apply to the front of the bureau – check out The Graphics Fairy website for free transfers. You can line the interior with a pretty floral paper too if you wish..

Useful Tips
This bureau had broken hinges, so we removed them and replaced with some in the same size and style, which meant we were able to use the original holes. If you’re unsure, take the old hinge to a DIY store to compare it. Replace the screws too if the original ones are a different coloured metal, or if the heads are damaged.

When applying paint, finish off with light strokes in the direction of the grain as this eliminates heavy brush marks on the finish OR use a small gloss roller for a really smooth finish

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New Year Resolutions… For Your Home

Happy 2015! The Christmas decorations are down and it’s time to make our New Year Resolutions. Every year when January rolls around you vow to lose weight, save money or spend more time with family and friends. But what goals do you set for your home? Here are 5 simple things to try this year…

Brighten Your Home With Fresh Flowers

Don’t let the winter blues get you down. Lift your spirits with fresh flowers . Nothing brightens up a room quicker than adding a colourful bouquet of flowers and real flowers willfill your home with beautiful scents, acting as a natural air freshener.  Think it costs to much? There’s no need to splurge when your local grocery store offers plenty of lovely options. Pot hyacinth bulbs in pots to remind you that spring is just around the corner.

Fresh flowers will lift your spirits at this time of year…

2. Clear out the Clutter!

One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter.Each year most of us acquire a mountain of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. (All that clutter also makes your house look dated.)

This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don’t use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in.Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken.

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I feel calmer and save time when I have a good clear out at home. Sometimes, though, it can be a little difficult to decide what stays and what goes. Here is list of 10 questions to ask yourself when trying to decide whether to keep an item or toss it. And by “toss it”, I mean you are either going to donate it, give it away to a friend or throw it out.

10 Questions to Help You De-clutter

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it have sentimental value?
  • Do I use it?
  • How often do I use it?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • Why don’t I use it?
  • If I keep it, where will I put it?
  • How many of these things do I really need?
  • If I throw it away, will I be able to get another one someday?
  • What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I got rid of it?

These questions could apply to clothes, too. Substitute “wear” for “use”. If you don’t like thinking about what you’re throwing out, think of it in terms of what you’re keeping instead. Plus if you get rid of things you’re not using or that are unimportant, you can make room for new things that you need or bring you joy!

3. Transform a room using what you already have…

When you live in a space day in and day out, you get used to the way things are. The vase and books that have always been arranged just so on top of the mantlepiece. The wall of frames with pictures that haven’t been updated in five years. Those floating shelves you meant to put up last year that sit unassembled in the hall cupboard. Every few months I try to walk around my house and scoop up decorative items and find new homes for them. Re-evaluating your existing decor and accessories is a simple and affordable way to freshen up your home. Here, pretty plates are mounted on picture frames to provide a pretty display. You can pick pretty plates up in charity shops for a few pence.

Create a stylish display by using plates which costs a few pence..

You could also try experimenting with the arrangement of your furniture. You may find that a new layout  improves not only the look of your room, but gives it a better circulation pattern and flow. If you’re having a hard time re-envisioning a space, ask a friend to come over and help. Someone who isn’t attached to your possessions and the current layout will help you see other possibilities.

4. Create a Cosy Corner

Every house needs a little spot where you can kick your feet up and allow yourself some time to curl up with a new book, listen to music, or browse your favourite blogs. This space doesn’t need to be fancy and can be put together using what you already have. Some items I like to use in a reading corner include a big over stuffed chair, a lamp with adequate light, and a side table. You can personalize the space by adding art, books, and other special objects. I also love using candles in these cozy spaces to add a comforting warmth to the area.

Create a space in which to relax – a key area is under-used space on a landing…

5. Banish Technology& Relax…

Our home should be our sanctuary – a space where we retreat from the world outside and re-charge our batteries. Here a few final resolutions which can make a big difference:

  • Reduce screen time – frequent emailing, texting, browsing and late night ol-line shopping can make us feel less connected and stressed. The same goes for the TV. Try switching it off an hour before bed.
  • Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual tomorrow. Don’t spend the extra time working, planning, looking at your phone or watching the news. Instead, just sit there.  Breathe. Maybe stretch a little or sip some water. You’ll feel much more ready to greet the day?
  • Make your bed each morning – returning  home after a long day to a neat nest beats climbing into crumpled sheets.
  • Light a candle to add a comforting touch, then relax and rejuvinate.
Our home should be our sanctuary…
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Painted Bottles and Vases – Make this stylish accessory for your home…

Bottle Beauties

Today, I’ll be showing you how to create a stylish but inexpensive accessory for your home. These beautiful vases and bottles are the perfect way to display single stem or spray flowers in your home and are also a lovely way to decorate a dinner table or a party centre-piece…

Pastel shades are perfect for Spring

– Enamel or acrylic paint in your chosen colour
– Glass bottles or jars
– Plastic tub
– Syringe and funnel (optional)

I began by collecting old bottles and jars. I went through in the kitchen and simply recycled. The bottles in the photograph once held everything under the sun: jam, olive oil, ketchup, wine, salsa, spices, etc. Or, have a hunt in your local charity shop, as pretty vintage bottles can be picked up for a few pence.

You can create different colours for your bottles or vases by mixing different shades of paint together. These vibrant pink, orange and yellow shades would be perfect for Autumn…

Pink, orange and yellow tones would be perfect for an Autumn display

Wash the bottle inside and out with soapy water; allow to dry.
Pour in a small amount of your chosen shade of enamel paint. Using a syringe to draw the paint out of a tub and pouring it into the jar through a funnel makes it much easier!
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Dry bottle upside down on a paper towel for 48 hours, periodically wiping excess enamel from the rim with a damp cloth during the first hour.

Wedding Centre Pieces & Table Decorations


These would look fantastic in a line down a dining room table or grouped together at different heights for an inexpensive wedding centrepiece. You can even use glitter nail polish to coat the inside of the glass – a great way to continue a colour theme for a party or event – and ideal for a little Christmas sparkle!

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How to Buy Vintage and Retro Furniture

Furnish your home in style and on a budget!

Many people are nervous about buying “second hand furniture”, but buying vintage and retro pieces is a fantastic way of  furnishing your home in a style that’s completely your own and which reflects your personality. It’s also a great way of furnishing a home on a budget as this furniture is often a fraction of the cost of similar items found on the high street.  Re-cycling or up-cycling is also great for the environment. Not only that, but vintage homewares have become fashionable, sought-after, designer pieces. We believe that items with history bring individuality and life to a home. It’s also great fun hunting for vintage furniture and nothing beats the thrill of finding a real gem that you’ll treasure forever. So, how do you decide on the right piece, what price you should pay and where do you actually go to buy these pieces?

Vintage & Retro Furniture allows you to create a home with real personality

Where to buy vintage and retro furniture

You can find amazing vintage and retro pieces in any number of places. Auction houses, house clearances, and on-line sites such as Ebay, Freecycle or Gumtree are good places to start… If you have a weekend free, head off to your local car boot sale where there are bargains galore, or visit your local salvage yard. Second hand furniture shops in your area are also a great source for furniture. Get to know the staff and they’ll often keep an eye out for pieces and you get to hear about items before everyone else. Charity shops have also started to stock vintage furniture and they’re also worth scouring for accessories. It also amazes me what people will throw into a skip – as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, but if you see something, always ask permission to take it away. Finally, there are a number of Vintage & Retro Fairs which are held regularly all over the country – here you will find a range of traders offering everything under one roof, plus it’s a great day out!

Top Tips for Buying Vintage & retro Furniture

1. Consider the era..

It’s important to remember that you are not just buying any old furniture, you need to think about the look you want to create and an era that reflects this, be it the 1930’s, 1950’s or 1980’s.. Perhaps you love the psychadelic colours of the 1960’s and pop art or  the soft curves and shapes of art deco pieces. The web can provide lots of inspiration as do homes and interiors magazines. To qualify as real vintage, items should be at least 30-40 years old. Anything later is second-hand and anything older than 100 years is considered antique.

2. Make sure it fits

Before you go shopping for any item, consider the space in which it will sit. The size of rooms and the dimensions of entrance ways or the stairs are extremely important. Always take a tape measure with you – you will be spending hard-earned money for your furniture and there is nothing worse than finding exactly the right piece and then being disappointed because it doesn’t fit.

3. Think about how you will get your furniture home

I have learned this the hard way. I recently bought a beautiful teak sideboard during an on-line auction and then realised I actually had no way of bringing it home! My long suffering partner spent three days organising a roof-rack for his father’s estate car and we had to pray that it wouldn’t be ruined by April showers on the way home. Some sellers will offer delivery for a small fee, but always check first!

Organise transport in advance!

4. Look for quality pieces

Ideally you are looking for furniture with “good bones.” Generally, wooden items such as vintage tables, chairs, cabinets, dressers, chests of drawers and coffee tables last better than upholstered furniture. Just because it is old doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality is great. Try to avoid furniture made with inferior materials and with poor workmanship.

ondition is the most important aspect in determining value. If you want to make sure your furniture is not going to fall apart in the next couple of months don’t buy on impulse. Instead, take your time and inspect each piece thoroughly. If it’s made of quality wood, with good joints and a good bonding glue you’re going to buy the furniture with confidence, not with fear.

Use it first – Since you won’t be able to see the most important parts, you should test the furniture first. Lean on tables and tip back chairs. If it’s a sofa make sure the frame is not altered so go ahead, squeeze the arms and chairs and even extend it to make sure those metallic parts are working fine.

5. Check the condition

Condition is the most important aspect in determining value. If you want to make sure your furniture is not going to fall apart in the next couple of months don’t buy on impulse. Instead, take your time and inspect each piece thoroughly. If it’s made of quality wood, with good joints and a good bonding glue you’re going to buy the furniture with confidence, not with fear. Lean on tables and tip back chairs. If it’s a sofa make sure the frame is not altered and even extend it to make sure those metallic parts are working well. Examine furniture closely to check for live woodworm, damage or repairs. Drawers should run smoothly  and frames should be sturdy. If a piece does have damage, consider whether you have the skills to undertake the repair and obviously any damage should be reflected in the price.

6. Don’t be afraid of stains and scratches

This buy viagra without prescription is especially true of wooden or teak furniture. Wooden furniture can often be sanded down to remove layers of dark wood stain. In terms of teak furniture, there are a number of products on the market which can help – the staff at your local DIY store can be a source of great advice.  And if it’s a truly iconic piece, you can always have it professionally re-finished – especially if you bought at a bargain price to start with..

7. Consider Re-Upholstering

If you find a beautiful Victorian armchair or a set of retro dining chairs that look past their best, don’t be put off.  If you are shopping for vintage furniture which does need re-upholstering, be sure to build in the costs of fabric as it can be expensive. However, often it is still cheaper than buying a new armchair from high street retailers such as Laura Ashley or John Lewis and being able to choose your own fabric will make it a unique piece for your home.

8. Up-Cycle It…

Keep an open mind in terms of how things can be adapted to suit your home and you colour schemes . Wooden furniture can be hand-painted and metal pieces can often be sandblasted and re-sprayed. Old cupoards or chests of drawers can be easily re-vamped. Why not line drawers or old vintage suitcases with your favourite vintage wall paper or fabric to give it a completely new lease of life.. Farrow & Ball or Annie Sloan Paints can be used to create Shabby Chic pieces which you can distress to create that time worn finish in no time at all. Here’s an example of a beautiful shabby chic dining set which we up-cycled transforming a dark oak set with an original French Toile du Jour fabric. Check out your local college or shabby chic retailers, as they often offer courses…

Antique oak dining set up-cycled using Annie Sloan paint & Toile due Jour fabric
Basic upholstery is quite simple…

9. Don’t be afraid to mix and match

You don’t have to stick rigidly to pieces from one particular era or in one particular style. Creating interesting combinations is what adds character to your home. Different items in a similar mood can look better than trying to match everything together. In the photo below I love the mix of softer vintage pieces such as the glass lamps combined with the industrial furniture. Or, why not try an antique kitchen table with mis-matched chairs? This can look fabulous and can save you a small fortune.. Purchasing individual pieces that work well together is the perfect way to create you own style for your home.


An industrial Chic Masterclass at

10. A tip for the future…

Vintage eiderdowns, crochet blankets and galvanised metal for the garden allow you to create a vintage feel. Ercol furniture is becoming increasingly rare as are names such as G-Plan. Don’t be put off by paying higher prices for such items as they will become investment pieces of the future. Industrial, shop and school furniture  such as lockers are increasingly on trend.

Buying vintage gives you the opportunity to really put your own stamp on things – so go forth and shop!

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The Story of Bee’s Knees – How we started our vintage and retro furniture business…

I’m a Celebrity! (well almost…)

Exciting news here at The Bees Knees Furniture! We ‘re delighted to be able to share our first piece of official publicity with you all today 🙂  Our local paper, the Swindon Advertiser visited us recently to interview us about how we started our fledgling furniture business two years ago during the recession, and how we’ve kept it growing against all the odds!

Read the article here

Growing our Small Business…

Building a successful business is typically done by trial and error, with many hurdles along the way. And when it’s your first company, every day involves making mistakes and learning something new.

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We literally started by learning to master the shabby chic style of furniture. With a corner of our living room allocated as a workspace and newspapers spread out on the floor, the adventure began…  A whole dining set later, and we needed to know would people like what we’d produced? We decided to list it for sale on Ebay and see what happened… I remember watching the bids mount and my partner Andy buying me bubbly at the end of the auction to celebrate our first official sale 🙂

French Salon Chair in gorgeous Tole du Jour Fabric

Retro & Vintage Furniture – A Whole New Direction…

We grew the business slowly to avoid costly mistakes, and eventually ventured to our first Vintage and Retro Fair. The feedback we received about our pieces was amazing and we were suddenly part of a fabulous new community of people.Then came the exciting prospect of developing a website and mastering social media (gulp!) Learning about the era of retro furniture has taken us in a whole new direction.

Scandinavian Style

Despite the hurdles we’ve faced along the way, The Bee’s Knees is thriving and the future looks bright…