Vintage restyled: Cardiff’s Castle Emporium

Cardiff Castle Emporium general outside shotFor the past two years, the old converted cinema opposite Clwb Ifor Bach was home to Cardiff Fashion Quarter, the go-to place for vintage clothing and knick-knacks. While it had a lot to offer fashionistas, it was perhaps quite limited, both in its offering and the layout of the space.

Relaunched by new owner James Morgan-Rees, CFQ has transformed into The Castle Emporium. While some of the old traders remain (Rock-ola Reborn, Eagle Eye Vintage, AMARAS), there is a new range of stalls, i.e. a whole lot more vintage-gem-hunting to get excited about.

We took a walk around the Emporium, snapping some of the independent businesses that have set up shop.

Cardiff Castle Emporium aerialThe view from the first floor – the colourful stalls are a treat for the eyes

Cardiff Castle Emporium candle tinsRoughneck Candles recycle pocket sized tins by turning them into kitsch homeware

Cardiff Castle Emporium minotaur booksJust some of the bookshelves at Minotaur Books, who stock everything from popular poetry to obscure dystopian literature

Cardiff Castle Emporium Al's Musique BoutiqueCardiff Castle Emporium bow ties suitcase Cardiff Castle Emporium horse whiskyAl from Al’s Musique Boutique poses alongside vintage clothing and accessories for gentlemen

Cardiff Castle Emporium mario kart yoshi playstation 2Cardiff Geek Party‘s shop houses games memorabilia, retro consoles and stacks of bargain computer games

Cardiff Castle Emporium Super Mario Bros gaming stationWe’ll be heading back here for the Mario Tournament. There’s a different game leaderboard each month; Matt’s hoping he gets a chance to show off his Crash Team Racing expertise

Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan chocolate cake Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan snacks chocolateSo many yummy treats at Simply V, including marshmallows, wagon wheels and chocolates – and they’re all vegan!

Cardiff Castle Emporium vintage clothes Rock-olaCardiff Castle Emporium vintage jumpers Cardiff Castle Emprium shelves of bric a bracFor fans of upcycling and vintage fashion, there are stacks of menswear, womenswear and accessories to dig through

With the rejuvenated vintage haven sitting firmly at the top end of Womanby Street, it makes what is already a culturally busy passageway even more exciting. Take a stroll winding around the Emporium then down to Urban Tap House; you won’t be disappointed.

Know any other great spots in Cardiff for finding vintage treasures? Comment below or tweet your suggestions @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

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Small space solutions: how to live comfortably in a compact home

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Not many people are lucky enough to have the luxury of moving straight from their parents’ house and into a perfect first home. When Amy and I finished our university courses and decided to find a new place together, we had a choice to make: a slightly shabby house in the suburbs with room to spare, or a significantly less spacious modern apartment in the city.

We chose the latter, and haven’t regretted it for a second. It’s fantastic living so close to the places we love to spend time in, and we’ve enjoyed kitting out our small but sweet flat with furniture that fits our style and shows off our creativity. That said, many people are worried about feeling cramped in a small home. We’ve picked up several tips that should help to alleviate those concerns, letting you feel cosy and content in your compact pad.

Think vertically

15-corner-shelvesIf you don’t have much floor space in your home for furniture, use the height of your ceiling to your advantage. Storage becomes easier when you decide to use the space on your walls, instead of just cramming everything under your bed.

If you want to show off your stuff, you can’t beat a good wall mounted shelf – thoughtfully arranged, these will display your personality and give you a place to keep your favourite possessions. Books, pictures, cameras, toys and souvenirs from your travels all look pretty out in the open.

Alternatively, keep your things dust free behind closed doors in cabinets. You can often pick up nice vintage-looking ones dirt cheap from flea markets and car boot sales. Sand them down and give them a fresh coat of paint in your favourite colour for easy, attractive storage.

Be picky: choose furniture that works for you

shelvesDon’t listen to the people who tell you flat pack items are flimsy and unattractive – we know first hand that they have their place. The key advantage when shopping for mass produced furniture is the incredible amount of choice you have, and if you’re limited for space, you need to make the most of this variety.

When we moved into our little apartment in Cardiff, we immediately noticed a narrow nook in the wall – ideal for a bookcase. A quick flick through the IKEA catalogue revealed several that would fit. It was tempting to automatically go for the iconic BILLY bookcase, but we eventually decided that a taller shelf in a dark colour would better suit our needs.

Similarly, when we got fed up with eating off plastic boxes on the floor and decided to invest in a dining table, we were concerned about it taking up too much room in our already limited living area. With tape measure in hand, we explored the local superstore and discovered the perfect solution – a folding table that’s big enough to accommodate a small dinner party when fully extended, but barely noticeable when folded and pushed against the identically white wall. Even the chairs fold down and fit snugly between the table legs.

open table
closed table

Live a clutter free life

This one’s easier said than done, but listen up. You REALLY don’t need all that old tat that’s cluttering up your cupboards. You know the stuff: clothes you don’t wear, mementos from friends long gone, boxes for every electrical device you’ve ever owned. Be brutal. Sell the high-ticket items on eBay. Donate your unwanted clothes, books and DVDs. Chuck the rest.

It’s a liberating experience, and when you live in a small space, you badly need that extra room for storing the things that matter. Now all you need to do is decide on a place for everything and stick to it. You don’t have to be a neat freak, just pick one day of the week when you’ll put everything back where it should be. We like doing this on a Sunday – there’s always a lull in the late afternoon that’s perfect for end-of-week tidying, and it feels good to reset your home before Monday rolls around.

If you enjoyed reading this post and have your own secrets for small space happiness, share them with us! You can tweet us @Creative_Hacks or drop us a friendly comment below – we love to hear your thoughts, and always reply!

Matt

Six tips to stay warm without turning up the heating

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Oh, winter. The season of sipping hot drinks beside a roaring log fire while watching the snowflakes fall. It can also be the most expensive season in terms of heating bills. Nobody likes being cold in their own home, but rather than turning the thermostat to a tropical 30 degrees, try some of these easy, low cost tricks to stay cosy without it costing the earth.

1. Insulate yourself

The first thing to do if you’re feeling chillsome is to wrap yourself up. Put loose layers on top of loose layers to give yourself maximum insulation. Girls, pop a pair of tights under your leggings or jeans, and guys, layer up socks and sweaters. By keeping the layers loose, you trap more heat and allow blood circulation, meaning heat will spread around your body better.

2. Jump around

Jack Russell Terrier dogs jumping with ball
Exercise may not be the most appealing activity when you’re cold and grouchy, but just thirty star jumps can give you a quick and free heat boost. You can also do simple things like running on the spot, lunging or practicing your dance moves ahead of the weekend.

3. Mind the gaps

Take a few minutes to look carefully at your windows, doors and walls. If you have a gap between the bottom of your doors and the flooring, plug it with a draught excluder (or, for a makeshift version, the leg of a pair of tights that has been stuffed with socks). Make sure all windows are tightly shut and sealed. If there are any little holes in your walls or small gaps where cold is coming in from outside, use duct tape as a temporary sealer. In the long run, you may want to think about sealing these air holes properly.

4. Central eating

Hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles in teacup
Nothing seems better than hugging a mug of freshly made tea, coffee or hot chocolate when the weather turns. Make your own, or head out for a treat in a local café every now and again (cafés are a source of free central heating too, so look for one with steamy windows!) Some people report feeling much warmer in winter after they have eaten something really cold; if you can brave a sub-zero ice cream, give the theory a try.

5. Grab a hottie

Cuddle up to a hot water bottle, a microwavable heat pack or a human hottie. The heat from them will transfer to you and the air around you, so your shivers will stop in no time. You could also pop a thick blanket on top of you and your hottie to further raise the temperature.

6. Cook up some warmth

Baking pumpkin pie with pastry leaf decoration
Like you need an excuse to get a tray of cookies or fudgy brownies on the go! Not only will baking deliver delicious warmth right to your core, the heat from the oven will transfer all around the room. Did someone say cake?

If you have any more ideas on how to keep warm without cranking up the heating, let us know in the comments below or drop us a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

How we filled our home with Christmas decorations for less than a fiver

presentsIt’s nearly Christmas. You’ve bought all the presents you needed to and are feeling ready to celebrate the festive season. It’s all going to plan… until you realise that all that cash you spent on gifts and  mulled cider has left you with none for buying decorations.

Don’t panic! Here’s our Christmas present to you: a handful of DIY decorating tips that so you can create a winter wonderland with ease and at a low cost.

treeThis little tree came from my parents. My family used to pop it on a side table as a secondary mini-tree, but in our compact flat it makes a perfectly adequate centrepiece.

The felt decorations (baubles, presents and holly) were really simple to make. Cut out two identical shapes on flat felt (we got a pack in a pound store) – one shape will be the front, the other the back. Sew your desired design on the front. Put the two shapes together, one on top of the other, then sew up the sides until there’s about a two centimetre gap. Stop to fill the felt pocket with rice or lentils before sewing the gap up. Tie a loop onto the top so that you can hang it from branches.

wreathFlorists’ wreaths are expensive. We made our own for a fraction of the price and had a whole lot of creative fun in the process. To make it, we used a metre of thick flexible craft wire (£1) and bent it into a circle shape. Then, using a combo of double sided sticky tape, normal sticky tape and clear thread, we built up layers of leaves, clipped from overhanging trees and bushes in our neighbourhood. Tying red ribbon to the top for hanging purposes and adding a cute bow transforms the craft into a classy looking garland.

buntingWagamama have been handing out origami paper to their diners so that they can get crafty while waiting for their noodles. I decided to use the paper to make this hanging star bunting. Paired with a bit of red ribbon, this adds a lot of festive character to one of the white walls in our flat. You can find out how to make an origami star here.

snowflakesRemember making these at school? It’s still fun to go a bit crazy with paper and scissors before unfolding that seemingly hacked up scrap to reveal a delicate snowflake. We wanted to stick some festive fun to our fridge, but white on white wouldn’t have been so striking. Colourful magazine pages look much classier.

We hope that you’ve had as much fun as us decking your halls with Christmas decor! Hopefully we’ve proved that it can be done on the most modest budget while still bringing out the holiday cheer.

We’d love to see photos of your homemade decorations, so send us your pics in the comments below or via @Creative_Hacks on Twitter. Have a very merry Christmas!

Amy sig

Craft comes to Cardiff at Made By Hand Wales

Scene 3 copyThe idea of a craft fair may conjure up childhood memories of being dragged around musty church halls commandeered by older generations’ knitting collections. While these village pop-ups still happen, the recession has left us with an appreciation of the artistry of homemade handcrafted goods. Contemporary craft fairs house locals’ labours of love that you would genuinely want to own and would happily display in your home.

Made by Hand Wales is the first of a number of creative events and opportunities sponsored by the Welsh Government. The government scheme supports small creative businesses across Wales, like the SME crafters at this event. Made by Hand Wales also gave attendees the chance to get closer to crafting through public workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations. Here, we round up five of the most eye-catching craft stalls of the fair.

Treefall Design

ARTIST Treefall Design 2 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 9 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 11 resizeTreefall Design, the creations of Manda McGrory, sells clothing, accessories and cuddly toys for little ones. With one of the best dressed stalls at the fair, their bold and unconventional wares were impossible to ignore.

EllyMental Jewellery

ARTIST EllyMental 2 resizeCardiff-based EllyMental Jewellery caught my eye with beautifully displayed pug and bear necklaces (oh, Santa…). Elly layers her illustrations (drawn on paper) onto shaped metal, then finishes them with resin to form brooches, pendants and other delicate jewellery.

Megan Alice England

ARTIST Megan Alice England 4 resizeCheltenham-based textile and screenprint wizard Megan Alice England makes cute, witty gifts and accessories. Her simplistic designs make an impact on the natural materials they are printed onto.

Print Garage

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These prints by Iain Perry – a.k.a. Print Garage – are made by hand in Iain’s Stafford garage (hence the name). The pastel colours contrast with injections of neon, while the pop culture references push you to notice their understated appeal.

Samantha Bryan

ARTIST S Bryan 3 resizeSamantha Bryan crafts 3D mixed media fairies going about their everyday lives, each with their own back story.

The artists featured here are just five of the 130 companies that attended the Made by Hand Wales fair. It’s really promising to see such a wealth of talent coming from the UK, and even better to see hoards of visitors enthusiastically supporting the exhibitors. To find out more, visit the Made By Hand website.

Next time you see a pop up craft fair or stall, pop in and have a browse. You never know what you may find!

Amy sig