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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Where to stay in Bath: The Queensberry Hotel

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We adults have it pretty tough at this time of year – short days, miserable weather and no half term to look forward to. For those reasons, taking a couple of days off last week for a short but sweet visit to one of our favourite UK cities was much needed.

Bath is barely an hour away from Cardiff on the train, but stepping out of the station and onto its iconic brown stone streets reminded us why tourists flock from all over the world to see it. Because the entire city is a World Heritage Site, its striking mix of Roman and Georgian architecture has been preserved beautifully. We probably could have spent the whole trip strolling up and down the streets marveling at the impressive buildings, but drizzly weather convinced us to seek refuge in one of Bath’s equally alluring boutique hotels.

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We couldn’t have picked a better base than The Queensberry Hotel on Russel Street. Converted from four terraced Georgian townhouses, the hotel is a tastefully curated clash of old and new – period furnishings are mixed up with touches of contemporary luxury and the owners’ love of classic English wit.

After being welcomed by a smiley member of the concierge team, we were led to our luxurious room. With a mighty king sized bed taking pride of place, we couldn’t resist faceplanting gleefully on to its cushty mattress as soon as the door was closed. You haven’t known comfort until you’ve spent ten minutes lying on one of these beds while Classic FM blares triumphantly from the bedside digital radio; nibbling complimentary chocolates as you allow your eyes to roam around one of these incredible bedrooms.

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It was the small touches that made this room really special, from a stately trio of winged pugs soaring up the wall to an indulgent (and free) overnight shoe cleaning service. This was much needed after our soggy roaming around the city; waking up to find two pairs of spotlessly polished boots next to our complimentary newspaper made both of the mornings we were there feel like Christmas.

The generosity continued downstairs in a cosy drawing room, where Teapigs tea and fresh coffee is freely available from 8am until 8pm every day. We made a habit of spending at least an hour in here each day, sipping our hot drinks in front of the fire while collaborating on a crossword. Old fashioned, perhaps, but timelessly satisfying.

drawingroom
For us, the jewel in the crown of The Queensberry had to be its restaurant, The Olive Tree. We had the pleasure of meeting head chef Chris Cleghorn, whose résumé includes time with Michelin Star chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Michael Caines. Chris told us that his menu was all about treating the diner to bold and well-matched flavour combinations, without leaving anyone bloated or overfed. After three sublime courses, this was exactly how we both felt.

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The kitchen aptly accommodated for our resident vegan, from the creamy butternut squash soup starter to an intensely savoury salt baked celeriac main and three scoops of sweet sorbet – blackcurrant, chocolate and mandarin – for dessert. Having been faced with countless humdrum veggie options at other restaurants, Amy really appreciated being able to choose from a range of original and thoughtful vegan dishes.

As for me, I purposely went for food that I’ve not had the chance to try before – a melt-in-your-mouth crab lasagne, an exquisitely British take on duck à l’orange and, finally, a super indulgent chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. It took a shot of espresso to rouse me from my flavour-induced stupor to truly appreciate what I’d just eaten – an absolute sensation, matched with impeccable service that made the evening unforgettable.

The next morning, The Olive Tree’s similarly delicious but more relaxed breakfast was chance to reflect on what an experience staying in The Queensberry had been. We can’t imagine anywhere else in Bath being more accommodating, comfortable or uniquely charming – a real treat for anyone seeking something special enough to rival the vibrant personality of the city.

We did manage to tear ourselves away from The Queensberry to experience some of Bath’s other attractions – look out for some of those in another blog post!

Matt

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

Choose art prints that display your personality

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A blank white wall can inspire or intimidate. As someone who cannot wait to get stuck in when an interior design project appears, I’ve spent a lot of time amusing myself by trying out different decor options. Art should be a talking point, and if it’s on your walls it makes sense to choose art that reflects your personality and likes.

I’ve compiled my top five tips, learnt through experience, for using art to make your mark. You can easily change your wall decor, so read on and have stress-free fun trying out new ideas for your rooms.

Find your own cityscape

Walk into any major department store or home decor shop and you’re bound to find a giant photo canvas depicting a city of skyscrapers, most likely in black and white.

While the view must’ve been breathtaking for the photographer, it loses its wow factor when reproduced on a mass scale for the everyman.

Rather than framing someone else’s snap of a place you’ve never visited, find art that reminds you of a place that matters to you, such as your hometown or fave holiday destination. Whenever you see it, it’ll take you back to your special spot, instantly making you feel happy.

Cardiff Underground
My choice: Cardiff Underground, by I Loves The Diff,  reminds me of home and has a lot of Welsh wit about it

Pick words that you believe

Keep calm and carry on decorating with overused slogans if you want a home sweet home that lacks self-expression.

If you put words on your walls, try to pick ones that make you feel something. You will get more satisfaction from looking at a quote print if you believe in it, if it stirs up emotion or makes you think. Plus, it’ll make a better starting point for conversation.

Warhol
My choice: Andy Warhol, one of my favourite artists, said “the world fascinates me.” As someone always wanting to find out more and experience new things, it makes perfect sense to me

Filter your fandom

To avoid recreating the den of a teenager, be selective when advertising your love for a certain film, show or artist. You want to share your interests, rather than start a merch collection.

Opt for captivating film stills, eye-catching homages by independent artists or prints that instantly capture the essence of whatever aspect of culture wins you over.

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My choice: Wes Anderson is one of my favourite film directors; he understands colour groups like no other. This still from Moonrise Kingdom would look great in a frame of a complementary colour

Avoid the generic

All too often, home makeover programmes advocate cluttering up your walls with stock images. A random vase holding a lone rose, a meaningless geometric shape, the silhouettes of strangers dancing in the rain – all of these are well-worn clichés to stay away from.

There is nothing wrong with having flowers, patterns or backlit landscapes hanging above your sofa, but to get the most out of them they should be of things you actually care about.

Childhood fascinations, visuals that trigger you to think positive thoughts or even your own photographs blown up into A3 can add hints of yourself to bare walls and make your space unique.

Space 2
My choice: In primary school I loved learning about space, so this print by twenty21onecreative, complete with the now de-classified Pluto, appeals to my inner child

Your place, your rules

Finally, if you like a piece of art enough to want to see it every day, don’t feel that it has to follow any decor conventions. Want clashing colours? Go for it! Want a diagram of a dinosaur? That’s cool, too! So long as your home feels like home, you’re nailing one of the main points of decor (pun intended).

Origamizoo
My choice: I love origami (lame but true), so this Origami Zoo poster by Bobby Monroe makes the cut

Got any more tips about picking the right art for your walls? Drop us a comment or tweet us @Creative_Hacks!
Image credit: Top photo via Daydreamer