+ Inspiration: 10 Desk Accessories

desk accessories inspiration

Yes! We finally own a flat! And aside from the sheer joy of knowing the home I live in is now (by way of a gigantic loan) mine, the most exciting thing is to have my own creative corner for project Jeni 2.0. Whenever I've had a spare minute from Googling new dishwashers and fridges, I've spent hours poring over desk accessories on Pinterest and blogs. Here's my top ten ideas that I hope will make my desk area an inspiring and unique place:

1) Personalized Pencils:

Make like Caroline Herrara and have a bunch of engraved, personalised pencils handy to doodle from. A snapshot of her desk (as seen in Vanity Fair) shows dozens of "CH" monogrammed pencils, but how about the uplifting message of "Worry Less & Laugh More", courtesy of DesignGem on Etsy?

2) Pencil Sharpener:

If it's good enough for Martha Stewart, it's good enough for me! Her desk has a beautiful vintage pencil sharpener, or you can opt for a modern one like this Alessi Kastor pencil sharpener.

3) Inspiring Art:

In the absence of daylight or a beautiful, awe-inspiring view,  you need something to remind you of what's outside of those four walls. Consider a print of planet earth or inspiring wall art on Pinterest.

4) Snack of Choice:

If you're in the fog of a creative episode, you might need a reminder to eat in the midst of it! How about a pack of your favourite snack?

5) Anglepoise:

This beautiful green Anglepoise desk lamp is perfect for ensuring your masterpiece is swimming in bright light. You can also see my lovely red one in the photo at the end of this blog post.

6) Buddha Ornament:

Bag a desktop buddha from Amazon and get the same effect as Sophia Bush, who attests that having one one her desk is a "great call to meditate when life gets stressful".

7) Plants:

Business Week has a great selection of plants that are ideal for the desk here. Snake plants drastically improve air quality after dark, and apparently ZZ plants are almost impossible to kill!

8) Books That Inspire You:

Right, so you don't actually have to read them every time you sit at your deskbut being surrounded by inspirational writings by your icons (be it Diane Von Forstenberg's The Woman I Wanted To Be, Stephen King's On Writing or perhaps the compendium of wisdom that is Letters of Note)  can help get you into the right mindset.

9) File It Away:

Yeah yeah yeah, we all have Dropbox, Google Drive and can store our files on our laptops, but nothing makes you feel organized than paper copies and documentation you can touch. Get some gorgeous filing cabinets by Bisley like this red cabinet.

10) Your Pet:

My preferred choice is a cute cat not unlike my very own Chickpea :) She loves lazing about on my desk as you can see below.

Chickpea the cat on my desk, next to my red Anglepoise


+ 10 Lessons of a First-Time Buyer

For the past five months, my boyfriend and I have been in an emotional whirlwind of failing to buy one property and (in the end successfully) purchasing another. While we had both said we wanted to buy a place together in the near future, it was my drunken clicking of the "arrange a viewing" button for a place we both loved that sped up the process slightly! Long story short, the flat we tried to buy between March-June ended up being a no-go, so I wanted to share my learnings with other first-time buyers, specifically in the bubble that is the London property market.

1) Be Head Over Heart, Not Head Over Heels

When Ned and I viewed the first flat of our dreams, where we saw warning signs we instead saw 'quirkiness' and 'character'. It was only after a supremely negative mortgage valuation and a super-expensive but thorough homebuyers' report that our cute coal vault/bedroom became quite obviously a barely legal spare storage cupboard.

We had so wanted to believe that all the little doubts in our minds were just first-time buyer nerves, but now we realize we should have thought with our heads and not our hearts. Ideally, walk around with the surveyor at the time of the homebuyers' report. This really helped to bring the report to life for us. I'd recommend choosing Gerry Brown (gb[at]consultantsurveyor.co.uk). He's pricey but we trust him 100%!

2) It's Not Over Until the Fat Lady Sings

Our estate agent emailed us saying "I am just waiting for [the seller] to confirm the date for completion. When it is, I will email both solicitors and let them know that’s the agreed completion date." This all sounded fabulous, but we didn't 100% realize what was around the corner.

The day of exchange/completion came upon us, and ONLY THEN did we find out that our solicitor's queries had been ignored and instead a proposal was put forward for an "indemnity policy"... roll on lesson #3!

3) Be Wary of Indemnity Policies

The flat we wanted to buy had works done to it that were never signed off by building control. This essentially made the second 'bedroom' invalid and brought with it the risk of the local council asking us, as the new owners, to be financially liable for either completely re-doing it and (even worse) stopping us from making any further improvements to that part of the flat. For example, even trying to apply to the council to make the room legal would have INVALIDATED our mortgage. This means we were effectively buying a 1-bedroom flat for a 2-bed price. Also, most policies only protect your mortgage lender and not you so be very careful when agreeing to one!

4) Don't Hand Your Rental Notice in UNTIL Completion

At the end of May, we had no reason to suspect that the flat purchase would hit an obstacle. Yes, the seller's solicitors were taking a frigging age to answer the pressing issues my solicitor had raised, but we thought was standard practice. We tried to create a buffer of over 3 weeks between us completing and the confirmed end of our rental contract.

This would have been great if we had completed the flat purchase. But instead, the estate agents had already found a replacement couple for our flat and so we effectively were due to be homeless. If you learn one thing from our mistakes, just cough up the extra rent and don't make yourself homeless!

5) Consider Getting a 'Mortgage Agreement in Principle'

Before we had even placed an offer, we got an "Decision in Principle" arranged over the phone for us with London & Country Mortgages. What's great about them is they offer free, impartial advice and can serve as a broker with (seemingly anyway) your best interests in mind.

Yes, the estate agent will still ask to speak to you and go through details to substantiate your offer, but having this agreement a) helps clarify what your best offer can be and b) should put you  in a stronger position if you're up against another buyer with no financial details ready to share.

6) Sign up for a 30-day free trial with Experian

I had no idea how many addresses were attached to my name until I had a free trial with Experian. It was also really useful to trawl through Money Saving Expert's website for tips on how to boost your credit rating.

7) Instant Property Alerts Are Your Best Friend

A London property can be under offer in just a couple of days, so you really need to have your wits about you when searching for prospective homes. Some estate agents deliberately withhold their listings from Zoopla and Right Move, so it's best to also sign up to the dominant agents in your area as well as the big search sites.

Other good sources of new properties are Tepilo (quality over quantity!), Prime Location and On The Market.

8) Know your LTV Ratio

A mere 1-5% difference in your loan-to-value ratio can open up vastly different interest rates from the big lenders. If you have any spare cash at your disposal (e.g. selling shares, waiting for a few more paychecks until you buy to fatten your deposit) my advice is to put as much as possible into the mortgage. Obviously, you'll need to ensure you have money left over to actually maintain your beautiful new home, but it's worth checking with the lender how even an extra £1000 deposit could change your mortgage terms.

9) Keep Your Mouth Shut

During one viewing, I was very open with the seller about our situation "oh yeah, we pulled out of our other property" and "we're just in the process of sorting out a different mortgage now based on a different deposit".... in hindsight, you should really be selective in terms of what you say to the seller as it can completely change their opinion of you. If in doubt, pipe down!

10) Be Cautious of Requests for Cold Hard Cash

We had placed an offer on a different property via Hampton's in London, and as this sale was in a chain of 4/5 other properties, they told us in no uncertain terms that we'd need to be willing to put down a £5000 payment ASAP. This was without any guarantees of getting it back should something happen outside of our control, and zero paperwork to sign. In the end, not immediately pandering to their requests cost us the flat as another couple were willing to cough up, but I'm glad we were cautious and didn't sign away a big chunk of our deposit without any guarantees.


+ Infinite Jest Word List

Expanding my vocabulary with Infinite Jest

I finished reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest a few months ago and along with keeping up with the dozens of wildly different characters in different walks of life, I've had the pleasure of learning some new words along the way.  While 'cunctation' and 'quincunx' are fun to say out loud, my favourite words so far have to be aleatory or lacuna.

This Infinite Jest word list below includes words that I already vaguely understood, but it took reading them in a novel to force me to learn their meaning once and for all! Hopefully this list is a nice cheat sheet for anyone else reading the novel. I also hope to pull together a list of blogs/websites that helped me understand the novel, watch this space.

New Words

Élan - energy, style, and enthusiasm

Loquacious - Tending to talk a great deal; talkative

Fugue - A state or period of loss of awareness of one's identity, often coupled with flight from one's usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy

Dipsomaniacal - An insatiable craving for alcoholic beverages

Nadir - The bottom, the lowest point

Optative - Of, relating to, or constituting a verbal mood that is expressive of wish or desire

Mordant - Sharply caustic or sarcastic, as wit or a speaker; biting

Anticonfluential - (this is likely a word that David Foster Wallace made up) A reluctance/refusal to allow things to flow together or merge

Leonine - Lion-like

Chiarascuro - The treatment of light and colour in drawing and painting

Deliquesce - (of organic matter) become liquid, typically during decomposition

Ideation - The formation of ideas and concepts

Diurnal - Of or during the day

Dentate - Having a tooth-like/serrated edge

Lebensgefährtin - Partner in life

Leptosomatic - Related to leptosomic, a person of asthenic build

BröckengespenstAlso called Brocken bow or mountain spectre, is the apparently enormous and magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank, or even from an aeroplane

Auteur - A filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie

Rapacious - Inordinately greedy and predatory

Samizdat - Literature secretly written, copied, and circulated in the former Soviet Union

Teratogenic - Able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or foetus

Anfractuous Tortuous, full of windings and intricate turnings

Fantods - To have the 'fantods' is to be in a state of nervousness, distress, or anxiety

Prandial - During or relating to dinner/lunch

Quincunx - A geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, with four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center.

Plosive - The kinds of sounds usually associated with the letters p, t, k; b, d, g, in which air flow from the lungs is interrupted by a complete closure being made in the mouth.

Aleatory - Depending on chance; random.

Sangfroid - Composure, to be self-possessed in trying situations 

Gibbous - Marked by convexity or swelling; when the Moon is more than half full, but not quite fully illuminated

Aperçu - Concise, clever review or summation of something

Capering - Skip or dance about in a lively or playful way.

Hirsute - Hairy, shaggy

Rutilant - Having a reddish glow

Fronds - An often large, finely divided leaf

Eidetic - Relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible.

Nacelle - The outer casing of an aircraft engine **I had no idea about this at all, and when I asked my boyfriend he knew it instantly?!**

Afflatus - A strong creative impulse, especially as a result of divine inspiration

Teutonic -  Of or pertaining to the Germanic languages and to peoples or tribes who speak or spoke them

Lacuna - An unfilled space or interval; a gap.

Diorama - A three-dimensional full-size or miniature model

Detente - The easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries.

Ephebic - Of or relating to the characteristic of a young man

Apotheosizing - The glorification of a subject to divine level

Mens-sana - Of sound mind

Effete - (Of a person) s overrefined, and ineffectual

Florid - Having a red complexion; elaborately or excessively intricate

Nictitate - To wink/blink

Priapism A persistent and usually painful long-lasting erection

Coprophilia - A sexual fetish people feel when they come into contact with faeces.

Onanism - Ejaculating outside the vagina during intercourse; (the performing of) coitus interruptus

Apothegm - A concise saying or maxim; an aphorism.

Cunctation - The action or an instance of delaying

Prolix - Using or containing too many words; tediously lengthy.

Amanuensis - A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.

Falcate - Curved like a sickle; hooked

Fulcrum - The support about which a lever pivots.

Jejune - Naïve, simplistic, and superficial.

Glabrous -  Without hair e.g skin or a leaf

Mephistophelan - Wicked

Turpitude - Depravity

Saprogenic - Causing or produced by putrefaction or decay.

Eschatology - A part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end time".

Orts - Remains/scraps 

Pulchritude - Physical beauty

Nacreous - Possessing the qualities of mother of pearl; iridescent 

Escutcheon - An individual or corporate coat of arms

Crepuscular - Of, resembling, or relating to twilight

Hellacious - very great, bad, or overwhelming

Coprolite - fossilized faeces!

Evince - reveal the presence of (a quality or feeling)

Decoct - extract the essence of something by boiling it

Picayune - of little value or significance

Zaftig - A plump woman


+ Positano Travel Guide

What do you do when you need to be at the airport by 5am? Don't go to sleep at all, that's what! Yes, we were shattered but at least the trip to Positano (taxi, plane, two shuttle buses) went quickly as we dozed the whole way. After a transfer from positanoshuttle.com, we were shown to our apartment, Sirena 1 at Residence AlcioneThis place is even better than in the photos. We paid more for a superior suite, and I'm so glad we did as we essentially got private use of a large terrace with sun loungers, beautiful plants and a patio table to boot. What really sets this place apart is the complimentary continental breakfast which is hand-delivered to your room at a time that suits you.

Residence Alcione - Sirena 1 superior suite
The terrace of our superior suite at Residence Alcione

Collina Bakery was our first taste of authentic Italian pizza, and it didn't disappoint. The pizzas were so big we got two meals in one go, and ate the leftovers on our terrace that evening! The next day, Ned and I decided to pass the beach and keep edging along the coastal path to see what was there. We weren't disappointed! For the first time we were able to appreciate how clear the emerald ocean was (although didn't get a chance to go for a dip that day). La Marinella is a rustic beach bar/restaurant with a charming waiter who has quite the way with words! 

Us at La Sponda
Ned and I at La Sponda restaurant

That evening, we got to La Sirenuse a bit early for our 8pm dinner reservation at La Sponda and so ended up at their champagne and oyster bar. This rooftop terrace dripped with elegance and made me feel every inch the celebrity! After ordering a round of drinks, they brought us almonds, crisps and bountiful green olives unlike any I'd ever tasted. (side note: I need to find out what olives these were as they were SO tasty!)

Once our drinks were done with, we went down the staircase to La Sponda. Ned decided my trip-planning skills deserved some reward, and proceeded to pay for the chef's menu with a selection of wines with each plate (picture of the tasting menu here). The food was some of the best I've ever tasted (especially the veal sirloin and coconut macaroons at the end!) but what made it for me was the candlelit view accompanied by two men playing romantic music for the majority of the evening.

Someone paragliding over Positano beach, looking from Caffe Positano
Someone paragliding over Positano beach, as seen from Caffe Positano!

 

The next day, we were looking for something cheap and unfussy and Caffe Positano fit the bill perfectly. This place had slow service, but the view of Positano beach from high up on the hill made it worthwhile. We shared a buffalo mozzarella salad and a courgette tagliatelle, both of which were divine. One thing I really noticed in Italy is the tastiness of their cherry tomatoes. Each little bite has more taste than an entire box of salad tomatoes from back home! What made the meal even more memorable was witnessing some guy paragliding over Positano, and what felt like dangerously close to where we were eating!

Tagliata wine, our starting dish and the view of the coast from Tagliata

La Tagliata was our destination for the evening. This family-run restaurant is almost nestled in the clouds it's so far up! As it's quite difficult to get to, upon reserving your table they ask where you're staying so they can pick you up in a complimentary shuttle. At 7.15pm, a shuttle turned up and we began ascending the mountains. We were greeted by Vincenzo, who explained to us upon arriving that there was no need to choose what to eat as a set menu cooked by "mama and papa". Thankfully another couple got up and left so we nabbed a table with a better view of the coastline. Despite the thunderstorms, there was an awesome, brooding tint to the evening that was a beautiful accompaniment to the great food and (even better) homemade 'Tagliata' wine. Oh, and if you're in any doubt, they do drop you off home at the end of it! For a price of ~35 Euros each, the food was well worth every penny.

Saturday was spent walking around the town once more, however by this point of the trip I had succumbed to a weird, odd, disgusting skin rash. "Polymorphous light eruption" basically means my porcelain white skin had forgotten that UV light can tan my skin.. instead, it thought it was being poisoned and initiated a way OTT response to protect my skin! To be fair, we couldn't tan much anyway as the thunderstorms started to descend late afternoon. And, before we knew it, we had to leave Positano behind for our one-night/one-day stay in Naples before our flight home.

You can track the places I visited in Positano using the nifty map below!

Naples

We went with the dependable www.positanoshuttle.com to get back to Naples on Sunday evening, and our hotel of choice was Ciliegina Lifestyle Hotel. This hotel is pure luxury with a jacuzzi hot tub on the roof terrace complete with sun loungers, and also a jacuzzi bathtub in the bedroom. Even better, we were greeted with a free glass of prosecco. The hotel is also f***ing good at continental breakfast, delivering it to your room with beautifully made cappuccinos.

Pasta shop in the historic district

Although my first impressions of Naples were in stark contrast to the dream that is Positano, I really warmed to it as we meandered through the narrow streets and started to soak up the culture. I would really suggest just getting lost and finding your own 'Naples'.

So we were given two main recommendations by friends (not to mention our taxi driver!) which were a restaurant called Sorbillo and another nearby called Di Matteo. When we walked past, Di Matteo didn't seem to be a good place to dine in, as it looked like it was solely takeaway pizza. So, we decided to walk back up towards Sorbillo.... however, we ended up in the copycat restaurant!!! Not to worry, the pizza was 6 euros and tasty, but trust us to get pizza wrong in Naples :/

For others looking for a good pizza place in Naples, I would probably err on the side of caution and go to this Sorbillo, and only try the 'copycat' if the other one is busy :)


+ 10 of the Best Dressing Tables

10 of the best dressing tables via Jeniwren.com

An offer has been accepted on a flat we very much love so I'm so very, very close to being a legit homeowner. I'm getting ahead of myself and have already mapped out a perfect use-case for the corner in the master bedroom... a make-up station, vanity table and writing desk, of course! I wanted to share some of the top vanity/dressing tables I've found, all of which are available in the UK:

1)  I've pretty much settled on this Hemingway desk from Swoon Station. It's so beautiful and even has two pull-out 'runners' to maximise surface space. Better still, it matches the Brunel wardrobe I bought from Heal's a while back:
Hemingway writing/dressing table from Swoon Editions

2) Made-to-order Dressing Table from Tobias and the Angel. You can customize to have shelves or no shelves, and get it painted in colours/styles of your choice:
made to order desk/dressing table from Tobias and the Angel

3) Willis and Gambier Lyon Dressing Table from John Lewis. This is super traditional, and if I bought this I'd probably replaced the handles with something a bit more contemporary to add some character to it:
Wills and Gambier Lyon Dressing Table

4) Emil birch dressing table from Habitat UK. I am a stickler for organization, and having so many drawers to categorize my make-up, toiletries and jewellery would be easy as pie with this table:
Emil birch dressing table from Habitat UK

5) Montana Console Table from Heal's. Pretty understated, but you could easily add drawer dividers and maybe add a desk pedestal underneath to add some more storage options:
Heal's Montana Console Table

6) Venus Dressing Table from Chaplin's. During my search for a dressing table it was pretty rare to find one with a pre-installed mirror and a lid to expand the storage available to you. This table does just that, but the curved design wouldn't necessarily go with my future bedroom:
Venus dressing table from Chaplin's

7) Fleur Dressing Table from Cox and Cox. Firstly, this retailer is my go-to destination for homewares,  spend far too much money there! I really love this dressing table because of the ornate detailing around the legs:
Fleur dressing table from Cox & Cox

8) Malm dressing table from IKEA. These blog posts here and here have some incredible tips (including a video) on how to transform this table into the make-up station a make-up artist would be proud of!
Malm dressing table from IKEA

9) Carter Dressing Table from Dwell.co.uk. Again, I love the idea of a lid I can flip up when I need to, so that everything is close at hand but doesn't look too messy the rest of the time:
Carter dressing table from Dwell

10) Venetian mirrored dressing table, available at Amazon.co.uk. I am not brave enough to buy mirrored furniture (and it doesn't particularly go with my boyfriend's minimalise style) but if I ever live in a palace-like mansion I'll consider this one!

My Picks for Vanity chairs and Stools:
Lille Armchair from Swoon Station
Lille armchair in oatmeal from Swoon Station

Rouen Stool, also from Swoon Station
Rouen Stool in Grape from Swoon Station

Jade Swivel Chair from Wayfair.co.uk
Jade Swivel Chair