Real Rooms: Bex’s Study ‘refresh’

This afternoon it’s an office make-over for a newly married couple, which cleverly combines the colour of the moment grey, with holiday ‘finds’ and subtle splashes of orange. I love how it has all come together and I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think of it!

Take it away Bex!

This room was a bit of a dumping ground for a long time since moving in here three years ago, even more so with all of the ‘wedding stuff’ we had to store (boxed vases being the bulkiest items). We never really used this room to its full potential, especially given its good size. It had always had a daybed for extra guests, (useful when both sets of parents came to stay) and a desk for Nik’s computer, bookcases for all his textbooks and notes while he was still a student and a wardrobe which contained overflow from my own, oops, and some fancy dress items! The room was then added to with coats, wellies, boxes of things waiting to be sorted, a very underused exercise bike (aren’t they all!) and all the other bits and bobs we unceremoniously shoved in there whenever we had to tidy up the rest of the flat if guests were coming. It also housed my collection of framed prints that I used to sell at craft & design fairs around Scotland but have recently had little time for. (These have been re-homed for sale in a local cafe.)

All of the above resulted in this ‘before’ monstrosity…

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

Surprisingly, the plan to tackle this room was something I decided on honeymoon, where I was inspired to re-decorate using some of our African souvenirs as a starting point. This spurred me on through the boring sorting and organising of all that stuff as I started to think of how we could make the room useful and look nice, somewhere we would actually like spending time. It actually became the perfect project to keep me busy after all the wedding frenzy of the months before!

We had a few items from our honeymoon which gave me the basis of what kind of style we wanted, including framing some of my own pictures taken on safari, so I started a Pinterest board for ideas and colour schemes (which inspired the grey walls/white furniture plan). We decided we wanted a modern room with white furniture to match the existing Hemnes Daybed and to set if all off against grey walls. We didn’t want to go too dark on the walls as the window is tucked into a corner and we didn’t want it to end up ‘dingy’. Moving the mirrored wardrobe helped to reflect some of the light back into the room rather than being wasted in the corner. We decided on a Valspar colour, Windswept, from B&Q. Since the room has been finished, I have also made a Pinterest board detailing some of the items in it and where they were from if you like the look of anything.

So here is the ‘after’ with our stripped back room…

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

I tried not to go for green accents again, as in most of our other rooms, so we decided to mix it up a bit more and we had a multi-coloured painting from the Masai market in Nairobi. We also purchased a Masai beaded necklace so I thought I would incorporate more orange into the room with some sunset pictures.

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

Luckily the orange colour worked well as most of the African safari pictures had an orange tint to them anyway. I really liked the thought of having them all black and white but decided to make it a bit different by leaving three of them in colour.

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

The frames were Neilson frames from Hobbycraft and were £17.99 each so it was pretty pricey all together but I’m really pleased with the overall result! Mounting and printing them ourselves saved money so it was approx £174 in total. I love the fact they look good but also remind us of our amazing time on safari on honeymoon.

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

The cushions were from M&S, The White Company (15% off thanks to FF!) and Slumber Slumber. Nik sold most of his old books and recycled his notes so we could downsize in the bookcase department. We replaced 3 bookcases just one from Ikea and filled the bottom shelves with cupboards to try to make it look less square and boxy, and to hide some of the uglier books. I took the old lime green file boxes my Mum had donated when she moved and painted them grey with left over wall paint.

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

The unusual string balls were bought by the side of the road in Nairobi and were the main inspiration for re-doing the room. Nik’s conditions when agreeing to buy three was that we had to know where we would put them and I convinced him on my ‘African honeymoon study’ idea. They’re supposed to be light-shades but I just removed the metal hangings from inside as I liked the way they were hung from the trees in bunches like this in Kenya.

All images courtesy of Bex Photo

I finally got round to framing our degrees and diplomas to keep them safe and out of the way. We didn’t want them to be too ‘in your face’ so we hung them high up along the ceiling. In retrospect I wish we had stuck the map a little lower but it’s difficult to judge when one of you is holding up a huge sheet of plastic to the wall.

The amazing map of the world wall sticker is also from and came with coloured dots to mark the places we’ve been. We now want to try and go to more places in the middle of the big black areas to make the dots more obvious and spread out – probably not the usual way to choose places to travel to but it could be fun! We’ve mostly stuck to the coast before due to our love of scuba diving but would love to try travelling in more different places in the future.

I hope you’ll agree it was quite a transformation! We now spend so much more time in there, I particularly love my new snug corner on the daybed where I can curl up under my knitted throw with a good book while Nik’s working on his computer.

I have been dying to share this with the Florence Findettes because I need a little help. We have decided to keep and display our large apothecary jars we used at our wedding but have no idea what, if anything, to put in them. Please help!

Great job Bex – I particularly love how you have managed to make all this things I always want to buy on holiday that then look out of place in cold grey england work so well together, particularly the safari photos and cohesive splashes of orange. The map is a great way to nod to the travel theme in a chic way and I love your certificates placed so high like that – genius idea!

Do leave Bex a comment if there’s something you like or if you want to ask her anything, I’m sure she’ll be around to help you out!


PS You can find Bex at her blog The Olive Dragonfly and on twitter @OliveDragonfly. You can also see more of Bex’s stunning photography on her photography website: Bex Photo.

Friday Food: Laksa Soup

This morning we are welcoming Bex from The Olive Dragonfly back, who is sharing a soup that I can’t wait to try – A little like the Tom Yum I shared a few weeks ago, it’s packed with flavour and perfect for winter whilst remaining light… give it a go!

Here is a yummy, spicy, substantial soup – Rachel Allen’s Laksa soup recipe, which she usually serves with Thai Sticky Chicken on the side. It is delish, but time consuming and messy so I do it with pieces of cooked chicken breast or prawns instead. Prawns are my favourite and make it look nice with the pink and green colours, so I have written my adjusted quantities to serve 4 – for her original recipe see here.

I love how quick and simple this recipe is – don’t spend too much time chopping as it’s all getting blitzed in a processor anyway. You can even make the paste a day in advance and keep in the fridge so it takes even less time in the evening. It’s also great to serve if you have people round for dinner as you don’t need to spend much time in the kitchen but it looks impressive and tastes great!

Ingredients (Serves 4)
375g pack of the fresh rice noodles from the veg aisle (they don’t need to be soaked – just zap in the microwave)
2 red chillies, seeds removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, soft inner core roughly chopped
25g fresh coriander, roughly torn
1-2 limes, juice only
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (use the reduced fat version if being healthier)
400ml vegetable stock
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla) or soy sauce
150g sugar snap peas, halved
75g beansprouts
200g raw king prawns
4 spring onions, trimmed, finely sliced at an angle


  • Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander (reserving a few leaves for serving) and juice of one of the limes in a food processor or mini chopper and blend to a paste.
  • Heat the toasted sesame oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the paste for 2-3 minutes, or until aromatic. Add the coconut milk, stock and one tablespoon of the fish sauce or soy sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around ten minutes.
  • Add the sugar snap peas and bean sprouts to the pan and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, or until almost cooked but still a bit crunchy. Taste, and if necessary, season with more lime juice and/or fish/soy sauce. Add the prawns and heat through for about 1 minute until they turn pink. Meanwhile heat the rice noodles in the microwave according to packet instructions.
  • To serve, divide the rice noodles among 4 warm bowls, ladle the hot soup over and scatter the sliced spring onions and reserved coriander leaves on top.


Friday Food – Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness cake

This morning, I am shamelessly beginning the Friday Christmas Food series… as Christmas is so much about food, there may be a couple of extra food posts coming your way between now and Christmas, and I really want you guys to get involved. If you have perhaps the perfect cranberry sauce, the best truffles, Christmas pudding, your gran’s best roasts, even a Christmas cocktail or ways to use up the turkey after the big day, please please do send them in – I can supply images, we just need you guys to share the wealth of knowledge in the Florence Finds community! 🙂 Send them to and mark the subject box with Friday Food.

This week’s Friday Food comes to you courtesy of Bex from the The Olive Dragonfly who road tested a new Nigella recipe and deemed it worthy of sharing… you won’t be disappointed by this one!

Hi Florence Findettes!  Bex here with my usual excessive use of exclamation marks from the comments!  (Sorry, it’s how I actually speak, I’m very over-excitable in real life too!  Feel free to edit them out Rebecca!) and I am super excited that December is finally here and hope to tantalise your taste buds with this yummy Nigella Lawson recipe for my ultimate winter comfort food – cake!

So here is the most amazingly Chocolatey Guinnessy cake in the world, Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  Hubby says it’s the best cake I’ve ever made.  It was super moist and soft and bouncy and delicious.  The major bonus for me was the icing, my all time favourite – cream cheese!  I have made it before for Red Velvet cupcakes but the twist here is adding double cream and Oh My God, it makes it even more yummy!  I did find the icing quantity a tad too much (which I often do with cake recipes) even though I love it, so I just stored a couple of tablespoons of it in the fridge – leading to inevitable eating with a spoon later, you may just want to adjust the quantity you make instead and save the extra added inches to the waistline!

Image credit:


    • 250ml Guinness
    • 250g unsalted butter
    • 75g cocoa
    • 400g caster sugar
    • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
    • 275g plain flour
    • 2 1/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
    • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese


  • 125ml double or whipping cream
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C, and butter and line a 23cm springform tin.
  • Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
  • Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  • When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
  • Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Image credit: Bex at for Florence Finds

I made it exactly as stated (I used the food processor technique for the icing, so much quicker, easier AND I didn’t end up covered in icing sugar like usual!), it needed 55 minutes in my oven and was cooked perfectly.  The edge was slightly crispy which I love but the whole cake was moist – not dry at the edges like some cakes I’ve baked before!

It went down a treat at work and hubby was popular too since he took a chunk in to theatre with him for the nurses.  I am actually making another one today (Thursday) to take down south with us to see my brother and the in-laws this weekend!  What can I say, I love compliments!  😉



Find more of Bex at


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