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SELL YOUR NEW HOME QUICKLY

FIND OUT HOW

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

Is your home looking a little lacklustre and drab as January drags on? Gabrielle Fagan reveals six easy ways to hit refresh.

January can be a bleak month on all levels – but if your rooms are look as though they’re suffering a bit of a winter hangover, take heart, as there are plenty of bright, new decor trends on the horizon.

You don’t need to rush out and arrange a major revamp – some little touches can be enough to lift a space and provide that all-important refresh.

Here are six decor trends that will make a big impression on rooms this year, and could help banish the blues and take your home from drab to fab in no time…

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

If you want to give a scheme some ‘wow’ factor, look no further than texture. Layering a mixture of soft fabrics – from fluffy sheepskin cushions and chunky wool throws to cowhide rugs – will not only draw the eye, which is essential in a muted scheme decorated in neutrals that could otherwise look bland, but also add cosiness.

Adding texture is all about layering, so have a few key pieces, like a statement rug, a velvet chair, or a leather sofa, and then add smaller accessories and soft furnishings until the room feels complete.

Don’t forget that your scheme need never be ‘set in stone’. Moving or replacing a few texture-rich accessories is an easy way to re-energise and refresh the whole balance of a scheme.

Plunder Next’s spring/summer collection for texture treats. Our favourites include their Knitted Jute Drum Seat, £70 (available Feb), and Mono Berber Rug, £50-£180. The range has lots of touchy-feely cushions too, including an Ethnic Tufted Stripe Cushion, £18; Textured Pom Pom Cushion, £14, and Diamond Geo Cushion, £16.

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

Yellow has crossed over from the fashion catwalks – the colour was big news at the 2019 spring/summer shows – and is predicted to make its mark on our homes.

The colour’s associated with energy and optimism – we could all do with a dose of that this year – and you can easily play with all its hues, from bright daffodil yellow, through to the palest lemon.

This is also a shade that works well in bold contrast, or blended with similar shades and tones – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Another bonus: Pops of yellow will act like beams of sunshine in any room, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

Fringing – think the swishy, flamboyant Charleston dresses of the 1920s – is making a comeback in decor and home styling.

You can interpret it elegantly and traditionally, with upholstery fringing on armchairs and sofas, or go for an ethnic, arty vibe with a colourful tribal wall hanging. However you use it, fringing is fabulous.

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

Natural materials, particularly wood, are essential for today’s stylish homes. It’s all about celebrating the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship – think heirlooms and sustainability – and the unique grain of timber.

Don’t limit yourself to one piece. The chic take on the trend is to choose furniture made in different tones of wood, from pale ash to ebony, and let is share a space. Leave it raw and unstained to reveal the gorgeous imperfections of the knots and grain.

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

Let the warmest shades on the colour spectrum – rust, red and rose – warm your rooms (it’s cheaper than turning up the central heating!).

Our newfound boldness with colour means we’re less timid and more prepared to splash on those bright shades these days – but even used sparingly, these shades will make an impact without being too dominating, especially if you lean towards the brown-based terracotta hues.

Experiment with bed linen and accessories to test your enthusiasm, or paint a headboard or feature wall if you want to make a statement. Seeing red can be positive!

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

Nature’s finding its way into more and more interiors, and flowers, potted plants and succulents – both real and faux – are an easy way to bring natural appeal to rooms.

Displaying bouquets in clear glass vases can have a transformative effect on a space. As a transparent vase displays all of its contents, the possibilities for decorative ideas extend beyond flowers, and you could use them for fruit or collections of beachcomber finds too.

Change the atmosphere with blooms – a fresh cut bunch from a garden will enhance a country/rustic effect, while an elaborate display of exotic blooms makes a luxe touch.

The Do’s and Dont’s of being a vegan gardener.

Committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby shares some of his top tips. If you care about what you eat, you probably care about how food is grown too. So if you're a gardener who likes to grow their own, and - like many others right now - have decided to go vegan, then it's useful to know how to approach this at every stage of the process.

So says committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby, whose new book, Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden, explains all – from the types of produce you might go for, to the techniques you’ll need to use to ensure your garden remains truly vegan.

“Vegans believe animal farming is wasteful of land and resources, cruel to animals and the resulting milk, dairy and eggs are bad for their health. While they seek to remove the foods from their diet, other aspects of making a lifestyle truly vegan may have been overlooked,” says Appleby. “Cutting out animal inputs in your garden, as well as growing the best products for a vegan diet, and how to be a truly animal-friendly gardener, are the subjects of my new book.”

how to be a vegan gardener

He says he hopes to bridge the gap between vegan food and vegan lifestyle.

“Many gardeners who care about animals and who care about the origins of what they eat, may not be aware of the impact eating animals or animal products has on the environment, or their health (let alone the animals themselves), and they may not know their gardening and growing their own is part of the problem,” he adds.

Here, Appleby offers some of the key dos and don’ts of being a vegan gardener…

how to be a vegan gardener

DON’T… Use animal manures

As well as avoiding animal manures, vegans don’t use blood, fish and bone products. “You can make your own fertiliser to replace blood, fish and bone products – the by-products of the slaughterhouse, which can also attract vermin to your plot,” says Appleby. “I make comfrey ‘tea’ by stewing the herb in a bucket of water, which I strain off to give plants a tonic. Comfrey contains high levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the essential nutrients for plant growth. Seaweed is good too.”

DO… Make your own compost

“Making compost to replace animal manures is a cornerstone of vegan gardening. Animal manures can contain harmful bacteria such as e-coli, and they are the by-products of the animal farming system, which vegans do not want to support,” Appleby adds. “Compost made from green and brown organic material and (vegetable) food waste make up your growing media. Commercial mixes from companies such as Fertile Fibre (fertilefibre.com) are now available too.”

To make vegan compost, use grass cuttings, leaves, garden clippings and vegan food bin waste.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Make your own fertiliser from comfrey

“Comfrey is good at sucking up nutrients from the soil and contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, C and other trace materials. Grow comfrey by, with permission, digging up a bit of someone’s crop. When divided, it grows again easily and produces leaf rapidly. You can buy root cuttings to plant from May-September.”

Make a comfrey liquid feed by filling a container with leaves and topping up with water. Leave to steep for a week and pour the liquid onto crops. Then add the used comfrey to the compost pile, where its nutrients will both enrich the whole heap and encourage decomposition.

DO… Use alternative plant tonics

These include rock dust, ash and rotted woodchip.

DO… Grow green manure

Grow a green manure by sowing nitrogen-rich seeds, such as red or white clover, over winter on bare soil. This fixes nitrogen from the air and brings up minerals from the ground, as well as stopping bare soil eroding. Plant as a cover crop, and as an under-sown crop. Rake it in two weeks before planting potatoes.

In the spring, sow trefoils, crimson or sweet clover, mustard, buckwheat or phacelia. Vetch, lucerne, mustard, buckwheat, phacelia and red and white clover are also good for autumn planting.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Grow your own protein and iron-rich veg

Include artichokes or broccoli in your planting scheme, to make sure your vegan diet is not lacking in any essential minerals and vitamins.

DO… Deter animals that might eat your crops

Grow banks of plants that predators live in, including buddleia, nettle, dandelion, horsetail, grey willow and brambles. Also include log piles as insect habitats.

DO… Be prepared to sacrifice some of your crops

Sacrificial crops, which will keep pests at bay, include nasturtiums and nettles (aphids), chervil (slugs), French marigold (slugs and thrips), and radish (flea beetle). Netting, scents and scarers are all alternatives to killing ‘pests’.

DON’T… Kill wildlife and insects, including slugs

Make room in your garden for all living creatures, who will help provide the balance of nature in their own way.

how to be a vegan gardener

Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden by Matthew Appleby is published by Pen & Sword on January 31, priced £16.99.

Hoping to get on the property ladder soon? 8 tips for First Time Buyers

It's a huge, expensive step but can be done - so soak up these expert tips, says Vicky Shaw. This year could be a bit uncertain for the housing market, which may be making first-time buyers feel somewhat nervous. However, some recent figures may offer some reassurance for those trying to make the jump onto the property ladder.

Research from Yorkshire Building Society suggests the number of first-time buyers getting on the property ladder with a mortgage in the last year, was at its highest level since 2006. Across the UK, 367,038 first-time buyers secured mortgages in 2018, up from 362,800 in 2017, the analysis suggests.

There are also some steps first-time buyers could take, which may boost their chances of bagging a property. “Buying a first home can be as daunting as it is exciting, but there are a number of simple steps people can take to prepare themselves and make the process as smooth as possible,” says Chrysanthy Pispinis of Post Office Money.

Here are Post Office Money’s eight top tips for getting on the property ladder…

first time buyer top 8 tips

1. Set a savings goal

Three-quarters (75%) say that saving for a deposit is the biggest hurdle to home ownership, with first-time buyers spending four years adjusting their lifestyle to save for their starter home, according to a survey of people who recently got on the property ladder. So setting a savings target early is important to keeping you focused and on track.

2. Factor in the additional costs of moving

Aspiring homeowners must not forget additional costs associated with buying a home, such as removal firms, estate agent fees and surveyors. It’s important to consider these costs in advance and save little and often.

first time buyer top 8 tips

3. Take time to talk

Parents – as the ‘bank of mum and dad’ – are playing an increasingly important role helping many first-time buyers onto the property ladder, loaning on average £24,347, according to Post Office Money. But of the one in six first-time buyers funding their home purchase from a parental loan, 87% have no proper agreement in place, its research also found.

Therefore, it’s important everyone involved is clear about the nature of their agreement, so that everyone’s expectations are aligned. This includes making it clear whether the money is a gift or a loan that needs to be paid back. Post Office Money has a ‘bank of mum and dad conversation guide’, which could help with such conversations. (postoffice.co.uk/dam/jcr:93ea6a47-6444-4ac8-8a22-c091054a3541/Mortgages-Advice-Doc.pdf)

4. Calculate how much you can afford to borrow

Once your savings pot is up and running, consider using an online affordability calculator to get an idea of how much you’ll be able to borrow based on your income and outgoings. Although this should be used as a guide, the information will help you focus on properties that are within your price range.

first time buyer top 8 tips

5. Know the (credit) score

Before getting a mortgage, you will be credit checked, so now’s the time to check your own credit report and ensure all the information it contains is accurate and up-to-date. A good credit score can be the deciding factor in not only getting approved for a mortgage, but also the rate you are offered. Plan now to start paying down any outstanding debt, be sure not to miss any agreed payments on utility bills or mobile phone bills, and try to make more than the minimum repayment in the six months before your mortgage application.

6. Find the right mortgage for you

There are lots of mortgages out there aimed specifically at first-time buyers, including some very innovative deals.

first time buyer top 8 tips

7. Research affordability hotspots

You may have your heart set on a popular area – but so will many other buyers.

On average, new buyers will end up moving 5.2 miles away from where they originally intended. Consider widening the net to make your budget go further, so you can buy more bricks and mortar for your money. You could try searching in up-and-coming areas, which may become future property hotspots, rather than places where property prices have already increased by a lot.

8. Know the local rate of sale

On average, it takes 102 days for a property to sell in the UK. Understanding the rate at which property sells in the area you’re looking to buy in can potentially help when making buying decisions.

If you are starting your home buying journey and would like local, financial or property advice please pop in to your closest office for a cup of tea and a chat with our team, they will be delighted to give you all the help you need.
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Preview Exquisite Property For Sale Soon

We will be showcasing this exceptional property on the open market soon, but for now some of the feature photographs are shown in this post.

This magnificent country house provides around 8,500 sq. ft. of splendid living space, designed to deliver exceptional standards of quality and style.

Vast reception hall
The vast reception hall

Built entirely out of Bath stone with stone mouldings, sash windows and Romanesque columns, it is clear that when first built every effort was made to choose precisely the right materials befitting this home.

The breathtaking reception hall sets the scene for exploring around 8,500 sq. ft. of superb space and the hall is representative of the quality found throughout this wonderful property. There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

property swimming pool
beautiful grounds

Set in grounds of around 11.5 acres and brushing shoulders with beautiful countryside including the renowned Finchampstead Ridges. Within the park like grounds there is light woodland, landscaped gardens, paddocks and excellent equestrian facilities including a superb stable yard and adjacent sand school.

property equestrian facilities
luxury property in Berkshire

The property is well positioned within its grounds to maximise the southerly aspect, with superb views over the grounds. Vast patios  lead to the external swimming pool, nestling within superb landscaped gardens. Nearby there are extensive areas of unspoilt countryside including Finchampstead Ridges and the National Trust heath and woodland, noted for its fine walks and rides.

Clive Christian kitchen
Clive Christian Kitchen

There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

staff quarters living room
high specification staff quarters

There is a superb guest suite / staff quarters comprising living / dining kitchen area, a fine bedroom with luxury en-suite. There is also a gym/bedroom seven with and en-suite and there is an entertainments room.

photo wellington college
nearby Wellington College

Located about 5 miles to the south west of the charming market town of Wokingham there is excellent schooling in the area including Wellington College which is about a mile distant.

Telephone 01252 842100 for further details.

Luxury Property Rental Preview

photo period property

This property preview is showcasing a beautiful country house, which is due to the market soon with an anticipated guide range of £7,500 to £8,500 p.c.m.

The property is a significant freehold steeped in history dating to the 15th century. Formerly the Manor House of Great Bramshill Manor, the house began as a timber framed hall in the late medieval period and it was progressively extended and developed through to the 19th century.

The result is a substantial Grade 11* listed country house of several periods, culminating in extensive refurbishment and development between 1990 and today by the current owners; resulting in a rare achievement where historic character and subtle contemporary fuse perfectly.

photo property farmhouse kitchen
farmhouse luxury kitchen

There are many notable historic architectural features including three massive Tudor chimney stacks, each with three separated diagonal flues on a rectangular base.

Inside the house there still exists magnificent Tudor brick fireplaces with four entered arches and the original 15th century winding staircase has been preserved.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn

Immediately outside there is a magnificent Grade 11 listed banqueting barn dating to the 17th century, formed of six timber frame bays, with gabled projecting porch. Leading off of this barn there is a wonderful gym space with shower.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn
photo property banqueting barn
gymnasium

Within the grounds of around 3.3 acres the formal gardens and entertaining areas are of special note, featuring a heated swimming pool and a tennis court.

photo property swimming pool
swimming pool
photo property swimming pool
swimming pool with entertainments barn in background
photo property tennis court
tennis court

For further details about this property, telephone Jacy Barwick on 01252 842100 or visit our residential letting agents and property management experts

5 Winning Behaviours Students Need for Academic Success

Getting good grades isn't just about intelligence, it's about using crucial study approaches. Two education experts tell Lisa Salmon more.

tips for academic success

With the festive season over, it’s time for many young people to focus their minds on more serious pursuits, like studying and exams.

By the time students are old enough to take national exams, they tend to study using ingrained habits, believing they know what works for them. But just because the way you study has worked (at least to some extent) in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily work again, warn education experts and authors Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin.

The pair, who have both been sixth-form teachers, have learned that past success doesn’t correlate with future success, and achievement isn’t just about superior ability, but about sticking to habits, routines and strategies that deliver results.

So after speaking to thousands of students about how they study and what they do every day or week that makes a difference, Oakes and Griffin have written The Student Mindset (Crown House Publishing, £9.99) to identify the key traits and behaviours all students need to achieve their goals.

tips for academic success

“We work the way we work because that’s how we’ve always done it,” says Oakes. “Even when results at a new level of study suggest our approaches are no longer effective, we persist, doing more of the same, pedalling harder and hoping.

“In many cases, students eventually give up, concluding they’re not intellectually capable of study at a more challenging level. But they’re often wrong. It’s the non-cognitive elements of study that defeat them – the new habits, routines and approaches they’ll need. New levels of study demand new tactics and strategies.”

And Griffin points out that while there’s been plenty of debate around how much academic performance is predicted by inherited intelligence, it’s actually the non-cognitive element of study – habits, systems and behaviours – that students can change as they grow.

“Rather than debating precisely what proportion of our success is due to genetic predisposition, we should instead be supporting students in changing the ways they work as the programme of study demands change. This way, we prepare them more effectively for an uncertain future,” he explains.

Griffin and Oakes say the five key traits and behaviours needed for academic success at any level are: Vision; Effort; Systems; Practice and Attitude (VESPA).

tips for academic success

1. Vision

The authors say determined and successful students know why they’re going through the struggle of demanding study, and have strengthened their ability to defer gratification because they have a goal in mind which pulls them forward.

“We’ve seen the impact a magnetic goal can have on learners,” says Griffin. “But goal setting needs to adjust as students grow. It isn’t just a case of plucking potential grades from the air and hoping for the best – high-vision students are increasingly aware of who they are and what they stand for, and this growing self-awareness allows them to create a compelling vision of what success looks like, and what the future holds for them.”

So, for example, they don’t just focus on wanting to be a doctor, they know why, such as believing equal access to healthcare is crucial.

“This way, they can persist for longer and stay positive during difficult times,” explains Griffin.

2. Effort

The authors stress successful students equate their academic success with hard work.

“Putting effort into study isn’t a symptom of weakness for these people. They’ve surrounded themselves with peers who feel the same and are exacting in their standards and expectations of themselves,” stresses Oakes.

As students begin working at a higher level, the successful ones incorporate – subconsciously in some cases – ideas about everyday signals (or leading indicators) telling them how much effort they’re putting in.

Plus, they “snack on learning rather than binge”, so they might read a chapter of a textbook per week, summarise their notes in four half-hour sittings, write an essay in stages, or review their understanding by testing themselves on a topic.

“In short, they actively set themselves work,” says Oakes. “This switch from the passive completion of directed tasks, to the active sequencing of independent study sessions that work as leading indicators – a crucial part of unlocking higher levels of effort.”

tips for academic success

3. Systems

Successful students have developed systems that allow them to organise time and resources, say Griffin and Oakes, so they have neat files and folders, complete with handouts methodically arranged, so they can make connections between useful materials and therefore learn faster. They prioritise according to need and impact, and meet deadlines.

4. Practice

Successful students work on their weaknesses, spending uncomfortable study time operating at the edge of their ability, isolating the things they can’t do and fixing them. They complete extra work for handing in, done under timed conditions, and then pay close attention to feedback.

Oakes says many students hit crisis point when revision strategies used successfully in the past suddenly seem useless, as once information is fully absorbed, it then has to be used to analyse unfamiliar data, solve a problem or construct an essay argument.

“For students loyal to memorising information, this can be a shock,” says Oakes. “High practice students learn to adjust the way they revise, mastering the content as the course goes on so the bulk of their preparation involves high stakes exam-style problem solving. They are calmer and better prepared as a result.”

tips for academic success

5. Attitude

Successful students know two things that unsuccessful ones don’t: Failure is an important part of success, and learning is composed of a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.

Mastery happens slowly through deliberate effort and application. Griffin explains: “All students face ‘the dip’ – when progress halts and backslides. It might have happened before, but what works at one level – reconnecting with our successes, reminding ourselves of our positive qualities, comfort eating and watching a bit of TV – might need adjustment as challenges arise more frequently.”

High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough, such as a strong support network they regularly rely on, because they don’t equate asking for help with intellectual inferiority.

“And they have techniques for handling stress,” says Griffin. “They know exams are not a test of their self-worth.”

tips for academic success

8 Key Money Moments to be Prepared for in 2019

It pays to be prepared - or at least means you'll be a little more in control of your money. Vicky Shaw reports on this year's financial forecast.

2019 money financial predictions

As with any year, 2019 is bound to bring some unexpected surprises. But, looking ahead, there are some money moments you may be able to prepare for – even if some are more certain than others.

“Uncertainty and change are a part of life, and we’ll be better placed to ride these waves if we’re prepared for whatever may come next,” says Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva. “We will all benefit from a couple of hours to prepare our finances for whatever 2019 may bring.”

So what can you do to help get prepared? Here, McQueen highlights some of the key 2019 money moments to get ready for…

2019 money financial predictions

1. Get ready for the rising state pension age

In 2018, the state pension age for men and women was equalised, at 65. Men and women will now experience a state pension age rising in tandem. The state pension continues to represent most peoples’ biggest source of income in retirement. So, in 2019, it could be a good idea to request a free state pension forecast from the government to understand when you will be entitled to yours, and how much you may receive (gov.uk/check-state-pension).

2. Get ready for a longer working life

Last year saw the number of people in work over the age of 50 reach a record 10 million. As our life expectancy rises, we can expect this trend to continue. Aviva expects one in three workers in the UK will be over the age of 50 in the next decade. So, looking ahead, it may be worth starting to re-frame your expectations towards a longer working life. Aviva is launching a new service called the ‘mid-life-MOT’, to help our people prepare for this longer working life.

2019 money financial predictions

3. Get ready for an increase in pension payments

Employers have duties to provide a workplace pension. Since 2012, this new system – called automatic enrolment – has introduced nearly 10 million new savers across the UK to pensions. It’s been a great success. In April 2019, the minimum pension payment will increase from 5% of your earnings to 8% of your earnings. At least 3% of this 8% must come from your employer. A workplace pension can be a valuable way of saving for later life. So, in 2019 think about preparing for this increase in payments. For your future, it will pay to save.

4. Get ready for potential further interest rate increases

After a near decade of record low interest rates, 2018 saw the Bank of England increase its base rate to 0.75%. Many commentators expect 2019 could see further small increases in the base rate, in a bid to ease rising price pressures. This would be good news for savers, but not so good for the millions of borrowers holding short-term loans and mortgages. So, in 2019, it would be a good idea to shop around for the best saving and borrowing rates. A small change could make a big difference.

2019 money financial predictions

5. Get ready for more people taking up pension freedoms

The new pension freedoms for over-55s have proven to be hugely popular. More than £20 billion has been withdrawn from private pensions in new flexible payments. If you’re over 50 and considering your options, it would be a good idea to consult the government’s free Pension Wise service for guidance (pensionwise.gov.uk).

6. Get ready for more ways to manage your money online

Many of us regularly go online to send emails, do a spot of shopping or catch up on social media. But using the internet to manage pensions and investments continues to be an afterthought for many. Most pension and investment providers now offer free online services to help you manage your money. So, in 2019, consider taking advantage of these services so you can make the most of your money, whenever and wherever you want.

2019 money financial predictions

7. Get ready for the new face of the Bank of England £50 note

The new face on this new note will be announced in summer 2019 – and the Bank has stated that it will be someone who has contributed to science.

8. Get ready for the long game

2019 looks set to be a time of volatility and change. At times like these, it is helpful to remember that investments are typically designed to navigate at least a five-year horizon, or even up to 40 years if it’s our investment in our retirement. So, in 2019 it would be a good idea to remember those longer-term goals.

2019 money financial predictions

Six fabulous flat-pack furniture brands that aren’t Ikea.

IKEA might rule the roost when it comes to home shopping - but it's not the only brand acing stylish, easy-assemble kit. By Luke Rix-Standing.

Now, we’re not knocking IKEA. Let’s face it, there’s good reason the brand is such a phenomenal success – it’s extremely difficult to compete with IKEA.

The Google of the DIY dish rack, the Microsoft of the flat-packed wardrobe, the Swedish company has now been the world’s largest furniture retailer for over a decade, and has a hold of its market like a pro wrestler waiting for the count.

But it’s not the only flat-pack retailer in life’s megastore – particularly if you’re seeking something a little more distinct, without the inflated prices of upmarket outlets.

Curious? These six brands all have something notable to offer in the flat-pack stakes, most of it delivered direct to your door. Expect Scandinavia to still feature heavily, however – you can get away from IKEA, but there’s almost no escaping the mass-produced quality of Scandi style…

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

1. Hem (hem.com)

It shouldn’t be surprising that Sweden claims the world’s most popular furniture brand, because the country is full of companies supplying the demand for modern, self-assembled furniture.

Stockholm-based Hem perfectly straddles the divide between IKEA’s giant assembly line and high-end high street. Its range is not as large as IKEA’s (of course), and it’s a bit costlier (full-size dining tables start at around £980), but the quality and styling is top-notch.

Products mostly come from the classic Scandi school of of minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired design, while many items claim to have assembly times of under a minute (not including the time needed to take things out of the box, of course!). Their catalogue contains a nice array of lamps, stools and ottomans, but the headline acts are in their sofa collection.

Look out for their range of mix n’ match sofa units – the Palo and Kumo series (starting at around £1070) boast modular seating units which can be attached and reattached at will to fit whatever space or style is so desired. A four-man sofa can turn into a one-man lounge chair at the swish of a detachable strut.

Hem list their prices in Euros, but ship from inventories across Europe and the US.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

2. String (string.se)

Even among Swedish flat-pack furniture companies, String stands out. Its products have been legally classified as ‘applied art’. None of them come with particularly prescriptive instruction manuals, and its flagship item turns 70 years old this year. On top of that, String only stocks shelves.

String shelves are sold in modular units, attached to the wall by simple, screw-in brackets, which can be assembled in any pattern, depth or colour to suit buyers’ space, need or taste. Different units can be added and taken away as you please, or customised with hooks, racks, drawers, cabinet units, and even a foldout table.

String shelving is also stocked by a number of different brands in stores across the UK. Prices vary but the standard String unit tends to start at around £42.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

3. Normann Copenhagen (normann-copenhagen.com/en)

Yep, we are still in Scandinavia (last one, we promise), but this little Danish gem ships all round the world and lists products on its website in pounds sterling. Design guru Hans Hornemann set out his stall to combine the flat-packed with the high end, aiming squarely at style-conscious city-dwellers with limited space.

In his own words: “I wanted to change the flat-pack concept and give it another meaning. A reasonably priced piece of furniture that you can fall in love with and bring home straight away.”

Check out the Ace Collection of chairs, stools and sofas, sensuously curved pieces contoured with high-comfort foam that looks anything but self-assembled. It’s aimed at the luxury market, but fine design and gorgeous upholstery means a piece can easily be a long-term investment.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

4. Habitat (habitat.co.uk)

This UK interiors giant has an historic right to be on this list. IKEA may have sent flat-packed furniture into the stratosphere, but it was Habitat that gave the emerging market life.

Known as “knock-down” furniture, Habitat were flogging self-assembly, read-the-manual products back in the mid-1960s, and kick-started the flat-pack revolution that dominated the industry in the early-Seventies.

They’re still at it today, with a range of flat-packed items that stretches across their extensive catalogue. At £150, the very reasonably priced Cato desk is easy to assemble and wrought in a familiar minimalist style.

The shelving collection is well worth a gander too – the Hopkins Bookcase (£495-£695) forms a hypnotic sea of squares and rectangles, and at 198cm high is almost certainly taller than you are.

A shout out, too, to their Spencer sofa range, available in delightfully attractive array of colours. Simply affix the legs, and recline to your hearts content.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

5. Ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk)

OK – so it’s not furniture, but Ilke Homes deserves a place on our list. Perhaps the final stage of the flat-pack evolution, this Yorkshire-based maker of ‘modular’ homes is about as off the wall as can be.

Instead of offering websites and warehouses for easy-assembly storage and seating, the company digitally designs entire homes room by room – including walls, floors and windows – before surgically constructing them on a factory floor. The rooms are then driven to their allotted location by a fleet of lorries, and constructed on site in as little as a day.

Though you don’t have to do the assembly yourself (thank heavens), this is macro flat-packing at its logical conclusion. A two to three bedroom unit costs from around £69,000-79,000 (although, of course, there will be other costs to consider, and you need the land to put your flat-pack house on).

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

6. ScS (scs.co.uk)

Don’t be fooled by the name – the Sofa Carpet Specialists have more strings to their bow than just soft furnishings. They also stock a range of flat-pack furniture, often competitively priced too.

For flat-pack enthusiasts, tables are the order of the day here. With an extending table and four cream-coloured chairs, the Cruz 1.25m Extending Dining Table & Four Button Back Chairs (currently reduced to £739 from £849) is their flagship item.

But our favourite is the Julius Nest of Tables (currently reduced to £59 from £109) – a three-piece set with two smaller tables that can be stored snugly beneath the largest. The Russian doll of side tables, it’s perfect for those low on space.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

Luxury Lodges And A Conservation Success Story

Make Namibia The Hottest Safari Destination Right Now

Travel Nambia Photo

Best known for its dramatic landscapes, the southern African country is now attracting visitors with its wildlife, says Sarah Marshall Press Association.

An eruption of feathers rudely awakens the day, sending billowing clouds of rusty, sun-singed dust into the dawn sky. Wings beating frantically in a syncopated rhythm, large flocks of quelea birds shift and shape, creating a strobe effect which is both dazzling and disorientating to any potential predators.

When distances are vast and environments extreme, safety in numbers makes sense.

In Namibia, a sparsely populated, semi-arid expanse with landscapes of cinematic proportions, life seems that little bit larger than anywhere else. Lone oryx are dwarfed by sculpted dunes the colour of cayenne pepper, and the Atlantic-lashed coastline is smudged away by an overpowering, clogging fog.

Dramatic scenery has always been this southern African country’s USP, but now its rich and varied wildlife is getting some airtime too. Historically, most land was used for farming, putting pressure on wildlife by cutting off vital corridors; wide-roaming cheetah, for example, were hit particularly hard.

But following the declaration of Namibia’s independence in 1990, nearly three-quarters of the country is now managed by community conservancies and an increasing number of private landowners are shifting to tourism.

One of last year’s big profile openings was Omaanda Lodge, a first foray into safari by Belgian-born hotelier Arnaud Zannier. An hour’s drive from Nambia’s international entry point Windhoek, the fenced 9,000-hectare private Zannier Reserve neighbours Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, run by conservationists Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren. The charity’s latest project, the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary, was set up by the couple’s friend Angelina Jolie to care for orphaned elephants and rhinos. When the Hollywood actress became aware that adjacent farmland was for sale, she urged the Zannier family to get involved.

A luxurious lodge of 10 hand-thatched, adobe-walled huts is now a vital part of the Naankuse story, with the reserve providing a stepping stone into the wild for rehabilitated animals. But the mountain-fringed savanna also has its permanent residents, who I meet on an afternoon game drive.

Travel Nambia Photo

Passing a mob of meerkats, who spring from their burrows like a jack-in-the-box, we go in search of “blankets” – the code name used for rhino. Emerging from a camouflage of silver-grey camphor bushes, two pregnant white rhino females make their way to a man-made watering hole.

“One more and we wouldn’t allow you to post that on Instagram,” informs my guide, Jonas, referring to the dangers of geotagging one of Africa’s most endangered animals. The cost of 24-hour security runs into thousands of dollars per month, he tells me, which explains why financial support from the private sector is of growing importance to Namibia’s anti-poaching efforts.

Another company with conservation at its heart, who are also investing heavily in Namibia, is Natural Selection. I visit two of their newest management acquisitions in Etosha Heights, a former hunting concession on the southwest border of Etosha National Park, a sprawling game reserve in the northwest, equal in size to Israel.

Built 10 years ago, Etosha Mountain Lodge is a collection of seven wood-panelled villas hugging a hilltop, with 180-degree views begging to be photographed at every hour of the day. More modern, the revamped 11-chalet Safarihoek features a convivial open-air bar and dining area, with equally splendid panoramas of the plains. Both operate game drives in the 60,000-hectare reserve, and with rates starting from around £200 per night, they offer one of the best value safaris in Africa.

The immediately surrounding acacia scrubland is streaked with brilliant-white calcium carbonate trails and glinting dolomite rocks; it soon leads to grasslands baked blonde by the sun, which beam brightly even on overcast days.

Not far from our early morning explosion of quelea birds, two bat-eared foxes appear from their den, bathed in a buttercup light. We watch them guard their young fervently, chasing off an opportunistic jackal who dares to come too close.

Travel Nambia Photo

Around us, shepherd’s trees sag with gargantuan sociable weaver nests, which tug at their twiggy crooks and laden the boughs like a leaden toupee; while at our feet, frenetic ground squirrels ricochet like pinballs, calling game over by disappearing into their holes.

No branch or burrow goes to waste; everyone has learned to make use of available resources.

Although fenced to prevent the potential transmission of diseases, there are pockets along the reserve’s 70km border with Etosha, where animals can easily break through. There’s even talk of creating direct access to the park sometime in the future, cutting down the current journey time of 90-minutes each way to the nearest official gate. Although Namibian red tape can be thicker than most.

Besides, there’s enough game in this private area to keep guests amused, minus the self-drive crowds leap-frogging between Etosha’s water holes and with the bonus of being able to drive off-road.

Travel Nambia Photo

Testing the strength of our 4×4’s tyres, we tussle with dense, thorny acacia bushes to catch glimpses of black rhinos, and we spend hours in the company of laid-back elephants as they shower themselves with dust.

Cats are also pussy-footing around the reserve, scoping out a potential new home. During my stay, a lone male lion makes a kill outside Safarihoek’s photographic hide, his conspicuous drag marks leading us to his lair beneath a bush.

Travel Nambia Photo

But his snarling behaviour in defence of his hard-earned prey is a reminder that the transition from a hunting lodge to safari camp cannot happen overnight.

That’s especially the case with antelopes, who were the main quarry for hunters. Stocked in large numbers for that very purpose, they still have a dominant presence, but, understandably, many are on high alert.

Sitting still in silence, we watch a herd of muscular eland saunter over the horizon, their hulking, boxy shoulders broader than a team of an NFL American football players. Numbering more than 50, it’s a formidable sight.

Once alerted to our presence, however, they vanish in a storm of dust, hooves thundering louder than a cavalry bidding retreat.

“Trust takes time,” my guide, Matthias, assures me. And in a world fraught with dangers, you need be careful about who you trust.

It’s a survival instinct that keeps Namibia’s wildlife wild.


How to get there

Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk) offer a private self-drive 13 days/10 nights Highlights of Namibia tour from £5,365pp (two sharing), staying at Omaanda Lodge, Etosha Heights Safarihoek Lodge and Etosha Heights Lodge. Price includes international flights from London, car hire, the services of a private guide and some meals.

Travel Nambia Photo

Pantone Colour Of The Year 15 Ways To Add A Splash Of Coral At Home

wisteria trees wall paper

With Living Coral set to make make waves across decor trends throughout 2019, Sam Wylie-Harris reveals the sunny-hued finds to shop now.

If you’re hankering after some winter sun and desperate to get your glow on without having to leave home, Pantone’s new Colour of the Year – Living Coral – could be the next best thing to basking in some natural warmth.

A gorgeously rich coral hue with a golden undertone, we can’t think of a better way to welcome in 2019 than by brightening up the home with this happy, sunny shade.

Every year, design company Pantone look at the latest trends influencing our lives, before revealing the shade taking top spot. The colour experts cite Living Coral as a release from digital technology and social media, and a nod of recognition towards our increasing concern over environmental issues, the energising aspects of colour found in nature, and our desire for playful expression. All sounds good to us.

To celebrate everything coral without having to be ‘sur la plage’, we’ve rounded up the latest must-have decos and homewares inspired by 2019’s hottest shade…

Monkey Table Lamp
MW by Matthew Williamson Monkey Resin Table Light, £85, Debenhams (available late February). Attention-seeking and showy, if you can't resist a little bit of monkey business and thoughts of far-flung places, this designer lampshade will steal the spotlight very nicely.
wisteria trees wall paper
Wisteria in Coral Floral Wallpaper, £120 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia (sofa and floor lamp, stylist's own) Woody wisteria trees may charm us with their violet flowers, but why settle for the usual purple petals when you can adorn the walls in climbing coral?
Seafern Wallpaper
Cole & Son Seafern Wallpaper - Coral 107/2011, £85 per roll, John Lewis Or for something closer to the real deal, this classic design inspired by botanical prints from the late 1700s delves beneath the sea to illustrate living species of coral (although more allusive), such as Staghorn and Ivory Tree.
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion, £46, Audenza To evoke memories of tropical holidays and palm-fringed beaches, this luxe velvet cushion with its gold palm tree motif has a timeless allure
Unity Cane Wall Mirror
Unity Cane Wall Mirror, currently reduced to £95 from £145, Oliver Bonas To mirror our fascination with tribal art, this brass frame has been wrapped in woven red raffia inspired by West African celebratory masks. To make a real statement, hang one either side of a dresser or wide chest of drawers.
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade, £125, Graham & Green An attractive objet d'art you'd expect to see in a swank retreat by the sea, the exotic coral base and pristine white shade channels beauty while also being functional. Style it with some collectible seashells for maximum impact.
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen - Coral Ombre, from £19-£125, Lambswool Throw - Coral Ombre, £150, Clarissa Hulse Rise and shine... Nothing spells sassy like a burst of burnt orange, dazzling coral and a splash of lemony yellow in a bright sunrise, ombre effect. Enriched with fabulous feather fern motifs and styled with a luxurious, fringed throw, these sateen sheets are a wake-up call to wonderfulness.
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase, £15, Debenhams (available late February) This bowl-shaped vase adds a fresh dimension to the colour by picking up the golden accents and adding interest with some conch pearly pink and a wash of pebble stone grey.
Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal
Oiva Toikka Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal, £282 (130 x 200mm), iittala A flight of fancy - but if you don't have to penny-pinch, this striking songbird makes a lasting impression. According to mythology, cardinals are spiritual messengers and a sighting brings good fortune, making this a deco 'defo' worth the outlay

Latest Property Event Kick Starts 2019

Whilst it is undoubtedly too early to comment on the market for 2019, at McCarthy Holden we felt it was worth letting you know that the usual seasonal spike in online activity in the run up to New year followed that of previous years.

Based at our Fleet Estate Agents branch, Associate Director Ben Murphy witnessed the success of our Boxing Day Live, with 18 new properties entering the market for sale and a further 9 properties all reduced in price.

According to data from Rightmove.co.uk, 25,147,701 properties were viewed on Boxing Day alone with activity still strong leading up to New Years Day.

“During the Christmas / New Year period we opened our doors for trading and secured 18 viewings, 5 valuations and two instructions.

Off-street activity was also high with new buyers registering looking for property. Not a bad result in 12 hours work” Comments Ben Murphy.

“Opening our door again yesterday saw activity at a good level, with this weekend filling up with viewings on a wide range of property. “

“Clients tend to think marketing before Spring is wrong but there are some fantastic advantages to marketing before the daffodils blossom. This is because there is usually less competition and therefore clients can hope to achieve a good price for their property. Furthermore, people tend to spend more time at home over the Christmas/winter period and begin to feel their home may be too small/too big and look into moving.”

So, if you are considering a move this year, now is a great time to get ahead of the competition by calling one of our property experts for free, no obligation, advice on how is best to market your home.
Contact one of our branches:
Estate agents in Fleet
Estate agents in Hartley Wintney
Estate agents in Odiham

Ben Murphy photo
Ben Murphy - Associate Director

Showcasing New Build Homes For 2019

Family moving to new home

New homes from around £400,000 to £1.85m.

For 2019 we are pleased to showcase a wonderful selection of new homes from some of the finest builders and developers. With sites in Hampshire locations from Eversley, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Winchfield and The Blue Triangle in Fleet, and prices from around 400,000 to £1.75m., there is an exceptional level of choice for that perfect new home in 2019.

Chantreyland, Eversley by Aspire

A truly exceptional small select development of fine character homes by Aspire, offering exquisite contemporary and high specification interior finish and exterior architectural character.

Plot one kitchen at Chantreyland Eversley

This is a wonderful opportunity to live in a sought-after, semi-rural location but with the benefit of great commuter links and access to nearby major towns such as Reading and Wokingham. There are six distinctive and individual homes to chose from and they will be available for viewing in early 2019.

site layout Chantreyland Eversley new homes

Guide: Prices estimated from £400,000 to £1,250,000. Please telephone 01252 842100 to register your interest.

Hook, Hampshire by T A Fisher

T A Fisher is a family business which goes back to 1895, and in early 2019 they will create this new development of just 5 new build homes and a separate scheme of quality apartments, both located in the village of Hook, Hampshire.

Site layout of new homes by T A Fisher
A T A Fisher kitchen

As with all T A Fisher homes this development will feature high quality internal and external finishes. Please telephone 01252 842100 to register your interest.

The Blue Triangle, Fleet by Rio Homes

A prestigious NEW BUILD home by local builder Rio Homes, providing around 4,220 sq.ft. of luxury space and situated in the sought after Blue Triangle area of Fleet.

Property sale agreed in Fleet by McCarthy Holden

An opportunity to purchase the land as a building plot with approved planning permission for a brand new prestigious family home (plot only guide £750,000), or commission Rio Homes to complete the project (new build complete guide £1.85m.).

The planning consent shows an open plan kitchen/breakfast/family room, a drawing room, family/dining room, study, utility room and two cloakrooms to the ground floor. On the first floor, a galleried landing leading to four of the bedrooms (all with en-suite facilities) and on the second floor there is bedroom 5 (with en-suite facilities), games room, laundry room and a plant room. The property will be approached via a gated entrance and a triple garage with bonus room above. Telephone 01252 620640

Hartley Wintney / Winchfield, by Kirkby Homes

Kirkby Homes are building three distinctive developments in and around Hartley Wintney in 2019, featuring fine individual homes with stunning high specification space incorporating quality fittings with a traditional build. This is a fantastic opportunity to live in a sought-after locations on the fringe of Hartley Wintney village, with the added benefit of great commuter links.

new home kitchen by Kirkby Homes

Winchfield View (below) – With beautiful homes from around £500,0000 to £1.75m. Telephone 01252 842100.

New luxury house by Kirkby Homes

Shapley Grange (below)– A prime site in Hartley Wintney, Prices estimated around £500,000 to £1.1m. Telephone 01252 842100.

Illustration of a Kirkby new home in Hartley Wintney

Winchfield Lodge (below)– A period property refurbishment on a truly grand scale. £850,000 to £1.25m. Telephone 01252 842100.

House renovation by Kirkby Homes
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