How to Make your Home an Instagram Hit in 6 Simple Steps

Restoring Landsdowne's Kristine Hall shares her styling secrets for 'decor-gramming' success.

If you love your home, you want to show it off – which these days, of course, means posting fab shots on Instagram.

Some of us are apparently so keen to win those likes that we’ll even cheat with ‘fake’ posts! In a survey for the Ideal Home Show, one in six people confessed to having posted an image of someone else’s home and pretended it was theirs. Plus, 18% of the 18-24-year-olds quizzed said they wouldn’t buy a house if they didn’t think it would impress on social media.

That might be taking the trend to extremes, but who doesn’t want Insta-worthy interiors?

Interior designer Kristine Hall, who set up her design and styling company after documenting her own decor project, Restoring Landsdowne (restoringlansdowne.com), knows all about making a space an Insta-hit. Hall’s calm, pared-back Scandi-inspired style is a favourite with decor-grammers (at current count, she has over 44k followers).

Want to steal her secrets? Here, Hall, who will giving advice at the Ideal Home show, shares six simple steps for conjuring an utterly Instagrammable home. Let the posting and boasting begin…

Instagram your home

1. Create a feature with paint

“Paint is the easiest and most affordable way to refresh a space and give it the wow factor,” says Hall. “Go a step further and use it to define an area, an architectural feature, or create character in an otherwise bland room.

“Painted half-walls are bang on trend, but you can also add drama by painting your window frames black (bonus – it makes greenery outside really pop). Alternatively, define a ‘headboard’ shape in paint on the wall behind a bed. Anything goes, and this is big on impact and low on commitment.”

INSTA TIP: Look out for lozenges – the shape, not the sore throat remedy, says Hall. This pill-like form is popping up in all things interiors, from tables and mirrors, to dinnerware and lamps.

Instagram your home

2. Show your bed some love

“Treat your bed the way you treat your wardrobe: Buy separates that coordinate and mix them up,” advises Hall.

“Avoid a ‘matchy-matchy’ look by choosing bed linens in different shades, which complement each other and your room. Mix block colours with contemporary Scandi prints, cottons with velvet or chic wrinkly linens, and add texture with chunky throws and cushions.

“If you think it’s hard to get out of bed now, just wait until you’ve finished piling on those lush layers.”

INSTA TIP: Take it nude! Ultra-fashionable grey has had its (very long) moment in the Insta-spotlight, Hall declares, and colours are moving in a warmer direction. Earthy neutrals, like sand, oatmeal, jute and tan, are the way to go.

Instagram your home

3. Mix old with new

If you’re thinking of redecorating, don’t go overboard and make the mistake of simply adopting a whole style straight from one retailer, warns Hall.

“You don’t want your home to look like it was dragged-and-dropped direct

from a furniture showroom (no matter how lush the showroom in question might be),” says Hall.

“Instead,” she adds, “make the most of what you already have, and elevate the look with a few pieces that are more of-the-moment, so it retains your personality.

“That doesn’t mean holding on to a past-its-sell-by-date flat-pack bookcase or hated heirloom. Bring in new pieces by all means, but before you do, think creatively about what you already own that could be re-purposed, re-positioned, repainted, or recovered. Bear in mind that previously unpopular ‘brown’ furniture is truly enjoying a revival.”

INSTA-TIP: There are so many trends on Instagram and Pinterest, it’s easy to get carried away and constantly want the ‘latest’ look. “It can be more successful to make regular small purchases,” says Hall, “so you just reflect a new look in a small detail or colour and retain your core design ethos.”

Instagram your home

4. Banish bare walls

“A sure-fire way of making a room uninspiring is to plonk one lonely little picture on the wall and call it a day,” says Hall. “But the good news is, it’s easier than ever to find original or limited-edition art at affordable prices.

“You can find unique prints at online suppliers that won’t break the bank, or head to local art fairs, makers’ market or student art shows to bag wall decor that will set your Instagram feed apart.

“Don’t be narrow about your interpretation of art, as it doesn’t end at works on paper or canvas,” she adds. “Think contemporary textiles, wood crafts, self-adhesive murals and more. The possibilities for jazzing up an empty wall space are endless.”

INSTA TIP: Every room should have a focal point, says Hall, whether that’s a special feature or piece of furniture or art work that is really ‘wow’. Style your room around that.

Instagram your home

5. Make it yours

“Its really important to have something unique in every room, that not everyone else can go out and buy – a star piece,” says Hall.

“It can be vintage, bespoke, something up-cycled – but it must be something that gives your home personality. I think a really important thing on Instagram is that people should be able to look at an image of yours, and know immediately that it’s yours.

“That can be difficult because there’s a lot of trends, and for months you can find everyone has the same print or chair, but finding those really special pieces is a good way of ensuring your home has its own special ‘stamp’ and identity.”

If you can’t find what you want for a room, design your own, she suggests. It can be more affordable than you think, and local craftsmen or artists or retailers may be prepared to bespoke a piece for you.

INSTA-TIP: Most people look at Instagram on their phones, so don’t try to cram too much into one shot. Use what’s called ‘negative space’ or try to narrow down the focus of the shot. A whole room can get lost in one image, so take several shots taken from different angles and close-ups of details. It’s about contrast between interesting things to look at, and giving items breathing space and allowing them to impress.

Instagram your home

6. Use natural light for winning shots

Lighting is super-important, stresses Hall. “I don’t use any artificial light in my images, and if it can be avoided, it should be. Natural daylight is always best.

“Of course, it depends a lot on individual properties and the kind of light you have at home, as well as your window treatments. But for me, bright sunshine makes it hard to take clear images. I always try to shoot on a bright but cloudy day.

“This is especially important if, like me, you only use your phone for photography. Having great images is probably 95% of what Instagram is about, and if they’re fuzzy, blurry or unclear, you won’t get the hits.”

INSTA-TIP: Don’t over-style – you don’t need to karate chop your cushions or iron creases into your curtains. Your home will be more enticing if it looks like just that – a place you love to be in – not a staged set piece.

The Ideal Home Show – the world’s longest running exhibition – runs at Olympia London until Sunday, April 7. For more information, see Idealhomeshow.co.uk

Make a Splash for Wildlife: Here’s how to Create your own Mini-Pond

As charities focus this year's Wild About Gardens challenge on ponds, this step-by-step guide will help you build your own pocket-sized pool.

create mini pond

Fancy a pond but don’t have much space? Now’s your chance to make waves with a mini-pond – which will not only look pretty, but will also attract beneficial insects and other wildlife to your plot.

Gardeners across the UK are being urged to encourage wildlife with water, as ponds form this year’s Wild About Gardens challenge, from The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS.

The UK has lost ponds, rivers and streams at a rapid rate, and only a small amount of our natural ponds and wetlands remain, the charities warn.

Helen Bostock, senior horticultural advisor at the RHS, observes: “Even cheap container ponds made from upcycled materials will quickly be colonised by a whole host of creatures, and help form a living chain of aquatic habitats across the neighbourhood.”

Here’s how to build a mini-pond yourself…

create mini pond

1. Choose your spot

Your mini-pond will need some sunlight, but not full sunlight all day. Make sure it’s in shade for some of the time. Light shade is fine and will reduce water loss. If you are thinking of placing it under a tree, a few fallen leaves aren’t a worry. However, heavy shade under a tree, together with lots of leaves blowing in, isn’t a good spot for a container pond.

A patio is ideal as it’s where you are likely to spend time watching all the wildlife come and go. But remember to add a wildlife ramp inside and out, and ideally cluster with other pots so amphibians such as frogs have a little cover while coming and going.

The best way to create shade is with another plant or two (they can be in pots), perhaps a Japanese maple or some tall grasses.

2. What type of container is best?

Be creative – is there anything you could upcycle, such as a washing-up bowl, wheelbarrow basin, sawn-off plastic dustbin, half barrel, rubber trug, large plant pot or sink?

You can easily recycle an old sink or bowl, but make sure it’s watertight. If you are using a garden container that has drainage holes in the bottom, use a piece of pond liner to cover the holes.

Unglazed terracotta containers may lose water through the sides very slowly, though quicker on hotter days. It depends on the quality of the terracotta. There will be a degree of water loss through evaporation, whatever the container.

Your pond will need a wide ‘neck’ so wildlife can get in and out. Other than that, the shape really doesn’t matter. Sink your pond or add a ramp for creatures to access.

create mini pond

3. Choose the right plants

Water forget-me-not and flowering rush are pretty. Other suitable specimens include waterlily (Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’), Lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula) and Starwort (Callitriche stagnalis).

Avoid anything that is too invasive or vigorous. Water soldier and sweet flag are unsuitable for small ponds.

4. Place your plants in baskets

Place aquatic plants in baskets lifted up to the correct level of the water by standing them on bricks, stones or other pots. Aquatic baskets are ideal as they allow plenty of water flow around the roots, although normal planting pots can work too.

Use aquatic compost, which can be bought from specialist aquatic nurseries. This is heavy (so plants won’t float away) but low in nutrients (so the water won’t turn green with algae).

create mini pond

5. Fill your mini-pond with rainwater

Install a water butt to collect rainwater with which to fill your pond, and continue to use this water to top up if levels drop. Check on levels a couple of times a week in hot weather and top up as needed.

But don’t panic – even if the levels drop to half way, most creatures will survive. If desperate, just use tap water, but this contains nutrients so it’s not a good idea to regularly top up with this.

You won’t need a pump in a mini-pond to stop the water stagnating. It may go a little green at first or before the plants fill out, but it will settle down.

6. Tackle weed problems

If you get blanket weed, remove it by hand or use a barley straw extract available from pond specialist companies. Water in a wildlife pond will usually settle into a balance without needing a lot of treatments.

For more information, download the Big or Small, Ponds for All booklet – a step-by-step guide to creating the perfect pond at Wild About Gardens (wildaboutgardens.org.uk).

create mini pond

Confused about Retirement Savings? 7 Popular Pension Myths Busted!

With the next phase of automatic enrolment starting from April, Alistair McQueen from Aviva separates facts from fiction.

The minimum amounts that can be put into workplace pensions will be stepped up from April, as UK savers are encouraged to put aside more for their retirement.

Under automatic enrolment rules, from April 6, the minimum that can be put in by employers and their staff will increase from 5% of qualifying earnings to 8%. Within the new 8% rate, at least 3% must be paid by the employer, with the remaining 5% made up by staff.

Automatic enrolment started in autumn 2012, amid concerns people were living for longer but not saving enough for their later years. “Automatic enrolment is approaching its seventh birthday. In its short life, it has already brought a quiet revolution to pensions in the UK,” says Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva.

Pensions are not always easy to understand, though, and there’s still a lot of confusion around them for lots of people. Do you feel unsure of the facts? Here, McQueen busts seven pensions myths…

busting pension myths

Myth 1: No one is saving into a pension

Automatic enrolment has introduced more than 10 million new savers to workplace pensions since 2012. There are now a total of 22 million people participating in workplace pensions in the UK.

Myth 2: Pensions are for old people

Contrary to popular perception, it is the under-30s who are leading the way. All ages have seen an increase in workplace pension participation since 2012, but the under-30s have seen the biggest increase – more than doubling from 35% saving to over 79% by 2018.

busting pension myths

Myth 3: The government will pay for all my retirement

It’s true that we can expect some money in retirement from the state, but this is currently up to a maximum of about £8,500 every year. Today, the majority of the typical retirees’ income in retirement is from sources beyond the state, such as private pensions and other savings.

Myth 4: I will receive my state pension from age 60 if I’m a woman, or 65 if I’m a man

These commonly referred to and long-standing ages were set decades ago, when we could generally expect a few short years in retirement. Since then, average life expectancy has greatly increased, and the age at which we are eligible for our state pension has been increasing, with women starting to qualify for their state pension at the same age as men.

The state pension age is set to keep rising too. The yourpension.gov.uk website can help you check your state pension age.

busting pension myths

Myth 5: I can’t retire until I reach my state pension age

We are free to retire whenever we want to. However, we can only really think about retiring when we feel we have saved enough money to meet our needs when we’re not working. New rules allow people to access private pensions from age 55 – but the state pension age is set by government.

As individuals, we have the freedom to choose our retirement age, but this brings with it a responsibility to ensure we can fund our lifestyle from that point onward. There are many free online resources to help make this decision – such as Aviva’s ‘My retirement planner’ (aviva.co.uk/retirement/tools/my-retirement-planner).

Myth 6: I’m the only one who is confused by pensions

Research suggests only a minority of us feel we really understand pensions. So, if you’re feeling a bit uncertain, you’re not alone. The great news is that more of us are saving for our future. And if you’re looking for a little nudge in the right direction, Aviva suggests three general rules of thumb that could help you be better prepared:

1. Save at least 12.5% of earnings towards your retirement. This can include money from your employer and the taxman.

2. If possible, start saving at least 40 years before your target retirement age.

3. Try to have built up at least 10 times your salary in your pension by the time you retire.

busting pension myths

Myth 7: Retirement is further away than ever

There’s still a collapse in workplace participation as we progress through our 50s. This represents a huge waste of talent, experience and potential. One of the strongest levers we can pull to help fund our lives in retirement is to work longer. Many employers are taking fresh steps to support a fuller working life, with the aim of ensuring that age is no barrier to opportunity.

How to make your Garden a Plastic-Free Zone

There are different materials and products out there to help you go plastic-free in the garden. Hannah Stephenson looks at 5 options.

So, you want to help stop the scourge of plastic by making your garden a plastic-free zone?

It’s estimated that 500 million plant pots and seed trays are sold each year, the majority of which are sent to landfill or incinerated.

Few garden centres offer take-back pot recycling or reuse schemes at present, although you can check at Recycle Now (recyclenow.com/local-recycling) to see if your council recycles plant pots, though these also tend to be few and far between.

plastic free garden

Plastic gardening products can take up to 450 years to biodegrade if they aren’t recycled, according to greenhouse manufacturer The Greenhouse People (greenhousepeople.co.uk), which has put together some top tips for going plastic-free:

plastic free garden

1. Seek alternatives

It may seem obvious, but the most effective way to reduce plastic in your garden is to simply stop buying it.

With demand growing, more garden centres are offering biodegradable pots made using materials such as coir (from coconut husks), wood chips, rice husks and seaweed. Terracotta also makes a great rustic alternative.

If you’re feeling extra resourceful, scoop out the insides of half a lemon and fill with soil, before scattering a small number of seeds. Once the seedlings sprout, you can transfer to a larger area. Lemon peel also acts as a natural fertiliser, making it a great multi-purpose alternative to plastic.

Use biodegradable jute netting to tie in peas and beans, rather than plastic netting, and wire mesh to create fruit caging to protect your harvest from birds.

plastic free garden

2. Try wooden seed trays

They will still get your seeds off to a flying start and are much more eco-friendly than plastic ones. You can also now buy bamboo seed trays which are biodegradable. You can even plant seeds such as broad beans and sweet peas in loo roll tubes.

plastic free garden

3. Make use of broken pots

One of the main benefits of plastic is that it’s durable and very unlikely to break. The same cannot be said for the more brittle terracotta and ceramic pots.

But don’t dispose of them if they break. Plant pot shards are easy to repurpose by placing them at the base of larger pots to improve drainage, or stick them in the ground and write on them to create handy plant labels.

plastic free garden

4. Choose tools wisely

When it comes to gardening tools, it’s important to think about durability, comfort, as well as the interests of the environment.

With this in mind, if you’re serious about reducing the amount of plastic in your garden, opt for metal tools with wooden handles, which should outlast their plastic rivals.

Metal can rust, so a little TLC is needed at the end of each season to keep them in tip-top condition. Clean each tool with a rag or brush, using warm soapy water, then when dry, spray with WD-40 or rub down with mineral oil. Store by hanging on hooks (away from the damp floor) in a dry airy location for the winter.

gardening with kids

5. Be caring and sharing

If you find you’ve somehow accumulated lots of plastic-based tools and equipment, don’t fret.

Should you use a community allotment or have friends who also enjoy a spot of gardening, why not suggest sharing your plastic equipment or handing it down?

Be a green pioneer and inspire fellow gardeners with the changes you’re making and they may just follow suit. Remember, knowledge is power, so if you’re serious about preserving the environment, lead by example.

Tempted to Renovate your Home? TV’s Kunle Barker shares 4 Top Tips for getting started.

The Renovate Don't Relocate regular imparts some insider wisdom for tackling a big project.

Current weather patterns might be trying to trick us into thinking otherwise, but it is now officially spring – so what better time to cultivate your own little bit of domestic rebirth?

With house prices constantly rising, home renovation is an increasingly common option for those seeking a significant change, without the immense expense or hassle of moving. Of course, a big project like renovating can add serious value to your property too, or simply provide the extra space or refresh you’ve been dreaming of.

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

But renovating is no flat-pack wardrobe, and for the vast majority it’s not a DIY affair – so where do you start?

Step forward Kunle Barker, presenter of ITV’s Love Your Home And Garden’ with Alan Titchmarsh, expert on Renovate Don’t Relocate with Sarah Beeny, and host of Grand Designs Live with Kevin McCloud.

Renovations are a big task – but Barker has handled a fair few, all under the rigorous glare of TV cameras. Here are his top tips for getting started…

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

1. Assemble your team carefully

“Always hire the most skilled person for the job. That means choosing an accredited architect who will not only be able to help you imagine your ‘grand design’, but deliver it on time and to budget, without compromising on quality.

“Choose a good, reliable and stable builder with a track record you can trust. Your architect will be able to recommend someone (ideally someone they have already worked with) who will deliver good value for money.

“Ensure your builder provides you with an itemised quotation, and your architect with a schedule of work and full specifications (for materials and fittings). This will allow you to make a thorough assessment your pricing.

“Even with recommendations from your architect, make sure you contact your selected builder’s referees directly, and try to visit a live site they are working on. Don’t be afraid to ask their referees lots of questions about the project delivery!”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

2. Set up clear boundaries for the project

“It’s imperative that you get the right contract established for the project. Your architect will be able to help you with this. It will cost extra but it’s absolutely essential for establishing terms such as payment clauses.

“Should you employ a project manager? Yes, ideally an independent project manager from a construction consultancy – it will end up saving you money in the long run and will help the programme to run to schedule.

“Set your parameters for success (this could be defined by quality of work, budget and timescale) and communicate these to everyone in the project team. Your architect, builder, project manager and suppliers all need to understand what you are working towards.”

2019 money financial predictions

3. Supervise – and keep an eye out for ways to cost-cut

“Price check, negotiate and place bulk orders with suppliers where possible. For smaller items and sundries (screws, fixings, brackets, etc), shop around and split them from bulk orders if necessary, in order to get the best price.

“Control your budget carefully by linking it to your programme, having weekly meetings with your project manager, and always adding contingency as backup.

“Design hacks, such as better storage solutions (instead of an extension), lowering windows (instead of widening), changing materials and updating your kitchen can deliver amazing results at much lower cost.”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

4. Don’t underestimate the final touches

“Final touches – like adding mirrors, flashes of colour, statement furniture and fabrics – can have transformative effects on your space. Don’t be afraid to play around with what you like and try to work creatively with what you have. Statement pieces mean you don’t need to get rid of your existing things to radically change the feel of a room.

“And don’t forget the garden. They are often the most neglected parts of properties and offer the opportunity to provide a natural extension of your home – add colour and decoration with planting and accessories.

“Lighting is fundamental to the feel of a space – never underestimate the value of getting this right. The key is flexibility – you want to be able to light the room in several different ways – and lamps are a great way to deliver this and create atmosphere.”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

Kevin McCloud and Kunle Barker will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL from May 4-12. For more information and tickets, visit granddesignslive.com.

Contemporary Connections Exhibition In London this March

Art Noble Exhibition March 2019

CONTEMPORARY CONNECTIONS
Curated by ArtNoble
Tuesday 19 – Saturday 30 March 2019

Following on from 2018’s debut exhibition in November, ArtNoble is proud to present Contemporary Connections, a group exhibition displaying works by seven contemporary European artists.

In a world constantly heading towards self-absorption, Contemporary Connections aims to initiate a dialogue among artists, artwork, audience and collectors, creating enduring connections that are fundamental to our happiness, existence and wellbeing. Whilst not being tied down to a specific thematic or style, Contemporary Connections will display a distinct selection of works, ranging from ceramics, to photographs and paintings, including the feature image above by Yaprak Akinci – Keep your barrels safe.

Art Noble Exhibition March 2019
Alberto Selvestrel - Senza Titolo

These works have been chosen to stimulate interactions between the works and artists, with the aim that these interactions will propagate also to the collectors and visitors.
To enhance this theme of connectivity, talks, workshops and presentations by the artists will be held at the gallery to complement the exhibition. Details of these will be announced on our website.

Art Noble Exhibition March 2019
Gaila Adair - Piccadilly Hill
Art Noble Exhibition March 2019
Pierantonio Maria Micciarelli - Verso il Tibet

ArtNoble’s exhibition ‘Contemporary Connections’ opened on 19th March and will be on show until Saturday 30th March at Willesden Gallery (95 High Road, London, NW10 2SF).

On weekdays we will be open from 9am until 8pm whilst at weekends we will be open from 10am until 5pm.

Come by, say hi and enjoy the beautiful works on display by our artists.

ArtNoble is a distinctive exhibition platform dedicated to the promotion of unique contemporary talents. Founded by Matthew Noble in the summer of 2018, ArtNoble aims to provide an alternative to the standard art gallery model by sourcing talented and upcoming artists irrelevant of their background and medium and curating site-specific exhibitions, with the ultimate vision of connecting the artists and their works to an ever-growing number of collectors.

Artists

Gaila Adair
Yaprak Akinci
Cinzia Castellano
Alberto Fusco
David Gee
Pierantonio Maria Micciarelli
Alberto Selvestrel

Art Noble Exhibition March 2019
Alberto Fusco - Aura
Art Noble Exhibition March 2019
David Gee -Reptilian Bow

More about ArtNoble

ArtNoble is a distinctive exhibition platform dedicated to the promotion of unique contemporary talents. Founded by Matthew Noble in the summer of 2018, ArtNoble aims to provide an alternative to the standard art gallery model by constantly sourcing talented and upcoming artists, irrelevant of their background and medium, and curating site-specific exhibitions.

ArtNoble’s mission is to overcome the barriers and exclusivity typically associated with today’s art world, with the ultimate vision of connecting artists and their works to an ever-growing number of collectors, art enthusiasts and interior designers.

Operating in this way allows ArtNoble to make contemporary art accessible to everyone, creating mass engagement with several different artworks, increasing the perspective with which art is perceived, engaged with, and ultimately, acquired.

Currently operating in London and Milan, ArtNoble represents several contemporary artists. Further to artist representation, ArtNoble also works closely with a number of interior designers, procuring art for their client’s homes, along with acting as an advisor to a number of private collections.

Web site artnoble.co.uk

Art Noble Exhibition March 2019

McCarthy Holden are currently looking for 3 people to join the sales and lettings teams.

job vacancies with McCarthy Holden

Lettings Property Management and Negotiator Role

McCarthy Holden Lettings are looking to expand their current team and as such are searching for an independent and hardworking individual who is able to problem solve, take initiative and work well within a team.

Role:

The new applicants role will include, but not be limited to:

  • Canvassing for new business
  • Assisting the property management department with reported maintenance problems, chasing contractors and organising of inspections and gas certificates etc
    Arranging and undertaking viewings
  • Assisting with paperwork for the set up with a new let
  • Maintaining accurate records throughout the tenancy
  • Ensuring all documentation and paperwork is correct at end of tenancy

Essential Requirements:

  • Full valid UK driving license and own car
  • Some experience working in the industry, however further training will be given.
  • A good understanding of computer software, especially Microsoft office and databases.
  • Good organisational skills and the ability to prioritise workload and deliver to targets and deadlines.
  • Excellent customer service skills.
  • Complying with legal regulations including but not restricted GDPR, AML, CPA and all legislation regarding to the letting industry

Desirable Skills:

  • ARLA qualification. If the successful applicant does not have an ARLA qualification, this will need to be achieved within the first 18 months of employment. This will be funded by McCarthy Holden.
  • Familiar with CFP Property Management software.
  • Experience of using software for producing reports and statistics.

Hours:
5 day week 9am-6pm plus every other Saturday (9am -4pm ) with half day lieu for every 2 Saturdays worked.

Potential Salary Range:

£22,000pa – £25,000 pa

Location:

Mainly Fleet, Hampshire. Potential occasional cover in local offices.

 

Sales Part Time Weekend Assistant:

McCarthy Holden Sales in Fleet are looking for a weekend sales assistant. Hours are generally 9am-5pm on a flexible rota basis. The role will predominantly involve conducting potential purchasers on viewings and dealing with in office phonecalls, diary management and assisting in any in office customers.

No experience is necessary, full training is given, however an understanding of the property market is appreciated.

Full driving license and car are required.

 

Lettings Part Time Weekend Assistant:

McCarthy Holden Lettings in Fleet are looking for a weekend sales assistant. Hours are generally 9am-4pm for 3 in 4 Saturdays on a flexible basis. The role is predominantly based in Fleet, however there may be occasion to work from the Hartley Wintney or Odiham office. The role will predominantly involve conducting viewings with prospective tenants, dealing with in office enquiries for new properties and taking phonecalls for current let properties.

No experience is necessary, full training is given, however an understanding of the property market and lettings is beneficial.

Full driving license and car are required.

For more information or to submit a C.V. please email Samantha Holden on sholden@mccarthyholden.co.uk stating which vacancy is of interest.

Phil Spencer: ‘Life is about Constantly Balancing, Rebalancing and Keeping All the Balls in the Air’

Ahead of this year’s Ideal Home Show, TV property guru Phil Spencer talks to Gabrielle Fagan about feeling ‘super-fit’ and having no regrets.

Since finding fame on the ever-popular Location, Location, Location alongside Kirstie Allsopp, Phil Spencer’s become a bit of a TV mainstay, with Love It Or List It and History Of Britain In 100 Homes among his most recent credits.

Later this month, the property guru will once again appear at the Ideal Home Show, sharing his industry insights and tips with audiences.

First up, Spencer, 49, who lives in Hampshire with his wife Fiona and their two sons, talks to us about working with Kirstie, why life’s like driving a racing car, and how fitness is helping him stay young…

Phil Spencer interview

Location, Location, Location has been on TV for 18 years now – what’s the secret of it’s long running success?

“I never imagined it would last so long. I thought it might be an interlude and an opportunity to see how TV worked. I think we were the very first property programme, we got the pick of the formats and we chose one that really works. I’d love to see us reach our 20-year milestone. Kirsty and I have always said that if people keep enjoying the show, we’ll keep on making it.

“It takes people through the intense, emotional decision-making process people go through over property – there’s always ups and downs, emotions and drama, hopefully some excitement but definitely some stress!”

What do you like about property-hunting?

“I get a real kick in finding people homes, there are so many hopes, dreams and aspirations tied up in it. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing people’s eyes light up when you get them a good deal.

“I trained as a surveyor, had my own property company, and if I wasn’t doing this job on television, I’d be doing it in real life. I’ve always been as interested in the people as the houses – I love getting to know them.”

Phil Spencer interview

What makes your partnership with Kirstie Allsopp work?

“It’s like a TV marriage, really. We’ve shared a lot over the years. Predominantly, it works because we’ve become firm friends. We’re totally different but our core values are very similar. She’s far more spontaneous than me. I don’t like surprises, I like to have a plan and as much detail about what I’m going to be doing as possible, so I can mentally prepare.

“In my book, when you build a plan, you stick to it, whereas Kirstie usually comes in half-way through the plan, throws it up in the air, and goes, ‘We’re not doing that, are we? We’re doing this!’ At the end of the day, she’s great fun. She makes every day fresh because you never know what she’s going to do next, and when you’ve made a programme like ours for 18 years, you need things to be fresh.”

Have you ever had a big row?

“I think Kirstie keeps a count, and we’ve had around eight, which in 20 years isn’t bad. It all blows up, there’s a fair bit of noise, and then 10 minutes later we’re kind of, ‘OK, we got that out of our system, let’s move on with the day’, and it’s fine. I think only good friends can do that.

“I never see them as, ‘Oh my God, this is the end’, because they usually happen when one of us is hungry, tired, stressed or worried, and then something little kicks it off. It’s normal really, as we spend such a lot of time together. Knowing each other so well, we usually understand why the other person might be a bit frosty, touchy, emotional or cross.”

Phil Spencer interview

What’s been the biggest highlight of your career?

“I’ve just experienced it. One night every week for a month, I’ve had three different series on screen: Love It Or List It; Phil Spencer: History Of Britain In 100 Homes, and Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes.

“I’m not sure many TV presenters can claim to have achieved that. I think it might even have made my mum a little weary of me, with that amount of shows in an evening, so that’s probably a highlight in itself!”

Do you take an interest in your own home?

“I was brought up on a farm and love living back in the countryside. We moved from London to Hampshire a few years ago. I’m always interested in advances in technology that allow us to run our homes more efficiently. My home’s energy-efficient, with solar panels, insulation and glazing. I’m pretty hopeless at DIY; I tried putting some pictures up recently and had to resort to using Blu Tack.

“I’m really into design and gardening, as our large garden needs smartening up. It’s great to be at The Ideal Home Show, because there are so many inspiring ideas and like-minded people who care as much about property as I do.

“My father’s advice to me, which I’ve held to, is: Make owning a property a priority, because an awful lot can go wrong in the world without affecting you if you own the roof over your head.”

Phil Spencer interview

How do you look after your health?

“Generally, I enjoy being fit, but I need a goal. I promised myself at 40, I’d be fitter than I was at 30 – but it’s a bigger ask to be fitter at 50 than I was at 40! The years do count!

“I feel super-fit at the moment because I’ve just climbed Everest in four days, doing around 12 hours climbing a day, in a team of five to raise money for brain tumour research. I did it last year and it was incredible, but just as challenging, punishing and the equivalent of running three marathons. It meant intensive training over five months. It’s made me feel so good and I’m so buzzing with energy. The only drawback is I wake up incredibly early.

“I’m an outdoors person – I love it and there’s nothing better than a good walk with my dogs. My normal fitness regime is exercising for around 45 minutes four times a week in a gym – I have one at home – and seeing a personal trainer.”

How do you look after your wellbeing?

“Wellbeing’s precious, which you don’t appreciate until you’ve lost it, and then you realise just how precious it is. I’m a firm believer that diet and exercise and sleep conquer most things. So if I’m feeling a bit crap, three days of really conscious exercise, diet and sleep generally sorts out most things out in my world. If it doesn’t, then perhaps there’s a bigger problem.”

Phil Spencer interview

How do you get through the tough times?

“I’ve been very fortunate not to have too many tough times. If I’m worried about something, I’ll talk to my wife. I have a very close family, so if step out of line, one of them or Kirstie will pull me up! I’ve got friends I’ve known since I was a teenager and we’re always there for one another.”

How would you sum up your view on life?

“Somebody once told me, life’s like a race. When you watch Formula One, and the driver has a helmet camera, you see his hands constantly correcting, and going from left to right even when the road is straight. He’s trying to keep steering in a straight line, and I kind of see life like that.

“It’s about constantly balancing, rebalancing and keeping all the balls in the air – keeping your marriage going, looking after the children, running a house, being good at work, maintaining a social life, keeping fit and healthy. It’s busy and there are the normal stresses, but I’ve been very fortunate. I have a gorgeous wife and lovely relationship, two healthy children, a nice house, a job I love and a family that are alive, together and healthy. I’m really happy and have no regrets.”

The Ideal Home Show, the world’s longest running exhibition, will return to Olympia London from Friday, March 22 to Sunday, April 7. Phil Spencer is hosting property talks on stage. For more information, see idealhomeshow.co.uk.

How to Transform a Garden Shed in a few Steps – and 7 ways to use the Spruced up Space.

There's much more to sheds than cobwebs, unused bikes and rusting toolkits. The possibilities are endless.

shed renovation

Do you have an old shed (or even a relatively new one) quietly rotting away at the bottom of your garden? It may be housing a few rusting tools or a long-neglected lawn-mower, but is it really paying its way?

Sheds like this can go one of two ways. They can drift towards degradation, becoming grotty grime-holes that kids run past after dark, ruining the aesthetic of even the most lovingly crafted garden. Or, you can take things in hand and turn it into a designer den.

We know which option we like the sound of. Tempted to work some transformation magic and take your shed from drab to fab? These simple steps should help get you started, along with seven suggestions for how to use it…

shed renovation

Start with the basics

First things first – you need your shed to be structurally sound, and even relatively recent models often aren’t. Replace any rotting boards, use wood filler to seal gaps in the walls or ceiling, and mend any really large cracks that can’t be papered over.

Next get the place clean – and we’re not talking about a 30 seconds of abject sweeping, we mean properly clean. You don’t want to be painting over any spider’s webs or lichen and you certainly don’t want to conceal any rot, so a once-over with a fungicidal wash might be a worthwhile move too.

shed renovation

Perfect your paintwork

Now for the colour: Apply a layer of oil-based primer, and once it dries you’re ready for your first layer of paint (always check products are suitable, and ask a specialist shop for advice if unsure). Paint pumps are much faster than brushes and power sprayers are faster still, but a simple roller will still be perfectly effective.

Remember to put down a tarpaulin to protect nearby areas (grass doesn’t like paint much more than flooring), and cover hinges, handles and window frames with masking tape to stave off unwanted splash. Let it dry, repeat, and let dry again. Depending on your materials, a decent two-coat paint job should last up to five years.

Just like that, your shed has shifted from haunted shack to handsome beach hut.

shed renovation

Keep it cosy

Damp is the number one enemy of a shed-turned-living space, and its number one entry point is from the ground, so it may be time to surface your floor. We recommend vinyl sheeting – it’s relatively cheap, insulating, easy to clean and fares well with heavy footfall. It can even do a creditable imitation of the hardwood floors so many homeowners crave. Most importantly, it’s waterproof, and seasoned DIY-ers can install it by hand in a single sheet.

Unless your shed is for seasonal use only, you may need to insulate more than just your floor. Mineral wool; wood fibre; insulation board – you’ve got plenty of options, but it’s advisable to get in a professional for a job like this.

shed renovation

Fixtures and fixings

Your shed is now fundamentally functional, but if you are really going to make the most of your new-found space, you’ll probably want lights and a heater. Battery operated appliances do work well, but in the long run it may be more convenient to wire up a power supply. Of course, suitability and safety are paramount for anything like this – so call in the professionals before making elaborate plans, and make sure any electrical jobs are done by a qualified electrician.

Otherwise, experiment at your leisure: Deck out the front area as a makeshift patio, hang some fairy lights for extra cosiness. You could even look into adding solar panels to the roof to boost sustainability.

shed renovation

How to use it?

Your shed is your oyster – and pearls are in the making. When it comes to exactly what to do with your newly-spruced up shed, the options are almost endless, and though luxuries like a Jacuzzi might require a little extra elbow grease (and cash!), you can conquer some quite nifty designs with minimal extra effort. Check out these seven ideas for inspiration…

1. The home office

In the age of the internet, laptop and smartphones, more and more people are working from home – and it’s hugely helpful to have somewhere specific to work, that’s away from your TV/bed/toddler. You’ll probably want to add Wi-Fi – and be sure that heater is working in winter – but many a good book has been written and small business begun from the ‘office at the bottom of the garden’.

2. The ‘pub’ shed

This one’s a lot easier than you’d think. Pick up a flat-pack table-top to serve as a bar, throw in a few stools, a dustbin and a cooler (an ice box would do) and technically you’re done. From there, the devil is in the decor: Pin up some posters, chuck a few beer mats on the counter, line the back wall with empty bottles, erect a shelf for your spirits and another for your pint glasses. Before you know it, your mates will be round your backyard every night complaining that you don’t have Sky Sports.

3. The play shed

Playroom or play-house, a little home of their own can keep the kids happy for hours. A cardboard box cooker (or commercially made plastic one) with dishes and utensils, a little table and chairs and they’re set. You might like to help them make curtains for the window or decorate the walls. Maybe even throw in a couple of sleeping bags and let them camp out for the night.

shed renovation

4. The hobby house

Teenage son wants to play the drums? Partner sick of your model train set covering the sitting room floor? Sheds are the perfect place for housing hobbies the rest of family doesn’t share. They may not contain a whole rock band of course, but it’s certainly be better than having them in the kitchen.

5. The art studio

Sheds are particularly good at keeping mess away from your actual home, and allowing the creative process to go on unhindered at any time of day or night. Paint splashes, oozes of glue and a soft layer of wood shavings are much more acceptable in the shed than in the dining room, while paints or tools can be positioned permanently on the walls in perfectly easy reach.

6. The man cave

We’re not sure why this a male thing particularly (women, quite fairly, might like some peace and quiet sometimes too), but the man-cave-shed is certainly a thing. A comfortable old sofa (if it can fit through the door; cushions and beanbags if it can’t), a telly, games console and sound system are all simple plug-ins for the well-wired garden room, and roomier models might squeeze in a pool table as well.

7. The teen den

Rather than escaping to the shed yourself, why not hang onto the house and banish the kids instead? Much the same provision as the man-cave should keep them happy – if perhaps with a different set of tunes. The teens get a bit of privacy while you get a quieter life, while still knowing where they are. Win win.

shed renovation

Tenant Fees Act (2019): An overview

The Tenant Fees Act will come into force on 1st June 2019. At the centre of the new law is a ban on all tenant fees, including agency and any third party fees.

tenant fee act 2019

The guidelines from the government will come soon, but here’s what we know so far about the Tenant Fees Act (2019).

What does the Act comprise of?

Here are the key parts of the Act:

tenant fee act 2019

All Payments Are Prohibited Except Rent, Utility Bills, Deposits (and 2 Exceptions)

Tenants will no longer be responsible for any costs except: the rent, the tenancy deposit and a holding deposit (more on these below).

This means it is no longer possible to ask tenants to cover the cost of their own referencing. Tenants will not be able to be charged for check-in, inventory or set up fees. These fees will be deemed prohibited by law

The only two exceptions are two forms of ‘default’ fee. These fees are chargeable during the tenancy in the following circumstances, provided the relevant clauses are written into the tenancy agreement.   

a) Late Rent Fees

Fees will be charged for rent payments that are over 2 weeks late. The fees can be up to 3% over the prevailing Bank of England base interest rate. Because this is an annual interest rate, the amount will need to be calculated for the pro rata interest accrued on the outstanding rent.

For example:

The tenant is 30 days late for one £1,500 rent payment.

The base rate of interest is currently 0.75%, therefore the amount the tenant can be charged for is the outstanding rent plus a fee of 3.75% of outstanding rent, pro rata for the 30 days. (3.75% of £1,500 is £56.25.) 30 days is 30/365 of the yearly rate. Therefore, the pro rata amount is calculated by multiplying £56.25 by 30/365, which is £4.62.

Landlords will of course still be able to serve Section 8 notices for late payment of rent provided the rent is 2 months or more in arrears.

(b) Lost Keys

Tenants can be charged for losing their keys (or other security device) but the charge must be a reasonable amount for which evidence must be provided.

Both default fees will need to be included in the tenancy agreement to be able to charge them, and previous rules about fair clauses will still apply.

It has also been advised that landlords shall be able to charge up to £50 for a change of tenant, and with regards to an early surrender request by a tenant, a landlord shall be able to charge the tenant for the remaining unexpected void period.

tenant fee act 2019

Cap on Tenancy Deposits

The amount of security deposit that can be requested is being reduced to 5 weeks for AST’s (Assured Shorthold Tenancies) and licences where the rent per annum is up to £50,000, and up to 6 weeks for those tenancies over £50,000 in rent per annum.

This applies to all tenancies regardless of the reason a higher deposit was taken previously. (ie: if there was poor credit etc.)

The ability to request a higher deposit due to the applicant having a pet has also been removed, however, if landlords will consider a pet, when marketing the property, it can be advertised at 2 rental amounts (ie: £1,500 p.c.m. or £1,550 p.c.m. with 1 x pet)

tenant fee act 2019

Cap and New Rules on Holding Deposits

Holding deposits will be limited to one week’s rent.

The holding deposit can only be held for 15 calendar days unless another ‘deadline’ date is agree in writing subsequently by both parties.

After the deadline, the holding deposit must be repaid within 7 days.

The holding deposit must be returned to the tenant via a refund or by being put towards the first rental payment if agreed in writing.

There are some exceptions. In these cases the holding deposit shall be forfeited  but a reason must be given in writing to the tenant within 7 days:

  • The tenant withdraws
  • The tenant doesn’t take all reasonable steps to enter the tenancy in the required time
  • The tenant fails a right to rent check
  • The tenant provides misleading information which materially affects their suitability to rent the property
tenant fee act 2019

What Are the Penalties to Landlords Who Charge Tenant Fees?

Any person,  landlord (or agents) or any third parties who charge fees to Tenants could face paying huge fines.

The first offence would be a civil offence, with a fine of £5,000.

If the offence is repeated within five years, this would be deemed a criminal offence and levies a fine up to £30,000.

Local Trading Standards organisations will enforce the ban.

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