8 Top Tips to Make the Most of Your Lighting

top tips for lighting

If you're in need of a fresh fix, here's how to light up your world in lockdown, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Lighting in the home is really important, especially right now, when so many of us are spending twice as much time inside.

While some of us will have switched on to the latest lighting trends, and illuminated, enhanced and created the perfect ambience to unwind at the end of the day, chances are most of us won’t have thought about how a flicker of light, or sun streaming in during lockdown can affect our outlook, and mood.

“There needs to be a contrast from getting up in the morning and work mode, to stopping work in the early evening and reinforcing the mindset that it’s the end of your working day,” says Ellie Coombs, lighting designer and managing director of Nulty Lighting, international design consultants.

“Task lighting for work at a desk is important, but the rest of the time, it’s about adjusting your lighting; the light level, the direction of light and the colour temperature for each different activity.”

Here are her top tips for lighting up your home – no electrician required…

top tips for lighting

1. Shed light on a dark corner

“Personally, I don’t mind a dark corner, it’s about having the contrast of light and dark areas in a room. If you have a dark corner and want to light it up, try a floor lamp, which will make the room feel more spacious. Lamps work well as you can move them around – they offer a more intimate light source and a better quality of light. Generally, if you go into a lighting designer’s house, they are almost entirely lit by lamps, rather than ceiling lights.”

top tips for lighting

2. Change the light to suit your mood

“You can completely change your perception of a space depending on how you light it. Lots of diffused light on all the walls and ceiling will make the space feel spacious and open. Whereas lower levels of light in pools from lamps, just where you need them, will make the space much more intimate and cosy. You may be spending all your time in just one space, but it doesn’t have to feel like the same space.”

top tips for lighting

3. Use smart lighting

“You can resolve the fact you don’t have any lighting control by purchasing a smart lighting kit. Add it to your home Wi-Fi, download an app and then connect smart lighting products to your phone. You can then set timers to wake you up and create lighting scenes and moods for your home, all from the touch of a button. No electrician needed.”

top tips for lighting

4. Only use the main kitchen lights when you cook

“A lot of us have open-plan living spaces, and we’re spending all our time in one space during the lockdown. If you have under-cupboard lighting in the kitchen, try using it in the evening, to add some soft, ambient light. Use the brighter, high-level lights only when you’re cooking.

“If you are thinking about re-doing your kitchen lighting in the future, think about positioning. It’s important to light the work surfaces and not create shadows, rather than having a grid of lighting across the entire space.”

top tips for lighting

5. Put your art in the spotlight

“While you’re at home, experiment with a movable task light to highlight a piece of art or favourite sculpture. Grab a table lamp on an extension lead and play with it – move it to different places to see what works. Then contract an electrician to install something permanent when lockdown is over.”

top tips for lighting

6. Know the new bulb jargon

“With all the new LED and other energy-saving light bulbs on offer, choosing the right one has never been so complicated. In brief, the rules are as follows:

“Always buy light bulbs from reputable manufacturers… they may be more expensive, but they will last longer, give you a better quality of light and avoid any safety concerns.

“The wattage is no longer a clear indicator of the amount of light a bulb will emit… you now need to look at the lumen output. (As a rough guide, 25W = 200-300lm/40W = 400-500lm/60W = 700-800lm/100W = 1300-1400lm.)

“Colour Temperature indicates how warm or cold a light source will be… the lower the number, the warmer the light.”

top tips for lighting

7. Make the most of sunlight

“The more we can use natural daylight at home, the less we use electricity, which of course, is better for the planet. Even if you can’t position your work-at-home desk near a window, try to have your lunch break outside or near a window.

“Think about where daylight comes from, at which time of the day, and learn its natural cycle. Maybe think about moving a comfy chair to a window that catches the sun at lunchtime. That way, you’re more likely to sit there and read a magazine, or have a sandwich or cup of tea.”

top tips for lighting

8. Think carefully about statement lighting

“Chandeliers and statement lighting are usually chosen because you love the way the piece looks. But make sure the scale fits the room and you can walk underneath it without hitting your head. Consider positioning it over a table that you’re not going to move.

“Before you purchase, switch it on and see what sort of light it gives out. Will it be useful? Or will it just be a feature of the room? Consider the rest of the lighting for the room and if you need anything additional to light the space.”

Which are the Best Antiviral Herbs to Grow at Home?


Herbalist Lucy Jones leafs through 5 of the best antiviral herbs to boost wellbeing through lockdown and beyond.

Medicinal herbalist and grower Lucy Jones believes in the powers of antiviral herbs and how they can play a positive role in helping to maintain our wellbeing in lockdown and beyond.

“Herbal medicine has a very long track record in supporting the immune system and helping patients to recover from respiratory infections,” she says.

Jones, author of a new book Self-Sufficient Herbalism, recommends five top antiviral herbs to consider and shares her growing tips for each.

Remember, do talk to your doctor before changing your diet. Some conditions that mean therapeutic doses of a particular herb should be avoided are highlighted below, but do make sure this is safe for you.


1. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

“I find it very helpful for patients with various different respiratory weaknesses as well as being wonderful for acute coughs and colds.

“Drinking a cup of thyme infusion daily is a great way to strengthen the lungs and support the immune system. Simply use a couple of sprigs of fresh herb per cup and pour on boiling water, cover the cup and leave it to steep for at least 10 minutes until it’s quite strong.”

Growing tips: Thyme is a hardy perennial which thrives in full sun and well drained poor to moderately fertile soil. Plants should be spaced 25cm (10in) apart. Plant in a sheltered place and cut back after flowering to prevent plants from becoming leggy.

Harvesting: “I like to take a small harvest before the plants flower, and then take a second harvest once they’re in flower. Leave the plants enough green growth so that they can recover their strength after harvesting.”

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you’re pregnant.


2. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

“I grow nasturtiums in my herb garden and dry the leaves each year to use in herbal tinctures and infusions during the winter months,” she says. When the plant is crushed or chewed, peppery, mustard-like compounds clear the sinuses as well as directly fighting respiratory infections.

“You can make nasturtium vinegar by picking one cup of nasturtium flowers and putting them in a bottle with a peeled garlic clove and a few black peppercorns. Pour over 500ml cider vinegar and ensure that all the herb material is covered by the liquid. Leave for four weeks in a cool dark place and then strain and bottle. A teaspoon of this vinegar twice a day will give you a daily dose of antiviral goodness and help ease catarrh if you’re prone to it.”

Growing tips: Nasturtium is a half hardy annual which enjoys full sun to partial shade and a rich moist soil. Grow from seed in situ once the danger of frost has passed or start seedlings off indoors and plant out later after hardening off. They will ramble about and self-seed exuberantly.

Harvesting: “Harvest when there’s a high proportion of flowers on the plants. As I intend to dry my nasturtium crop, I cut individual leaves and flowers without the fleshy stalks attached.”


3. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida)

Echinacea is a medicine known and used for generations by native Americans. Initially it was used mostly for rheumatism and snake bites.

“I use echinacea tincture for people experiencing active infections, including upper respiratory infections and infected wounds such as dog bites.

“The root is the most effective part of the plant, so if you have a large clump of echinacea now may be the time to divide it and take a harvest of the roots. Wash them and cut them into matchstick shapes of even thickness and dry them on a tray in a cool, dark, airy place.

“You can make your own echinacea tincture by putting the dried root into a small jar and covering it with the strongest vodka you can get hold of, preferably at least 60% proof. Leave your jar in the dark for a couple of weeks and then strain and bottle. Take 1-3 teaspoons per day in a little hot water at the first sign of an infection.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial prefers full sun and fertile free draining soil. Plants should be spaced 30-45cm (12-18in) apart.”

Harvesting: “Dig the roots of third or fourth-year plants in autumn. Wash the roots thoroughly and cut into matchstick shaped pieces for drying. Alternatively harvest fresh flowers to add to your teapot during the flowering season.”


4. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

“Research has shown that lemon balm is good for fighting the herpes family of viruses. It’s a great home remedy to relieve cold sores, chickenpox, shingles and mononucleosis. It has a track record of reducing the unpleasant symptoms associated with the early onset of influenza.

“To make a tea from it, pick a sprig of fresh herb and place it into a cup, add boiling water and leave it covered to infuse for 10 minutes before drinking.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial likes a moist, rich soil in full sun to partial shade. After flowering, cut the dead stalks down and remove them.

Harvesting: For tea, harvest early on in the season while the stems are still soft and there’s a mass of foliage. Cut stems about 15cm (6in) from the base, or above the lower faded leaves.

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you have an underactive thyroid.


5. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus, formerly Rosmarinus officinalis)

“As well as being associated with youthfulness and improved memory, rosemary has significant antiviral properties. Among its many constituents, it contains oleanolic acid which has displayed antiviral activity against influenza viruses, along with herpes viruses and HIV in test tube studies.

“Rosemary is also considered to be an excellent herb for recovery after a debilitating viral infection. It gently supports the digestion and the circulatory system, whilst relieving tension and lifting the spirits.

“It’s one of the herbs that I always include in my daily pot of ‘garden tea’, not just because it tastes so good but because it has so many health benefits.”

Growing tips: “Rosemary is an evergreen shrub which prefers full sun and a sandy, dry soil. Plants should be spaced 60-90cm (24-36in) apart.

Harvesting: Combine harvesting with necessary pruning of established plants. Cut stems with secateurs and be conscious of maintaining a good shape to the shrub. Cut individual springs as required for teas.

Caution: Avoid if you have epilepsy.


7 Ways to See the World from the Comfort of your Own Home


Armchair travel has never been so exhausting. But which sites are worthy of your time? Sarah Marshall finds out.

While planes are parked on runways and ships tethered indefinitely to docks, the only way to travel right now is from your living room.

In the absence of any tourists, many attractions, safari lodges and tourist boards have created a selection of live streams, virtual tours and 360-degree images, allowing us to cross international borders and bypass passport control through the wonders of the world wide web.

It took Phileas Fogg 80 days to circumnavigate the planet. Follow our itinerary to do it in a matter of hours.

1. Live like a local in the Faroe Islands

A remote, windswept archipelago, where waterfalls tumble from velvety green cliffs, the Faroe Islands is Game of Thrones territory. Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, the national tourist board has launched an ingenious virtual tour, where at-home travellers have the freedom to direct an islander in real time. Use the keyboard to make your human avatar turn, walk, run – and even jump – as they explore epic landscapes by foot, boat, helicopter and horseback. Guides will share information about the 18 islands and answer any questions.

How does it work: Until April 25, hour-long tours will take place daily at 2pm and 5pm. After then, they will be weekly. Visit for updates. Join a queue to control the guide or sit back and enjoy the tour.


2. Dance all night to Berlin’s best DJs

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music,” wrote 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Perhaps that’s what the neighbours might think if they spot you leaping around the living room to one of Berlin’s United We Stream DJ sets. Refusing to press pause on their mixers, the German city’s famous clubs are holding virtual parties, and everyone is on the guest list. The first live broadcast from Watergate united 70,000 lone clubbers, all moving to the same beats.

How does it work: Visit for a list of upcoming events.


3. Take a sky safari above Namibia’s deserts

The epitome of wide, open space, Namibia provides welcome relief when the walls are caving in. Epic dunes stretch for thousands of miles in a landscape that’s ever-shifting, and at night, constellations light up the sky like fireworks. It would take weeks to cross the country by road; from your armchair, it’s possible in less than an hour. Using interactive 360-degree images, rise above the mind-boggling 300-metre sand ridges in Sossusvlei and survey every Deadvlei, a salty clay pan filled with the brittle, blackened skeletons of acacia trees.

How does it work: Visit and select a tour.


4. Game drive with Richard Branson’s South African safari lodge

Staying at Richard Branson’s Ulusaba safari lodge sounds like the stuff of dreams, but in these strange times, anything’s a reality. Tune in once a week to join their world-class rangers on a game drive through a private reserve in South Africa’s Sabi Sand. In recent drives, they’ve tracked wild dogs and followed a lion pride. Future highlights include a walking safari and potentially seeing a leopard and her two new cubs emerge from their den.

How does it work: Visit @VirginLimitedEdition on Instagram every Monday at 3.30pm.


5. Zipwire through Dubai’s skyscrapers

Sunny, shiny and effervescing with energy, there’s no shortage of attractions to keep visitors entertained in Dubai – even during lockdown. The gleaming emirate has produced a detailed, interactive 360-degree map, which allows the user to nosy around five-star hotel lobbies, explore cultural museums and zoom along a zipwire from the Princess Tower. You can even window shop for luxury sports cars or meander through malls.

How does it work: Visit and use the mouse of keyboard to explore.


6. Wade with starfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

It’s normally necessary to take a light aircraft to visit this bio-diverse coral cay along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but for now, a few mouse clicks will transport you to the world-class Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. Manta rays, turtles and octopus inhabit the fringing reefs. In winter (June-October), even humpbacks cruise past. Best of all, you don’t even have to get wet to learn about the wildlife; Lady Elliot is the only island on the world-famous chain with a license to conduct reef tours by foot. Join guides as they wade through shallow lagoons in search of starfish and other oddities. Divers and biologists will also be sharing stories about marine ecology.

How does it work: Follow @LadyElliotIslandEcoResort on Instagram for updates on new stories.


7. Learn to dance at an Argentinian milonga

The music of Carlos Gardel spills from crumbling doorways in Buenos Aires’ historic San Telmo district, providing a soundtrack for suave dancers locked in a dramatic embrace. Seductive and sensational, tango is an apt expression of its birthplace, so if you really want to scratch beneath the city’s surface, it’s worth learning some of the footwork. Join a live streaming e-lesson with tango school Tanguito and learn some moves to put into practise once social distancing comes to an end.

How does it work: Lessons take place every Wednesday (7pm and 8pm) and Sunday (2pm and 3pm); additional solo workshops on Tuesdays (12.30pm) and Fridays (7pm and 8pm). Visit You’ll need to register to be sent a live streaming link. The 45-minute lessons costs £8.


House Market Update During Lockdown

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Relentless and here for a while

The bleak headlines about the impact of Covid-19 continue and of course our hearts are saddened by the relentless loss of life for frontline NHS staff and Covid-19 affected patients alike.

Any thoughts about how and when an early release from lockdown might occur, must of course be balanced with the high probability of new after waves of coronavirus cases occurring post lockdown, with perhaps the inevitable mini lockdowns being put in place from time to time. There are valuable lessons to be considered from past pandemics especially about the exit stages.

We can be certain that our exit from the current lockdown, will not mean a return to normal in many aspects of day to day life. It is likely we will continue with social distancing and simple matters like viewing property, will be conducted in a similar manner to that which occurred just before the lockdown started.

The House Market

As I mentioned in our last update, writing a few lines about the property market right now doesn’t seem that important in the current circumstances, but house sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants continue to seek insight, because the prospect of needing to move house is still a journey they will embark on post lockdown.

Buyer Attitudes

I remain impressed with the resilience of house buyers, who continue to remain upbeat about their moving plans. This positive attitude is supported by the fact the 95% of the sales arranged we had in place at the start of lockdown, continue to remain in place with vendors and purchasers keeping focused on the opportunity to exchange and complete some time soon.

Other mini indicators of buyer intent are told to me by staff, such as Matthew Fenn from our Fleet branch who has 27 buyers who want to view specific properties as soon as lockdown is over.

Contracts Are Exchanging

Some house sales are progressing to the exchange and completion stages during lockdown, mostly by exchanging and completing on the same day.

Two examples of this in the last week include a £400,000 guided house in Fleet (top image below) and stunning country house conversion in Winchfield at a guided sum of £1.250m. (video below). These special cases where exchange and completion can happen are frequently new house purchases where there are no chains.


Exchanged and completed last week

Play Video

Exchanged and completed last week

Working From Home

Creating new sales is virtually impossible due to viewing restrictions, but our negotiation staff are keeping closely in touch with buyers on our books, by phone, email, newsletter and even video presentations. This means that post lockdown we are already creating a list of buyers who want to view specific properties as soon a we are release from lockdown.

More Vendor Inspired Video House Marketing This Week

Many clients continue to ask if we could produce video content of their property if they sent us video clips and still photographs, this enabling them to go on the open market now.

Some of the latest collaborative results are below.

Preview – due to the market soon at Est. Guide £1,675,000

New to the market – Guide £850,000

This works by vendors sending us the video clips and then with some editing help from a promotional video tour is created.

We look forward to many of these collaborative home grown marketing initiatives in the weeks ahead.

The Week Ahead

In the week ahead we will be giving special focus to our new homes selection of properties for sale, because as we emerge from lockdown we believe the attraction of owning a new home will be higher than usual.

Right now we have 13 new homes development sites available for sale, showcasing a most diverse range of interesting properties for 2020, in amazing locations from rural Eversley in Hampshire, to Virginia Water in Surrey.

The developers we are representing in 2020 are as diverse in size and their personal history as you can imagine, but they all share the same passion for creating beautiful homes and leaving a legacy to their brand and reputation.

Click some of the links below to preview some of the new homes available.

We will provide another market update in a week or so, and you are of course welcome to subscribe free to our newsletter (just click the link near the bottom of our home page).

In the week ahead we will no doubt continue to think, reflect and pray about key workers and NHS people and the risks they face each day at these times. 

John Holden – Chairman and Managing Director

From Classy Candyfloss Pink to Pale Blush – How to Work Pink at Home

pink home

Surprisingly versatile and super-sophisticated, Sam Wylie-Harris explores the pulling power of pink.

Pink comes into its own in springtime – and we’re not just talking fragrant blooms and bridesmaids’ dresses.

From soft, dusty hues to the palest blush, pink is one of the most playful shades to bring into your home, and you don’t need to be in the first throes of love to embrace a pink palate.

Indeed, this season’s candy crush isn’t all saccharine sweet, and neither does it delve into Barbie territory. Pink interiors can be super-sophisticated and subtle, and styled to bring beauty and radiance without having to go over the top. This is all about shifting our perceptions on how to ‘think pink.’

“The colour pink evokes sophistication and playfulness. This romantic shade can instantly bring a subtle sense of femininity into your home, through the use of accessories and homewares,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative at Barker and Stonehouse furniture designers.

“You’ll be surprised how easy it is to create a fresh and airy living space when using pink to style your space. What I love about this colour is that you don’t have to completely redecorate to be able to introduce this palette.”

pink home

Adding pink accents

“Whether you want to add bold pops of bright pink or duskier pinks for a neutral feel, it’s possible to transform your space with key furniture pieces and accessories,” says Hornby.

“Add a burst of colour and opt for a gorgeous armchair in a soft rose hue, or if you want to experiment further, a showstopping sofa with a mid-century design would look wonderful.

“To balance the look and to keep it light, complement your pink pieces with lots of white for a timeless and versatile look.

“Alternatively, if you’re looking to enhance an existing neutral palette, introduce dusty pink cushions and smaller accessories, such as tealight holders, throws or vases,” Hornby suggests.

pink home

Pink is ‘the new beige’

When it comes to creating a scheme, furniture and soft furnishings can be used as key building blocks too – and pink is practically a neutral now. In other words, it just works, and it’s perfectly OK to use it sparingly.

Suzy McMahon, buying director for Sofology furniture designers, says: “For many homes, particularly over the past few years, pink has become a neutral tone offering a contemporary twist on the traditional beige. Opting for a pink sofa or armchair is the perfect way to bring the shade into the home, creating a base that can be built upon.

“Layering blush and powder tones with shades of grey creates a fresh, modern look that isn’t overly romantic. ,” McMahon adds. “Keeping patterns minimal and not too feminine will create a space that all family members and guests can enjoy spending time in. Light woods and metallics work particularly well with softer, rose type hues.”

Alternatively, she suggests bolder, brighter shades can be used to reinvigorate spaces and as a statement focal point in the room.

“Pairing with monochrome or darker hues, such as teal, will ensure the pink pops. Be careful to not opt for too many clashing colours, as schemes using bolder shades should be playful yet considered. If you have your heart set on a deep pink sofa, try to pair it with neutral walls and floors to ensure the seating isn’t lost in your room,” McMahon adds.

She says texture is key with pink, and suggests thinking about the overall style you’re looking to create. For example, a blush velvet will create a very different feel and impact to a blush cotton. “Ask yourself: are you looking for something opulent or pared back, traditional or contemporary?”

pink home

Table dressing in pink

If you’re still feeling a bit shy about adding a permanent dose of pink, you can always set the scene with a pink tablecloth, which can quickly be cleared away – and a stylish solution to investing in something more serious and sophisticated. It’ll also work beautifully with rose wine season coming into full swing, as we drink pink for the foreseeable future.

pink home

Pimp up your pink

Of course, putting pink in the spotlight doesn’t mean having to create a whole canvas of rosy hues. And if you’re worried about a pop of pink having a short shelf life, you can always give the look a modern edge by layering, intensifying and styling with a shot of electric pink.

Think bubble-gum pink candles, a cloud of candy floss in one particular corner of a room and A-list trimmings – cushions and throws are a good starting point. A lampshade or curtain tie-back made out of flamenco pink feathers or electric-pink pom-poms are always top of our wish list.

pink home

Pick a pink paint

“Neutral and muted tones of pink are complex and add areas of interest, yet they’re easy to live with,” says Judy Smith, colour consultant for Crown Paints. “Pink looks particularly sophisticated and smart when used as a backdrop to contemporary natural materials and most modern furniture designs.

“Pink works really well with cool neutrals, such as brilliant whites and all tones of grey – from light to moody,” she adds. “The choice depends on what type of look you’d like to create – bold and dramatic, or cool and restful.

“If you want to create a warmer space, try pairing neutral pink with either earthy terracotta shades or a warm cherry.”

To create a dramatic scheme and make sure pink looks up to date and edgy, Smith suggests adding touches of black or charcoal, perhaps in fine outlines on the wall, woodwork or in furniture.

“It brings this soft tone more into focus and makes it look fresh and modern. The pink and charcoal colour combination is also incredibly versatile and can easily be adapted to suit all types of styles, from industrial chic to minimal Scandi or modern country,” Smith adds.

pink home

Laying down a pink path

“Flooring is the perfect place for pink, as it creates an on-trend base that can be built upon and transformed instantly with a few considered accessories,” says Jemma Dayman, buyer for carpets at Carpetright.

To create a calming and tranquil atmosphere, she suggests opting for carpet in a soft, blush shade, which can be warmed up with statement furnishings.

“If you’re keen on pink but aren’t sure you’d like a complete scheme, a contemporary rug is an affordable way to add a dash of colour without the commitment,” advises Dayman. “Allow yourself to have a little fun with your rug choice and opt for something you’ll love for years to come; it may stay in the same room but you might also find yourself moving it to another place as your tastes change.

“Rugs allow for personality to shine through, whether you’re opting for a whimsical novelty pattern or an art deco inspired geometric design.”

7 Tips for Turning Treasured Photos into Works of Art

photo art

Give walls a new lease of life with creative displays and DIY galleries. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how.

Let’s face it, staring at the same bland four walls every day when you’re holed up at home can really dampen the spirits. So why not wake them up a bit, by displaying some photos and art?

This could be the perfect way to showcase your favourite images (and create an impressive backdrop for all those Zoom and Houseparty sessions), plus it’ll help keep the space fresh and interesting during self-isolation.

You might not have a Picasso hidden away in the loft, or a stash of prints to hand. But you probably have got loads of brilliant photos stored on your laptop and phone that you could simply print off and frame, or have professionally transformed into works of art.

Wondering where to begin? Here, Clare Moreton, from bespoke photo wall art specialists CEWE Photoworld, shares seven top tips on how to use images to transform your home…

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1. Mix and match

“Get creative by designing a gallery wall that’s eclectic, with a mix of styles, sizes and types of print that will transform any room into a bright, eye-catching space,” says Moreton. “Combine framed photos with typographic prints, currently so on-trend, and maybe art deco-style canvases.

“Avoid a bland and rigid approach,” she adds, “this should be free-flow to suit your taste, so use a mixture of colours and patterns.”

PICTURE THIS: There are no hard-and-fast rules on creating the perfect design. But to give the arrangement cohesion and focus, place your largest item in a central position first, and then add smaller items around it.

By all means, use a spirit level to make sure pictures are level, but in the end trust your eye: dado rails and ceilings, especially in older properties, are not always level.

photo art

2. Lean on me

“There’s no reason to think you need to hang all of your artwork in order for it to look great on display,” says Moreton.

“It may not be possible anyway, if you live in a rented property and there are restrictions on what you can do. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a gallery.

“Make the most of your fireplace, units and shelves by simply stacking and leaning your prints and framed photographs on them. It’s an arty and simple way to introduce colour and design to your home and you can simply refresh the look by introducing new pieces whenever you want.”

PICTURE THIS: Choose frames carefully and it will pay dividends visually. They don’t have to be pricey – you can paint old frames with spray paint or chalk paint to get the look you want.

photo art

3. Natural perspective

“If you’re craving the great outdoors in these difficult times, and who isn’t, create a corner in your room inspired by the natural world,” suggests Moreton.

“Vertical and horizontal panoramic canvases are a modern and versatile way to introduce colour and style into difficult-to-fill spaces. A mix of close-ups and views will add interest, but keep to a colour theme for the most striking display.”

PICTURE THIS: Don’t hang works of art too high on the wall – a common mistake. The ideal height of the centre of a picture (if there’s no furniture below it) is between about 155-160cm off the ground.’

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4. Seeing double

“There is nothing more stylish and classic than a symmetrical gallery wall,” Moreton enthuses. “Interior decorators often double up – on everything from a pair of chairs or end tables to two floor lamps, on either side of a fireplace or bed. It essentially creates two matching halves and adds up to one visually appealing room.

“To really make your symmetrical gallery wall stand out, choose images that share a common colour theme. Monochrome or sepia always work well,” she suggests.

PICTURE THIS: Choose prints in identical sizes and in matching frames, hang symmetrically and keep an equal amount of space between each photo (around two inches) for a chic and modern take.

photo art

5. Stop and stair!

“Choosing a common theme across your displayed artwork can really help to bring the whole wall together,” Moreton points out.

“It’s also a great way to showcase your unique style and bring focus to something you’re passionate about. It can be anything from nautical paintings for a fresh seaside theme, or a display of photos of your pets alongside prints with your favourite inspirational quotes.”

PICTURE THIS: An arrangement of prints is an easy way to enliven a neglected corner, like a landing or along a stairway. Do bear in mind that if there’s a lot of traffic up and down stairs though, especially children, picture fixings should be secure. It may be necessary to anchor either side of the back of the frame.

photo art

6. Look back in time

“If you have old albums of family photos, this could be the perfect time to sort them out, get them copied and create a montage of your family ‘through the ages’,” says Moreton.

“These photos are special and will evoke a positive emotional response when you see them, putting a smile on your face and allowing you to reminisce over wonderful memories each day.”

PICTURE THIS: Curate images so that you follow a theme, which could be baby pictures from each generation grouped into one frame, or family groups in another.

Alternatively, follow one family member’s pictorial story in a set of single frames. If you’re really creative, insert sections of hand-written letters from family members appropriate to the era between the photos, to further evoke the time.

photo art

7. Window on the world

“It’s got to be armchair travel only for the moment. But displaying photos of your holidays and journeys, whether here or in faraway places, will remind you of happy times and is a truly personal way to decorate a wall,” says Moreton.

PICTURE THIS: Experiment with different styles, textures and tones to bring photos to life. If you’re grouping your own family shots consider placing a professionally shot image of the location you’ve visited at the centre of the arrangement or frame a map of the area to add interest.

CEWE Photoworld creates Classic canvas prints, from £12.99; Framed photo prints, from £19.99; Photo posters, from £2.49, and Aluminium prints, from £17.99. Visit

5 Ways to Style a Small Garden or Outside Space

Only got a dinky yard or balcony? You can still transform it into a dream garden, as award-winning designer Ula Maria tells Hannah Stephenson.

Wondering how to style a small garden?

Whether you have a roof terrace, balcony, small back yard or patio, you can still create a dream design with some thoughtful planting and innovative additions, says award-winning designer, Ula Maria.

“Try to understand your space and what will grow there, the light levels, how much sun you get and where the shade falls, as well as the type of soil you have to work with,” says the former RHS Young Designer of the Year, whose new book, Green, offers design ideas for small spaces.

“Take inspiration and learn from nature, whether it’s artwork for colour or an aspect of past holidays, or something else which has inspired you,” she adds.

How big should the plants be in a small space?

“Don’t be too scared to bring in larger plants, because they always seem to make a small space appear grander,” says Maria. “If you are worried that planting a big tree may block your light, think about another statement plant, such as a tall grass. If you have a balcony garden, you may just want to include tall-growing perennials or something that will make a big impact.”

The book features a mixture of small and innovative gardens offering a range of design ideas. Here, Maria shares tips on five styles for inspiration…

1. Balcony garden

Merge florals inside with the balcony outside, she suggests, maybe in the form of a chair covered with a floral material which echoes the flora and fauna on your balcony. “It’s important to make the transition between inside and outside seem as seamless as possible,” says Maria.

Place houseplants close to the window of your balcony to enhance that connection and blur the boundary between outside and in

2. Contemporary Mediterranean

Use materials such as graphic tiles, presenting them in a contemporary way, she advises. Look for companies which sell reclaimed tiles and furniture for ideas. “You don’t have to do a whole wall. You could cover one section of a wall, creating an artwork,” Maria suggests.

If you have a busy wall, you may want to play safe with planting, sticking to green rather than going for a eye-popping colour contrast. “Try not to introduce more than two colours at a time, and see how it works. Ferns are good stalwarts. If you are using busy tiles, keep the planting simple.”

3. Romantic Idyll

Create layered planting with soft, gentle hues, and use fragrance to create a small romantic space, she suggests.

This space has been assembled by an artist, layer by layer, using antique furniture, sculptures and planters to blur the boundaries of the garden and planting in layers to create different heights.

“Layers create interest because you have something to discover in every corner,” says Maria.

“Hydrangeas are great because they have these big, soft blooms. Ornamental roses also look brilliant, along with campanula and ivy, to create a fairy tale garden.”

4. Interior approach

This style is for those who want their outside space to look like an additional room, featuring comfortable seating framed by flora and fauna. “There may not be many plants but there should be enough to create a sense of a garden,” says Maria. “It’s ideal for people who are too busy to maintain many plants.”

An inward-focused space enables you to forget what happens outside its walls. Outdoor rugs have also become a trend in recent years, giving the sense of extra outdoor living space.

If you’re worried about storage of garden cushions, consider buying furniture with in-built storage inside the seating framework, Maria suggests.

5. Container cottage garden

For people with a city garden or roof terrace with no natural planting area, but who still want to feel like they are in the countryside, make the most of containers. These will soon have your space overflowing with plants, Maria assures.

“Large agapanthus, verbena and rosemary add accent colour, texture and scent and you can even grow a fruit tree in a large pot,” she says.

“Plant a mixture of cosmos, lavender, foxgloves and lupins for a joyful and informal look. Experiment with growing herbs, vegetables and fruit in large containers for the full cottage-garden experience.

“Again, allow many layers for different types of plants,” Maria adds. “Containers also provide flexibility for those who one day might want to relocate their garden to a different home.”

Climbers such as clematis or jasmine will cover privacy panels and fill the air with fragrance.

Remember, though, containers can dry out fairly quickly, so consider installing a simple automated watering system if you’re not going to be able to water your pots regularly, she says.

Green by Ula Maria is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £20. Available now.

Property Market Insight During Lockdown

market comment image mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire

We have all witnessed another harrowing week of bleak headlines about the impact of Covid-19, and I was especially moved by the distressing news of the loss of life for some frontline NHS staff.

In many ways to write a few lines about the property market right now doesn’t seem that important in the current circumstances, but I know that house sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants are seeking insight, because the prospect of needing to move house is still a journey they will embark on post lockdown.

Market Insight and Working From Home

The transition to home working has been a relatively smooth operation. This was made all the more easy with the use of technology such as Zoom, and the ability of suppliers such as being able to create video and online brochures for marketing our clients properties.

We are also able to devote time to upgrading the McCarthy Holden web site, with the services of Servon Design who will be designing bespoke new homes pages on our site as well as improving the overall look of how our clients properties are showcased. We hope to have the new homes pages up and running by the end of this month, and be able to show off the amazing range of new homes we have on offer in many locations such as Virginia Water in Surrey through to Upton Grey in Hampshire.

home working image

Our negotiation staff are keeping closely in touch with buyers on our books, by phone, email, newsletter and even video presentations. This means that post lockdown we are already creating a list of buyers who want to view specific properties as soon as we are released from lockdown.

Our property management services continues with remote home workers, resulting in landlords being paid promptly as normal. Regular inspections have however been put on hold. As with house sales, the creation of new tenancies is very much on hold due to lockdown.

Are Contracts Exchanging On House Sales?

Many solicitors are now working successfully from home, and the intent appears to be that the parties proceed to exchange and agree a late completion date. Most existing sales are managing along these lines and we are expecting a few more existing sales at the under offer stage to proceed to exchange this week.

Vendor Inspired Video Gains Momentum

As we mentioned last week, the biggest surprise during lockdown was in the form of many clients asking if we could produce video content of their property if they sent us video clips and still photographs.

This is working out very well and below is a selection of the latest collaborative results.

video tour from mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire
Click image to view the video tour
video tour from mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire
Click image to view the video tour
video tour from mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire

How This Works

Vendors send us the video clips, and then with some editing help from a promotional video tour is created.

We are now issuing guidelines to our video focused vendors, which includes the specification of 1920 x 1080 size, landscape video preferred and MP4 output.

The ideal duration for a full property video tour online is 4 minutes. This means the file size is suitable for quick streaming online and also, it is at the maximum time a potential buyer is likely to watch a video.

We look forward to many of these collaborative home grown marketing initiatives in the weeks ahead.

The Week Ahead

As we enter a time of reflection in Holy Week, I have no doubt many in the country will stop to think deeper about the NHS workers and other key workers who keep society on track. Some will think and reflect and some will pray about these people and the risks they face each day at these times. There is no doubt they are very much in our minds and hearts as we all face into another week when the Covid-19 pressures are due to escalate.

The week ahead is also a good time to reflect on the work of political leaders such as Health Secretary Matt Hancock. I hope a positive from these events will be to hold such people in respect for the good they do, and that we don’t return to the corrosive politics and media coverage of the recent past.

We will provide another market update in a week or so, and you are of course welcome to subscribe free to our newsletter (just click the link near the bottom of our home page).

John Holden – Chairman and Managing Director

Banana, Tahini and White Chocolate Muffin Recipe

banan muffin recipe

Muffins are great to whip up at the weekend - so you can make your way through them in the week.

banan muffin recipe

Elly McCausland says her recipe using banana, tahini, cardamom and white chocolate, results in a “highly addictive sweet-savoury combination” and is also an “excellent way to use up overripe bananas – the blacker the better”.

Banana, tahini and white chocolate muffin recipe


(Makes 12)

For the muffins:

200g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, finely ground

1/4tsp sea salt flakes

100g white chocolate chips (or 1cm pieces of white chocolate)

3 large bananas, mashed

70g light brown soft sugar

1 egg

50g butter, melted and cooled

1tsp vanilla extract

60g tahini

For the tahini glaze:

2tbsp tahini

100g icing sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tbsp sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white looks nice)

banan muffin recipe


1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases (or grease thoroughly with some extra butter if you don’t have paper cases).

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the cardamom and salt. Stir in the white chocolate.

3. In a separate bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla and tahini.

4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over-mix – this is the key to a light muffin. Divide between the 12 cases and bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, until they spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.

5. Transfer the muffins in their cases to a wire rack to cool.

6. Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, icing sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. When the muffins are cool, spoon the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and leave for an hour or so for the glaze to set before eating (if you can wait!).

The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland, photography by Polly Webster, is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, priced £26. Available now.

banan muffin recipe

7 Top Tips for Setting up a Home Office

setting up a home office

Suddenly joined the home worker crew? Here's how to get your new workspace set up, says Luke Rix-Standing.

Once the preserve of reclusive novelists, working from home has suddenly gone from occasional to near-universal.

Recent years had already seen a shift towards more remote and flexible working, to be fair – but the coronavirus pandemic has forced countless businesses to set up shop at home.

If you’re totally new to home working, chances are it’s a steep learning curve. Here’s how to stop grieving over the office coffee machine, and make your home workspace feel as productive and positive as possible…

setting up a home office

1. Banish the bedroom

It’s tempting to start working from the comfiest spot in the house – your bed! But this possibly isn’t the healthiest idea.

Conventional commuting marks a clear divide between work and home, and it’s important for both your lifestyle and sanity that the distinction in some way continues. Not everyone has a choice of course, but if it’s remotely possible, do not work where you sleep.

2. Let there be light

Natural light inherently increases your energy, positivity and creativity, and is an essential tool in the battle against cabin fever. Try to position your desk near a window, and experiment with your computer placement so that you aren’t dazzled by screen glare at certain times of day.

Once the natural light fades, keep your workspace illuminated with well-positioned lamps, that will keep the room feeling fresh whatever the time of day. Just imagine having to spend your office hours cooped up in a poky, dimly-lit basement. Horrible.

setting up a home office

3. The personal touch

If you’re used to an office and enjoy heading out to work, working from home can be an irritation – but it’s also a chance to assert creative control. Productivity permitting, you can listen to music, wear whatever uniform you please, and design a workspace that works just for you.

You could opt for the classic family photo on your desk, or (if you’re seeing enough of them at the moment!) a novelty calendar, colourful print, or attractive timepiece. Your desk likely claims the lion’s share of your day, so don’t worry about looting other rooms to make it feel right. All those things Karen the office manager said you weren’t allowed in the real office – now is their time to shine.

setting up a home office

4. Go for green

Whether it’s an open-plan office block or your own front room, workplace wellbeing still matters. It’s been proven time and again that even low-level exposure to greenery provides a mental boost, and you might really be missing your outdoor foliage fix right now.

From spiky little cacti to large-leafed philodendrons, there’s plenty of plants that can spruce up your desk. A trip to the local garden centre is probably off the table for a while but there are lots of options for buying online and having nature delivered direct to your door.

setting up a home office

5. Cut the clutter

Tempted to stock your new home desk to within an inch of its life? Colour-coded binders, a symmetrical splay of pencil pots, a year’s supply of post-its, paperclips and Pritt Sticks, and your favourite coffee mug precariously squeezed in by your keyboard…

Everything runs like clockwork – until you have to takes notes or a phone call, and you find you’re balancing your notepad on your knee. Keep clutter to a minimum and go for ‘less is more’ to keep it calm and functional.

setting up a home office

6. Invest in your chair

Your constant companion as you go about your day, an ergonomically sound chair is among the most important ingredients in any effective workspace – including when you’re at home.

Posture and comfort are important and hunching over your desk for hours on end is a fast-track to back and neck pain. Even for the most tight-fisted part of payroll, this is not the place to scrimp.

setting up a home office

7. Optimise your setup

However, even the best chair in the world won’t save your spine if your tech isn’t set up properly. Remember that the top of your computer screen should be roughly level with your eye-line. If your desk is too short, or your screen too small, use a box or stack of books to lift your machine to the right height, and use a separate keyboard for a laptop so you’re not gazing downwards all day.

Every home worker runs the risk of claustrophobia, so retaining a little floor space to pace or stretch could be godsend by the end of a long week. Finally, the one thing your office is useless without – connectivity. If there are any known WiFi blind spots in your home, avoid them like the plague.

How to Grow Flowers that are Ideal for Cutting

These are the best blooms for cutting so you can enjoy them outdoors and in, as florist Arthur Parkinson tells Hannah Stephenson.

If you love flowers both outside and in, now is a perfect time to start growing blooms in your garden that you can cut for DIY bouquets later on.

You can dig out old seed packets or buy new ones from mail order suppliers such as and, which have seen huge increases in sales.

Keen to get started? Here, gardener and florist Arthur Parkinson shares some top tips on growing the most colourful, eye-catching flowers, which will offer masses of interest whether you leave them outdoors or cut them for your home…


There’s still plenty of time to pot up dahlia tubers. They need to start off undercover and be kept frost-free, so plant them either in a greenhouse or on large windowsills.

For small numbers, plant the tubers up individually into two or three-litre pots using peat-free multipurpose compost. The tuber only needs to be a few inches below the surface of the pot’s compost.

If the compost is moist to the touch then you will not need to water the tubers until they send up their first few shoots, as this will be enough to stir them into growth. Overwatering growing dahlias can cause them to rot.

If you really want to go to town with dahlias, the quickest way to pot lots of them up is to crate plant them. Plastic crates can be lined with old, pierced compost bags and into each six tubers can be planted together.

Once they are large and growing well, you can take each plant from the crate like slices of cake and transplant them into large containers or out into the garden.

Hardy annuals

You can sow hardy annuals now, these include calendulas, cornflowers and borage. It is too early to sow most fast half hardy annuals such as cosmos, as it is better to sow these from mid-April.

If you are growing on a windowsill then keep your seedlings cool and put them outside on mild days to prevent them getting leggy, bringing them inside at night until they begin to grow their adult leaves.

Sweet peas

Pinch out sweet peas if you sowed them over the winter. Once they look strong with several pairs of leaves, pinch out the growing tip with your thumb and forefinger. This encourages the seedlings to grow sideshoots that will flower well.

If you haven’t sown sweet peas yet you still can sow them. Those that are seedlings now will be ready shortly to be planted out in their final positions. Dig in as much well-rotted manure that you can, as sweet peas are very hungry plants.


The mild winter is seeing the sap quickly rise in many trees. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to secure a source of hazel and silver birch for pea sticks and poles if you can.

Birch is often found to have self-seeded itself along roads in urban places, so you may spot it on your one walk a day. However, you could also use the prunings from apple trees, or paint old bamboo canes a good deep green or even a Moroccan blue to add to a display of dahlias.

Alternatively, use mail order willow sticks that are dried and preserved, so that they can’t root but look very nice in the garden. Hessian pea and bean netting can be draped over canes for sweet peas too.


Feed your borders and beds with a good two-inch mulch using homemade compost. This will feed the soil for the season ahead. Online suppliers are still delivering although garden centres are closed.

Dahlias, cosmos and sunflowers will grow well on soil that is enriched. Don’t dig it into your soil but spread it thickly and let the worms do the work for you.

12 Fun Ways to Set the Scene for Easter

enjoy easter at home

Gatherings may be off the cards but you can still have fun with the decos. Hop to it, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Easter egg hunts may be confined to the living room and garden this year, and your family gathering might take place over Skype – but that doesn’t mean you can’t set the scene with some bright and cheery decos if you want to.

This could even be a fun DIY project with the kids (although grown-ups are allowed to get stuck in with the crafts too!). Raid your arts supplies box and get creative.

If you are hoping to buy something to set the scene for Easter, there are lots of options – although many stores are temporarily closed and operating online only and supermarket sweeps aren’t as easy as usual, so choose carefully.

But a sweet bunny or two, and some egg-sellent spring decos could help bring some extra fun and cheer to your Easter celebrations…

enjoy easter at home

1. Twig Easter Wreath With Gold Eggs, £17.50, The Contemporary Home

A gesture of goodwill, this stylish wreath will brighten up your front door. Alternatively, it can be placed over a mantelpiece and teamed with other gold decos, or hung on the wall.

enjoy easter at home

2. Sophie Conran for Portmeirion Colour Pop collection, from £6.83 (was £10.50) for a Sunshine Egg Cup & Spoon to £46.80 (was £72) for Set of 4 Coupe Plates,

The prettiest pastels will not only sit beautifully with all your Easter Sunday treats, but these sorbet shades will look fab when the time eventually comes (hurrah!) for summer barbecues and picnics in the garden.

enjoy easter at home

3. Sainsbury’s Home Egg Cup & Toast Plate Set, £8, available from selected larger Sainsbury’s stores

Those Easter morning runny eggs and soldiers will look and taste even yummier served up on this cute set.

enjoy easter at home

4. Easter Table Centrepiece With Candle, £30 (Rabbit Plate sold separately), Ella James

This stylish centrepiece would look great placed on the dining table or coffee table. You could also build the twigs and feathers up with real chocolate eggs, and bookmark it with a couple of vases of spring flowers or jugs of fresh daffodils for the finishing touch.

enjoy easter at home

5. Sainsbury’s Home 4pk Paint Your Own Egg, £4, available from selected larger Sainsbury’s stores

When it comes to keeping the kids entertained, every little bit helps – and these sweet ‘paint your own’ eggs could keep them busy for at least an hour or so. You might want to pick up an extra pack for yourself!

enjoy easter at home

6. Licette Rabbit House Cushion, £20 (was £40), Beaumonde

With her cute red bow and the sweetest whiskers, this adorable bunny makes you want to reach out, stroke her and feed her some blades of grass. And best of all, she’s happy to flop on the sofa.

enjoy easter at home

7. John Lewis & Partners Easter Bunny Ear Napkin Rings – Set of 4, £12 (no longer available online but similar products still on sale), other items from a selection, John Lewis

Eye-catching spring lilac and blues collide beautifully in this Easter table setting from John Lewis. Some items have sold out online but there are other designs to explore. We love the dreamy feel, which is easy to recreate too – just don’t forget the hot-cross buns.

enjoy easter at home

8. Bunny Candle Holder Votives – Set of 3, £24, Beaumonde

The days are longer again now, but a sweet collection of tea lights always adds a special touch. These rabbit candle holders come with a a seasonal Easter message on the back.

enjoy easter at home

9. Easter Flower Fairies, £12, Ella James

If you fancy a winged fairy rather than a freshly hatched chick, this darling duo will feel right at home. Once Easter’s over they can live in the kids’ rooms.

enjoy easter at home

10. Country Folk Glass Easter Egg Decorations – Set of Three, £11.50, The Contemporary Home

Take a colourful ribbon and string these painted glass eggs on indoor palms, across the mantelpiece, or hang from a curtain rail. They’d also look lovely simply placed in a bowl as a centre piece.

enjoy easter at home

11. Argos Home Inflatable 153cm Tree, £45, Inflatable 154cm Totem Pole (other items from a selection), Argos

Lots of fun and a little bit kitsch, if you’re feeling young at heart these inflatable decos are worth hunting down.

enjoy easter at home

12. Easter Green Moss Bunny, £8, Paperchase

No lawn? No bother – this ‘moss’ bunny will feel just at home sitting on a window sill, basking in the sunshine. We think he’d look great on the bookshelf all year round, too.

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