10 Fun Craft Projects you Can do With the Kids

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

Give in and get creative. Claire Spreadbury rounds up her top picks for families.

When the stress of homeschooling starts to heighten, crack out the craft – easy, fun projects are great for encouraging kids to be creative, and can be relaxing too.

Get involved if you can, as focusing on just one thing can be wonderfully mindful, while your children will love spending quality time together. And if the mess stresses you out, choose an option you can do outside on a warm day – it’s the perfect antidote to feeling cooped up and crazy.

“When it comes to kids crafting, I would say the messier and the more creative, the better,” says Holly Harper, head of inspiration at notonthehighstreet. “One of the qualities I admire most in my nieces and nephews is their boundless imagination, and I tend to find the more freedom they have to do what they want, the more they enjoy the activity and the longer it keeps them occupied.”

Hobbycraft’s Ideas Hub is full of fun and simple projects. Katherine Paterson, their customer director, agrees getting crafty and creative is a great way to keep the kids entertained. “We’ve also launched an online Daily Kid’s Craft Club, with a different theme posted at 11am Monday-Friday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“The craft club is focused on a theme, rather than a specific project, so more children can get involved using whatever materials they have at home. We’re seeing some really fantastic creations.”

Need some ideas? Try some of these crafty creations for yourself…

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

1. A rocket made from recycling

Let little ones raid the paper and plastic recycling and build rockets which can be painted in brilliant colours. You can even make one into a rucksack by adding string or ribbon for straps.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

2. Decorated stones

Painted pebbles are a must – they’re super easy and gorgeously pretty. Get the kids in the garden, or searching for stones on your daily walk. From ladybird pet rocks to crazy aliens, there are endless designs to be created. You can paint NHS rainbows and hide them in the woods for other children to find and re-hide, or get really arty by painting on beautifully intricate patterns.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

3. Immerse yourself in nature

Experiment with items found in your very own garden. Create a leaf rubbing, pine cone spider or a twiggy wind chime. Or collect up leaves, stones, sticks, flowers and grass, and create a nature picture or art installation (look up work by Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration).

4. Create crafty cookies

Bake biscuits and let the kids go to town on the decoration. Use sweets, chocolate, mini marshmallows, icing, sprinkles and popcorn, or buy a Children’s Monster Bake And Craft Kit, £23, from notonthehighstreet.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

5. Make a scrapbook

Now is the perfect time to start scrapbooking. Buy a book and let the kids stick stuff on the pages, write about their day, draw pictures and create collages. It will be a work of art and a memory to look back on once life returns to normal.

6. Master brilliant bunting

Everyone loves a bit of bunting – it’s so cheering, and easy and cheap to create. You can either use scraps of fabric (try upcycling old, unwanted clothes) and sew triangular shapes of colourful bunting, which can then be stitched on to a fabric string or ribbon. Or you can cut out paper or card triangles, punch holes in them, decorate with paint or pen, and string them up. It’s bound to brighten up the place.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

7. Paint like Pollock

Splash out on a lovely big canvas (Hobbycraft have a huge range from £6-£18) and make a family splatter painting inspired by Jackson Pollock. Choose your paint colours, get brushes of all sizes at the ready and take it in turns to splatter the paint over the canvas. Keep going, one-by-one, until you’re happy with the finished result.

8. Transform into a robot

Had anything been delivered to you in a large box recently? Let the kids make a robot outfit out of it by sticking bits together, cutting holes for the head, arms and legs, and decorating it however they fancy.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

9. Let someone know you’re thinking of them

Make cards or postcards to send to friends and loved ones your kids are missing. The fronts can feature hand-drawn pictures or decorations galore, while inside or on the back, children and parents can write messages of love. Tell someone you miss them and why, say something that will make them happy, then send them through the post for a delivery of joy. If you fancy a kit to get you started, you can buy a Kids Colour In Postcard Portraits Pack for £6.50, from notonthehighstreet.

10. Build a den

Who needs an actual tent when you can build a den? Gather sheets, tarpaulin, card, newspapers, mats, twigs, cushions – anything that might be useful for taking cover beneath – and go to town building the biggest and best den you’ve ever attempted. Make signs for the ‘door’, and thread leaves on to sticks to prettify the area, then sneak tea and biscuits inside.

How to Dry Home-Grown Blooms

home grown dried flowers

Make everlasting mementoes and gifts by growing and drying your own flowers, with help from expert floral artist Bex Partridge.

Gardeners may be looking for new ways to make the most of their fruit and flowers this year – and dried flowers are once again catching on. Head-dresses, gift cards, wreaths and framed indoor displays can all be made using dried flowers you’ve grown yourself.

Floral artist Bex Partridge, author of a new book, Everlastings, explains: “Most of us have probably done this at some point and felt the joy of discovering a forgotten pressed bloom as it flutters from the pages of a book.

“While I usually press smaller flowers and leaves, I’ve recently enjoyed drying bigger branches and ferns. The results can be quite stunning and, when included in arrangements, add structural charm.”

home grown dried flowers

What are the best flowers for drying?

“As a general rule, the best plant material to dry tends to have slightly woodier stems that are less juicy in feel – think delphiniums rather than dandelions,” advises Partridge.

The best include Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), astrantia, foxgloves, delphiniums, meadowsweet, honesty, globe thistles, sunflowers, nigella, hydrangea, allium, poppies, scabious and statice, although there are many more, she says.

“Start with perfect specimens, making sure the petal edges are nibble-free. It’s important to press them as soon as you pick them too, otherwise the petals will begin to droop and that will negatively affect the end results.”

Avoid big, blousy blooms

“Most flowers respond well to pressing, with the exception of big, blousy blooms that are too full of moisture or have too many layers to dry out properly, although individual petals can be separated and dried,” says Partridge.

“Daisies, nigella, bluebells and poppies will bring you stunning results. Think about the form of the flowers when pressing – you can press the heads alone or the whole stem and leaves for a striking display.”

home grown dried flowers

What about air drying?

This is the simplest way to dry flowers en masse. Begin by stripping all unwanted foliage from the stalks, leaving some of the top foliage surrounding the flower as it adds extra texture and gives a more natural appearance to arrangements.

Gathering a handful of stems together, wind a length of string or twine around them a number of times, securing it with a tight knot at the end, and leaving enough string to form a loop to hang them with. The stems themselves will shrink as they dry, so make sure you’ve tied the bunches tightly enough to keep them together, but not so tight the stems get crushed.

Ideally, bunch flowers of the same variety together for ease when you use them, or store them in boxes and try to ensure the flower heads aren’t sitting too close together to allow for good air circulation.

Air dry bigger blooms upright

Bigger headed blooms dry better facing upwards, as it results in a more open appearance and, if they have particularly heavy heads, ensures they don’t droop. Partridge uses a reclaimed riddle (flat sieve) for this.

“Stripping the stems of all foliage, I slot each stem individually through the small holes until the head of the flower rests on the mesh. I attach a hook in the centre of the riddle or an upside down wooden crate, and hang it in my drying cupboard.

“If you don’t have a riddle, you can use some fine metal mesh or chicken wire secured to a frame – or a cardboard box with holes punched through would do.”

home grown dried flowers

When air drying…

Always try to dry your materials in a dark place, as light bleaches colour out of flowers. The space you use should be normal room temperature and completely free of moisture in the air. Ideal spots are airing cupboards, cupboards under the stairs, or a dry, shady shed.

You can buy hooks and herb hangers to hang from the ceiling.

How long will it take?

Most things will have dried within three to five weeks, and can either be left hanging where they are or transferred to storage boxes lined with newspaper or tissue paper.

Avoid placing too many bunches on top of each other, to prevent crushing delicate buds and flower heads, then store them in a dark, dry space until you need them. Materials can last many years stored this way.

home grown dried flowers

What if you’re short of time?

“Possibly the easiest method is dry evaporation,” says Partridge. “The beauty of it is, you can enjoy the flowers while they dry, and if it doesn’t work as you’d hoped, you can just compost them.”

After stripping the flowers of any unwanted foliage, and definitely anything that sits below the waterline, put the flowers in a vase and add approximately two inches of water. Ensure the ends of the stalks sit in the water.

Then wait – it can take a few weeks for the flowers to dry completely. There is no need to top up the water. This method works particularly well with hydrangeas, which can be fickle when dried in other ways. Gypsophila, spray roses and mimosa respond well too.

If you’re using a flower press…

Cut off unwanted foliage and use flowers in their prime. If necessary, dry the petals and leaves with kitchen paper or a tea towel to ensure they’re totally dry before pressing them. Store in flat large envelopes or cardboard boxes, with the pressed flowers separated with tissue paper.

And if you don’t have a flower press…

A big book works just as well – as long as you don’t mind a few marks on the pages.

Everlastings by Bex Partridge is published by Hardie Grant, priced £14.99. Available now.

12 Ways to Feature Florals at Home

Floral home decor

Florals never go out of fashion and this season they're in full bloom. Gabrielle Fagan reveals her top petal power picks.

If you’ve been missing your outdoor floral fix, there are plenty of ways to ‘grow’ your own dazzling display of blooms at home.

You can take your pick from wallpapers, fabrics, crockery, and a host of other home accessories all with blooming beautiful floral designs, which are bursting forth this season.

No green fingers required – just pick from our bouquet of 12 fantastic floral fixes to take home this season…

Floral home decor

1. Go wild on walls

“We’re noticing a greater demand for floral murals,” says Rachel Kenny, studio manager for specialists in murals and wallpaper, Wallsauce.

“At this time when we’re restricted in travelling, it seems people are really missing visiting beautiful gardens, going to the famous flower shows, and are just longing to bring the beauty of nature and all its blooms into the home.”

And, she points out, a wonderful floral display is an eye-catching and soothing backdrop for those video meetings. Wallsauce’s Delicate Floral Meadow wallpaper, from £29 per square metre, features individual blooms on a pure white background.

Floral home decor

2. Make a floral statement

Just one chair is all it took! Make an impact with a single furniture piece upholstered in a bold floral print. Leave the space around your statement piece uncluttered, so you really allow it to star. For added impact, pick up on one colour in the design for a selection of accessories, such as a cushion, vase or rug, elsewhere in the room.

“Florals and botanical prints are such a popular choice for spring and summer and striking designs can really add a wow factor to a room,” says John Darling, founder of Darlings of Chelsea. “This chair suits any room, from a traditional conservatory to a contemporary living room, and is a classic which will never date.”

Floral home decor

3. Plant up a home office

In a home office or workspace, you need a design that will boost energy and creativity, while also giving you a lovely view.

“Working from home is becoming the new norm and a bold floral design for a window blind can perfectly disguise a poor view, as well as transforming an unremarkable corner into a personal space full of character,” enthuses Michael Ayerst, managing director at Surface View, who can recreate images on wall murals, canvasses, blinds and ceramic tiles.

“Florals have definitely made a big return to interiors,” he adds. “Our collection of historic botanical drawings, tropical palm paintings and colourful horticultural illustrations from across the centuries are proving particularly popular.”

Floral home decor

4. Spread a little sunshine

Think outside of the vase. A perfectly placed petal – or more – on a print or quirky accessory will refresh the look of a room and really show flower power is growing on you.

Floral home decor

5. Take to the floor

“If you’re looking to incorporate colourful statement flowers, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to do it is by featuring a bright, bold rug,” says Jemma Dayman, buyer at Carpetright.

“The variety of hues in a floral rug will allow for an eclectic selection of furniture and accessories to be used throughout the room, bringing further pops of colour and creating a cohesive and stylish scheme.”

Floral home decor

6. Play with flower power

Treat a sofa like a window-box – replacing tired old plants with new ones would give it an instant update, and new cushions in a pretty floral print could have the same effect.

“Times of uncertainty make us want to reconnect with nature, give us an appreciation of what matters, and mean we look to our surroundings to comfort us,” says Georgia Metcalfe, founder and creative director, The French Bedroom Company.

“Florals are great for bringing the outside in, whether it’s a floral fresco wallpaper design, patterned bed linen, or simple bunches of hand-picked wildflowers from a walk. Filling our rooms with floral spring tones has the effect of a visual revamp, which can’t help but lift our spirits.”

Floral home decor

7. Serve a floral feast

Interior designers know how effective ‘trompe l’oeil’ (realistic imagery which creates an optical 3D illusion) can be in rooms, and they use it to conjure stunning vistas or talking-point effects.

These are ideal used in one section of a wall, paired with a neutral background which fills the rest of the space, allowing the image to ‘pop’ without overpowering the room.

“Murals are great at adding drama and depth and can give the illusion of an impressive landscape, which is restful on the eye,” says Surface View’s Ayerst.

Floral home decor

8. Blooming table treats

There’s such a profusion of floral-inspired tableware around currently, whether you favour delicate ditsy patterns, punchier designs or something in-between.

“For those who enjoy experimenting with statement colour and bold motifs, Marimekko tableware is such a playful addition to a dining room,” says Emily Dunstan, home buyer, Heal’s.

“Vibrant flowers on the Elakoon Elama and Unikko crockery offer plenty of personality and you’ll impress guests with your distinctive, creative flair.”

Floral home decor

9. Fake it to make it

Faux blooms are such high quality now, they’re often indistinguishable from the real thing, and so it’s perhaps not surprising their popularity is soaring. They’ll never wilt or droop, provide instant cost-effective decoration and if you can’t manage to keep indoor plants alive, faux ones are a good option.

“Faux flowers can be used to inspire a romantic and atmospheric setting. Match pastels with deep berry and lavender shades and showcase fresh greenery in natural, organic vases,” advises Dunstan. “Bouquets such as hydrangeas and peonies, by Abigail Ahern, add a sense of boutique luxury, while bringing a gentle warmth and softness to a room.”

Floral home decor

10. Shine a light on petals

A lampshade which takes inspiration from faraway fields filled with profusions of wild blooms and charming country gardens, could be a small way to capture the spirit of sunny, flower-filled days.

Floral home decor

11. Blooms for the boudoir

“If you’re nervous about experimenting with colour, incorporating floral designs in the home is a subtle way to introduce it into settings,” says Bethan Harwood, home design stylist, John Lewis.

Clearly we’re all yearning for flowery details, especially in our bedrooms, as John Lewis has seen floral bed linen sales rise by 58% compared to last year.

“Focus your choice by first considering whether you want full-on florals or something less bold for curtains or bedding,” Harwood advises. “Floral wallpaper is more of a commitment but it will always add depth and character to a room and works well on one wall or as a feature on a ceiling, especially if the remaining walls are left plain.”

Top tip: generally, small, ditsy prints can make a large room feel too busy and distracting but they can really suit smaller spaces, such as a compact bathroom or dressing room, Harwood notes.

Floral home decor

12. Picture petals

One of the easiest ways to bring this trend home is with artwork. A floral print or poster can look dynamic hung on its own, or you could create a ‘living’ gallery of prints.

Pick a theme – botanical drawings, your favourite flower portrayed in different ways, or a collection of still life flower paintings – and link them by using the same colour and style of frame throughout.

Now that wasn’t Expected!


The first week of Estate Agents being allowed to conduct house viewings has been a real eye opener, with the level of buyer activity much higher than anticipated which hopefully bodes well for a quick bounce back in the house market.

No doubt there will be some readers who will think, well you would say that wouldn’t you, in the hope of pepping up the market, but I can counter any such thought with some hard facts and examples, so here are a few case notes from the first week back.

New House Eversley – Under offer in three days

This fine new home by Aspire was placed on the open market on Monday 18th May at a guide £1,125,000.

By Thursday 20th May a sale was agreed to a proceedable purchaser.

Country House Eversley – Emerging Buyer Interest around £2.0m. guide

We took this property to the market a few weeks before lockdown, so viewings went on hold during the lockdown period.

Yesterday we had multiple viewings at the house and two offers have already been submitted. This home is typical of the kind of property that will be sought after in the emerging market of house buyers leaving London and other major towns and cities for rural living.

Do you have a country house for sale? We have a waiting list of buyers looking right now.

Right now the short to medium term outlook is positive and the biggest demand is for rural / semi-rural properties in all price ranges, but especially in the £1.5m. to £6.0m. sector.

So if you live in a country house and are looking to sell, this summer could be the best time to go to market. If you would like a free and confidential market appraisal contact your nearest McCarthy Holden branch.

Fleet – On £750,000 guide

With marketing help by way of a vendor inspired video tour during lockdown, this stunning detached house has gone under offer.

Blue Triangle, Fleet – Exchanged on guide £1.5m.

In just over one acre in one of the most desirable roads in Fleet, this imposing property was built by the renowned local builder Pool & Son in the 1930’s.

Fitzroy-Road-sold-fleet McCarthy Holden estate agents

As we said in last week’s market update, the prospect of house sales in the short to medium term is relatively easy to judge, because we are working with house buyers and sellers alike every day, so their motivations and the drivers of the market conditions are there for us to interpret.

House Viewing Protocols Working Well

The new way of conducting house viewings is going well, with strict social distancing protocols and excellent co-operation from vendors and purchasers alike.

Some of the social distancing protocols include the following.

• Only one viewer can be present at a time, no children will be allowed in a property (this is because avoiding the touching of surfaces is difficult with young children).
• The owner/tenant will leave property for the viewing.
• We will supply the viewer with disposable gloves and mask, subject to our supply allowing for this.
• The viewers will be allowed to walk around and asked not to touch anything.
• In order to maintain social distancing, the agent will not be able to enter every room with the viewer.
• When the viewing is completed, the agent will lock up the property and leave, then dispose of gloves and use hand sanitiser.

The House Market / Buyer Attitudes

We are impressed with the resilience of house buyers, who continue to remain upbeat about their moving plans. Furthermore, 95% of the sales arranged we had in place at the start of lockdown, continue to remain in place and in the past week many of those have moved forward to exchange and simultaneous completions..

Emerging Markets

In the last week there has been increasing signs of the biggest emerging market being driven by people wanting to leave London and other large cities or towns, to find a new home in a rural or village setting, yet remain within reasonable distance of London etc. That is a positive for the home owners we act for on the Hampshire / Surrey / Berkshire borders, especially those who live in property worth between £1.5m. and £6.0m. in our area of operation.

If you are selling a rural property, contact your nearest McCarthy Holden branch for a free and confidential property appraisal.


The Weeks Ahead

Simply making hay whilst the sun shines!


John Holden – Chairman

Preview Property For Sale Finchampstead


We are pleased to bring you a preview of this property in Wellingtonia Avenue, which is due to go to the open market soon at a guide price around £1,500,000.

Wellingtonia Avenue is a sought after area on the cusp of Crowthorne / Finchampstead in Berkshire.

Take A Video Tour of the Grounds and Setting

This character five bedroom house is set in beautiful grounds of around 1.5 acres and full details will be available soon. For now please take a look at the video tour of the grounds and outside of the property, and we will soon be able to access the property again to obtain interior photographs and video content.

This character home is in a prime location less than a mile from Wellington College.

You can always arrange to view early by telephoning 01252 842100.

Do you have a country house for sale?
We have a waiting list of buyers looking right now.

10 Ways Working Parents can Stay Sane Right Now

working from home parenting tips

Homeschooling while working can really ramp up the stress levels. Claire Spreadbury asks the experts for some advice.

If you’re a working parent, life might feel increasingly tough at the moment.

Being furloughed undoubtedly comes with its own set of problems, but when you’re expected to work normally, while also homeschooling your kids, it’s nigh-on impossible.

So, what can we do to settle those anxious thoughts and chill out a bit?

working from home parenting tips

1. Have a routine

“Keeping sane as parents, as a couple and as a family takes planning,” says consulting psychologist Dr Mara Klemich, co-founder of Heartstyles and co-author of Above The Line: Living And Leading With Heart. “Your kids will be adjusting to the ‘new normal’ just like you, so it’s important to create a new routine. As humans we get stressed out by change, and routine gives us a sense of security and normalcy, which is particularly important right now. Wake up, meal times, school and work time, and bed times, are the backbone of the daily structure that keeps people effective – regardless of age.”

Routines enable us to differentiate between weekdays and weekends, she says. “Break up your day into work time and non-work time, if you can. For kids, it’s reassuring to know they will have dedicated time with you. For you, it’s getting a block of focused work in, while everyone else engages in some activities.”

2. Keep some structure

“It may seem like there’s a never-ending list of activities you need to accomplish, but don’t feel pressurised to tick them all off,” says psychologist Dr Alice Jones Bartoli, who’s working with outdoor education provider Kingswood.

Instead of dipping in and out between work and homeschooling, think about how much time you can realistically give, she says. “We’re often needing to multi-task, but it can be tiring and distracting. Be present – it can be difficult, particularly at the moment with blurred boundaries, but we need to retrain ourselves to be disciplined, ensuring that if we are with the children, we are with them.”

On the flip side, it also means work time is work time, and the kids should understand that, helping you to be able to fully concentrate.

working from home parenting tips

3. Plan ahead for boredom

Psychologist, health coach and author of new book Self-care For Tough Times (Aster, eBook £4.99), Suzy Reading, suggests creating a ‘treasure map’ of activities and hanging it on the wall. “Make a poster with your kids, jotting down with words or images all the different ways we can keep ourselves engaged. When boredom strikes, take a look at the map and pick something. Keep adding fresh inspiration when new ideas pop up.”

4. Ditch perfectionism

Let go of the idea of being the ‘perfect parent’, says Klemich. “The media is full of tips on how to spend quality time with your children and your social media feed will be flooded with images of other parents having fun, exercising and homeschooling. Striving to measure up can cause unnecessary stress.”

It works the other way around, too. “Be honest and realistic with your co-workers or clients,” she says. “Little things, like letting your kids say hello at the start of a video call, so they feel included and everyone knows they’re there, can help to take the pressure off. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody’s an expert in all this. Shift your focus from perfectionism to being ‘good enough’. It can be so liberating.”

working from home parenting tips

5. Keep an eye on your phone habits

Being stuck inside has meant many of us are glued to our screens, but whilst staying in contact with people is really important, incessant scrolling is not.

“Put your phone away,” advises Jones Bartoli. Try it one lunchtime and instead of working over lunch, take a picnic in the garden or living room with the kids. “These little things will spark enjoyment and help you create memories, while enabling you to take some time out from the work-school pressures.”

6. Prioritise mindful moments

Reading is a big believer in savouring with your senses. “Build calming mindful moments into your day,” she says. “Use scent or music to uplift or soothe, engage in touch with mini massage sessions or a loving hug, enjoy moving your body with some simple yoga poses or feeling your breath, head out into nature, relish the process of baking and devouring your creations. A few mindful minutes here and there make a big cumulative difference to the collective mood.”

And if it all gets a bit much, hypnotherapist and alcohol reduction expert Georgia Foster advises we turn to our breath to help manage stress. “Shallow breathing creates anxiety, deep breathing regulates your emotions,” she notes. “So, take a big belly breath in and hold for five seconds, then release that breath completely and count for five seconds. Repeat this three times – it’s a technique which will reduce anxiety and calm your entire central nervous system.”

working from home parenting tips

7. Teach life skills

“We have the opportunity to focus on life skills, such as the chores many kids never help with,” stresses Klemich. “Engage them in emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming and helping with food. All these build confidence, competence and independence – and take some of the stress off parents having to do everything!”

8. Take time out for you

Taking time out for yourself has never been more important. “Parents need the opportunity to de-stress and make sure their own mental health is in check,” says Jones Bartoli. Whatever that looks like – going for a walk, taking a book into the bath, or practising yoga in the morning – plan it in and do it.

“Parents can’t always give, give, give. Times are anxiety-provoking at the moment, but if you’re able to make small changes to look after your mental health, not only you, but the whole family will benefit.”

working from home parenting tips

9. Speak up

“Don’t be afraid to open up about how you’re feeling,” continues Klemich. “Juggling everything can make you feel like you’re losing your mind, so it always helps to gain an external perspective and be reassured that everything is fine. Talk to your partner, call a friend or family member, whoever will listen and help you feel that your sanity is still intact.”

10. Give your partner some attention

Lots of us are talking about this crisis making or breaking relationships, and spending time together cooped up can add a huge amount of pressure. Klemich recommends scheduling dedicated couple time to lift the mood. “Set aside time to chat and listen to each other’s concerns each day, in a room on your own,” she says. “Engage the kids in allowing you both your own time, and if you have young children, make some time after you’ve put them to bed. It’s important to nourish your relationship as a couple, not just as ‘the parents’.

“Forgive your partner (and your kids) for minor irritations – and ask them to forgive you,” she adds. “Spend time together, laugh, and find love and joy in the little things that happen each day, and the fact you are together. Create memories of this time – whilst we didn’t choose it, it chose us. Let’s use this precious time well, and be able to tell positive stories about it in the future.”

6 Easy DIY Projects to Bring New Life into Your Home

From chalk paint effects, transforming tiles and display ideas, Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some quick and clever revamps.

Decorating projects are usually something many of us put off, or happily call in the professionals for.

But in these unprecedented times, lockdown has launched a determined army of DIY enthusiasts ready to tackle a plethora of decorative finishes, get a handle on cabinetry and transform tiles by grouting with gorgeous colours.

Indeed, being holed up at home has given a whole new meaning to rolling up our sleeves indoors and inspired many of us to explore our creative sides.

Bonus? There are lots of relatively quick and simple home-improvement projects that can instantly breathe new life into a space.

Here’s six ways to put the creative process into practice…

1. Transform with tiling

Sprucing up the kitchen with tiling takes skill but with a little bit of practice, there’s a look for everyone. Tiling just the splashback means you don’t have to go all the way up the wall, so you have impact without being spendy. And depending on the shape and size of the tiles, you only need to build them two or three rows up to get the look.

Natalia Ratajczak, interior designer for The Furniture Union, suggests tiling the splashback with subway tiles, adding a strong red grout colour and framing them with a thick black outline to add graphic detailing.

Tempting as it is, don’t tile over existing tiles. Ratajczak says it’s better to hack off any existing ones to ensure you get a level finish and that your adhesive is fully bonded, etc. If you want to go one step further, add shelving above to tie in finishes and display decorative items.

2. Colour co-ordinate ceilings and corridors

It may sound a bit matchy-matchy but coordinating a section of your ceiling with a piece of furniture, especially in a long, dark corridor, is a great option to create a boutique hotel-style vibe.

Using a strong colour on the ceiling (Furniture Union recommend matt emulsion finish) teamed with cabinetry in the same colour (a satin finish works well for woodwork, offering a mild sheen) can make a narrow space look utterly revitalised.

3. Update handles and knobs

Depending on your taste, handles are to a chest of drawers what the standing area is to your shower – both need to be functional and stylish – and as they say, it’s all in the detail.

An easy update, industrial-style knobs, statement or drop handles will instantly increase the pulling power of furniture throughout the home and kitchen units, without having to splash out on replacing whole items. And the good news is, many are simple screw and bolt types, so no drilling required.

4. Get the wow factor with wallpaper

Budget allowing, think about making the switch from paint to paper – zooming in on a section of the space, rather than the whole room, makes much lighter work of the task and means you don’t have to worry about clearing everything out of the way.

“As with painting, adding wallpaper to one wall rather than the whole room is a great first-time project,” says Lorna MacPhee, furnishing accessories buyer for John Lewis.

“If this is your first attempt, choose a ditsy or abstract design that’s easier to pattern match, being more forgiving along the joins than a bold geometric design, while a paste-the-wall design is quicker and less messy than traditional paste-the-wallpapers, and you’ll need less in your tool kit.”

5. Change your outlook

When it comes to window dressing, we all need a creative outlook – but we don’t necessarily want the world looking in on us – and there’s more to net curtains than meets the eye. Whether you choose lace or voile, they can easily be draped over an existing curtain pole or laced with ribbon and hung on hooks.

An easy update, MacPhee suggests layering ready-made curtains over lightweight sheers. “The voiles give a softer light and privacy for those at-home yoga sessions and moments of calm,” she says. “Hang from net curtain wire or swap your pole for a tension wire.”

6. Customise with chalk paint

If you want to paint the town – sorry, home – red (or any other shade for that matter), chalk based paint offers a flat, matt finish and brilliant coverage with one or two coats.

Ideal for painting walls, furniture, indoors and outdoors, it’s especially suited to vintage pieces (think shabby-chic finish) or flea market finds that just need a bit of love and attention.

To point you in the right direction, we recommend Frenchchic paint or Annie Sloan who have a range of durable, weatherproof chalk paint that’s suitable for wood, laminate, metal and plastic. A top coat will seal, protect and keep the colour long-lasting, so this is especially good for garden furniture. And thanks to rigorous testing, it’s also certified safe enough (EN 71:3) to use on children’s toys – think an old train set that just needs a lick of paint to bring it back into service.

Children’s Gardening Books to Inspire Young Growers

children's gardening books

As National Children's Gardening Week approaches, captivate your children with a crop of gardening books aimed at the young.

children's gardening books

When the contents of the sandpit are all over the patio, the trampoline has lost its bounce and the little ones are short of something to do, there’s a plethora of gardening books out there with activities to engage them.

In the run up to National Children’s Gardening Week (23 – 31 May), here’s a selection for all ages of children to help them dig for victory.

RHS Get Growing by Holly Farrell (Frances Lincoln, £14.99)

This easy-to-use family guide to gardening covers everything from how plants work to identifying plants, growing easy fruit and veg and getting children to take part in creating wildlife gardens.

If your child is arty, the book offers projects showing them how to decorate clay pots and coasters. If they’re interested in food, there’s an array of suggestions, from how to grow edible flowers to designing a herb garden. And if they are fascinated by wildlife, they can learn how to make a garden for minibeasts and birds, or create a pond in a bucket.

They’ll probably need help from an adult to start them off, but the activities aren’t difficult and should help them reconnect with nature. The book strikes an excellent balance between education and fun.

children's gardening books

I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast by Michael Holland and illustrated by Philip Giordano (Flying Eye Books, £14.99)

Expert ecologist and educator Michael Holland shares this brightly illustrated guide to plants around the world, enabling children to become more acquainted with their leafy neighbours and showing how plants help create everything from rubber to honey.

It features DIY projects for young gardeners including the fun-filled messy business of creating cornflour slime; exploring the effects of freezing conditions on deciduous and evergreen trees; upcycling using jars, bottles and tins as well as collecting seeds from the foods you eat; and how to make a power plant with a potato.

children's gardening books

The Book Of Brilliant Bugs by Jess French (DK, £14.99)

This offering is ideal for little ones who are fascinated with creepy crawlies and want to learn more about them.

Featuring everything from honey bees to crickets, spiders to beetles, it explains how bugs are huge contributors to our planet and can survive almost anywhere, including high up in the mountains and deep underwater.

In easy-to-understand language, French explores the crucial role bugs play at the start of the food chain, their importance as pollinators helping plants grow and looks at the predatory bugs which keep pests at bay.

children's gardening books

Gardening With Emma by Emma Biggs (Storey Publishing, £14.99)

Kids can relate to other kids, right? So this fun guide written by the 14-year-old gardening ace who has her own blog should tick the boxes. With a little help from her dad, Steve, she offers simple projects from step-by-step bug catchers, to growing all your pizza ingredients. In just one year, she grew 68 varieties of tomato.

Raising the coolest plants is also a big focus of the book. She features everything from species that tickle and make noise, to vegetables ranging from the tiniest to colossal, providing lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants.

Aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, lively photography helps capture the authentic creativity of a child who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt.

children's gardening books

Under Your Feet by Dr Jackie Stroud (DK in association with RHS, £9.99)

This book for slightly younger readers is awash with fantastic facts about soil, worms and other organisms, cleverly punctuated with illustrations in earthy shades, along with things your children didn’t know about the secret world underground.

Did your child know, for instance, that worm poo in soil helps plants grow? Or that ant colonies can join up to form super-colonies which can stretch for thousands of miles?

The book takes an entertaining look at how animals build their homes under the ground and how plants survive in adverse conditions, as well as how fungi can grow to be the size of the forest.

All these weird and wonderful facts will hopefully prompt your children to seek these creatures out in the garden, from spineless invertebrates to woodlice, spiders and molluscs, as well as seeing the soil and its importance in a different light. Ideal for budding young scientists.

children's gardening books

You Can Grow Your Own Food by Annabelle Padwick (Collins, out June 11, £7.99)

The perfect go-to book for children who are curious about gardening, this new addition to the You Can series is packed with gardening projects and easy tips on how to grow fruit, veg and herbs outside and indoors. The book has space to scribble and draw, so children can design their own gardens and keep track of their progress.

The author founded the social enterprise, Life at No.27 in 2019 to provide gardening and wellbeing-based therapy for children and adults struggling with low confidence and mental health issues.

National Children’s Gardening Week runs from May 23-31. For details visit

McCarthy Holden COVID secure procedures.

return to work

This is an overview of procedures that are required to be completed by all staff, owners and viewers and has been produced after a COVID secure risk assessment. If anyone would like a copy of our risk assessment please email:


  • Maximum 2 members of staff per office
  • Staggered arrival and departure times of staff entering office
  • No members of public in office for the immediate future
  • Offices cleaned and sanitised morning and evening
  • Hours to be 9.30am-5.30pm 
  • Office staff and appointment staff to be working separately where possible – ie appointment staff work from home.
  • Front door to remain locked
  • Hands to be washed throughout the day and dried using paper towels which are then disposed of
  • Empty bins daily into Biffa bin or official bin bags, tied securely


  • Virtual viewings must be attempted first
  • Viewers must be in the position to proceed
  • 1 or 2 viewers of the same household
  • No children in the property
  • One viewing at one property to minimise risk of exposure

Preparation for viewings –

  • All doors open and windows open for air flow
  • Wash hands with alcohol hand wash or soap and water before and after viewings
  • Vendors to vacate

Procedure during viewing –

  • Agent to wear gloves and mask and wash hands before and after viewing
  • Agent unlock property and leave doors open
  • Viewers to wear masks and latex gloves in bag ready by door, spray hands before putting on with alcohol spray (provided)
  • Viewers enter property on own if there is not enough space to maintain 2m at all times
  • No surfaces to be touched
  • At end of viewing, viewers to remove mask and gloves, place back in bag and take with them. Spray hands with alcohol spray.
  • Once viewers left, agents shut up property and wipe external handles

After viewing –

  • Vendor should ensure surfaces are cleaned and towels disposed of or washed as appropriate.


  • Vendor to prepare house, turn on all lights, move anything out of sight, open all doors
  • Vendor vacates to garden
  • Agent to wear gloves and mask and wash hands before and after appointment
  • Any questions/follow ups to be done by email
  • No surfaces to be touched
  • Once finished, dispose of gloves and mask and wash hands

Market appraisals:

  • Agent to wear gloves and mask and wash hands before and after appointment
  • Agent to complete tour on own if not enough space to maintain 2m
  • Doors to be opened in advance by vendor
  • Any discussions with vendor should be with 2m space – ie garden or large room
  • No paperwork/marketing information to be left – all emailed after
  • Dispose of gloves and mask after appointment

Moving On During Covid-19

Moving On Photo Icon

The prospect of house sales in the short to medium terms is relatively easy to judge, because we are working with house buyers and sellers alike every day, so their motivations and the drivers of the market conditions are there for us to interpret. Much harder is the outlook beyond six months or a year.

We can therefore say with confidence that the initial period post lockdown is likely to show positive levels of house sales activity, which given the impact on society of Covid-19 is an outcome I would not have predicted about two months ago.

Will There Be A V Shaped Recovery?

People appear to have a determination to defeat the virus by following through with their ambitions and dreams, as if demonstrating their defiance of it in their actions. I have also seen other wider economy indicators, simply based on discussions I have had with business leaders based in Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire. From local builders who are seeing new commissions for house extensions, to web designers who can’t cope with the level of new work coming their way there are more and more business people saying their order books are filling up once more.

The irrepressible human spirit to fight back is not something to underestimate, so there might be a better initial recovery that first anticipated. Perhaps not a capital V shaped recovery, but at least a snappy lower case one. That doesn’t mean we are not in for a long haul in the broader economic sense, but I am nevertheless convinced that people will strive to make the best of their lives especially as Covid-19 has reminded us just how fragile and even fleeting life can be.

McCarthy Holden estate agents sold board

House Viewings Recommence

The Governments announcements today has given the green lights to allow house viewings to recommence, but these will occur with strict social distancing protocols.

House buyers will soon be able to view their houses of choice and some of the social distancing protocols will include, and once a viewer has confirmed that they have no symptoms or have had no contact with anyone with symptoms for the past 14 days the following protocols will apply.

• Only one viewer can be present at a time, no children will be allowed in a property (this is because avoiding the touching of surfaces is difficult with young children).
• The owner/tenant will leave property for the viewing.
• We will supply the viewer with disposable gloves and mask subject to our supply allowing for this.
• The viewers will be allowed to walk around and ask not to touch anything.
• In order to maintain social distancing, the agent will not be able to enter every room with the viewer.
• When the viewing is completed, the agent will lock up property and leave and dispose of gloves and use hand sanitiser.

The House Market / Buyer Attitudes

You might be surprised to hear of the level of buyers who have agreed a property purchase on houses they viewed pre-lockdown, especially on new homes. From around £400,000 to £3.5m. house sales have been agreed so I remain impressed with the resilience of house buyers, who continue to remain upbeat about their moving plans.

Furthermore, 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 sometime soon.

Emerging Markets

The biggest emerging market is likely to be from people wanting to leave London and other large cities or towns, to find a new home in a rural or village setting, yet remain within reasonable distance of London etc. That is a positive for the home owners we act for on the Hampshire / Surrey / Berkshire borders, especially those who live in property worth between £1.5m. and 6m. in our area of operation

Do you have a country house for sale? We have a waiting list of buyers looking right now.


Re-Opening High Street Branches

We will gradually open our high street property showrooms, but this will be done cautiously and with strict social distancing protocols. Currently we are able to get houses to the market and conduct viewings without the need for our branches to be open, so we are planning the physical openings around the 1st June.

The biggest lesson during lockdown, was just how effectively we can operate with technology such as Zoom and Skype, so any gradual return to the high street branches will not interfere with our productivity uptake.

The Weeks Ahead

In the week ahead we will be giving special focus to our new homes selection of properties for sale, and also cater for the emerging market of house buyers leaving London for rural living.

So if you are thinking of selling a home in the rural or semi-rural areas of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire, then contact us by email for a free no obligation property appraisal.

John Holden – Chairman

Electrical Regulations 2020 for Private Rental Sector

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020:

Essential excerpts:

This legislation imposes duties on landlords to have an electrical installation inspection and test, carried out by a qualified person, at least every 5 years. Other duties include:

i) Obtain a report from person conducting the inspection and supply this report to the tenant within 28 days of the inspection/on date of occupation by new tenant/and prospective tenant on request.

ii) The landlord must also supply the local housing authority with a copy of the report within 7 days of receiving a request for a copy.

iii) The landlord must retain a copy of the report to give to the inspector who will undertake the next inspection.

iv) Where the report identifies remedial work, the landlord must complete this work within 28 days or any shorter period if specified.

v) The landlord must supply written confirmation of the completed remedial works to the tenant and the local housing authority within 28 days.

vi) If the local housing authority finds that landlords are in breach of their duties they may impose a fine up to £30,000.

How to comply:

If we fully manage your property, and your property falls under the first time period requirement, then as part of our ongoing compliance we will be organising this over the coming couple of months. If you wish to arrange your own electrical inspection, please inform us by 22nd of May that this is your intention.

We have been speaking to Pinnacle Electrics who carry out the majority of electrical work for McCarthy Holden managed properties and they have provided us with the following pricing structure to complete the inspection and report to the required standard:

  • Initial charge – (assessing the consumer unit, incoming supply, protective bonding etc)  £118.80 inc vat (£99.00 +vat)
  • Subsequent charge per MCB*  (each Miniature Circuit Breaker requires testing)  £27.60 (£23.00 +vat)

*Please note that in general most properties have between six to eight MCBs

Please see Appendix 1 below for further information

Where Pinnacle Electrics are unable to undertake the works for any reason, we shall endeavour to source a similarly priced electrical contractor who is qualified to carry out such checks in the same way.

COVID-19 implications:

Currently, there has been no alteration to dates expected in the regulations and as such we need to prepare and proceed with the inspections and ensure procedures and precautions are taken by both inspector and tenant.

Pinnacle Electrics have provided us with their Covid-19 policy (please email Danielle Goodyear if you would like to review). The highlights are social distancing will be observed, latex gloves and face masks will be worn from the beginning of the visit and discarded safely at the end, anti-bacterial gel is used before and after gloves. We will also be asking tenants to follow similar steps and to prepare the area to minimise contact on objects from the inspector.

Property management service variances:

If your property is not managed by McCarthy Holden you will still be required to undertake this work and provide us with a copy of the report as soon as completed together with proof of rectification works.

If we currently collect the rent for you, we can also organise for the inspection and report to be carried out so please contact Danielle Goodyear in property management.

Should you have any questions in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Nicky Bremner (MARLA)
Lettings Director
01252 622550

Appendix 1.

Miniature Circuit Board (MCB) in red tested and under subsequent charge

RCD and Main Switch in blue not tested seperately.

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