Nursery style: 10 top picks for natty newborns

From cots to night lights, these nursery additions are cosy, cool and made to last, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

The sweetest room in the house for sure, decorating your baby’s nursery requires a masterful mix of things for your eagerly awaited bundle of joy – and you.

After all, baby’s first bedroom is going to be the hardest working room in the house. Well, it will feel that way for the first few months, at least!

With so many late night feeds and rock-a-bye baby lullabies to look forward to, comfort and practicality are both going to come into play – along with pampering and bonding, and not to mention all those adorable cuddles.

Here’s what’s on our stylish sprog spec for kitting our a new nursery…

1. Vox Vintage 3 Piece Cot Bed Nursery Set in a Choice of Oak or 5 Pastel Colours (Yellow shown), £1,095, Cuckooland

If you’re splashing out on new nursery furniture, you’ll want to get your money’s worth. This cot converts into a junior bed for when they grow bigger, with a matching tall chest of drawers and smaller chest, plus the option to add a changing table. That’s nappies, onesies and blankets sorted – and come the day, kiddies’ clothing and school uniform.

2. Disney Store My First Mickey 2021 Small Soft Toy, £15, Shop Disney

Bang up to date, every new babe needs the world’s most famous mouse in their collection of cuddly toys.

3. Dark Grey Baby And Junior Bed by Little Ella James, £950,

Another cutting-edge cot, this time in fashionable grey (colour specialists Pantone have named Ultimate Grey one of their colours of the year for 2021), this one offers sweet dreams from day dot to eight years old. With a height-adjustable base and removable side panels, the grey makes a perfect neutral to work with and looks right at home with yellow, pink and baby blue.

4. 366 Rocking Chair – Velvet Collection – 366 Concept in Powder Pink, £805, Lime Lace

Yes, it’s a big investment but a nursing chair is going to be your indispensable workhorse – so mother and baby may as well rock the benefits and soothing effects of relaxing and bonding in comfort and style. Eye-catching and elegant, the fabric is treated with a water clean film so it can cope with feeds and spills.

5. Little Dutch Wooden Baby Gym – Ocean Blue, £40, Amara

Ahh, the advantages of a baby play gym are much storied. They encourage eye and hand movement while stimulating the senses, and who wouldn’t love to lie down and watch these marine toys swim into view? Plus, it means you can steal a few precious moments for yourself.

6. Safari Baby Gift Set, £40, The White Company

Your little monkey will look adorable in this Safari sleepsuit, especially with a monkey comforter to call their own – and star-print suitcase for their favourite travel toys.

7. The Nursery Collection Patterned Carpet – Blue Stargazer, currently £19.99 per square metre (was £24.99), Carpetright

When baby starts to crawl, all eyes will be focused on the floor. This durable carpet, made from super-durable 100% polyamide will feel especially comfy for those first steps, toddling milestones and tiny tot tumbles.

8. Green Balloon Wall Light, £16.99, lights4fun

You’re never too old for a night light, and we love the idea of a party balloon to provide a warm, happy glow. Easy to hang on the wall, it takes 3 x AAA batteries (sold separately) and lights with a pull on the cord.

9. Rainbow Fabric Wall Stickers by Littleprints, £30, Notonthehighstreet

Rainbows are definitely having a moment, and their positive vibes are beneficial as well as beautifying. Especially if you have a plain white wall that could do with a little love and affection. Available in nine different colour options, eco-friendly and solvent-free, each set includes three rainbows, a cloud and choice of raindrops, hearts or stars. Magic.

10. Personalised Flopsy Pull Along Toy, £34.99, Getting Personal

With her fetching furry ears and blush pink coat, who can resist this timeless pull-along toy? From the official Peter Rabbit burrow, your little princess will adore tugging along the wooden wheels when they start to take their toys walkies.

10 ways to get organised and push the refresh button at home

Is your home feeling more chaos and clutter, than calm and order? Here’s how to get organised in style, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Craving a bit more order and efficiency at home? There couldn’t be a better time to have a good clear-out and sort-out and get organised.

We know – hands up if you feel like we’re stuck in Groundhog Day? And the last thing anyone needs right now is more pressure to be ‘productive’.

But, if being surrounded by clutter and having to hunt down items when you need them is adding to your daily stress levels, this could be an opportunity to finally tackle those jobs you’ve been putting off.

If we put as much effort into sifting, sorting and sprucing up our interiors as we used to put into our social lives (sob!), life in the slow lane might be a smidge more rewarding. Plus, storage solutions can be super stylish – so think of this as fun and pleasing, rather than just a practical chore.

Prepare to make your space pristine by investing in a few key pieces built to last…

1. Hopkins Compact Desk – Oak Effect & White, £149; Thelma Office Chair – Grey, £99 (other items from a selection/part of room set), MADE

According to a recent survey by European design brand MADE.COM, last year, 43% of Brits used their free time at home to have a clear-out, and the brand saw the popularity of its storage offering surge by 35% in the first three months of the first lockdown. So if you’re still ‘making do’ and working at the kitchen table, we think their new Hopkins desk, with its clean lines and two drawers for documents and bits and bobs, is inspiration enough to upgrade your work station.

2. SmartStore by Orthex Plastic Storage Boxes, from £7-£30, John Lewis

Piles of paperwork getting you down? Time to take stock and box clever, with sustainable brand Orthex and their Smartstore range of practical storage boxes. Made from 100% recycled plastic, you’ll be able to see everything in a new, clutter-free light.

3. Bloomingville Douve Book Stand, £95 (other items part of room set), Sweet Pea & Willow

Keen readers and anyone with a magazine subscription will understand how tricky it is to find enough space to store your hardbacks, cookbooks and glossy mags without taking up masses of room. This stylish bookstand also doubles up as a statement piece – think about placing a decorative tray across one of the corners with a pretty ornament and abracadabra, you’ve gained more shelf space too.

4. Ferris Wheel planter, currently £24 (was £28), Red Candy

Some of us can never have enough succulents but these jade jewels need space to thrive – and neither you nor they will benefit from a crowded windowsill. Step in this funky ferris wheel, which will hold six of your little babies and leave room for a spiky companion.

5. Talin Wide Media Unit – Blue Stain Mango Wood & Brass, £549 (other items from a selection/part of room set), MADE

Chances are your games console has been working over-time and the TV is rarely switched off – but how about storing those devices? This striking entertainment centre, with its sophisticated tones of cobalt blue and brass, will hold everything inside, help you reclaim floor space, and let you connect with the outside world in style.

6. Koble Milo Smart Side Table With Speakers & Wireless Charging, £250, Cuckooland

Wave goodbye to unsightly cords and cables with this wireless charging surface. A smart side table boasting push button controls, two USB charging points, four Bluetooth speakers and power bank function for up to six hours, this tip-top table can sit anywhere in the house and won’t weigh you down with unnecessary electricals.

7. Oak Ladder Shelf, £285 (other items from a selection/part of room set), Graham & Green

Versatile and practical, no wonder shelf ladders are having a moment. This one’s crafted from solid oak with good depth and height, and sports six ledged steps for showing-off knick-knacks and holding homewares.

8. Bo Laundry Bin, £140 (other items part of room set), Brabantia

With so much staying in, premium homewares brand Brabantia are top of our wish list on laundry days, with chic cabinet designs such as their Bo laundry bin. With a clever quick-drop opening and removable laundry bag (machine washable), it’s easy to place anywhere and carry stuff to the washing machine.

9. Linn Clothes Rack – White Small, £128 and Black Large, £149; Foldable Laundry Basket – 40L – Grey, £33.95 (other items from a selection/part of room set), Brabantia

With more time on our hands for ironing and mending, Brabantia’s clothes racks and foldable laundry baskets bring charm into chores, especially if your inner wardrobe mistress can’t wait to revamp your clothing collection for post lockdown celebrations. So many clothes, and yet nothing to wear…

10. Bathroom Caddy, £145 (other items from a selection), The White Company

Bath-time bliss begins with having everything close to hand, and you can’t beat this bathroom caddy. Not only will it fit snuggly next to a free-standing bath, shower area or small tub, it’s versatile enough to suit any style and colour scheme. Come to think of it, it’ll work just as well as a stylist’s station for all your beauty bits and bobs. Job done.

10 surprising bucket-list adventures close to home

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences will be top of the agenda for travellers in 2021. The good news is, you won’t have to travel far, says Sarah Marshall.

While stuck at home, we’ve all had time to dream up epic escapades and construct lists of the activities we’d love to do. Fed up with sitting around, most travellers are itching for action and the opportunity to tackle challenges to boost both confidence and mood.

Fortunately, not every once-in-a-lifetime activity requires a journey to exotic locations; remarkably, adventures can be had without shifting too far.

If you’re in need of inspiration for planning a high octane staycation bucket list, here are a few suggestions to spark ideas.

1. Chase butterflies across sand dunes

County Down, Northern Ireland

A protected area since 1967, the Murlough National Nature Reserve at the foot of the Mourne Mountains features a sand dune system in existence for 6,000 years. Follow a network of paths and boardwalks through woodlands, heaths and dunes to observe wintering wildfowl and wader birds, plus 720 species of butterflies and moths. Look out for the threatened Marsh Fritillary butterfly, distinguishable by its amber mosaic wings.

2. Walk with prehistoric monsters

London, UK

Stand alongside the mighty reptiles who once dominated our planet, by strolling along a fantasy trail enjoyed by the Victorians 150 years ago. Crystal Palace features more than 30 sculptures reconstructed from imaginings based on their fossilised remains. Meet the Megalosaurus and the Iguanodon, whose mould was famously split open to host a dinner party on New Year’s Eve in 1853. Visit

3. Dive a shipwreck from WW1

Orkney Islands, Scotland

The shallow waters of the Churchill Barriers, a series of causeways in the Orkney Islands at Scapa Flow, are home to an eerie collection of submerged blockships. Deliberately sunken during the First World War to provide a blockade against enemy German forces, the vessels are now a popular spot for guided dives. Open to anyone with an Advanced Open Water qualification and drysuit certification, boat dives cost from £225 per person. Visit

4. Learn to climb a tree

Isle of Wight

If you failed to master it during childhood, there’s still time to perfect the art of arboreal ascents. Goodleaf Tree Climbing runs three-day intensive tree-climbing courses, with qualified instructors sharing everything you need to know about using a harness and swinging through branches in the canopy. Training mostly takes place on turkey oaks, known for the strength of their boughs. From £345 per person (10% discount if booking two or more people). Visit

5. Ride stallions through the surf

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Explore the rough and tumble of Northern Ireland’s north coast on a horseback ride led by Danny McKinley and his team. Select your breed of horse and the pace of the tour, opting for a speedy gallop into the hills or a gentle amble along the beach. Learn about a traditional peat-cutting industry and visit several locations featured in Game of Thrones on a two-hour tour costing from £20 per person. Visit

6. Kitesurf without getting wet

Pembrokeshire, Wales

Using a sail attached to an oversized skateboard on wheels, kite landboarding allows you to skim surfaces without even touching water. Requiring less wind and power, it’s relatively easy to learn, and works as a foundation for kitesurfing – or even snow kiting should you choose to progress. Suitable for ages seven to 70, two-hour lessons cover launching, landing and flying skills. From £45 per person. Visit

7. Mush and sled with husky dogs

Yorkshire, UK

Replicate the experience of running a pack of dogs through Lapland’s icy wilderness, by harnessing a group of eager huskies on a dryland mushing rig. Discover the different commands used to control your canine team, then set off for an adventure around a 250-acre farm at Thornton Hall Country Park. If there’s a decent snowfall, guests have the option to switch to a sled. A two to three hour experience starts from £55 per person. Visit

8. Circumnavigate an entire country on foot


Connect two signposted pathways to literally hike around Wales, tracing its land and sea borders from end to end. By combining the Welsh Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke, ambitious ramblers can get a 1,047-mile workout – if they’ve got around eight weeks to spare. Alternatively, dive into sections, learning about history, folklore and wildlife through the free Wales Coast Path app.

9. Witness the aurora borealis

Northumberland, UK

Occasionally, when activity is strong, the northern lights can be seen at latitudes as low as northern England. Benefitting from a lack of light pollution and the reliability of clear skies, Northumberland’s international Dark Sky Park is one of the best places to find a place to perch and spectate. For a warm spot on a cold night, try the Kielder Observatory in Kielder Water And Forest Park.

10. Watch Shakespeare on a clifftop stage

Cornwall, UK

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Cornwall’s Minack Theatre enjoys a spectacular location almost as dramatic as the plays it hosts. Watch actors run through a repertoire of classics at the open-air amphitheatre constructed in a granite outcrop and originally the garden of a private home. Shows are yet to be announced for the 2021 season. Visit

8 ways to help children struggling during lockdown

Childline has had thousands of calls from worried kids during the pandemic. Lisa Salmon talks with experts to find out how to help youngsters cope.

The pandemic has been tough for everyone – and that includes our children. Since it started last spring, Childline has heard from thousands of children worried about their own mental health and wellbeing, and feeling lonely.

It’s not hard to understand why – the change in daily routines, being isolated at home without seeing wider family and friends, and the removal of normal support networks outside the home has led to anxiety in young people – particularly those who were already trying to cope with other issues.

Childline counsellor Neil Homer says: “Last year was hugely testing and the challenges posed by the pandemic caused major disruption for many young people. Thousands reached out to Childline – sharing that they felt lonely and were struggling with their mental health, and telling us they felt isolated and scared.”

And Emma Thomas, chief executive of the children and young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds, says: “Sadly, the concerns Childline are hearing from children echo what young people have been telling us – they’ve struggled to cope with the changes and loss of coping mechanisms brought on by the pandemic, with many experiencing social isolation, anxiety, and fears around their future.

“The pandemic is deepening the crisis in young people’s mental health and there’s growing evidence suggesting the impact could be significant and long-term. Many lost access to mental health support during the first lockdown, while others chose not to look for help when the NHS was under so much pressure. With another lockdown, it’s likely more young people may struggle to cope.”

Here, Childline and YoungMinds outline how to help support children’s mental health and prevent feelings of isolation…

1. Know how to spot the signs

You can’t help your child if you haven’t realised they’ve got a problem, and Young Minds says there are many things to look out for. “If you notice your child is becoming withdrawn, that there’s been a change in sleeping or eating habits, if they seem to lack confidence or get upset, it might be a sign they’re struggling,” warns Thomas.

2. Talk to your child

If you spot signs your child might be struggling, it’s important to talk to them.“Keep talking and trying to communicate in any way you can – hugging, listening to them, texting them,” advises Thomas.

3. Expressing feelings doesn’t have to be face-to-face

Children might find it easier writing their thoughts down, so the whole family could do this and put them in a ‘feelings box’ and then talk about their good, sad or difficult feelings at the end of the day. For younger children, play can be a great way to help them talk about their worries or give them a good distraction when they’re upset, says Homer.

“An environment where children can share their feelings not only helps them manage their own wellbeing but also means they’re more likely to share when something’s really troubling them,” he points out. “Sudden changes in behaviour can be an indication something’s wrong, so take the time to listen and encourage them to think about the next steps they want to take.”

4. Create structure and routine

For many families, keeping a normal routine during the pandemic has been difficult, particularly during periods of home schooling. “It’s normal for a lack of structure to make children and young people feel anxious and upset,” explains Homer.

“Try introducing a rota or loose timetable that includes fun things you’re doing during the week. Structure can help children see what’s happening next in the day, look forward to the rest of the week and differentiate between weekdays and weekends. It also helps to create a feeling of stability, which can alleviate anxiety.”

5. Give children a sense of control through information

Uncertainty about the future can be stressful, but knowing we don’t always have all the answers is reassuring too, says Homer, who points out that online information tools can help children work through their worries.

He suggests parents look online with their children to find useful information and resources that help children feel they have control. Childline has advice on coronavirus on its website, and lots of tools to help alleviate anxiety.

6. Help your child manage stress

If children’s worries become unmanageable or feel out of control, they can lead to mental health difficulties or feelings of isolation. But before attempting to fix the problem, Childline advises parents to listen to what’s concerning their child and ask how they might like to tackle the problem.

“Unlike adults, children are unlikely to have coping strategies and helpful ways to manage stressful feelings, so as adults it’s important we guide and support them to do this,” says Homer. “Let them know difficult things are going to happen which can cause us to feel like we can’t cope and that’s OK, and it’s how we manage these feelings and move forwards that’s important.”

He says carving out time to relax is a great way to deal with stress, and outdoor physical activity can really help as well.

7. Limit screen time and mix up activities

As most socialising moves online, it’s important to have conversations on how an increase in screen-time can have an impact on everyone’s mental health and self-esteem, says Homer. Many young people on social media compare what they have or look like to their peers or celebrities, which has a negative impact on self-esteem and self-confidence.

“Remind them nobody’s perfect and we’re all different, special and unique in our own way,” advises Homer. “While the online world provides a great way to connect with friends and family, it’s important young people also engage in off-screen activities. This can increase a feeling of connection with others, which can help to limit isolation and loneliness.”

8. Help and support for parents & children

If things don’t improve, seek help, whether that’s through your child’s school, your GP or via a helpline like Childline on 0800 1111 or the YoungMinds helpline on 0808 802 5544.

If adults are worried about children they can get advice from NSPCC practitioners on 0808 800 5000 or There’s advice on the YoungMinds ( or Childline ( websites, or children can have a 1-2-1 chat on the Childline site, use its message boards, or visit its Calm Zone (

The NSPCC (, which runs Childline, needs more volunteers to both help with its services like Childline, or take on a fundraising challenge. Find out more here .

Why having good neighbours can save you money

Good neighbours at McCarthy Holden estate agents

The importance of good neighbours came to the fore in 2020 and it is highlighted further, with this insight from the Press Associations finance correspondent Vicky Shay.

A priceless benefit

For many people, having friendly and helpful neighbours in their community is a priceless benefit. But according to a new report from Halifax, having good neighbours can translate to actual financial savings too.

Halifax estimates that those benefiting from neighbours’ acts of kindness save £165 per year typically.

From lending a lawnmower to picking up the shopping and looking after pets, it seems the benefits of having a good relationship with neighbours really can add up financially.

The survey of over 4,000 people found that the most common deeds performed by kind neighbours that save people money on their doorsteps include collecting groceries (12%), watering plants (10%) and looking after pets (8%).People said they receive some form of help from their neighbours three times a month typically, the bank’s ‘Community Counts’ report found.

On average, those who are getting neighbourly help receive 10 hours of support a month, with this increasing to 12 hours since the start of the pandemic. On average, the most time-consuming favour that people do for their neighbours is helping out with DIY, which typically takes 42 minutes.

Good neighbours at McCarthy Holden estate agents

The highest cash savings were found to come from neighbours looking after kids (with those benefiting make a saving £313 per year on average), helping out with cleaning (a typical £276 saving) and pet-sitting (saving £248 on average).

Saving money on taxis and public transport, nearly one in eight (12%) people surveyed have had a lift from a neighbour when they’ve needed one.

There are also benefits of convenience, as well as cash savings from having good neighbours.
More than half (52%) say their neighbours have taken in parcels for them when they’ve not been there to open the door, and more than a quarter (27%) get help with taking their bins out.

The types of tasks neighbours help out with have changed since the pandemic started, however. Halifax found people are now more likely to get support from neighbours picking up shopping, but less likely to need help watering plants, as more people have been staying at home – so can take care of these tasks themselves.

It’s likely that neighbours will increasingly help each other out in the future too.
A quarter (25%) of people surveyed say their relationship with their neighbours has improved since the Covid-19 crisis started. Only 3% said it had deteriorated.
A third (32%) would have found it harder to cope during the pandemic without their neighbours, rising to two-fifths (38%) of those aged 18-34.

Good neighbours would also be a strong factor for people in any future house moves, the research found. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of people say that if they were looking to buy a new home, having good neighbours and a strong community would be important, increasing to eight in 10 (81%) among people aged over-55.

To find your perfect new neighbour, why not start your property search here.


6 interior trends set to be big in 2021

Interior design trends mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire

After an unprecedented year, how will the pandemic have shaped interior trends to come?

Sam Wylie-Harris provides insight for McCarthy Holden into what we can expect to see more of in 2021.

There’s no doubt how we used our homes, and what we want from them, changed dramatically during 2020. According to home renovation and design platform, this is already being reflected in popular search terms and design directions.

So, what can we expect to see more of in 2021? Houzz analysed their site data, browsed hundreds of home design photos, and interviewed professionals on Houzz Pro to reveal six key home design trends for the year to come.

Here’s a look, along with tips on how to make them work in your home…

The return of the all-white kitchen

Interior design trends mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire

This neutral, light-enhancing choice for the hardest-working room in the house is growing in popularity again, with searches for ‘white kitchen’ rising significantly during 2020. We’re also seeing many popular photos on Houzz that have white worktops and expect to see more in 2021, perhaps reflecting a pandemic-fuelled desire for clean-looking cook spaces.

“We’re seeing a resurgence of white kitchens but with people leaning towards matte designs rather than gloss, which was favoured a few years ago,” explains Josh Delane, director of kitchen designers, The Wood Works. “It pairs well with metallic accents like brass, bronze, copper and even matte black fixtures.”

In terms of worktops, Delane says: “Veined and marble effect quartz worktops are surging in popularity – a good alternative to real marble, which is porous and can be stained easily, making it challenging to maintain in a kitchen. White Corian is also a popular choice and nice on longer islands, as it can be cut and joined seamlessly.”

Nature-inspired interiors

The incorporation of nature into our interiors looks set to continue, with colour experts on Houzz predicting warm earth tones, such as burnt umber, terracotta and clay, and contrasting forest colours like sage, pine and turquoise will be strong choices for 2021. These colours are perfectly complemented by natural materials such as rattan, jute, wood and concrete, which have all featured heavily in the most-saved photos on Houzz lately.

If you’re wanting to embrace natural materials in your home, rattan is a good place to start and will continue to be big in 2021. Omar Bhatti, director of Space Shack, says: “It has a bohemian vibe, which you can mix with any interior. To avoid overkill, my top tip is to use it in moderation. I would suggest investing in a rattan accent chair or small planter baskets and see how you like this in your space.”


Interior design trends mccarthy holden estate agents hampshire

Plants are another easy way to incorporate nature into interiors. Bhatti agrees: “You can never have enough plants. If I’m ever in doubt and need to fill an empty space or shelf, I always use plants. This is also a great way to bring the outdoors in and breathe some much-needed life into any space.

“I’m all about an oversized plant, this is a great way to bring some drama into any room. Banana plants and birds-of-paradise are good options.”

If you’re going to get the paint out, Bhatti suggests a palette of natural neutral tones. Beige and taupes are classic options that work in any space. “I recommend painting all your stark white walls in a light sand or beige tone, which will warm up the space, and you wouldn’t even need an undercoat,” he says.

Healthy homes

McCarthy Holden know from first hand experience that searches for ‘home gym’ and ‘garden gym’ have both risen dramatically during 2020 too. In 2021, we expect to see more exercise equipment that fits seamlessly into interiors, or furniture that doubles up.

Demand for home gym space rises at McCarthy Holden estate agents

“When thinking about portioning off a room in your home as your dedicated exercise space, it’s important to choose a room that has a fitting purpose, lighting and mood,” advises Joe Robertshaw, director of Place for Humans. “Being motivated to exercise at home also comes down to ease and accessibility, the more hurdles that stand between you and the exercise, the more likely it is to go undone.”

Multi-functional spaces

One thing 2020 really brought about was a need for rooms to be multi-functional. As a result, we’re starting to see professionals incorporate more hybrid designs, detachable units, and convertible pieces to create a home suited to the ‘new normal’.

One example, which saw a surprising rise in popularity as a search term, is ‘murphy bed’ (a pull-down design), suggesting a need for homeowners to hide away large pieces of furniture in bedrooms or spare rooms during the day, so they can double as offices while many of us work from home for the foreseeable future.

Building your own new home could be the ideal way to create your perfect spaces

“Given the current circumstances, our spare rooms have never been so important. Making spaces work for multiple occasions is critical to being able to utilise every centimetre of space in the home,” says Richard Hobden director of RHJB Architects. “A comparatively easy win is to replace the divan or fixed frame bed in the spare room with a simple folding bed. This can be a stand-alone piece of furniture or built into a storage wall, disguised as wardrobes. This will free up space elsewhere to create a multi-purpose study, home gym or playroom solution.”

Luxury vintage

Sustainability, climate change and the impact we have on our planet continue to be a big theme for 2021. Professionals on Houzz are reporting a growing interest in high-end, second-hand furniture, which aligns with the interest in sustainability we’ve seen.

second hand furniture for interiors

When buying second-hand furniture, try to see the item in person if you can (safely, of course). Buying online is very convenient but it’s much easier to hide any serious damage in a photograph than in person. “I like to be able to touch the item and check it’s in good condition, so I’m not too keen on buying from online resources, unless they have an option for you to view it first,” says Bhavin Taylor, director of Bhavin Taylor Design.

And make sure you know all of your measurements – an absolute must for multiple reasons. “There’s usually no returns policy when buying second-hand,” Taylor explains,. “If you buy a piece that’s the wrong size, it’s likely you’ll be stuck with it.” So remember to measure your doorways and other access points first. “There’s nothing worse than buying something and not being able to get it through the front door,” adds Taylor.

Outdoor entertainment spaces will reign

Unsurprisingly given all the pandemic restrictions, there’s been huge interest in outdoor spaces. Houzz’s pandemic survey back in July showed that, hands-down, the garden was the area most of us wanted to improve, with 30% of those surveyed wanting to make upgrades. Homeowners have increasingly been searching for ‘summerhouses’, ‘firepits’, ‘hot tubs’ and ‘outdoor kitchens, which have all risen in popularity as search terms. We expect to see more of these features in gardens in 2021.

With amazing outdoor entertainments facilities this home was snapped up in 2020.

And it’s not just for summer – professionals on Houzz Pro report an increase in demand for designs that will allow them to use the garden later into the evening and year. “Since lockdown, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in leads through Houzz for our garden design business,” says Paul Dracott of Paul Dracott Garden Design. “People have rediscovered the importance of outdoor space and how it can enrich modern life. The most popular requests are for outdoor eating and cooking areas, including pizza ovens, and also for firepits to extend the use of the garden into the evening.”

McCarthy Holden COVID secure procedures – Updated 5th January 2021

Following new government guidelines, the following is an updated procedure list of requirements that need to be complied to by all staff to ensure safety to both us and the public.

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:


No members of public in office

Key collection by staff working from home or tradesman to be done by prior notification and without entering office – keys prepared and cleaned in advance and on return

Offices cleaned and sanitised morning and evening – use alcohol spray and paper towels –

Hours to be 9am-6pm

Two staff members working in an office maximum

No office communal mugs/glasses/plates to be used

Bring in own bottled water / thermos etc

If possible, bring in own lunch or bring pre-packaged. No use of kitchen facilities ie microwave etc.

Front door to remain locked

Hands to be washed throughout the day and dried using paper towels which are then disposed of

Hands to be washed on re-entering office during the day

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
  • No open house viewing arrangements
  • Identification for right to rent to be taken on viewing

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 use sanitiser alcohol spray on hands before entering the property and repeat at the end of the viewing. Washable/reusable face masks will be provided for each employee to use.
  • Agent unlock property and leave doors open
  • Viewers to wear face masks (please bring own) and use the provided alcohol spray before and after entering the property. If a face mask is forgotten agent with have spare disposable. No appointment without a mask/spray.
  • Viewers enter property on own if there is not enough space to maintain 2m at all times
  • No surfaces to be touched – if a surface is touched it will need to be sprayed and cleaned
  • At end of viewing, all parties need to 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 use hand sanitiser alcohol spray 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, spray and wash hands

Market appraisals:

  • Virtual valuations should be investigated first if vendor is able
  • Agent to use alcohol spray 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 material to be left – all emailed after
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Country & Equestrian