Play with the Power of Pink for Punchy Settings at Home

pink house living

Gabrielle Fagan catches up with the The Pink House's Emily Murray, to discover how to harness the prettiest colour of the rainbow.

Once cast aside as ‘girly’, the colour pink is fast shaping up to be the hottest shade for interiors.

Sugary pinks through to snazzy scarlets, pretty peaches and even funky neons are the winning shades on the palette this season.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that pink is just for girls. Not any more it isn’t,” declares Emily Murray, creator of award-winning blog, The Pink House, which celebrates the colour in all its hues in her own pink decorated home.

pink house living

It’s been such a success since she started it three years ago (she has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram) that her new book, Pink House Living: For People Cheating On Fashion With Furniture, was a natural follow-on. It’s a brilliant guide to seeing the world through ‘rose-tinted’ decor spectacles.

Stepping inside her home is proof of pink’s magic – she shows me around rooms which ooze personality, thanks to the magical touches of her “all-time favourite colour”.

pink house living

Pink painted walls, a pink kitchen island, neon pink signs, splashes of pink to highlight period features, as well as an array of punchy pink accessories, are just some of the ways in which the colour has a starring role in her schemes.

Yet with her skill and sense of style, she makes it sing – rather than dominate or shock – in her Edwardian semi, and this uber-cool interior leaves you wondering why you’ve never thought of using pink more.

pink house living

The mother-of-two is always hot on the trail of perfect pink homes, and her book features an array of brilliant pink settings from around the world, as well as her own rooms.

Even she’s surprised her own pink passion is so widely shared. “I’d underestimated the power of pink. It turns out it’s incredibly popular on every level and in every way. We love pink,” says Murray delightedly.

“We love it on front doors, on walls and on rugs. We love it on Instagram, in magazines and in fabric charts. We love it in barely-there blush, fuchsia and neon.”

pink house living

For those fearing a pink overload, she stresses that embracing the shade “doesn’t mean I like all my rooms dressed in floor-to-ceiling fuchsia… Even when I have free rein to decorate exactly as I chose, I exercise pink restraint.

“For me, the key to making the most of this joyous colour – for I fully believe that pink has an amazing power to make people happy – is using it in moderation.”

pink house living

In the living room, her dream was fabric walls, saturated colours, pattern clashes, loads of luxe and plenty of pink.

“My aim was to turn a north-facing space into a cosy place for cuddling up in the evenings, but with a rock and roll twist.”

She’s achieved it with a “pink ‘play’ neon sign – a copy of my own handwriting – made to order”, as well as a cocktail bar created from a corner cabinet upcycled in green and gold leaf. Hidden LED light strips give it the impression of glowing from within.

pink house living

For those who fancy taking the plunge, she advises: “If you want more colour at home (it doesn’t have to be pink) simply choose your favourite shade and go for it.

“Make a scrapbook or Pinterest board of settings with colourful decor which naturally attracts you. You don’t need to design the whole room at once – start with a piece of art or wallpaper and then slowly add further changes, so a room develops.”

“There are so many ways to use pink,” adds Murray. “You can accentuate a particular architectural feature, piece of furniture or art work, and sometimes simply use it to allow another gorgeous colour to shine.”

Pink House Living: For People Cheating On Fashion With Furniture by Emily Murray, photography by Susie Lowe, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now

pink house living

Innovative, Eco-Friendly and Smart: Check Out the Gardening Products of the Year

Chelsea garden product of the year

From eco-friendly home composters to super quick pizza ovens and inventive garden lighting, we look at 7 garden products of the year.

Want a composter with a difference? Or a light that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker? Or even a pot or seed tray made from bamboo?

These are just some of the finalists for the RHS Chelsea Product of the Year title which may take your fancy in the coming months, whether you’re looking for the practical, the sustainable or the high tech.

Here are 7 clever products which have impressed the RHS judges:

Chelsea garden product of the year

1. Obelisk Composter and Obelisk (£39 composter, £59 obelisk, wilstone.com)

This ingenious invention launching at RHS Chelsea Flower Show features a galvanised mild steel compost bin which you put directly on to your flower bed or in your vegetable patch, and an elegant obelisk which goes over it which you can use as a support for anything from climbing beans to sweet peas or clematis.

You scoop compostable waste directly into the drum and the resulting compost inside then feeds the growing plants directly into their roots without you having to lift or carry the compost anywhere.

Chelsea garden product of the year

2. Cuba LED lantern and combined Bluetooth speaker (£249, lightinnovation.com)

Shed a little light on your patio and enjoy music at the same time with this new lantern and combined Bluetooth speaker, which will be available from the end of May.

It’s highly portable and can be used indoors or out, recharging from 0 to 100% in six hours. The dimmable 7 watt LED light will work for up to eight hours on one charge and the lantern will connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device, from a phone to a tablet.

Chelsea garden product of the year

3. Swan Watering Can (£8, madewithhusk.com)

With an emphasis on sustainability, this swan-shaped indoor watering can (to be launched on May 20) is fully biodegradable and made from 75% waste bamboo powder collected directly from farms. Testing has shown that the product can last up to seven years, although this was based on a pot that had been left outside, so it’s likely that if kept indoors, it will last longer.

Chelsea garden product of the year

4. Hotbin mini (£150, hotbincomposting.com)

Following in the footsteps of the award-winning Hotbin which can transform your food and garden waste into rich compost within 30-90 days, its smaller sister, the Hotbin mini (launching at Chelsea) does the same thing but is easier to house in smaller gardens.

It reaches temperatures of 40-60C which allows the efficient composting of more types of waste, more quickly. All food and garden waste can be added in, including cooked food, small bones and perennial weeds.

It’s also sealed well enough, with a bio-filter in the lid, to stop odours that can attract rats and flies. Add a bulking agent such as wood chippings to aid the process.

Chelsea garden product of the year

5. ‘Grande’ Plant Belles (from £53, will be available to order from Chelsea plantbelles.co.uk)

To mark the company’s 10th year of trading, it is launching three new ‘grande’ plant belles, elegant but robust steel wire frames to support larger freestanding herbaceous plants, unruly shrub roses and other floppy heavy headed shrubs like Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.

The new taller, wider and heavier plant belles are inspired by the Sissinghurst method of training shrub roses, offering needy plants support once grown through, but also give the gardener the chance to prune and train shrubby plants in creative ways, by looping and tying branches back to the structure.

Chelsea garden product of the year

6. Ooni Koda Gas-Powered Outdoor pizza oven (£244.99, uk.ooni.com)

If you love eating pizza in the open air and you don’t want to wait too long, you may invest in this smart, sleek pizza oven which you can assemble in seconds, place on your patio and have a pizza ready in 60 seconds.

Flip open the foldable legs, put the stone baking board into the oven, connect it to a gas tank and pre-heat the oven for 15 minutes. It reaches temperatures of up to 500C, which is why it can cook your pizza so quickly. It has a clean, streamlined silhouette paired with one-touch gas ignition for easy, convenient outdoor cooking.

Chelsea garden product of the year

7. Bamboo Pots and Seed Trays (£3.99-£6.99, www.haxnicks.co.uk)

Continuing the eco-friendly theme and the war on plastics, these bamboo pots and seed trays from Haxnicks are made from bamboo and rice, can be used indoors or outdoors and are reputed to last for five years or more. They’re also biodegradable and compostable, so give a feelgood factor to gardeners who really care about their environment.

13 Fab Floral Finds to Spruce up your Space for Summer

chelsea flowers inside your home

Channel some RHS Chelsea Flower Show magic with some blooming marvellous home accessories. Sam Wylie-Harris reveals her pick of the bunch.

Fashions and trends may come and go – but year in, year out, the world’s most famous horticultural event never fails to spark us all to have a spring fling and take inspiration from its fabulous flowery displays.

We’re talking about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May 21-25), of course. Whether or not you can make it to the gardening extravaganza in person, embracing blooms in home styling won’t be a challenge – and there’s a vivid landscape to pick from.

“We’re seeing more adventurous colour and fabric selections coming through when it comes to upholstery, and our love of florals continues to flourish,” says Vanessa Hurley-Perera, chief product officer, Sofa.com

“These bold choices are increasingly popular for accent pieces, such as armchairs, footstools and cushions,” she adds. “Long gone are the days of matching three-piece suites and itsy-bitsy prints – customers are plumping for larger designs and brilliantly bold tones.”

Check out our 13 favourite floral finds to shop now…

chelsea flowers inside your home

1. Snowdrop 2 Seat Sofa in Periwinkle Chelsea Bloom, £1640 (other items from a selection), Sofa.com

“For SS19 we’ve developed a new floral fabric, Chelsea Bloom, in Periwinkle (Blue) and Petunia (Pink), which features large blooming flowers against a dark background,” says Hurley-Perera. “The dramatic design appears to have almost been hand-painted onto your sofa, and works beautifully amongst our rich and vibrant colour scheme of super soft velvets.”

chelsea flowers inside your home

2. Millport Pair of Small Fabric Scatter Cushions, currently reduced to £55 from £75, Furniture Village

You can never have too many cushions, especially when pretty pink sprigs are planted among the greenery.

chelsea flowers inside your home

3. Feather Juju Wall Decoration, £85, OKA

Very swish, this feather deco in the shape of an exotic flower deserves a Best in Show. And if you really want to transform a wall, you could frame a mirror with a bloom on either side.

chelsea flowers inside your home

4. Gold Birdcage Tealight Holder, currently reduced to £39 from £79, Furniture Village

The joy of this whimsy deco is that you can dress it up to suit any scheme. If your space is a pop of colour, mix’n’match bright tealights. Otherwise, keep tealights white and tie a silk ribbon through the loop, or – even better – drape some faux greenery along one side of the cage.

chelsea flowers inside your home

5. Portmeirion Botanic Garden Plate (8 inch), from £15; Teapot (2pt), £66; Teacup and Saucer, £18.50, Portmeirion.co.uk

Throwing a garden party? When it comes to floral-inspired teas, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. We’ve been foraging for the celebrated Botanic Garden range for 40 years; the collection offers endless possibilities with its iconic designs.

chelsea flowers inside your home

6. Yankee Candle Salt Mist Rose, £23.99, The Yankee Candle Company

Yankee Candle are celebrating their 50th anniversary with 16 limited-edition fragrances. We love Salt Mist Rose, which first came to light in the Nineties, and is characterised by ‘the beautiful scent of delicate roses by the sea’.

chelsea flowers inside your home

7. Set of Six Peony Glasses, £69, Graham & Green

Versatile and very pretty, these coloured tumblers are etched with blooms and will be the toast of Happy Hour.

chelsea flowers inside your home

8. Bentwood and Rattan Flower Chairs and Table, £850 for the set, Raj Tent Club

Ideally, this terrific trio is best suited to a conservatory, but would look just as striking in a sunny corner or bedroom setting. Especially with a trendy succulent resting on the table.

chelsea flowers inside your home

9. Morrisons Flourish Jug, £14, Morrisons

This gorgeous jug imbibes a meadow of wild flowers.

chelsea flowers inside your home

10. Pack of Twenty Boho Floral Napkins, £3.95, Graham and Green

A favourite with party planners, you don’t need to be a flower child to prize these quirky napkins.

chelsea flowers inside your home

11. Flower Market Everyday Bowl, £59, Amara

With a lovely vintage feel, you can almost sense the exotic fragrance resonating from this beautiful bunch.

12. Morrisons Flourish Duvet Cover & Pillowcases Sulphur Meadow Bouquet, from £16; Ditsy Bedspread, £27; Bumblebee Cushion, £8, Morrisons

This new Flourish range brings the countryside one step closer to home with its blousy florals, ditsy prints and sweet wildlife illustrations which feel like a breath of fresh air.

chelsea flowers inside your home

13. Face Imprint Plant Pots and Vases, available in White, Green and Taupe, £10.95-£17.95 each, Graham and Green

As if these quirky plant pots aren’t eye-catching enough, they could give your favourite house plant a new lease of life.

Dream of Owning a Walk-in Wardrobe? Here’s How to Make it Happen

walk in wardrobe ideas

As far as home-improvements go, walk-in closets are certainly a luxury - but that doesn't mean you can't seriously consider it. By Luke Rix-Standing.

walk in wardrobe ideas

When considering a property, for most of us, walk-in closets are probably not at the forefront of our minds. Not that we don’t like the idea of them – but they’ve traditionally been seen as a luxury few can afford, more fit for a Great Gatsby adaption or the castle of a Bond villain.

Creating that walk-in wardrobe of dreams, however, might be a lot more doable than you think. It’s a great option for making use of a small space, whether it’s a neglected cubby or an unused ‘spare room’ that’s really not at all big enough for anything else.

We’ve pulled together few tips to get you started, from the flagrantly flat-pack to the outrageously opulent…

walk in wardrobe ideas

Start with a sartorial stocklist

If you’re considering a walk-in closet, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Generally speaking, this is about something you really want personally, rather than adding value. “When adding value to a property, every square-foot counts,” says Julian Prieto, CEO of property renovation and refurbishment specialists, EDGE2 Properties (myedge2.com). “And in the UK, real estate is about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ve got. This kind of project is usually for assets people want to live in for 10 or 20 years.”

Walk-in closets are generally purpose-built and vary enormously based on space, budget and need. There is no catalogue case study or IKEA starter-pack that can construct a walk-in closet over a weekend – you’re going to have to think carefully about what will best work for you. This will determine the design of the space.

“Rule number one is to understand your own wardrobe,” says Prieto. “You need to be able to plan your walk-in closet around what you have and what space you need to allocate.”

A working professional might prioritise clothes rails for hanging suits and shirts, for example, while an avid shoe collector may want a pull-out shoe rack, or perhaps an area of cubby holes for artful storage.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of building a walk-in wardrobe, it needs to perform perfectly, and empty space will likely ruin the aesthetic. Resist the temptation to go overboard on baskets, drawers and other accoutrements – the majority of wardrobes will need to maximise hanging space.

walk in wardrobe ideas

Consider how to make best use of the space

Now you know what your room needs to accommodate, it’s time to go about fitting it into the available space. This will be slightly different for everyone, but unless you’re a rich list regular or minor royal (“I’ve built closets at around 300-square metres,” says Prieto), we’re assuming it won’t be particularly big.

“There are some rules of thumb when it comes to small spaces,” says Prieto. “I would always suggest using just one wall and leaving the opposite side free – if there are two sides that are too close to each other, you won’t be able to see your own clothes. If that’s not an option, I suggest an L-shape, taking up one side and the front.”

Rather than using up floor area, the key is to maximise vertical space – large wooden units with compartments can help utilise every inch, stretching from floor to ceiling. Mirrors are the oldest trick in the book for doubling visual space, and putting one on the far wall allows you to preen and pose from any part of the room.

Unless you’re victim to a major moth problem, consider going door-less. “That’s why it’s called a walk-in closet,” says Prieto, “so you can walk in and see all your clothes at once. If you can afford it, you could put in glass sliding doors – they open sideways, so don’t get in the way when you access your garments.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

Don’t rush the planning

Walk-in closets may sound like the preserve of the rich and famous, but they can be as simple as shelving units lined against a wall. To do-it-yourself, the proof is in the planning – working out dimensions and carefully apportioning space.

“It can be quite fun,” says Prieto, “and shouldn’t take more than two weeks to put together. The planning should take longer – when you get into that room, you need to know exactly what you’re doing.”

If you go bespoke, you’re entering a brave new world of opportunity – and of cost. Prieto says a small, simple closet tends to start at around £2,000, while those at the pinnacle of high-end can check in at £65,000-£70,000. “We’re talking 300-square metres, bespoke furnishings, good carpets and a chandelier in the middle,” he says. “Everything done down to the last detail.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

The ‘ultimate luxury’

Of course, if you have a bank vault to rival that of Scrooge McDuck, then your options are almost limitless. “Hidden safes are common for high-end customers,” says Prieto. “Recently, I was asked to put a jewellery safe hidden in the space between wardrobes. It was supposed to open vertically with a key card – when she said she wanted it, I had to ask if she’d seen it somewhere because I didn’t know where to go for it. We had to get it from Switzerland and it took four months and £25,000 just to fit it. I thought it was bonkers!”

That sort of scenario might be totally unrelatable for most of us, but with a bit of planning and imagination, a walk-in closet could be an achievable goal.

“It’s the ultimate luxury – but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg,” says Prieto. “Research what you need, take stock of what you have, and measure the space you’ll be fitting. That’s all you need to do.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

Open Day Invitation To View New Homes In Eversley Hampshire

We’re on site tomorrow Saturday 4th May between 10am and 3pm, so this is an ideal opportunity to view the stunning new homes by Aspire in Eversley Hampshire.

map

The site is easy to find by using postcode RG27 0PA and / or having a look at the map below. Telephone our Hartley Wintney branch on 01252 842100 for further help.

Prices from around £600,000 to £1.2m.

Invite to view new houses in Eversley Hampshire

Kate Humble on Throwaway Culture, Polluting Plastics and What we can Learn from Rwanda

Luke Rix-Standing chats with Kate Humble about the challenges facing the environment, and finds her in polemical form...

With six years of Springwatch, three seasons of Lambing Live and a succession of BBC nature programmes under her belt, Kate Humble has become an ever-present face on the greener bits of British television.

She’s the perfect person with whom to sit and chat about the world, because over the course of her career, she’s seen most of it. She got her first taste of adventure aged 19 with a nine-month, solo trip across the African continent, and she’s barely paused for breath since.

Naturalist, naturist, and former president of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), Humble is under no illusions about the state of the planet. She is, to put it mildly, not best pleased about it.

What exactly is ‘throwaway culture’?

“We’ve got into a terrible habit of buying things and throwing away the packaging. Plastic pots, coffee cups – and almost everything we buy for our homes. Obviously some is necessary, but a lot isn’t.

“I’ve been very lucky and travelled to lots of different parts of the world – some countries which, some might say, are not as developed as the UK. But they certainly don’t generate the amount of waste and rubbish that we do

Do you think it’s a particularly British problem?

“No, I think it is a developed world problem. We’ve become a society that seems to value convenience over everything else, and with that comes a lot of waste.

“I went to Rwanda a couple of years ago – a country with an astonishingly brutal history – and there was something about it I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then I realised that it’s the cleanest place I’ve ever been.

“The President has banned plastic bags – you can’t use them, you can’t bring them in, they’re just banned – and this in a country that suffered a genocide 25 years ago! It’s so sad that somewhere rubbish-free is so startlingly noticeable, but if they can do that, why can’t we?”

What is the impact? How do you quantify the damage?

“Well, there’s the terrible reality of landfill. There is only so much land and we’re filling it with rubbish. All the stuff that can’t be recycled sits in the Earth and gradually breaks down, and all the chemicals seep into the soil.

“Rubbish that gets dumped in the sea ends up on beaches, and we’ve all seen the effect that has on wildlife. The turtles that have died because they’ve got plastic bags stuck in their gullets, the heartbreaking shots of albatross chicks that are starving because they’ve got plastic beads in their stomachs.

“We need to have a whole cultural shift in the way that we behave. The thing that really makes me furious is that we know how damaging this is. If there are still human beings on this planet in 200 years time, which I slightly hope there aren’t, they’re going to look back at our generation and go, ‘What the f***?’

“It’s really bad for us – we’re poisoning the very environment we rely on. Shouldn’t that matter enough? Apparently not.”

So, how would you go about countering it, and creating this cultural shift?

“Just get rid of humans – my husband is terrified that the world will one day wake to find me as their dictator! Joking apart, we are making changes and I don’t want to get too gloomy, but we’re not doing things fast enough and we’ve all got to commit.

“Do I really need to buy something in a plastic pot? Can I buy coffee in my own recycled mug? Can I reuse this packaging? Do we need to buy endless new clothes every season? No, we don’t – there’s plenty in your wardrobe that’s still nice. I’m wearing a pair of knickers I don’t even want to tell you how old!

“You can be really happy without loads of stuff. Nature is remarkable at clawing its way back every time we do something catastrophic, but there will come a point where it won’t be able to fix things any more. We’ve got to take some responsibility.”

Some have argued that the focus on individuals takes the spotlight off companies and governments. Do you think there’s a problem there?

“I do, but a lot of these big businesses are dependent on us, as consumers, for their very existence. Without doubt, it’s consumers – ordinary people – who have pushed the plastic revolution onto the political agenda.

“Of course big companies should do more, but they will do more if we say, ‘Right, we’re not going to buy from that big company any more’. We do have power as individuals and we should absolutely exercise it.

“Some of us, myself included, have been banging on about plastic for 20 or 30 years, so it’s weird that it’s suddenly come into the public consciousness now. There’s been programmes and films and startling images before. I mean it’s brilliant – hooray – but strange.”

Any idea why that might be?

“I don’t know, but I do think that in times of political turmoil, life feels uncertain. Young people are getting to the end of their school days and thinking ‘what does the future hold for me?’

“We’re seeing a slow realisation that its in our hands, and climate change has begun affecting all of us, regardless of where we live. Maybe, just maybe, some consciousness is creeping in. Now we need to do something about it.”

Kate Humble has recently helped launch the Dettol Trigger Project, to inspire people to make small changes to reduce household waste and trigger a cleaner world.

Hanging Basket Masterclass: Here’s how to Make the Best Flower Display in 8 Easy Steps

best hanging baskets

It's time to create a riot of colour with hanging baskets. Hannah Stephenson tries a masterclass to learn the secrets of success.


So often my hanging baskets end up looking lacklustre and forlorn, with gaps where filler plants should have gone, holes in my moss liners and a lack of regular watering.


However, expert Nathan Syrett, assistant plant manager at Squire’s Garden Centres, has been running hanging basket masterclasses at its Stanmore store for a number of years, and offers the following advice to hanging basket hopefuls (including me)…

best hanging baskets

1. Choose the right materials and plants

Go for the biggest basket you can, as this will hold more compost and require slightly less watering than smaller baskets. Metal-framed baskets are ideal, but you will have to line them.

Various water-retaining liners include coir and sphagnum moss, although you can even cut up an old woolly jumper to line a basket, which will soak up the water and keep in the compost.

If using moss (which you can buy at garden centres), use long strands of it laid laterally across the inside of the basket, working from the bottom, so the moss does not escape out of the holes.

Build the lining up in circles until it reaches the top of the basket, and lift it up to make sure you can’t see any gaps.

best hanging baskets

2. Make a reservoir

Cut a small circle of plastic from your compost bag to make a reservoir in the bottom of your liner, to hold just enough water to keep the compost moist, while still allowing free drainage at the sides.

best hanging baskets

3. Add your compost

Multipurpose compost, preferably the sort which has added plant food, is ideal, although you will still have to feed your basket plants during the summer, bearing in mind how many of the nutrients will be washed away when you’re constantly watering. When you reach the top of the basket, firm the compost down so there are no air holes.

best hanging baskets

4. Choose your plants

If you want your basket to be admired from all sides, choose one larger plant to put in the centre, such as an upright fuchsia or geranium, and select around five other plants to place around it.

These could range from trailing petunias and calibrachoa, to bacopa, lobelia, nemesia, diascia and helichrysum, although there are many other suitable plants available.

best hanging baskets

5. Position the tall and the small

Try positioning your chosen plants on top of the compost before planting, so you can decide which looks best where. Make sure your gaps are even when placing the outer plants.

Usually the tallest plant will go in the centre, surrounded by the lower trailers, which need to be planted closer to the edge, but if your basket is going to face in a particular direction, put the biggest plant at the back and the lower trailers in front of it.

To minimise any damage when planting, remove each plant from its pot and use the pot alone as the planting template, easing it down into the planting hole to make it the right size. Then your plant will slot right in.

Cover it with the compost you removed to make space for the hole. Repeat using the plant pot template until all your plants are in.

best hanging baskets

6. Hang it up

Hang up your basket on a wall bracket or other hook or frame (some hanging baskets are really heavy, so make sure your bracket is secured tightly and is strong enough to take the weight).

best hanging baskets

7. Be waterwise

Water your basket well using a watering can rose. That way, the water will seep into the compost to reach your plants, rather than running straight through it.

best hanging baskets

8. Keep it healthy

Keep your basket well watered. In the height of summer you’ll need to do it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Feed your basket bedding plants regularly with either plant food or tomato food, following the instructions on the packet, and deadhead often to encourage further blooms.

Squire’s Garden Centres are holding Large Summer Basket Masterclasses on Friday, May 17. Tickets cost £25. For details visit squiresgardencentres.co.uk

Tool School: 5 Clever Gardening Gadgets for Spring and Summer

new technology for the garden

Get yourself some high-tech help with these time-saving technological innovations to make life easier in the garden.

The swallows have returned, tulips and wallflowers are blooming and Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan have warmed up their binoculars.

Gardeners can finally look forward to some fair-weather gardening during spring and summer.

So now is the time to invest in some new high tech gadgets to smarten up your outdoor space and make this season a fruitful one.

new technology for the garden

1. Flymo 1200 R Robotic lawnmower and charging station, £599, for stockists visit flymo.com/uk

If you live in the city and only have a small piece of grass to mow, but don’t have time to do the basics, this new Flymo robotic lawnmower may be for you.

It operates via sensors around your borders and when its charge is running low, it will know to return to its charging port before you have to carry it there.

This efficient, Lithium-Ion battery powered device is capable of effectively mowing a lawn area up to a maximum of 400m2, negotiating itself around trees and fences.

new technology for the garden

2. Chester Up & Down Solar Wall Light, £29.99, thesolarcentre.co.uk

Give your outdoor space some extra green credentials with this solar-powered wall light. All energy comes from an accompanying solar panel – no need for any fiddly wiring – resulting in a soft, warm, naturalistic glow. Sleek, waterproof, and wrought from stainless steel, this little lamp turns on automatically once darkness falls.

new technology for the garden

3. iGrill 3, £94.99, weber.com

Bid farewell to underdone or charred BBQ meat. Owners of a gas-powered Weber Genesis II, Genesis II LX, or Spirit II barbecue can invest in this weatherproof digital thermometer, which monitors the ‘doneness’ of up to four cuts of meat at once and sends its data straight through to an app on your smartphone.

new technology for the garden

4. Hozelock Cloud Controller Set, £142, johnlewis.com

This gadget allows you to control garden watering from your mobile, anywhere in the world. After attaching the controller to your garden tap, use the accompanying app to remotely set a watering schedule. The app will let you know if the weather changes back home, so you can pause watering if it turns wet or step it up when a heatwave strikes.

new technology for the garden

5. Dynamic BT Ear Protectors, £85, stihl.co.uk

If you like listening to music, and dislike having your eardrums savaged by the drone of your hedge trimmer, these Bluetooth ear protectors might just be for you. Each unit hosts a set of speakers that can connect wirelessly to your smartphone, playing for 38 hours on a single charge.

Buying a new Home? Phil Spencer Reveals the Warning Signs to Walk Away from.

property warning signs

It's all about Information, Information, Information, says the property guru.

Ever moved into a new house and realised that your new neighbour is the drummer for an amateur metal band? Or snapped up a new pad only to discover that the bedroom turns into a swamp every time it rains?

We sincerely hope the answer is no, but given how complex, difficult and murky property deals can be, that may be more by luck than judgement.

Property expert and investor Phil Spencer has headed up Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location alongside Kirstie Allsopp for almost two decades, and has now set up Move IQ, a website that uses complex algorithms to produce 45-page status reports on properties.

He took some time away from the cameras to comb through the real estate red flags that should make you dig a little deeper – if not send you running for the door.

property warning signs

Cautionary tales

We don’t want to alarm you, but there are a lot of traps you can fall into when assessing a property. “I know of one sale where the buyer didn’t do their research,” says Spencer, “and bought a house without realising the neighbours were running a business with 24-hour deliveries.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Spencer is full of anecdotes about property purchases that went pear-shaped. “I’ve worked on several cases of buying a house from a divorcing couple, when you find out later that the person still in the house doesn’t want to sell. That makes for an extremely complicated negotiation.”

“There are lots of examples of people buying houses, and then finding out that the right permissions weren’t in place for building work done by the previous owner. If a house has probate, that can be complicated… Honestly, it’s a minefield.”

The very last thing you want at the sharp end of a property deal is a sudden, nasty surprise. So, how can you ensure you don’t end up as another anecdote on Phil Spencer’s list?

property warning signs

Knowledge is power

Unfortunately, the most worrying warning signs are the ones you can’t see. “Your priority is misinformation,” says Spencer, “you need all your info to be as accurate as possible, and it will come primarily from the estate agent and the vendor. Ask direct questions, ask them again, and then ask the same questions of different people.”

We wouldn’t want to cast any aspersions, but you can take it as read that estate agents aren’t going to lead with the negatives.

“The key thing,” says Spencer, “is to ascertain why the house is being sold. People often try to muddy the waters and it’s up to you to get to the bottom of it. Have they outgrown the house, are there financial reasons, or is there an argument with a neighbour?”

“There are plenty of valid reasons for selling, but it’s going to come down to negotiation, and you want to know how motivated the vendor is to do the deal. Will they want to conclude quickly, and how willing might they be to agree to a price reduction?”

Once you’ve got a number on the seller, you can turn your attention to the house itself. “You need to understand the marketing history,” says Spencer. “Is there any interest, has anybody made an offer, and has anybody had a survey done?” If the house has been on the market for six months under a different agent, undergone repeated surveys and fallen through three times, then that’s need-to-know information.

Next up is the price – is it reasonable? “The internet has made making comparisons easier than ever, but you need to be sure you’re looking at fairly recent sales,” says Spencer. “Pounds per square foot is a useful rough guide; work it out for the property you’re interested in, and compare with others in the area.”

“Remember, this is just a rule of thumb, and takes no account of condition, views, garden, and so on.”

property warning signs

Buyers and sellers

You and your vendor don’t need to be bosom buddies – or even make each other’s Christmas card lists – but there’s a certain amount of trust at the heart of every sale.

“You don’t have to go for dinner and drinks, but you want to know that they’re selling you the truth,” says Spencer. “If you ask a direct question, you need to be confident you’re getting an honest, if probably gilded, answer.”

Unmotivated sellers can spell trouble – last-minute mind-changing can be infuriating and costly – and be wary of overly-canny sellers straining every sinew to show their house at it’s best. “If the table is laid for dinner, there’s fresh bread baking, and the smell of percolating coffee,” says Spencer, “keep your wits about you!”

“I’ve also seen examples of sellers stowing things in storage to make their house look roomy enough for children and two adults. There is, if you move half your stuff out.”

Beware stubbornness, not just in your vendor but in yourself. “Sometimes people become ‘principled’ in property negotiations,” Spencer says. “It’s not the time – if you’re paying good money for something, don’t fall out over a loo seat or a fridge. I’ve seen little things like that derail massive property deals – just respect that it’s someone’s home and they can get a bit emotional.”

property warning signs

Bricks and mortar

For many, a house viewing involves scouring every nook and cranny for dry rot, blue tack stains and missing roof tiles, but for Spencer, such practical pitfalls are a secondary concern. “I wouldn’t get overly het up about it,” he says, “the surveyor will come in and give the house the once over.”

“If it’s of interest, by all means go over the house with a fine tooth comb – you can easily see for yourself if the windows are rotting, there are cracks in the walls or the bath leaks. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with any of these – so long as it’s reflected in the price.”

Much more important are pre-existing works and renovations, and the paperwork surrounding them: “If you do end up negotiating, you want to be able to warn your surveyor and solicitor about any extensions, because you’ll need the forms and permissions that support that work.”

Everything you need to know about Joe Perkins new Facebook Inspired Chelsea Flower Show Garden

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

As a father-of-three, garden designer Joe Perkins is well aware that social media can lure young people away from the great outdoors.

Enter Beyond The Screen, Perkins’ Facebook-sponsored show garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, within which he’s going to reveal how online and offline worlds can come together.

Visitors may think the Facebook garden, set in a 10x10m plot in the ‘Space to Grow’ category, is going to be high-tech, with state-of-the-art screens and speakers popping out from behind the flora and fauna. But Perkins’ vision is very different.

It’s a coastal garden for young people, featuring plants from around the world that can withstand salt-laden winds and harsh weather. Euphorbias, agaves and maritime pines are among the plantings.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

“I’ve got plants from Mexico, the Balearics, India and the US, but the point is, they all share this tolerance of particular conditions, so they have these shared interests – which brings me back to the community groups on social media.”

Other elements of the garden include water, a copper canopy and a dramatic rock formation.

“The coastal element for me is all about connection. The oceans connect us all geographically, water connects us physiologically and as a landscape, it’s evolving, just as online communities are constantly shifting and evolving,” he explains.

There’s a copper canopy which references back to connectivity (copper is a conductor), the parallel being that social media is a conduit for global interaction.

He’s also using vertical layers of rock to show that geological forces have transformed the landscape, just as social media has changed the social environment in which we live.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

Perkins, 42, who runs his own garden design business in Brighton, has been involved in many Chelsea show gardens over the years, but this is his first solo project. He approached Facebook with a design plan, and they were quick to jump on board.

“My inspiration is a very personal one. It’s drawn from my experience of having family holidays on the Atlantic coast of Spain. My wife’s family is from the Basque country and I’ve taken my three young boys there every summer for years.”

His aim is to show how our worlds – both online and offline – collide, and he hopes the Facebook garden will spark debate about the value of social media.

“It’s about having a proper discussion around how we can use it better, and recognising the difference between how we should and shouldn’t be using it, and how we can be responsible.

“Social media is about global connection and the possibilities it’s opened up for us to connect with people all over the world, and join like-minded people in community groups, on Facebook in particular. In the UK, there’s something like 1.5 million gardeners on Facebook.”

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

Facebook is partnering with the community charity Groundwork, which works with disadvantaged young people throughout the UK, on the project. Some of Groundwork’s young ambassadors will be helping to build the garden, and getting involved with moving it into the community once the show’s over.

“While you can argue that young people have less inclination to go out and engage with nature, you could equally argue that they’re doing a lot of positive stuff online, and a lot of that involves gardening,” Perkins says.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

On a personal level, Perkins’ sons’ introduction to social media isn’t too far away, with the eldest aged 12 and the youngest aged eight.

“That’s really why I wanted to explore and open up the debate about what we should be doing as parents. How can we help young people, and what do they themselves think about the time they spend online? Many people of my generation feel that time spent online is negative, but what do younger people think?

“Independent research has found that young people feel a lot of the time they spend online is productive and positive, because they engage in community groups, community projects, shared interest groups and keeping in touch with friends and family. That can reduce loneliness, help engagement and actually get stuff done in the real world.

“Obviously, the negatives are mental health and wellbeing, and all the headlines we’ve read about. But social media isn’t going away, so let’s look at what’s good about it, talk about what’s bad and see if we can actually produce a healthy discussion about how we can move forward.”

And what if the only thing you see your teenager doing in the garden is taking a selfie, unaware of the real beauty that lies around them?

“By doing that, young people are broadcasting our fantastic industry around the world,” he says.

“Look at the big UK growth in interior plants. It’s clear from social media that young people are very interested in plants and how they can use them to decorate their houses. If you can make gardening cool and desirable, that can only be a good thing.”

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 21-25. For details visit rhs.org.uk

Fitness for human habitation – What landlords need to know

The fitness for human habitation act (AKA the Karen Buck Bill) came into force on 20th of March 2019, which is an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985.

The act requires that any property let by a landlord (private or social) must remain in a state fit for habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration.

This act is in place to help protect tenants against negligent landlords, and gives tenants the power to sue their landlords if they are not in compliance with the regulations. The Act covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the social and private rented sectors.

What does fit for human habitation mean?
The landlord of a qualifying dwelling is required to ensure that the house is “reasonably suitable for occupation” in respect of the following nine matters:

  1. repair,
  2. stability,
  3. freedom from damp,
  4. internal arrangement,
  5. natural lighting,
  6. ventilation,
  7. water supply,
  8. drainage and sanitary conveniences,
  9. facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water;
    and the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.

How can landlords comply with the Fitness for Human Habitation Act?
Landlords who haven’t inspected their rental properties for a while – perhaps because they’re using a managing agent – may find it worthwhile visiting their properties and checking that everything is in order.

Courts will have the authority to order landlords to carry out repairs and they will be able to award damages to tenants.

Are there any exceptions?
Your landlord is responsible for fixing a lot of problems in your home. However, there are some exceptions:

  1. Problems caused by tenant behaviour
  2. Events like fires, storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes called ‘acts of God’)
  3. The landlord will not repair your possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants
  4. If the landlord hasn’t been able to get permission from certain other people.

Guide for landlords
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-landlords-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

Guide for tenants
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-tenants-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

If you would like to know more, or just have a few questions how this may effect you. Call our residential letting agent expert Nicola Bremner (MARLA) on 01252 622550

Maldivians are Planting a Community Spirit by Going Farm to Fork

Maldives farm to fork

On a remote coral island in the Maldives, Hannah Stephenson discovers a rural community which has turned its sandy landscape into a farming haven.

Maldivian farmer Ali cuts open a heavy, juicy watermelon from his plot of land, proudly presenting us each with a slice, juice dripping, still warm from the sun.

Standing on his small farm in Meedhoo, an island within the Addu Atoll, the southernmost group of islands in the Maldives – next stop Antarctica – you could be a million miles away from the luxurious five-star resorts complete with picture postcard white beaches, aquatic lagoons, over-water villas and swaying coconut palms synonymous with these islands.

Walking past a corrugated shack, which doubles as his shed, Ali proudly shows us his farm, which looks a bit like a huge allotment.

Watermelons and honeydews are ripening on the ground in the sun, many of which serve the discerning clients at the nearby deluxe Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa on neighbouring Villingili Island.

Maldives farm to fork

Ali is one of 50 farmers on Meedhoo who have helped form a cooperative to clean up their land and make it more productive, in partnership with the Shangri-La group, and tourists are now being offered the chance to see how this partnership is working in a new farm-to-plate experience.

Since the tourist boom of the 1970s, hotel-islands (there’s only one resort hotel or complex per island in the Maldives) were originally developed with the aim of keeping Western visitors separated from the Muslim localities.

But trends are changing and, despite the continuing political unrest of this nation, tourists are growing more curious about local communities and their cultures, seeking more authentic travel experiences.

The location of Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort is not only ideal for the luxurious fly-and-flop break, where tourists can boast that they’ve crossed the Equator, spotted turtles, seen manta rays and prolific pods of spinner dolphins or enjoyed a round of golf, but being close to the other islands which form the Addu Atoll also allows easy access to an insight into local life.

 

Maldives farm to fork

Once you’ve had a few days to wind down and admire the glorious vista of the turquoise Indian Ocean, the sublime white beaches and the sumptuous accommodation, you may want to sample a true taste of Maldivian life.

A 10-minute speed boat trip takes us to Meedhoo Island, which spans 2km x 2.5km, where we are presented with garlands of frangipani and bougainvillea by beautiful Maldivian children dressed in traditional Dhiveli libaas, dresses with ornate necklines made from traditional weaving, watched proudly by their hijab-clad mothers.

Meedhoo is clearly new to tourism. Only a few years ago, the small beach on which we are standing was a rubbish dump awash with plastic bottles, rusty cans and other debris, a makeshift landfill from its 3,500-population.

Today, thanks to the work of concerned members of the community who formed an NGO to clean up their island and educate adults and children in all matters of eco-friendliness, there’s not a plastic bottle or bag in sight. Adults and children still take part in regular beach cleans three years on and a local waste management company removes the rubbish.

Here, female tourists are politely asked to wear attire which covers their shoulders and knees in respect of the Muslim faith.

Driving on the sandy road past 900-year-old Koagannu, the oldest cemetery in the Maldives, we come across an impressive school hidden behind bright blue walls, while a peppering of stylish gated houses in subtle shades of lemon clash with nearby tired, older buildings with corrugated roofs and fading pink painted walls. Traditional houses used to be made of corals but, of course, that doesn’t happen anymore.

Maldives farm to fork

By the look of things, tourism has clearly helped some prosper on Meedhoo but has been slower to transform life for others.

With a population of 3,500 to feed, farming has always been big here but now it’s bigger. On one farm, we walk past deep troughs of leafy Chinese cabbages, huge banana trees and beds of yam, whose voluminous leaves are known as elephant ears, and are asked to remove our shoes before entering a large greenhouse filled with rows of lofty cucumber plants bearing dangling ripening fruits.

It’s one of four greenhouses made possible through a $15,900 (approx £12,200) loan in 2013 from the Shangri-La group to the cooperative, which has helped increase farming production massively, so much so that Meedhoo and its neighbouring islands in the atoll now provide the resort with around 15% of its fruit and vegetables. The farmers paid back the cost of the greenhouses within 10 months, which was deducted from the resort’s weekly supply.

Hot Maldivian chillis, papaya, bananas and a variety of salad leaves are flourishing on the cultivated land. Fragrant frangipani, bougainvillea and other flowers grown on the island also serve the resort.

Maldives farm to fork

So how can they grow such rich produce on a bed of coral sand?

Rotten leaf matter on the island is broken down to make soil richer, although compost also has to be imported from Sri Lanka and India to beef up the terrain, while great tanks gather rainwater for the crops.

And while problems of whitefly, thrips (an insect) and mites sometimes threaten the harvest, the biggest challenge for farmers is the changing weather patterns resulting in a longer rainy season, says the community environmental officer Mohamed Kamir.

But efforts are being made to expand the types of crops which may be able to cope with changing weather conditions.

Earlier in the day, we visited the resort’s own chef’s garden to pick vegetables and herbs to use in our dishes at dinner.

There’s an abundance of mint, dill and basil, as well as gourds, aubergines, courgettes and spring onions, Chinese cabbage and rocket, all of which provide some of the resort’s needs.

If the chef’s garden cultivates a new variety successfully, it will teach the Meedhoo farmers how to grow and care for the plants, so that they can expand their own crops.

So, as we sit down to our delicious farm-to-plate dinner in stylish settings on Villingili later that evening, featuring locally-caught wahu carpaccio, meaty tuna with lemongrass veloute with some of the herbs and vegetables we picked earlier in the chef’s garden, and fruit cocktail with mango soup courtesy of the farmers of Meedhoo, nothing could really taste sweeter.

Maldives farm to fork

8 Cracking Ways to Set the Scene for Easter

easter decorating

Planning some Easter entertaining? Gabrielle Fagan reveals simple decor displays and finishing touches to bring the occasion to life.

It’s time to get all your chicks in a row for Easter, with some truly egg-cellent decor!

A holiday gathering will be much more memorable with a cheerful springtime table setting, with plenty of seasonal touches to bring it to life – from pretty hanging eggs on a tree, to colourful wreaths and, of course, a sprinkling of cute, decorative creatures, be it bunnies or chicks.

Style it out and that setting’s sure to be Insta-worthy, promises Rebecca Stanton, a stylist and visual merchandiser at Dobbies.

“Easter decorating includes some of my favourite styling elements, including pretty pastels, blooming bouquets and fresh foliage,” she says. “A mix of candy-coloured decorations will bring a table to life, especially with the addition of miniature chicks and Easter bunnies to set the tone for the occasion.

“Nothing says springtime like a bunch of gorgeous tulips, helping bring a touch of the outside in,” Stanton adds. “Frankly, you can never have too many flowers!”

easter decorating

1. Branch out for that finishing touch

Time was, decorated trees were just for Christmas – but they’re rapidly becoming an essential ingredient for Easter decor too.

“Within the home, an Easter tree is an eye-catching statement piece which can be dressed up or down, depending on your style,” says Lisa Rutherford, stationery and seasonal events buyer at John Lewis.

“They’re becoming ever-more popular. A small collection of hanging eggs can look beautiful and under-stated. If a full-sized tree isn’t for you, consider a smaller table-top tree version, or just a simple collection of branches in a vase with a few ornaments for a mini display.”

easter decorating

2. Keep it cute

Hop to it and gather a collection of chicks and bunnies, which children will love but can also be all you need to pay a subtle nod to the season.

Hang several on a wire across a window frame or mirror (double the visual impact), or hang individually on cupboard handles or from a pendant light above the table.

easter decorating

3. Crack a top table display

“A meal, and the table setting, is at the centre of many Easter celebrations,” says Rutherford. “It’s worth investing in the ingredients for a scheme which you can use again. Consider following a colour scheme – yellow or zingy green are both top choices for a crisp, fresh look.

“Whether you want something fun and functional, maybe a grass table runner and a line of tiny pots of faux daffodils, or a little more sophistication using pastels and muted florals, your table offers a space to be creative and playful. It doesn’t need to be over-elaborate to be successful.” John Lewis has a Talking Tables Grass Table Runner, £18, and Artificial Daffodils in Kraft Wrap, £4, which would be ideal.

easter decorating

4. Treat the table

Splurge on a few new pieces of Easter-inspired homeware to give a table setting a lift, or to decorate a mantel or shelf. They may be just the finishing touches you need.

If that’s beyond the budget, with all those chocolate treats to pay for, simply fill a clear glass bowl full of eggs (traditionally, real eggs are hard boiled and dyed with food colouring) and place in the centre of the table, or opt for a simple spring bouquet from the garden.

For a quick fix: Use a ribbon or twine to tie a hanging decoration to each napkin and personalise with a label displaying each guest’s name.

easter decorations

5. Hunt down style

Easter wouldn’t be the same without an egg hunt – after all, you don’t want to be responsible for making the Easter bunny redundant! Pop up a sign, scatter some artificial eggs, and have chocolate treats as prizes.

easter decorating

6. Bring in nature

Nature’s waking up after winter, with blossom and new growth galore – a beautiful feature of the season. Reflect that indoors too, with floral wreaths and garlands (faux ones are so good nowadays, it’s hard to distinguish them from the real thing). Hang on a door or wall, or use as a table focal point.

easter decorating

7. Create a stunning centrepiece

What you need:

4 birch branches; twine; seasonal flowers and foliage (such as eucalyptus, ivy, mimosa or forsythia); six decorated Easter eggs or Easter chocolates; two large cup hooks.

How to do it:

  • Lay the four birch branches on a large flat surface and loosely arrange them parallel to each other, with a gap of approximately 3-4cm between each.
  • Wind twine several times around an outer branch. Leave a length of 3-4cm of twine and then wind around the next branch and so on, until you get to the far side and the branches are all connected. Do this 20-30cm in from each end of the display.
  • Gather your chosen foliage and flowers together in two loose bunches and bind their stems. Lay each bunch on top of the birch branches with the bound stems overlapping in the middle. Tuck the bound ends into the opposite bunch to hide untidy ends.
  • Tie lengths of twine to your Easter eggs, ready for hanging. Hang your birch branches and foliage from the ceiling with cup hooks and twine, then tie on your Easter eggs in varying positions and at different heights. Tweak the arrangement of the foliage or add more, once the centrepiece is in place, to achieve the look you want.
easter decorating

8. Enter into the spirit of Easter

Don’t confine decoration to inside the house – wreaths hung on a front door, or a tub of spring flowers in a porch makes an attractive, welcoming touch, and will hint at more decor treats inside.

Ban on Letting Agent fees

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 is coming into effect for all tenancies signed on or after 1st June 2019.

A major change for the lettings industry is coming into effect for all tenancies after 1st June 2019 in England. Called the ‘Tenant Fees Act 2019’, it could cause quite a stir along the way.

The act sets out the governments approach to banning fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England. The act is aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords, with the wider aim of making everything fairer, improving quality and creating more affordable rental properties.

From 1st June you cannot require a tenant to make certain payments in connection with a tenancy. You cannot require them to enter a contract with a third party or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.

The only payments that can be charged in connection with a tenancy are:

  1. the rent
  2. a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  3. a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
  4. payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
  5. payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  6. payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
  7. A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement

For further details on the ACT check out the information on the legislation.gov.uk website
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/4/enacted

The landlords guild also have a good article
https://www.landlordsguild.com/understanding-the-tenant-fees-act-2019/

Guidance
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tenant-fees-act-2019-guidance

If you would like to know more, or just have a few questions how this may effect you. Call our residential letting agent expert Nicola Bremner (MARLA) on 01252 622550

About to be a First Time Parent like Meghan and Harry? 5 tips for Baby-Proofing your Home

From stair gates to non-slip mats and locking the oven, there's lots you can do to make your home more baby-friendly.

baby proofing your home

One can only imagine the challenges involved in baby-proofing a royal residence. Fitting stairwells with the world’s widest baby gates; locking down toilet seats in 78 separate bathrooms – well, Buckingham Palace has 78, but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex won’t have quite that many to contend with, when they take their baby back to their new home in Windsor.

baby proofing your home

Still, whether you’re a royal or a regular Joe, baby-proofing your home for new arrivals can be a pretty big task. Your little prince or princess might spend all day, every day snoozing at first – but they’ll soon hit curious mode, wanting to clamber on, poke and explore everything possible.

“More than a million children are taken to hospital every year in the UK because of accidents in the home,” says Lorna Marsh, senior editor and parenting expert at BabyCentre. “Falls are the most common accidents, and you need to minimise hazards before your baby starts crawling.”

So where to start? Here are five tips for ensuring your home is a baby-friendly zone…

baby proofing your home

1. Prepare early

A couple of points to note up front: First of all, no amount of baby-proofing can substitute for watchful supervision, so don’t let gadgets lull you into a false sense of security. Many a baby gate has been scaled by an enterprising infant, and some youngsters make a habit of turning up in unexpected places.

Secondly, it’s never too early to start thinking about baby-proofing. Young children tend to grow alarmingly quickly and by the time they’re crawling, you want to be confident with your new safety features. Getting the job done is much simpler when you’re not knee-deep in nappies and battling sleepless nights, so it’s a good idea all round to prepare early.

Before you begin, it’s worth getting on your hands and knees to get a child’s eye view of your home. Are there any edges or corners that look threatening, or furniture that’s invitingly climbable? Silly though it may sound, this is a worthy way to identify potential trouble spots before your child starts to explore.

baby proofing your home

2. Consider how things look from toddler height

Start with the big stuff. Any furniture that can topple (bookcases, we’re looking at you), should be fastened to the wall securely with furniture straps or brackets, while tall, unstable lamps should ideally be removed. Attach cushioned corner protectors to desks and coffee tables to avoid painful bumps and bangs.

“A new arrival means you’ll see your home in a whole new light,” says Marsh. “Things that you took no notice of before suddenly become a potential danger.” Cupboards should be sorted into safe and not-safe, and the latter latched with baby locks.

There are some obvious things to keep out of reach – knives, medicines, cleaning products and so on – but even apparently innocuous items can represent a risk if not considered carefully. House plants, for example, can be poisonous if nibbled on, and even the harmless ones are often potted in earth or dirt that might look appetising to a curious bub.

Beware the chest of drawers – you may think it’s a safe place for your unsecured television to sit on, but adventurous children use drawers for climbing practice, and anything heavy on top can topple off, potentially ending in serious trauma.

baby proofing your home

3. Make stairs and windows safe

If there are stairs in your home, baby gates are essential – consider installing one at the top and bottom of the stairs. It only takes a second for a littl’un to scale a set of steps!

Window blind cords can be particularly dangerous for children and must never be overlooked. “Replace corded window blinds with cordless ones,” says Marsh, “and put stickers on glass doors to make them visible to your child. Fit window locks, and never open them wide enough for a crawling baby to get out.”

Electrical cables represent trip, choke and entanglement hazards for small children, so use cord holders to fasten them to the walls.

baby proofing your home

4. Check every room

Once you’ve dealt with the basics, give your whole house a systematic sweep. Different dwellings pose different dangers, and the only way to know that you’ve got everything is to take a proper stock-check yourself.

The bathroom is one of the most perilous places for a tot who’s just finding their feet. An infant can drown in just 5cm of water, so invest in a baby bath seat and never, ever leave a bathing baby unsupervised. Toilet seat locks are a must too, and you can prevent scalding by adding soft covers on bath taps and spouts. Wobbly babies and slippery surfaces don’t mix, so put down some non-slip mats in tiled areas.

The kitchen is also high on the danger-o-meter. Avoid place mats and tablecloths on dining tables (an inquisitive child will tug on them, and bring the table’s contents crashing down), and make sure your oven is always safely locked, with covers on anything likely to get hot to the touch.

Sitting rooms can be deceptively hazardous, especially those with fireplaces. “Fit smoke alarms and keep a fire extinguisher nearby if you have a fireplace,” says Marsh. “By law, you must have a fireguard, and keep matches and lighters out of your child’s reach.

“In the bedroom, make sure your baby’s cot or Moses basket is sleep-safe,” she adds. “And, if you have a cat, put a cat net over [the baby’s bed].”

baby proofing your home

5. Think about how you’re using your home too

Making alternations is vital – but think about how you’re doing things around the home too. Is there a more child and baby-safe way to adapt everyday tasks?

For example, cook on the wall-side hobs if you have them (they’re further from reach!), and keep kitchen appliances away from children where possible. “Keep mugs of hot drinks away from edges,” adds Marsh. “And when cooking, make sure that the handles of saucepans are turned away from the edge.”

Be sure to unplug appliances like irons (we should all be doing this anyway!), and remember that visitors to your home may not be holding their habits to the same standards.

Be careful what you throw away too, as some babies are relentless scavengers. “Old batteries, plastic bags and sharp objects should be discarded safely,” says Marsh. Toys like Lego are well-established choking hazards, and the same goes for items like marbles, coins and paperclips.

“Keep plastic bags, including nappy bags, well out of reach of your child,” she adds, “and make sure pens, scissors, letter openers, staplers and other sharp instruments are kept in locked drawers.”

Even when they’re clear of all apparent danger, crawling children are still wiping their mitts on the floor, so it’s important to keep a hygienic home too. If you don’t already, enforce a no-shoes policy inside the house, and clean regularly to keep your surfaces germ-free (you don’t need a gleaming show home, of course – we’re just talking about getting the important basics done).