Diarmuid Gavin: 10 do’s and don’ts for designing gardens

diarmuid gavin 10 tips for designing gardens

The TV gardener talks to Hannah Stephenson about his own mistakes over the years, and how others can avoid pitfalls in their plots.

Diarmuid Gavin admits even he’s made some faux pas in his time – especially when he looks back at some of the dramatic changes he made to people’s plots in his early TV make-over shows.

“There were a couple of times when, with the exuberance of getting a chance to create a garden and being given a budget, you put everything in but the kitchen sink,” recalls the Irish Garden designer and TV presenter, 54. “Garden design and gardening is definitely a craft that you learn as you go along.”

So, what are the most common design mistakes people make?

“People are too fussy with line or shape, or it might be with using too many materials. Simplicity is often lost,” says Gavin. “People also tend to use too many plants. Why plant three trees, when one will do? There can be too much colour competing for attention.”

Here, Gavin, who is judging the Young Landscapers Award at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live show, offers some top tips on the dos and don’ts of garden design..

1. Don’t leave plants in your car
“If you leave plants in the boot after a trip to the garden centre, you may find them wilted and light-starved a few days later. This is also true with packets of seeds. A huge percentage of those purchased remain in foil-wrapped comfort and don’t make it into the warming soil. So, prepare the ground before you shop and when you get home from a trip to the garden centre, don’t just reminisce about the tea and apple pie you had in the swish cafe – while your plants sweat in a sauna!”

2. Don’t upset the neighbours
“Check if you need planning permission for projects. I once I created a courtyard garden in Birmingham with an in-built lift. The terrace rose at the flick of a switch to reveal a subterranean room for evening entertainment. A neighbour complained, the council got involved, and the sleek paving was no longer permitted to rise.”

dont go ott on colour

3. Don’t go OTT on colour
“Be careful about the colours you choose when painting walls, fence panels or sheds. Cobalt blue may look good in an exotic garden in Marrakech but on the yard wall of a two-up-two-down with a distinct lack of warming sunshine, it may feel a little forlorn. I’m responsible for many awards of garish candy pink due to an obsession with the work of Mexican architect, Luis Barragan.”

4. Don’t use too many different stones
“If you’re planning on a hard landscaping project, keep in mind that less can be more. There’s so much choice of natural stone and paving products available in DIY stores and patio centres that temptation can lead you to purchase a few different styles of brick or slab. Combining a number of different colours and finishes can be tricky. For greater coherence with a design, stick to one product or theme.”

5. Do find out your soil type
“The most important thing about gardening is understanding your soil and putting plants where they are going to be happy. Most of us don’t do that. Digging and understanding what the soil needs to make it better is vital. There’s no point putting rodgersias or primulas in a dry part of the garden.”

6. Do pair up clashing colours
“I like clashing colours, and when we did that in my mechanical garden (Chelsea, 2016), I tried to go against the norm, so I’d have pastel pinks but then I’d also try a bomb of geums in tangerine, just to explode it. Whatever statement you’re making, make it! I don’t believe in the whole colour wheel thing or any of these rules. We’d all end up with gardens looking exactly the same if we follow them.”

do make use of green

7. Do make use of green
“If you are going for a bling garden in which you want every colour in the sun, you want the Smarties pack, absolutely fantastic, but we undervalue green. I find greenery really cooling and beautiful. Don’t underestimated the effects that you can get from the contrast of shades and the shape of leaves, because that can be beautiful too. Then work some colour in to highlight certain areas.”

do give yourself room on your patio

8. Do give yourself room on your patio
“Lay out a table and six chairs around it before you lay your patio, and understand the amount of circulation you’ll need. We are beginning to live outdoors on patios and decks, whenever the weather’s in our favour.”

9. Do try to hide paths
“You need good pathways, although I was always a devil for not putting in pathways and making people walk across lawns, because pathways always dominated my sight lines. I do have a path issue. In certain areas, where they create very strong lines, I don’t like them, so hide or disguise them if you can.”

10. Do plant next to the house
“Have a little bit of planting right next to the base of the house, taking into account your drainage and that you don’t want water seeping into the brickwork. But planting close to the house will soften the building. You can do it with contemporary architectural plants, using topiary such as buxus in a modernist house. In a suburban house, you can use something quite gentle, like billowing lavender, with climbers shooting up in-between. They soften the landscape and the view looking back to the house from the garden. If you can’t plant next to the house, use pots and containers and install an irrigation system.”

BBC Gardeners’ World Live takes place at the NEC Birmingham from June 14-17. For more information, see bbcgardenersworldlive.com

At Home With L’homme: 3 decor themes for style-conscious chaps

ideal houses for sale for men

Man caves have come a very long way. Gabrielle Fagan reveals the trends to tap into now.

The days of men taking a backseat when it comes to decorating are long gone. In fact, they’re now well and truly in the driving seat when it comes to their own homes, and often still ensuring their taste is reflected in shared spaces.

They’re design-literate, and just as keen to show off their branded homeware as they are the designer contents of their wardrobes, and their desire for relaxing, practical spaces is in step with the whole trend for functional homes, where character and personality shine through.

So call it what you will – man cave, bachelor pad, or boy base – there’s no excuse for that men’s room not looking stylish any more, with an array of cool kit and furnishings now designed with men in mind. Here are three style personality types, and inspiration for getting the look…

houses for sale ideal for males

Mr Cool & Contemporary
Less is more for this man and he demands high design and quality for everything, from the contents of his wardrobe, to his car and his decor.

Measured and analytical, he’ll put endless research into sourcing furnishings and furniture that’s just right, and regard them as investments which will turn his home into a space worth bragging about.

“Masculine-inspired design is all about sleek, subtle sophistication,” says Sivan Metzer, furniture buyer, Heal’s. “To get the look, opt for a careful combination of clean lines and sturdy materials in a neutral colour scheme, for a masculine effect that’s as elegant as it is functional. Strengthen this streamlined aesthetic, created by simple, straight lines, by accentuating the rich pigmented tones of polished oak, with details like bright brass or copper finishes.”

She recommends deep grey for a room’s base colour, to conjure a “an easy-on-the-eye look that will maintain its appeal over time. Statement leather furnishings introduce moody characteristics with strong, masculine undertones into a space,” Metzer adds.

Boy zone
This guy wants his home to be on-trend but fun and functional, so that it’s an easy-to-maintain and airy space, where he can chill out and entertain. He’s a playful lively character, happy to have affordable humorous touches that can be easily changed as fashions change and will sit alongside his collection of boys’ toys and comic book heroes.

Unfussy, uncluttered – he knows good storage can hide a multitude of mess – he’ll love multi-functional furniture (a coffee table that converts to a dining table) so that he can make the best use of every inch of space.

“It’s all about shining a light on a man cave and letting the style in,” says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor, Furniture Choice. “Whether you live alone or are sharing your space, there are easy ways to add masculine touches to your home. Start by displaying your interests – a solid, well-made picture frame can do wonders for comic book prints, movie posters, a football team photo, and then group a collection for a personal wall display.

“Colour is another way to express yourself,” Snowden adds. “The colour-shy could opt for easy, interesting neutrals – grey, khaki and sage – which are great alternatives to black and white. For the bold, subtle pops of bright shades, such as navy blue, mustard, and even a flash of vibrant pink will add a fresh twist to your scheme.

“If you’re new to decorating, don’t worry about trends. Stripes, chevrons and other geometric prints never go out of style, and materials like leather and suede are classic choices.” A Newark Teal Fabric 2 Seater Sofa, currently reduced to £399.99 from £599.99, Furniture Choice, would inject a splash of colour into a room.

property for sale suited to men

Retro man
He’s part of the retro-revolution celebrating those iconic items from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, and displaying them in a funky, industrial setting. He’s laid-back like his style, and knows that the coolest homes should feel ‘collected’ as opposed to ‘decorated’.

Warm, weathered and raw elements like dark woods, coupled with renovated machinery and pieces crafted with care, make for a macho-look that oozes character and is constantly evolving. He’ll definitely opt for vinyl over downloads, and vintage over contemporary.

“Men have never been as savvy about design and interiors as they are today. The huge growth of Pinterest and Instagram has brought interior design to the masses and interiors inspiration is everywhere,” says David Harris, design director, Andrew Martin.

“Funky neon artwork, modern art wallpapers, architectural lighting ranges, and great furniture covered in rich velvet and leathers is all helping to attract a more masculine following. Men are now feeling more confident than ever about their interior ideas and want to show off their taste.”

Petal Power: 3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

No matter how your garden grows, anyone can enjoy an abundance of flowers indoors with this year’s stunning floral designs. Gabrielle Fagan picks the best of the bunch.

Nature’s best and brightest blooms inspire decor designs year after year, and the new-season ranges are blossoming with a fresh, contemporary take on the trend.

“Florals never lose their appeal, but this year, be brave and experiment with bold colours and eye-catching patterns to bring the outside in,” says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse. “It’s such an easy way to inject colour and pattern into your home. For a pared-back, summer-inspired space, opt for smaller floral accessories such as patterned chairs or cushions, which will pair well with neutral hues,” she adds.

Whether you’re looking to create an attention-grabbing feature wall in an all-over floral print, or add simple botanical-inspired accessories, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to incorporate florals into a living space. Here are three ways to embrace petal-power right now…

Pick a posy of pinks for perennially pretty decor

“Spring’s all about embracing brighter colours and bolder prints, so naturally, florals are an absolute shoo-in for the season,” says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture Choice.

“Florals or tropical prints, especially in bright pinks from rose to fuschia, are excellent statement-makers. They can be used for pops of colour in a smaller room, or will anchor a scheme if used to create a striking feature wall.

“For a major style boost, opt for larger botanical prints in the form of murals or wall art,” she suggests. “Experiment with light-coloured patterns for a relaxed natural look, or create a bold bohemian space with darker hues and busier motifs.”

Let blues blossom in serene scenes

“The trend for floral designs shows no signs of abating,” says Hannah Thistlethwaite, textiles buyer at Heal’s. “Opting for botanical-inspired homeware is an easy way to introduce invigorating touches of nature to enhance the atmosphere in any room.

For an understated theme, use soft floral prints in washed-out blue and white linens, to create a refreshingly laid-back effect,” she adds. “For an effortless update, look for cushions with a two-tone motif and pair with cool grey or blue fabrics to evoke a clean, Scandi-style aesthetic, which pays a subtle nod to the floral trend. Make a statement in a living room with bright pops of rich teal or blue blooms for fabrics or accessories contrasted with vibrant greenery, which will beautifully reflect nature’s palette.”

It would be hard to find a more eye-catching wallpaper than Giardino Segreto (Scene 1 Delft), £195 a roll, by Designers Guild, a company renowned for its stunning designs.

Bring a room to life with botanicals

“Botanical and floral prints continue to be top of the list for freshening up our decor,” says Yvonne Keal, head of product at curtain and blinds specialists, Hillarys. “They connect us to the outdoors, and if something works well in nature, it’ll work in a room. But just as we wouldn’t have a wilting bouquet in our homes, any floral look we introduce should feel fresh and new, and this season doesn’t disappoint.

“Botanical motifs on fabrics are subtle and hand-drawn – straight out of an artist’s sketchbook. Small-scale florals, watercolour washes and fade-out prints are blooming in gently joyful neutral grown-up shades, while soft greens, pale blues and lavender are replacing the rich jewel tones and clashing patterns of 2017, to help us create the more calm haven we crave this year.

Tiles, Laminate or Luxury Vinyl For Kitchen Flooring?

In need of a new kitchen floor, but unsure what material to opt for? There are lots of options, but a few important things to consider too. “Fitting out a kitchen is very exciting, but often you forget to think about the flooring, which is likely to be one of the largest surfaces in the room, so its selection deserves careful attention,” says Jordan Reuben, from Canadian reality series, The Property Brothers.

First and foremost, there’s your budget to consider, but keep in mind that it’s not necessarily just a question of how much the floor will initially cost to buy and fit – some types of flooring will require more specialist cleaning, for example, or may be prone to damage and wear and tear, meaning further costs down the line to replace or repair. Your choice will need to be a practical fit with your lifestyle too and, of course, you need to like it!

As Sian O’Neill, head of marketing at Topps Tiles (toppstiles.co.uk), notes: “As the hub of the home, kitchen design is of the utmost importance to homeowners, so it’s important to select flooring that is not only beautiful and hard-wearing but will stand the test of time.” Here’s a look at three key options…

1. Tiles

“Tiles are an excellent choice, as they are durable, design-led and able to stand up to the demanding conditions of kitchen spaces, with high traffic, potential spills and food mess,” says O’Neill. “Natural stone tiles provide a cosy and timeless look, especially for those living in an old country-style house. It’s worth keeping in mind that due to their porous surfaces, these types of tiles will need additional care before and after laying, to ensure they are sealed enough to last in humid areas, and to keep their finish in top condition. As long as you’re happy to maintain and look after them correctly, then the final result is luxurious and homely.” Reuben adds: “Stone flooring is available in a wide range of colours, sizes and textures, but you must ensure the stone is sealed to keep it in top condition. Remember, limestone is porous, so it will naturally suffer wear and tear. If you’re looking for a hard-wearing and totally hassle-free option, porcelain tiles are great. It can be made to replicate the look of wood or concrete. The tiles are often highly durable and fit well in a high-traffic environment.”

If you’re lusting over a gorgeous slate or marble floor – but your budget doesn’t stretch to the real thing, there are lots of lookalike tiles out there. “If natural stone isn’t the right fit for your home, there are plenty of additional options that offer the same aesthetic, but without the associated maintenance. Consider stone-effect tiles as these are waterproof, which means they’re easier to maintain and, thanks to modern technology, can now be made to look identical to the real thing,” says O’Neill. Wood-effect tiles can also offer a far cheaper alternative to real wood flooring (easier to lay and clean, too).

2. Laminate

Want the look of real wooden boards, but that’s not a realistic option budget-wise? There’s good reason why laminate flooring is a trend that’s stuck around. “Laminate wood floor is as popular as ever,” says Reuben. “It’s very modern and looks fantastic. As long as the product is factory sealed, those wine stains will just wipe away.” Josh Ashby, of UK Flooring Direct (ukflooringdirect.co.uk), adds: “Good quality laminates make a great floor for the kitchen, allowing for that authentic wood look without the drawbacks. Easy to install and maintain, homeowners can enjoy an affordable, stylish floor that will stand the test of time. More and more are now water resistant, adding to their appeal, and are suitable with underfloor heating.” Reuben notes that long laminate boards “can make any room feel bigger, whether it be dark or light flooring”, plus, “laminate is supplied in planks that are generally easy to fit, even for the novice!”

3. Luxury vinyl

“Modern vinyl is becoming increasingly popular as a cost-effective option to tiles and laminate. It comes in all different patterns, and good-quality vinyl can be very hard-wearing,” says Reuben. Sophie Hautekeete, of Quick-Step (quick-step.co.uk), agrees: “Luxury vinyl is undoubtedly the floor of the moment, offering that perfect blend of good looks, durability and ease of maintenance. Our vinyl planks have an embossed surface, which means the texture on the top surface matches the design, to create fantastic interpretations of the real floor it imitates.” A big part of the appeal is the scope of designs available. “Cushion, or sheet vinyl, has enjoyed a significant rise in popularity over the past five years, as modern methods of construction mean that wood and tile-effect designs look and feel like the real thing, with knots and grouts adding texture and interest,” says Stuart Reeves, Avenue Floors (avenuefloors.co.uk). “Design choice is almost unlimited, which means this type is often the go-to kitchen floor for those looking for performance, style and value.”

Garden Style Can Bloom Indoors and Out

You may not be ready to get out the sun-loungers until that weather’s more settled, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors, by turning your home into a nature-inspired oasis.

Blurring the boundary between inside and out and playing with botanical effects is a passion for Selina Lake, who reveals her secrets in her new book, Garden Style: Inspirational Styling For Your Outside Space.

“I hope I can inspire people to make the most of any outside space, and create everything from an outdoor living space to a garden room or a hideaway, and bring nature into decor indoors,” she says.

Here, Lake shares three looks from the book…

1. Create a cosy hideaway

“More popular than ever, garden rooms are a useful addition to any space,” says Lake. “They can be used as office spaces, crafting rooms, yoga studios, or places to enjoy a million other activities.

“You can adapt an existing building, such as a large shed, garage or greenhouse, or commission a new pod, cabin or summer house. Perhaps you’d like the garden room to reflect the garden and have a verdant, naturalistic ‘potting shed’ vibe, or you could opt for something strikingly modern that contrasts with the garden that surrounds it.

“If it’s a contemporary structure – like a glass conservatory – a great way to bring the outside in is by using green, the colour of nature, for walls and skirting boards. Green glass-bottle vases and faux plants can bring a quirky botanical feel to a sleek modern space.”

Top Tip: “If you have a surplus of blooms from your garden, cut them and arrange in galvanized metal buckets filled with water. Arrange by a doorway or at the bottom of a staircase. It creates a sense of walking through a flower garden.”

2. Bring the outside in

“Bringing flowers and foliage in from your garden to enhance your home decor is a simple detail that makes a big impact, whether you’re in need of a table centrepiece for a special occasion, a welcoming display for a hallway table, or something just to bring a smile to your face,” Lake enthuses.

“Joyful pops of vibrant colour from flowering spring bulbs are really uplifting,” says Lake. “When it comes to arranging flowers, I don’t have any rules as such. I like loose, natural-looking posies and am drawn to colour palettes that I find uplifting and will sit well with my interior.”

Top Tip: “I make black and white copies of vintage botanical prints and use brass bulldog clips to display them on a line. I also love empty seed packets, which can be grouped and used in a decorative way.”

3. Perfect the patio

“I wanted to create a simple Scandinavian look, so opted for a clean, pared-down palette of black, grey and white, teaming it with natural materials such as wood, rattan and wicker,” explains Lake.

“Lush green wisteria foliage and leafy hydrangea, lavender and tobacco plants in zinc containers and dark grey stone pots add scent and interest to my outdoor living room. I gave our tired wooden decking a face-lift with black wood stain, and like to dress the sofa and chairs with comfy cushions and throws, just as I do inside.” Top Tip: “Be ready for when the sun goes down – an outdoor rug will make a space feel cosier – and hang a cluster of string lights overhead and group candle lanterns on a coffee table.”

Garden Style: Inspirational Styling For Your Outside Space by Selina Lake, photography by Rachel Whiting, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available to readers for special price of £14.99, inc P&P: Call Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quote ref NT5.

Alan Titchmarsh Explains How To Create A Plot For Pollinators

Alan Titchmarsh Explains How To Create A Plot For Pollinators

Alan Titchmarsh is calling on gardeners to make a metre for wildlife this summer, by providing a refuge for struggling butterflies, moths and other pollinators.

Launching Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Plots for Pollinators’ campaign, Titchmarsh, the charity’s vice president, says: “The future of our butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects is under threat, as the places where they live are disappearing. The cold start to spring may affect how some butterflies fare this year, as they could experience a delayed emergence, meaning they’ll have less time to feed and breed – but you can help by creating some ‘plots for pollinators’.

“There are so many different flowers that are great nectar sources, like catmint, cosmos or calendula,” he adds. “See if you can find just one square metre and you could attract lots of butterflies this spring and summer, like my favourite – the red admiral. It doesn’t have to be on the lawn either – you could create a vertical garden on a bit of unused wall or fence and this would make a huge difference for pollinators.”

The project encourages people to set aside one square-metre of their garden or outdoor space to plant a nectar-rich flowerbed, or a colourful container garden. Previously widespread species, such as the small tortoiseshell and garden tiger moth, have seen their numbers plummet in recent years.

Here, Titchmarsh offers some top tips on creating plots for pollinators…

1. Select your space

Measure out one square-metre of outdoor space and fill it with open-flowered, nectar-rich plants. Choose a sunny, sheltered position and group pots together on a patio, grow plants up a fence or wall, or commit an area of a flowerbed.

2. Keep watering

Water your plot regularly – ideally from a water butt, as this is more environmentally friendly. Frequent watering prevents plants from drying out during a spell of hot weather, especially when in containers, and helps flowers to produce more nectar. Remember to water the soil not the plant, as larger leaves can act as an umbrella which prevents water getting to the roots. Remove the rose from your watering can to get nearer the plant base if necessary.

3. Lay a mulch

Put a layer of mulch on the surface of the soil around the plants, to help prevent water evaporation and suppress weed growth.

4. Use peat-free compost

Always choose peat-free compost and cut down on your use of plastic. Use recyclable and recycled containers or be creative and turn tins and tubs into plant pots. Remember to drill drainage holes in the bottom to prevent water logging.

5. Dead-head blooms

Dead-heading after flowering keeps plants looking attractive and encourages more blooms.

6. Get neighbours involved

Inspire your neighbours to plant a plot for pollinators to create a flowery ‘super highway’ for the pollinating insects where you live.

7. Avoid chemicals

Avoid using harmful pesticides, by removing slugs and snails by hand instead. Night is the best time to catch these marauding molluscs in action. Once caught, release them at a safe distance from your plot.

The Plots for Pollinators project will run throughout spring and summer. To take part, visit butterfly-conservation.org/PlantPlots

Tired Of Grey Skies? Here’s How To Give Your Rooms 6 Shots Of Sunshine

If you’re longing for sunny days but the weather’s not cooperating, you could change the climate indoors by embracing a sunshine colour palette.

Adding splashes of yellow to your decor with a lick of paint, a feature wall in a zingy paper or some vibrant accessories, will give it an instant lift.

Pick a shade you like, whether it’s canary, daffodil, buttery or a mellow golden hue, and then sit back and bask in the glow (no sun protection required).

1. Turn the tables on the weather

Yellow’s sunny properties make it ideal for a kitchen or dining room. Lift the spirits with a bright tablecloth or, if you’re up for some spring DIY, paint kitchen chairs in a bright yellow shade, or add a citrussy splash back.

2. Colour up with yellow

If you’re nervous of yellow (for some people, it can fall into the Marmite category) simply add pops of the colour in accessories, from tableware to lights.

3. Wake up a window

Guarantee a sunny outlook by dressing a window with bright yellow shutters, a blind or curtains. This colour is the ultimate mood booster – with a mellow undertone, it’s cheerful without being too in-your-face, or in its boldest form, it gives rooms confidence and  freshness.

4. Sit in the sunshine

No need to wait for summer blooms – take a shortcut with Joules’ Cambridge collection from DFS. Teamed together, yellow and neutral tones are in natural harmony. Calming greys or whites tone down the strength of yellow and, in return, the uplifting, sunny shade gives a scheme a personality and strength. Keep an eye out for DFS’s funky Tide sofa, in yellow velvet graffiti, too – available early June.

5. Warm up the walls 

If you’ve fallen in love with a yellow palette, create a feature wall with a patterned wallpaper. Alternatively, use the shade for paintwork – doors, windows and skirting – this is particularly effective when contrasted with a dark shade for walls, and will really make a scheme sing.

6. Brighten a bedroom

Turn up the heat in the boudoir with a shot of yellow for bedding, and if you’re yearning for tropical climes, conjure a far-flung sanctuary vibe with vividly patterned bedlinen. Add a few faux palms and some rattan furniture, and all you’ll be lacking are cooling sea breezes.

5 Fabulous Places To See Bluebells In The UK This Spring

A short burst of sunshine, a gentle rise in temperature… it doesn’t take much for Britain’s wildflowers to bloom.

But no display is more eagerly anticipated than the eruption of bluebells. Covering fields and woodlands across the UK, these delicate carpets of colour captivate photographers and nature enthusiasts year after year.

The season is short – lasting from April until May – so you’ll need to plan visits. These are some of the spectacular spots we recommend you try.

1. Brean Down, Somerset

Although normally associated with woodland enclaves, it’s possible to find bluebells by the sea too. Overlooking the Bristol Channel, the north side of this down is covered in flowers from May.

How: The area is free to explore. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk

2. Foxley Wood, Norfolk

Supposedly visible from space, Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland was once packed with light-blocking conifers, meaning very little grew on the forest floor. Due to the work of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, many of those trees have been cut back and carpets of bluebells have returned.

How: The forest is free to explore. Visit norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

3. Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire

With a renovated mill as its centrepiece, this wooded valley is characterised by ravines and waterfalls. In spring, bluebells burst from the forest floor, providing an additional attraction. It’s possible to explore independently, but on April 28 free guided walks will run through the Lower Crimsworth Valleys, where the main displays can be found.

How: It’s free to visit, although Gibson Mill has opening times. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags

4. Heartwood Forest, Sandridge

Thanks to the planting of 600,000 saplings, this ancient forest has become a source of pride and joy for the Woodland Trust. Bluebell fields regularly draw visitors, although the Trust warns people to stick to paths; in the past, more than an acre of flowers has been accidentally trampled underfoot.

How: Visit heartwood.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Godolphin, Cornwall

In April and May, the 16th century gardens of this historic home put on one of the best bluebell displays – with a footpath allowing easy viewing access. A popular spot, it does attract crowds – but in such a romantic setting it’s easy to forget other people are around. From April 16 – May 20, a Bluebell Festival will be held, giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about the flowers.

How: Adults, £9.50; children, £4.80. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/godolphin

Top 5 Designer Tips For Giving Your Garden A Makeover This Spring

With longer days and better weather on the horizon, now’s the time to take a look at how your garden has fared over winter.

Garden designer and lecturer Hilary Thomas, who teaches garden and planting design online through Learning With Experts, explains:

“Gardens are great places to be creative, as even small additions such as painting the garden furniture, or the addition of colourful cushions, will have an instant and exciting effect.”

She offers five suggestions for giving your outdoor space a spring makeover.

1. Boost your boundaries 

During the cooler months, we spend a lot of time looking at our gardens from the windows of the house, so take a long hard look at your garden and decide whether you like the view.

Walls and fences are the same height in a tiny garden as a large one, so their importance increases as the size of the garden decreases. If all you can see are bare fences, spring is the time to do something about it.

Plant some structural evergreens at the back of the border so that as they mature, they will hide the boundary fence. Use plants like

Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Osmanthus x burkwoodii, Phillyrea latifolia, Pittosporum tenuifolium and Viburnum sinus. Plant some clematis between these shrubs, and they will mix and mingle, creating a soft boundary around the garden with summer colour and all-year interest.

If you look out at an unsightly concrete or brick wall, consider having it rendered and painted with an exciting new shade of masonry paint. Think carefully about the colour and select a few climbing plants with flowers and foliage that will complement the new wall.

2. Screen with green

If your sitting area is overlooked by the next-door neighbours, consider planting a row of trees along the boundary to block out their view.

Go for narrow, fastigiate trees such as Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ a flowering pear with wonderful autumn colour, or Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’ a narrow form of our native hornbeam.

3. Think about how you use the garden 

Consider the main use of the garden and if it is primarily a space to sit, relax and entertain friends, consider digging up the lawn and enlarging the sitting area. Keep the paving simple and mix slabs with gravel or stone chippings to keep costs down.

4. Revamp your garden furniture

If the garden furniture is looking a little tired and you don’t want to buy new, put it in the garage or shed to dry off before rubbing it down and applying a coat of paint.

Try to select a colour that will fit in with the colour of the planting around the sitting area. There are paints suitable for both wood and metal furniture. Add some colourful cushions and tableware too.

5. Perk up your patio with pots

Spice up your back and front garden with colourful, welcoming pots. Your front garden should offer a welcome to visitors, so try to have a selection of colourful pots near your front door.

Containers come in a variety of materials, but a group of terracotta or glazed pots will suit most situations. Make sure the pots you buy will be the right size once you get them home, because most people buy containers that are too small and out of scale with the house and patio.

You can grow almost anything in a container; small trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs and seasonal bedding. Clipped evergreens such as Ilex crenata, Buxus sempervirens and Phillyrea latifolia add a touch of formality to a group of flowering plants.

In spring, narcissus and tulips will add seasonal excitement and colour to a container planted up with a winter flowering shrub or coloured winter stems. In summer, a mix of herbaceous plants and seasonal bedding can provide colour from June through to autumn.

For more information on the full range of courses visit www.learningwithexperts.com.

Latest Video Tour Of Luxury Berkshire Property

The Property

This wonderful property is presented to an exceptional standard and provides around 4,000 sq. ft. of luxurious space, enclosed within distinctive architectural styling.

McCarthy Holden are renowned for producing high end video productions for special properties in and around Finchampstead Ridges near Wellington College, so it’s no surprise that this beautiful property got that special added marketing bonus.

There is hundreds of acres of National  Trust land on the doorstep of this property, providing access to wonderful woodland walks nearby, yet this location benefits from ease of access to London, Heathrow and the M3 / M4 motorways, and of course towns such as Wokingham, Reading, Bracknell and Basingstoke.

Ground Floor

The impressive reception hall sets the scene for exploring this luxury property, with high specification indicators such as the French polished internal oak doors, skirtings, architraves and a bespoke oak staircase, French polished with handmade architectural metal balustrade.

Additional ground floor accommodation includes a significant kitchen/family/dining room, a fine living room, a dining room, sitting/tv family room, study, a substantial gym room, cloakroom and a utility room.

The Optiplan kitchen is complemented by a granite work surface, natural stone flooring and under cupboard and plinth lighting. Features and appliances include three  Villeroy and Boch white ceramic sinks, a Rangemaster Cooker with Extractor Hood, Samsung USA style Fridge/Freezer with ice and water, a Bosch fully integrated dishwasher and a Caple built in wine cooler. Best of all the stunning kitchen opens directly into a wonderful breakfast garden room with vaulted ceiling and the benefit of views over the grounds to the rear.

First Floor

On the first floor there is an impressive landing. There are five bedrooms, three with an en-suite.

The vast master bedroom suite benefits from a fine range of built in bedroom furniture with soft close doors with French polished wood finish. The luxurious en-suite bathroom and shower room features a distinctive Edwardian style bath tub, a shower cubicle, a wc, bidet and pedestal wash basin. The property benefits from heating by way of a gas fired condensing Worcester Bosch boiler, with radiators.

Grounds

To the front of the property there is a sweeping driveway with two electronic gated entry / exit stations. To the rear of the property there is a vast natural stone patio leading to tree fringed formal gardens.

Location

The property is located about 5 miles to the South West of the charming market town of Wokingham.  There is excellent schooling in the area including Holme Grange, Luckley House, Yateley Manor St Neots,, and Wellington College which is less than a mile away, Heathrow Airport is about 35 miles and Farnborough Airport is about 11 miles distant. Private aircraft facilities are also available at Blackbushe Airport (about 6 miles).

Contact our Hartley Wintney branch / Telephone 01252 842100 for further details.

Video Tour Of Period Property, New to The Market Today

This distinctive period property is a landmark Grade 11 Listed family home, known locally as The Cat, which offers a wealth of character which is equalled by the history surrounding the property.

The property went on sale today with the Odiham branch of McCarthy Holden, who created a presenter lead video to showcase this fine home.

Accommodation is generous and offers four double bedrooms, plus two bonus rooms on the second floor, four well sized reception rooms and a kitchen with separate utility room. Outside the garden wraps round the house and offers a large patio area with historic well, vegetable beds and various flower and shrub beds. There is a large wooden workshop with double door access for vehicle access. There is a detached  double garage power and light and workbench.

There is access to wonderful walks nearby including along the Basingstoke canal, yet this location benefits from ease of access to London, Heathrow and the M3  motorway, and of course towns such as Farnham, Reading, and Basingstoke.

 The downstairs accommodation offers flexible use and is currently set up to offer a dining room (a dual aspect room with door leading into the garden, inglenook fireplace with beam over, beams to ceiling) a snug with fireplace and log burner, a study, a sitting / living room (in the oldest part of the property with a wealth of character features including exposed beams and a charming fireplace), a farmhouse style fitted kitchen with Aga and a utility room with cloakroom and w.c.

 The upstairs accommodation is generous and well laid out, with the master bedroom benefiting from an adjacent en-suite shower room. There are four spacious double bedrooms, all with built in wardrobes. There is a family bathroom on the first floor. In addition, there are two bonus rooms on the second floor which have been used as bedrooms from time to time. Through half of the first floor are stunning wide elm floorboards and exposed beams to wall and ceiling.

North Warnborough is an area that was held by King Harold before the Norman invasion of 1066, and today, North Warnborough consists of a conservation area, bounded by Mill Corner in the north and The Street in the south. Most of the village’s 40 listed buildings lie within the conservation area. The Cat is in the centre of the conservation area and is within close proximity of The Millhouse and North Warnborough Green which has the ford and gives access to the canal and extensive walks.

The property is located about mile from the charming village of Odiham. There is excellent schooling in the area including Mayhill, Buryfields and Robert May’s.

Contact McCarthy Holden in Odiham to view – by phone 01256 704851

Renewed Optimism Among Retailers

Some Good News On The Retail Front

Retail sales were slightly above average, up 4%, for the time of year in February, while average selling prices growth slowed compared with the previous quarter, when it had risen to its highest since 1991.

Grocers reported strong sales volumes growth in the year to February, up 65%, while “robust” growth was also reported in internet and mail order goods, hardware and DIY. However this was partly offset by falling sales in department stores, down 45%, clothing, down 77%, furniture and carpets, and footwear and leather.

A third of retailers (32%) reported that sales volumes were up on a year ago in February while 24% said they were down, but 34% expect them to pick up again next month while just 13% think they will fall, according to the latest CBI Quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.

While sales growth slowed for the third month in a row in the year to February, while employment in the sector continued to fall for the fifth quarter in a row, albeit at the slowest pace in a year. However, for the first time since November 2016, retailers said they expect their business situation to improve over the next three months.

Their investment intentions for the year ahead also strengthened to hit their highest point since August 2015. The CBI said retail momentum was “modest” for most of 2017, mainly reflecting the weakness in household income.

Anna Leach, head of economic intelligence at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “While trading conditions remain tough, it’s encouraging to see retailers’ investment intentions improving to their highest since August 2015, in addition to signs of renewed business optimism for the first time in more than a year.

“With labour-intensive businesses such as retailers finding it increasingly difficult to find workers, agreeing a jobs-first transition between the EU and the UK, in writing, by the end of March would provide some much-needed certainty.”

Conclusion

From a property perspective this is more good news following the 2017 uplift in manufacturing exports, and this means employment and confidence is on the up despite the oft-voiced doom and gloom we hear from some about the impact of Brexit.

Top Tips For Creating The Perfect Home Office

Top Tips For Creating The Perfect Home OfficeA calm and stylish space can boost productivity and look good, as entrepreneur Liz Earle tells Gabrielle Fagan.

Millions of us now spending some, if not all, of our time working from home. And one of the joys of working in your own space is that you’re the boss when it comes to design and ambience – so you can escape dull desks and bland decor and kit out your own personalised sanctuary to suit your taste.

Entrepreneur and beauty and wellbeing expert, Liz Earle, has teamed up with blinds and curtain specialist Hillarys (hillarys.co.uk), to reveal her own home office and simple but effective tips to help you conjure a stylish work area of your own, where you can be happy as well as productive.

“It’s a quick and easy strategy for creating the perfect space, or could be used for an existing office makeover, which could be just what you need to reinvigorate your home-working life,” enthuses mother-of-five Earle, 54, who lives on a farm in the West Country. “There’s undoubtedly a whole host of benefits to home-working, particularly from a health and wellbeing perspective, whether that’s because you’re escaping the daily commute or because you’re able to spend more time with the family.”

Read on to discover Earle’s approach for creating a calm and stylish home office…

1. Work with the light

“Put your desk in front of a window; plenty of natural light is the holy grail, as it’s known to significantly help increase energy, creativity and productivity,” advises Earle. “Wood or faux wood Venetian blinds are perfect for home office windows as they filter light, which will minimise glare on a computer screen and the slats can be adjusted to control light levels when the sun moves round during the day. Go for function but don’t forget about style. Roman blinds soften the look, and a pretty botanical fabric brings a lovely feel of nature into the room.”

Make your office more eco-friendly2. Make an eco desk choice

“Make your office more eco-friendly with a desk made from reclaimed scaffolding boards and simple trestle legs,” Earle suggests. “Scaffolding boards can be picked up cheaply from a salvage yard, and the beauty of doing this is that you can design your desk according to your space and needs. Make sure there’s room for a task light and desk accessories.”

3. Invest in a great chair

“As tempting as it sounds, dragging a chair from the dining room or a stool from the kitchen is a false economy,” Earle warns. “An ergonomically designed chair may not give you the designer feel you had in mind – but your back will thank you for it!  You can always pretty it up with a cosy sheepskin or throw.

“Don’t hunch over a laptop – set up a computer monitor at eye level and use a separate keyboard, ergonomic mouse or track pad. Rest forearms on the desk while typing and invest in a simple foot rest to ensure you sit with legs at a comfortable 90-degree angle to the floor.”

TIP: Try to do simple stretches and strength moves regularly throughout the day. You don’t necessarily need equipment – try out chair yoga which can be done while seated.

4. Get crafty with accessories

“It needn’t cost the earth to decorate your office. Charity shops and car-boot sales are perfect hunting grounds for quirky, vintage pieces, or you could indulge in some DIY creativity,” says Earle. “Cover plain cardboard box files with wallpaper or fabric for a fabulous bespoke look. A pin-board, made from a wooden picture frame, foam and fabric, is a great way to display photos, to-do lists or other information you want to see at a glance.”

TIP: Schedule things in your diary that make you happy, not just work tasks.

5. Bring nature into your space

“It’s been proven that plants in the workplace can reduce stress levels and increase productivity,” Earle points out. “Aside from these health benefits, plants are a cheap and cheerful way to add decoration and bring the outdoors in. I opt for green, leafy plants like ferns or ivy, avoiding cacti whose spikes can create the opposite of a relaxed feeling, or flowers with a strong scent, which can be distracting or irritating.” And if caring for real plants doesn’t quite work out for you, there are great faux options available these days, so you can still get that calming, leafy look.

Whether selling or letting, at McCarthy Holden we see first hand how much demand there is from home buyers to find that perfect home working space6. Conceal the clutter

“But remember, the more stuff you add to your desk, the more your brain has to keep track of,” adds Earle. “Working in a crowded space can be mentally exhausting and distracting, even if you don’t realise it. Get creative with storage. I’ve used soft, floaty voile curtains to disguise a shelving unit.”

7. Create an uplifting display

Finally, treasured photos that spark joy, and meaningful sayings to keep motivation levels up, make an ideal finishing touch. “Pictures and photographs can be a great way to inspire creativity and a feeling of wellness,” says Earle. “Pick out three or four that are significant to you and make sure those are in your view.”

Conclusion

Whether selling or letting, at McCarthy Holden we see first hand how much demand there is from home buyers to find that perfect home working space, and top tips numbers one, six and seven are spot on, perhaps with the addition of inviting your favourite cat or dog into the highly productivity space.

 

Housing Wealth Hotspots In Britain’s Major Cities Revealed

Housing Wealth HotspotsLondon Tops The Tables

The total value of London’s homes is now over £1.5 trillion – more than twice the value of Britain’s next nine largest cities combined – analysis has found. Zoopla made the findings after analysing property values in Britain’s 10 largest cities.

It found the total value of London’s housing has increased by 1.54% over the past 12 months – the slowest growth rate of any of the top 10 cities. Sheffield had the highest annual growth rate at 5.63%, followed by Glasgow at 5.38% and Manchester at 4.49%. Bristol is the next most valuable city after London, with homes there worth an estimated £115.21 billion. Bristol is the only city in Britain apart from London where the total value of homes is over £100 billion.

Glasgow is in third place with a property market value of £90.75 billion, having also seen particularly strong growth in property values over the past year compared with the other major cities. Lawrence Hall, a spokesman for Zoopla, said: “It comes as no surprise that London is significantly more valuable as a residential property market than any other British city. “However, the data does show that, in comparison to cities further north and across the Scottish border, the rate of growth in London has slowed.”

The research also looked at the pockets in each city where total property values are particularly high. Within London, the SW1 area, which includes Belgravia, Pimlico and Westminster, was identified as being the most valuable area of the capital. Homes there are worth £54.57 billion in total – nearly as much as the whole of Sheffield’s housing – according to these estimates.

Bristol’s BS16 neighbourhood was identified as the city’s most valuable enclave, with a total value of £10.1 billion. The area includes Downend, Emersons Green, Fishponds, French, Pucklechurch and Staple Hill.

In Glasgow, G12, which includes the West End and the University of Glasgow, has a total property value of £4.27 billion, while Birmingham’s most valuable area is B13, including Moseley and Billesley, with a total value of £3.97 billion, according to the findings.

Meanwhile, homes in the M20 area of Manchester, which includes Didsbury and Withington, are valued at a total of £6.48 billion.

Summary / Conclusion

At McCarthy Holden there was no surprise in London topping the tables, however there is an interesting trend currently because there is a significant uplift in buyers leaving London to find a new home and settle in places like Fleet, Odiham and Hartley Wintney, perhaps indicating that lifestyle and environmental criteria play an important a part in moving house.

Here is the annual percentage growth in the value of homes, according to the research, followed by the total value in January 2018:

1. London, 1.54%, £1.506 trillion

2. Bristol, 3.8%, £115.21 billion

3. Glasgow, 5.38% £90.75 billion

4. Birmingham, 4.08%, £81.66 billion

5. Manchester, 4.49%, £80.47 billion

6. Edinburgh, 4.04%, £68.27 billion

7. Nottingham, 3.69%, £66.13 billion

8. Reading, 2.37%, £60.55 billion

9. Leeds, 4.2%, £59.05 billion

10. Sheffield, 5.63%, £55.69 billion

And here are the most valuable areas in each of the top 10 cities and the annual percentage growth in their value, according to Zoopla (cities ranked in order of the total housing value in each city):

1. London, SW1, includes Belgravia, Pimlico, Westminster, 0.01%, £54.57 billion

2. Bristol, BS16, includes Downend, Emersons Green, Fishponds, 4.43%, £10.1 billion

3. Glasgow, G12, includes West End, Cleveden, Dowanhill, 7.18%, £4.27 billion

4. Birmingham, B13, includes Moseley, Billesley,  5.37%, £3.97 billion

5. Manchester, M20, includes Didsbury, Withington, 4.78%, £6.48 billion

6. Edinburgh EH4, includes Dean Village, Comely Bank, 5.09%, £8.61 billion

7. Nottingham, NG9, includes Beeston, Stapleford, Lenton Abbey, 5.31%, £6.93 billion

8. Reading, RG4, includes Caversham, Sonning, Sonning Common, 1.23%, £8.54 billion

9. Leeds, LS17, includes Alwoodley, Bardsey, East Keswick, Eccup, 5.63%, £6.46 billion

10. Sheffield, S10 includes Broomhill, Broomhall, Crookes, 5.39%, £5.68 billion

Small Spaces Big Ideas: 7 Secrets For Making The Most Of Every Inch

Small Spaces Big Ideas

Interior designers and award-winning bloggers, Athena Bluff and Amy Brandhorst from Topology (topologyinteriors.com), have joined forces with Habitat, in a mission to help the nation maximise the space in their homes.

While there’s nothing anyone can do about the bricks and mortar and actual dimensions of your property you live in, their seven home hacks could help you make the best of the space available, meaning rooms feel larger.

Read on for their space-enhancing secrets…

Hack #1: Shine a light

“Ensure you have multiple light sources within a room to maximise light at night,” says Bluff. “You should aim to have around six light sources around the room, which will ‘replace’ natural daylight and allow light to flow through the space. Enhance the effect with mirrored surfaces, which will bounce light around. Those and metallics, which  reflect warm light,  will create a sense of more space.”

Hack #2: Be free with flooring

“An easy trick for floors to is to continue the hallway flooring into your small room. Creating a visually unbroken flow of space will make it appear as though it’s one big area, and creates an illusion that the floor is expanding,” points out Bluff.

Hack #3: Create colour harmony

“Try painting walls, skirting boards and door frames all the same colour. Painting them different colours can actually break up a space and emphasise the shape and (small) size of the room,” says Brandhorst.”If they’re all the same colour, they’ll blend into one and make the room appear bigger.”

Create colour harmony

Hack #4: Make a great reflection

“Hang a mirror opposite a window. It’s simple but extremely effective – both in terms of cost and visual impact,” suggests Brandhorst. “The mirror will reflect natural light and instantly brighten up your space, as well as making it appear larger. If you’re feeling creative, play around with different shapes or multiple mirrors to reflect as much light as possible. More light equals more sense of space.”

Hack #5:  Choose multi-functional furniture

“Opt for dual usage furniture that can be folded or expanded to suit your needs,” says Bluff. “If there’s only two of you most evenings, opt for a folding table which, with an extension, turns into a four-person dining table for entertaining. Check out sofa bed options, which can easily turn a sitting room into bedroom for guests. Always consider storage in items like ottomans, pouffes, trunks, coffee tables. If there’s a design that also hides clutter (the enemy of small spaces), choose it!”

Hack #6: Embrace the dark side

“This is one for the brave! Don’t be afraid of going dark in small spaces,” advises Bluff. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but dark shades – navy and grey – can actually disguise the perimeters of a room and blur boundaries which extend the space, so don’t feel you can only use ‘Brilliant White’ to achieve a sense of more space. Walk on the dark side – trust us, it works!”

Hack #7: Work the walls

“As you don’t have a lot of floor space to play with, think upwards and make use of walls instead,” advises Brandhorst. “Floating shelves, clothes hooks, wall-mounted magazine racks and bike hooks will allow you to store things like folding chairs, or display belongings without cluttering the floor. Make use of dead space, such as corners, and have wall-mounted shelves.”

Athina Bluff and Amy Brandhorst of Topology Interiors will be hosting special workshops at Habitat’s Tottenham Court Road store in London on February 24. For tickets, further hacks and inspiration, visit habitat.co.uk/smallspaceliving