Outstanding Selection Of New Homes Property For 2020

new homes 2020 form McCarthy Holden Estate Agents Hampshire

As we prepare for 2020, McCarthy Holden are pleased to be offering our best selection of new homes in amazing locations form rural Everlsley in Hampshire, to Virginia Water in Surrey.

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

Finding Best Buyer Engagement

Key to our agency appointments, is the delivery of property marketing with professional video content which increases the level of buyer engagement online.

From short video PR following an open day event, through to a comprehensive video tour with a presenter the outcome for the developer is outstanding marketing and PR as can be seen in the samples below.

Another key aspect of our agency appointment is of course the fact we supply experienced personnel to manage and service the needs of our new homes clients.

Delivering Engaging Video Content

Our marketing for developers is enhanced by quality video production from johnjoe.co.uk who are leading the way in property video marketing, with added benefits from voice over artist Drew Campbell.

New Homes Development

Some of the sites to be offered in the year ahead include….

Virginia Water, Surrey – Perfectly located for train travel to London and not far from TASIS the American school in England, these high end apartments are simply stunning. Prices range from £425,000 to £1.25m.(enquiries 01252 842100)

Bagshot, Surrey – The first of these new homes will be available to view soon, and prices range from around £450,000. (enquiries 01252 842100).

Eversley, Hampshire – A small select development of 6 luxury homes by Aspire. Plot 5 is shown below and is on the market at £1.125m.

North Warnborough, Hampshire – You can’t help fall in love with this area, steeped in history with beautiful old historic buildings and places of interest such as King John’s Castle and a lovely pub and restaurant which was a watermill just across the road from this site
Castlebrook.

This is a small select development of 11 homes, 7 of which are new build and 4 highly individual and intriguing conversions. Prices yet to be release, so for now a broad guide is that buyers looking from say £500,000 to £750,000 should consider registering interest in these new homes by contacting the selling agents on 01256 704851

Wrecclesham, Near Farnham, Surrey – An outstanding high specification property in an exclusive development of just twelve new homes located on the outskirts of the historic town of Farnham. Prices from £475,000.

Hook, Hampshire – With 5 new builds and a character house conversion, the new homes at this site will follow on from the success of the T A Fisher site at Castlebrook in North Warnborough.

Acorn House Hook Plan McCarthy Holden Estate Agents Hampshire

Hartley Wintney, Hampshire – Shapley Grange is an exclusive development of 3 and 4 bedroom homes, built to a high specification on a small site of only seven houses in a prime location less than a mile from the village of Hartley Wintney. Prices range for around £470,000 to £1.0m.

Winchfield, Hampshire – Winchfield Lodge is a unique refurbishment majestically situated in the centre of a development of new-build houses. A total of four 3 and 4 bedroom homes have been superbly modelled inside the existing shell of The Lodge House, reportedly designed and built by the Victorian Architect William Burges.

Winchfield View, Hampshire – Winchfield View is a select development of stunning high specification new homes by Sunningdale House Developments, in a fine location with pleasing views situated about two miles from the village of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire. Prices from around £575,000 to £1.7m., but nearly all sold as we close 2019.

Contact the McCarthy Holden new homes department at our Hartley Wintney branch for information about land and new homes – 01252 842100.

7 of the Hottest Homeware and Interior Design Trends of 2020

interior trends 2020

From gleaming metals and rich opulence, to unfussy, functional pieces, the dawn of a new decade has something for everyone, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

It may only be autumn, but interior designers are already predicting how we’re going to be dressing our homes in 2020.

So, how’s it looking? To find out, we’ve gone behind the scenes at Top Drawer, the UK’s leading design-led trade event, where Louise Healy-Adonis – trend forecaster and senior strategist at Flamingo – shares her insider insights for the coming seasons.

These items aren’t available to buy yet – but keep an eye out for designs inspired by these themes in stores and online throughout 2020.

From the finest fabrics to brilliant basics, here, Healy-Adonis reveals the key features of 2020’s hottest-tipped interior design and homeware trends, and how we can get the look…

interior trends 2020

1. Modern Relics

A contrast of delicate and strong shapes and details, with mixed textures. The idea of unearthed antiques interplays with modern materials to create future heirlooms.

“This trend sees classic shapes given a contemporary look through new digital techniques and traditional etched surfaces. Rich textures and luxe gleaming metals add sumptuous elements to rough and irregular black surfaces of unearthed pasts. Add finishing touches to the home to complement the trend such as cushions, glassware or vases,” suggests Healy-Adonis.

interior trends 2020

2. Introspection

This trend sees muted, multiple inputs from our surroundings, dialled down into introspective subdued colours and calm tonal blocking. This is not stark minimalism – think meditative and calming with multi textures.

“Soft winter pales and warm neutrals create meditative, clean palettes that are grounded in natural materials,” says Healy-Adonis. “Mixed textures and serene scenes are seen in calm tonal blocking. Colours to invest in include whites, softened teals and olives, dusky pinks and light grey.”

interior trends 2020

3. Grounded Rituals

This one’s all about a natural autumnal, earthy, tactile vibe that’s tied to nature and wellbeing. These everyday items are elevated through the craft of honest materials and the uniqueness of nature. Answering the need for quiet restorative rituals.

“This trend brings the grounding of nature into the home through raw materials and handmade pieces. One-of-a-kind products are formed in metal accents, woven textiles and tactile wood. This restrained detailing and pared-back palette will enhance the sanctuary of the home,” Healy-Adonis notes.

interior trends 2020

4. Soft Assembly

The retro modern feel combines reassuring nostalgia with playful rounded shapes and graphic prints. Imperfect outlines are key in mid-tone brights, anchored in rich navy and coffee tones.

“Irregular graphics and mid-tone brights will add the modern retro feel to the home. Look out for organic shapes with a sophisticated crafty feel. This will be seen through dining wear, throws and cushions, and decorative items,” explains Healy-Adonis.

interior trends 2020

5. Bio Flux

This trend speaks to the mix of organic and hyper-real, where natural looks sci-fi and bio-design is the future, today.

Healy-Adonis says: “This scientific and sterile trend sees a mix of organic shell-like dark tones and iridescence modernise ombre styles. The unique and free-form nature of the materials offer interesting overlays of organic colours.”

interior trends 2020

6. Sublime Opulence

Maximalism is muted with a restrained palette of deep blues and yellow golds. Plush velvets and textured metallics reference historical detailing and add a luxurious serenity.

“Tonal blues are still a key trend for 2020, moving into a more yellow tone, adding warmth, calmness yet opulence to the home,” explains Healy-Adonis. “Historical detailing stylised with modern twists including gold-edged art prints, this is a key trend which is staying around for another season.”

interior trends 2020

7. Industrial Organics

This trend speaks to the in-between space of man-made and organic, of the chunkiness of old machinery, but with the ease and simplicity needed for an uncomplicated life.

“With the focus on unfussy functional pieces, this trend includes asymmetric bold shapes contrasted with soft tones. Pale dusty pinks and mints, rust, ochre and blues are grounded by warm naturals and stark black,” suggests Healy-Adonis.

JAY RAYNER: ‘The Best Foods Operate as a Time Machine’

jay rayner

The restaurant critic discusses memory, food and Dairylea with Ella Walker, on the release of his latest book.

“People have this image of me, face down in whatever’s available,” explains restaurant critic and MasterChef judge Jay Rayner, somewhat irked.

He admits that, to an extent, he does play up to that assumption, but beneath all the fork-wielding bravado, he is trying to impart that food “really isn’t just about how things taste. It goes into every part of our lives; it’s about politics and the environment, sex, relationships, family, and history – you can investigate the world through what’s on your plate.”

So accuse him of just stuffing his face for a living and he’ll tell you, “You don’t understand – it’s a subject as deep as the ocean”.

His new memoir-menu hybrid, My Last Supper: One Meal, A Lifetime In The Making, deep-dives into the bit of culinary ocean associated with him; 53-year-old, London born and bred Jay Rayner, father-of-two, radio presenter, jazz pianist, and garlic butter-drenched snails fanatic.

And yet it also asks a very fundamental question of us all: Imagine you’re on death row, what would your final meal be? It’s a question that’s been levelled an absurd number of times at Rayner, yet his usual quip (“I’d have lost my appetite”) doesn’t quite capture what’s really going on.

jay rayner

“What you’re really being asked is, ‘If there were no consequences, if nobody was watching, if you didn’t have to hate yourself in the morning, what would you have?'” he explains. “That struck me as interesting, because actually what you’re talking about is the foods that matter to you, that make you who you are.

“It’s about memory. The foods we love are not just to do with flavour and aesthetics, they’re to do with when you first tasted them and why, and what mood you were in.”

He recalls a tweet someone sent him about their own last meal: “[He wrote] ‘I’d go and knock on the door of what was my gran’s house, and ask if I could sit on the back step and eat a Dairylea triangle’.

“I thought, ‘Oh bless you, that’s absolutely lovely’ – now, is Dairylea the finest cheese in the world? No, but for that person, do they remind him of somebody he loved and who loved him, and loss, and all of that? Yes, they absolutely do, and in a way, the best foods operate as a time machine.”

My Last Supper tracks Rayner as he defines, and then serves, his own last meal – featuring those garlicky snails, as well as oysters and chips (his top five ‘fried-potato experiences are suitably ranked’) – while he is “still in a good enough state to enjoy it”. He takes stock of his life as he goes.

It is by turns exposing (“quite literally so,” he says of an instant in a brothel that turned into a bath-based interview), indulgent, envy-inducing, peppered with recipes, and unexpected – for him as well as the reader.

jay rayner

For instance, the chapter on alcohol and his “appalling booze choices over the years” (Thunderbird made it into his final dinner, not that we’re judging) “was actually about my control issues” he says, while to the consternation of many – particularly his younger son – salad features in what you’d think would be a wholly decadent dinner.

“I realise it’s because it reminds me of who I am,” says Rayner sincerely. “I love having salad at the end of a meal, and also it’s about self-care – which is a term I only came to understand very recently. It’s how you look after yourself, you’ve only got one body and all that sort of stuff.” And yes, you can find him in the gym quite regularly.

When asked what he learned about himself writing the book he pauses, then says, without bitterness or malice, that what “did strike me was that drama and adventure slightly comes to an end when children arrive”.

“I suppose that makes absolute sense,” he says, noting his sons are now 20 and 15. “The first 25 years of my life I did some outrageous things.”

“You need to embrace that period of your life when you are freer,” he adds. “I’m not always sure I did embrace it with enough commitment.”

jay rayner

He mentions his regret over not going to Berlin to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall, “because I was 23 and an important freelance journalist with too many deadlines – for god’s sake!” he says, laughing at himself with a certain amount of despair. “I was quite grandiose as a young man.”

Throughout the book he is frank, both in his recollections and his assessment of his life and tastes. (“The very least you owe the reader is to be honest and to be open.”)

“This is my last supper, it’s not anyone else’s,” he says, to the point of bluntness. “This is not a menu recommendation, and certainly, the last supper menu that comes out of it – please, don’t try this at home kids! It’s an insane meal in many ways, but that’s because it’s mine, it’s made up of my stories and my passions.”

So whatever your own ‘last meal’ might be (and whether or not it would include Dairylea), remember says Rayner: “It’s all so emotional, it’s about neighbourhoods, it’s about the people who feed you, it’s about memory.”

My Last Supper: One Meal, A Lifetime In The Making by Jay Rayner is published by Guardian Faber, priced £16.99. Available now. Visit jayrayner.co.uk/live-shows for My Last Supper live show details.

As Grand Designs Turns 20 Kevin McCloud Shares his Favouite Simple Builds

grand design favourite builds

From an underground bolthole in Peckham, to an eco-build on the Isle of Skye, Luke Rix-Standing discovers them all.

Television isn’t famous for job security, unless, that is, your name is Kevin McCloud. The veteran presenter has fronted Channel 4 property programme Grand Designs since its inception in 1999, and he has no intention of quitting anytime soon. “It’s become me,” he says, “I don’t even question it.”

In 20 years, McCloud has seen plenty of structural success stories, but also his fair share of domestic duds. “The real horror shows are the ones that never make it to the screen,” he says, “out of the 200 or so projects we’ve filmed, there have been maybe eight or 10 that we’ve had to abandon after one day of filming, after investing so much time and money.”

With more projects under his belt than most architects, McCloud knows a thing or two, because he’s seen a thing or two. “People fall down because they fail to prepare,” he says. “The design, the detail, the fine drawing – all that stuff needs to be done before it touches the sides.

To celebrate two decades of Grand Designs, here’s McCloud’s favourite simple builds from his time on the show…

grand design favourite builds

Lucie Fairweather – Suffolk, Season 10

Lucie and her partner Nat McBride bought this plot in Woodbridge in 2006, and were granted planning permission in 2007. Nat was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a year later, but Lucie saw through their shared vision of building a house that was as aesthetically attractive as it was environmentally sustainable.

Kevin says: “I’m really fond of these small, inexpensive projects – they’re more important as Grand Designs, than the big, show-off things people often think of. It’s here that the innovation happens, when people push with small budgets to deliver great experiences.”

“Lucie’s was just fantastic. It was a wonderful story about redemption, and about her taking her late husband’s vision and building a house for her small children. It was tinged with tragedy and sadness, but also with the tremendous friendship of Jerry Tate, a great friend of her and her husband’s. He not only designed the home for her, but held her hand through the whole process.

“It was an exemplary, three bedroom suburban home, but Lucie is a primary school teacher and she didn’t have a lot of money. The takeaway is that it’s not about buying stuff – if she can do it, anyone can.”

grand design favourite builds

Rebecca and Indi Waterstone – Isle of Skye, Season 12

An ultra energy-efficient, 90 sqm home of the Hebridean island of Skye, residents Rebecca and Indi pay just £50 a year in bills, despite the exposed location and the bitter winters. An exceptionally well-organised project, it took them 10 years to fund and just nine months to build.

Kevin says: “I loved this project for a lot of reasons. The Isle of Skye is just beautiful, and when we filmed it, the island was basking in sunshine while the rest of the country spent a summer in the rain. I could drink whiskey, have fantastic food, and see fantastic wildlife – whales, sea eagles, skuas…

“In the midst of it all was this tiny little jewel – an example of how to be sensitive to beautiful landscape, but contemporary as well. It goes to show that if you go somewhere and invest in it – build a house, live there, and make a contribution to the local economy – people respect you for it.

“The Isle of Skye is full of holiday lets owned by people that don’t live there, but Indi and Rebecca moved to live there all year round. Objections to their planning application were from people that didn’t live there, who wanted the place to remain populated by picturesque crofters’ cottages. Anyone who lived on the island loved what they were trying to do.”

grand design favourite builds

Monty Ravenscroft – Peckham, Season 5

A £220,000 home in South London with a sub-subterranean floor, this inventive build features a 10 sqm retractable glass roof, an LED light fitting that doubles as a shower, and a bed that slides away, revealing a bath. Construction wasn’t quick, but planning permission took two and a half years.

Kevin says: “Monty’s an actor and musician, so he’s a bit of a Renaissance man, and he built this very cheap house in South London for himself and his wife Claire. It was a long time ago now – during filming Claire was expecting a baby who’s now a young man.

“It’s a great project about one guy experimenting with all the ideas he’s ever had, with so much excitement. Monty was such a bundle of energy and so lovely to be around. He collaborated with an architect called Richard Paxton, himself a great inventor and a very inspirational man. He sadly passed away, so whenever I think about Monty’s project, I think about him.

“It’s a highly personal project for me, and it demonstrated that you don’t need much money. You need a bit of guts and an inventive mind, and if you haven’t got an inventive mind, find a mate who has. It’s not about reaching for the chequebook to solve a problem, it’s about reaching for the pencil and figuring problems out.”

grand design favourite builds

Theo and Elaine Leijser – Stirling, Season 6

A cedar-clad home in central Scotland overlooking the picturesque Campsie Fells, Theo and Elaine used clever design to funnel all the views from their house onto the fells, and away from a nearby main road.

Kevin says: “This project was all about delivering the experience of big, expensive architecture at a small scale. It was a beautiful, quick-to-put-up little box built onto a hill, and it had this amazing gallery above the ground floor.

“Whenever you were at the front of the house, you saw this fantastic arrangement of landscape and nature, because of the way the building was organised. It had this lovely little corridor from the kitchen that was low, narrow and compressed, and then suddenly the living room released you.

“It comes back to that point about shopping – it’s to do with the building organising your life and your daily activities in a way that brings you joy.”

Kevin McCloud will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at The NEC, from October 9-13, 2019. For more information and tickets visit www.granddesignslive.com

These are the Tools you Need to Make Light Work of Autumn Jobs

Whether you're digging, cutting back, planting bulbs or trimming hedges, we select the right tools for autumn tasks.

What are the must-have tools for autumn jobs? There’s an array of leaf blowers, rakes, spades, forks and hand tools on offer, but what shouldn’t you be without as you take on new season tasks?

With help from Louise Golden, gardening expert at Dobbies Garden Centres, these are the right tools for the right jobs…

best autumn tools

1. Winter digging

You’ll need a good fork to break up the ground and a good spade to clear any old, dusty soil before adding a good dose of organic matter such as compost or well-matured manure to the area.

Try quality spades and forks from Burgon & Ball (burgonandball.com) available in lightweight versions (£39.99 each) ideal for a smaller garden, or regular digging size (£42.99).

If you’re creating a new bed or need to clear a lot of ground, consider the new Ego (egopowerplus.co.uk) multi-tool cultivator attachment with a 24cm cutting width (£149).

It provides an easier way to prepare soil for planting. Its rotating teeth remove weeds and aerate the soil, doing all the hard work so you don’t have to.

Golden also advises giving your lawn some TLC to see it through winter by aerating it with a garden fork to reduce compaction, and scarifying it with a springtine rake to remove moss.

2. Clearing leaves

Clear away leaves from pathways and patios before they become too soggy to rake and make the ground really slippery. If you have a small area you can make do with a standard rake, but if there are a lot of leaves on your lawn, go for a rake such as the Fiskars Gardening Action Xact Leaf Rake (RRP £31.99, available from DIY retailers including B&Q and Homebase and all good garden centres).

Alternatively, go for a combined leaf blower and sucker such as the Bosch UniversalGardenTidy blower-vacuum (£109.99, shop.bosch-do-it.com), a three-in-one gizmo which can blow, vacuum or shred, disposing of leaves and other garden debris.

If you can bear a slightly less pristine garden, leave leaves in your borders, which act as a mulch and can help protect overwintering creatures.

3. Planting bulbs

“Planting spring flowering bulbs is a major autumn task, and so a handy tool to use is a bulb planter,” says Golden. “They make light work of the task and speed up the process, particularly when planting lots of bulbs to naturalise in grass.”

Now’s a good time to plant narcissi, crocuses and hyacinths, so make life easy by investing in a long-handled bulb planter (£34.99, burgonandball.com) with a tough footbar to allow you to go easily to the maximum depth, instead of struggling on your hands and knees with a trowel that will make hard work of digging deep enough.

4. Hedge trimming

“Early autumn is the perfect time to trim evergreen hedges and shrubs for a neat finish that will remain crisp all winter long,” says Golden. “Hedging shears are ideal, whether hand, electric or motor, depending on the size of the task in hand.”

If you’ve followed RSPB advice not to cut hedges between March and August – the main breeding season for nesting birds – now may be a good time to tidy up hornbeam, beech, Leyland cypress and thuja hedges. Fast-growing hedges such as privet or the evergreen honeysuckle can also be cut now, but no later than the end of September.

For smaller hedges you could do the job with a decent pair of shears such as Kent & Stowe hedge shears (£17.99, dobbies.com). For larger hedges, battery power may be the way to go.

5. Pruning

“The end of summer is when we should think about tidying the border by cutting back spent perennials,” says Golden. “A good pair of secateurs will do the trick, and you don’t need to break the bank to get cracking.”

You’ll need a good set of cutting tools for clipping overgrown shrubs and perennials which have finished flowering. Sarah Raven’s new range of tools includes steel-bladed bypass pruners (£19.95, sarahraven.com) with non-slip grips and a quick-release locking mechanism.

You’ll need loppers to tackle thicker branches, and if you don’t like heavy kit, go for Wilkinson Sword’s Ultralight Bypass Loppers (£27.99, wilkinsonsword-tools.co.uk) to help to cut back overhanging vegetation. The non-stick coated blade cuts through young and green wood, while the loppers are 50% lighter than standard, saving arm strain when working for long periods of time.

Eco-Friendly Decorating Ideas for a more Planet-Friendly Home

eco designer homes

Want your homeware and decor choices to be more sustainable? From reclaimed timber to recycled kitchen tops, Gabrielle Fagan checks out the options.

We’re all aware of the need to look after our environment – and where better to start than at home?

Luckily, more and more companies are embracing eco-friendly approaches and solutions, and designers are becoming ever-more inventive and innovative in their use of recycled materials to create desirable homeware – so you don’t have to sacrifice your style for your principles.

“Year-round, we consistently see people searching for inspiration on Pinterest to shop and live in ways more mindful of the environment,” says Enid Hwang, culture and community manager at Pinterest, who’ve seen a 108% increase in searches for sustainable lifestyle this year.

The site notes that September, when summer holidays are over, is the ‘back to life’ period – when, feeling renewed and refreshed, people look for ways to make small changes in their lives, such as recommitting to their environmental efforts.

“We’ve seen that reflected in searching for sustainable items for their homes, like recycled materials, eco paint and even bamboo bedding. Sustainable lifestyle choices are now a major theme for many Pinners,” notes Hwang.

Need some inspiration? From wallpaper and paint, to furniture and accessories – follow our guide to creating a home to match your values…

eco designer homes

Paint it green

Some house paints use casein – a protein derived from milk or beeswax as a binding agent – while others use ingredients that have been tested on animals.

Mindful of this, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose Auro, a non-toxic vegan paint which is also child-friendly, when they decorated baby Archie’s nursery. Auro Coloured Emulsion, from £48 for 2.5L; Wood Paint – Satin, from £16 for 375ml, AuroPaint.co.uk.

A lot of paints contain high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which emit solvents into the air that are associated with causing dizziness and headaches, and may affect those with allergies.

Crown’s Breatheasy Coloured Emulsion range is 99.9% solvent-free and certified under the asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program.

The Breatheasy range starts from £14 for 2.5L of emulsion and, a further plus, comes in containers made of 100% recycled plastic, which are fully recyclable once empty and clean.

eco designer homes

Paper and plant

The desire for wallpaper with good eco-credentials is growing, and Little Greene not only has great designs, but sources and uses paper from certificated sustainable forests.

“We manufacture our wallpapers in the UK and for every tree used four more are planted,” says Ruth Mottershead, Little Greene marketing director.

“Wallpapers are printed using non-toxic pigments and our high-quality wallpaper paste contains no solvent.”

Their London Papers V range, a collection of authentic heritage designs, starts from £73 a roll.

eco designer homes

Recipe for eco cooks

If you want to cook up a storm but reduce your carbon footprint, sustainable timber is a good choice for kitchen units, worktops and flooring.

Deforestation is a major environmental issue that’s contributing to global warming, so look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) ‘tick tree’ logo, which signifies it is certified timber that comes from well-managed forests and/or recycled materials.

Make sure worktops don’t let the side down. Wickes offers worktops made from recycled materials in its range of kitchens.

Details count and bamboo kitchen containers are an excellent alternative to plastic (they look lovely too). Bamboo is a highly renewable, fast-growing natural material with antibacterial, anti-fungal properties, and it’s biodegradable.

eco designer homes

Lie back and think of the planet

You’re setting the bar higher if you want a purely vegan lifestyle – but it’s perfectly possible according to Jo Peters, author of new book, Vegan Life: Cruelty-Free Food, Fashion, Beauty And Home (Summersdale, £12.99).

“Vegans prefer to avoid using materials that come from animals, which can make home furnishing seem like a challenge at first,” she acknowledges.

“But, as with stocking your fridge, once you’ve sussed out what to avoid – and found some reliable suppliers of alternatives – you’ll be able to make ethical choices in every room.”

In her handy guide, she highlights the main culprits to avoid in home furnishings: Leather (and suede), wool (and felt), silk, down, fur and cowhide. She also points out that “when choosing a new couch, remember that you’ll need to consider the padding materials as well as the cover.”

That said, it’s useful to remember that making use of pre-existing leather, wool, etc, items that are still in good condition, is generally more planet-friendly than throwing things away only to replace them with new plastic ones!

eco designer homes

Reclaim and rejoice in style

“As everybody becomes more eco-aware, the demand for sustainable furniture that is kinder to the planet is on the rise,” says Ben Adams, co-founder and master craftsman of Rust Collections, creators of sustainable rustic-luxe reclaimed pieces made from locally salvaged timber. They also use oak certified by the FSC.

“By using local recycled wood, we keep transportation miles down and give new purpose to a material that’s already had a life, and in doing so, the carbon footprint is kept very low,” explains Adams.

“Keeping the use of freshly-milled timber to a minimum also means putting less pressure on our natural timber resources, preserving more for future use.”

eco designer homes

Material concerns

“Over the last few seasons at Habitat, we’ve seen a definite increase in demand from shoppers who are obviously interested in purchasing designs made using recycled and sustainable base materials,” says Siobhan McMillan, head of buying for Habitat.

“In textiles, we’re working with suppliers to increase the amount of designs made from fabric that is recycled from the fashion industry. Fabric off-cuts that would have otherwise been thrown away are instead re-dyed and woven to create new rugs and cushions, and we’ve increased the amount of patterns available.”

In lighting, she notes, there’s a growing demand for designs made from sustainable, fast-growing rattan and bamboo, with three-out-of-five of Habitat’s current bestselling shades made from these natural base materials.

eco designer homes

Got a Garden for the First Time? 9 of the Easiest Things Beginners Should Start With

beginners gardening tips

BBC Gardeners' World presenter Mark Lane shares advice for gardening newbies to live by. By Lauren Taylor.

If you’ve never had a garden before, it’s a real revelation when you finally move into somewhere with a patch of grass to call your own – space to potter around in, barbecues in the summer and drinks in the fading evening light.

But for people who’ve never so much as bought a pair of garden gloves and pulled a weed out, suddenly having to care for and nurture a garden year-round can be daunting.

So before the autumn threatens to dump an additional leaf problem on your garden, here are some of the simplest ways you can take control of your new patch of land – and engage in a spot of therapeutic outdoor activity.

BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Mark Lane shares his advice for newbies…

beginners gardening tips

1. Don’t do anything right away

Lane says: “Wait and see where the sun rises and sets, where the shade lies, where the wind blows, and if you are moving into an established garden, what plants come up before you change anything.”

2. Check your soil

The key to a blooming garden is a healthy soil, so what are the signs that it’s unhealthy? “If it looks light in colour and full of sand and is lightweight, or heavy and full of clay,” Lane says. “Check to see if your soil is full of worms. If so, then it’s probably teaming with life, which is a good thing.”

But the easiest thing to do is buy a pH soil tester at your local garden centre. “This will establish whether your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline, to work out which plants will thrive. Magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias all prefer slightly acidic soils,” says Lane. “Garden centres will usually signpost which plants like which soils to make buying easy.”

beginners gardening tips

3. Know when to mow

Looking out onto a neat, luscious green lawn is probably probably one of the reasons you wanted a garden in the first place, so how do you get it looking tip-top? Well, how often you mow will depend on the time of year and the weather.

“If in doubt, mow once a week during spring and autumn, and twice weekly during summer – although once a week from spring to autumn may suffice. Mowing is not necessary during winter, especially not if the ground is frozen,” says Lane. “Aim to cut no more than a third of the leaf blade, and don’t set the mower too low or scalp the turf.”

4. Plant in groups

“Keep things simple and aim to plant in blocks of three, fives or seven of the same type of plant to create wonderful blocks of colour and texture,” he suggests.

“All plants like free-draining soils, which can also hold some moisture. Add homemade (ideal) or bought compost before planting – this will help improve drainage on clay soil and encourage moisture retention on sandy soils.

“Mulch after planting – by covering the soil with a 5cm layer of compost around the base of the new plants. Then water well.”

beginners gardening tips

5. Sow seeds

You can’t go wrong here. “If you’re on a tight budget, sow seeds. Follow the instructions on the packets as to how you prepare your soil, and you can create an almost instant garden for around £10,” he says.

6. Start with easy-to-grow veg and herbs

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a kitchen gardener, Lane says radish, carrots and lettuce are the quickest and simplest to grow.

“Oregano is great for cooking and attracting wildlife, and thyme, sage and chives,” he says. “Generally, herbs like a gritty compost so add plenty of horticultural grit when planting, while vegetables prefer nutrient-rich soils with no stones.”

beginners gardening tips

7. Flowers aren’t tricky either

Don’t just choose whatever looks pretty – there are other factors to consider. “Try nepeta (catmint) as a brilliant alternative to lavender, which can often get a bit woody,” Lane suggests, “Rudbeckia (coneflower) and sunflowers too.”

He says herbaceous perennials (a plant whose growth dies down annually but whose roots or other underground parts survive) like nutrient-rich soils that will not dry out with a pH of 6.5, while wildflowers like low-nutrient soil (i.e. the subsoil) and most will grow with a neutral pH7.

8. Choose these easy-to-care-for shrubs

“Abelia x grandiflora, which flowers from June to September, is a wonderful evergreen shrub,” says Lane. “It’s semi-evergreen, so will give shape and texture even during the winter months and the flowers are also fragrant. Grow it in the shelter of a wall or towards the back of a border.

“Choisya x dewitteana Aztec pearl is fully hardy, evergreen, and flowers in May and often late summer. It can also be grown in partial shade. The leaves get damaged by exposure to strong winds or frost, but this won’t kill the plant.

“Pyracantha, again, is fully hardy and evergreen, with small white flowers in late spring and fantastic berries in autumn that attract birds and wildlife.”

All three are easy to care for and can be pruned to keep their shape. “If a shrub has got too large for its spot, or branches are crossing, dead, diseased or damaged then prune to keep the plants in shape and healthy. You want to have an open middle so that air can pass through the shrub, to help prevent pests and diseases.”

beginners gardening tips

9. Don’t over water

Most people over water, Lane says. If a plant needs water it might be wilting or have flowers hanging downwards. “If in doubt, dig a small ‘pit’ next to the plant and fill with water – see how quickly the water drains away,” he adds.

“If planting a dry garden, which will require less watering, then go for plants that will thrive in dry, arid conditions, such as Achillea, Artemisia, Agapanthus.

“If you’re feeling more adventurous, then divide the garden into different zones and grow plants with similar growing conditions in each zone.”

9 Top Tips to Make the Most of a Small Kitchen

small kitchen tips

Small can be beautiful and - crucially in this case - functional too. By Luke Rix-Standing.

In the modern world of cramped shoe-box flats and sardine-tin apartment blocks, space is a rare and valuable commodity.

Wave goodbye to extended worktops, double-door refrigerators, and luxurious kitchen islands – particularly in urban areas, these are now myths from a bygone age for many of us.

When space is scarce, kitchens are often the first to feel the squeeze – there’s no headline floor-filler in this room, like a sofa or bed – but there’s no need to let that cramp your cooking.

Here’s how to keep livin’ it large, even with the most modest kitchen…

small kitchen tips

1. Purge the unnecessaries

Be totally honest with yourself – do you really need that candy floss maker, that ‘pizza oven’ that’s actually just a small oven taking up half the counter top, or that margarita maker you used once back in 2013?

“It’s the number one mistake people make,” says professional organiser, Vicky Silverthorn (youneedavicky.com). “Putting the contents of a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom house, and keeping gadgets that come out only occasionally. The fondue set, the avocado slicer, the large dinner platters for people that don’t have dinner parties… Ask yourself what you’d prefer – the space, or the appliance you use once a year?”

2. Think vertically

Floor space is not the be all and end all, and for those blessed with high ceilings, it’s crucial to cash in. Add extra shelves above your cupboards, or use the tops of your cupboards as extra storage space.

Time and budget allowing, you could install a vertical, sliding drawer, which may single-handedly take the place of a pantry. Think of your kitchen like a maths question – you’re calculating the volume, not just the floor area.

small kitchen tips

3. Use your corners

Corners are notoriously difficult to utilise, but unless you’re living in a water tower, every room has at least three or four of them. Wraparound corner shelves are shoo-ins for storage-starved kitchens, while floor lights and tables can be slotted in with ease. In most rooms, corners are dead space; in a small kitchen, they’re an opportunity.

4. Store in adjacent rooms

If your home is relatively spacious, and it’s just your kitchen feeling the squeeze, you can always store non-perishables elsewhere. There’s just no need to clog your kitchen cupboards with piles of pasta and tinned beans, when they could live just as happily somewhere else in the house.

small kitchen tips

5. Keep it tidy

Kitchens are supposed to be functional, efficient spaces, tailored to minimise the inherent pressures of cooking – and to keep a clear head when things get steamy, you need a clear work surface.

“It’s about putting the items that you have in the correct spaces,” says Silverthorn, “and there is no one-size-fits-all. Look out for gimmicky plastic containers that only contain a few tins – not everything needs to live in a basket, despite what Instagram says. Get stackable storage containers, or containers that fit inside each other when they’re not being used.”

6. Clever colours

Just because your kitchen is small, doesn’t mean it has to look small. Consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid, while bright blocks of contrast colour can quickly become claustrophobic (although there are no hard and fast rules!), so consider keeping your scheme to a two-colour maximum.

Lighter colours invariably feel airier – whitewashed kitchens are increasingly common – while reflective surfaces like mirrors lend depth.

small kitchen tips

7. Tactical lighting

How large a room looks is as much about your perception as its actual size. Natural light bathes your kitchen in a vivid glow, imitating the wide open spaces of the great outdoors, while poorly-lit areas very quickly feel poky.

Artificial light is where the buck stops after-hours, and you want to mix up overhead sources with table lamps or wall lights. Accent lighting lends contrast between different parts of a room, which inevitably leaves your kitchen looking larger and more varied.

“I love lights that dim in a kitchen,” says Silverthorn. “It gives the bright, vibrant light for the morning and afternoon but can then turn cosy for when you’re winding down.”

8. Space-saving gizmos

Extravagant gadgetry generally takes up more space than it saves, but there are a few specific products that earn their place. Try a magnetic knife holder – a strip on the wall that holds knives and other metallic implements – or pick up a chopping board that sits atop your sink.

Anything that can be hung should be hung. Hooks on the undersides of shelves are a go-to for mugs, while large utensils can be well catered for with rails and racks.

small kitchen tips

9. Double up

Going back to gadgetry, even seemingly sensible tools can often be economised, and canny buyers can squeeze two tools into the space of one. “Employ multi-purpose kitchen utensils,” says Silverthorn, “you’re automatically saving space.

“I’ve been working with Brabantia (brabantia.com/uk),” she adds, “and their new Tasty+ range is full of them. There’s a spatula that’s also a fork, a skimmer that’s also a ladle, a spaghetti spoon that’s also got a measuring tool in it. You’re instantly halving the utensils in your kitchen.”

Preparing to Plant your Spring Bulbs? 7 Colourful Options to Consider

best spring bulbs

From blousy tulips to cool white daffodils and dainty irises, Hannah Stephenson digs through some of the best bulbs available now.

Summer’s on its way out, which means it’s time to start planting your new spring bulbs – and why not turn over a new leaf and try something different? Bulb specialists and other outlets have a host of options to create a riot of colour in spring, or you could opt for some more unusual eye-catching varieties.

Here are some of the new and unusual spring bulbs to consider…

best spring bulbs

1. Fritillaria persica Purple Dynamite, £12.50 for one, Directbulbs.co.uk

This new hybrid of the persica family has wonderful shiny flowers of a deep purple black, and grows to 60-90cm (2-3ft). It’s ideal for free-draining sunny borders and looks stunning grown alongside Fritillaria Persica Ivory Bells, as the creamy white flowers are such a great contrast. Left to naturalise, it will work well planted with eremurus.

best spring bulbs

2. Iris Germanica ‘Bumblebee Deelite’, £6.99 for three bare roots, Dobies

This pretty miniature bearded iris bears dainty yellow and purple flowers, producing up to five flowers per stem. Grow it in full sun in well-drained soil and fertilise the soil every spring, as these little plants are hungry feeders.

best spring bulbs

3. Tulipa clusiana ‘Tinka’, £5.40 for 10, Broadleighbulbs.co.uk

The elegant Tulip clusiana cultivars are sometimes overlooked but make easy plants for a sunny bed or rock garden, or in a pot. They may also thrive without being lifted. ‘Tinka and ‘Honky Tonk’ are two of the newest and among the best. ‘Tinka’ is an eye-catching addition to a sunny rock garden, bearing slender flowers of pure yellow with deep red outer petals. As the plant ages it develops an apricot hue.

best spring bulbs

4. Narcissus ‘Snowy Mountain’, £5.50 for eight bulbs, Tulipstore.eu/en

This new daffodil recently received a five-star rating from Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine. It reported that this statuesque variety has grey-green leaves and stems which complement the large white flowers very well, creating a cool colour combination. The stems stayed strong and straight when the flowers were open, and the large blooms had impressively long trumpets, blooming for around four weeks.

There are so many daffodils on the market, I can’t just feature one – so you may want to check out N ‘Frosty Snow’, a lovely new large cupped variety that has snow white flowers with a soft lemon cup that matures to white with a rim of pale yellow. It looks superb grown with Narcissi ‘Avalon’ or ‘Accent’ and sits well either in the border or in containers. Feed with bonemeal or tomato food during the leaf and flower stage to ensure years of colour.

If you want a dwarf variety that packs a punch, look out for N ‘Double Joy’, the double form of the old favourite ‘Jetfire’, which is ideal growing in containers or at the front of borders (both available from Directbulbs.co.uk). While for a cool white type, try ‘Polar Ice’, available from Dobies.

best spring bulbs

5. Eranthis hyemalis ‘Pauline’, £10 for one, Directbulbs.co.uk

This rare winter aconite is pale lemon, with delicate flowers surrounded by deep green leaves. Plant it in the shady areas of the garden alongside snowdrops or chionodoxa for a dazzling display early in the spring. It should naturalise well and as such come back year after year.

best spring bulbs

6. Gold Waxed Amaryllis, £11.99 for one bulb, Unwins.co.uk

This huge bulb arrives in a golden waxed coating, so no plant pot is needed to add sparkle to your houseplant. Start the bulb off in September indoors and by Christmas you should have a large, deep red amaryllis (hippeastrum).

From one bulb at least one large, tall stem will emerge, which may branch and form several saucer-size blooms, just in time for the festive season. Flowers continue for weeks for a welcome, long display into January.

best spring bulbs

7. Tulipa ‘Brownie’, from £6.30 for 10, Avonbulbs.co.uk

The rich copper hues of this unusual double tulip makes it one to include in the list. It is short stemmed, which helps stop it flopping when the heads become heavy in the rain, and does best in full sun, although try to avoid windy spots. Don’t plant these bulbs until late October or early November, when frost should have reduced the level of disease in the soil.

Tricky Neighbours? Here’s how to Avoid Disputes – or Deal With Them Wisely if they do Crop Up

tricky neighbours

Living next door doesn't mean you'll always get on, but nobody wants a stressful fall-out. By Luke Rix-Standing.

Neighbours often rank up there with the in-laws on the list of people it’s really useful to get on with.

You live literally side-by-side – but just as with the in-laws, that doesn’t mean you automatically get on.

So what are neighbours battling over, and how should you handle a dispute with a tricky neighbour, whether it’s across the garden fence or in the courtroom? We talked to Dr Mike Talbot, CEO of conflict resolution experts UK Mediation, for his thoughts on the matter…

tricky neighbours

Causes of concern

Noise complaints frequently rank among the most common cause of neighbour irritation, particularly during summer with children off school, outdoor DIY projects, sizzling barbecues, and long evenings out on the patio all taking place.

Boundary issues involving shared spaces or fences also commonly cause consternation. “Plants come up quite a lot,” says Dr Talbot. “If my neighbour’s plant is growing through my fence, and I cut it off or lay down weedkiller, in their eyes I might have killed their plant.”

Party walls are as contentious as they ever were, and there’s even a designated organisation – The Faculty Of Party Wall Surveyors (fpws.org.uk) – devoted to the complexities they pose.

The hardest issues to resolve involve lifestyle – fundamental behaviours that residents are unwilling to change. “Cooking smells can be contentious,” says Talbot. “Plus late-night parties, drinking or smoking cannabis in the garden – especially when the neighbours are of a more conservative disposition. Things can get quite heated.”

If required, remember that your local council has a duty to investigate so-called ‘statutory nuisances’ – any disturbances that could be damaging to a citizen’s health. These include noise pollution, light pollution, and conventional pollution like dust, smoke, or a build-up of rubbish.

tricky neighbours

Build a relationship

Without meaning to sound flippant, the easiest way to make up with your neighbour is to not fall out in the first place, and in order to have a good relationship with them it helps if you know who they are.

“We’re less inclined to know our neighbours these days,” says Talbot, “so sometimes your first conversation with your neighbour is when you’ve got a dispute.” Even an occasional ‘hello’ in the driveway helps build some sort of rapport, which can give you invaluable credit when you need to raise an issue.

Not knowing your neighbour also means you’re less likely to pipe up when you first have a problem, which allows resentment to build and fester. Talbot says it’s the number one problem he encounters: “If you wait ’til you’re really annoyed, you can’t disguise your anger. The other person will then feel attacked and lash back, and that’s when things can go to a really bad place.”

So loving thy neighbour may be a big ask, but let’s start by at least knowing their name.

tricky neighbours

Mind your manners

When you do need to go knocking, pick an appropriate time, and, without meaning to patronise, play nice. “Don’t go round at 10 o’clock when you’ve had a can of something,” says Talbot, “and be prepared to take a conciliatory approach.”

If you’re really nervous, you could write your neighbour a note, or where appropriate go through their landlord – but it’s generally best to at least start with face-to-face communication.

“I always say listen first,” continues Talbot. “Speak to your neighbour and see what their take is – there’s often a good reason and you want to let them know you’re taking that into account before putting across your perspective. Collaborate with your neighbour to take on the problem, rather that taking on your neighbour ‘as’ the problem.”

Be particularly cautious when discussing the behaviour of unruly children, as even an implied slight on someone’s parenting will generally go down like a pint of warm beer.

“It complicates things massively,” says Talbot, “as you tend to get clashes of values. One neighbour might be happy to let their kids come home at two in the morning, while the other might be disturbed by the noise, but also by the values. When people start calling each other bad parents, it takes on a new dimension.”

You’re trying to come to a consensus, so however stuck-up/irresponsible you consider your neighbour to be, try to keep value judgements to yourself.

tricky neighbours

The letter of the law

We were going to run through the legal specs you might need for different situations, but it’s complex, scenario-specific, and generally not something you want to get involved in if you can help it. Talbot recalls one case in which mediation was called in after a two-year stretch of litigation, in which the two parties had already incurred £30,000 in legal fees apiece.

It also might not work. While informal methods like mediation emphasise compromise, in law there’s often a winner and a loser, and formal settlements will show on the deeds to your house as and when you decide to sell.

The courts are well aware of these difficulties, and sometimes won’t even hear the case unless forced. “These days, judges will ask: ‘How have you tried to resolve this?’ And they don’t want to hear you’ve gone straight to litigation. They’ve even sent cases away.”

If you do decide to explore your legal rights, don’t make the classic mistake of using Google. “Thanks to the internet, people selectively find articles that give them the version of their rights they want to hear,” says Talbot, “and interpret legislation for their own ends.” If people actually want to know their rights, says Talbot, speak to Citizens Advice, or book in a consultation with a lawyer.

Which Houseplant Works Best Where – and How You Should Care for them.

houseplant care

Unsure which plants to place in the bathroom, lounge or bedroom? Houseplant expert Claire Bishop tells Hannah Stephenson her top tips.

houseplant care

As the seasons change, waving goodbye to summer doesn’t have to mean the end of enjoying gorgeous plants.

You can still keep your home feeling alive with houseplants, whatever your decor style. For those new to keeping plants indoors though, knowing what to have where can seem tricky.

Claire Bishop, houseplant buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres, offers the following tips on how houseplants can enhance a number of different styles and moods – from bright and bold, to soft, subtle and architecturally sculpted – and which ones work best where…

houseplant care

Au natural

Lush green plants paired with rugged terracotta containers bring the outdoors into your home. The popular Boston fern, with its arching green fronds, can develop into a perfect sphere of intricate greenery.

Alternatively, go for the sansevieria succulent, which adds attractive marbling to the mix. Commonly known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, sansevieria are much more soothing to have around than either of their nicknames suggests.

houseplant care

Typically tropical

For a more vibrant look, seek out dazzling tropical plants such as the Calathea peacock plant. As the name suggests, this plant is all about display, with a feathered effect in different shades of green.

Since it originates in warmer climes, Calathea will be perfectly at home in the humid atmosphere of a bathroom or kitchen – where it’s likely to expand over time into a substantial, bushy addition.

houseplant care

Family fixture

For a bright, cheerful addition to any family room, turn to dependable, easy-to-grow favourites such as the spider plant. Thriving even in a brightly-lit lounge, the bold stripes of the variegated Chlorophytum will last all year round. Try a hanging basket to display it to best effect.

The peace lily is another go-to houseplant, being beautiful and almost indestructible – it actually thrives on under-watering. With its pure white flowers and deep green leaves, it’s a calming presence. It’s also one of the best plants for removing air pollution.

houseplant care

Shabby chic

Dispense with tradition and opt for ‘guests’ that will bring personality to your rooms. Coconut shells, coffee tins, brass cans – most houseplants aren’t fussy – they’ll thrive equally happily in unconventional containers.

Based on an ancient Japanese art, Kokedama (which directly translates as ‘moss balls’) are plants rooted in soil, wrapped in moss and bound in thread. Much more than just a houseplant, these are pieces of sculptural art, perfect on a windowsill or suspended from the ceiling.

houseplant care

3 key questions about houseplants

Here, Bishop answers some of the more commonly asked houseplants questions…

1. What common mistakes do people make when it comes to houseplants?

Overwatering. It’s surprising that most of the on-trend plants at the moment thrive upon neglect, as most of them require a bare minimum of care. Also, too much light and draughts can affect plants, so being placed directly on a windowsill where the window is often opened. They can quickly recover if you reposition them.

2. Which plants would you recommend for which room, and why?

Houseplants will work well in most rooms, as long as there is natural light.

In bedrooms… Aloe vera is often recommended, releasing oxygen while you are sleeping. They are one of the best plants for air purification.

In bathrooms… Orchids are popular. They are tropical, so they love the humidity and will be at their happiest on the bathroom windowsill.

Spider plants also work well in bathrooms. Thriving in the often-humid environment, they remove CO2 from the moist atmosphere. They like to be kept in rooms that are fairly well lit and watered once or twice a week, but not in direct sunlight.

3. What tips would you give for caring for houseplants?

Succulents and terrariums are pretty easy to care for and look fantastic in groups. They can instantly change the look and feel of a room, from industrial chic to jungle inspired bold botanicals.

All houseplants require a little clean to keep them looking their best – simply wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This is not just to keep them looking good. Removing the dust ensures good health. Take off any foliage that is yellowing, and trim damaged leaves of larger plants with sharp scissors at the same time.

During the autumn and winter months, houseplants will look their best if you give them a shower as you water, as this will keep the leaves looking green and glossy. Keep an eye on light levels in the darker winter months – some plants may need a bit more.

houseplant care

Soundproofing Made Simple: How to Rid your Home of Unwanted Noise

soundproofing your home

Insulate yourself against noisy neighbours, caterwauling wildlife, and the sound of honking horns. Luke Rix-Standing discovers how.

soundproofing your home

You might think soundproofing is only for music studios, or the cottages of the royals, but even ordinary homeowners can take a few steps towards sanity-saving silence.

In fact, among modern urbanites surrounded by the sounds of the city, and the increasing number of neighbours in subdivided buildings, it’s becoming more and more of a hot-button issue.

Older properties are particularly prone to noise pollution, with poorly insulated fireplaces, creaking windows and perhaps crumbling plaster allowing sound to travel almost straight through.

As with most home improvements, soundproofing also adds value to your property. Silence is golden – whether it’s for you or your selling price.

Here’s what to do if next door won’t stop arguing, your child asks Santa for a drum-kit, or your upstairs neighbour starts taking tap-dancing lessons…

soundproofing your home

Quick, easy fixes

They say you should know thine enemy, so it’s worth taking a moment to understand the sound you’re trying to repel.

“You have to think about impact noise and airborne noise,” says Jeremy Wiggins, technical director at gpad London, “the former is noise like footsteps, the latter things like music.”

Remember also that soundproofing is as much about protecting your home from itself as the outside world. Speaker systems and shouting matches make a lot of noise wherever they are, and you don’t want all your domestic goings-on to be audible from room to room.

‘Dress’ your home with furnishings that take the edge off unwanted noise. Hard surfaces reflect sound waves, while softer surfaces absorb them, so the more rugs and carpets you lay down, the less noise will go through the floor.

Heavy curtains help blunt sound transmission between your home and the street, and sofas and armchairs drink up the decibels, while denser materials like laminate and stone send them ricocheting around the room. That’s not to say your furnishings have to be soft, and a well-stocked bookcase is nearly as effective as a furry wall-hanging.

Even simple additions like posters have some impact, but wall insulation is determined more by their main covering. “Knowing what materials to use is terribly important,” says Julian Prieto, head designer at MyEdge2. “Wallpaper is great for absorbing some of the sound, but tiles, on the other hand, will reflect most airborne noise.”

It’s worth experimenting with noise reduction techniques before you invest in costly structural change. Simple, DIY measures like silencing squeaking floorboards don’t insulate your home, but they lessen the amount of sound you’ll need to proof.

soundproofing your home

Windows and doors

To repel external sound, first tighten up obvious access points.

Windows are a common chink in the armour, and double glazing can cut out noise and deliver handy savings on your heating bill. Gaps in window frames allow sound to seep in and out, so seal up any cracks with industrial sealant or adhesive foam strips.

Ill-fitting doors experience similar sound leakage, so install a brush or draught excluder to plug gaps between door and floor, and, for the best results, consider making your door lead-lined. Remember that noise intrusion is a two-way problem – if you can hear the hallway, your hallway can also hear you.

Many interior doors are hollow core, and poor at keeping out noise. Install solid core doors on private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, and add vinyl weather stripping for the best results.

soundproofing your home

Re-structured silence

So much for the literal window dressing – but it’s your walls, ceilings, and floors that are doing the heavy lifting.

In cities, it’s often ceilings that take the most flak, as heavy footfall from the flat above can shake the rafters with the force of a steel drum.

“Sound passes through floors as vibrations generated by footsteps,” says Ben Hancock, managing director at Oscar Acoustics. “Prevent this by installing a ‘floating soundproof ceiling’.”

By quite literally adding a layer, these ceilings leave a cavity which breaks the path of the vibration. They’re quite expensive, but you get what you pay for.

There are similar solutions for walls and floors. “Think of your walls as a boom box,” says Prieto. “If you tap one side and the space between is hollow, your walls will work as amplifier.” Filling the space with rock wool or acoustic foam will muffle any shared or party wall, giving your home super-high sound absorption with no real aesthetic change.

“For floors,” he continues, “there are rubber membranes that will insulate from impact noise, so you can still use hardwood floors without any problems. Nowadays, most refurbishments include underfloor heating systems – they also work extremely effectively for reducing noise.”

soundproofing your home

Want to Refresh your Home on a Budget? These Bargain Buys don’t Skimp in the Style Stakes!

Little touches can make all the difference - and you really don't have to spend a lot, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Styling up your favourite space might take a little inspiration and creative know-how – but it really doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

In fact, once you’ve honed in on a few functional pieces, jazzy textiles and quirky decos, a swift update or quick-fix refresh can be much more playful and fun than blowing the budget on statement furnishings.

budget stylish updates

“Updating your home doesn’t have to be costly; in fact, there are plenty of simple updates that can be achieved on a budget,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative, Barker and Stonehouse.

“Whilst some might think you have to completely overhaul your home in order to give it a fresh lease of life, adding new pieces of furniture, or even accessories, can inspire a whole new trend for your home.

budget stylish updates

“Wall art is a great way to inject a sense of personality – by mixing and matching different prints, personal photos and mirrors you can not only bring a plain wall to life but also create the illusion of space with the use of mirrors,” adds Hornby.

Another approach is to introduce some new soft furnishings, such as cushions or rugs. And if you’re looking to make a statement, a bold pattern or colour can go a long way.

budget stylish updates

Finally, for many of us, introducing elements of natural life into the home is of the utmost importance. As Hornby points out: “Adorning your home with plants not only gives your room a lift but it also helps to improve your overall wellbeing.”

We trawled the shops for this season’s best bargain buys for a speedy home update…

£10 and under

Aldi Limited Edition Oud Bergamot and Honey and Nectarine Candles and Diffusers, £3.99 each, Aldi (in store from Aug 29)

Scented candles are one of life’s little luxuries, and we love Aldi’s classy new addition.

John Lewis & Partners Artificial Ferns in Hanging Glass Vase – 23cm, £6, John Lewis

Tempting to have a trio of these… Loop a ribbon and hang them high or simply place across a mantelpiece or windowsill.

George Home Lips, Eyes and Mono Geo Cushions, £6 each, Monochrome Zig Zag Cushion, £7, Direct.asda

The playful cushions strike just the right balance, and the iconic lip print screams designer without the hefty price tag.

Dunelm Home Set of 2 Bronze Monkey Coat Hooks, £9, Dunelm

These whimsy brass hooks will play up a dull wall and can be used to hold boho baskets and summer straws – woven hats are a great prop and can be hung on bright string.

Sculpted Vase – Blue, £10, Barker and Stonehouse

A basic blue vase could be filled with wild flowers, wooden spoons and funky faux blooms to suit the season or your colour scheme.

£25 and under

Global Nomad 6 Compartment Wooden Shelf, £14.99, Homesense stores

Keep those summer vibes alive with this rustic shelf, which can also double as a mood board.

Sainsbury’s Home Kanso Living Bedroom Collection: Blue Sticks Double Bedlinen Set, £14; Blue Geo Double Bedlinen Set, £21; Monochrome Crewel Cushion, £16; Concrete Planter, £16, Sainsbury’s (in store from Sep 1)

A one-stop shop for every room in the home, we love this eye-catching geometric pattern, which is bang on trend for the new season.

Tulum Wall Banner, £20, Barker and Stonehouse

Macrame is having a very fashionable moment. These tactile textiles double up as works of art – and are versatile enough to hang anywhere.

Botanica Opulence Green Velvet Stool with Gold Legs, £24.99, TK Maxx stores

Gorgeous and glammy, this velvet stool looks so luxe, especially in this soft, sorbet shade.

George Home Gold Gin Glass 2 Pack, £7; Gold Wine Glass 2 Pack, £6; Gold Geo Hurricane Vase, £6; Timeless Gin Glass, £2; Timeless Coupe, £2; Timeless Tumbler, £1.50; Timeless Hiball, £1.50; Metallic Geo Dinner Set 12 Piece, £25, Asda (available from September)

Striking cut crystal, smart stemware and gold accents; this glassware and tableware offers fine dining on a beer budget.

£45 and under

Dax Side Table (H48cm x W45cm), £30, Matalan

Bright as a buttercup, this retro looking stool can double up as a side table or book stand.

Voyage of Discovery Wallpaper Mural, from £32 per m2, Wallsauce.com

A brilliant backdrop to build on (you can start with a small image), made to measure murals can be tailored to fit your scheme. And some are so magical, armchair travellers can unearth a fantasy world from a choice of more than a million mural images.

Set of 4 Bamboo Baskets, £39, J D Williams

Having a clear out, sorting and organising ‘to get the look’ can be as much a stress-buster as going to the gym, and these bamboo baskets bring an artisan quality to home storage.

MOMA 1949 Canvas – Black and White, £45, Barker and Stonehouse

A timeless monochrome print makes for an instant update, especially if you style this 1950s portrait with natural materials and clean lines. Otherwise, think more is more and prop it on a shelf unit with a collection of vintage perfume bottles.

Weave Some Magic at Home, with New-Wave Rattan, Raffia and Bamboo.

modern rattan decor

No longer confined to retro schemes and conservatories, nature's most versatile materials are making a stylish comebacks, says Gabrielle Fagan.

We’re all waking up to the magic of weave, with rattan – that blonde, slim, easy-on-the eye material – enjoying a starring role in homes right now.

Pinterest and Instagram are full of stunning examples of how rattan can lend a ‘wow’ factor in a way that solid wood simply can’t, and it’s totally in tune with our growing desire for natural products and organic designs in our living spaces.

modern rattan decor

Rattan was a huge hit in the Seventies, a trend that stuck for at least a decade, and has endured as a staple of the conservatory – but perish the thought that this is just a predictable reincarnation.

Designers have so transformed it, with punchy colour and imaginative chic new shapes, that pieces are good-looking enough to be focal points in all areas of the home.

Not only that – they’re seemingly so entranced by all things woven right now, they’ve also turned their creative attentions to raffia, bamboo, and even simple straw.

modern rattan decor

“Rattan really is the ‘super food’ of the homeware world,” declares Sophie Garnier, founder of Kalinko (kalinko.com), specialists in hand-woven rattan furniture and accessories made in Burma.

“Practically, the material is solid all the way through the vine, which makes it incredibly strong, and its flexibility means it can be woven into any shape. It also accepts paints and stains like wood, so can be made in a variety of colours and finishes.”

Not least, it’s a good choice, Garnier points out, if you want to burnish your eco-credentials. “It grows very quickly all year round and is harvested without harming the tree and also grows back very enthusiastically, so an A-star for sustainability,” she enthuses.

Lightweight yet sturdy, it can also look fresh and modern depending on the shape and finish you choose, notes Garnier.

Summing up its appeal, she says: “It brings the essence of the outdoors inside, which is very soothing and, while an obvious choice in the summer, will look great all year round in both classic and contemporary homes.”

What are you waiting for? Work the weave at home, with a variety of beautiful products…

modern rattan decor

Keep it light

Woven furniture won’t dominate a space, which makes it ideal for compact spaces and especially good for renters as it’s easily transportable, says Kate Butler, head of product design at Habitat.

“Fast-growing materials like rattan and bamboo are increasingly becoming key materials for us, and we’re incorporating these strong and lightweight materials into more modern designs that take advantage of their versatility,” she explains.

“They allow us to create more interesting 3D shapes, from fluid curves to angular forms, so we’re moving away from traditional rattan associations – which confined it to the conservatory – to more inspirational, contemporary ideas for the home that allow you to add more personality to a space.”

She highlights the Nadia bedframe (designed by Matthew Long), made from four individual rattan sections which clip together for easy assembly, and Habitat’s range of rattan light shades, which simply fit over a bulb.

modern rattan decor

Mix ‘n’ match

Double up for maximum effect – two chairs are better than one because they’ll look as though you’ve committed to a style, rather than bought a random piece.

If you want to make a statement, choose a rocker or a classic Peacock-style chair. The latter with its high back, which is also called a fan chair, originated in the Philippines and its striking style has featured in many iconic photographs over the years.

modern rattan decor

Scene-stealer seats

If you like a laid-back vibe, hanging chairs are ultra-fashionable currently, and Cox & Cox has an open weave Round Rattan Cocoon Chair, £650. It comes with a stand or a hook so it can be hung from the ceiling. Enhance the cosiness by draping with a Curly Sheepskin – Natural, £175.

modern rattan decor

Store & stun

We can never have enough storage – but there’s no reason it should be boring. Turn it into eye-candy with wicked weaves featuring soft, blushing shades, which can hold everything from household essentials to toys.

modern rattan decor

Divide & Rule

Unique pieces, like a folding screen, will conjure a tropical vibe in a living area. And you can ramp up the effect with other accessories, such a mirror, wall-mounted woven platters, occasional seating or a lamp.

modern rattan decor

This is why you Shouldn’t let Summer pass without Cooking Outside with the Kids

outdoor cooking with kids

There's just something about making dinner out of doors. So, marshmallows at the ready, says Ella Walker.

One thing is guaranteed to ruin the vibe of any summer party, and that’s a parent shrieking across a sun-scorched garden: ‘IT’S HOT – I TOLD YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM THE BARBECUE!’

Usually, there’d be a few expletives in there, a spilled beer, a freshly-bunned burger dropped in the dirt, as well as an overwhelming panic bound up in love and the understandable fear of third-degree burns.

outdoor cooking with kids

Fire and small children can be a stressful mix. But that doesn’t mean it can’t ever be done – and provide an afternoon of fun, bonding and ridiculously good food.

Dawn Isaac, author of 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside (Kyle Books, £14.99), notes that “it’s always more exciting having a sandwich outside”.

And you know what’s more exciting than a sandwich – especially outdoors? A burger. Or a hot dog. And if you speared that hot dog sausage on a twig (OK, a Lakeland skewer) and blackened it over a fire yourself, things are exponentially better. That’s as an adult – just imagine doing it aged eight. Talk about mind-blown.

Chuck in some marshmallows turned lichen-orange as they melt into a tooth-sticking goo, and you just know your kids may never go to bed again. Largely that’d be down to the sugar coursing through their tiny bodies, but also because cooking in the open air – and learning to prep your own food in the process – is quite simply intoxicating. As much so as it is watching the dancing belly of a fire flickering away.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Kids love getting stuck in in the kitchen, so getting them to help with cooking really encourages them, especially when it’s more of an adventure outdoors,” says Genevieve Taylor, grill extraordinaire and author of veggie barbecue book Charred (Quadrille, £16).

Taylor’s all about stretching yourself when it comes to barbecuing too – kebabs, plastic cheese squares and bangers are all very well, but what about cumin spiked falafel burgers, miso grilled aubergine, and sweet potato wedges with oregano? She notes in Charred that “pretty much any vegetable you can think of can be elevated by a little fire and smoke” – and getting kids involved with spicing up BBQ fare is a great place for you to all start.

“Mine have always loved sniffing the jars of spices and choosing what they fancied, which works a treat as they can both be quite fussy,” explains Taylor. “Getting kids used to spices early gets them used to the idea of food from all over the world and teaches them that spices don’t always need to equal heat.”

outdoor cooking with kids

Also, anything that tricks them into taking an interest in vegetables – regardless that it might mean torching them to smithereens over a campfire – must be positive. Think wrangling with butter drenched corn on the cob, or stealth-eating (shock horror) veg on skewers, because if you’ve threaded it yourself, you’re going to have to eat it, right? Even if there are mushrooms hiding amongst the chunks of pepper…

YouTube cook Ian Haste, author of The 7-Day Basket (Headline, £25), says: “My kids eat every single veg there is. If you’ve got them to cook it themselves, they’ve done it, and they’ll try and eat it, because they’re stubborn.”

Add the thrill of potentially-singed fingers, and a few atmospheric stars overheard, and your kids might just scoff everything you brought outdoors in the coolbag.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Fried cheese sandwiches are really popular and so easy to make on a BBQ – you can always leave out any bits they don’t fancy,” adds Taylor. “Getting kids to choose, or at least giving them an element of choice, is empowering and doesn’t mean they feel forced to eat everything.” And talking of cheese, watching anyone – no matter their age – try flame-seared halloumi for the first time is arguably a beautiful (if squeaky) experience.

Halloumi aside, there’s the whole getting into nature, learning new skills and ‘making memories together’ thing too – and memories attached to food have a different kind of vividness to them. Childhood picks them up like sticky burrs (like making flapjacks with your granny, eating jelly for the first time, building a fire in the garden and throwing bananas and chocolate wrapped in foil into the coals…).

outdoor cooking with kids

And of course, wild cooking together means the usual dedicated in-charge barbecue person won’t be all alone wreathed in smoke – you’ll have someone to chat to and share the very tough task of wielding the tongs with. Go forth, and make fire. Just have a bucket of water on standby…