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Kitchen Cool: 13 Ways to Serve up a Feast of Style

Whether it’s a full-blown revamp or simple updates, Gabrielle Fagan stirs up some style solutions for the heart of the home.

Our kitchens are having to work harder than ever these days, as we’re spending more time in them – and we’re not just using them to cook up a storm.

That eating area now has to be able to perform as a family space, an entertaining zone, and maybe a home office for many of us too. So it needs to not only look the business, but to function well to facilitate our busy and multi-layered home lives.

Looking to give your kitchen an update? Follow our recipe for creating the perfect kitchen in your home, whatever your budget…

1. Island story

An island is still the most coveted design feature in a kitchen – and it’s easy to see why. It’s invaluable as a preparation area, and means you can flex your culinary skills without turning your back on the party.

“Kitchen islands and breakfast bars offer a versatile and adaptable space that can be used in so many ways,” says Joanne Emery, marketing manager at Burbidge.

“They can create zones in your area, giving the illusion of two separate functional rooms, whilst keeping the room clutter-free by providing additional storage. Consider incorporating open shelving for items you use frequently.”

2. Dark matters

Black is a design classic, whether for clothes or kitchen units, and paired with a metallic it’s a recipe for sophistication.

Choose handles, taps and kitchen accessories in brass, copper or bronze – the finishes which have taken over from last year’s polished chrome.

3. Cooking with colour

Our growing desire for colourful spaces is reflected in more vivid kitchen cabinetry and ‘colour pops’, which allow for a more playful, individual look.

If you’re worried you may tire of units or tiles in a vibrant shade, or they’ll look dated as fashions move on, simply shake up the space with colourful accessories instead.

Paintings, storage canisters, or worktop appliances in funky shades could be just the colour ‘pop’ you need, and they can be easily moved or updated in the future.

4. Double identity

There’s a real trend for kitchens to feel like extensions of living rooms now too. Our home-based lifestyle means we want spaces where it’s easy to cook for the family during the day, but have the ‘wow’ factor to transform into striking evening entertainment spaces at night, or just somewhere to relax and unwind.

Ensure your colour scheme in both areas – the kitchen and the lounge area – harmonises, which will make the space look bigger and blend together.

5. Savvy switch up

If a full-scale revamp is out of the question, don’t underestimate the power of replacing cabinet door fronts, which can transform your kitchen at a fraction of the cost of a refit.

If you’re into DIY, repainting kitchen units is fairly straightforward – but ensure you prepare the surface well beforehand, by lightly sanding, cleaning with white spirit, and applying two coats of paint. B&Q has a good range of cabinet paint, including the GoodHome Durable Delaware Matt Cabinet & Wardrobe Paint, £20 for 0.75L.

For a final flourish, invest in new handles and light switches to give the room an extra lift.

6. Ace the space

If you haven’t got acres of space to work with, you need to make the most of ever corner. A cook’s trolley, a hanging rack for utensils, and ceiling-height cupboards can all be a boon – and the plus point is everything will be within easy each.

7. Pendant power

Move over spotlights and track lighting – pendant lights currently rule in kitchens. One statement light, or a group of three, will brilliantly define a selected space, such as a kitchen island or dining area.

8. Make a splash

Swapping a tiled splashback for a striking mural will take a kitchen from functional to fabulous.

“Murals never fail in adding impact and are brilliant for adding drama and depth, giving an illusion of looking out onto a different scene, view or landscape. They can have a magical effect on a room,” says Michael Ayerst, managing director of Surface View, who recreate images on made-to-measure wall murals, canvasses, blinds and ceramic tiles.

Gilded Paper Wallpaper Mural by Richard Hamilton Smith GS, from the Trunk Archive at Surface View, from £40 per square metre, Surfaceview.co.uk.

9. Modern mix

“The enduring trend for kitchens is about mixing it up, whether that’s with contrasting materials such as wood and metallics, or textured and smooth finishes,” says Gary Griffin, UK sales manager UK at Rational (rational.de/en).

“Cabinets incorporating the grain and beauty of timber are one of the keynote features of 2020. It’s hardly surprising, as natural materials such as wood suit both contemporary and classic homes and this is a great way to ensure that, no matter what your design choice, your home has a warm, relaxed feel.”

Whilst neutral palettes remain popular, Griffin notes there’s been a move towards the ‘dark side’, with bolder choices of black or grey units – but unlike their shiny predecessors of the Nineties, these now come in an understated matt finish.

Rational’s Uno handle-less kitchen combines an oiled cracked oak veneer with sleek matt black units in a Monolack, a new lacquered laminate finish. Features include a pull-out coffee machine module and a Passe-Partout internal storage system (from £12,000).

10. Take to the floor

A feature wall, a stunning chandelier, and a ‘look at me’ choice of flooring in a punchy shade could be the perfect ingredients for a glamorous space.

11. Love a larder

While the concept of a larder harks back to an era before refrigeration, they’re now the ultimate chic feature in today’s kitchens, and provide plenty of space for all those jars and ingredients that can clutter up the fridge or worktops.

Want to know the rest of the kit on the dream kitchen list? A range cooker, instant hot water taps, remote-control extraction units, and integrated recycling units.

12. Worktop wizardry

The worktop is the workhorse of any kitchen, and so it needs to be tough, practical and good-looking. View this feature as a way of demonstrating your taste and bringing individuality to the kitchen design.

As it will have a big visual impact, don’t leave your worktop choice ’til last – instead start with the surfaces and match other key pieces, like the cabinets, to them.

Decor tip: Veined marble is in vogue, as it’s more interesting than a plain top but won’t dominate. If you’re after a contrasting look, choose white marble and pick up on the veining colour for the paint shade on the cabinetry.

13. Rose-tinted touches

Pink is having a moment in kitchens. This soft shade can bring warmth to a cool space and works particularly well in an open-plan area, where you don’t want a harsh contrast between the living and cooking area.

11 of the Best Chandeliers, Pendant Lights and Lamps to Light up your World

Sam Wylie-Harris switches natural light for artificial, and reveals the best in statement lighting.

In the height of summer, lighting doesn’t have much opportunity to play a starring role. It’s more about window dressing to control the brightness.

But come early autumn, with dappled sunlight streaming through and a low sun casting shadows in our living space, a flick of a switch has the power to transform our interiors.

In many ways, luxe lighting offers the tools to illuminate, highlight and shine a spotlight on the things that make a difference in our lives, while setting the stage for a little bit of theatre.

Currently, sculptural forms and statement pieces are very on-trend, but neutrals and polished chrome are not forgotten. Here’s how to plug into the latest schemes…

1. Ribbon LED Ceiling Light by Heal’s, £479, other items from a selection, Heal’s

“Sculptural lighting can be a quick and easy way to create a focal point within a room, and is increasingly being used for decorative purposes,” says Claire Anstey, lighting buyer at Heal’s, “to the point where they can offer the same effect as a piece of art.”

As the evenings grow darker and we spend more time indoors, Anstey says lighting can be a great way to create drama in a space. Take their Ribbon pendant collection, “with its looping curves mimicking the movement of ribbons sweeping through the air.

“Suspended from a slim wire, the piece appears to be floating through the room and offers a touch of refined luxury – perfect for large living areas or poised above a dining table,” says Anstey.

2. Saber LED Multi Arm Chandelier, Gold, £399, Heal’s

In more contemporary schemes, linear designs work particularly well and can still offer the same level of impact with a crisp, clean glow. New for this season at Heal’s is the Saber multi-arm chandelier – a modern interpretation of the classic chandelier design. “Integrated LEDs offer an energy-saving alternative to traditional bulbs, and eight adjustable arms offer the flexibility to focus light within different areas of the room,” says Anstey.

3. Fin Pendant Grouping of 7, Natural White, £1,249, other items part of room set, Original BTC

Depending on the height of your ceilings, pendant lighting lends itself to spectacular dining settings, especially with the trend for tablescaping and entertaining at home.

As Peter Bowles, founder of Original BTC puts it: “When it comes to scale, dramatically proportioned lights are the most obvious way to create impact. A generously sized pendant will create a talking point, whether lit or not.”

While scale is one way to make a statement, it’s not always feasible to fit a grandly proportioned pendant in lower ceilinged rooms, so it’s worth exploring alternative approaches. “Often referred to as jewellery for the home, the right light fittings can complete or transform your interior scheme.” says Bowles. “Just like jewellery, a flash of brass, copper or gold can lift your room, bringing a touch of opulence.”

4. Cranton Hexagonal Pendant, Natural White, £2,969, Original BTC

Another scene stealer, if you’re looking for a central lighting source, this Instaworthy investment piece can be hung from a ceiling rose to contrast with traditional plasterwork.

5. Walter Pendant Size 2, Anthracite Glass & Brass, £459 each, Original BTC

When it comes to multiple light fittings, Bowles says three is the magic number. “Over a kitchen island or dining table, a row of three pendants will always create a strong visual impact and do all the hard work for you.”

6. Kartell Limited Edition Space Lamp, £183, Amara

Sam Hood, creative director and head of buying at Amara, says there’s a general move towards the use of lighting as a statement piece in a room – and we love this fabulously futuristic new arrival from Kartell. Depending on your budget, a pair would look stunning styled either side of a black leather sofa.

7. Humble One Table Light, White Marble, £129, Amara

Perhaps linked to increased environmental awareness, Hood says raw and natural looking colourways are also making an impact in decorative lighting. “Marble and wood patterns, seen in Humble’s new lighting range, add earthy accents to a room, particularly when placed next to indoor plants and other raw material features,” says Hood.

8. Brigantia Lighting Grey, £695 (£715 with bulb), other items from a selection, OKA

Elsewhere, basket style hanging lanterns have the power to please. “Lighting should be the star of the show in every space,” says Sue Jones, creative director for OKA. “If your ceiling height will allow it, dial up the drama with a hanging lamp that will act as a bold focal point. A style like the Brigantia is perfect to hang over a dining table as it will diffuse light and cast a soft glow.”

9. Perisphere Table Lamp – Natural, £175 (base only), Lamp & Black Drum Cotton Shade, £225, other items from a selection, OKA

Jones point out: “Remember lamps don’t have to be purely functional. A sculptural base like our new Perisphere table lamp will display just as much character when the lights are off, and can be paired with a patterned shade for an extra dash of colour.”

10. Grosvenor Floor Lamp, £115 (r), Grosvenor Table Lamp, £50 (m), Richmond Table Lamp, £90 (l), other items from a selection, Next

For a polished pool of light, this new Grosvenor collection from Next ticks all the right (light)boxes, with its chrome base complemented by a glamorous velvet shade with geometric design.

11. Jonathan Adler Constantine Table Lamp, £595, Jonathan Adler

This designer lamp is super stylish and chic. With its antiqued brass pyramid framework and lustrous piano black finish, it’s a fabulous edition to any side table.

How to Bring the Calming Principles of Feng Shui into your Home

It’s all about encouraging positive energy flow. Regardless of whether you’re back to school or not, this is a good time of year to stop, take stock and make some positive changes.

For Gen Z in particular, there’s been an increased focus on making bedrooms a calm and soothing space. Pinterest has found the age group (born between the mid-Nineties and early 2010s) is looking for serenity, with searches for ‘Zen bedroom ideas’ up five times on average, and ‘feng shui bedroom layout’ up two and a half times.

Thinking about how to bring this feeling of calmness into your home as a whole? The Chinese practice of feng shui could help. “Translated as ‘wind-water’ in English, feng shui practises the belief that by bringing positive energy into the home, good health, wealth and luck are set to follow,” explains Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at FurnitureChoice.co.uk.

Here are Snowden’s top tips for welcoming positive energy into your home…

Declutter

Many of us see September as a second new year, meaning it’s the ideal time to declutter. “A neat home works wonders for our mental clarity and overall health,” explains Snowden.

“In feng shui, each space is connected to each other and allows positive energy to flow throughout the house. Add a decorative mirror to the living room to make the space feel larger, and multiply the positive energy flow. Meanwhile, closets or drawers overloaded with old items block the chi (energy) so it’s best to discard any clutter.”

Balance yin and yang

Snowden recommends incorporating yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) elements into your decor. “Apply this concept by mixing different shapes together,” she says. “For example, contrast the sharp edges of wall hangings with the soft curves of a sofa or mirror in the living room. This will balance out the room and give it a more relaxing feel.”

Bring calm into your bedroom

It’s no surprise Gen Z are keen to feng shui their bedrooms: after all, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to overall wellbeing, and the right environment can play a big part.

To boost feelings of calm and relaxation particularly in your bedroom, Snowden has two top tips: first, get rid of mirrors to help avoid an energy overload. And second, make the bed the central focus. “In feng shui, this symbolises a commanding position that allows you to take charge and handle life’s many challenges,” says Snowden. “The bed is best positioned diagonally away from your door as you will still be able to see it clearly, while not being in a direct line to it.

“Placing your bed against the wall will also give you a sense of security and ground you when you sleep. And for extra strength and stability, a bed with a headboard will represent this, with its solid support and build.”

If you have a home office, apply the same logic to your desk to bring the focus onto productivity.

Freshen up the place with plants

Snowden says plants can “bring positive energy” into a room, adding: “In feng shui, they are commonly associated as a life force and bring in growth, prosperity and luck. Common indoor plants said to attract these good elements include pothos, lucky bamboo and peace lily.”

Craig Phillips: ‘DIY can be Really Therapeutic’

DIY may be his trade – but as original Big Brother winner Craig Phillips tells Gabrielle Fagan, it brings a host of wellbeing benefits too.

Being trapped at home during lockdown certainly wasn’t unfamiliar to Craig Phillips.

As the winner of TV’s first ever Big Brother – which marks its 20th anniversary this year – he experienced weeks of housebound isolation, along with the pressure of being under constant surveillance.

“It certainly gave me an early taste of lockdown all those years ago,” says the 48-year-old, as he recalls being part of what was arguably the first proper reality TV show back in 2000.

“We were completely isolated from the outside world, with no phones, internet, newspapers – social media wasn’t even born then – and the house didn’t even have windows. The garden was walled, with floodlights and live TV cameras beaming down on us. We were basically imprisoned,” he remembers. “By comparison, being in my house and garden with my family throughout lockdown definitely felt far easier!”

Now a regular on DIY shows – like 60 Minute Makeover, Housecall and Craig’s Trade Trips – Liverpudlian Phillips was just 28 when he won over viewers on Big Brother, as the straight-talking builder with a passion for body-building. Cheeky and charming, he touched the nation’s hearts with his selfless aim to give the prize money to family friend Joanne Harris, who had Down’s syndrome and needed a heart and lung transplant (Harris sadly passed away in 2008).

“I had no idea how big the show would be and just thought it was worth a try,” he says. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t suppose anyone will watch the show, and really how hard can it be to live with 10 other people?’ Actually, it was really tough – you could never switch off with all those cameras on you, and it was hard to deal with all the different personalities,” he reflects.

Big Brother didn’t just propel Phillips to nationwide stardom, but changed the TV landscape and helped spawn the ‘fame game’, where ‘ordinary’ people could suddenly become celebrities overnight.

“My life exploded after I came out, and at times I found the reaction overwhelming,” Phillips admits. “I went into the house very naive, not expecting anything to come from it, as we all did. I don’t think anyone was [expecting anything], because reality TV wasn’t born until then,” he adds. “I think people got so excited about it, because it was the first time the public got an opportunity to vote and keep people in or kick them out.”

Re-entering the real world was “really, really crazy” he says. “I don’t think I went home for 97 days. I changed hotel every night and I had bodyguards chaperoning me around. It was life-changing overnight, and I was the last person to realise it.”

Phillips, who is talking from his home on the outskirts of Liverpool – which he shares with his wife Laura Sherriff, 33, and their 18-month-old daughter, Nelly (they’re currently expecting their second child) – doesn’t believe he’d even have been considered for the show in its later years, let alone won it.

“I think I’m a bit too normal, boring, and not extreme enough compared to the characters that were there as it went on,” he says with a grin. “As the years went on, increasingly scenarios were concocted to deliberately make people clash and cause friction, and get people conniving and calculating. That wouldn’t have been for me.”

Phillips’ story is an inspiring one. Just 13 when his father was killed by a drink-driver, by age 15, he was working to help support his mother and sister. Despite leaving school with no qualifications (he had un-diagnosed dyslexia), by his early-20s, he’d built a successful building company, with a turnover of more than £1 million and a team of 30.

While many fall by the wayside after five minutes of fame, Phillips thinks his down-to-earth background and business and building skills allowed him to capitalise on his success after Big Brother, rather than be derailed by it.

“In my book, being famous isn’t a job. I’ve never regarded myself as famous, although I am well recognised. I think the secret to surviving a reality show is to stay true to yourself and not believe the hype,” he says.

“The show was a spring-board for me, giving me so many opportunities to work on TV. I’ve appeared on thousands of DIY and makeover shows over the years. I’ve also been able to help raise millions for charities, which makes me feel really proud.”

Marriage and becoming a father has given him personal contentment. He and Laura work together as ‘Mr & Mrs DIY’ on TV and YouTube. They also have a property portfolio and recently built their “dream” home, complete with eight bedrooms, a gym and film studio.

“I knew Laura was ‘the one’ the first time I met her, at a TV studio,” Phillips confides. “Although there is a 14-year age difference – Laura jokes she was still at school when I won Big Brother – we never notice it. We’ve so much in common, and being able to work and live together 24/7 so happily, to me means it’s a really special relationship.

“It was wonderful teaching Laura DIY skills and discovering she was a complete natural,” he adds, happily. “We make such a good team.

“Being parents together is brilliant, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our son soon. I treasure my time with Nelly and I’m perhaps even more aware of the responsibility of caring and providing for her, because I lost my own father so young.”

He’s open-minded about whether he’d allow his daughter to take part in reality TV when she’s older. “It would be hard to say no, wouldn’t it, after my experience?” he reflects. “If her heart was set on it, I’d support her, but just hope to guide her a little and help her keep her feet on the ground.

“Nelly actually already loves her painting play sessions, so I reckon we could give her a little brush in a few years and get her on our team,” he adds, laughing. “It would be nice to say, ‘Mr & Mrs DIY and Daughter!’”

He believes DIY can be far more beneficial than simply home improvements, as it can be beneficial to people’s mental wellbeing too.

“We were overwhelmed by the huge and positive reaction to our online DIY videos during lockdown,” says Phillips. “It’s really therapeutic for people, if they can learn to work on their own homes and improve them, because that can really give a feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Also, there’s so much loneliness around, but we really noticed people loved being able to connect by sharing their DIY experiences and tips.”

He downs tools to look after his own wellbeing: “This is a stressful time business-wise, as it is for everybody, but I try not to panic and just keep the faith that things will bounce back.

“Chilling out with Nelly is a wonderful way of de-stressing,” he adds. “Laura and I share parenting 50/50, and I’ll take Nelly off for a couple of hours to play and that time literally flies by.

“I’m a bit of a workaholic, but it’s the ultimate switch off from work and any problems. I feel like a different man by the end of it.”

Craig Phillips is a celebrity builder and mental health speaker. To find out more, see craigphillips.co.uk

14 Ways to Style up your Home Wine and Cocktail Game

Want to take staying in to the next level? Sam Wylie-Harris shakes things up with the snazziest stemware and home bar accessories.

Thanks to social distancing, quarantinis and staycations, we’ve become a dab hand at fixing our own drinks and mixing up a storm at home.

We’re buying more wine online, spirit sales are still soaring and we’re making the most of the change of bar scene.

So much so, lavishing time and money on our drinking rituals at home has become much more of an affordable luxury, with cocktail equipment and ‘atelier du vin’ for every mood and budget.

Sip in splendour with these stylish buys…

1. John Lewis & Partners Honolulu Tiki Bar, currently £402.50 (was £575), John Lewis

For a taste of island life, say aloha! to the best tiki bar around. With an authentic beach bar feel, it comes complete with a fringed wicker roof, two bar stools and sturdy aluminium bar frame. Stock it with essential spirits and mixers, a cocktail shaker, bowl of fresh limes and ice and home bartenders will be in paradise.

2. John Lewis & Partners Stainless Steel Recipe Cocktail Shaker – Silver Copper, £20, John Lewis

Taking the guess work out of our favourite party drinks, this clever shaker lists the ingredients for classic cocktails, such as a margarita, tequila sunrise and cosmopolitan, all at the turn of the metallic outer cover. Genius.

3. Artland Tropical Leaves Glassware, from £20.50 for Set of Two DOF Tumblers to £25.95 for Set of Two Gin Glasses, Wine Glasses, Champagne Saucers and Martini Glasses, Not Just Jugs

With their exotic palm leaf print and mirrored silver finish,. these gorgeous glasses will glisten when they catch the sunlight, or soft glow of a storm lantern. They’ll make everything you serve taste a touch more exciting too.

4. Kara Circular Drinks Trolley, £375 (other decos from a selection), Graham & Green

Cocktail trolleys are timeless and trending big-time, from boutique hotel bars to our very own front rooms. Part of the appeal is that they can be beautifully styled – much like a dressing table – with all our hero labels, crystal and decorative drinking decos. This stylish circular one has two glass shelves and can be wheeled with ease.

5. “Keep Your Cool” Champagne Bucket, £68.50 each, Heating & Plumbing

Cocktails not your thing? Keep that bottle of bubbly chilled in one of these brilliant hanging ice buckets – think branch of a shady tree, when you’re making an evening of it in the garden. The base is shaped so you can slightly tilt your bottle of fizz before adding ice. Just make sure the label remains visible (we all love to drink with our eyes) before gently pouring at the perfect 45-degree angle.

6. Octopus Wine Bottle Holder, £240, At Home in the Country

Not exactly a drop in the ocean, but if you’re looking for something a little unique, your top drops deserve to be shown off like a fine piece of art. This eye-catching Octopus wine rack holds eight bottles and makes a luxe edition to any wine collectors’ emporium.

7. John Lewis & Partners Swoon Raine Bar Cart – Gold, £449, John Lewis

This Art Deco style bar cart mixes up white and pink marble with a brass finished frame and bottom wooden tray, garnished with bottle holder rings to prevent slipping and sliding. Ideal for luxurious gatherings, it’ll add some cocktail theatre to late-summer soirees when the sun goes down.

8. Pink Martini Gin Glasses – Set of 4, £39.95, Audenza

A treat to toast, deluxe drinks, such as a legendary martini, deserve these chic glasses, which scream jazz age, flapper dresses and cocktail couture.

9. Mermaid Bottle Opener, £8.95, At Home in the Country

The best beer buddy and tribute to your tonic, this quirky mermaid bottle opener is a beauty and home bar essential.

10. Life’s a Beach Glass Straws – Clear 6 Pieces, £7, Crystal Champagne Glasses – Set of 4 Angled, £19, ProCook

With their angled design, these clear glass straws are perfect for sipping a champagne cocktail. Or, if you’re fixing lots of drinks for friends, enjoy taking a sip of your home-made creation (like the pros do) to make sure the measure is spot on. Cleaning brush included.

11. Yvonne Ellen Cocktail Hour Cheetah Glass Ice Bucket & Wood Lid – Clear/Natural, £30, John Lewis

Glamorous and wild, this decadent ice bucket, with its Art Deco inspired design, makes a striking addition to cocktail trolleys and hints at the high life.

12. Aldsworth Wine Store – Spruce, £350, Garden Trading

This stellar chest with a galvanised metal top has the capacity for 32 bottles of vino (angled so the cork stays moist), along with two upper drawers with storage for wine preservers, coasters and dining accessories.

13. Forge De Laguiole Sommelier – Olivewood Premium Box, £179, Farrar & Tanner

If you’re prepared to shell out to keep up with the somms – and master the art of good wine service – this professional bottle opener deserves your finest vintage.

14. Hudson Living Verna Drinks Trolley – Bronze, £369 (other items from a selection), Very

One of the things we love most about this trolley is you can get a lot on it! With an antique gold finish, smooth casters and toughened glass shelves, it’s a cocktail-lovers cabinet on wheels. A high roller, it can hold magnums of wine or spirits and won’t groan under the weight of a whisky decanter or fancy implements. Cheers!

13 Ways to Make the Most of a Small Bedroom

It's possible to live large despite sleeping small, says Luke Rix-Standing.

For many of us, house space is a fiercely contested commodity, and you need to squeeze the most out of every square inch.

But luckily there are plenty of clever tricks you can use to make this happen. Mirrors, multi-functional furniture and a recurring colour or pattern are all your friends.

Here’s how to make even the smallest bedroom feel larger – without having to sleep on the sofa…

1. Let there be light

It’s the oldest rule in the book: Bright, breezy spaces feel looser, larger and lighter, so put your bed on the opposite wall from your windows and keep them clear of clutter. Thick, heavy curtains will help you keep warm in winter, but they will also protrude physically and visually into your room, so dress your windows with unobtrusive blinds or rollers instead.

2. Under-bed storage is your friend

Every square inch counts when you’re space saving, and there should be no room for monsters beneath the bed once you’ve finished economising. Bags and boxes are good for long-term storage, but slide-out clothes drawers are especially expedient, as they lessen the need for that other great space-snatcher, a large wardrobe.

3. Make it a a virtue

One person’s cramped is another person’s cozy, and a few soft furnishings can turn a poky shoe-box into a snug den or bolthole. Think fuzzy blankets, chocolate box ornaments, warming lamps and lighting – anything you might associate with a comfy Scandinavian cabin on a cold winter’s day.

4. Mirror, mirror

Bedroom, entrance hall or downstairs loo – mirrors have long been number one on the list of domestic design tricks. They don’t add any physical space, of course, but they send light bouncing round the walls and can trick the eye into doubling a room’s depth.

For the best brightening effects, place your mirror opposite a window and for the greatest sense of space, consider the wall opposite the door.

5. Bed size matters

We know, it’s so tempting to snap up an XXL king size and spend every night splayed out like a starfish, but if floor space is precious, your bed is the obvious place to seek savings. If you’re 6’4” and married, fair play; if you’re 5’3” and single, perhaps consider downsizing.

6. Put your headboard to work

Select the right design and your headboard can double as shelves for storage; a tabletop for ornaments; a rail for hanging clothes – anything really besides a useless wooden plank.

7. Think vertically

Just as city centres maximise space by building upwards, so too can your bedroom. Think of a room in terms of volume, rather than surface area, and prioritise floor-to-ceiling units that can squeeze the most from every inch of your room. Add shelves atop wardrobes and cupboards, or just use them as storage space anyway.

If you are investing in mirrors, make them full-length, and design your room to draw the eye upwards. Consider vertically-striped wallpaper, a different-coloured ceiling, and high-hung pictures and decor.

8. Choose furniture strategically

Pick pieces that can serve multiple purposes, or at least do the job as efficiently as possible. Double up your desk and bedside table; pick a compact cabinet over an elaborate chest of drawers; investigate foldaway futons.

9. Curate your colour scheme

Lighter colours feel airier and more open, and there’s a reasons that whites, greys and varying shades of cream crop up again and again in the centrefolds of interior design magazines. From your paint job to flooring and furnishings, avoid darker colours that might lend a claustrophobic feel.

10. Establish a theme

It doesn’t take much for small spaces to feel disorganised, and giving your room a designed, curated feel brings a much-needed sense of order. It could be a colour or pattern – recurring on cushions, bed covers and wallpaper – or a simple motif.

11. Declutter

Minimalism is as fashionable as it is functional, and most bedrooms bear at least a few bulky burdens that would be better off down the charity shop. Do you really need that brick-sized Nokia with the first ever version of Snake, the box of expired medicines, or the tabletop popcorn maker you used once in 2015?

12. Marshal your corners

Corners are notoriously difficult to bring to heel, but unless you live in a lighthouse every room has at least three of them, and they can easily turn into dead space. Consider anything with a right angle – tables, light fixtures, or wraparound, triangular shelving.

13. Employ a feature wall

Every room benefits from a statement centrepiece, and in a shoe-box bedroom it can hardly be the four-poster bed. Physical focal points may struggle to squeeze in, so instead opt for a visual one – a well decorated wall with an artwork, a photo collage, or simply a bold pattern.

14 Easy Ways to Give your Bathroom a Summer Update

Bath-time bliss begins here, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

From something as simple as a stylish soap dish or toothbrush holder, to a fluffy bath towel and chic cabinet shelving, these brilliant buys will give your bathroom a quick summer fix.

Get ready for bath-time bliss with these best buys…

1. Hello Lovely 1 Bathroom Mats by Dip and Drip, £19, The Rug Seller

Sometimes the tiniest things make all the difference, and while we may dream of a king-size tub, this feel-good bath mat, with non-slip rubber backing, is a little reminder of how special we are.

2. Gold Bath Caddy with Stand, £35, Graham & Green

This bath caddy is worth its weight in gold when it comes to bath-time rituals, such as a long soak with a glass of wine and scented candle to help you wind down at the end of the day. With extendable arms, its suitable for all bath sizes.

3. Regular Espere in Opaline – Glass with Swan Wall Light Fitting in Antiqued Bronze (includes pendant, gallery and fitting), £88 (other items part of room set), Pooky

A bathroom mirror framed with ambient wall lights, like these gorgeous lights from Pooky, suggests a boutique hotel bathroom feel, and will add warmth if you’re short on natural lighting.

4. Octopus Tile Sticker, £16.95, Graham & Green

If your tiles need a little bit of a lift, this fun printed sticker doubles up as quirky decorative wall art – and it’s waterproof and easy to apply.

5. Tile Print Drawers, £75; Tile Print Wall Mirror, £45; Woven Toilet Roll Holder, £20 (other items from a selection), Next

With its trendy Moroccan-inspired print and neutral wood tones, this bathroom range is super versatile and practical, especially if you like a little order to your bath-time rituals.

6. J by Jasper Conran Yellow ‘Geo’ Cotton Towels, £11-£32 each, Debenhams

A splash of sunshine-yellow is always uplifting, especially if you coordinate these cotton towels with a bright shower curtain or bathroom blind.

7. Woven Toilet Roll Holder, £39.95, Graham & Green

Loo-roll holders come in all shapes and sizes but what we love best about this woven basket, with its wooden handle, is you’re never going to get caught short, with ample storage built in.

8. Swirled Brush Holder, £12, Swirled Soap Dispenser, £10 (blush pink towels from a selection), Next

When it comes to styling up the basin, we love this swirled brush holder and matching soap pump, with its glamorous gold-effect top and swirl-effect resin design. Much more chic than a plain mug and messy bar of soap.

9. Bathroom Lacquer Ladder Shelf, £295 (other items from a selection), The White Company

If you’re short on bathroom space but realise the importance of a good shelfie to show off all that gorgeous bath-time booty, this freestanding, four-step storage ladder in glossy white, with a resilient, water-resistant finish, can be topped with towels and products and even a trailing fern.

10. Johnson & White Aromas Bali 2 Wick Candle, £53, Johnson & White Aromas

Who wouldn’t want to float their cares away with the beguiling scent of lemongrass, eucalyptus, spiced ginger and lime to imbibe thoughts of spa treatments in far-away places? And the case can always be reused to hold a facecloth or sponge once it’s out of burn.

11. Cult Living Hairpin Low Metal Stool – Solid Elm Wood – Rustic, £45 (was £59) (other items part of room set), Cult Furniture

Keeping things casual, we love the idea of a wooden metal stool to keep those home-spa treatments within easy reach, or hold a towel for when you step out of the bath or shower. Try teaming it with rustic pieces salvaged from second-hand shops or industrial homeware collections, and succulents for a calm surround.

12. Wireworks Oak Bathroom Accessory Set, from £21-£78, Amara

This smart wooden set ticks all the right boxes, with its clean lines and Scandi vibes. Who says basics need to be boring?

13. Argos Home Nomad Tallboy, £120, Argos

Tall, dark and handsome, this tallboy will fit into the tightest corner – and we love the two peep-hole shelves to place a guest towel, diffuser or deco.

14. Flair Bath Mats 2438 08 in Blue by Esprit, £69 (other items from a selection or part of room set), The Rug Seller

For more summer bathroom inspiration, these turquoise bath mats inspire thoughts of beach holidays – and almost bring the crystal-clear sea into sight.

5 Ways to Work Summer’s Sorbet Shades into your Scheme

These sugary shades are made for quick decor updates, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Keen to give your home a summer refresh? An easy – and soul-soothing – route to bright and breezy decor updates are pretty pastels and sorbet shades.

Not only do they add a sweet touch to a space, but they channel good vibes and a carefree spirit that remind us of childhood – but in a chic, contemporary, grown-up way.

It’s easy to pass pastels off as cutesy but there’s a universal charm to these ice cream colours, which can be super sophisticated when used stylishly – and sometimes it only calls for a lick of paint to make the right first impression.

1. Paint your way to an ice cream palette

“Summer is infused in pastel and sorbet shades because they hold memories of sweet-scented flowers, the taste of ice cream, bird song, laughter and the lapping of waves on a sandy shore,” says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux. “They’re colours that gift a room with these attributes every day, even when its raining, so if you have space in which you need to feel happy and uplifted, try a lick of Peppermint Candy, Pistachio Creme, Berry Whip and Citrus Sorbet.”

For these summer shades (that look good enough to eat) and more inspiration, visit Dulux.co.uk to find your nearest store.

If you’re not sure where to start, Shillingford suggests using pastel shades in rooms where there’s enough light to enjoy them during the day, as they’re harder to appreciate at night under artificial light, and to team them with pure white on the woodwork.

Dulux Copper Blush Matt Emulsion; Tranquil Dawn Silk Emulsion and Citrus Zing (coming soon), £16 each for 2.5L, Wickes

“Adding a delicate colour to the ceiling is one of the best-kept secrets in decorating, and pastels add just enough colour to make a huge difference, but not too much that it overwhelms the space.

“Blues and greens will make a room appear bigger, whilst yellow and pinks will add a touch of warm sunshine and make a room appear more intimate. Try bringing the colour down onto the walls by about 20-30cm and see how amazing it looks too,” says Shillingford.

When it comes to mastering the mix, think fun and fresh, and just enough colour to add a hint without dominating everything you already have in the room.

The other great thing about ice cream shades is they’re versatile enough to be used in a sophisticated way. After all, who doesn’t adore a champagne sorbet?

“If you add a little grey to a pastel it becomes very swank indeed, so consider shades like Pink Parchment, Milled Flour, Borrowed Blue or Beach Grass. Once you’ve chosen your favourite, paint the walls, ceiling and woodwork in the same colour,” suggests Shillingford.

2. Step into the look with pastel rugs

“Colour blocking with pastels never goes out of fashion. Just the whole combination of pastel pink, mint green and baby blue works so well, especially teamed with grey and neutral tones,” says Daniel Prendergast, design director and founder at The Rug Seller. “A more ‘graphic’ style works well with the sugary tones to give the design an edge.

“There’s something very ‘fresh’ about pastel shades, especially mint green. Designers at Accessorize Home have teamed their signature style with pretty pastels within its range of rugs – combining powder pink, mint green and baby blue for a look that’s contemporary with a nod to bohemian style.”

Light Mellow Rug by Accessorize, from £125, The Rug Seller (therugseller.co.uk)

“Soft textures work so well in pastel colours too,” Prendergast adds. “Shaggy rugs and faux fur rugs look great in pink, mauve, blue and mint – they make you just want to snuggle into them!”

Anja Faux Fur Helsinki Rug in Teal Blue – 60x90cm, £29.99, The Rug Seller (therugseller.co.uk)

3. Brighten your outlook with sorbet shutters

When it comes to creating a calm and idyllic work space at home – after all, we all need a bit of extra inspiration right now – window dressings can make all the difference to your wellbeing and outlook.

“Sorbet-coloured shutters make a great alternative to a feature wall in a home office. Colours such as soft blue, orange and pink are ideal for boosting creativity and making an office a welcoming environment to work in,” says Chrissie Harper, customer experience manager at California Shutters. “Use a matching paint colour on the surrounding walls or add a statement wallpaper to make a real impact.”

Shutters from £168 per square metre, California Shutters (californiashutters.co.uk)

However, Harper says it’s important to carefully consider which colours to choose for your shutters as, unlike walls or decorative accessories, you’ll likely be keeping them in situ for a longer period of time. And if you have a clear vision of how you want your room to look, choosing a pastel shade could really lift your scheme.

4. Shine a light on the look with lampshades

Well-chosen lighting can really make a space – and a pop of pastel can be especially effective. Picking a sorbet lampshade will illuminate a scheme and add warmth even when it’s not switched on – think of it as the A-list lollipop of lighting.

Hadfield Floor Lamp with Lime Green shade, £495, Christopher Wray (christopherwray.com)

5. Serve a subtle shade at the table

It doesn’t take much to refresh tired garden furniture, like breathing new life into a dining set with a splash of paint. M&L Paints Alitex Collection offers 15 colours inspired by greenhouses. Suitable for exterior use, they can transform practically anything from urns to gnomes. We love their subtle Wood Sage 137, which perfectly complements sprays of wild flowers and bulbs.

Wood Sage 137 from the Alitex Collection, from £5 to £100 depending on size and finish, M&L Paints (alitex.co.uk).

13 Ways to Style up his Space this Fathers Day

fathers day style

Sam Wylie-Harris rounds up the best gifts for house-proud dads, coffee connoisseurs, aspiring chefs and music lovers.

In these extraordinary times, the old adage ‘a man’s home is his castle’ has never rung so true, with so many of us spending much more time indoors.

And it’s especially relevant for Father’s Day – with pubs and restaurants closed and most of us celebrating at home or via Zoom, it makes total sense to think about a present that blends style and function, will lift those four walls, or polish up his beloved garden or den.

Looking for father’s day inspiration? These groovy gifts are just a click away…

fathers day style

1. Dualit Coffee Machine in Grey, £179.99, Dualit.com

A class act for budding baristas and grand cru of coffee machines, this three-in-one setup will enable dad to rustle up a luxe latte, cappuccino, espresso and – come happy hour – even a martini espresso. Best of all, Dualit’s multi-brew system means it’s compatible with most coffee capsules and pods to leave him feeling full of beans.

fathers day style

2. Staub Cast Iron Frying Pan, £99.95, Zwilling.com

Expectations invariably run high when it comes to Sunday brunch, so why not encourage him to add some French flair to those expertly sourced ingredients? This matte black enamelled cast iron frying pan is suitable for all hobs and the beech wood handle will feel good to the touch.

fathers day style

3. Monkey Bottle Holder, £39.95, Graham & Green

Whether it’s an impressive label, cellar worthy vintage or weekday red, when it comes to pulling the cork, everyone will want to get their hands on this playful deco before the vino’s poured.

fathers day style

4. Set of 4 Nautical Pasta Bowls, £17.50, and Set of 4 Nautical Side Plates, £15, Marks & Spencer

Seafood linguine will taste that much better in these shellfish loving pasta bowls, especially when you sprinkle it with a handful of fresh parsley for a lovely contrast against the cherry tomatoes.

Top it by serving home-made garlic bread or tomato and mozzarella salad on the matching side plates and it’ll be the closest thing to dining alfresco with a seafront view.

fathers day style

5. Argos Home Skandi Chill Word LED Sign, £15, Argos

A cool addition to his rural escape or home working space, this LED bulb can make the switch from indoor to outdoor use.

fathers day style

6. Argos Home Moorlands Horse Table Lamp – Bronze, £35, Argos

He doesn’t need to be a betting fan or horse whisperer to appreciate this sculpture’s fine form – and who wouldn’t want this champion in their stable of stylish lighting?

fathers day style

7. Technics EAH-AZ70W Wireless Headphones, £239, Amazon

Could this set be his new best buddy? With cutting-edge acoustics, voice-activation (think Alexa and Siri), 18 hours of battery life and active noise cancellation, these wireless earbuds offer optimum performance. Also available in black.

fathers day style

9. Multicoloured Japanese Framed Wall Art £32 (was £40), Black Palm Tree Print Framed Wall Art, £28 (was £35), Debenhams

If his walls are looking a little lacklustre and he appreciates contemporary, clean lines, some eye-catching prints, like these, could work wonders.

fathers day style

10. Geo Black Glasses – Set of 2, £21.60 (was £24), Red Candy

These octagonal glasses have enough pulling power to stir his interest, especially if you encourage him to sit down and put his feet up, while someone else fixes the drinks.

fathers day style

11. Gentleman’s Hardware Suitcase BBQ, £80, John Lewis

The ultimate showcase for the BBQ king, this portable pit is great for the garden and future camping trips. All that’s missing is the bag of coals and sizzling selection of meats, sauces and sides.

fathers day style

12. Retro Matchbox Seat Pads, £35 each, Graham & Green

While we may have to settle for armchair travelling and staycations this summer, these easy riders featuring dream destinations such as Las Vegas and Palm Springs will definitely be on his bucket list.

fathers day style

13. Loft Lois Set of 2 Garden Chairs in Teal, £119, Marks & Spencer

When it’s time to unwind in the slow days of summer, these designer-looking chairs channel a boutique hotel feel, with their stylish functionality and comfort. As well as being ideal for patios, they’ll look just as cool in a conservatory or man cave come autumn.

How to Dry Home-Grown Blooms

home grown dried flowers

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

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

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

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

home grown dried flowers

What are the best flowers for drying?

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

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

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

Avoid big, blousy blooms

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

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

home grown dried flowers

What about air drying?

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

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

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

Air dry bigger blooms upright

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

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

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

home grown dried flowers

When air drying…

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

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

How long will it take?

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

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

home grown dried flowers

What if you’re short of time?

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

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

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

If you’re using a flower press…

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

And if you don’t have a flower press…

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

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

Preview Property For Sale Finchampstead

WELLINGTONIA AVENUE PROPERTY FOR SALE FINCHAMPSTEAD

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

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

Take A Video Tour of the Grounds and Setting

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

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

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

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

Moving On During Covid-19

Moving On Photo Icon

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

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

Will There Be A V Shaped Recovery?

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

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

McCarthy Holden estate agents sold board

House Viewings Recommence

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

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

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

The House Market / Buyer Attitudes

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

Furthermore, 95% of the sales arranged we had in place at the start of lockdown, continue to remain in place with vendors and purchasers keeping focused on the opportunity to exchange and complete sometime soon.

Emerging Markets

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

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

EMERGING MARKET PHOTO

Re-Opening High Street Branches

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

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

The Weeks Ahead

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

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

John Holden – Chairman

7 Tips for Turning Treasured Photos into Works of Art

photo art

Give walls a new lease of life with creative displays and DIY galleries. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how.

Let’s face it, staring at the same bland four walls every day when you’re holed up at home can really dampen the spirits. So why not wake them up a bit, by displaying some photos and art?

This could be the perfect way to showcase your favourite images (and create an impressive backdrop for all those Zoom and Houseparty sessions), plus it’ll help keep the space fresh and interesting during self-isolation.

You might not have a Picasso hidden away in the loft, or a stash of prints to hand. But you probably have got loads of brilliant photos stored on your laptop and phone that you could simply print off and frame, or have professionally transformed into works of art.

Wondering where to begin? Here, Clare Moreton, from bespoke photo wall art specialists CEWE Photoworld, shares seven top tips on how to use images to transform your home…

photo art

1. Mix and match

“Get creative by designing a gallery wall that’s eclectic, with a mix of styles, sizes and types of print that will transform any room into a bright, eye-catching space,” says Moreton. “Combine framed photos with typographic prints, currently so on-trend, and maybe art deco-style canvases.

“Avoid a bland and rigid approach,” she adds, “this should be free-flow to suit your taste, so use a mixture of colours and patterns.”

PICTURE THIS: There are no hard-and-fast rules on creating the perfect design. But to give the arrangement cohesion and focus, place your largest item in a central position first, and then add smaller items around it.

By all means, use a spirit level to make sure pictures are level, but in the end trust your eye: dado rails and ceilings, especially in older properties, are not always level.

photo art

2. Lean on me

“There’s no reason to think you need to hang all of your artwork in order for it to look great on display,” says Moreton.

“It may not be possible anyway, if you live in a rented property and there are restrictions on what you can do. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a gallery.

“Make the most of your fireplace, units and shelves by simply stacking and leaning your prints and framed photographs on them. It’s an arty and simple way to introduce colour and design to your home and you can simply refresh the look by introducing new pieces whenever you want.”

PICTURE THIS: Choose frames carefully and it will pay dividends visually. They don’t have to be pricey – you can paint old frames with spray paint or chalk paint to get the look you want.

photo art

3. Natural perspective

“If you’re craving the great outdoors in these difficult times, and who isn’t, create a corner in your room inspired by the natural world,” suggests Moreton.

“Vertical and horizontal panoramic canvases are a modern and versatile way to introduce colour and style into difficult-to-fill spaces. A mix of close-ups and views will add interest, but keep to a colour theme for the most striking display.”

PICTURE THIS: Don’t hang works of art too high on the wall – a common mistake. The ideal height of the centre of a picture (if there’s no furniture below it) is between about 155-160cm off the ground.’

photo art

4. Seeing double

“There is nothing more stylish and classic than a symmetrical gallery wall,” Moreton enthuses. “Interior decorators often double up – on everything from a pair of chairs or end tables to two floor lamps, on either side of a fireplace or bed. It essentially creates two matching halves and adds up to one visually appealing room.

“To really make your symmetrical gallery wall stand out, choose images that share a common colour theme. Monochrome or sepia always work well,” she suggests.

PICTURE THIS: Choose prints in identical sizes and in matching frames, hang symmetrically and keep an equal amount of space between each photo (around two inches) for a chic and modern take.

photo art

5. Stop and stair!

“Choosing a common theme across your displayed artwork can really help to bring the whole wall together,” Moreton points out.

“It’s also a great way to showcase your unique style and bring focus to something you’re passionate about. It can be anything from nautical paintings for a fresh seaside theme, or a display of photos of your pets alongside prints with your favourite inspirational quotes.”

PICTURE THIS: An arrangement of prints is an easy way to enliven a neglected corner, like a landing or along a stairway. Do bear in mind that if there’s a lot of traffic up and down stairs though, especially children, picture fixings should be secure. It may be necessary to anchor either side of the back of the frame.

photo art

6. Look back in time

“If you have old albums of family photos, this could be the perfect time to sort them out, get them copied and create a montage of your family ‘through the ages’,” says Moreton.

“These photos are special and will evoke a positive emotional response when you see them, putting a smile on your face and allowing you to reminisce over wonderful memories each day.”

PICTURE THIS: Curate images so that you follow a theme, which could be baby pictures from each generation grouped into one frame, or family groups in another.

Alternatively, follow one family member’s pictorial story in a set of single frames. If you’re really creative, insert sections of hand-written letters from family members appropriate to the era between the photos, to further evoke the time.

photo art

7. Window on the world

“It’s got to be armchair travel only for the moment. But displaying photos of your holidays and journeys, whether here or in faraway places, will remind you of happy times and is a truly personal way to decorate a wall,” says Moreton.

PICTURE THIS: Experiment with different styles, textures and tones to bring photos to life. If you’re grouping your own family shots consider placing a professionally shot image of the location you’ve visited at the centre of the arrangement or frame a map of the area to add interest.

CEWE Photoworld creates Classic canvas prints, from £12.99; Framed photo prints, from £19.99; Photo posters, from £2.49, and Aluminium prints, from £17.99. Visit cewe-photoworld.com.

7 Top Tips for Setting up a Home Office

setting up a home office

Suddenly joined the home worker crew? Here's how to get your new workspace set up, says Luke Rix-Standing.

Once the preserve of reclusive novelists, working from home has suddenly gone from occasional to near-universal.

Recent years had already seen a shift towards more remote and flexible working, to be fair – but the coronavirus pandemic has forced countless businesses to set up shop at home.

If you’re totally new to home working, chances are it’s a steep learning curve. Here’s how to stop grieving over the office coffee machine, and make your home workspace feel as productive and positive as possible…

setting up a home office

1. Banish the bedroom

It’s tempting to start working from the comfiest spot in the house – your bed! But this possibly isn’t the healthiest idea.

Conventional commuting marks a clear divide between work and home, and it’s important for both your lifestyle and sanity that the distinction in some way continues. Not everyone has a choice of course, but if it’s remotely possible, do not work where you sleep.

2. Let there be light

Natural light inherently increases your energy, positivity and creativity, and is an essential tool in the battle against cabin fever. Try to position your desk near a window, and experiment with your computer placement so that you aren’t dazzled by screen glare at certain times of day.

Once the natural light fades, keep your workspace illuminated with well-positioned lamps, that will keep the room feeling fresh whatever the time of day. Just imagine having to spend your office hours cooped up in a poky, dimly-lit basement. Horrible.

setting up a home office

3. The personal touch

If you’re used to an office and enjoy heading out to work, working from home can be an irritation – but it’s also a chance to assert creative control. Productivity permitting, you can listen to music, wear whatever uniform you please, and design a workspace that works just for you.

You could opt for the classic family photo on your desk, or (if you’re seeing enough of them at the moment!) a novelty calendar, colourful print, or attractive timepiece. Your desk likely claims the lion’s share of your day, so don’t worry about looting other rooms to make it feel right. All those things Karen the office manager said you weren’t allowed in the real office – now is their time to shine.

setting up a home office

4. Go for green

Whether it’s an open-plan office block or your own front room, workplace wellbeing still matters. It’s been proven time and again that even low-level exposure to greenery provides a mental boost, and you might really be missing your outdoor foliage fix right now.

From spiky little cacti to large-leafed philodendrons, there’s plenty of plants that can spruce up your desk. A trip to the local garden centre is probably off the table for a while but there are lots of options for buying online and having nature delivered direct to your door.

setting up a home office

5. Cut the clutter

Tempted to stock your new home desk to within an inch of its life? Colour-coded binders, a symmetrical splay of pencil pots, a year’s supply of post-its, paperclips and Pritt Sticks, and your favourite coffee mug precariously squeezed in by your keyboard…

Everything runs like clockwork – until you have to takes notes or a phone call, and you find you’re balancing your notepad on your knee. Keep clutter to a minimum and go for ‘less is more’ to keep it calm and functional.

setting up a home office

6. Invest in your chair

Your constant companion as you go about your day, an ergonomically sound chair is among the most important ingredients in any effective workspace – including when you’re at home.

Posture and comfort are important and hunching over your desk for hours on end is a fast-track to back and neck pain. Even for the most tight-fisted part of payroll, this is not the place to scrimp.

setting up a home office

7. Optimise your setup

However, even the best chair in the world won’t save your spine if your tech isn’t set up properly. Remember that the top of your computer screen should be roughly level with your eye-line. If your desk is too short, or your screen too small, use a box or stack of books to lift your machine to the right height, and use a separate keyboard for a laptop so you’re not gazing downwards all day.

Every home worker runs the risk of claustrophobia, so retaining a little floor space to pace or stretch could be godsend by the end of a long week. Finally, the one thing your office is useless without – connectivity. If there are any known WiFi blind spots in your home, avoid them like the plague.

House Market Comment During Covid-19 Lockdown

covid-new-heading-item-news-page

Insight from last week

A week on from Covid-19 lockdown, and we are starting to get used to living and working in a very different way with some success, a lot of challenges and the unexpected.

We temporarily closed our branches last Monday evening as part of the lockdown process going on throughout the U.K. Right up to that day the market was fairly busy with last minute viewings, during which we conducted the systems of safe distance, latex gloves etc. which we had introduces weeks prior to the lockdown.

In the last week there were many practical issues, such as the six house sales completions on the day the Government suggested house moves be deferred. All six went ahead, because it was just too late to stand down and three of the transactions were in fact to empty properties. On the lettings front, we had different challenges such as it being virtually impossible to get independent inventory inspectors to attend tenancy check in and check out. Many tenants are now opting to extend their existing leases.

House Move Timing

Only three existing house sales fell through, and in each case there was an elderly persons on either the vendor or purchaser side. In such circumstances it wasn’t surprising and bearing in mind the hundreds of house sales we handle at any given time, the loss of three was minimal in context.

In fact, in the vast majority of house sale cases both parties are simply proceeding to exchange and agreeing a late completion date, which in some cases is capable of being brought forward by the parties agreeing a 28 days notice. So, most existing sales are managing along these lines.

McCarthy Holden estate agents sold board

What about creating new house sales?

Creating new house sale is not so easy, with the ability to do in-person viewings now removed. What is happening instead is that buyers are continuing to show keen interest, and simply asking to be place on a viewing list for when the in-person viewings are capable of being undertaken again.

Inventive solutions by our vendors

The biggest surprise this week, was in the form of many clients asking if we could produce video content of their property if they sent us video clips and still photographs.

McCarthy Holden is well known for using video to showcase properties for sale, so our wonderful customers decide to put their spin on this endeavour and suggested a collaborative approach.

Vendors send us the video clips. and then with some editing help from johnjoe.co.uk a promotional video tour is created.

Check out this first creation below from one of our wonderful clients in Fleet, Hampshire who is selling this house which is guided at £750,000.

Now this first collaborative video is a little too long, but the home owner is such an engaging person and so at ease with talking to camera we have run with most of her content.

We are now issuing guidelines to our video focused vendors, which includes the specification of 1920 x 1080 size and MP4 output. The ideal duration for a full property video tour online is 4 minutes. This means the file size is suitable for quick streaming online and also, it is at the maximum time a potential buyer is likely to watch a video.

We also supply links to a some recent videos produced by johnjoe.co.uk which might help vendors plan for capturing some content at home.

Teaser short video – https://vimeo.com/392560182
Normal full length – https://vimeo.com/390207931
Normal full length (just agreed a sale last week 1,300 views of video) – https://vimeo.com/356168136

We look forward to many of these collaborative home grown marketing initiatives in the weeks ahead.

We will keep our customers in touch with market conditions and news through our newsletter, which is free to subscribe to.

We wish you a safe week ahead.

John Holden

Chairman and Managing Director – McCarthy Holden

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