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.

Instant Customer Reviews at Odiham New Homes Event

Castlebrook North Farnborough McCarthy Holden Estate Agents

New T A Fisher Homes At Castlebrook

The preview event at Castlebrook this weekend was really successful, with visitors / house buyers giving their immediate reviews to camera.

We enjoyed helping T A Fisher at the preview event of their new homes at Castlebrook in North Warnborough Hampshire this weekend, with visitors / house buyers giving their immediate reviews to camera.

Contact McCarthy Holden on 01256 704851 about the next open day event at Castlebrook in North Warnborough Hampshire.

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

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

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.”

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

Summer Bedroom Bliss: 10 Cool and Stylish Updates to Snap up Right Now

summer bedroom style

Has the heatwave inspired a bedroom refresh? Sam Wylie-Harris hits the shops.

Just like our summer wardrobes, how you dress the bedroom can make a world of difference to how you feel when the sun’s shining.

And with the current heatwave, this is even more relevant – a bedroom that’s too hot and steamy (read: stuffy and sweaty) won’t do your sleep patterns any favours, resulting in a serious case of morning grouch.

But preen the pillows, buff the bed, lighten the load with a summer duvet somewhere in the region of a 4.5 tog, scent surround (we love The White Company’s Blanc collection) and hey presto, the bedroom becomes a dreamy summer haven.

Especially if you style it up with crisp linens, clean lines and a wash of colour, or brights teamed with tropical themed decos. Style your summer bedroom just right, and you’ll wake up holiday-ready without the need for a getaway…

summer bedroom style

1. Savoy Bed Linen Collection, from £20-£140, The White Company

Keeping it fabulously soft and smooth with a 400-thread-count feelgood factor, loosely tuck yourself into this 100% Egyptian cotton percale bed linen and you’ll feel like you’re on an endless luxurious escape.

summer bedroom style

2. A by Amara Bohemian 300 Thread Count Duvet Cover – Super King, currently reduced to £25.50 from £85 (includes Oxford Pillowcase Pair), Amara

If you really want to hit the refresh button and feel free-spirited, playing with boho-chic blues in an eye-catching Moroccan tile print against a carved Moroccan style bedhead is an easy update. As Sam Hood, co-founder and creative director, Amara, points out: “To make your bedroom feel as bright as possible for the summer season, start with your bed. A fresh set of bed linen not only feels amazing to slide into but it can breathe new life into your bedroom style.”

Note: A strategically placed vintage style mirror will catch beams of light.

.

summer bedroom style

3. A by Amara 500 Thread Count Sateen Duvet Cover – White – Double, £80, and matching Pillowcase Pair, £40; Grid Crochet Cushions, £40 each; Multi Circle Print Cushion – Green/Pink, reduced to £40 from £50, crochet throw and accessories from a selection, Amara

White with a pop of colours feels bright and fresh, and craftwork is a really thing this summer, with woven wonders now far more than a basket or espadrille staple – think cushions, rugs, basket boxes and hanging planters.

summer bedroom style

4. MW By Matthew Williamson – Turquoise Bead Embellished Cushion, £26; Orange Velvet Patchwork Cushion, £35; Yellow Pineapple Embroidered Tassel Throw, £100, Butterfly Home by Matthew Williamson – Multicoloured Floral Embroidered Cushion, £40, Debenhams

The flip-side of calming neutrals, rich velvets embellished with sequins, handcrafted trims and tassels can be just as dreamy as beige and ivory – especially with an undertone of gold adding a touch of shimmer to tropical themes.

summer bedroom style

5. Exotic Palm Printed Bedding Set, from £17.50-£29.50, Marks & Spencer

Anything beginning with ‘palm’ usually emanates luxury, or exotic, far-flung destinations and a sun-lounger under the shade of a swaying tree.

Luckily, this leafy jungle palm print isn’t a summer sellout (yet). Within a shake of the sheet, you can almost feel the sand beneath your feet.

summer bedroom style

6. Yellow Full-Height Shutters, from £168 per m2, California Shutters (Bedding, stylist’s own)

“During summer, some bedrooms – particularly south-facing ones – become uncomfortably hot because of the light that streams through all day. Shutters can block this (at times harmful) sunlight, allowing the room to cool,” says Chrissie Harper, customer experience manager, California Shutters.

“In addition to the benefit of temperature control, shutters are also the ideal solution for balancing light and privacy in rooms, where comfort and wellbeing are a must.”

And while buttercup yellow seems perfect right now, this bright hue is not just a summer fling. Think of these as an investment piece that can be fashioned as saffron yellow come the autumn.

summer bedroom style

7. Oslo Blush Bed Linen – King Size Duvet, £185; Set of Two Pillowcases, £45, Graham & Green

Our rose love affair shows no sign of dwindling, whether it’s the sweep of rosy blush on our cheeks, an up-to-the-minute pink pout, or feeling girly in peony. So why not a wash of rose in cool linen for the bedroom, for a bed that feels as fresh as that next glass of Provencal pink?

summer bedroom style

8. Volieres Medium Bird Cage Pendant, £499, Graham & Green

And to crown the bed, we love this whimsy chandelier with decorative birds made from real feathers which have been ethically sourced. Handmade and a unique flight of fancy, each chandelier comes with its own assortment of birds and you can almost hear their tranquil birdsong.

summer bedroom style

9. Porto Ruffle Linen Cushions, £60 each, Graham & Green

Ruffles were among the top 10 fashion trends for 2019, and while we’re working the ruffle-trimmed, tiered dress look, why not use flouncy ruffles as a building block on the bed too? They add interest visually, plus when the heat is on, washed linen is the coolest option.

.

summer bedroom style

10. Slumberdown Support Pillow – 2 Pack, £14, Argos

With the ‘secret to a good night’s sleep’ a hot topic on balmy nights, a support pillow could be just the ticket. With maximum support for the head and neck, these are designed to hold your head at just the right position to encourage your spine to be well aligned as you lie down, and help reduce everyday aches and pains.

Seek and Hide: 6 Storage Solutions to keep You and Your Rooms Cool and Calm this Summer

summer storage solutions

Don't want to just chuck away all that clutter? Gabrielle Fagan reveals simple ways to get it out of sight.

If you’re feeling hot and bothered this summer, it may not just be the weather.

Look around your home – if it’s overflowing with clutter, and every corner and surface seems to be a magnet for bits and bobs that should be sorted but never are (the school holidays could make it a whole lot worse), this is probably contributing to those raised stress levels.

The good news is, to tackle this oh-so common scenario, you don’t have to turn yourself into a dedicated disciple of ‘Queen of Clutter’ Marie Kondo and rid yourself of every possession you’ve ever owned.

Instead, it’s time to play ‘seek and hide’. This new decor game simply involves hunting down all the ‘stuff’ you want but don’t need to stare at (or stress over) all the time, and then using clever storage solutions to hold, hide, or disguise it.

Check out six smart seek-and-hide solutions, so you can enjoy a cool, relaxing season…

summer storage solutions

1. Step into calm

As a hallway’s the first port of call when you get home, having to squeeze your way past a chaotic collection of coats and tripping over shoes and kit every day certainly won’t make you feel zen.

Slim down that coat rack: Keep out only what’s suitable for the season and store away heavy winter coats and jackets. Check out Lakeland’s brilliant clothes storage solutions including a Vacuum Clothes & Duvet Storage Tote Bag (87L Jumbo), £16.99.

Keep shoes on a rack and label drawers on a storage chest (Polaroid pictures work well for younger children), so everyone knows exactly what goes where to encourage order rather than dumping.

2. Make a screen star

If you’ve ever felt panic at unexpected visitors suddenly arriving and seeing mess everywhere, a screen is the perfect fast cover-up solution.

These can be easily moved around to hide ‘clutter spots’, as they’re brilliant for masking a cluttered corner or untidy collection of clothes, and crucially can be folded away when not in use.

They can also work as flexible room dividers, allowing an open-plan space to be used for a multitude of purposes. Another bonus: They’re a great way to introduce texture, colour and pattern to a room and you can also use them for display, maybe as picture board for family photos.

summer storage solutions

3. Sit and store

Multi-tasking seats with hidden compartments can be just the solution to get clutter off the floor. They could be the perfect home for magazines, toys, or all that debris that seems to accumulate on the top of a coffee table. Simply lift the lid, sweep away and store! A coffee table which incorporates storage is another way of keeping its top clear and tidy.

Dress windows simply with blinds – less bulky than curtains – and choose a neutral shade or white to make a room feel more spacious and airy. Sweet Dreams Placid Roller Blind, from £21.96, English Blinds.

summer storage solutions

4. Sideboards of style

Designers are proving that while storage is necessary it certainly needn’t be dull, by creating pieces which are practical and also sleek and stylish. Sideboards can soak up a huge amount of possessions.

summer storage solutions

5. Sweet dreams storage

A calm, serene space for sleeping is essential, so that you relax and rest well. A headboard with storage is genius because it allows you to keep distracting clutter tucked out of sight, and can be a boon if you’re tight for space and haven’t got enough room for bedside tables.

Under-bed storage drawers can also be super-handy for stowing away bedding or out-of-season clothes that you don’t need to access for a while.

summer storage solutions

6. Magic makeover

Turn that rush to get ready into a pleasure by bringing order to make-up (sort it out first and discard anything more than a year old, which is probably past its use-by date) and jewellery.

7 Bright Design Tricks to Maximise Light in Your Home

brighten your home

From curtains to decluttering and mirrored furniture, Luke Rix-Standing reveals nifty ways to give any home that dreamy light and airy feel.

Ask any interior designer: Light is one of – if not the – most important consideration in the layout of a home.

Quite apart from being essential (cooking in the dark is not advised), light provides the framework for a home’s aesthetic, and the foundation for its – to use a technical term – ambience.

It doesn’t matter how well you’ve feng shui-ed your cellar – if it’s lit by a single, flickering bulb, it’s still going to feel like the set of a horror movie.

Here’s how to make your home the brightest and best it can be, from streaming sunbeams to energy-saving LEDs…

brighten your home

Make a proper plan

Most people know that when it comes to light sources, more is usually merrier. But the result is that homeowners load up expensive fixings without taking care of even the simplest practical alterations.

For immediate improvement, a short recce goes a long way: Look at the location of your windows, what they’re illuminating, and what you want them to illuminate. Take a note of where the sun comes from in each part of the day, and if any rooms seem particularly drab and gloomy.

With your stock-take complete, move furniture that might be blocking a window’s view, and clear out cluttered windowsills. If you have several electric lights covering a space usually bathed in sunshine, rejig your room rather than spending a fortune adding to it.

Consider moving obstacles outside your home too. If your climbing hydrangea has launched a hostile takeover against your windowpanes, it’s time to call in the garden shears.

brighten your home

90% light, 10% dark

Assuming that you do, in fact, have windows, your next key point should be colour. Pure white surfaces can feel a little cold, but off-white or light cream is a shoo-in for walls and ceilings when cultivating a brighter feel.

Soft hues absorb far less light than dark ones, and for the most radiant rooms you should look beyond the masonry. Consider pastel-coloured cupboards, pale wood furniture, or light-hued decorations. There’s nothing wrong with a black leather sofa, or some statement, patterned wallpaper, but they won’t necessarily help your rooms retain light.

Aesthetically, many designers opt to add in darker trimmings. Cushions, knick-knacks and other smaller furnishings look great in dark grey or navy, and provide contrast without significantly sacrificing light.

brighten your home

Lots of mirrors

If you’re looking to increase your intake of natural light, mirrors are perhaps the most literal way of doing so. They reflect light that would otherwise be absorbed into the wall, and hanging one opposite a window sends daylight bouncing round the room.

Wall-mounted mirrors are a go-to for grooming as much as for decor, and fashion-conscious bedrooms often boast something free-standing and full-length. Next level homeowners could employ mirrored furniture – mirrored tables, mirrored wardrobes, even a mirrored chest of drawers.

Large mirrors give the illusion of a much larger, lighter space, and if the room feels bright and breezy, so too will its reflection.

brighten your home

Window dressing

Your windows are your main allies in your fight for light, so you’d be wise to give them plenty of tender loving care.

Blinds are a good bet for a light-heavy home, leaving the window entirely exposed when open and creating lovely lines of light when down. They can’t produce blackouts, so are less advisable in the bedroom of a light sleeper.

Light linen or cotton curtains are similarly appropriate – and can be hung in layers to more closely control the flow of light. Heavier, thicker fabrics like velvets and brocades are generally more accustomed to blocking light, while wide-slat shutters are flexible and channel a Mediterranean feel.

brighten your home

The lighting of the lamps

Natural light tends to gobble up the headlines, but artificial light is where the buck stops.

Let’s divide it into three stylistic varieties. Ambient lighting diffuses evenly through a room, and is usually the starting point for a larger scheme. Think ceiling lights, perhaps integrated with lamps on floors or tables.

Naturally, ambient lighting isn’t strong on contrast, so try some accent lighting to help instil separation. Accent lighting is brighter and much more directional, ensuring centrepieces like dining room tables get the focus they deserve.

Make sure these lights are not so concentrated that they behave like spotlights. You don’t want to channel a the sort of aggressive glare normally reserved for police interrogation rooms.

Finally, consider task lighting – very strong light sources marshalled for specific purposes. Think downward-facing desk lamps that can illuminate a keyboard clear as day, or a row of bulbs as floodlights for a worktop. There’s no point illuminating the corridor with pixel-perfect high-def, if your closet is so dimly-lit all your darker clothes merge into one.

Keep these principles in mind when allotting wattage in your home, and where possible try before you buy. Road-test bulb brightness, or better yet employ a dimmer switch.

brighten your home

Wash your walls

No, not with soapy water – in this context washing your wall means to splash light across a surface, creating the illusion that the whole room is aglow.

Consider vertical light fixings, that send a warm light upwards and downwards, creating a sheet-like glow across a wall. It’s better to bathe an area with one effective light source than pepper it with unattractive fixings.

brighten your home

Structural changes

For those with the time, inclination and, most of all, the money, there are plenty of home improvements that can turn dingy dungeon to gleaming greenhouse. Some are obvious – more and bigger windows, glass patio doors and so on – but others are slightly less intuitive.

Skylights are an oft-neglected sub-genre of window – the light comes straight from source and can often spread across an entire floor space.

Thick-set, dark-coloured doors can keep natural light from reaching the heart of your home, so consider glass panelling even on doors that don’t open into the air. Next-level homeowners can go one better by embracing a more open-plan layout throughout their dwelling.

Though not traditionally a light-emitting surface, even the floor can play its part. Opting for polished, well-finished hardwood, ceramic or stone can keep light ricocheting off your interiors like an underfoot mirror.

3 Themes for Al Fresco Feasting: Love Island, Festival and Country Cool

al fresco dining

Little beats a lingering outdoor meal in summer. Gabrielle Fagan reveals three ways for setting the scene in style. There's something about eating outdoors. A generous helping of fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine can magically make even the simplest meal taste delicious.

al fresco dining

That’s all to the good, because summer’s no time to be slaving over a hot stove indoors – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a little time and trouble over the table.

By giving a setting a real sense of occasion, maybe opting for a theme, you’ll not only make it memorable but you could ramp up the fun – a few drinks could turn into a party and a supper into a celebration.

“Having lunch and supper parties outside is one of the real joys of summer,” enthuses interior designer, Joanna Wood. “I really like using unusual nature-inspired dishes in the shapes of leaves, and I like to work to a theme and pick a different one each year.”

This year she’s creating her own ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ al fresco setting, to give a patio area a theatrical touch. “A theme allows you to be creative and you can incorporate flowers, candles and maybe floating flower heads with tea lights for evening parties,” she says. “It’s all about a bit of imagination and planning that will result in something you can enjoy for the whole season.”

So turn the tables on dull dining and instead experiment with one of these three themes: Love Island style, a fun festival vibe, or a little slice of calm with country cool…

al fresco dining

Dine like a Love Islander

If you envy those fit reality TV show residents in their sun-drenched Mallorcan villa, create your own sizzling Mediterranean hotspot. It could be perfect for leisurely meals and chilling (romancing optional!).

Group potted palms, ferns and other tall foliage around simple seating. Low benches or boxes made comfy with foam rectangles wrapped in bright fabric will do nicely. Finally, inject another zip of sunshine colour with outdoor rugs and cushions. Then sit back and enjoy the banter!

Mix a decor cocktail and pick up on Love Island style with slogans and beach style accessories – pool blue and flamingo pink rules!

al fresco dining

Go full-on festival

Festival season’s arrived. No tickets – no problem! Simply give a table setting a boho, laid-back vibe, turn on the sound system, and have your own personal ‘feastival’ – without the mud, wellies or sagging tents.

This look i all about personality – pops of colour, mismatched china, and lots of freshly cut flowers and foliage. Don’t take it too seriously – there’s no room for formality here – just give it a bit of hippy-dippy character that makes it kick-off-your-shoes relaxing.

Feel free to pile on the paper lanterns and garlands – use solar lights for when the sun’s gone down – and add jewel-coloured glassware for a dash of glamour.

John Lewis is a brilliant destination for homeware that will ramp up al fresco style, including a brilliant range of tableware and furniture. Their Croft Collection Garden Dining Table Bench, £220, is ideal, while a Camden Garden Bistro Table and Chairs Set is currently reduced to £63 from £79. A Sol Pouffe – Multi, £120, makes a great finishing touch.

al fresco dining

Conjure country cool

The beauty of a rustic scene is its simplicity. All that’s needed are a wooden table and chairs, a linen runner and napkins, and plenty of lanterns and candles. Don’t forget to cater for chilly nights by putting a throw or a blanket on each chair.

“I live on a farm in the glorious West Country, so I really enjoy the chance to make the most of time outdoors with friends and family. And come the summer months, there is nothing I love more than a picnic or eating al fresco,” says Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine (lizearlewellbeing.com).

“Picnics and meals outdoors are a great way of enjoying the great outdoors and making the most of nature’s beauty, but they don’t just have to be daytime affairs. There’s nothing nicer than lingering over a meal on a sultry evening and pretty lighting will transform a setting.”

Battery operated tea lights, which will twinkle into the night, are a pretty and safe way to add enchantment, Earle says.

“Perch them atop jam jars or logs to give them a bit more height, or use them in hanging glass lanterns above a table to turn it into a focal point,” she suggests.

The closer you get to echoing your indoor taste outside in your garden ‘room’, the more successful the result will be. Opt for accessories that would look just as good in a living room as on a terrace.

al fresco dining

9 Expert Tips to Transform Your Greenhouse from Messy Junkyard to Rustic Retreat

updating your glam greenhouse

Hannah Stephenson reveals how to banish the greenhouse clutter and create a horticultural haven instead. If you're tripping over compost bags, battling with broken pots and spent seed trays and can't find a tool in sight, your greenhouse may be in need of a serious makeover.

updating your glam greenhouse

Smart gardeners can create a space that’s not only useful for growing plants but acts as an extension of their home – a stylish, comfortable bolthole through the warmer months and beyond, with the help of a little furniture, cushions, wall art and some nifty tidying accessories.

Where to start with your makeover? Follow this greenhouse guide for inspiration, including tips from garden styling pros and Richard Baggaley, director of The Greenhouse People (greenhousepeople.co.uk)…

updating your glam greenhouse

1. Create a potting corner

To prevent clutter in your greenhouse, carefully plan your layout and segment the space into purposeful areas. Create a potting corner next to where you grow your fruit and vegetables to make planting more efficient and to save space.

This area needn’t be dull. Place seed packets in a brightly coloured tin to store them safely and add a pop of colour to your greenhouse. Rather than leaving tools in a chaotic heap, a row of hooks will keep everything off the floor and neatly stored.

updating your glam greenhouse

2. Be bold with plant choice

The greenhouse needn’t just be a space to nurture seedlings. Exotic and tender plants will thrive in the warm environment and brighten up the space.

Fill your greenhouse with a range of desert and succulent plants like cactus, agave and crassula. These easy-care plants flourish inside a greenhouse and are very on-trend.

If botany is more your style, orchids are among the most beautiful and exotic greenhouse plants. They require a high level of humidity though, so store your misting bottle nearby to keep your orchid healthy.

Tom Barry, managing director of Hartley Botanic (hartley-botanic.co.uk), adds: “Architectural tropical and subtropical species are still very popular with both homeowners and gardeners alike.

“These plants look dramatic and add height within a greenhouse which works well when combined with bench-level succulents and cacti. For colour, and to add an exotic look, orchids in pretty ‘sweet shop’ colours can be grown in individual pots.”

updating your glam greenhouse

3. Create a cosy nook

Acclaimed author and botanical stylist Selina Lake (Selinalake.co.uk), who styled for Alitex (Alitex.co.uk) at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, suggests you update tired items such as old chairs, metal furniture or plant pots by adding a pop of colour with paints. A simple bench can be turned into a sumptuous day bed with a mass of comfy cushions.

updating your glam greenhouse

4. Use insect designs

Entomology, or the study of insects, is the new botanical trend, adds Lake. Get the look by having a go at drawing bugs on greenhouse windows using a chalk pen.

Add prints and posters in frames or clipped to bare walls and use a wire washing line for another display.

updating your glam greenhouse

5. Go for a natural look

‘Upcycling’ is the word on everyone’s lips – and for a good reason. With items sourced from second-hand shops, or even junkyards, it’s easy to go boho on a budget. Simple changes like a lick of paint on wooden furniture or changing the handles on drawers can have a huge impact, says Baggaley.

In line with environmental issues, forgo plastic items for furniture and accessories made from natural materials such as metals, rattan and bamboo.

updating your glam greenhouse

6. Find space to sit

Baggaley advises: “Add comfort to your glass-walled structure with seating and soft furnishings. Textiles will instantly soften the space and make it feel inviting.

“Be aware that these will fade under the concentrated sunlight, so shop for items with a vintage-inspired design or are second hand to accomplish the shabby-chic look.”

updating your glam greenhouse

7. Make use of mirrors

Add mirrors inside your greenhouse to reflect light and the sight of your beautiful plants, Baggaley says. Careful placement will give the illusion of more space but do consider what it will be reflecting. Try to reflect the leafy interest in your greenhouse, rather than watering cans or plastic pots.

updating your glam greenhouse

8. Use your greenhouse as a gallery

To add further interiors-inspired touches to your greenhouse, wall art is a great option to make the space ooze personality and feel more like a home.

Get creative and create your own works of art to display. You could decorate a canvas with cuttings from garden magazines, known in the art world as ‘decoupage’, for garden inspiration as well as decoration.

updating your glam greenhouse

9. Create a herb haven

Drying herbs in a greenhouse is ideal as they dry quickly under the concentrated sunlight, add scent to the space, and look decorative.

Lavender, sage and thyme retain their fragrance when dried – just try to keep them out of direct sun. They dry quickly, so check periodically and package for storage as soon as they are crisp.