Colour Pop: 11 Ways to be Inspired by Brights and Bolds

If you don't want to play it safe, aren't afraid to tread boldly, and have taken a shine to making a spring statement, then you're bang up to date with the current trend for blending deep, decadent shades with bolds and brights.

Designers love to keep us on our toes – and, as Donna Taylor, PPG colour expert and principal technical colour, says: “This year is all about embracing colour and inspiring people to use it in unique ways, whether that’s through pairing bolds with sophisticated neutrals, or being clever with palettes and design features to make the most of different spaces.”

To give you a head start on using colour with confidence, the colour stylists at Johnstone’s paint have launched three new palettes to inspire consumers to introduce bright and daring schemes – but for maximum impact, they cite the ‘feature wall’ as the biggest trend for 2019, with statement colours getting ever more popular.

Elsewhere, just as we’re finally heading towards the brighter seasons, shops are welcoming in joyful shades too.

For inspiration, check out these 11 bold buys…

2019 bright and bold

1. Johnstone’s 304028 2.5L Matt Emulsion Paint – Passion Pink, £14.99, Amazon

“The main intention of a feature wall in a room is to create a focal point and add interest to the space. To achieve this, the colour needs to be striking enough to draw the eye to it. Using bold colours will help to create impact or drama, using vibrant colours can give a sense of freshness to the space,” says Taylor.

“Bold feature walls should not be used in small spaces, as this will shrink the area further. It’s advised that pastel colours would work better on all walls and bold colours introduced as artwork, accessories and soft furnishings instead.”

2019 bright and bold

2. Coloured Shot Glasses – Set of Six, £22, Oliver Bonas

To keep it fresh and bring something new to the table – or drinks trolley – these colourful shot glasses can be used to serve cocktails alongside sweet desserts for a sense of fun.

2019 bright and bold

3. Motorised Capital Roller Blind Collection: Blinds, from £109, and Dream Motor, from £153 (operated by a DreamHub, £189), for information and stockists, visit apollo-blinds.co.uk.

With so much colour being showcased, you’ll want to keep the light flooding in. Along with being semi translucent, Apollo Blinds’ Camden range has an exceptionally wide colour palette (66 options), so there’s no excuse when it comes to hunting down your sock-it-to-me must-have shade.

2019 bright and bold

4. A by Amara Grid Crochet Cushion – Pink, £40, Amara

Who would have thought crochet could be cool again? The arts and craft movement is in full swing, and this bubble-gum pink cushion should inspire some creativity.

2019 bright and bold

5. Clarissa Hulse Angeliki Fabric – Sunset, £103 per metre, Cushions from £40, clarissahulse.com

Brooding blues and moody mauves work to spectacular effect when they collide with swathes of lustrous cotton/silk curtains with botanical designs, to mirror more exotic climes. To be even more inventive, mix brights with brights and don’t be afraid to clash colours.

2019 bright and bold

6. Broste Copenhagen Alrik Vase/Tealight Holder – Blue/Smoke Pine, £15, Amara

Having set the tone with your pot of paint, vibrant decos and flea-market finds, tealights in colourful candle-holders are an essential buy to show off those brush strokes and make inky walls look even more dramatic.

2019 bright and bold

7. Lava Lamps, £77 each, grahamandgreen.co.uk

A Sixties icon, and great investment piece, lava lamps are trending once more (did they ever really go out of fashion?). For maximum effect, more is more, especially when you can play swirls of bright bubbles in perpetual motion against existing stony neutrals. These from Graham & Green are available in four ‘groovy’ colours.

2019 bright and bold

8. Miami Collection Navy Blue Classic Velvet Sofa, from £1,695, Neon Box Sign, from £95 (other decos from a selection), grahamandgreen.co.uk

Inspired by ‘stylish Palm Beach hideouts’, this three-seater sofa with left chaise and middle element makes a great building block if you want to fast-track to a funky resort lifestyle, coupled with some kitsch accessories. Come summer, go for a glam, boho chic vibe, with pom-pom cushions, textured light fittings and vintage seashell accessories.

2019 bright and bold

9. Sara Miller London Portmeirion Chelsea Collection Cake Plates – Set of 4, £42.50, portmeirion.co.uk

Pretty as a picture, we think these decorative birds in flight would look brilliant hanging on a statement wall. Check out Pinterest for inspiration as to how to group them together.

2019 bright and bold

10. Brighton Sofa – Plush Velvet Peony, from £875 (available from late-Feb), Darlings of Chelsea

For a sense of drama, a plush velvet sofa will bring richness to any room, especially when it’s styled against that all-important dark wall. And if you can’t bear to part with a restful palette, simple dark accessories in natural materials will complement that pop of colour.

2019 bright and bold

11. Make Your Own Neon Light, £15, Oliver Bonas

If you don’t want to hang a lot of pictures on the wall, but fancy putting your name (or a message) in lights, what’s not to love about playing around with three metres of flexi wire to make your own neon sign…

Property For Sale Early Preview

We’ve rushed to get this short video preview available to view today, which means our house buyers can have an exclusive preview before the property goes to the open market in the Spring / Summer.

  • Grounds of almost 4 acres (yet to be checked)
  • Vast Kitchen / Family room
  • Around 4,500 sq. ft. of space

Located in sought after Long Sutton in Hampshire, the estimated guide price is £2.0m. and further details are available from our Odiham branch – telephone 01256 704851

Luxury Contemporary Property For Sale Preview

This is a property preview of a truly stunning detached New England style home occupying a mature plot measuring approximately 0.6 of an acre, in the heart of wonderful countryside in the charming hamlet of Hazeley Lea, just three miles north of Hartley Wintney.

Take a look at the preview video above and be impressed with the breathtaking high specification space.

New to the market - Guide £2,150,000

The luxurious accommodation is arranged over three floors, providing around 4,500 sq. ft. of exquisite space, including a vast high specification kitchen/breakfast/family room by Evie Willow. In addition to the comprehensive range of fitted units and a central island with seating, wall to wall bi-folding doors open to the Southerly rear garden and bar/terrace area and swimming pool.

luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
Luxury Evie Willow Kitchen / Family Room

Further ground floor accommodation includes a fine reception hall, triple aspect sitting room with log burner, home office, play room, utility room, cloakroom and a bedroom with en-suite bathroom / wet room shower

reception hall property for sale
A fine reception hall

There are six bedrooms in total, and the sweeping staircase leads to the first floor with the master bedroom and three further double bedrooms, all with fitted storage and en-suites. On entering the master bedroom suite there is a stunning bespoke Evie Willow dressing room, a superb en-suite bathroom / shower room and a vast bedroom space.

vast master bedroom property for sale
The vast master bedroom
en-suite dressing room to master bedroom by Evie Willow
The luxury Evie Willow en-suite dressing room to the master bedroom
en-suite to master bedroom property for sale
Luxury en-suite bathroom and shower room to master bedroom

The second floor features a further bedroom with en-suite bathroom and an additional room which could be used as a games/cinema room or bedroom.

Guest bedroom property for sale
Superb Guest bedroom suite
en-suite to guest bedroom property for sale
En-suite to above bedroom

The south facing rear garden is mainly laid to lawn and flanked by trees. Immediately to the rear of the property is a large patio area which leads to a heated outdoor swimming pool which is run by air source heat pumps. To the front is a gravel driveway with parking for several vehicles leading to a double carport with wood store and storage shed.

swimming pool property for sale
Heathed swimming pool

Further features include underfloor heating to the ground and first floor, Cat 5 cabling and a Sonos speaker system. There is active planning permission in place for further extension works to include an indoor swimming pool or space for gym/studio.

Located around thirty five miles from central London, the property is particularly well placed for the commuter, with both the M3 (j4a 6 miles) and M4 (j. 11 9 miles) motorways within easy reach providing easy access to the Thames Valley corridor and motorway networks.

Mainline stations at Winchfield (about 6 miles), Reading, Basingstoke, Hook and Fleet provide fast and regular rail services to London Paddington or Waterloo. Heathrow Airport is about 35 miles and Farnborough Airport is about 12 miles distant. All distances and times are approximate.

For further details telephone 01252 620640.

Check out how video can enhance a property sale or let.

7 simple steps for creating a stylish – and productive work space at home

A work station that suits your taste and needs will surely help bolster motivation and focus. Time to show who's boss, says Gabrielle Fagan.

Working from home can be the ultimate dream ticket – no more commuting or having to dress formally, or worry about office politics – and even better, you get to escape all that dreary corporate decor.

“Cutting down on wasteful travelling time, enabling you to spend more time with the family, is just some of the many benefits to home-working, and it can be particularly beneficial from a health and wellbeing perspective,” enthuses Susan White, marketing director at blinds and curtains specialists, Hillarys.

If you’re set to join the millions who work from home, look on it as the perfect chance to tailor a space to suit your taste and needs.

We’ve done the homework for you and devised seven simple but stylish steps, so you can make light work of creating the perfect home office…

stylish working at home decor

1. Make it personal

At home, you’re the boss, and you can truly indulge your taste and have the freedom to express your personality in the decoration of your ‘office’.

In an open-plan space, zone an area with a stunning wall mural, or cork tile an expanse of wall so you can pin up inspiring photos or to-do lists.

Alternatively, paint a wall with black chalkboard paint, to transform it into a wipeable surface for scribbling ideas, plans, or simply expressing yourself. (Rust-Oleum Black Magnetic Matt Chalkboard Paint, £14 for 750ml, B&Q, is ideal for the job.)

TIP: If you fancy it, don’t be afraid to incorporate pattern and colour into your office scheme. Research has found that both can actually help keep you creative and stimulated at work. For a perfect balance, keep energetic colours in your periphery, while sticking to a more subdued look for the desk.

2. Pretty up with pink

If you’re after a softer scheme, reduce the risk of workplace stress by choosing a calming colour for a work area. Pink is reputedly a positive colour, inspiring warm, comforting feelings and imparting a sense that everything will be all right – and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

stylish working at home decor

3: Kill the clutter

Keeping a tidy office is crucial to staying on top of things. Organising and filing loose papers means you’ll spend less time searching for them – coping with clutter is a big time-waster.

Filing cabinets, desks with compartments, and accessible floating shelves for file boxes are a good investment. Don’t let a notice board be all to-do lists and bills though, or you won’t ever want to look at it.

TIP: Keep everyday essentials close to hand, so there’ll be less temptation to get up and wander. If you know you’ll need frequent caffeine top-ups, you could even keep a little coffee-maker or kettle near the desk, and a mini-fridge stocked with cold drinks.

4. Carve out a creative corner

“Not everyone has an entire room, or even an entire wall, to dedicate to an office. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a space somewhere in your home, be it a landing, bedroom or corner of a living room, to let your creative juices flow,” says White.

“Whatever you use your home office for – computer work, home and life admin, or crafts and projects – an effective work area demands plenty of light. Equally, you don’t want glare on your screen, so choose your window dressings wisely.

“Shutters and Venetian blinds have adjustable louvres and slats, so you can control the amount of light and are also great for privacy and security,” adds White. “If you’re easily distracted, opt for a sheer roller blind. It’ll still let in plenty of light, but you can pull it down to block out distractions from the outside world when you need to focus.”

TIP: Set clear ground rules for your work space, such as asking family to knock before coming into your office, or respecting quiet time between certain hours. Make this easy, and visual, for young children by using a traffic light system (a green circle on the door means ‘come in’; yellow means ‘ask first’, and red means ‘do not disturb’).

stylish working at home decor

5. Dress the desk

One of the best things about working from home is not being in a stuffy, boring office. So why re-create that at home?

Instead, include pleasing decorative elements, such as a vase full of flowers and colourful storage pots, so you can enjoy the comforts of home all through the working hours.

TIP: Setting priorities is important in an office, and even more so when working from home, as doing so will help you stay on track and not get overwhelmed. Without a boss hovering or work-mates to bounce ideas off, it’s up to you to put your to-do list in order. Use technology to help, with mobile reminders and alerts.

6. Show who’s boss

A shade of dark green, paired with black furniture and office accessories, gives decor a strong visual impact and, crucially, creates a business-like look for an office. This is especially important if clients are going to visit and you want to convey a professional image.

TIP: Never skimp on expense when buying an office chair. After all, you may spend hours sitting on it, and it’s vital that it’s comfortable and fully adjustable so you avoid muscle strain and back pain.

stylish working at home decor

7. Black is back

Sleek, black furniture spells executive style, never dates, and you’ll win compliments for your chic taste.

TIP: A properly lit space is crucial to maintaining your mood, productivity and health. Bad lighting can strain eyes, especially if you’re staring at a bright screen in the dark. Layer light, so you can have clear overhead light if necessary, a decorative table lamp with a warm glow when you’re thinking rather than focusing, and always have an adjustable desk lamp so that paperwork is properly illuminated.

10 of the most popular flooring options – which should you use in your home?

The unsung heroes of every room, Luke Rix-Standing runs through the key pros and cons of some of the most popular flooring materials.

flooring options different ideas

They may not be the latest 3D-printed armchair or voice-activated speaker system, but your floors are, quite literally, the foundation of your home.

A classic blend of fashion and function, a floor must tie a room together while fulfilling a range of – very important – practical requirements too. While aesthetics are a key consideration, in general, flooring should be relatively unobtrusive. It’s the defensive midfielder of home decor: If you don’t notice it, it’s probably doing a good job.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most common options – what they’re good at, and what they’re not…

1. Wood

Summarising wood flooring is like summarising a clothing fabric – there’s a lot of different forms it could take. Oft-neglected softwood floors can work wonders in low-footfall areas, but as the name suggests, they can struggle with the rough and tumble of a busy family home. Most modern wood floors are hardwood – highly coveted surfaces that can also add serious value to a property.

Relatively pricey, prone to scratching and potentially sensitive to moisture, hardwood flooring is nevertheless popular in living areas for its elegant appearance and underfoot warmth. For a tougher, cheaper alternative, try laminate – fibreboard printed with a high-res image of a wooden finish, which these days can look practically as good as the real thing.

flooring options different ideas

2. Tile

For such a popular flooring choice, tile has a long list of drawbacks: It’s relatively difficult to repair if it cracks or gets damaged; the grouting easily accumulates dirt; sock wearers risk slipping; it gets extremely cold in wintertime – and it’s not even that cheap.

But a tough, durable surface makes tile pet-friendly, and most flooring shops offer a near-infinite array of colours and patterns – from Victorian florals to abstract collage – so in terms of aesthetic appeal and style, the possibilities really are endless and tiles can look truly striking. The bathroom surface of choice for generations of homeowners, being easy to clean, tiling also brushes up nicely in the kitchen and pantry.

3. Carpet

A go-to for rooms with soft furnishings, carpet can be both chic and cosy has refreshingly clear pros and cons. The good: It’s warm, insulating, generally cheaper than wood or tile, and can be fashioned into almost any design. The bad: Stains easily, struggles with moisture, traps dust and pet hair, and needs to be replaced when worn down. And while we’re at it, the ‘ugly’: The infamously tasteless carpets at Las Vegas casinos.

Do – bedroom and sitting room. Don’t – bathroom and kitchen.

flooring options different ideas

4. Cork

Cork floors aren’t as common a sight as they perhaps once were – but, honestly, we’re not sure why. Soft to the touch, naturally insulating against sound and temperature, relatively cheap and eco-friendly, the reddish-brown patterns tally particularly well with hardwood furniture. The drawbacks? Fades in direct sunlight, prone to water damage, and may distort under table legs and other pressure points.

5. Vinyl

The IKEA wardrobe of home flooring, this low-cost option is all the rage among practical homeowners with middling budgets. Approachable prices partner with a performance level that reliably returns more than you paid for.

Vinyl looks pretty good (there are lots more design options available now), insulates well, repels water and soaks up high footfall nicely – but it can be prone to fading in sunlight and is easily dented by sharp objects. Vinyl lacks the elegance of hardwood and the comfort of cork or carpet, but it’s a functional surface that will serve you well with some tender loving care.

flooring options different ideas

6. Concrete

Strange though it may seem, this staple of the multi-storey car park is also a creditable option for your front room or kitchen floor. Virtually indestructible, concrete adds a modern, almost post-industrial vibe to the home, and partners well with underfloor heating. But the sturdiness comes at the expense of comfort – it’s really hard – and even well-finished surfaces can look a little bleak. At least you’ll have plenty of excuses to go rug shopping.

7. Rubber

A little left turn, we’ll admit – but this unconventional pick is sure to raise eyebrows, if just from the slight bounce it elicits when stepped on. A highly durable choice, with superb sound insulation.

However, rubber can also be more on the expensive side, and difficult to clean. It’s commonly used for it’s shock-absorbing qualities – think spaces with a high risk of heavy objects being dropped, such as gyms. Rubber is a horse for a course: Perfect for a music room or home gym, and possibly a bold choice for style junkies elsewhere in the house.

flooring options different ideas

8. Stone

Given that most of the world’s rocks have looked after themselves just fine for centuries, it should come as no surprise that a stone floor is supremely hard-wearing and low-maintenance. Literally hewn from the ground, stone tiles are eco-friendly and ideal for high footfall areas like hallways.

On the flip-side, imperfections may result in a surface that’s uneven – literally and stylistically – while a high-ish price tag puts off some buyers. Stone tiles can also be foot-freezingly cold in winter, and for God’s sake don’t drop any plates.

9. Marble

If your domestic vision involves grand banisters, neo-classical columns and high-end toga parties, then marble is a go-to (we jest – it’s an all-round stunning material). But there are cons too… It can chip, costs the earth, and can be dangerously slippy under slippers or socks. Long a linchpin of luxury, a marble floor could well add serious value to a home, but comes with severe cold feet syndrome, and weeks of bruising every time you bump your knee.

10. Bamboo

A relative newcomer to the flooring scene, bamboo has found a growing niche with eco-conscious householders looking to go au naturel. The world’s fastest growing plant (technically a species of oversized grass), bamboo is attractively textured, goes well with modern interiors, and is highly sustainable. Bamboo can be fairly expensive though and will need a little more TLC than some of the hardier materials. Lots of appeal, but be sure to do your research before you buy.

flooring options different ideas

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

Is your home looking a little lacklustre and drab as January drags on? Gabrielle Fagan reveals six easy ways to hit refresh.

January can be a bleak month on all levels – but if your rooms are look as though they’re suffering a bit of a winter hangover, take heart, as there are plenty of bright, new decor trends on the horizon.

You don’t need to rush out and arrange a major revamp – some little touches can be enough to lift a space and provide that all-important refresh.

Here are six decor trends that will make a big impression on rooms this year, and could help banish the blues and take your home from drab to fab in no time…

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

If you want to give a scheme some ‘wow’ factor, look no further than texture. Layering a mixture of soft fabrics – from fluffy sheepskin cushions and chunky wool throws to cowhide rugs – will not only draw the eye, which is essential in a muted scheme decorated in neutrals that could otherwise look bland, but also add cosiness.

Adding texture is all about layering, so have a few key pieces, like a statement rug, a velvet chair, or a leather sofa, and then add smaller accessories and soft furnishings until the room feels complete.

Don’t forget that your scheme need never be ‘set in stone’. Moving or replacing a few texture-rich accessories is an easy way to re-energise and refresh the whole balance of a scheme.

Plunder Next’s spring/summer collection for texture treats. Our favourites include their Knitted Jute Drum Seat, £70 (available Feb), and Mono Berber Rug, £50-£180. The range has lots of touchy-feely cushions too, including an Ethnic Tufted Stripe Cushion, £18; Textured Pom Pom Cushion, £14, and Diamond Geo Cushion, £16.

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

Yellow has crossed over from the fashion catwalks – the colour was big news at the 2019 spring/summer shows – and is predicted to make its mark on our homes.

The colour’s associated with energy and optimism – we could all do with a dose of that this year – and you can easily play with all its hues, from bright daffodil yellow, through to the palest lemon.

This is also a shade that works well in bold contrast, or blended with similar shades and tones – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Another bonus: Pops of yellow will act like beams of sunshine in any room, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

Fringing – think the swishy, flamboyant Charleston dresses of the 1920s – is making a comeback in decor and home styling.

You can interpret it elegantly and traditionally, with upholstery fringing on armchairs and sofas, or go for an ethnic, arty vibe with a colourful tribal wall hanging. However you use it, fringing is fabulous.

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

Natural materials, particularly wood, are essential for today’s stylish homes. It’s all about celebrating the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship – think heirlooms and sustainability – and the unique grain of timber.

Don’t limit yourself to one piece. The chic take on the trend is to choose furniture made in different tones of wood, from pale ash to ebony, and let is share a space. Leave it raw and unstained to reveal the gorgeous imperfections of the knots and grain.

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

Let the warmest shades on the colour spectrum – rust, red and rose – warm your rooms (it’s cheaper than turning up the central heating!).

Our newfound boldness with colour means we’re less timid and more prepared to splash on those bright shades these days – but even used sparingly, these shades will make an impact without being too dominating, especially if you lean towards the brown-based terracotta hues.

Experiment with bed linen and accessories to test your enthusiasm, or paint a headboard or feature wall if you want to make a statement. Seeing red can be positive!

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

Nature’s finding its way into more and more interiors, and flowers, potted plants and succulents – both real and faux – are an easy way to bring natural appeal to rooms.

Displaying bouquets in clear glass vases can have a transformative effect on a space. As a transparent vase displays all of its contents, the possibilities for decorative ideas extend beyond flowers, and you could use them for fruit or collections of beachcomber finds too.

Change the atmosphere with blooms – a fresh cut bunch from a garden will enhance a country/rustic effect, while an elaborate display of exotic blooms makes a luxe touch.

Preview Exquisite Property For Sale Soon

We will be showcasing this exceptional property on the open market soon, but for now some of the feature photographs are shown in this post.

This magnificent country house provides around 8,500 sq. ft. of splendid living space, designed to deliver exceptional standards of quality and style.

Vast reception hall
The vast reception hall

Built entirely out of Bath stone with stone mouldings, sash windows and Romanesque columns, it is clear that when first built every effort was made to choose precisely the right materials befitting this home.

The breathtaking reception hall sets the scene for exploring around 8,500 sq. ft. of superb space and the hall is representative of the quality found throughout this wonderful property. There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

property swimming pool
beautiful grounds

Set in grounds of around 11.5 acres and brushing shoulders with beautiful countryside including the renowned Finchampstead Ridges. Within the park like grounds there is light woodland, landscaped gardens, paddocks and excellent equestrian facilities including a superb stable yard and adjacent sand school.

property equestrian facilities
luxury property in Berkshire

The property is well positioned within its grounds to maximise the southerly aspect, with superb views over the grounds. Vast patios  lead to the external swimming pool, nestling within superb landscaped gardens. Nearby there are extensive areas of unspoilt countryside including Finchampstead Ridges and the National Trust heath and woodland, noted for its fine walks and rides.

Clive Christian kitchen
Clive Christian Kitchen

There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

staff quarters living room
high specification staff quarters

There is a superb guest suite / staff quarters comprising living / dining kitchen area, a fine bedroom with luxury en-suite. There is also a gym/bedroom seven with and en-suite and there is an entertainments room.

photo wellington college
nearby Wellington College

Located about 5 miles to the south west of the charming market town of Wokingham there is excellent schooling in the area including Wellington College which is about a mile distant.

Telephone 01252 842100 for further details.

5 Winning Behaviours Students Need for Academic Success

Getting good grades isn't just about intelligence, it's about using crucial study approaches. Two education experts tell Lisa Salmon more.

tips for academic success

With the festive season over, it’s time for many young people to focus their minds on more serious pursuits, like studying and exams.

By the time students are old enough to take national exams, they tend to study using ingrained habits, believing they know what works for them. But just because the way you study has worked (at least to some extent) in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily work again, warn education experts and authors Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin.

The pair, who have both been sixth-form teachers, have learned that past success doesn’t correlate with future success, and achievement isn’t just about superior ability, but about sticking to habits, routines and strategies that deliver results.

So after speaking to thousands of students about how they study and what they do every day or week that makes a difference, Oakes and Griffin have written The Student Mindset (Crown House Publishing, £9.99) to identify the key traits and behaviours all students need to achieve their goals.

tips for academic success

“We work the way we work because that’s how we’ve always done it,” says Oakes. “Even when results at a new level of study suggest our approaches are no longer effective, we persist, doing more of the same, pedalling harder and hoping.

“In many cases, students eventually give up, concluding they’re not intellectually capable of study at a more challenging level. But they’re often wrong. It’s the non-cognitive elements of study that defeat them – the new habits, routines and approaches they’ll need. New levels of study demand new tactics and strategies.”

And Griffin points out that while there’s been plenty of debate around how much academic performance is predicted by inherited intelligence, it’s actually the non-cognitive element of study – habits, systems and behaviours – that students can change as they grow.

“Rather than debating precisely what proportion of our success is due to genetic predisposition, we should instead be supporting students in changing the ways they work as the programme of study demands change. This way, we prepare them more effectively for an uncertain future,” he explains.

Griffin and Oakes say the five key traits and behaviours needed for academic success at any level are: Vision; Effort; Systems; Practice and Attitude (VESPA).

tips for academic success

1. Vision

The authors say determined and successful students know why they’re going through the struggle of demanding study, and have strengthened their ability to defer gratification because they have a goal in mind which pulls them forward.

“We’ve seen the impact a magnetic goal can have on learners,” says Griffin. “But goal setting needs to adjust as students grow. It isn’t just a case of plucking potential grades from the air and hoping for the best – high-vision students are increasingly aware of who they are and what they stand for, and this growing self-awareness allows them to create a compelling vision of what success looks like, and what the future holds for them.”

So, for example, they don’t just focus on wanting to be a doctor, they know why, such as believing equal access to healthcare is crucial.

“This way, they can persist for longer and stay positive during difficult times,” explains Griffin.

2. Effort

The authors stress successful students equate their academic success with hard work.

“Putting effort into study isn’t a symptom of weakness for these people. They’ve surrounded themselves with peers who feel the same and are exacting in their standards and expectations of themselves,” stresses Oakes.

As students begin working at a higher level, the successful ones incorporate – subconsciously in some cases – ideas about everyday signals (or leading indicators) telling them how much effort they’re putting in.

Plus, they “snack on learning rather than binge”, so they might read a chapter of a textbook per week, summarise their notes in four half-hour sittings, write an essay in stages, or review their understanding by testing themselves on a topic.

“In short, they actively set themselves work,” says Oakes. “This switch from the passive completion of directed tasks, to the active sequencing of independent study sessions that work as leading indicators – a crucial part of unlocking higher levels of effort.”

tips for academic success

3. Systems

Successful students have developed systems that allow them to organise time and resources, say Griffin and Oakes, so they have neat files and folders, complete with handouts methodically arranged, so they can make connections between useful materials and therefore learn faster. They prioritise according to need and impact, and meet deadlines.

4. Practice

Successful students work on their weaknesses, spending uncomfortable study time operating at the edge of their ability, isolating the things they can’t do and fixing them. They complete extra work for handing in, done under timed conditions, and then pay close attention to feedback.

Oakes says many students hit crisis point when revision strategies used successfully in the past suddenly seem useless, as once information is fully absorbed, it then has to be used to analyse unfamiliar data, solve a problem or construct an essay argument.

“For students loyal to memorising information, this can be a shock,” says Oakes. “High practice students learn to adjust the way they revise, mastering the content as the course goes on so the bulk of their preparation involves high stakes exam-style problem solving. They are calmer and better prepared as a result.”

tips for academic success

5. Attitude

Successful students know two things that unsuccessful ones don’t: Failure is an important part of success, and learning is composed of a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.

Mastery happens slowly through deliberate effort and application. Griffin explains: “All students face ‘the dip’ – when progress halts and backslides. It might have happened before, but what works at one level – reconnecting with our successes, reminding ourselves of our positive qualities, comfort eating and watching a bit of TV – might need adjustment as challenges arise more frequently.”

High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough, such as a strong support network they regularly rely on, because they don’t equate asking for help with intellectual inferiority.

“And they have techniques for handling stress,” says Griffin. “They know exams are not a test of their self-worth.”

tips for academic success

8 Key Money Moments to be Prepared for in 2019

It pays to be prepared - or at least means you'll be a little more in control of your money. Vicky Shaw reports on this year's financial forecast.

2019 money financial predictions

As with any year, 2019 is bound to bring some unexpected surprises. But, looking ahead, there are some money moments you may be able to prepare for – even if some are more certain than others.

“Uncertainty and change are a part of life, and we’ll be better placed to ride these waves if we’re prepared for whatever may come next,” says Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva. “We will all benefit from a couple of hours to prepare our finances for whatever 2019 may bring.”

So what can you do to help get prepared? Here, McQueen highlights some of the key 2019 money moments to get ready for…

2019 money financial predictions

1. Get ready for the rising state pension age

In 2018, the state pension age for men and women was equalised, at 65. Men and women will now experience a state pension age rising in tandem. The state pension continues to represent most peoples’ biggest source of income in retirement. So, in 2019, it could be a good idea to request a free state pension forecast from the government to understand when you will be entitled to yours, and how much you may receive (gov.uk/check-state-pension).

2. Get ready for a longer working life

Last year saw the number of people in work over the age of 50 reach a record 10 million. As our life expectancy rises, we can expect this trend to continue. Aviva expects one in three workers in the UK will be over the age of 50 in the next decade. So, looking ahead, it may be worth starting to re-frame your expectations towards a longer working life. Aviva is launching a new service called the ‘mid-life-MOT’, to help our people prepare for this longer working life.

2019 money financial predictions

3. Get ready for an increase in pension payments

Employers have duties to provide a workplace pension. Since 2012, this new system – called automatic enrolment – has introduced nearly 10 million new savers across the UK to pensions. It’s been a great success. In April 2019, the minimum pension payment will increase from 5% of your earnings to 8% of your earnings. At least 3% of this 8% must come from your employer. A workplace pension can be a valuable way of saving for later life. So, in 2019 think about preparing for this increase in payments. For your future, it will pay to save.

4. Get ready for potential further interest rate increases

After a near decade of record low interest rates, 2018 saw the Bank of England increase its base rate to 0.75%. Many commentators expect 2019 could see further small increases in the base rate, in a bid to ease rising price pressures. This would be good news for savers, but not so good for the millions of borrowers holding short-term loans and mortgages. So, in 2019, it would be a good idea to shop around for the best saving and borrowing rates. A small change could make a big difference.

2019 money financial predictions

5. Get ready for more people taking up pension freedoms

The new pension freedoms for over-55s have proven to be hugely popular. More than £20 billion has been withdrawn from private pensions in new flexible payments. If you’re over 50 and considering your options, it would be a good idea to consult the government’s free Pension Wise service for guidance (pensionwise.gov.uk).

6. Get ready for more ways to manage your money online

Many of us regularly go online to send emails, do a spot of shopping or catch up on social media. But using the internet to manage pensions and investments continues to be an afterthought for many. Most pension and investment providers now offer free online services to help you manage your money. So, in 2019, consider taking advantage of these services so you can make the most of your money, whenever and wherever you want.

2019 money financial predictions

7. Get ready for the new face of the Bank of England £50 note

The new face on this new note will be announced in summer 2019 – and the Bank has stated that it will be someone who has contributed to science.

8. Get ready for the long game

2019 looks set to be a time of volatility and change. At times like these, it is helpful to remember that investments are typically designed to navigate at least a five-year horizon, or even up to 40 years if it’s our investment in our retirement. So, in 2019 it would be a good idea to remember those longer-term goals.

2019 money financial predictions

Six fabulous flat-pack furniture brands that aren’t Ikea.

IKEA might rule the roost when it comes to home shopping - but it's not the only brand acing stylish, easy-assemble kit. By Luke Rix-Standing.

Now, we’re not knocking IKEA. Let’s face it, there’s good reason the brand is such a phenomenal success – it’s extremely difficult to compete with IKEA.

The Google of the DIY dish rack, the Microsoft of the flat-packed wardrobe, the Swedish company has now been the world’s largest furniture retailer for over a decade, and has a hold of its market like a pro wrestler waiting for the count.

But it’s not the only flat-pack retailer in life’s megastore – particularly if you’re seeking something a little more distinct, without the inflated prices of upmarket outlets.

Curious? These six brands all have something notable to offer in the flat-pack stakes, most of it delivered direct to your door. Expect Scandinavia to still feature heavily, however – you can get away from IKEA, but there’s almost no escaping the mass-produced quality of Scandi style…

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

1. Hem (hem.com)

It shouldn’t be surprising that Sweden claims the world’s most popular furniture brand, because the country is full of companies supplying the demand for modern, self-assembled furniture.

Stockholm-based Hem perfectly straddles the divide between IKEA’s giant assembly line and high-end high street. Its range is not as large as IKEA’s (of course), and it’s a bit costlier (full-size dining tables start at around £980), but the quality and styling is top-notch.

Products mostly come from the classic Scandi school of of minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired design, while many items claim to have assembly times of under a minute (not including the time needed to take things out of the box, of course!). Their catalogue contains a nice array of lamps, stools and ottomans, but the headline acts are in their sofa collection.

Look out for their range of mix n’ match sofa units – the Palo and Kumo series (starting at around £1070) boast modular seating units which can be attached and reattached at will to fit whatever space or style is so desired. A four-man sofa can turn into a one-man lounge chair at the swish of a detachable strut.

Hem list their prices in Euros, but ship from inventories across Europe and the US.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

2. String (string.se)

Even among Swedish flat-pack furniture companies, String stands out. Its products have been legally classified as ‘applied art’. None of them come with particularly prescriptive instruction manuals, and its flagship item turns 70 years old this year. On top of that, String only stocks shelves.

String shelves are sold in modular units, attached to the wall by simple, screw-in brackets, which can be assembled in any pattern, depth or colour to suit buyers’ space, need or taste. Different units can be added and taken away as you please, or customised with hooks, racks, drawers, cabinet units, and even a foldout table.

String shelving is also stocked by a number of different brands in stores across the UK. Prices vary but the standard String unit tends to start at around £42.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

3. Normann Copenhagen (normann-copenhagen.com/en)

Yep, we are still in Scandinavia (last one, we promise), but this little Danish gem ships all round the world and lists products on its website in pounds sterling. Design guru Hans Hornemann set out his stall to combine the flat-packed with the high end, aiming squarely at style-conscious city-dwellers with limited space.

In his own words: “I wanted to change the flat-pack concept and give it another meaning. A reasonably priced piece of furniture that you can fall in love with and bring home straight away.”

Check out the Ace Collection of chairs, stools and sofas, sensuously curved pieces contoured with high-comfort foam that looks anything but self-assembled. It’s aimed at the luxury market, but fine design and gorgeous upholstery means a piece can easily be a long-term investment.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

4. Habitat (habitat.co.uk)

This UK interiors giant has an historic right to be on this list. IKEA may have sent flat-packed furniture into the stratosphere, but it was Habitat that gave the emerging market life.

Known as “knock-down” furniture, Habitat were flogging self-assembly, read-the-manual products back in the mid-1960s, and kick-started the flat-pack revolution that dominated the industry in the early-Seventies.

They’re still at it today, with a range of flat-packed items that stretches across their extensive catalogue. At £150, the very reasonably priced Cato desk is easy to assemble and wrought in a familiar minimalist style.

The shelving collection is well worth a gander too – the Hopkins Bookcase (£495-£695) forms a hypnotic sea of squares and rectangles, and at 198cm high is almost certainly taller than you are.

A shout out, too, to their Spencer sofa range, available in delightfully attractive array of colours. Simply affix the legs, and recline to your hearts content.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

5. Ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk)

OK – so it’s not furniture, but Ilke Homes deserves a place on our list. Perhaps the final stage of the flat-pack evolution, this Yorkshire-based maker of ‘modular’ homes is about as off the wall as can be.

Instead of offering websites and warehouses for easy-assembly storage and seating, the company digitally designs entire homes room by room – including walls, floors and windows – before surgically constructing them on a factory floor. The rooms are then driven to their allotted location by a fleet of lorries, and constructed on site in as little as a day.

Though you don’t have to do the assembly yourself (thank heavens), this is macro flat-packing at its logical conclusion. A two to three bedroom unit costs from around £69,000-79,000 (although, of course, there will be other costs to consider, and you need the land to put your flat-pack house on).

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

6. ScS (scs.co.uk)

Don’t be fooled by the name – the Sofa Carpet Specialists have more strings to their bow than just soft furnishings. They also stock a range of flat-pack furniture, often competitively priced too.

For flat-pack enthusiasts, tables are the order of the day here. With an extending table and four cream-coloured chairs, the Cruz 1.25m Extending Dining Table & Four Button Back Chairs (currently reduced to £739 from £849) is their flagship item.

But our favourite is the Julius Nest of Tables (currently reduced to £59 from £109) – a three-piece set with two smaller tables that can be stored snugly beneath the largest. The Russian doll of side tables, it’s perfect for those low on space.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

Luxury Lodges And A Conservation Success Story

Make Namibia The Hottest Safari Destination Right Now

Travel Nambia Photo

Best known for its dramatic landscapes, the southern African country is now attracting visitors with its wildlife, says Sarah Marshall Press Association.

An eruption of feathers rudely awakens the day, sending billowing clouds of rusty, sun-singed dust into the dawn sky. Wings beating frantically in a syncopated rhythm, large flocks of quelea birds shift and shape, creating a strobe effect which is both dazzling and disorientating to any potential predators.

When distances are vast and environments extreme, safety in numbers makes sense.

In Namibia, a sparsely populated, semi-arid expanse with landscapes of cinematic proportions, life seems that little bit larger than anywhere else. Lone oryx are dwarfed by sculpted dunes the colour of cayenne pepper, and the Atlantic-lashed coastline is smudged away by an overpowering, clogging fog.

Dramatic scenery has always been this southern African country’s USP, but now its rich and varied wildlife is getting some airtime too. Historically, most land was used for farming, putting pressure on wildlife by cutting off vital corridors; wide-roaming cheetah, for example, were hit particularly hard.

But following the declaration of Namibia’s independence in 1990, nearly three-quarters of the country is now managed by community conservancies and an increasing number of private landowners are shifting to tourism.

One of last year’s big profile openings was Omaanda Lodge, a first foray into safari by Belgian-born hotelier Arnaud Zannier. An hour’s drive from Nambia’s international entry point Windhoek, the fenced 9,000-hectare private Zannier Reserve neighbours Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, run by conservationists Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren. The charity’s latest project, the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary, was set up by the couple’s friend Angelina Jolie to care for orphaned elephants and rhinos. When the Hollywood actress became aware that adjacent farmland was for sale, she urged the Zannier family to get involved.

A luxurious lodge of 10 hand-thatched, adobe-walled huts is now a vital part of the Naankuse story, with the reserve providing a stepping stone into the wild for rehabilitated animals. But the mountain-fringed savanna also has its permanent residents, who I meet on an afternoon game drive.

Travel Nambia Photo

Passing a mob of meerkats, who spring from their burrows like a jack-in-the-box, we go in search of “blankets” – the code name used for rhino. Emerging from a camouflage of silver-grey camphor bushes, two pregnant white rhino females make their way to a man-made watering hole.

“One more and we wouldn’t allow you to post that on Instagram,” informs my guide, Jonas, referring to the dangers of geotagging one of Africa’s most endangered animals. The cost of 24-hour security runs into thousands of dollars per month, he tells me, which explains why financial support from the private sector is of growing importance to Namibia’s anti-poaching efforts.

Another company with conservation at its heart, who are also investing heavily in Namibia, is Natural Selection. I visit two of their newest management acquisitions in Etosha Heights, a former hunting concession on the southwest border of Etosha National Park, a sprawling game reserve in the northwest, equal in size to Israel.

Built 10 years ago, Etosha Mountain Lodge is a collection of seven wood-panelled villas hugging a hilltop, with 180-degree views begging to be photographed at every hour of the day. More modern, the revamped 11-chalet Safarihoek features a convivial open-air bar and dining area, with equally splendid panoramas of the plains. Both operate game drives in the 60,000-hectare reserve, and with rates starting from around £200 per night, they offer one of the best value safaris in Africa.

The immediately surrounding acacia scrubland is streaked with brilliant-white calcium carbonate trails and glinting dolomite rocks; it soon leads to grasslands baked blonde by the sun, which beam brightly even on overcast days.

Not far from our early morning explosion of quelea birds, two bat-eared foxes appear from their den, bathed in a buttercup light. We watch them guard their young fervently, chasing off an opportunistic jackal who dares to come too close.

Travel Nambia Photo

Around us, shepherd’s trees sag with gargantuan sociable weaver nests, which tug at their twiggy crooks and laden the boughs like a leaden toupee; while at our feet, frenetic ground squirrels ricochet like pinballs, calling game over by disappearing into their holes.

No branch or burrow goes to waste; everyone has learned to make use of available resources.

Although fenced to prevent the potential transmission of diseases, there are pockets along the reserve’s 70km border with Etosha, where animals can easily break through. There’s even talk of creating direct access to the park sometime in the future, cutting down the current journey time of 90-minutes each way to the nearest official gate. Although Namibian red tape can be thicker than most.

Besides, there’s enough game in this private area to keep guests amused, minus the self-drive crowds leap-frogging between Etosha’s water holes and with the bonus of being able to drive off-road.

Travel Nambia Photo

Testing the strength of our 4×4’s tyres, we tussle with dense, thorny acacia bushes to catch glimpses of black rhinos, and we spend hours in the company of laid-back elephants as they shower themselves with dust.

Cats are also pussy-footing around the reserve, scoping out a potential new home. During my stay, a lone male lion makes a kill outside Safarihoek’s photographic hide, his conspicuous drag marks leading us to his lair beneath a bush.

Travel Nambia Photo

But his snarling behaviour in defence of his hard-earned prey is a reminder that the transition from a hunting lodge to safari camp cannot happen overnight.

That’s especially the case with antelopes, who were the main quarry for hunters. Stocked in large numbers for that very purpose, they still have a dominant presence, but, understandably, many are on high alert.

Sitting still in silence, we watch a herd of muscular eland saunter over the horizon, their hulking, boxy shoulders broader than a team of an NFL American football players. Numbering more than 50, it’s a formidable sight.

Once alerted to our presence, however, they vanish in a storm of dust, hooves thundering louder than a cavalry bidding retreat.

“Trust takes time,” my guide, Matthias, assures me. And in a world fraught with dangers, you need be careful about who you trust.

It’s a survival instinct that keeps Namibia’s wildlife wild.


How to get there

Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk) offer a private self-drive 13 days/10 nights Highlights of Namibia tour from £5,365pp (two sharing), staying at Omaanda Lodge, Etosha Heights Safarihoek Lodge and Etosha Heights Lodge. Price includes international flights from London, car hire, the services of a private guide and some meals.

Travel Nambia Photo

Pantone Colour Of The Year 15 Ways To Add A Splash Of Coral At Home

wisteria trees wall paper

With Living Coral set to make make waves across decor trends throughout 2019, Sam Wylie-Harris reveals the sunny-hued finds to shop now.

If you’re hankering after some winter sun and desperate to get your glow on without having to leave home, Pantone’s new Colour of the Year – Living Coral – could be the next best thing to basking in some natural warmth.

A gorgeously rich coral hue with a golden undertone, we can’t think of a better way to welcome in 2019 than by brightening up the home with this happy, sunny shade.

Every year, design company Pantone look at the latest trends influencing our lives, before revealing the shade taking top spot. The colour experts cite Living Coral as a release from digital technology and social media, and a nod of recognition towards our increasing concern over environmental issues, the energising aspects of colour found in nature, and our desire for playful expression. All sounds good to us.

To celebrate everything coral without having to be ‘sur la plage’, we’ve rounded up the latest must-have decos and homewares inspired by 2019’s hottest shade…

Monkey Table Lamp
MW by Matthew Williamson Monkey Resin Table Light, £85, Debenhams (available late February). Attention-seeking and showy, if you can't resist a little bit of monkey business and thoughts of far-flung places, this designer lampshade will steal the spotlight very nicely.
wisteria trees wall paper
Wisteria in Coral Floral Wallpaper, £120 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia (sofa and floor lamp, stylist's own) Woody wisteria trees may charm us with their violet flowers, but why settle for the usual purple petals when you can adorn the walls in climbing coral?
Seafern Wallpaper
Cole & Son Seafern Wallpaper - Coral 107/2011, £85 per roll, John Lewis Or for something closer to the real deal, this classic design inspired by botanical prints from the late 1700s delves beneath the sea to illustrate living species of coral (although more allusive), such as Staghorn and Ivory Tree.
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion, £46, Audenza To evoke memories of tropical holidays and palm-fringed beaches, this luxe velvet cushion with its gold palm tree motif has a timeless allure
Unity Cane Wall Mirror
Unity Cane Wall Mirror, currently reduced to £95 from £145, Oliver Bonas To mirror our fascination with tribal art, this brass frame has been wrapped in woven red raffia inspired by West African celebratory masks. To make a real statement, hang one either side of a dresser or wide chest of drawers.
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade, £125, Graham & Green An attractive objet d'art you'd expect to see in a swank retreat by the sea, the exotic coral base and pristine white shade channels beauty while also being functional. Style it with some collectible seashells for maximum impact.
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen - Coral Ombre, from £19-£125, Lambswool Throw - Coral Ombre, £150, Clarissa Hulse Rise and shine... Nothing spells sassy like a burst of burnt orange, dazzling coral and a splash of lemony yellow in a bright sunrise, ombre effect. Enriched with fabulous feather fern motifs and styled with a luxurious, fringed throw, these sateen sheets are a wake-up call to wonderfulness.
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase, £15, Debenhams (available late February) This bowl-shaped vase adds a fresh dimension to the colour by picking up the golden accents and adding interest with some conch pearly pink and a wash of pebble stone grey.
Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal
Oiva Toikka Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal, £282 (130 x 200mm), iittala A flight of fancy - but if you don't have to penny-pinch, this striking songbird makes a lasting impression. According to mythology, cardinals are spiritual messengers and a sighting brings good fortune, making this a deco 'defo' worth the outlay

Sell Or Add Value To Your Home? Phil Spencer Shares Some Top Tips

Phil Spencer photo

Whether you’re thinking longer term or considering putting your property on the market soon, TV’s Phil Spencer has some advice. By Vicky Shaw.

Here, TV property expert Phil Spencer, shares his insight into current housing trends, as well as the property pitfalls to watch out for…

“I’ve been involved in the housing market for over 25 years and, as with all things, there are trends. There are elements of fashion and, as with clothing, fashion changes, so be careful of that and don’t go too far out on a limb.

“There was a trend for open plan and generally opening things out, but I’d say that’s changing again.

“More en-suite bathrooms have been prioritised recently. They take up more space and don’t always add huge amounts of value when re-selling, so it will be interesting to see if this lasts. Pantries and larders are also on the up, as we crave more and more space.”

sold board

What do home owners need to be mindful of when thinking about making improvements – are there pitfalls to watch out for?

“Simply put – bad DIY. It’s obvious when somethings been done cheaply, we should all be mindful of that. You also need to be realistic with the space you’ve got. Every property has a ceiling price and as long as you’re aware of that, then you’re good.

“I would say you need to be consistent. I’ve seen expensive bathrooms in cheap houses and it can look very out of place. Always match the price bracket of fittings to that of the house.

“Also, not to make things too personal to you and your taste and lifestyle. If you’re doing it for you, great, but if you want to re-sell be careful. You always need to appeal to the largest possible denominator – there is a reason people use magnolia!”

What should home owners bear in mind when considering whether to move or improve?

Forexpert advice on your property valuation and top selling tips, go the McCarthy Holden home page and click on valuation, for a free no obligation property appraisal.

Ask An Expert: Why Is My Toddler More Interested In The Christmas Packaging?

A psychologist tells Lisa Salmon why children often like the box more than the toy.

My two-year-old son plays with the Christmas boxes and wrapping paper more than his presents. Why does he love the packaging so much?

Dr Shona Goodall, a clinical psychologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital who has appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, says: “Many of us have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents only for our toddlers to seemingly push them aside in favour of the cardboard boxes or wrapping. But Christmas packaging has more benefits for children than you might realise.

“Children of this age tend to take a great deal of interest in packaging at Christmas because removing it is often the first thing we encourage them to do. The sensory sound of the ripping noise is a quick win for them to master – it improves their hand-eye coordination and strengthens their finger pincer grip.

Childe in Christmas box

“Free (but safely supervised) play with packaging therefore offers a blank canvas to explore what they can do with the paper and boxes at their developmental stage and get creative and learn, without fear of getting it wrong.

“Playing with packaging can have other beneficial effects on their development too – it can help your son instigate positive behaviours like recycling.

“Young children love to copy at this age – you might have noticed your son will often look at you right before he’s about to do something. Caregivers attune to their child’s responses and assist them to make sense of the world, and research has shown praise will positively reinforce them to do it again.

Child in cardboard box

“By encouraging the behaviour you want to see more of, such as putting something in the bin or recycling, you can lay a fantastic foundation upon which to teach him about sustainability. That’s your chance to chat through some of the materials being played with to educate him about where they come from and where they could go next.

“So, playing with packaging will not only aid your son’s development, but also sow the seeds for him to learn all about recycling and sustainability for both your children and future generations”

For more on cardboard packaging, visit Beyond the Box

Dr Shona Goodall
Dr Shona Goodall - Interveiwed by Lisa Salmon, Press Association

6 Alternative Christmas Trees For Small Spaces

alternative Christmas trees

Hannah Stephenson shares some dinky options for space-starved homes - or anyone who can't face the faff of a full-size tree.

Bit short of space? Can’t fit a big Christmas tree into your home, but still want something natural-looking to replace it?

Well, good news. There are wall hangings, houseplants and smaller potted trees that’ll do the job nicely and bring some festive sparkle into your home, even if you live in the smallest space with just a little walk-round room.

So, what are the options?

alternative Christmas trees

1. Nordic Rope Ladder Hanging Christmas Tree, £20, notonthehighstreet.com

A minimalist yet rustic alternative to the classic Christmas tree, this hanging tree is only 80cm tall and can be tucked up neatly against a wall. Add baubles of your choice and drape it with fairy lights to bring it to life. A great choice for those with very tight space to work with, anyone who can’t ‘cope’ with pine needles – or to decorate other areas of the home.

The wooden slats are rounded natural twigs from the bayur tree, making all of these unique.

alternative Christmas trees

2. Mini Letterbox Christmas Tree, from £32, BloomAndWild.com

A survey commissioned by Bloom & Wild found that people are downsizing their trees in a bid to cut down on costs and needle dropping – with 79% of those quizzed saying they’re opting for a smaller tree this year, while 65% of millennials will be buying a cheaper option, without sacrificing the ‘Instagram-worthy’ tradition of buying one completely.

Their mini letterbox trees, which are real and rooted, arrive with decorations, lights and a pop-up pot in a letterbox-fitting box, and can be planted in the garden after Christmas.

alternative Christmas trees

3. Mini Christmas Tree Trio, £25, Marks and Spencer

If you only have space to spare on your windowsill, this trio of frosted mini trees, in winter embossed tin containers, would make a classy edition. You’ll ideally need to place them in a cool position with some natural light and, while they’re fine kept indoors for a few weeks, after that you’ll need to move them outdoors if you want them to survive, and plant them either in a patio container or the garden. Once you’ve done that, they should continue to thrive (you’ll want to make sure the compost never totally dries out but don’t let the tree get waterlogged either, and adding some plant food to their water between late spring and early autumn is advised).

alternative Christmas trees

4. Houseplants (Luxury Basket £30), Wyevale Garden Centres

Who says it has to be a Christmas tree? There are other ways to bring some festive greenery into the home, including houseplants. If you have the space, consider gathering some houseplants together, with some white specimens, such as orchids and lilies, to create a ‘frosted’ look. You could also go for a red and green arrangement to give a room a traditional festive feel, and go as big or small as you like.

alternative Christmas trees

5. Plant Terrarium, £66.99, crocus.co.uk

Terrariums have become the must-have addition to living areas, and if you haven’t the space for a tree then you could consider planting a feast of festive plants in one of these glass enclosures instead, which should keep going beyond New Year.

Once you’ve had enough of them, you can easily change the style by swapping in new plants next year. This one’s produced from sheet glass and brass, with an antique bronze finish.

alternative Christmas trees

6. Pot-grown Tree, from £20, Wyevale Garden Centres

Eco-friendly gardeners may prefer a smaller version of the traditional Christmas tree. They can look superb – and this one is pot-grown, so can be planted in the garden afterwards.