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.

More Buyers and Tenants See Property Video Marketing

It is widely believed that video content in online marketing will increase the number of views of a product, or in this case a property, by up to 25%.

Today, the video revolution has well and truly arrived with 80% of internet users stating that they remember watching a video and its content for at least 30 days, and with 100 million internet users watching online video each and every day.

sold in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 544 times

So it’s perhaps not surprising that in 2018 McCarthy Holden sold or let fine homes, against the backdrop of a challenging market especially in the £1.5m. to £4m. sector. Some of the fine homes we showcased are shown in this article.

With property searching more likely than not starting on a mobile phone, video content is a must have part of the property marketing mix.

Here at McCarthy Holden we make sure we film, promote and market a property to the broadest possible audience. From thirty second preview videos for use on our web site and social media, through to our big production four minute videos with professional presenters we ensure that our clients will get noticed with more clicks and engagement online.

sold in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 522 times

Its a fact that people who have seen a video of a clients house, and then come for a viewing are far more likely to make an offer than people who have only seen standard information on Rightmove or Primelocation for example.

sold in Fleet, Hampshire using professional video, which was viewed 454 times

Every picture tells a story and we can now showcase more features about quality property than ever before. With the use of broadcast quality filming, professional presenters and editing with music etc., we produce informative property video tours designed to make our clients property stand out and be noticed above all others.

Creating professional video content is normally done by johnjoe.co.uk, and the photograph, video capture and editing take three tays to complete.

let in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 935 times.

If you are selling or letting a property and would like the benefits of professional video marketing, then go to our home page and click on valuation for a free no obligation property appraisal.

Historic Mill House – Sale agreed November 2018

Let in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector, using preview video tour

New Campaign Urges Consumers To Buy British Christmas Trees

christmas trees

A new campaign has been launched by Grown in Britain to encourage UK consumers to buy more assured British grown Christmas trees.

Grown in Britain says many people may be assuming they are buying fresh British grown trees, when they are not. The organisation is urging consumers to support rural businesses in Britain and reduce ‘tree miles’ by checking where their Christmas tree comes from before they buy.

christmas trees grower

According to Government statistics, £3 million pounds worth of real Christmas trees were imported into the UK last year.

Grown in Britain has created a Christmas tree licensing scheme that operates throughout the supply chain from growers to retailers and provides an assurance that trees are fresh and grown in the UK in a responsible way with due regard to the environment.

Chief Executive Dougal Driver says: “The UK has a flourishing Christmas tree growing sector and our auditing process checks that trees are definitely from the UK, grown responsibly and meet a strict forest floor to shop floor freshness test.”

He adds: “This is the start of the campaign with approximately 50,000 Christmas trees currently licensed for sale, but the public can really make a difference by asking their stockists to supply assured Grown in Britain trees now and in the future. This will help ensure the number of assured homegrown Christmas trees rises over time, with a consequential boost to the UK’s rural economy.”

To find out your nearest supplier of Grown in Britain licensed Christmas trees, look at the licence holder map on the Grown in Britain website www.growninbritain.org

christmas trees growing

Are you a DIY Dodger? Join the Ever Growing Club?

From leaky taps to holey walls, a new survey suggests we'd rather put up with problems than attempt to fix them ourselves. Abi Jackson finds out more.

avoiding diy top tips

Have we lost our DIY mojo? OK, so some of us never had any desire or inclination to get handy with the hammers and paintbrushes to begin with, and wouldn’t have a scooby when it comes to spanners and spirit levels – but there was a time when every household had an overflowing toolbox, maybe a workbench in the shed or garage, and the will and know-how to tackle at least those ‘safe and simple’ DIY tasks.

This may no longer be the case, though, as many of us are now certified DIY-dodgers, according to a new survey by glass specialist Pilkington (pilkington.com/en-gb/uk).

avoiding diy top tips

Broken toilets, damaged walls and leaky taps top the list of tasks we just can’t seem to get around to tackling, the poll of 2,000 UK homeowners found, with 21% of respondents admitting they were ‘happy’ to live with holes in their walls, rather than attempting to fix them. Meanwhile, 17% said they put up with dripping taps, and 14% confessed to living with a malfunctioning toilet! Broken door handles, it seems, are a DIY job 12.5% are happy to dodge.

I’ll get round to it one day…

Of course, if you don’t have any DIY experience, it’s understandable that the idea of tackling such tasks might be overwhelming – but why are we losing the motivation to do-it-ourselves?

avoiding diy top tips

According to the Pilkington poll, laziness, poor skills and lack of time are among the most common excuses, with 41% saying they’ll get the jobs done eventually (we all know this can go on for years!). A further 26% admit they haven’t fixed an issue because they’ve simply got used to living with it, while 21% confess they don’t know how to tackle the task. Almost half (40%) said they’d rather call in the professionals to get the job done.

“We used to be a nation of proud DIY-ers, but it seems the pace of modern life has left us with little time to get around to fixing those all-important jobs,” says Pilkington’s brand and communications manager, Julia Berkin. “Rather than spending time on home projects, homeowners are instead looking to the experts to help with renovations, and relying on innovative products that make their lives easier.”

avoiding diy top tips

Should we ditch the DIY dread?

To be fair, sometimes time really is short and there’s no rule that says we have to add ‘DIY expert’ to our ever-expanding lists of demands. Plus, if a job really would be better handled by a professional, well, that’s what they’re there for, right?

But that said, if we’re totally honest, procrastination and laziness are often the main culprits in why we aren’t getting things done ourselves, and many DIY tasks might actually be a lot simpler than you think (not to mention a lot cheaper to tackle yourself).

avoiding diy top tips

5 simple steps for repairing a hole in a plastered wall

Want to buck the trend and get on board with DIY? To help, we asked the pros at Homebase (homebase.co.uk) to talk us through one of the nation’s apparently most-dodged DIY job: Filling in holey walls…

  1. Preparing the damaged area

Use a bolster chisel and club hammer to remove all loose material around the area to be patched, and undercut the edges. Once this is complete, wire brush the brickwork to remove all traces of loose material.

  1. Mixing the new plaster

Mix the plaster according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a gauging trowel to sprinkle the plaster powder into the water, while stirring with a clean stick. When the plaster is thick and creamy without lumps, turn it onto a dampened board. Helpful hint: To prevent lumps from forming, always add the plaster to the water and not the water to the plaster.

  1. Filling the patch with plaster

Once the new plaster is ready to use, thoroughly dampen the area of the wall that needs to be patched. Use a plastering trowel to slide a good amount of the mixture onto the plasterer’s hawk. Standing close to the patch, tilt the hawk towards you and, with a continuous movement, lift half the plaster onto the trowel.

Hold the trowel horizontally but slightly angled towards the wall. Press the plaster into the patch and move the trowel up the wall, gradually flattening it. Avoid flattening the trowel against the wall as this is causes suction and pulls the plaster off the wall. Repeat this process until the patch is slightly overfilled, but don’t overwork the plaster, as this weakens it and makes it fall off.

  1. Smoothing off

Once the surface is covered, smooth the plaster to an even thickness, holding the trowel at a slight angle so only one edge touches the plaster at any one time.

After about 45 minutes, the plaster will start to set. Once this has happened, go over it again lightly with a dampened trowel to smooth the surface. After a further 20-30 minutes, splash the surface with cold, clean water then trowel to a fine, smooth surface. Be sure to keep the trowel damp and not to overwork the surface.

  1. Filling deep holes

If the patch in question is deep, you might need to put on two layers of plaster. To do this, apply the first layer of plaster to half the depth of the patch. When it has partially set, scratch up the surface and leave it to set fully without drying out. Apply a second coat, and repeat the process as above.

 

 

avoiding diy top tips

Want a Stylish Christmas Tree this year? These 3 Decorating Trends are Gorgeous and Easy!

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Choose between frosty, copper or emerald, says Gabrielle Fagan. A Christmas tree is the star of the celebrations, but choosing a style can be as tricky as untangling the tinsel.

But this year, banish seasonal stress by taking inspiration from these three decor themes – frosty, copper or emerald. Then add the bells and baubles, sit back and wait for the compliments.

“A Christmas tree is such a seasonal statement and nowadays isn’t just for friends and family as its style is often shared on social media, so we all want it look as beautiful and stylish as possible,” says Lee Jackson, Christmas stylist and designer for Dobbies garden centres.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

“The main influence on tree trends over the last few years can be summed up in one word – ‘craft’. The huge resurgence in activities such as needlepoint, felting, paper crafts, hand-stitching and crochet are reflected in the styles as well as the materials – from wool and wood to felt – used for tree decorations, giving them a lovely personal hand-crafted feel.

“The other influence is the Japanese craze, Kawaii, which means unashamedly cute, and that’s played a part in the popularity of cutesy woodland animals dancing across tree branches.

“Squirrels, deer, hedgehogs, stags and even mythical creatures like unicorns are all having their moment this year in the seasonal limelight.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Let it snow…….

“Our Snowy Forest tree trend uses lots of silver tones and snow-tipped animals to bring a midwinter landscape to life,” says Jackson of the Dobbies offering.

“A traditional colour-combo of red and white is classic, but this interpretation is fresh but simple and conjures a stylishly serene, icy winter wonderland.”

Its Enchanted Garden theme, inspired by foliage and flowers, is a little more rustic. It features a selection of wooden and fabric decorations, featuring animals and birds, starting from £2.99 each.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Create your own ‘snow storm’ with Artificial Snow, 100g bag, £2, from Hobbycraft. Simply spread glue where you want the snow to stick – on baubles and present wrapping – and sprinkle on. Follow the white and red colour theme when gift-wrapping parcels displayed under the tree and go all out with beautiful red and white ribbon and gorgeous gift tags.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Conjure a copper glow

“Our amber story – inspired by the golden tones of autumnal forests – is my absolute favourite,” said Fionnuala Johnston, senior designer, John Lewis.

“This colour theme has natural layers of beautiful tones from amber through to rich chestnut. This beautiful rustic environment full of wildlife has a cosy and warm feel, making me want to snuggle up with fur throws and mulled wine after a long walk.”

STYLE TIP Amber tones are in tune with the fashion for metallics, especially burnished copper, which adds lustre to any scheme. Shine a light with a Copper Tea Light House, £7.99, Lights4Fun and a Wired Copper Light Garland, £25, Cox & Cox. Add to the party atmosphere with a Party Fan Set (3), in copper and gold effects, £2.99, in store, Homesense.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Go green…

“This pays a nod to the sensory haven of a tropical rain forest and the Emerald collection incorporates clear glass, feathers and tropical leaves to create a lush, luxe Christmas setting,” says Dan Cooper, Christmas buyer, John Lewis.

“Inspired by nature, these decorations feature toucans, dragonflies, snails and parrots, with succulents and moss as well, to create an enchanting festive wonderland.

“A favourite is the Banana Leaf hanger, a glass decoration shaped as an on-trend monstera leaf in a vivid green hue.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Work stems of faux foliage into a tree to make it look fuller. Dress a mantel with a green garland: Real Christmas Garland, White & Silver, £65, John Lewis. Ramp up the luxe by treating a sofa to velvet cushions in shades of green: Plain Velvet Cushion, in Dark Spruce or Ivy, £25, John Lewis.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

A Room Without a View: How Windows Can Transform Your World

fake windows home

You can even add the sounds of birdsong. But always check the weather forecast, says Luke Rix-Standing.

In the modern home, we have – in many ways – embraced the idea of fakeness. Fake leather covers our sofas, our fireplaces are warmed by fake fires, our window sills decorated with fake pot plants.

Of course, there is a limit to what aspects of a home can be fictionalised. You can’t buy a fake fridge or washing machine, and you can’t fake a toilet for, well, obvious reasons.

But you can now fake a window, and it’s becoming increasingly popular to do so. Here’s why – and how you can try the trend, too.

fake windows home

Fake for purpose

Fake windows are examples of ‘biophilic design’ – products that tap into our innate affinity with the natural world, and imitate positive stimuli, like greenery and natural light.

As far back as the 1980s, studies suggested that well-lit rooms and large windows tend to increase the welfare of their occupants. While a 2014 study found that windowless rooms helped contribute to stress, anxiety and poor sleeping patterns.

Naturally, fake windows aren’t always a good fit (you won’t need one in a glass-glazed penthouse). But, in poky office interiors and dark, dismal basements, any window – even a fake one – can provide respite from the gloom.

Fake windows can brighten these rooms with tropical splendour, dazzling seascapes or any woodland of their choice. It’s not quite the same as the real thing, but they can do a surprisingly good job of echoing the more expansive feel of the great outdoors.

More complex fake windows are even considered a boon for late-stage dementia. The fake ‘exterior’ can often be changed at will, and this can help patients feel an affinity with the outside world, maintain their sleep cycles, and stay connected with the passage of time.

fake windows home

A window of opportunity

Unhampered by the need to show the actual outside, fake windows come in a near-infinite array of shapes, sizes and prices, from £10 posters to sophisticated LED displays worth thousands.

Companies such as Icon Wall Stickers sell ready-made ‘window posters’, depicting natural scenes with a visual depth that helps elongate a room. And even people that would lose a fight with a flat pack wardrobe can knock together something themselves. Just pick a picture of your preferred scenery and construct your very own made-to-order window frame out of wood or polystyrene.

If you’re a talented artist, paint yourself a personalised horizon, or – if you’re not – ask somebody else to do it for you. Score extra points by fashioning a set of shutters, and attaching them with hinges.

fake windows home

A multi-sensory experience

Some manufacturers have taken fake windows into the digital age, and a few well-placed LEDs can illuminate your window with a warmth akin to a sunlit glow.

Add a conventional pair of curtains, and enjoy the classic sunshine-through-the-window feel of a nice weekend lie-in, whatever time you’re getting up.

Top-of-the-range models come complete with moving backgrounds – each babbling brook or rustling tree closely choreographed to feel relaxing and real. Sky Inside UK offers plenty of options – as well as a range of skylights, in which slowly swirling clouds gradually give way to a hemisphere of stars.

Aside from its domestic clients, Sky Inside has been catering to hospitals, office blocks, and even prisons – labyrinthine structures in need of an injection of light and tranquillity. One success story involved a prison pharmacy – a dank and dimly-lit room which dealt regularly with inmates in distress.

Before installation, each inmate would be accompanied by two police officers; now one officer can escort multiple prisoners at once.

fake windows home

For the height of windowless luxury, keep an eye on Panasonic’s new prototype, the +Window, mid-development by its Future Life Factory. Product demos feature light settings that mimic six distinct weather patterns akin to the Hogwarts Great Hall, the sound of birds tweeting, and a fan calibrated to recreate the gentle caress of a summer breeze.

Just remember to check the weather forecast before you step outside. No amount of LEDs can protect you from the great British weather.

3 Ways to Turn Your Home Technicolour

Colour-phobic and clinging to neutrals like a comfort blanket? Gabrielle Fagan discovers how to fight fear and brave bold decoration at home.

bright colours technicolour your home

Colour’s officially cool – according to the decor experts – but it takes guts to plunge into the palette and experiment in rooms.

Banish the fear and do it anyway, declares Emily Henson, interiors stylist and author of the aptly named, Be Bold: Interiors For The Brave Of Heart, which is a celebration of homes with “joyful patterns, gutsy colour choices and exhilarating paint treatments”.

Their owners, she says, enjoy homes which contain daring explosions of colour, pattern, humour and originality, where “boldness is a way of life”.

Some make a statement “with vivid paint on every surface and neon signs on the walls”, while others have “leopard print and folksy embroidered cushions clashing on a pink sofa, or window frames painted yellow in an otherwise white wall”. Whatever, she notes, bold really is beautiful.

bright colours technicolour your home

It’s certainly a world away from the bland, and Henson gleefully sums up the philosophy as ‘decorate like nobody’s watching’.

Still nervous? “Think of the colours you like and want in your life, and test the waters by spray painting something small,” she says. For the more confident, she urges: “Dive in at the deep end, just go for it! What’s the worst thing that can happen? You won’t like it and you’ll have to repaint. That’s not the end of the world.”

Be inspired by three homes where owners truly dance to their own decor tune…

bright colours technicolour your home

Cook up a colour storm

Set designer Amy Exton indulges her love of colour and kitsch with a no-holds-barred scheme for her kitchen, and has created a home that packs a stylish punch.

“Amy hand-painted this eye-popping mural herself, painstakingly taping off each area and alternating between stripes, leopard and solid painted sections,” Henson says.

“She continues the mouthwatering colour scheme with apple green on the walls and brightly-coloured metal stools. It’s a total transformation from it’s previous look of magnolia paint and wall-to-wall brown carpet.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Choose one shade and paint everything – walls, ceilings, doors, woodwork, radiators – for an intoxicating, enveloping effect. If that’s too much, choose a main colour for the walls and ceiling and one or two accents for doors, shelves or features. If you feel bold, paint part-way up the walls and leave the top half white, or use two different colours for a wall – in either complementary or contrasting shades.

bright colours technicolour your home

Mix a cocktail of shades

Anything goes in the apartment of Spanish designer Patricia Bustos, who ignores outdated rules and injects a fresh quirkiness into all her schemes.

She’s created an entertainment ‘zone’ with a bamboo tiki bar, Eighties Terje Ekstrom chairs upholstered in mustard wool, and for the perfect finishing touch, designed her own ‘Oh La La’ neon sign.

“For Patricia, being bold means combining different eras, ignoring outdated rules about pattern and colour matching, and injecting humour and quirkiness into everything she designs. Her home is a joyful expression of what’s in her head, and it’s fabulous,” says Henson. “It’s all fabulously OTT. What makes it work? A limited colour palette and the guts to own the look.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Stylists often create ‘fake walls’ – large pieces of plywood covered in wallpaper – for photographic shoots. These can be used as a flexible, movable expanse of pattern, which can be leaned against a wall for a playful focal point, or used as a great way to test out your enthusiasm for a particular pattern or colour, before committing to it.

bright colours technicolour your home

Wake up a wall…

A vibrant blue shade on a wall brilliantly brings shop owner Zoe Anderson’s dining area to life, with simple, modern furniture – including a gleaming Tom Dixon copper pendant light – to provide balance.

“Kitchens are often painted in neutral colours as a safe option, but Zoe went all-out bold with an electric blue paint,” explains Henson. “The walls are a vibrant backdrop for the family’s art collection, including children’s drawings and keepsakes collected on travels.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Make a statement with a sofa or a chair in a daring or unusual shade, to show-off your ‘adventurous’ colour spirit, says Henson. Bold doesn’t always have to mean bright, she points out, as paler shades can be just as effective. Think pink, sage green, or aquamarine – anything but the obvious.

bright colours technicolour your home

Be Bold: Interiors For The Brave Of Heart by Emily Henson, photography by Catherine Gratwicke, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available to readers for the special price of £14 (inc p&p) by going to rylandpeters.com and using code: BOLDPA at the checkout. Offer valid until December 31, 2018.

House hunting starts between Christmas and New Year

The Christmas and New Year 2019 magazine In The Country & Town

The time between Christmas and New Year is a time for people to relax, read magazines and it’s when people start house hunting. So having a property featured in the lifestyle and property magazine In The Country and Town, could be a smart move for house sellers and landlords alike.

Over Christmas and New Year people take time out to relax and indulge in the pleasure of reading magazines, so a special edition of In The Country and Town is being distributed over the festive season.

If you are thinking of selling or letting a property, this is the ideal opportunity to get the attention of buyers and kick start your plans to move house in early 2019.

A lifestyle and property magazine with reach

This leading lifestyle and property magazine reaches thousands of buyers, search agents and tenants from London to Beijing, all of whom will receive the ‘In The Country and Town’ magazine in time for Christmas and New Year 2019.

The Opportunity for house sellers to appear in this magazine, without obligation or cost unless the property is sold or let is a big appeal.

The real story of this successful magazine is that it brings new buyers to the market, many of whom are not actively in the market looking around agents or property portals, hence the reason we tag the magazine name with ‘Creating the inspiration to move.’

Does it work?

This quality magazine is showcasing wonderful content from stunning properties, to celebrity chefs and motoring features, great interior design, market insight, politics and gardening. So, does it work?

Thousands of copies of each issue are distributed by Royal Mail and many more by direct distribution. Looking back on previous issues, there are many examples of properties which were sold directly from this magazine, despite these properties already being on the open market on property portals such as Rightmove. So yes this old fashioned print marketing can work and in many cases outperformed the digital property portals such as Rightmove. Take a look at this example.

farm sold
The house above sold as a result of the successful buyer picking up a copy of the magazine in a railway carriage travelling from Waterloo to Fleet

How to advertise without obligation or cost

So in summary, if you are thinking of selling or renting a fine home then don’t just focus on digital marketing but in addition think about the role of quality print. Fortunately at McCarthy Holden we are leaders in digital and video marketing as well as professional print.

Without obligation or cost, unless McCarthy Holden sell or let your property, you can have your property promoted in our property magazine. You simply give McCarthy Holden the instruction to promote your property in the next issue of In The Country & Town and online also – all on a no sale no fee basis.

Then sit back and let the power of high-end professional print and digital marketing go to work.

The pages will be filled with property, features and advertising on a first come first serve basis, so contact your nearest McCarthy Holden branch for details and if required a free no obligation valuation.

Who knows, early 2019 could be a Happy New Year for some house vendors and landlords!

magazine photos

Top of the Taps: Expert Tips on Choosing the Right Taps for your Family and Lifestyle

Abi Jackson asks some industry professionals to runs through the options when it comes to faucets.

They may seem small-fry in the grand scheme of kitchen design – but taps feature heavily in our day-to-day lives, and there’s a surprising amount of options to choose from.

“Kitchen taps play an important role in every home. Not only are they often a focal point but they are used for different purposes throughout the day, so when choosing taps you need to think about practicality and design,” says Simon Cornelius, head of marketing at Methven.

Fancy updating your faucets? We tapped up the experts for their top tips on current trends…

Features and functionality

Designers are constantly coming up with ways to make products more efficient and user-friendly, with taps no exception. It used to be that your biggest decision was whether to switch from having separate hot and cold taps to a single mixer tap – but the specs available have come a long way since then.

“The inclusion of swivel sprouts and pull-out hoses in our brand-new range enables you to easily wash pots without taking up too much kitchen workspace,” says Cornelius.

Larah Kuziw, brand manager at Carron Phoenix, adds: “There’s a huge choice of taps now, that come with features such as pull-out sprays, directional nozzles, filtration and more, so there are models to suit all of your kitchen and budget needs, from basic mixers to a multi-functional four or even five-in-one tap.”

Boiling and filtering

Taking things a step further in the tap tech stakes, if you’re looking to invest in some of the latest hi-tech kitchen options, you might want to consider a boiling water tap.

“Where once they may have been considered a luxury, we’re now seeing [boiling water taps] regularly feature as one of the must-have appliances,” says Becca Platts, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens.

“As many of the latest tap models can be fitted in place or to replace a standard hot/cold monobloc kitchen mixer, this does make sense. So much so, that we’ve now added a number of Abode models to our key range, so people have the option to trade up to filtered boiling, or even filtered boiling and cold water as required.”

Designs will often give the option to choose temperature settings, and Platts notes that multi-step operating features are designed to help ensure the taps are safe to use (so you can’t just accidentally flip on a flow of boiling water).

“Hot water taps give you so much more than an instant cuppa,” says Jeanette Ward, communications manager at Franke. “Their ability to deliver hot, cold and instant boiling water means they have a myriad of uses, such as blanching, sterilising baby bottles or knives, boiling pasta or rice more quickly, or cleaning your pans after a Sunday roast.

“When you have a hot water tap, you don’t need a kettle anymore, so you can achieve a more streamlined look in your kitchen and free up some worktop space.”

Still buying bottled water because you don’t like drinking straight from the tap? Having a filtering tap installed could help towards those single-use plastic reducing goals. “Filtered water taps make a great choice if you’re looking for access to premium quality water. These taps remove the majority of chlorine from tap water, along with other impurities including particulates, rust, heavy metals and pesticides,” says Luke Shipway, product manager at Caple. “As a result, there’s vast improvement on taste and odour, and the scale inhibitor helps reduce the build up of scale in your kettle, which is a great benefit.”

Don’t overlook design

Advanced specs aside, if your kitchen is the heart of your home, then you’ll want to fill it with details you love – so think about how the tap fits within the wider theme of the space.

“It’s also a current trend to invest in a tap which will add a touch of personality to your kitchen,” says Cornelius. “Taps with striking designs will enhance your kitchen and will make them focal points, rather than just kitchen necessities.

“Don’t forget to look beyond the design and pay consideration to the colour of your tap. While chrome is still a popular choice, we are also seeing an increase in taps with colours incorporated, such as our Methven Gaston with black accent. This design will add a sleek contemporary touch to your kitchen and give you a base from which to create your interior scheme.”

This applies whatever type of tap you go for, including boiling water taps. “The use of different materials, colours and finishes is still a strong theme in kitchens, which is why one of the big trends in hot water tap design is the introduction of coloured finishes, like black, copper, gold, bronze and gunmetal, in addition to premium solid stainless steel,” says Ward. “These alternative finishes really help to draw attention to the tap as a statement piece, rather than just a practical piece of kitchen equipment.”

To discuss changes to your home that can impact its potential value, please feel free to call and speak to your local office. https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

Plant Identification and Advice at your Fingertips: 4 of the Best Free Gardening Apps

Want to identify a plant? Need some advice or just want to connect with other gardeners? Hannah Stephenson checks out four free apps to help you.

free garden apps plant identification

Thanks to the advent of mobile phones and other digital devices, we need never come inside again (weather permitting) to investigate the identity of a plant or consult our gardening calendar – there’s now a plethora of apps to do it for us.

These days we are just a green-fingered tap away from being able to identify plants, connect with a wider gardening community, find out how to tackle plant disease and pest control, and organise our gardening calendar.

Here are four of the best apps to save you time and answer those gardening conundrums…

free garden apps plant identification

1. SmartPlant (Android, IOS, smartplantapp.com)

This app used to be known as PlantSnapp but is among the best of the bunch for plant identification and advice.

You take a picture of your plant for identification, or scan the barcode of a plant (partnered with various garden centres and nurseries) you’ve bought to give you monthly care information, identifying your plant’s maintenance needs, possible pests and diseases and searching for plants to add to your collection. It also has a digital care calendar.

It’s also now linked to Alexa, who can give you care advice for your plants, or describe a specific plant. Although the app is free, you can upgrade by paying for membership which gives you unlimited chat access to horticultural experts, as well as plant care advice and notifications.

free garden apps plant identification

2. Garden Tags (Android, IOS, gardentags.com)

This site is a great way to connect with other gardeners as it’s community-based, so fellow green-fingered enthusiasts can share their knowledge with you.

The community of more than 100,000 gardeners not only helps identify plants, but offers gardening advice, tips and ways to tackle tasks, as well as suggesting how to deal with pests.

You can share your successes and failures with a captive audience, who’ll be quick to encourage, sympathise and help. Unlike other apps, when you take a picture of your plant it will ask you to share it with the community or with friends on Facebook and Twitter for identification or advice. You can tag a question with the picture and then just wait for the community’s response.

free garden apps plant identification

3. RHS Grow Your Own (Android, IOS, rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/app)

From the world’s foremost horticultural charity comes this helpful app, which does what it says on the tin.

It offers easy-to-access advice about all manner of edibles, in alphabetical order, month-by-month growing, planting and harvesting guides, plus information about common problems, along with help in choosing varieties depending on space, time you have to tend your crops and your experience. It also offers reminders of what to do when.

free garden apps plant identification

4. Garden Answers (Android, IOS, gardenanswers.com)

This is a really easy-to-use plant identifier, that gives you an instant answer from its 20,000-plant database.

Just take a picture of the plant, or load it from an existing image on your phone, and it will come back with an answer in seconds. I found it wasn’t always completely accurate, but most of the time it got it right. And it’s quick, so you’re not waiting around in your garden for a response.

For £1.99 you can upgrade to ask a horticulturist for advice. It also identifies pests and has a detailed Q&A section covering a wealth of common gardening problems.

Much Loved Images, but Meerkat Firm Busted By Uk Competition Watchdog

meerkat image with Oops

Britain’s competition watchdog has found that comparethemarket.com is in breach of antitrust law over its arrangements with insurers, which could be resulting in higher costs for consumers.

Following an investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority provisionally found many of the price comparison website’s contracts include so-called “most favoured nation” clauses.

They were found to prevent home insurers from quoting lower prices on rival sites and other channels, meaning customers are presented with fewer options.

It also meant home insurance companies are more likely to pay higher commission rates to comparison sites with the extra costs potentially being passed on to customer, the CMA said.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Over 20 million UK households have home insurance and more than 60% of new policies are found on price comparison sites. Therefore it’s crucial that these companies are able to offer customers their best possible deals.

“Our investigation has provisionally found that ComparetheMarket has broken the law by preventing home insurers from offering lower prices elsewhere. This could result in people paying higher premiums than they need to.”

The comparison website, famous for its use of meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei in its TV adverts, could be fined up to 10% of its revenue as a result of the breach.

A spokesman for comparethemarket.com said: “We are disappointed by the CMA’s provisional findings.

“We will carefully review the evidence once we have access to it, and look forward to working with the CMA over the coming months to ensure a satisfactory outcome.”

By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor CITY CompareTheMarket 02 Nov 2018 – 11:52

meerkat group

Rental Boost £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m.

Uplift in activity for high end rentals outside of London

High end rental property

During 2018 there has been a notable uplift in activity for high end rentals outside of London, especially from our perspective on the Berkshire / Hampshire borders.

Recent properties taken to the rental market in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector have seen rental offers from multiple tenants, so what’s driving this demand?

With residential house sales sub £2.0m. seemingly trading well as we approach the close of 2018, the over £2.0m. sector is still on the quiet side, with a number of high end house buyers deciding to pop into a property rental for the next year or so, using the stamp duty funds they would have allocated on a property purchase around £2.0m. or more, to pay for the property rental instead of going into the Government coffers by way of stamp duty (about £154,000 at £2.0m. and £274,000 at £3.0m.).

Take the property shown above, which is a typical example of a fine home that recently went to the rental market and discovered interest and offers from multiple potential tenants.

The medium term outlook for top end rentals is positive, and for home owners selling in the £2.0m. to £5.0m. sector there could be good news post Brexit, because the level of hot buyers in rental property looking to exit and buy will be at a good level.

The news for house sellers is that you can and will sell successfully in today’s market, but don’t expect a fancy or inflated price.

Large house price gains are gone for a while, but like all markets when they rebound from a low they come back with a sharp and fast uptake. Savvy buyers know this and are taking care of business now. The hot houses sales market post Brexit could be the £2m. to £5m. sector. In the meantime home owners with such luxury property, in prime real estate areas such as Finchampstead in Berkshire, can take time out from selling and enjoy some extra dividends in the rental market.

If you would like to know more about the market for rental property in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector, do email Nicola Bremner nbremner@mccarthyholden.co.uk

Nicola Bremner Residential Lettings Director
Nicola Bremner M.A.R.L.A. - Director McCarthy Holden

Considering a village life for retirement? Look no further than Hartley Wintney

Voted ‘Best Place to Live’ for 5 consecutive years, Hartley Wintney is the jewel in the crown for village life, with an active community and easy connections for travelling.

For anyone looking for a place to retire, Hartley Wintney has to be worth further exploration..

duck pond in Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney duck pond - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

This oversized village features five greens, two delightful duck ponds, an attractive High Street lined with period buildings, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries when Hartley Wintney grew as a coaching stop on the London Road (aka A30), plus a scattering of barns, cottages and farmhouses from the 17th century.

High Street in Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney high street - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

Over time, the High Street has developed into a highly browsable shopping destination with a selection of fashion and interiors boutiques, galleries and antique shops. The recent addition of William Dyers amazing delicatessen offering everything from luxury cuts to a frozen dinner party has completed the luxury treats.

From a more practical and useful side, the  Whitewater Health doctors surgery is tucked just off the High Street and the village also offers a dentist and opticians.

duck pond in Hartley Wintney photo copyright Alamy
Photo of Hartley Wintney cricket green - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

The community is incredibly active and offers something for everyone, from cinema nights and plays at the Victoria and Jubilee Hall to plant sales and crafting with the local Womens Institute to the highly regarded Hartley Wintney Golf Club tucked just off the end of the High Street. One of the main focus areas of the village is Hartley Wintney Cricket Club, with their pitch just behind the High Street and with the obligatory pub next door.

Culturally, Hartley Wintney offers unlikely musical experiences – ranging from the sublime to the ridiculously fun. The former is the highly regarded opera season at West Green House; an 18th century country house known worldwide for its gardens. The latter is Lowde Fest at Hazeley Bottom: 11 hours’ non-stop live, food market and funfair.

Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

There are a number of purpose built retirement schemes, all within easy access to the High Street and amenities and at a range of price points and size to suit different needs. To find out more please call the Hartley Wintney office on 01252 842100 to find out more.

5 Last-minute garden jobs to do before winter arrives.

Almost time to batten the hatches before winter arrives - but you still have time to do last-minute garden jobs to beat the winter chill.

5 garden jobs before winter

You may have been enjoying the balmy autumn, but as the sweaters and woolly socks come out, it’s almost time to put the garden to bed.

So, what last-minute jobs should you be doing?

5 jobs for garden

1. Shelter vulnerable plants

My pots of geraniums (pelargoniums) are still going strong but they won’t be for much longer, so if you want to keep them for next year, find them some shelter now.

Cut them back to 10cm (4in) and put pots in a light, frost-free place such as a greenhouse or a sheltered porch next to the house. If the spot isn’t completely frost-free, wrap the pots in bubble wrap to give them extra protection.

If you’ve a conservatory or a cool spare room, even better. Don’t put plants near central heating or they will wilt and die when you bring them out next year.

Do the same with fuchsias, cutting them back before you put them under cover for winter, and hardly water them at all until growth starts again in spring.

5 garden jobs before winter

2. Divide perennials

The ground should still be soft enough to dig up overcrowded clumps of perennials and split them, replanting the divided clumps to give them more space.

This will lead to better performance in subsequent years and you’ve also increased your stock. Repeat planting is really effective at creating continuity and flow in borders, and dividing perennials is an ideal way of doing this.

Good subjects for division include crocosmia, rudbeckia, helenium, cranesbill geranium and catmint. You can also lift and divide hostas, although you’ll need a sharp knife to slice through the thick, congested roots.

last jobs before winter

3. Trim hedges

Try to do this when the weather’s still fine – you don’t want to be getting the hedge trimmer out when it’s pouring. If you tidy evergreen hedges now, they will look neat until next year as they won’t put on much new growth during the cooler months.

Also, trimming now may save you a bigger job in spring, when you also risk disturbing birds’ nests. Deciduous shrubs can be pruned into winter.

4. Get rid of the last of the weeds

Try to dig out any pernicious perennial weeds you see lurking, such as bindweed, couch grass and ground elder. You’ll need to dig them out completely, root and all, as if you leave any fragments of root in the soil they will come back in spring.

Hopefully, if you dig up the perennial weeds now, your job won’t be as arduous in spring. If you have areas which have been totally invaded, consider covering the ground with sheets of black plastic, secured with bricks at each corner, which will stop the light and hopefully kill the weed in a few months.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, dead-heading

5. Take cuttings

Want to increase your stock? It’s a perfect time to take hardwood cuttings of shrubs including weigelas, roses, dogwood, philadelphus and willow. They can often be grown on outdoors in a prepared trench.

Select vigorous, healthy shoots grown in the current year and remove the soft tip growth. Cut into sections 15-30cm (6in-12in) long, cutting cleanly above a bud at the top, with a sloping cut to shed water and as a reminder which end is the top.

Cut straight across at the base, below a bud or pair of buds. Dip the base into hormone rooting powder, make a slit trench in a well cultivated but vacant area of the garden, push the cuttings in vertically, 30cm (12in) apart and firm the soil back around them, closing the trench.

Water them in. This time next year they may have rooted enough to be moved. This job can be done at any time between mid-autumn and late winter.

Thinking about adding a granny flat? Here are 9 points to keep in mind

It might be a great solution but building an annex is a big decision. Lisa Salmon (who had one built for her mum) discusses the granny flat boom.

adding a granny flat pros cons

Thanks to rising property prices and expensive care home fees, a growing number of families are opting to live with, or right next to older relatives, by building granny flats on their homes.

The latest figures from the Valuation Office Agency show there are now nearly 39,000 granny annexes in England and Wales alone – an increase of 16% in recent years.

The government has tried to encourage families to live together by discounting council tax and scrapping stamp duty increases on annexes, and ministers have stressed the benefits of inter-generational families, which help save the NHS and social care system a lot of money.

But if you’ve got an elderly relative, is constructing a granny flat on your home the right option for you and them?

building granny flat points to consider

It was certainly the right choice for our family. Around three years ago, my widowed mother Sheila, now 81, and my husband and I decided we should build a granny flat for her on the side of our house. So she sold her house about 40 miles from us, and we applied for planning permission to build a two-storey annex.

It was a huge decision for us and my mum, who was leaving the house she’d lived in for more than 50 years, as well as her friends and neighbours, to live in a new city where she only knew us.

But the alternative was that, as she got older and became less mobile, she could be lonely – and there’d be no one to help her if she fell, for example, or became ill. Her moving to live, not with us, but next to us, was clearly the best option – particularly as she’d always been vehemently opposed to moving into a residential home should the need arise.

My mum’s now lived in the annex for around two years, and while the process wasn’t always easy (the build was stressful, to say the least!) and my mum understandably still misses her old life and home, we have no regrets. My mum lives completely independently in her self-contained one-bedroom flat on the side of our house, still regularly drives over to her old golf clubs 40 miles away, and is (gradually) forging a new life here.

family living granny flat

There’s no doubt, building a granny flat has worked for us. But what about other families?

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK (ageuk.org.uk), thinks granny flats are a “great solution” for elderly living – although clearly they’re not something that can be rushed into.

“This type of accommodation is one of a range of housing options open to older people who want to maintain their independence for longer in a smaller, easier-to-manage home, with around-the-clock family support when needed. It’s a great solution, but needs agreement and understanding on living arrangements and expectations,” says Abrahams.

“Bold and innovative new independent living arrangements should be encouraged and made easier to implement and afford. When so many older people are finding it increasingly difficult to get the support they want when they need it, alternative living arrangements for older people such as this play an important role in reducing the overwhelming demand on not only health and social care services but on housing too, and will ensure good health and wellbeing for longer.”

building a granny flat

Thinking of building a granny flat? Here’s nine points that might help…

1. Bridge before care

While it may not be possible for an elderly person to avoid going into a care home eventually, a granny annex can offer a useful bridge between independence and the provision of care.

2. No council tax

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) says an annex occupied by an elderly or disabled family member has a 100% council tax discount.

3. Shared bills

Depending on how it’s built and your preferences, bills may be shared between the family home and the granny flat, potentially saving money (assuming granny or grand-dad doesn’t have the heating on all the time).

4. Do it sooner not later

Moving can be very stressful for anyone, but especially for an older person. A decision to build a granny flat needs to be made sooner rather than later – ie. before an elderly relative is in desperate need of an accommodation change, and while they’re still reasonably mobile if possible. Look on it as an investment for the future.

5. Choose builders carefully

A new build can also be very stressful, so choose your builders carefully. The NFB’s Find a Builder (builders.org.uk/find-a-builder) helps people contact reputable builders who’ve been strictly vetted and have undergone a range of reference checks.

6. Plan for future needs

Think carefully not just about the elderly person’s needs now, but what they may be in the future. If your granny annex is two storeys, do the bedroom and toilet need to be downstairs in case mobility becomes an issue in later years?

7. Communication is key

Honest and detailed discussions are crucial, both with the builder before construction about the budget, timescale and exactly what you and the elderly relative want, and with your relative about how bills will be paid (if they’re shared), who’s responsible for the garden if it’s shared, whether you eat together, whether you knock before entering each other’s homes, etc.

8. Get legal advice

It’s important to discuss, and get legal advice if necessary, what happens if either the younger family or the older relative wants to sell up and move to a different property but the others don’t want to sell.

9. Be prepared for relationship breakdowns

It may also be worth seeing a solicitor to discuss what happens if there’s a relationship breakdown, as one of the family homeowners may demand their share of the property in divorce proceedings. What happens to the granny flat occupant then?

adding granny flat

If you are considering building or adding a granny flat and want to know how this could change the value of your home, please do call your local office for a free no obligation market appraisal where you can discuss the options that you are considering. https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/