How To Make Your Own Christmas Wreath Using Succulents

Follow this step-by-step guide to creating a door wreath using on point succulent plants, which will last into the New Year.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

If you want to go chic on the Christmas wreath front this year, consider succulents – they’ll last through the festive season and may even transfer to your garden later on.

Living wreaths give a great natural look indoors and out, but you’ll need different plants for different places – so indoors, you can experiment with echeveria and haworthia, while for an outdoor wreath, you can use succulent alpine plants such as sedum or sempervivum.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

Here, Claire Bishop, plants buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com) offers this step-by-step guide to creating your own natural succulent door wreath for Christmas…

What you need to get started: 12 succulent alpine plants, like sedum or sempervivum (house leeks), selecting small plants in 5cm or 9cm pot sizes; moss, an oasis ring, florists wire, wire cutters and pins.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

1. Cover your oasis ring

Soak your moss in water and use it to cover the oasis ring completely

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

2. Position your plants

Place the plants one by one into the oasis ring, securing with pins as you go

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

3. Secure the wreath

To make your wreath extra secure, wrap florists wire around it to reduce any movement.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

4. Complete the look

Add some finishing touches to fill any gaps – pine cones or red berries are great for adding a festive touch.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

Living wreaths are perfect for indoors or out, but the type of plants used will depend on where you are ultimately going to display it.

“For an indoor wreath, succulents are the perfect choice as they love a drier climate and are very low maintenance,” says Bishop.

“They have become one of the most popular indoor houseplants due to their stand-out style, with Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards awash with cool cacti displays and trendy terrariums. This take on the wreath gives the succulent a new lease of life for the festive season.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

“When it comes to choosing the right ones, in general, the greenest succulents will fare the best indoors. Succulents thrive in as much light as possible, so displaying your wreath in view of a window is ideal.”

If you are making a wreath for your door to greet guests, choose small plants in 5cm or 9cm pot sizes and try alternating the types of plants for maximum visual impact.

She continues: “If you’ve opted for an indoor wreath using succulents, make sure it looks its best by watering it once a week. You can do this by soaking your oasis ring in water and using a misting spray if required.

“For outdoor alpines, depending on position, mist if and when required to keep plants looking fresh.”

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.

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

Fed Up With Smog? 5 Pollution-Resistant Plants to Help you Breathe

As the government pledges the funding of millions of trees in cities to ease pollution, an expert offers a guide to 5 smog-resistant plants.

pollution resistant plants

The government is proposing to fund the planting of millions of trees to boost housing prices in cities, to improve green spaces and help preserve the environment, gardeners can also do their bit by planting pollution-resistant plants.

David Mitchell, buying manager for horticulture at Wyevale Garden Centres, says: “Plants do have a hard time with pollution. Since the leaves need to ‘breathe’, anything that limits that exchange, such as airborne gasses or if the pores are blocked by dust and grime, will limit their potential.

“Fruit trees in particular can struggle and yields can be as low as half of what they would be in cleaner air.”

Here are five of his favourite pollution-tolerant plants and how to care for them…

pollution resistant plants

1. Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’

This ornamental pear is an exceptionally good tree for small urban gardens, with its upright, narrow shape and branches that are smothered with white blossom early in spring (April to May).

The leaves turn a vibrant red and purple in the autumn before falling and some years, the tree will produce small inedible brown fruits. It does best in moist but well drained soil (clay, sand or loam) and in full sun.

pollution resistant plants

2. Buddleia

Known as the butterfly bush, Buddleia produces clusters of deep scented flowers from midsummer into autumn. Rich in nectar, this fast-growing, hardy deciduous shrub attracts butterflies, bees and other insects, and thrives in any well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand).

pollution resistant plants

3. Camellia

Producing rich, colourful flowers with ruffled petals and golden stamens in late winter into spring (February to April), which are offset by glossy evergreen leaves, the camellia proves that beautiful plants can also be tolerant to pollution.

Plant in light shade, in shelter, and in moist but well-drained, humus-rich, lime-free soil (loam) or in a container, in ericaceous (lime-free) compost.

pollution resistant plants

4. Buxus sempervirens

This classic British native evergreen is ideal for low hedging, boundaries or divisions in formal gardens in both modern and traditional settings.

It responds well to being trimmed and thrives in the shade, and most well-drained soils (chalk, loam or sand). It’s excellent for growing in containers, as topiary and for training as feature plants.

pollution resistant plants

5. Berberis

This easy-to-grow barberry has spiny shoots and simple leaves. Soft yellow or orange flowers appear in spring (April to May) and are followed by small berries in the autumn. This deciduous or evergreen shrub will succeed in a wide range of conditions. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained humus-rich soil (chalk, loam or sand), although it will be tolerant of most soils as long as they are reasonably well-drained.

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.

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/

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/

Ghoulish Halloween Gardens!

Getting in the Halloween spirit? Hannah Stephenson reveals some of the 'foul and creepy' specimens that could be lurking in your hedges and borders...

halloween garden design plants

Mischievous trick-or-treaters dressed as ghosts and ghouls may be on the prowl on your doorstep this Halloween – but step into your garden and you might find some spooky spikes, noxious nasties and creepy creepers lurking in your borders.

Some plants can sting, burn, cut or emit an acrid, foul-smelling odour. Others have sinister-sounding names or connections with witches or the devil, while there are some which are said to help ward off evil.

Get yourself into the mood for Halloween with this guide to horticultural horrors…

1. Eye-poppers

When you see the spooky white berries with a single black spot emerging from red stems, you can understand why this sinister-looking plant is nicknamed the Doll’s Eye (Actaea pachypoda). All parts of this herbaceous perennial are poisonous and when ingested can cause hallucinations.

halloween garden plants design

2. Strangling suspects

Also known as strangleweed, devil’s guts, witches shoelaces and devil’s ringlet, but better known as dodder (Cuscuta), this pernicious relative of bindweed twines itself round a host plant and inserts itself into the host’s vascular system – sucking out everything it needs to live and killing its plant victim in the process.

halloween garden plants design

3. Prickly subjects

Among the most prickly of plants is the hawthorn. As a thorny hedge, it will stab its thorns into your fingers, even when you’re wearing the toughest gloves, and mature plants will even pierce the soles of gardening shoes – although on the plus side, a hawthorn hedge can also deter even the most persistent burglar.

Other prickly candidates include creeping juniper, common holly, firethorn (pyracantha), juniper and purple berberis.

halloween garden plants design

4. Toxic terrors

Aconitum, also known as monkshood or wolfsbane, is among the most toxic of plants, with ingestion of even a small amount causing severe stomach upsets. But it also slows the heart rate, which can prove fatal.

You don’t just have to eat it to suffer the symptoms. The poison can be absorbed through the skin, via open wounds, and there have even been reports of people feeling unwell after smelling the flowers.

halloween garden plants design

5. Foul smelling specimens

Then there are the plants which literally smell like rotten corpses. The stinking iris, Iris foetidissima, for example, absolutely reeks. If you can stand the smell, or remain downwind from it, this bulb puts on a spectacular display in autumn and winter, when its gigantic seed pods burst open to reveal brilliant orange and sometimes red seeds.

halloween garden plants design

6. Acrid arums

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as the ‘corpse flower’ as it smells like decomposed bodies when in flower, is nevertheless beautiful, growing up to 3m tall, its gigantic crimson flower spanning 3m, and is a great magnet for pollinating insects.

This acrid arum prefers the rainforests of Sumatra as its natural habitat, although you can admire it in the exotic sections of botanical gardens such as the Eden Project in Cornwall and at Kew, where it’s currently flowering.

Others in the bad smells league include Eucomis bicolor, the pineapple lily, and the dead horse arum (Helicodiceros muscivorus), named for obvious reasons.

7. Ghostly apparitions

The ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora), an eerie white specimen found in shady woods is a rare sight.

It has no chlorophyll, the chemical that allows plants to absorb energy from the sun and typically gives plants their green colour. In fact, the ghost plant is a parasite which sucks on fungi connected to a host plant, which is usually a nearby tree. The fungi acts as the middleman for the nutrients provided by the tree.

halloween garden plants design

8. Bizarre bulbs

While many bulbs bring heady fragrance, including the sweetly-scented hyacinth, others have pretty horrible odours, including the imposing crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). But don’t let the smell put you off too much, because its impressive orange flowers make more of a statement than its whiffy pong.

halloween garden plants design

9. Poisonous potions

No Halloween would be complete without its share of witches, whose potions have been linked with some of our most common plants. Hemlock, for instance, is highly poisonous and closely linked with witchcraft. It doesn’t look significantly different from the hedge parsley or cow parsley which grows along roads, ditches, trails, or the edges of fields.

Its white flowerheads resemble those of parsnips, carrots or angelica, while the bright green leaves are deeply-cut, even feathery and delicate. Yet all plant parts are poisonous, with the seeds containing the highest concentration of poison, causing toxic reactions.

Deadly nightshade (Belladonna), another common plant often found in hedgerows, was one of the main ingredients in witches’ brews during the Middle Ages, while blackthorn is often referred to as a witch’s tree. As late as the 1940s, anyone seen to carry a blackthorn walking stick was suspected of being a witch.

halloween garden plants design

10. Warding off evil

Plants including rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hazelnut (Corylus avellane) and elderberry (Sambucus nigra) were once thought to be ‘magical’ trees and shrubs, which could ward off witches and evil spirits.

Ancient Celts believed rowan berries gave good health, and that if you planted them near grave sites, they would help the dead sleep.

People would use branches as dowsing rods and make crosses of rowan twigs to protect themselves on Halloween, while in old Europe, householders would put elderberry branches above their doorways to protect their homes from malevolent spirits. Strands of hazelnuts, worn or kept in the home ,were said to bring good luck.

halloween garden plants design

Bargain buys for big impact

Show your space some decor TLC with this season's bargain buys. Gabrielle Fagan reveals her top finds.

supermarket chic small budget interior

Great style doesn’t have to be super-expensive. After all, it’s those fabulous finishing touches that really give a room personality and make it special.

There’s a brilliant array of affordable homeware available on the high street right now, and you could even load up your trolley with on-trend accessories while doing your supermarket shop. Asda’s George Home range and the Sainsbury’s Home collection are both rightly renowned for their fashionable, purse-friendly items.

Whether you want to transform a living room or just a corner, or beautify a bedroom – take your pick from these brilliant buys to help turn rooms into stylish sanctuaries…

supermarket chic small budget interior

Show a living space some love

A pale colour palette will make a room feel more spacious. and can still feel cosy if it’s grounded by dark flooring or carpet. Curate your collection of accessories and rotate them using only a few at a time. That pared-back approach will let the details sing.

George Home’s bang-up-to date range has all the ingredients for a luxe living space. Top picks include space-saving seating, such as their Glynn 2 Seater Sofa, £350, and Knitted Pouffe, £39. Check out the range’s divine details too: We love the Copper-Toned Glass Terrarium Lantern, £20, Pink and Grey Chunky Throw, £18, and Cushions, from £6 each.

DECOR TIP: A relaxed setting should never be cluttered. If you can’t fit in bulky storage, use baskets and boxes. Paint surrounding walls the same shade as fitted cupboards, so they recede and don’t dominate a room.

supermarket chic small budget interior

Create a chic corner

Deep blues not only make a room feel calm and peaceful but will also add depth and drama. Create your own intimate space by switching light cottons for velvet and faux fur, to conjure a cosseting, cocooning effect. Add a comfy chair (refurb an old one with a throw) and treat yourself to a new lamp, which has the power to transform a space – then sit back and snuggle.

DECOR TIP: This season’s all about natural materials and textures – wool, mohair and cashmere feel gorgeously snug and improve with age. And don’t forget to ‘green it up’ with house plants, real or faux.

supermarket chic small budget interior

Dream up a beautiful boudoir

Warm shades, such as terracotta, burnt orange and mustard yellows, mimic the richness of autumn landscapes and are the perfect, easy-on-the-eye palette for bedrooms.

Opt for a pale, neutral backdrop and floor, and darken the mood, for a sleep-inducing atmosphere, by wallpapering the wall behind the bed. Up the style stakes by layering the bed with throws, and accessorise with cushions in harmonising colours. For luscious lustre, add copper lights, vases or photo frames.

DECOR TIP: Adding pops of pattern will add interest to a scheme. Embrace a modern retro-feel with geometric designs, keep it classic with a chevron pattern in monochrome, or keep it simple with a touch of a stripe or spots.

Small Trees for Small Gardens

As gardens become smaller, trim trees can be just the ticket, says Hannah Stephenson. Small trees are in high demand, with suppliers increasing production in compact varieties - including crab apples, which bear beautiful spring flowers, and Vossii laburnums, with their upright forms and disease-resistant characteristics.

best trees for small garden

Trees provide structure, screening and shade, as well as colour which continues through the season, creating a sense of enclosure, their height drawing the eye up and out and helping link land with sky – and if you choose wisely, there’s no reason why having a dinky outdoor space should stop you introducing them.

Your tree needs to earn its space in a small garden, so look for one with year-round interest: A tree that blossoms for a week in spring but then looks ordinary for the rest of the year really won’t do.

In really tight spaces, you may be better off with a trimmed and trained plant, either in the ground or in a container, while carefully shaped topiary can also create an eye-catching focal point.

Here are five good examples to consider…

best trees for small garden

1. Amelanchier

Amelanchiers have featured heavily in garden shows in the past couple of years, as designers have displayed their value as choice trees for confined spaces.

Amelanchier lamarckii (10m x 12m), the snowy Mespilus, is often grown as a multi-stemmed showstopper but can also be trained as a light standard. Starry white flowers cover its branches in spring, at the same time as its bronze foliage is opening, while in autumn the small leaves often turn to fiery red and yellow.

They do best in acid soils, so plant them in ericaceous compost. These tall, slender shrubby trees make great subtle screening.

best trees for small garden

2. Flowering dogwood

Flowering dogwoods are long-season stalwarts, their star-shaped blooms appearing in late spring, followed by fantastic leaf colours of reds and oranges in autumn, and strawberry-like fruits which persist into winter.

Good varieties include Cornus kousa (7m x 5m), which bears spreading branches smothered in creamy white blossom in early summer and deep-pink bracts in late spring and orange leaves in autumn, and Cornus mas (5m x 5m), the Cornelian cherry, a small spreading variety which comes into its own in winter when clusters of yellow flowers smother the bare branches.

best trees for small garden

3. Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’

These elegant small trees, which produce long chains of brilliant yellow flowers in May and June, are perfect for training over an arch or pergola when branches are young and pliable.

Gardeners can remove the poisonous seedpods to help improve flowering next year. Just be aware that all parts of the plant are very poisonous, so this is not a child-friendly choice.

They’ll grow to around 8m x 8m and can tolerate poor and shallow soil. Laburnum can also be grown in large tubs, forced early into flower. Arguably the best for this is L. anagyroides var. alschingeri.

4. Crab apple (malus)

Flowering crab apples produce a double whammy of eye-catching blossoms in spring, followed by attractive fruits in autumn.

A good variety is ‘Evereste’ (8m x 8m, but slow-growing), which bears a puff of white and pink fragrant flowers in spring which are a magnet to bees, followed by orange-yellow fruits which can be made into jam.

The slow-growing Japanese crab, Malus Floribunda, is also less vigorous, its horizontal branches covered in crimson buds in the spring, which open to blush-pink and white scented blooms. The advantage of malus is that you can control their size and shape, like a fruiting apple.

best trees for small garden

5. Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)

These stunning stars of the show grow equally well in pots, if you only have a courtyard space and need to keep their size in check, or in the ground to create colour and add structure to a scene.

Mix a combination in different pots to create a range of stunning contrasting autumn colours, including Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, which bears rich red-purple foliage from spring to autumn, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, whose leaves open orange-yellow in spring, and Acer palmatum var. dissectum, whose finely cut mid-green leaves turn golden in autumn.

Plant them in full sun and try to avoid really exposed areas, where their delicate foliage may be damaged by icy winds. If you’re planting them in a container, use compost consisting equal parts of John Innes No. 2 potting compost and a soil-less multipurpose, with plenty of drainage in the base.

best trees for small garden

Your garden adds value both your property and your lifestyle. To check you are maximising the financial potential with your garden, contact you local branch for an up to date valuation: https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

Spiced Honey Is The Dulux Colour Of The Year For 2019 – Here’s How To Use It

Whether spread across rooms or dipped into on borders and accents, Marianne Shillingford talks to Gabrielle Fagan about Dulux's sweet new hue.

delux spiced honey paint of the year

A sweet, new look is coming to our homes thanks to Dulux, who’ve revealed Spiced Honey as its Colour of the Year for 2019.

An earthy, caramel hue, according to the experts at the paint brand, it’s versatile enough to introduce into a wide range of home interiors – because it can be “calming and nourishing” or “stimulating and energising”, depending on the palettes and light surrounding it.

“Spiced Honey is a warm caramel with notes of amber, that perfectly reflects our new sense of optimism and resilience for 2019,” says Marianne Shillingford, Dulux’s UK creative director.

“While 2018 was seen as unsettled and unpredictable and saw us retreating and hiding behind our sofas, next year is one where we’re ready to ‘let in the light’,” she adds.

Here, Shillingford shares her guide to using the colour to create successful settings…

delux spiced honey paint of the year

What is Spiced Honey?

“Spiced Honey has a raw, natural quality that works like a warm neutral, which makes it so adaptable to pairing with different materials and styles of decoration,” she enthuses.

“It looks especially good when teamed with whites and off-whites in furniture and furnishings, which gives it a contemporary feel.”

What can it do for rooms?

“Its rich caramel tones visually turn up the thermostat a few degrees, and so it’s perfect for creating a relaxed, cosy atmosphere in places where we like to think, dream, love and act,” Shillingford notes. “Its the colour of warm woods, and while there’s something reassuringly familiar about it, which may pay a nod to Seventies retro, this is a new colour with a fresh, modern spin.

“Paired with off-whites and a dollop of deepest inky Cobalt Night, Spiced Honey offers a room a fresh contemporary bite, but introduce soft warm greys and muted pinks like Angora Blanket and Soft Stone, and you achieve a look that is as sweet and delicious as honey on hot buttered toast.”

DECOR TIP: For a sophisticated living area, use the shade as a backdrop and add touches of soft pink, intense burgundy and sophisticated deep blue. Polished woods, mid-century furniture, graphic rugs and textiles will emphasis will enhance this look.

 

delux spiced honey paint of the year

How can this shade be used in rooms?

“It’s a colour that’s happy to play the supporting role rather than being a full immersion shade on all the walls, but it could be a wrap-around colour in a small room where you want an intimate atmosphere.

“Otherwise, feature it in bands and blocks, as well as on interior woodwork or for painted furniture,” Shillingford adds. “Be guided by when you most use a room, as well as the light levels it enjoys. If it’s mostly used during the day and there’s little light, its bronze tones will be more pronounced and it will be more dominating.

“If, however, your room is north-facing with large windows and ample light, you could decorate a larger area. Light has such a lovely effect on this shade – which is in fact predominantly yellow in its make-up, so in full sunshine it has an invigorating, uplifting feel. As the light fades and it’s seen in lamplight, it takes on a gorgeous cocooning, soothing, almost textile finish. “

DECOR TIP: For an energising atmosphere, partner Spiced Honey with richly pigmented shades, including deep forest green, bold teal and intense terracotta red. With wooden furniture and botanical prints, the effect will be a cosy but lively space.

Where could you use it?

“I’m loving the idea of using this colour on a ceiling, possibly in my bedroom. It’s such a liberating way of decorating because the ceiling is the most uninterrupted space in a room,” says Shillingford. “Focusing the colour overhead allows you to be much more more creative with walls, so you can hang more art and other decoration. Interior designers are starting to call the ceiling the fifth wall!”

DECOR TIP: To create a serene space, pair the shade with romantic powder pinks and blues. Plain pale woods, simple hand-thrown vessels and pretty fabrics will add to the contemplative, centred feel.

delux spiced honey paint of the year

What other ways are there to feature the shade?

“Think of this Spiced Honey as flavour for a room. There’s no need to overdose on it, just as you wouldn’t if it was a spice in cooking. It works equally well in small doses. Using it that way is the ideal starting point if you want to experiment and see if it’s to your taste,” suggests Shillingford.

“Paint a shelf, create a painted border around a door frame, or feature it as a low band of colour at dado height on a wall to ground a space. Alternatively, pick up on it with accessories.”

DECOR TIP: Be playful with Spiced Honey and enliven it with pops of vivid red and green among pale pinks, blues and crisp greys and whites. Partner with reclaimed, personalised furniture and bold graphic shapes for an on-trend eclectic look.

Kevin McCloud: 5 Of The Easiest Ways To Make Your Home More Eco-friendly

Kevin McCloud: 5 Of The Easiest Ways To Make Your Home More Eco-friendly

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips

By Abi Jackson, Press Association

Want to up ramp up those green efforts? Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud tells Abi Jackson his top tips.

Trying to be a little more planet-friendly? Like most things in life, it starts at home – but knowing where to start or whether your efforts are worthwhile, can be tricky.

“It’s easy to think of being planet-friendly as something we can buy, which often just adds to the problems of environmental damage,” says Grand Designs presenter and home-style guru Kevin McCloud.

“There’s no doubt that, by contrast, the correct things we should be doing are: A) changing our behaviour, which is hard; B) consuming less, which is hard to get used to; C) sharing our resources more, which is often annoying, and D) thinking ecologically about our wider environment, which is very hard.

Having said that, there are some accessible ways of making our homes more environmentally responsible.”

Wondering what those are? Here, McCloud shares five “easy” ways to make our homes more eco-friendly…

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips
  1. Rely less on central heating

“Start with the simple things, like turning the thermostat down to 18 or19 degrees rather than 21, putting on an extra pullover instead, makinga hot water bottle at bedtime, and buying some slippers.”

  1. Go for straightforward insulation methods first

“We could all probably insulate our attics more, draught-proof our windows and doors, and maybe fit secondary or double glazing. Insulation may not seem sexy, but it’s much cheaper and delivers quicker cash and energy savings than solar panels or a heat-exchanging thermo-dynamic hybrid heat pump with go-faster stripes,” says McCloud. “Men, I’m afraid, tend to be seduced more by kit than reason. If you find yourself using the word ‘tech’, be wary – my bitter experience is that the more complicated you make your home, the more there is to go wrong.

“Make sure your home is fully insulated with good airtightness and simple ventilation systems. It’s called a fabric-first approach. Only then should you consider the bolt-on technology.”

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips grey decor parquet floor
  1. Check out new glazing technologies

“New glazing technologies fascinate me,” says McCloud, “because the windows in our homes are effectively holes through which heat pours. Metal coatings on glass and vacuum-extracted systems, like Pilkington’s Spacia, deliver excellent performance – I’m trialling them to see how they perform over time.”

  1. Be mindful of where things come from and how they’re made

“When I buy free-range tomatoes or FairTrade toothpaste at the supermarket, the product is usually accompanied by a little story and some pictures of the people that made it. Lovely. That makes me feel good and I’m comforted by the legitimacy of the endorsement of the Soil Association, or whichever. Knowing where your meat comes from, who grew it, and its full ‘chain of custody’ weirdly seems to improve the flavour too – so I’m a champion of authenticity and the true narrative of things, because it connects the people who make things to the people that consume them, and seems to damage the planet and all its species a little less along the way,” says McCloud – and he extends the same principles to items he buys for his home.

“Britain is still the largest importer of illegal (illegally felled that is) timber and timber products in Europe, which is shocking. I wrote my book, The Principles Of Home, to partly address all this; it’s shameful that when you or I buy a sofa, some curtain fabric, a pair of jeans or a dining table, there is virtually zero information about the welfare conditions in the factory where it’s from, the chemicals used in manufacture, or the damage wreaked on the environment in its making.

I’ve now started asking retailers for the full story of what they sell, and I suggest you do the same every time you buy something.”

  1. Tap up the experts

“If you’re designing a house from scratch, talk to an architect who’ll understand designing for orientation, passive solar gain, maximum winter sunlight, shading and minimum summer overheating. You can design in thermal mass with heavy concrete floors or earth walls, humidify and cool the airflow through the house with a buried air-duct or a pond outside a window, allow hot air to be purged through a skylight at the top of the house and allow for some cooling cross-ventilation. There. Easy. So speak to an architect.”

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips

Kevin McCloud will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at The NEC, Birmingham, from October 10-14, 2018. To claim your free pair of weekday tickets, visit granddesignslive.com and use code PRESSASSOC. Offer live from September 25 until October 5. T&Cs apply. For details, see granddesignslive.com/whats-on/1228-t-c-s

To discus the impact any of these or other improvements may have on your property value, please call your local office – details can be found here https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

GIOVANNA FLETCHER: ‘How I Created a Nursery for Baby Number Three’

The author, blogger and wife of musician Tom Fletcher shows Gabrielle Fagan how she put together a ‘rocking’ nursery for their new son, Max Mario.

nursery, decoration, Giovanna-fletcher, interior design

“Welcome to the world, Max Mario Fletcher,” Giovanna Fletcher proudly declared on Twitter, celebrating the birth of her third baby this August.

Now, she’s delightedly showing off the beautiful nursery she’s created for him in the home she shares with musician husband, Tom – of McFly and McBusted fame – and their other sons: Buzz, four, and two-year-old Buddy.

The bestselling novelist and podcast guru worked with online interiors specialist, Wayfair.co.uk, to revamp a bedroom and transform it into an airy, gender-neutral, tranquil space ready for the family’s newest arrival.

nursery, decoration, Giovanna-fletcher, interior design, retro-prints

“I really wanted to freshen up the space, as it’s not been redesigned since it became Buzz’s room four years ago and it looked really tired and worn,” explains Giovanna, 33. “I wanted a clean space that felt homely and calming but full of sweet details and practical, affordable picks. It was important it was gender neutral as we didn’t find out the sex before he was born.”

“The jungle-themed wallpaper is stunning and adds so much to the space, while also being neutral. I really love a statement design,” Fletcher enthuses. “We have flamingos in the downstairs loo, an intricate story-based design in the boys’ room and then full on ‘flower power’ in my office.”

“The teepee tent (Hokku Designs Play Tent, £136.99, Wayfair) is gorgeous – such a unique but affordable touch,” she adds. “I can really imagine him lying in there and taking it all in.

nursery, decoration, Giovanna-fletcher, interior design, wigwam

“There are also so many textures to explore with the cushions, throws and rugs, and the muted pastel shades help make it all look so beautiful.”

“I’m also really happy with the wardrobe and changing unit. Babies come with a lot of stuff,” says the new mum. “Being the third child, this baby is inheriting a fair few clothes, so it’s good to have somewhere to put it all.”

The Fletchers have a busy lifestyle. Giovanna writes romantic fiction and blogs about life as a mum – plus there’s the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast she hosts; she documented her third pregnancy throughout, sharing details with her social media fans. As well as performing and touring with his bands, guitarist and singer-songwriter Tom also writes – children’s fiction – and this year saw the couple publish Eve Of Man, the first book in a trilogy they’re co-writing.

“We moved into our house 12 years ago, when we were only 21 years old, and kept it just as it was initially,” reveals Fletcher – Tom and Giovanna were childhood sweethearts after meeting aged 13 at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and married in 2012.

“We bought a show house, which was great for us at the time as it was hassle-free and looked stunning,” she recalls. “But as time went on, we realised it didn’t really show off our personalities or interests.

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“About two years ago, we decided to make some upgrades – the house is now a collection of the things we love.” There’s a music room for Tom, 33, and one end of their spacious lounge converts into a cinema space.

“Having children also forced us to look at our home differently. Before we became parents, we did a first aid course which led us to an extensive ‘risk assessment’ in the house. It completely freaked us out, and made us view everything as a potential threat,” Fletcher adds, laughing.

“So glass went, any sharp corners were frowned upon, stair gates went in and locks were fitted on locks!”

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She feels that since the redecoration, they’ve been able to have more fun with their space.

“Growing up, I can remember being told off about doing anything that might damage the carpet, sofas or breakables. Our boys still have to be careful, of course, but I’d say our style has become more family-friendly,” Fletcher reflects. “Children take over and there’s not a single room that doesn’t contain some sort of child-related item! But I like rooms to reflect some personality, while being inviting and cosy.

“Our home’s colourful, warm, inviting, cosy, inspiring and calming, depending on where you are in it. It’s also practical. I’m not one for useless faff.”