Innovative, Eco-Friendly and Smart: Check Out the Gardening Products of the Year

Chelsea garden product of the year

From eco-friendly home composters to super quick pizza ovens and inventive garden lighting, we look at 7 garden products of the year.

Want a composter with a difference? Or a light that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker? Or even a pot or seed tray made from bamboo?

These are just some of the finalists for the RHS Chelsea Product of the Year title which may take your fancy in the coming months, whether you’re looking for the practical, the sustainable or the high tech.

Here are 7 clever products which have impressed the RHS judges:

Chelsea garden product of the year

1. Obelisk Composter and Obelisk (£39 composter, £59 obelisk, wilstone.com)

This ingenious invention launching at RHS Chelsea Flower Show features a galvanised mild steel compost bin which you put directly on to your flower bed or in your vegetable patch, and an elegant obelisk which goes over it which you can use as a support for anything from climbing beans to sweet peas or clematis.

You scoop compostable waste directly into the drum and the resulting compost inside then feeds the growing plants directly into their roots without you having to lift or carry the compost anywhere.

Chelsea garden product of the year

2. Cuba LED lantern and combined Bluetooth speaker (£249, lightinnovation.com)

Shed a little light on your patio and enjoy music at the same time with this new lantern and combined Bluetooth speaker, which will be available from the end of May.

It’s highly portable and can be used indoors or out, recharging from 0 to 100% in six hours. The dimmable 7 watt LED light will work for up to eight hours on one charge and the lantern will connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device, from a phone to a tablet.

Chelsea garden product of the year

3. Swan Watering Can (£8, madewithhusk.com)

With an emphasis on sustainability, this swan-shaped indoor watering can (to be launched on May 20) is fully biodegradable and made from 75% waste bamboo powder collected directly from farms. Testing has shown that the product can last up to seven years, although this was based on a pot that had been left outside, so it’s likely that if kept indoors, it will last longer.

Chelsea garden product of the year

4. Hotbin mini (£150, hotbincomposting.com)

Following in the footsteps of the award-winning Hotbin which can transform your food and garden waste into rich compost within 30-90 days, its smaller sister, the Hotbin mini (launching at Chelsea) does the same thing but is easier to house in smaller gardens.

It reaches temperatures of 40-60C which allows the efficient composting of more types of waste, more quickly. All food and garden waste can be added in, including cooked food, small bones and perennial weeds.

It’s also sealed well enough, with a bio-filter in the lid, to stop odours that can attract rats and flies. Add a bulking agent such as wood chippings to aid the process.

Chelsea garden product of the year

5. ‘Grande’ Plant Belles (from £53, will be available to order from Chelsea plantbelles.co.uk)

To mark the company’s 10th year of trading, it is launching three new ‘grande’ plant belles, elegant but robust steel wire frames to support larger freestanding herbaceous plants, unruly shrub roses and other floppy heavy headed shrubs like Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.

The new taller, wider and heavier plant belles are inspired by the Sissinghurst method of training shrub roses, offering needy plants support once grown through, but also give the gardener the chance to prune and train shrubby plants in creative ways, by looping and tying branches back to the structure.

Chelsea garden product of the year

6. Ooni Koda Gas-Powered Outdoor pizza oven (£244.99, uk.ooni.com)

If you love eating pizza in the open air and you don’t want to wait too long, you may invest in this smart, sleek pizza oven which you can assemble in seconds, place on your patio and have a pizza ready in 60 seconds.

Flip open the foldable legs, put the stone baking board into the oven, connect it to a gas tank and pre-heat the oven for 15 minutes. It reaches temperatures of up to 500C, which is why it can cook your pizza so quickly. It has a clean, streamlined silhouette paired with one-touch gas ignition for easy, convenient outdoor cooking.

Chelsea garden product of the year

7. Bamboo Pots and Seed Trays (£3.99-£6.99, www.haxnicks.co.uk)

Continuing the eco-friendly theme and the war on plastics, these bamboo pots and seed trays from Haxnicks are made from bamboo and rice, can be used indoors or outdoors and are reputed to last for five years or more. They’re also biodegradable and compostable, so give a feelgood factor to gardeners who really care about their environment.

Dream of Owning a Walk-in Wardrobe? Here’s How to Make it Happen

walk in wardrobe ideas

As far as home-improvements go, walk-in closets are certainly a luxury - but that doesn't mean you can't seriously consider it. By Luke Rix-Standing.

walk in wardrobe ideas

When considering a property, for most of us, walk-in closets are probably not at the forefront of our minds. Not that we don’t like the idea of them – but they’ve traditionally been seen as a luxury few can afford, more fit for a Great Gatsby adaption or the castle of a Bond villain.

Creating that walk-in wardrobe of dreams, however, might be a lot more doable than you think. It’s a great option for making use of a small space, whether it’s a neglected cubby or an unused ‘spare room’ that’s really not at all big enough for anything else.

We’ve pulled together few tips to get you started, from the flagrantly flat-pack to the outrageously opulent…

walk in wardrobe ideas

Start with a sartorial stocklist

If you’re considering a walk-in closet, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Generally speaking, this is about something you really want personally, rather than adding value. “When adding value to a property, every square-foot counts,” says Julian Prieto, CEO of property renovation and refurbishment specialists, EDGE2 Properties (myedge2.com). “And in the UK, real estate is about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ve got. This kind of project is usually for assets people want to live in for 10 or 20 years.”

Walk-in closets are generally purpose-built and vary enormously based on space, budget and need. There is no catalogue case study or IKEA starter-pack that can construct a walk-in closet over a weekend – you’re going to have to think carefully about what will best work for you. This will determine the design of the space.

“Rule number one is to understand your own wardrobe,” says Prieto. “You need to be able to plan your walk-in closet around what you have and what space you need to allocate.”

A working professional might prioritise clothes rails for hanging suits and shirts, for example, while an avid shoe collector may want a pull-out shoe rack, or perhaps an area of cubby holes for artful storage.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of building a walk-in wardrobe, it needs to perform perfectly, and empty space will likely ruin the aesthetic. Resist the temptation to go overboard on baskets, drawers and other accoutrements – the majority of wardrobes will need to maximise hanging space.

walk in wardrobe ideas

Consider how to make best use of the space

Now you know what your room needs to accommodate, it’s time to go about fitting it into the available space. This will be slightly different for everyone, but unless you’re a rich list regular or minor royal (“I’ve built closets at around 300-square metres,” says Prieto), we’re assuming it won’t be particularly big.

“There are some rules of thumb when it comes to small spaces,” says Prieto. “I would always suggest using just one wall and leaving the opposite side free – if there are two sides that are too close to each other, you won’t be able to see your own clothes. If that’s not an option, I suggest an L-shape, taking up one side and the front.”

Rather than using up floor area, the key is to maximise vertical space – large wooden units with compartments can help utilise every inch, stretching from floor to ceiling. Mirrors are the oldest trick in the book for doubling visual space, and putting one on the far wall allows you to preen and pose from any part of the room.

Unless you’re victim to a major moth problem, consider going door-less. “That’s why it’s called a walk-in closet,” says Prieto, “so you can walk in and see all your clothes at once. If you can afford it, you could put in glass sliding doors – they open sideways, so don’t get in the way when you access your garments.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

Don’t rush the planning

Walk-in closets may sound like the preserve of the rich and famous, but they can be as simple as shelving units lined against a wall. To do-it-yourself, the proof is in the planning – working out dimensions and carefully apportioning space.

“It can be quite fun,” says Prieto, “and shouldn’t take more than two weeks to put together. The planning should take longer – when you get into that room, you need to know exactly what you’re doing.”

If you go bespoke, you’re entering a brave new world of opportunity – and of cost. Prieto says a small, simple closet tends to start at around £2,000, while those at the pinnacle of high-end can check in at £65,000-£70,000. “We’re talking 300-square metres, bespoke furnishings, good carpets and a chandelier in the middle,” he says. “Everything done down to the last detail.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

The ‘ultimate luxury’

Of course, if you have a bank vault to rival that of Scrooge McDuck, then your options are almost limitless. “Hidden safes are common for high-end customers,” says Prieto. “Recently, I was asked to put a jewellery safe hidden in the space between wardrobes. It was supposed to open vertically with a key card – when she said she wanted it, I had to ask if she’d seen it somewhere because I didn’t know where to go for it. We had to get it from Switzerland and it took four months and £25,000 just to fit it. I thought it was bonkers!”

That sort of scenario might be totally unrelatable for most of us, but with a bit of planning and imagination, a walk-in closet could be an achievable goal.

“It’s the ultimate luxury – but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg,” says Prieto. “Research what you need, take stock of what you have, and measure the space you’ll be fitting. That’s all you need to do.”

walk in wardrobe ideas

Hanging Basket Masterclass: Here’s how to Make the Best Flower Display in 8 Easy Steps

best hanging baskets

It's time to create a riot of colour with hanging baskets. Hannah Stephenson tries a masterclass to learn the secrets of success.


So often my hanging baskets end up looking lacklustre and forlorn, with gaps where filler plants should have gone, holes in my moss liners and a lack of regular watering.


However, expert Nathan Syrett, assistant plant manager at Squire’s Garden Centres, has been running hanging basket masterclasses at its Stanmore store for a number of years, and offers the following advice to hanging basket hopefuls (including me)…

best hanging baskets

1. Choose the right materials and plants

Go for the biggest basket you can, as this will hold more compost and require slightly less watering than smaller baskets. Metal-framed baskets are ideal, but you will have to line them.

Various water-retaining liners include coir and sphagnum moss, although you can even cut up an old woolly jumper to line a basket, which will soak up the water and keep in the compost.

If using moss (which you can buy at garden centres), use long strands of it laid laterally across the inside of the basket, working from the bottom, so the moss does not escape out of the holes.

Build the lining up in circles until it reaches the top of the basket, and lift it up to make sure you can’t see any gaps.

best hanging baskets

2. Make a reservoir

Cut a small circle of plastic from your compost bag to make a reservoir in the bottom of your liner, to hold just enough water to keep the compost moist, while still allowing free drainage at the sides.

best hanging baskets

3. Add your compost

Multipurpose compost, preferably the sort which has added plant food, is ideal, although you will still have to feed your basket plants during the summer, bearing in mind how many of the nutrients will be washed away when you’re constantly watering. When you reach the top of the basket, firm the compost down so there are no air holes.

best hanging baskets

4. Choose your plants

If you want your basket to be admired from all sides, choose one larger plant to put in the centre, such as an upright fuchsia or geranium, and select around five other plants to place around it.

These could range from trailing petunias and calibrachoa, to bacopa, lobelia, nemesia, diascia and helichrysum, although there are many other suitable plants available.

best hanging baskets

5. Position the tall and the small

Try positioning your chosen plants on top of the compost before planting, so you can decide which looks best where. Make sure your gaps are even when placing the outer plants.

Usually the tallest plant will go in the centre, surrounded by the lower trailers, which need to be planted closer to the edge, but if your basket is going to face in a particular direction, put the biggest plant at the back and the lower trailers in front of it.

To minimise any damage when planting, remove each plant from its pot and use the pot alone as the planting template, easing it down into the planting hole to make it the right size. Then your plant will slot right in.

Cover it with the compost you removed to make space for the hole. Repeat using the plant pot template until all your plants are in.

best hanging baskets

6. Hang it up

Hang up your basket on a wall bracket or other hook or frame (some hanging baskets are really heavy, so make sure your bracket is secured tightly and is strong enough to take the weight).

best hanging baskets

7. Be waterwise

Water your basket well using a watering can rose. That way, the water will seep into the compost to reach your plants, rather than running straight through it.

best hanging baskets

8. Keep it healthy

Keep your basket well watered. In the height of summer you’ll need to do it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Feed your basket bedding plants regularly with either plant food or tomato food, following the instructions on the packet, and deadhead often to encourage further blooms.

Squire’s Garden Centres are holding Large Summer Basket Masterclasses on Friday, May 17. Tickets cost £25. For details visit squiresgardencentres.co.uk

Buying a new Home? Phil Spencer Reveals the Warning Signs to Walk Away from.

property warning signs

It's all about Information, Information, Information, says the property guru.

Ever moved into a new house and realised that your new neighbour is the drummer for an amateur metal band? Or snapped up a new pad only to discover that the bedroom turns into a swamp every time it rains?

We sincerely hope the answer is no, but given how complex, difficult and murky property deals can be, that may be more by luck than judgement.

Property expert and investor Phil Spencer has headed up Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location alongside Kirstie Allsopp for almost two decades, and has now set up Move IQ, a website that uses complex algorithms to produce 45-page status reports on properties.

He took some time away from the cameras to comb through the real estate red flags that should make you dig a little deeper – if not send you running for the door.

property warning signs

Cautionary tales

We don’t want to alarm you, but there are a lot of traps you can fall into when assessing a property. “I know of one sale where the buyer didn’t do their research,” says Spencer, “and bought a house without realising the neighbours were running a business with 24-hour deliveries.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Spencer is full of anecdotes about property purchases that went pear-shaped. “I’ve worked on several cases of buying a house from a divorcing couple, when you find out later that the person still in the house doesn’t want to sell. That makes for an extremely complicated negotiation.”

“There are lots of examples of people buying houses, and then finding out that the right permissions weren’t in place for building work done by the previous owner. If a house has probate, that can be complicated… Honestly, it’s a minefield.”

The very last thing you want at the sharp end of a property deal is a sudden, nasty surprise. So, how can you ensure you don’t end up as another anecdote on Phil Spencer’s list?

property warning signs

Knowledge is power

Unfortunately, the most worrying warning signs are the ones you can’t see. “Your priority is misinformation,” says Spencer, “you need all your info to be as accurate as possible, and it will come primarily from the estate agent and the vendor. Ask direct questions, ask them again, and then ask the same questions of different people.”

We wouldn’t want to cast any aspersions, but you can take it as read that estate agents aren’t going to lead with the negatives.

“The key thing,” says Spencer, “is to ascertain why the house is being sold. People often try to muddy the waters and it’s up to you to get to the bottom of it. Have they outgrown the house, are there financial reasons, or is there an argument with a neighbour?”

“There are plenty of valid reasons for selling, but it’s going to come down to negotiation, and you want to know how motivated the vendor is to do the deal. Will they want to conclude quickly, and how willing might they be to agree to a price reduction?”

Once you’ve got a number on the seller, you can turn your attention to the house itself. “You need to understand the marketing history,” says Spencer. “Is there any interest, has anybody made an offer, and has anybody had a survey done?” If the house has been on the market for six months under a different agent, undergone repeated surveys and fallen through three times, then that’s need-to-know information.

Next up is the price – is it reasonable? “The internet has made making comparisons easier than ever, but you need to be sure you’re looking at fairly recent sales,” says Spencer. “Pounds per square foot is a useful rough guide; work it out for the property you’re interested in, and compare with others in the area.”

“Remember, this is just a rule of thumb, and takes no account of condition, views, garden, and so on.”

property warning signs

Buyers and sellers

You and your vendor don’t need to be bosom buddies – or even make each other’s Christmas card lists – but there’s a certain amount of trust at the heart of every sale.

“You don’t have to go for dinner and drinks, but you want to know that they’re selling you the truth,” says Spencer. “If you ask a direct question, you need to be confident you’re getting an honest, if probably gilded, answer.”

Unmotivated sellers can spell trouble – last-minute mind-changing can be infuriating and costly – and be wary of overly-canny sellers straining every sinew to show their house at it’s best. “If the table is laid for dinner, there’s fresh bread baking, and the smell of percolating coffee,” says Spencer, “keep your wits about you!”

“I’ve also seen examples of sellers stowing things in storage to make their house look roomy enough for children and two adults. There is, if you move half your stuff out.”

Beware stubbornness, not just in your vendor but in yourself. “Sometimes people become ‘principled’ in property negotiations,” Spencer says. “It’s not the time – if you’re paying good money for something, don’t fall out over a loo seat or a fridge. I’ve seen little things like that derail massive property deals – just respect that it’s someone’s home and they can get a bit emotional.”

property warning signs

Bricks and mortar

For many, a house viewing involves scouring every nook and cranny for dry rot, blue tack stains and missing roof tiles, but for Spencer, such practical pitfalls are a secondary concern. “I wouldn’t get overly het up about it,” he says, “the surveyor will come in and give the house the once over.”

“If it’s of interest, by all means go over the house with a fine tooth comb – you can easily see for yourself if the windows are rotting, there are cracks in the walls or the bath leaks. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with any of these – so long as it’s reflected in the price.”

Much more important are pre-existing works and renovations, and the paperwork surrounding them: “If you do end up negotiating, you want to be able to warn your surveyor and solicitor about any extensions, because you’ll need the forms and permissions that support that work.”

About to be a First Time Parent like Meghan and Harry? 5 tips for Baby-Proofing your Home

From stair gates to non-slip mats and locking the oven, there's lots you can do to make your home more baby-friendly.

baby proofing your home

One can only imagine the challenges involved in baby-proofing a royal residence. Fitting stairwells with the world’s widest baby gates; locking down toilet seats in 78 separate bathrooms – well, Buckingham Palace has 78, but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex won’t have quite that many to contend with, when they take their baby back to their new home in Windsor.

baby proofing your home

Still, whether you’re a royal or a regular Joe, baby-proofing your home for new arrivals can be a pretty big task. Your little prince or princess might spend all day, every day snoozing at first – but they’ll soon hit curious mode, wanting to clamber on, poke and explore everything possible.

“More than a million children are taken to hospital every year in the UK because of accidents in the home,” says Lorna Marsh, senior editor and parenting expert at BabyCentre. “Falls are the most common accidents, and you need to minimise hazards before your baby starts crawling.”

So where to start? Here are five tips for ensuring your home is a baby-friendly zone…

baby proofing your home

1. Prepare early

A couple of points to note up front: First of all, no amount of baby-proofing can substitute for watchful supervision, so don’t let gadgets lull you into a false sense of security. Many a baby gate has been scaled by an enterprising infant, and some youngsters make a habit of turning up in unexpected places.

Secondly, it’s never too early to start thinking about baby-proofing. Young children tend to grow alarmingly quickly and by the time they’re crawling, you want to be confident with your new safety features. Getting the job done is much simpler when you’re not knee-deep in nappies and battling sleepless nights, so it’s a good idea all round to prepare early.

Before you begin, it’s worth getting on your hands and knees to get a child’s eye view of your home. Are there any edges or corners that look threatening, or furniture that’s invitingly climbable? Silly though it may sound, this is a worthy way to identify potential trouble spots before your child starts to explore.

baby proofing your home

2. Consider how things look from toddler height

Start with the big stuff. Any furniture that can topple (bookcases, we’re looking at you), should be fastened to the wall securely with furniture straps or brackets, while tall, unstable lamps should ideally be removed. Attach cushioned corner protectors to desks and coffee tables to avoid painful bumps and bangs.

“A new arrival means you’ll see your home in a whole new light,” says Marsh. “Things that you took no notice of before suddenly become a potential danger.” Cupboards should be sorted into safe and not-safe, and the latter latched with baby locks.

There are some obvious things to keep out of reach – knives, medicines, cleaning products and so on – but even apparently innocuous items can represent a risk if not considered carefully. House plants, for example, can be poisonous if nibbled on, and even the harmless ones are often potted in earth or dirt that might look appetising to a curious bub.

Beware the chest of drawers – you may think it’s a safe place for your unsecured television to sit on, but adventurous children use drawers for climbing practice, and anything heavy on top can topple off, potentially ending in serious trauma.

baby proofing your home

3. Make stairs and windows safe

If there are stairs in your home, baby gates are essential – consider installing one at the top and bottom of the stairs. It only takes a second for a littl’un to scale a set of steps!

Window blind cords can be particularly dangerous for children and must never be overlooked. “Replace corded window blinds with cordless ones,” says Marsh, “and put stickers on glass doors to make them visible to your child. Fit window locks, and never open them wide enough for a crawling baby to get out.”

Electrical cables represent trip, choke and entanglement hazards for small children, so use cord holders to fasten them to the walls.

baby proofing your home

4. Check every room

Once you’ve dealt with the basics, give your whole house a systematic sweep. Different dwellings pose different dangers, and the only way to know that you’ve got everything is to take a proper stock-check yourself.

The bathroom is one of the most perilous places for a tot who’s just finding their feet. An infant can drown in just 5cm of water, so invest in a baby bath seat and never, ever leave a bathing baby unsupervised. Toilet seat locks are a must too, and you can prevent scalding by adding soft covers on bath taps and spouts. Wobbly babies and slippery surfaces don’t mix, so put down some non-slip mats in tiled areas.

The kitchen is also high on the danger-o-meter. Avoid place mats and tablecloths on dining tables (an inquisitive child will tug on them, and bring the table’s contents crashing down), and make sure your oven is always safely locked, with covers on anything likely to get hot to the touch.

Sitting rooms can be deceptively hazardous, especially those with fireplaces. “Fit smoke alarms and keep a fire extinguisher nearby if you have a fireplace,” says Marsh. “By law, you must have a fireguard, and keep matches and lighters out of your child’s reach.

“In the bedroom, make sure your baby’s cot or Moses basket is sleep-safe,” she adds. “And, if you have a cat, put a cat net over [the baby’s bed].”

baby proofing your home

5. Think about how you’re using your home too

Making alternations is vital – but think about how you’re doing things around the home too. Is there a more child and baby-safe way to adapt everyday tasks?

For example, cook on the wall-side hobs if you have them (they’re further from reach!), and keep kitchen appliances away from children where possible. “Keep mugs of hot drinks away from edges,” adds Marsh. “And when cooking, make sure that the handles of saucepans are turned away from the edge.”

Be sure to unplug appliances like irons (we should all be doing this anyway!), and remember that visitors to your home may not be holding their habits to the same standards.

Be careful what you throw away too, as some babies are relentless scavengers. “Old batteries, plastic bags and sharp objects should be discarded safely,” says Marsh. Toys like Lego are well-established choking hazards, and the same goes for items like marbles, coins and paperclips.

“Keep plastic bags, including nappy bags, well out of reach of your child,” she adds, “and make sure pens, scissors, letter openers, staplers and other sharp instruments are kept in locked drawers.”

Even when they’re clear of all apparent danger, crawling children are still wiping their mitts on the floor, so it’s important to keep a hygienic home too. If you don’t already, enforce a no-shoes policy inside the house, and clean regularly to keep your surfaces germ-free (you don’t need a gleaming show home, of course – we’re just talking about getting the important basics done).

Tempted to Renovate your Home? TV’s Kunle Barker shares 4 Top Tips for getting started.

The Renovate Don't Relocate regular imparts some insider wisdom for tackling a big project.

Current weather patterns might be trying to trick us into thinking otherwise, but it is now officially spring – so what better time to cultivate your own little bit of domestic rebirth?

With house prices constantly rising, home renovation is an increasingly common option for those seeking a significant change, without the immense expense or hassle of moving. Of course, a big project like renovating can add serious value to your property too, or simply provide the extra space or refresh you’ve been dreaming of.

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

But renovating is no flat-pack wardrobe, and for the vast majority it’s not a DIY affair – so where do you start?

Step forward Kunle Barker, presenter of ITV’s Love Your Home And Garden’ with Alan Titchmarsh, expert on Renovate Don’t Relocate with Sarah Beeny, and host of Grand Designs Live with Kevin McCloud.

Renovations are a big task – but Barker has handled a fair few, all under the rigorous glare of TV cameras. Here are his top tips for getting started…

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

1. Assemble your team carefully

“Always hire the most skilled person for the job. That means choosing an accredited architect who will not only be able to help you imagine your ‘grand design’, but deliver it on time and to budget, without compromising on quality.

“Choose a good, reliable and stable builder with a track record you can trust. Your architect will be able to recommend someone (ideally someone they have already worked with) who will deliver good value for money.

“Ensure your builder provides you with an itemised quotation, and your architect with a schedule of work and full specifications (for materials and fittings). This will allow you to make a thorough assessment your pricing.

“Even with recommendations from your architect, make sure you contact your selected builder’s referees directly, and try to visit a live site they are working on. Don’t be afraid to ask their referees lots of questions about the project delivery!”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

2. Set up clear boundaries for the project

“It’s imperative that you get the right contract established for the project. Your architect will be able to help you with this. It will cost extra but it’s absolutely essential for establishing terms such as payment clauses.

“Should you employ a project manager? Yes, ideally an independent project manager from a construction consultancy – it will end up saving you money in the long run and will help the programme to run to schedule.

“Set your parameters for success (this could be defined by quality of work, budget and timescale) and communicate these to everyone in the project team. Your architect, builder, project manager and suppliers all need to understand what you are working towards.”

2019 money financial predictions

3. Supervise – and keep an eye out for ways to cost-cut

“Price check, negotiate and place bulk orders with suppliers where possible. For smaller items and sundries (screws, fixings, brackets, etc), shop around and split them from bulk orders if necessary, in order to get the best price.

“Control your budget carefully by linking it to your programme, having weekly meetings with your project manager, and always adding contingency as backup.

“Design hacks, such as better storage solutions (instead of an extension), lowering windows (instead of widening), changing materials and updating your kitchen can deliver amazing results at much lower cost.”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

4. Don’t underestimate the final touches

“Final touches – like adding mirrors, flashes of colour, statement furniture and fabrics – can have transformative effects on your space. Don’t be afraid to play around with what you like and try to work creatively with what you have. Statement pieces mean you don’t need to get rid of your existing things to radically change the feel of a room.

“And don’t forget the garden. They are often the most neglected parts of properties and offer the opportunity to provide a natural extension of your home – add colour and decoration with planting and accessories.

“Lighting is fundamental to the feel of a space – never underestimate the value of getting this right. The key is flexibility – you want to be able to light the room in several different ways – and lamps are a great way to deliver this and create atmosphere.”

how to start renovation Kunle Barker

Kevin McCloud and Kunle Barker will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL from May 4-12. For more information and tickets, visit granddesignslive.com.

5 Fun Ways to get your Kids into the Garden this Spring

gardening with kids

Lee Connelly, aka the 'Skinny Jean Gardener', says encouraging green fingers is all about making it fun. As the weather warms up, it's time to don coats and wellies and fire up the imagination to encourage your kids to get into the garden, with fun projects to stimulate their interest.

Podcaster, former Blue Peter gardener and RHS social media host Lee Connelly, known as the ‘Skinny Jean Gardener’, is creating a children’s garden at this year’s Ideal Home Show (idealhomeshow.co.uk).

“A study by the National Trust has found that our children nowadays are spending half the amount of time outdoors as we used to when we were younger,” says Connelly. “Getting outside is all about creating memories as a family. Just getting out there, playing games and stimulating the imagination is what it’s all about.”

Fancy getting your youngsters outside for some green-fingered fun? Here, with help from his four-year-old daughter, Olive, Connelly offers five tips on how to encourage kids to get off their screens and into the great outdoors…

1. Give them their own space

Let them have their own patch in your vegetable bed or allotment. If you have limited space, use an old washing-up bowl, putting holes in the base for drainage and then creating a mini-allotment for them.

Good crops to plant include salad leaves and other fast-growing vegetables, so they can see the results quickly. “If you have an allotment, give them their own space to do what they want,” says Connelly. “It gives them a sense of responsibility. Just be there for guidance.”

gardening with kids

2. Encourage them to grow their own

“My daughter didn’t used to like eating vegetables much, until she started growing them,” says Connelly. “But start them off growing something they like eating, or they won’t care about it as much.

“Tomatoes, lettuce and peppers are a good bet. My daughter loves going to our allotment and picking the tomatoes and the strawberries and eating them while we’re down there. Pumpkins and runner beans are also good to sow.”

gardening with kids

3. Encourage wildlife

Children will be engaged when they see butterflies, beetles and other bugs. “We have a hedgehog home in our garden and we often see them in the evenings,” says Connelly. “Make your own hedgehog home – it’s cheap and easy and you can use things you have around the house. Use a plastic box that you can cut holes out of and put up against a fence line. Cover the box with natural materials such as wood. Everything needs to be accessible and easy.”

gardening with kids

4. Make wildflower seedballs

“If your kids like getting messy, this is a lot of fun,” he says. “You get clay, compost, water and wildflower seeds, mix them all together and you make these small wildflower seedballs.

“Dry them on the windowsill and then find a spare area of the garden, throw the seedballs on there and lots of wildflowers will pop up in the summer, attracting bees and butterflies.”

You can also make butterfly fizzy pop by mixing a sugary drink for them. Get a plastic bottle, put a water and sugar mix in the bottle and give it a shake to dilute it, then stuff a sponge into the neck of the bottle and hang it upside down in the garden with string. The sugary mixture will seep through the sponge, creating a magnet for butterflies.

gardening with kids

5. Make a runner bean teepee

Children love to make dens in the garden, but this one could have added interest. Create a wigwam out of bamboo, leaving a space for the entrance. You can then dig a trench around where it needs to be placed, ready to plant runner beans at the end of May or in June.

The beans will grow around the wigwam and provide shelter for the children, as well as some delicious beans. You can move it each year around the garden. Line the floor of the den with bark, gravel or matting for the kids to sit on.

Connelly’s children’s garden at the Ideal Home Show features ideas from schoolchildren, as well as his own designs. He will be hosting gardening workshops at the Ideal Home Show, open from March 22 until April 7 at Olympia London. For tickets, see idealhomeshow.co.uk.

Property For Sale Early Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

1. Hem (hem.com)

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

2. String (string.se)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

4. Habitat (habitat.co.uk)

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

5. Ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

6. ScS (scs.co.uk)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

Showcasing New Build Homes For 2019

Family moving to new home

New homes from around £400,000 to £1.85m.

For 2019 we are pleased to showcase a wonderful selection of new homes from some of the finest builders and developers. With sites in Hampshire locations from Eversley, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Winchfield and The Blue Triangle in Fleet, and prices from around 400,000 to £1.75m., there is an exceptional level of choice for that perfect new home in 2019.

Chantreyland, Eversley by Aspire

A truly exceptional small select development of fine character homes by Aspire, offering exquisite contemporary and high specification interior finish and exterior architectural character.

Plot one kitchen at Chantreyland Eversley

This is a wonderful opportunity to live in a sought-after, semi-rural location but with the benefit of great commuter links and access to nearby major towns such as Reading and Wokingham. There are six distinctive and individual homes to chose from and they will be available for viewing in early 2019.

site layout Chantreyland Eversley new homes

Guide: Prices estimated from £400,000 to £1,250,000. Please telephone 01252 842100 to register your interest.

Hook, Hampshire by T A Fisher

T A Fisher is a family business which goes back to 1895, and in early 2019 they will create this new development of just 5 new build homes and a separate scheme of quality apartments, both located in the village of Hook, Hampshire.

Site layout of new homes by T A Fisher
A T A Fisher kitchen

As with all T A Fisher homes this development will feature high quality internal and external finishes. Please telephone 01252 842100 to register your interest.

The Blue Triangle, Fleet by Rio Homes

A prestigious NEW BUILD home by local builder Rio Homes, providing around 4,220 sq.ft. of luxury space and situated in the sought after Blue Triangle area of Fleet.

Property sale agreed in Fleet by McCarthy Holden

An opportunity to purchase the land as a building plot with approved planning permission for a brand new prestigious family home (plot only guide £750,000), or commission Rio Homes to complete the project (new build complete guide £1.85m.).

The planning consent shows an open plan kitchen/breakfast/family room, a drawing room, family/dining room, study, utility room and two cloakrooms to the ground floor. On the first floor, a galleried landing leading to four of the bedrooms (all with en-suite facilities) and on the second floor there is bedroom 5 (with en-suite facilities), games room, laundry room and a plant room. The property will be approached via a gated entrance and a triple garage with bonus room above. Telephone 01252 620640

Hartley Wintney / Winchfield, by Kirkby Homes

Kirkby Homes are building three distinctive developments in and around Hartley Wintney in 2019, featuring fine individual homes with stunning high specification space incorporating quality fittings with a traditional build. This is a fantastic opportunity to live in a sought-after locations on the fringe of Hartley Wintney village, with the added benefit of great commuter links.

new home kitchen by Kirkby Homes

Winchfield View (below) – With beautiful homes from around £500,0000 to £1.75m. Telephone 01252 842100.

New luxury house by Kirkby Homes

Shapley Grange (below)– A prime site in Hartley Wintney, Prices estimated around £500,000 to £1.1m. Telephone 01252 842100.

Illustration of a Kirkby new home in Hartley Wintney

Winchfield Lodge (below)– A period property refurbishment on a truly grand scale. £850,000 to £1.25m. Telephone 01252 842100.

House renovation by Kirkby Homes

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.

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/

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.