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Angel Strawbridge: ‘Your Home is a Place to have Fun, Explore and be creative’

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

As she launches her Sainsbury's Home range, Gabrielle Fagan talks to Escape To The Chateau's Angel Strawbridge about style, dreams and finding joy.

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

Meeting Angel Strawbridge – unmistakable with her bright red hair and trademark mega-watt smile – is like encountering a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.

She and her husband, Dick, have found fame as the eccentric and totally irresistible couple on Channel 4’s popular series, Escape To The Chateau.

Viewers have been enthralled by their challenging journey renovating and transforming the dilapidated 19th century Chateau-de- la-Motte-Husson in France into a stunning family home and wedding venue, where they live with their children, Arthur, six, and Dorothy, five.

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

Their love for each other is as much a part of the show’s success as their love for the chateau. Dick, as cheery as he appears on screen, keeps a vigilant eye out for Angel’s pet dread – spiders – whenever they crop up.

“That’s so lovely but the only trouble is he often mistakes my false eye lashes for spiders and throws them away too,” says Angel, 41, giggling affectionately.

“But ours truly is a big, fat love story. It was love at first sight when Dick and I met. My heart literally was fluttering and pounding when I saw him. After our first date, we both knew we didn’t ever want to leave each other.

“Then we moved to France and I had another love-at-first-sight moment, when I saw a picture of the chateau online. I really trust my instinct and would have bought it without visiting, but Dick sensibly insisted we check it out first!”

That life-changing moment came in 2015, just after they’d traded in their two-bedroom flat in Essex to move to France – and has undoubtedly paid dividends. They paid just £280,000 for the 45-room property and endless grounds, but it’s now a hugely successful enterprise.

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

They’re just about to embark on a nationwide UK tour (Feb 23-March 23) talking about their adventures – and Angel’s launched her own home accessories and fragrance range, The Chateau by Angel Strawbridge, for Sainsbury’s Home.

The pair seem perfectly matched in skills as well as outlook. A former Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, engineer and chef Dick has a wealth of TV experience – appearing on Scrapheap Challenge, It’s Not Easy Being Green, and Celebrity MasterChef.

Angel is an entrepreneur, designer, author of The Vintage Tea Party book series, and a successful Dragons’ Den contestant.

“We’re both genuine grafters, who aren’t afraid of hard work,” says Angel. “Dick’s a brilliant troubleshooter and totally practical. His favourite expression is: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’.

“I have the view that if you just have the courage to give something a go, you can achieve anything you want, so we’re a good combination. We didn’t want to just dream about a fantastic life in France, we wanted to create it.”

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

What does the chateau mean to you?

“We’ve given this our all but it’s been a real bonding experience too. It’s definitely our forever home. The work transforming it has felt relentless at times but so enjoyable.

“We’re both so proud of it – when we first moved here in the middle of winter there was no running water, heating or electricity, bats in the bedrooms and the only sanitation was the moat surrounding the property. You had to love the place, otherwise you’d have given up.

“For me, it’s a brilliant combination – a truly beautiful home, where we can raise our kids and run our weddings business. I’m a total wedding junkie and would carry on doing them even if I ever became a millionaire.”

How would you describe your style?

“Eclectic, whimsical and always vintage, because that’s the underpinning of everything I do. I’ve been a fan from five-years old and spent my pocket money collecting Fifties’ trinkets and tea sets from car-boot sales and second-hand shops, then moved onto clothes as a teenager.

“My mega collection of tea sets and British and royalist memorabilia is brilliant for curated displays. I can never resist a little bit of fantasy, like one wall decorated with 3D butterflies, and the kids’ playroom with its vintage helter-skelter.

“I’m always using foliage from our garden to bring nature into the rooms. In my book, you can create anything you want in your home – it’s a place to have fun, explore and be creative.”

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

Where do you get your inspiration?

“I have a very open mind, partly because I’m dyslexic – I didn’t learn to read until I was 11. In a way, it was brilliant because I never had my brain swamped by academics, which allowed my creative side to flourish. I was always good at business though, I’m a qualified accountant, and the two skills are a great blend.

“Often, something inspires me when Dick and I go ‘thrifting’ – one of our favourites outings – when we browse French second-hand markets and antique shops for everything from linens, china and glasses through to taxidermy.

“The children love it too. Dorothy’s inherited my passion for tea sets. She’ll squeal with excitement and say, ‘Mum, you will love this!’, if she spots something.”

What’s your colour palette?

“When I was living in London, it was very much red, white and blue and a little bit of Victorian darkness. But now the house reflects a brighter kind of French Provincial style, with loads of ochre, dusty pink, lavender, and greens.

“I’ve used the same soft colour palette for my new Escape To The Chateau fragrance range for Sainsbury’s, and the scents are inspired by the plants and flowers that surround the house.

“I rely a lot on my sixth sense, my intuition, and I’ll just shut my eyes and think, ‘Will this look or that colour look right?’, and make my decision based on that. It usually works.”

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

Do you and Dick agree on all the decor decisions?

“Dick pretty well allows me a free rein. We never fall out but we have passionate discussions – if you’re madly in love like we are, those are just fluff around the outside. We’re not arguing about values – just the little details.

“He has one rule that we’re not allowed to redo decorating while we’re still finishing the chateau. But I’m naughty and can’t resist adding new details and changes here and there while Dick’s away! It’s a bit of a joke between us.”

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

How do you feel about this time in your life?

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. There’s never enough hours in the day – I often get up at 2am so I can get a head-start on work before the kids rampage into our room. This year, we both want to focus on a bit of ‘me’ time – the nearest I get is half an hour soaking in a bath!

“But it’s wonderful being together as a family – my parents live in a converted outhouse next door and are a great support. Although people may recognise us from the TV when we go back to London, in France we’re just ‘the people who do weddings and live in the chateau’.

“It’s wonderful watching the kids grow up here and they’re involved with everything we do, helping with the cooking and chores.

“You can have a really tough day but when they get home from school, we spend time with them, no computers or phones on, and it’s like a natural medicine. Any problems melt away.”

Angel Strawbridge decorate your home

What’s your ambition for the future?

“We are literally in this whirlwind of amazing-ness and it’s been such a journey, with ups and downs and huge highs. We’re always just trying to be better at doing what we do, and be a great example for the kids.

“But really we don’t look too far ahead, because what we’re really good at is enjoying every moment and never taking anything for granted.”

10 On-Trend Ways to Transform your Home in 2020

on trend home 2020

Glamour, fun and feathers all feature in this year's hottest looks - but first and foremost, individual style rules.

If you want your interiors to look fashionable and Instagrammable, then you need to know what’s hot for the home this year.

There’s full-on colour, as well as more pared-back looks with natural materials (rattan’s ruling currently), alongside some key must-haves – love seats, dressing tables, and glamorous headboards. In other words, plenty of trends and stylish items to choose from.

But what’s emerging most strongly is that this decade, there’s no need to follow the crowd.

Trends should be followed selectively rather than religiously. A successful home is where your taste rules (we’re all becoming much more informed and confident about expressing it, thanks to inspiration-filled sites like Instagram and Pinterest).

We’ve chosen some best buys (including high-street bargains) and brilliant looks to help you create your own perfect, personally-tailored space….

on trend home 2020

1. Feel the love

We’re embracing curves and cushioning in seating, as we hanker after homes which cosset and comfort us, and the love seat has become a must-have.

“Love seats are the ultimate giant armchair for those who love to stretch out and get comfy, or if you’re feeling romantic you can snuggle up together,” says Claire Wilks, from the Sofa.com design team.

“They’re also a great space-saving size for those who are tight on room. Velvet, so practical now with protective finishes, are one of the most popular upholstery choices and they ramp up the luxe effect. “

on trend home 2020

2. Turn to table-scaping

Table-scaping is the new on-trend description for creatively decorating tables. So stand down your boring workaday china and go all out with fancy cutlery, table linen and snazzy plates. It’s all about dressing to impress. For inspiration, trying searching #tabledecor and #tablesetting on Instagram.

3. Rule with ribbing

Grooved, ribbed textures are riding high this year, and the effect can be seen in upholstery, wood, and glass. We love this stripe-effect, ribbed cabinet.

4. Explore wild style

If you’re over that hot, steamy jungle look – all palm prints and tropical colours – the latest, more pared-back desert look could be just for you.

Bold tribal prints, an earthy palette, natural materials and vibrant animal prints are combined in the new George Home collection, which is so well-priced you can afford to experiment. But beware: it could inspire some serious summer wanderlust…

on trend home 2020

6. Pamper and pose

Special stand-out pieces make a room. Think cocktail cabinets which add glamour as well as holding all those drinks and glasses. Dressing tables are now vying for attention too – there’s a brilliant array of slim, handsome examples suitable for compact rooms. And by clearing all that cosmetic clutter, you’ll be well on your way to a peaceful space.

7. Let your heart rule your head

“Just as fashion trends have shifted to celebrate individuality and personal style, so have interiors,” says Lucy St George, co-founder of uber cool interiors destination, Rockett St George.

“I’m always a fan of throwing away the rule book – taste is often overrated – and I believe if you love it and it makes you smile, then it deserves to be celebrated in your room.”

Take inspiration from trends and the world around you, she says, but always make your home a reflection of you and what you like. “Go to town with all your favourite things and curate displays around your home that express your individuality – so that ‘you do you’!”

on trend home 2020

8. Go green or go home

The colour – and its association with eco-friendly living – has been strong for a while and shows no sign of waning. A wall painted in a deep shade of green will ground a space, and other vibrant colours for furniture and accessories will ‘pop’.

John Lewis’ ‘Eclectics’ theme for spring/summer is a stylish blend of zingy colour and stand-out designs. Inject punchy shades with contemporary wall prints, jewel-colour lamps and cushions.

If you’re feeling flush, invest in an elegant Refine 3 Seater Sofa in a glowing Elegant Velvet Mustard, £1,299, and a Lounge Chair in a brilliant pink, blue and orange Ampana Print, £499, both John Lewis.

9. Go for gold

How to instantly add character to a room? A couple of stand-out pieces featuring that winning metallic shimmer should do the trick.

10. Bring Eastern drama to the boudoir

Staying home is the new going out, and JOMO (the ‘joy of missing out’) is a buzzword – which means spaces need spoiling with luxury touches and details.

“We’re predicting a rise in Eastern influences across interiors this year,” says Jane Rockett. “Inspired by increased global travel and our adventures around the world, trends are set to celebrate unique pieces collected or inspired by past travels, that bring back memories and create a unique and personal interior.”

The style-aware should look out for decadent dark wood, woven cane textures, oriental prints and structure furniture, adds Rockett.

Property Lifestyle and Boxing Day Event

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

Find out about the next big property event on Boxing Day, an take a look at our Pre-Christmas edition of the magazine In The Country & Town, which sets out to showcase some of the most exquisite homes, as well as deliver engaging editorial content and of course comment on the house market.

In addition to some amazing properties, our editorial features includes Cocktails at Downton, Go Anywhere with Land Rover and the new film release The Aeronauts.

Just click on the image below to open a new tab and view the magazine page by page and indulge in some wonderful online reading.

Click the above image to view the full magazine

There are some fabulous properties being showcased in this magazine, in areas such as The Ridges Finchampstead and the Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water

Also of note is a £1.315m. guided Georgian Farmhouse and a £660,000 guided elegant town house in Winchfield, Hampshire.

Our new homes feature runs from page 32 to page 48, and is full of amazing new homes from diverse and individual developers, with prices from around £450,000 to £1.850m.

It’s been nearly five years since The Theory Of Everything co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones appeared on screen together – and now they’re teaming up once again for biographical adventure, The Aeronauts.

The epic – directed by Tom Harper and co-written by Harper and Jack Thorne – tells the tale of two high-flying balloonists, pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher and daredevil pilot Amelia Wren, united in a record-breaking voyage in Victorian England. And nothing says ‘reunion’ quite like filming 70% of your scenes in a confined basket, reveals the British duo.

The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book celebrates this sumptuous costume drama and golden age of mixed drinks.

As fans of Downton will know, the Crawleys’ love of cocktails is well storied. But it wasn’t until season two and three – when Robert asks his mother, Violet: “Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?” – that the family adopts the 1920s American customs of an aperitif before dinner, and hosting cocktail parties at home. Now, the Downton Abbey Cocktail Book means viewers can recreate these tipples at their own soirees.

Embracing the adventurous spirit that has defined the Discovery family for the past 30 years, the new Discovery Sport is a striking evolution of the original that does not compromise capability……. new electrified engines include a 48-volt mild hybrid from launch to help reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

If you are planning a house sale or let and would like your property showcased in the New Year edition of In The Country & Town, contact your nearest McCarthy Holden branch and ask for details.

The Next Big Property Event - Boxing Day

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

Boxing Day – The Perfect Time To Put a House Up For Sale!

According to Rightmove there is a massive spike in online buyer search traffic, between Boxing Day and early January, suggesting an uplift in house buyer searches online on Boxing Day. This is why McCarthy Holden are offering a special incentive to join the next big event in property, the Boxing Day Go Event.

During November and December all a would-be house seller has to do is instruct McCarthy Holden to offer their property for sale from Boxing Day.

You can indulge in all of the traditional Boxing Day activities, happy in the knowledge that house buyers are tapping on mobile devices searching for the right property and, who knows, your house could be top of their list for viewing in the New Year.

Many of our clients have already asked to go live on the Boxing Day Go property launch, so if you are contemplating a house move in 2020 then go to our home page and click on valuation, for a free property appraisal and discover the benefits of being part of the no sale no fee and no obligation Boxing Day Go property event.

How to Work Colour in your Home – According to the Interior Design Addicts behind Rockett St George

Rockett st George book

The duo behind destination decor brand Rockett St George have delved into colour in their new book. Gabrielle Fagan takes a look.

Rockett st George book

Colour has well and truly invaded our homes. In fact, no interiors scheme is complete these days without at least a dash of a punchy shade!

That might sound pretty scary, though, if you’re still clinging to neutrals and quaking at the thought of plunging into the dizzy array of colours on offer.

Step forward self-confessed colour-addicts Lucy St George and Jane Rockett, the duo behind chic interiors destination, Rockett St George. They’re on a mission to help us transform our homes with a host of hues, and reveal their secrets and personal inspirations in their new book, Rockett St George: Extraordinary Interiors In Colour.

Rockett st George book

Colour is emotional, says the pair – “Think peaceful pastels, and sexy reds, creative greens and happy yellows” – and it’s important to consider the meaning of colour and how it affects your emotions, if you want to create a home that feels right for you and harbours the right mood.

Rockett and St George visited homes around the world bursting with bright, bold and brilliant ideas, and looked at the colour rules – and how to break them! – for conjuring successful schemes.

Check out their guide to four of the most fashionable shades for rooms…

Rockett st George book

Let the sunshine in

“A splash of yellow will catch the eye, set the heart racing and make you smile”, declare the pair. “Yellow’s associated with feelings of joy, optimism, happiness and warmth. It can lift your spirits like a sudden ray of sunshine and is believed to promote clear thinking and quick decision-making.”

Their own favourite shade on the yellow spectrum is mustard, which they describe as “an earthy hue that’s both sophisticated and a wonderful way to inject an uplifting spirit into your home”.

Work the colour: Black can make a perfect neutral backdrop for strong colours like yellow or orange. “It makes them pop and allows furniture, textiles and artwork to shine through and become the stars of the show,” they explain.

If bold sunny shades seem too vibrant and make you want to reach for your sunglasses, consider opting for more subtle sandy-yellow shades as an alternative to creams.

Considering the effect of light on colour is also key, they caution. For instance, a cool-toned lemon yellow can feel hard and unwelcoming in the colder light of a north-facing room, making it more suitable for south-facing rooms.

Lighten the mood with a flash of yellow

Yellow accessories pack a punch, and Rockett and St George note how a yellow chair or piece of art “brings energy to a room without overwhelming it”.

Rockett st George book

Seduce with pink

Pinks are enjoying huge popularity in decor right now – particularly the soft, pale tones. “The gentler shades of pink encourage calmness and love, while stronger shades, such as hot pink, go hand in hand with feelings of joyfulness and creativity,” enthuse the duo.

Our passion for pink is nothing new, they point out, as the shade has been a constant favourite as a decorative choice throughout the decades, from ice-cream pastel pinks in the Fifties, to the hot pinks of the Eighties.

Rockett and St George took inspiration from earthy pinks characteristic of Moroccan homes for the pink shades in their paint collection for Craig & Rose. Their nude/pink shades include Broderie, Gladstone Grey and Bohemia (Chalky Emulsion Paint, £35 for 2.5L).

Work the colour: For living rooms and bedrooms, the duo recommend “nude and pale pinks with warm undertones to make you feel nurtured and safe”. Work or studio spaces, meanwhile, are the perfect place to experiment with “brighter pinks, which are flamboyant and expressive, ideal for creating impact”.

Sizzle with pops of pink

Declare your passion for the colour with the prettiest pink pieces that will take you from hot to blushing…

Rockett st George book

Go green and gorgeous

“Green is fabulously versatile. Whether you prefer soft sage, rich emerald or deep forest green, this crowd-pleaser of a colour can be adapted to suit just about any style of interior,” the decor-lovers declare.

Green is said to evoke feelings of balance, tranquillity and renewal, and studies have shown that it’s the most restful colour for the human eye. It’s totally synonymous with the ‘green’ movement and eco initiatives that are on the rise right now too.

Work the colour: Dark greens work wonders in living rooms and bedrooms, or anywhere else in the home where you want to relax and have “a little respite”, advise the colour gurus. “Brighter punchier greens are perfect for energising a busy area such as the kitchen or hallway,” they also suggest. “Green accents in the shape of plants or cacti will bring your decor to life and – added bonus – act as a natural air-refresher for the home.”

Bring on the balance with a touch of green

Green accessories can add a sophisticated touch and enhance those soothing vibes…

Rockett st George book

Dive into blue

“Blue is the coolest of all the colours in the spectrum and conjures up feelings of reliability and stability,” says Rockett. “Due to its associations with nature – think of clear summer skies and turquoise ocean – blue can also inspire feelings of serenity and contentment.”

Blue, she points out, is a stress-busting colour with a masculine edge (a recent study found that 42% of men chose blue as their favourite colour), but that doesn’t mean blue is just for boys, of course!

Work the colour: Bold blues, the pair suggest, particularly suit home offices, children’s playrooms, hallways and bathrooms. Darker blues project a sense of sophistication and tranquillity, and can work as the perfect backdrop for art collections and decorative displays.

Splash out on blue details

Give your space a stress-busting edge with one or two blue buys…

Extracted from Rockett St George: Extraordinary Interiors In Colour by Jane Rockett and Lucy St George, photography by Catherine Gratwicke, published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now.

Want to Measure Up in the Style Stakes? 10 Ways to Embrace this Season’s Geometric Trend

geometric styling

Gabrielle Fagan reveals simple ways to do the decor maths and ensure your rooms have all the right angles.

geometric styling

Shape up if you want stylish rooms this Autumn. Geometrics are figuring on designs for everything from wallpaper to carpets right now, and set to be the most fashionable way of bringing pattern into rooms this season.

You can be playful and introduce bold and stimulating colourful shapes – take your pick from triangles to eight-sided octagons – or keep it elegant, with just a few touches sporting the barest hint of the pattern.

“Geometric pattern came to prominence in the 1920s and became synonymous with the Art Deco movement,” explains Tom White, design director, Parker Knoll. “In a decade renowned for its opulent and sophisticated style, geometrics challenged traditional design, with sleek and elegant motifs which came to symbolise wealth and status.”

Now they’re back, thanks to our renewed passion for pattern and more decoration in our homes. “Geometrics boast a breadth of choice in shape, colour and scale, so can be adapted to suit a vast range of tastes and styles,” promises White.

Here’s 10 ways to do your decor sums and ensure your home measures up in the style stakes…

geometric styling

1. Check out all the angles

“For me, geometric shapes will always have a universal and timeless appeal,” enthuses Martha Coates, surface and pattern designer for Habitat.

“I don’t think they’ve ever really gone out of fashion, as many pattern stories tend to do,” she points out. “I love that the geometric designs created and popularised over 100 years ago by the iconic Bauhaus movement still feel relevant in our modern interiors. They sit seamlessly alongside the contemporary and colourful designs in our ranges.”

Coates pays tribute to the versatility of geometric pattern. “Minimalist, contemporary and familiar in their structure, they’ll complement existing lines and shapes within the architecture of practically any room,” she says. “Their structured balance will allow you the freedom to be braver with colour and texture.”

geometric styling

2. Divide and rule on the wall

Get creative and paint your own geometric shapes on a wall. Simply stick strips of masking tape to the surface to create triangle, trapezoid and rhombus shapes (look them up if that’s already confused you!).

The more tape you crisscross, the more shapes you’ll create. If you paint the entire wall with the tape in place, you’ll have stripes between the shapes when you remove the tape.

If that feels too brain-bending, Wallsauce has a brilliant selection of made-to-measure geometric-style wall murals, ranging from in-your-face colourful to the more subtle, starting from £32 per square metre.

geometric styling

3. Make a party point

Join the geometrics party by investing in an Art Deco-style drinks trolley or drinks cabinet. Both items have enjoyed a revival in homeware, as they add a sense of occasion to entertaining. A sound style move.

geometric styling

4. Statement equals style

You don’t have to overdose on this look – just estimate how much you need to add to make an impact and burnish your style credentials. Give one punchy piece some space and a plain backdrop and it will undoubtedly become a star talking point.

geometric styling

5. Measure up with metallics

Pair a classic geometric design with metallics (gold and copper are hot choices) to play the glamour card. This combo won’t just add a winning touch of opulence, but a repeating angular pattern is easy on the eye and helps create a visual sense of order. The effect is particularly good for spaces where we want to rest and relax, like a bedroom or chill-out lounge.

One word of advice: Make sure the size of the pattern you choose works with the size of the room. Generally, large-scale patterns are more suited to big expanses of wall, so you have the room to stand back and appreciate their impact. Smaller repeating patterns suit smaller walls.

The only exception is if you opt for a statement wall of pattern, where you could be bolder and size up. For inspiration, take a look the super range of geometric papers, including Prism Geometric Wallpaper, £15.99 a roll, at Cult Furniture.

geometric styling

6. Break the rules

Sometimes, you can throw caution to the wind, ignore the ‘less is more rule’ and indulge in a pattern-fest. Just make sure you balance more decorative geometric repeating patterns with other simpler designs. This will prevent the whole effect from being overpowering, and punchy injections of colour (we’re big fans of pink and green right now) are all that’s needed to make a scheme sing.

Another way of approaching this look is sticking to a colour palette of no more than two shades, which will allow the detail to shine.

geometric styling

7. Step up to the style

Style alert: Back away from the bland! A striking geometric carpet runner can transform a staircase into an eye-catching feature. Playing up the angles with an above-the-skirting stripe in a complementary shade is a master stroke in this hallway.

geometric styling

8. Pattern to the power of two

“Boasting timeless allure and contemporary flair, geometric designs work well in period and modern homes alike,” says Parker Knoll’s Tom White. “For those looking to emulate the exciting and influential 1920s – the inspiration for the look – pair geometric patterns with luxurious gold accents, rich tones and spherical accessories.”

geometric styling

9. Make it monochrome

“Typically considered an intimidating option, a bold geometric floor can add an element of design to a space and is a surprisingly versatile option,” says Anna Del-Molino, buyer, Carpetright.

“Before selecting your style, take into consideration the size of your space, alongside the colours and scales that will work within it. A larger print, in muted shades, is often better suited to smaller rooms, as intricate patterns can feel too busy in compact areas.

“Larger spaces allow for more experimentation and for a truly daring look, consider a style with multiple colours. Geometric patterns don’t need to be solely linear shapes,” she adds. “Look for florals and patterns which repeat without being too overbearing.”

geometric styling

10. Arty calculation

Make those shapes work on the wall with colourful geometric artwork that will show you know a right-angle from a rhombus.

Want to Turn your Home into a Botanical Bolthole? Here’s how 3 Plant Experts Transformed a Hotel

botanical hotel into your home

As the UK's first 'jungle hotel suites' are opened, Hannah Stephenson finds out how to turn your own living spaces into leafy havens.

Three designers have come together to show how people can create a horticultural haven in their homes, using tropical flora and fauna.

Award-winning biophilic designer and architect Oliver Heath, This Morning’s ‘Mr Plant Geek’ Michael Perry and Nik Southern, creative designer and founder of innovative plant and florist shop Grace & Thorn, have transformed three hotel suites into urban jungles where guests can stay, in an initiative from the The Joy Of Plants (thejoyofplants.co.uk) and Leman Locke hotel in London.

The buzzword is ‘biophilia’ – the technique of incorporating plants and other natural elements in our homes to reconnect with nature. Each of the suites has been adorned with carefully selected houseplants to help boost productivity, ignite passion, and bring peace and tranquillity.

So, what can we do to create our own biophilic design at home?

botanical hotel into your home

Perk up your productive space

Heath has created a productivity suite adorned with Boston ferns, peace lilies and snake plants – all renowned for their productivity-inducing properties.

Feathery-leaved Boston ferns create a natural jungle look and inject instant energy with their powerful air-purifying properties, while snake plants, native to tropical West Africa, produce sword-like foliage bringing a raw edginess to any environment.

Their distinctive leaves are said to provide protective energies to shield negative Chi, while they also have air-purifying properties. Studies have found they can also help remove toxins such as formaldehyde from the environment.

Heath says: “Research suggests that a combination of sheltered spaces, access to nature and species-rich spaces will create the most restorative environment for a stressed individual, so the tucked-away sofa with a lot of plant fringing is the perfect opportunity for relaxation. Boston ferns and dwarf mountain palms introduce lots of natural movement, which has been shown to help us relax and restore focus.”

botanical hotel into your home

Create a cascading canopy in the bedroom

Southern has created a botanical canopy over the bed, in a heady romantic respite. Imagine enjoying the intimacy that will cocoon you and your partner in a lush green blend of cascading plants.

Signature bedroom plants she uses include Anthurium ‘Black Love’ (Anthurium hybrid), a black-to-dark chocolate-flowering variety which is low-maintenance, and Epipremnum ‘Marble Queen’, an easy-care variety with green and white marbled trailing foliage which creates a romantic vibe.

Southern says: “It might seem ambitious to create a canopy in your own home but there are plenty of hacks to make something similar. You could hang a traditional pulley clothes airer to the ceiling and attach plants with vines such as devil’s ivy and strings of hearts to create a dramatic canopy. Make sure you choose the right planters that will prevent water leaking below.”

Alternatively, create a living love seat in her design in your sofa area, using banana plants and rubber tree plants to create a cosy, intimate area in an open-plan room, she suggests.

botanical hotel into your home

Escape to your urban jungle spa room

Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, has packed his suite with tropical plants, creating an oasis of calm in the city, showing that people can enjoy a forest-bathing experience at home.

His design features houseplants such as bromeliads and a variety of monsteras (Swiss cheese plant), from deliciosa to obliqua, while in the bathroom there’s a dedicated plant meditation space and a clean sleep zone containing the world’s most air-purifying plants.

He says to create a spa room, ideally you want to have the feeling of being completely surrounded by plants. Calming ferns, helxine and fittonia offer jungle vibes while bromeliads punctuate the setting with colour.

Perry says: “Suction pots allow you to easily hang plants from wall surfaces, without creating any fixings and are incredibly versatile. Bromeliads are used to rainforest conditions and thrive in bathroom environments – a quick spritz of water every few days is all the moisture they need.”

He also advises using ferns in low light level rooms but avoid using succulents and cacti in spa rooms, as they prefer a drier environment.

And don’t forget that any potted plants will need drainage, so put in a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot and keep a check on watering.

The indoor plant jungle hotel will be open for bookings until November 10, 2019. To book your stay, email thejoyofplants@lockeliving.com.

botanical hotel into your home

Flights of Fancy: How to Make the Most of your Staircases, Without Compromising on Safety

stunning stairs without compromising safety

The aesthetic qualities of the humble staircase are too often underrated, says Luke Rix-Standing.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Something of a no-man’s land within the home, it’s easy to see why staircases are so often overlooked on the interior style front. Rarely more than a means of getting from A to B, why would you choose to spend time and money on stairs, when it could instead be spent on key living spaces elsewhere?

But these thoroughfares inevitably see high footfall and are important for safety as well as style – and even if it’s not your first thought when planning your decor, they do have a big visual impact too.

So, with this in mind, apartment dwellers and bungalow owners look away now – here’s how to make sure your stairs work well for both eyes and feet…

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Safety first

First things first, it’s important to keep in mind that the run-of-the-mill staircase can be one of the most dangerous obstacles you negotiate during your day. According to statistics, there is a fall on Britain’s staircases approximately every 90 seconds, while staircase-related incidents account for roughly 250,000 trips to A&E every year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a checklist of conditions to help you practice safe stairs, asserting that they should be well-lit, have handrails at appropriate heights, have good ‘slip resistance properties’, and be free of trip hazards.

The ‘nosing’ of a step (aka the edge), should be well-defined and ideally square, to stop the stairs blurring into one. Just as important is consistency, as research has shown that even small variations in angle or distance between steps can cause a topple.

Those with small children face an obvious extra risk, and baby gates are a must for both the top and bottom. Do not attempt to vault the gate out of laziness – it’s ironically common for adults to injure themselves by misusing gates put in place to protect their kids.

Of course, structural changes only go so far, and human factors play a determining role in most stair-related incidents. Residents are far more at risk if they’re rushing, distracted, or carrying heavy loads without a free hand to grab the rail or banister.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Step up the style

Now that we’ve got function and safety out of the way, we can turn our attentions to fashion. The staircase may not seem a natural place for prize pieces of art, but, like your bathroom or loo, it’s a quick way of making sure everybody sees your carefully-chosen pieces. Try to limit yourself to small decorations like miniature frames or photos, and line them up gallery-style at the same gradient as the stairs.

As with all constricted areas, your biggest challenge is creating a sense of space. Avoid claustrophobic dark colours where possible, and use a lighter shade on walls and ceilings to help draw the eye upwards.

As with any space, mirrors provide the illusion of depth, and don’t be afraid to go big on the lighting. Utilise ‘accent’ lighting – focused light sources creating contrast – rather than a solitary overhead bulb (just remember those safety rules!). The result should be less subterranean tunnel, more breezy indoor boulevard.

As for the stairs themselves, your main allies are the risers – the vertical slats between each step. You can apply wallpaper, paint them to match the walls, or pattern them to match your lower floor.

For those wedded to quirk, you can fashion your steps as piano keys, book spines, or bands of the rainbow. Just be sure to consider the look from every angle before laying down your first brushstroke – no one wants a staircase that looks like a work of art from the ground floor, and a cubist mess from the first.

Otherwise, carpets remains the most popular add-on. Option number one is full carpeting: 100% coverage of a stairway that can obscure unsightly surfaces but can be comparatively complex and costly to install.

Option number two is to use carpet runners – a wide strip of carpet running down the centre of the stairs, held in place with slim poles affixed to the join between riser and tread. Cheaper and simpler than full carpeting, generally speaking, the different textures can fit really well into a broader aesthetic.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Starting from scratch

Of course, if you’re overseeing major structural renovations, you may have the chance to design your staircases anew. We’re not going to delve into the engineering – that depends entirely on the specs of your dwelling – but there are a few styles finding particular prominence in modern homes.

For space-starved householders, consider the spiral staircase – an aesthetic, self-contained unit that can easily be erected in the corner of the room. So-called ‘floating staircases’ are increasingly popular in modern minimalist homes – isolated blocks without risers protruding straight out of the wall. They’re obviously not as stable as their banister-ed cousins, and are not for those with uncertain step (i.e. large swathes of the population).

We can’t imagine many houses will have room for grand medieval stairwells, but you can still channel a country house aesthetic with elaborate hand rails and metalwork panelling.

For the very chicest in staircase design, consider installing light sources – under-lit bulbs that emit a warm glow from beneath the tread. These not only look lovely during the long winter evenings, they may also stop you coming a cropper when you get up to go to the loo.

7 of the Hottest Homeware and Interior Design Trends of 2020

interior trends 2020

From gleaming metals and rich opulence, to unfussy, functional pieces, the dawn of a new decade has something for everyone, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

It may only be autumn, but interior designers are already predicting how we’re going to be dressing our homes in 2020.

So, how’s it looking? To find out, we’ve gone behind the scenes at Top Drawer, the UK’s leading design-led trade event, where Louise Healy-Adonis – trend forecaster and senior strategist at Flamingo – shares her insider insights for the coming seasons.

These items aren’t available to buy yet – but keep an eye out for designs inspired by these themes in stores and online throughout 2020.

From the finest fabrics to brilliant basics, here, Healy-Adonis reveals the key features of 2020’s hottest-tipped interior design and homeware trends, and how we can get the look…

interior trends 2020

1. Modern Relics

A contrast of delicate and strong shapes and details, with mixed textures. The idea of unearthed antiques interplays with modern materials to create future heirlooms.

“This trend sees classic shapes given a contemporary look through new digital techniques and traditional etched surfaces. Rich textures and luxe gleaming metals add sumptuous elements to rough and irregular black surfaces of unearthed pasts. Add finishing touches to the home to complement the trend such as cushions, glassware or vases,” suggests Healy-Adonis.

interior trends 2020

2. Introspection

This trend sees muted, multiple inputs from our surroundings, dialled down into introspective subdued colours and calm tonal blocking. This is not stark minimalism – think meditative and calming with multi textures.

“Soft winter pales and warm neutrals create meditative, clean palettes that are grounded in natural materials,” says Healy-Adonis. “Mixed textures and serene scenes are seen in calm tonal blocking. Colours to invest in include whites, softened teals and olives, dusky pinks and light grey.”

interior trends 2020

3. Grounded Rituals

This one’s all about a natural autumnal, earthy, tactile vibe that’s tied to nature and wellbeing. These everyday items are elevated through the craft of honest materials and the uniqueness of nature. Answering the need for quiet restorative rituals.

“This trend brings the grounding of nature into the home through raw materials and handmade pieces. One-of-a-kind products are formed in metal accents, woven textiles and tactile wood. This restrained detailing and pared-back palette will enhance the sanctuary of the home,” Healy-Adonis notes.

interior trends 2020

4. Soft Assembly

The retro modern feel combines reassuring nostalgia with playful rounded shapes and graphic prints. Imperfect outlines are key in mid-tone brights, anchored in rich navy and coffee tones.

“Irregular graphics and mid-tone brights will add the modern retro feel to the home. Look out for organic shapes with a sophisticated crafty feel. This will be seen through dining wear, throws and cushions, and decorative items,” explains Healy-Adonis.

interior trends 2020

5. Bio Flux

This trend speaks to the mix of organic and hyper-real, where natural looks sci-fi and bio-design is the future, today.

Healy-Adonis says: “This scientific and sterile trend sees a mix of organic shell-like dark tones and iridescence modernise ombre styles. The unique and free-form nature of the materials offer interesting overlays of organic colours.”

interior trends 2020

6. Sublime Opulence

Maximalism is muted with a restrained palette of deep blues and yellow golds. Plush velvets and textured metallics reference historical detailing and add a luxurious serenity.

“Tonal blues are still a key trend for 2020, moving into a more yellow tone, adding warmth, calmness yet opulence to the home,” explains Healy-Adonis. “Historical detailing stylised with modern twists including gold-edged art prints, this is a key trend which is staying around for another season.”

interior trends 2020

7. Industrial Organics

This trend speaks to the in-between space of man-made and organic, of the chunkiness of old machinery, but with the ease and simplicity needed for an uncomplicated life.

“With the focus on unfussy functional pieces, this trend includes asymmetric bold shapes contrasted with soft tones. Pale dusty pinks and mints, rust, ochre and blues are grounded by warm naturals and stark black,” suggests Healy-Adonis.

9 Top Tips to Make the Most of a Small Kitchen

small kitchen tips

Small can be beautiful and - crucially in this case - functional too. By Luke Rix-Standing.

In the modern world of cramped shoe-box flats and sardine-tin apartment blocks, space is a rare and valuable commodity.

Wave goodbye to extended worktops, double-door refrigerators, and luxurious kitchen islands – particularly in urban areas, these are now myths from a bygone age for many of us.

When space is scarce, kitchens are often the first to feel the squeeze – there’s no headline floor-filler in this room, like a sofa or bed – but there’s no need to let that cramp your cooking.

Here’s how to keep livin’ it large, even with the most modest kitchen…

small kitchen tips

1. Purge the unnecessaries

Be totally honest with yourself – do you really need that candy floss maker, that ‘pizza oven’ that’s actually just a small oven taking up half the counter top, or that margarita maker you used once back in 2013?

“It’s the number one mistake people make,” says professional organiser, Vicky Silverthorn (youneedavicky.com). “Putting the contents of a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom house, and keeping gadgets that come out only occasionally. The fondue set, the avocado slicer, the large dinner platters for people that don’t have dinner parties… Ask yourself what you’d prefer – the space, or the appliance you use once a year?”

2. Think vertically

Floor space is not the be all and end all, and for those blessed with high ceilings, it’s crucial to cash in. Add extra shelves above your cupboards, or use the tops of your cupboards as extra storage space.

Time and budget allowing, you could install a vertical, sliding drawer, which may single-handedly take the place of a pantry. Think of your kitchen like a maths question – you’re calculating the volume, not just the floor area.

small kitchen tips

3. Use your corners

Corners are notoriously difficult to utilise, but unless you’re living in a water tower, every room has at least three or four of them. Wraparound corner shelves are shoo-ins for storage-starved kitchens, while floor lights and tables can be slotted in with ease. In most rooms, corners are dead space; in a small kitchen, they’re an opportunity.

4. Store in adjacent rooms

If your home is relatively spacious, and it’s just your kitchen feeling the squeeze, you can always store non-perishables elsewhere. There’s just no need to clog your kitchen cupboards with piles of pasta and tinned beans, when they could live just as happily somewhere else in the house.

small kitchen tips

5. Keep it tidy

Kitchens are supposed to be functional, efficient spaces, tailored to minimise the inherent pressures of cooking – and to keep a clear head when things get steamy, you need a clear work surface.

“It’s about putting the items that you have in the correct spaces,” says Silverthorn, “and there is no one-size-fits-all. Look out for gimmicky plastic containers that only contain a few tins – not everything needs to live in a basket, despite what Instagram says. Get stackable storage containers, or containers that fit inside each other when they’re not being used.”

6. Clever colours

Just because your kitchen is small, doesn’t mean it has to look small. Consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid, while bright blocks of contrast colour can quickly become claustrophobic (although there are no hard and fast rules!), so consider keeping your scheme to a two-colour maximum.

Lighter colours invariably feel airier – whitewashed kitchens are increasingly common – while reflective surfaces like mirrors lend depth.

small kitchen tips

7. Tactical lighting

How large a room looks is as much about your perception as its actual size. Natural light bathes your kitchen in a vivid glow, imitating the wide open spaces of the great outdoors, while poorly-lit areas very quickly feel poky.

Artificial light is where the buck stops after-hours, and you want to mix up overhead sources with table lamps or wall lights. Accent lighting lends contrast between different parts of a room, which inevitably leaves your kitchen looking larger and more varied.

“I love lights that dim in a kitchen,” says Silverthorn. “It gives the bright, vibrant light for the morning and afternoon but can then turn cosy for when you’re winding down.”

8. Space-saving gizmos

Extravagant gadgetry generally takes up more space than it saves, but there are a few specific products that earn their place. Try a magnetic knife holder – a strip on the wall that holds knives and other metallic implements – or pick up a chopping board that sits atop your sink.

Anything that can be hung should be hung. Hooks on the undersides of shelves are a go-to for mugs, while large utensils can be well catered for with rails and racks.

small kitchen tips

9. Double up

Going back to gadgetry, even seemingly sensible tools can often be economised, and canny buyers can squeeze two tools into the space of one. “Employ multi-purpose kitchen utensils,” says Silverthorn, “you’re automatically saving space.

“I’ve been working with Brabantia (brabantia.com/uk),” she adds, “and their new Tasty+ range is full of them. There’s a spatula that’s also a fork, a skimmer that’s also a ladle, a spaghetti spoon that’s also got a measuring tool in it. You’re instantly halving the utensils in your kitchen.”

Soundproofing Made Simple: How to Rid your Home of Unwanted Noise

soundproofing your home

Insulate yourself against noisy neighbours, caterwauling wildlife, and the sound of honking horns. Luke Rix-Standing discovers how.

soundproofing your home

You might think soundproofing is only for music studios, or the cottages of the royals, but even ordinary homeowners can take a few steps towards sanity-saving silence.

In fact, among modern urbanites surrounded by the sounds of the city, and the increasing number of neighbours in subdivided buildings, it’s becoming more and more of a hot-button issue.

Older properties are particularly prone to noise pollution, with poorly insulated fireplaces, creaking windows and perhaps crumbling plaster allowing sound to travel almost straight through.

As with most home improvements, soundproofing also adds value to your property. Silence is golden – whether it’s for you or your selling price.

Here’s what to do if next door won’t stop arguing, your child asks Santa for a drum-kit, or your upstairs neighbour starts taking tap-dancing lessons…

soundproofing your home

Quick, easy fixes

They say you should know thine enemy, so it’s worth taking a moment to understand the sound you’re trying to repel.

“You have to think about impact noise and airborne noise,” says Jeremy Wiggins, technical director at gpad London, “the former is noise like footsteps, the latter things like music.”

Remember also that soundproofing is as much about protecting your home from itself as the outside world. Speaker systems and shouting matches make a lot of noise wherever they are, and you don’t want all your domestic goings-on to be audible from room to room.

‘Dress’ your home with furnishings that take the edge off unwanted noise. Hard surfaces reflect sound waves, while softer surfaces absorb them, so the more rugs and carpets you lay down, the less noise will go through the floor.

Heavy curtains help blunt sound transmission between your home and the street, and sofas and armchairs drink up the decibels, while denser materials like laminate and stone send them ricocheting around the room. That’s not to say your furnishings have to be soft, and a well-stocked bookcase is nearly as effective as a furry wall-hanging.

Even simple additions like posters have some impact, but wall insulation is determined more by their main covering. “Knowing what materials to use is terribly important,” says Julian Prieto, head designer at MyEdge2. “Wallpaper is great for absorbing some of the sound, but tiles, on the other hand, will reflect most airborne noise.”

It’s worth experimenting with noise reduction techniques before you invest in costly structural change. Simple, DIY measures like silencing squeaking floorboards don’t insulate your home, but they lessen the amount of sound you’ll need to proof.

soundproofing your home

Windows and doors

To repel external sound, first tighten up obvious access points.

Windows are a common chink in the armour, and double glazing can cut out noise and deliver handy savings on your heating bill. Gaps in window frames allow sound to seep in and out, so seal up any cracks with industrial sealant or adhesive foam strips.

Ill-fitting doors experience similar sound leakage, so install a brush or draught excluder to plug gaps between door and floor, and, for the best results, consider making your door lead-lined. Remember that noise intrusion is a two-way problem – if you can hear the hallway, your hallway can also hear you.

Many interior doors are hollow core, and poor at keeping out noise. Install solid core doors on private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, and add vinyl weather stripping for the best results.

soundproofing your home

Re-structured silence

So much for the literal window dressing – but it’s your walls, ceilings, and floors that are doing the heavy lifting.

In cities, it’s often ceilings that take the most flak, as heavy footfall from the flat above can shake the rafters with the force of a steel drum.

“Sound passes through floors as vibrations generated by footsteps,” says Ben Hancock, managing director at Oscar Acoustics. “Prevent this by installing a ‘floating soundproof ceiling’.”

By quite literally adding a layer, these ceilings leave a cavity which breaks the path of the vibration. They’re quite expensive, but you get what you pay for.

There are similar solutions for walls and floors. “Think of your walls as a boom box,” says Prieto. “If you tap one side and the space between is hollow, your walls will work as amplifier.” Filling the space with rock wool or acoustic foam will muffle any shared or party wall, giving your home super-high sound absorption with no real aesthetic change.

“For floors,” he continues, “there are rubber membranes that will insulate from impact noise, so you can still use hardwood floors without any problems. Nowadays, most refurbishments include underfloor heating systems – they also work extremely effectively for reducing noise.”

soundproofing your home

Want to Refresh your Home on a Budget? These Bargain Buys don’t Skimp in the Style Stakes!

Little touches can make all the difference - and you really don't have to spend a lot, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Styling up your favourite space might take a little inspiration and creative know-how – but it really doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

In fact, once you’ve honed in on a few functional pieces, jazzy textiles and quirky decos, a swift update or quick-fix refresh can be much more playful and fun than blowing the budget on statement furnishings.

budget stylish updates

“Updating your home doesn’t have to be costly; in fact, there are plenty of simple updates that can be achieved on a budget,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative, Barker and Stonehouse.

“Whilst some might think you have to completely overhaul your home in order to give it a fresh lease of life, adding new pieces of furniture, or even accessories, can inspire a whole new trend for your home.

budget stylish updates

“Wall art is a great way to inject a sense of personality – by mixing and matching different prints, personal photos and mirrors you can not only bring a plain wall to life but also create the illusion of space with the use of mirrors,” adds Hornby.

Another approach is to introduce some new soft furnishings, such as cushions or rugs. And if you’re looking to make a statement, a bold pattern or colour can go a long way.

budget stylish updates

Finally, for many of us, introducing elements of natural life into the home is of the utmost importance. As Hornby points out: “Adorning your home with plants not only gives your room a lift but it also helps to improve your overall wellbeing.”

We trawled the shops for this season’s best bargain buys for a speedy home update…

£10 and under

Aldi Limited Edition Oud Bergamot and Honey and Nectarine Candles and Diffusers, £3.99 each, Aldi (in store from Aug 29)

Scented candles are one of life’s little luxuries, and we love Aldi’s classy new addition.

John Lewis & Partners Artificial Ferns in Hanging Glass Vase – 23cm, £6, John Lewis

Tempting to have a trio of these… Loop a ribbon and hang them high or simply place across a mantelpiece or windowsill.

George Home Lips, Eyes and Mono Geo Cushions, £6 each, Monochrome Zig Zag Cushion, £7, Direct.asda

The playful cushions strike just the right balance, and the iconic lip print screams designer without the hefty price tag.

Dunelm Home Set of 2 Bronze Monkey Coat Hooks, £9, Dunelm

These whimsy brass hooks will play up a dull wall and can be used to hold boho baskets and summer straws – woven hats are a great prop and can be hung on bright string.

Sculpted Vase – Blue, £10, Barker and Stonehouse

A basic blue vase could be filled with wild flowers, wooden spoons and funky faux blooms to suit the season or your colour scheme.

£25 and under

Global Nomad 6 Compartment Wooden Shelf, £14.99, Homesense stores

Keep those summer vibes alive with this rustic shelf, which can also double as a mood board.

Sainsbury’s Home Kanso Living Bedroom Collection: Blue Sticks Double Bedlinen Set, £14; Blue Geo Double Bedlinen Set, £21; Monochrome Crewel Cushion, £16; Concrete Planter, £16, Sainsbury’s (in store from Sep 1)

A one-stop shop for every room in the home, we love this eye-catching geometric pattern, which is bang on trend for the new season.

Tulum Wall Banner, £20, Barker and Stonehouse

Macrame is having a very fashionable moment. These tactile textiles double up as works of art – and are versatile enough to hang anywhere.

Botanica Opulence Green Velvet Stool with Gold Legs, £24.99, TK Maxx stores

Gorgeous and glammy, this velvet stool looks so luxe, especially in this soft, sorbet shade.

George Home Gold Gin Glass 2 Pack, £7; Gold Wine Glass 2 Pack, £6; Gold Geo Hurricane Vase, £6; Timeless Gin Glass, £2; Timeless Coupe, £2; Timeless Tumbler, £1.50; Timeless Hiball, £1.50; Metallic Geo Dinner Set 12 Piece, £25, Asda (available from September)

Striking cut crystal, smart stemware and gold accents; this glassware and tableware offers fine dining on a beer budget.

£45 and under

Dax Side Table (H48cm x W45cm), £30, Matalan

Bright as a buttercup, this retro looking stool can double up as a side table or book stand.

Voyage of Discovery Wallpaper Mural, from £32 per m2, Wallsauce.com

A brilliant backdrop to build on (you can start with a small image), made to measure murals can be tailored to fit your scheme. And some are so magical, armchair travellers can unearth a fantasy world from a choice of more than a million mural images.

Set of 4 Bamboo Baskets, £39, J D Williams

Having a clear out, sorting and organising ‘to get the look’ can be as much a stress-buster as going to the gym, and these bamboo baskets bring an artisan quality to home storage.

MOMA 1949 Canvas – Black and White, £45, Barker and Stonehouse

A timeless monochrome print makes for an instant update, especially if you style this 1950s portrait with natural materials and clean lines. Otherwise, think more is more and prop it on a shelf unit with a collection of vintage perfume bottles.

Weave Some Magic at Home, with New-Wave Rattan, Raffia and Bamboo.

modern rattan decor

No longer confined to retro schemes and conservatories, nature's most versatile materials are making a stylish comebacks, says Gabrielle Fagan.

We’re all waking up to the magic of weave, with rattan – that blonde, slim, easy-on-the eye material – enjoying a starring role in homes right now.

Pinterest and Instagram are full of stunning examples of how rattan can lend a ‘wow’ factor in a way that solid wood simply can’t, and it’s totally in tune with our growing desire for natural products and organic designs in our living spaces.

modern rattan decor

Rattan was a huge hit in the Seventies, a trend that stuck for at least a decade, and has endured as a staple of the conservatory – but perish the thought that this is just a predictable reincarnation.

Designers have so transformed it, with punchy colour and imaginative chic new shapes, that pieces are good-looking enough to be focal points in all areas of the home.

Not only that – they’re seemingly so entranced by all things woven right now, they’ve also turned their creative attentions to raffia, bamboo, and even simple straw.

modern rattan decor

“Rattan really is the ‘super food’ of the homeware world,” declares Sophie Garnier, founder of Kalinko (kalinko.com), specialists in hand-woven rattan furniture and accessories made in Burma.

“Practically, the material is solid all the way through the vine, which makes it incredibly strong, and its flexibility means it can be woven into any shape. It also accepts paints and stains like wood, so can be made in a variety of colours and finishes.”

Not least, it’s a good choice, Garnier points out, if you want to burnish your eco-credentials. “It grows very quickly all year round and is harvested without harming the tree and also grows back very enthusiastically, so an A-star for sustainability,” she enthuses.

Lightweight yet sturdy, it can also look fresh and modern depending on the shape and finish you choose, notes Garnier.

Summing up its appeal, she says: “It brings the essence of the outdoors inside, which is very soothing and, while an obvious choice in the summer, will look great all year round in both classic and contemporary homes.”

What are you waiting for? Work the weave at home, with a variety of beautiful products…

modern rattan decor

Keep it light

Woven furniture won’t dominate a space, which makes it ideal for compact spaces and especially good for renters as it’s easily transportable, says Kate Butler, head of product design at Habitat.

“Fast-growing materials like rattan and bamboo are increasingly becoming key materials for us, and we’re incorporating these strong and lightweight materials into more modern designs that take advantage of their versatility,” she explains.

“They allow us to create more interesting 3D shapes, from fluid curves to angular forms, so we’re moving away from traditional rattan associations – which confined it to the conservatory – to more inspirational, contemporary ideas for the home that allow you to add more personality to a space.”

She highlights the Nadia bedframe (designed by Matthew Long), made from four individual rattan sections which clip together for easy assembly, and Habitat’s range of rattan light shades, which simply fit over a bulb.

modern rattan decor

Mix ‘n’ match

Double up for maximum effect – two chairs are better than one because they’ll look as though you’ve committed to a style, rather than bought a random piece.

If you want to make a statement, choose a rocker or a classic Peacock-style chair. The latter with its high back, which is also called a fan chair, originated in the Philippines and its striking style has featured in many iconic photographs over the years.

modern rattan decor

Scene-stealer seats

If you like a laid-back vibe, hanging chairs are ultra-fashionable currently, and Cox & Cox has an open weave Round Rattan Cocoon Chair, £650. It comes with a stand or a hook so it can be hung from the ceiling. Enhance the cosiness by draping with a Curly Sheepskin – Natural, £175.

modern rattan decor

Store & stun

We can never have enough storage – but there’s no reason it should be boring. Turn it into eye-candy with wicked weaves featuring soft, blushing shades, which can hold everything from household essentials to toys.

modern rattan decor

Divide & Rule

Unique pieces, like a folding screen, will conjure a tropical vibe in a living area. And you can ramp up the effect with other accessories, such a mirror, wall-mounted woven platters, occasional seating or a lamp.

modern rattan decor

From Crazy Paving to Patios: Gardening Trends Through the Decades

garden trends

As Southport Flower Show turns 90, garden designer and broadcaster Matthew Wilson looks at how tastes and trends have evolved. By Hannah Stephenson.

Who remembers when rock gardens were fashionable? Or perhaps at one point in your green-fingered life you attempted to paint your garden fence sky-blue, or adorn your patio with crazy paving?

These are just some of the trends remembered by award-winning garden designer and TV expert Matthew Wilson, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, who will be judging at Southport Flower Show later this month.

And this year mark’s the show’s 90th anniversary – so what better time to glance back at the go-to gardening looks we’ve seen come and go over the years?

Here, Wilson takes us down memory lane with a look at horticultural fads and fashions through the decades…

garden trends

1920s: The rock garden

In the 1920s, rock gardens were the height of fashion. You hardly see them these days, although there are still some designers who produce them.

garden trends

1930s: Art deco designs

As art deco architecture came into fashion, the style often extended into gardens. Exotic plants and evergreens were shown off in simple white-walled plots or within curved brick designs.

A great deal of creative effort was put into the paving, with highly stylised patios and paths.

garden trends

1940s: Grow your own

After the war, rationing continued for many years and the ‘grow your own’ movement was a necessity, rather than a fashion.

Ornamental gardens were dug up to make vegetable patches. Even football pitches were turned into allotments, and London’s Hyde Park had a huge allotment garden.

This trend continued into the 1970s, as seen on TV in The Good Life, and then fell out of fashion – but is very much back on the agenda for very different reasons right now, linked to the concern about the environment, food miles and agricultural additives. It’s come full circle.

garden trends

1950s: Rose gardens

There was a massive interest in rose breeding in the 1950s, with growers trying to produce new and exotic coloured colours. People tried to grow blue roses, which actually cannot exist in nature but have since been grown using genetic modification.

The Royal National Rose Society had more than 100,000 members by the 1970s. People still love roses, but few would have a rose garden that is solely roses and nothing else today.

It was also the start of the British love affair with the well-tended garden lawn, as new weed-killers, mowers and products came on the market, and the 1950s was the decade when the first garden centre opened in the UK.

garden trends

1960s: Mini conifers and heathers

In the late 1960s, there was a trend for mini-conifers and heathers in Britain’s gardens. They were popular because they were fairly low-maintenance and looked good all year round.

“Like many trends, they went completely out of fashion, but I think in the next few years we will start to see a renewed interest in conifers,” says Wilson.

garden trends

1970s: Crazy paving

Crazy paving was big in gardens in the 1970s. It was popular because it gave people a unique design in their garden, often in pink or yellow, and was also cheaper than conventional paving.

garden trends

1980s: Wildlife gardening

The 1980s saw a surge of interest in wildlife gardening, with households encouraging wildflowers to grow in their gardens as concerns grew about the environment.

Chris Baines’ 1985 book, How To Make A Wildlife Garden, shot to the bestseller lists – telling people how to make their gardens a haven for wildlife. The trend of gardening with nature, rather than fighting against it, has continued and is now arguably one of the most important aspects of modern gardening.

garden trends

1990s: The TV makeover

The 1990s was the decade when gardening became prime-time TV, with shows like Ground Force with Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock encouraging householders to give their gardens a dramatic makeover.

Decking and other recreational features became popular, as more people made the barbecue and patio table and chairs the focus of their outdoor space.

garden trends

2000s: Naturalistic planting

The new century saw the popularity of ‘naturalistic’ planting start to grow, inspired by designers such as James van Sweden in the US and Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands.

In Essex, Beth Chatto had created the influential ‘Gravel Garden’, and flower shows began to feature planting schemes that had more in common with meadows than traditional flower beds.

garden trends

2010s: Green gardening

Gardeners became far more conscious of the environment. ‘No-dig’ gardening is a big part of what we do now, and is going to become even bigger. It is a less intensive way of cultivating the soil, that prevents damage to the soil flora and fauna that are so important to plant health.

There is a big concern these days about water use and the environment, and this is driving the way we garden. Coastal towns are always drier, so building zero-irrigation gardens – for instance, thinking about the right plants for the right place – is also big.

Southport Flower Show runs from Aug 15-18. For tickets and further information, see southportflowershow.co.uk.

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

summer storage solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

summer storage solutions

1. Step into calm

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

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

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

2. Make a screen star

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

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

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

summer storage solutions

3. Sit and store

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

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

summer storage solutions

4. Sideboards of style

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

summer storage solutions

5. Sweet dreams storage

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

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

summer storage solutions

6. Magic makeover

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

7 Bright Design Tricks to Maximise Light in Your Home

brighten your home

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

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

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

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

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

brighten your home

Make a proper plan

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

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

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

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

brighten your home

90% light, 10% dark

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

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

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

brighten your home

Lots of mirrors

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

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

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

brighten your home

Window dressing

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

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

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

brighten your home

The lighting of the lamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

brighten your home

Wash your walls

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

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

brighten your home

Structural changes

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

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

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

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

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