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.”

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

Summer in a Glass: 9 Super Thirst-Quenchers to Enjoy in the Great Outdoors

super summer drinks

Crown your movable feast with an eclectic mix of refreshing spritzers, canned cocktails and seasonal serves, says Sam Wylie-Harris. As summer heats up, there's a lovely casualness that shapes our drinking rituals. Just as we reach for our wicker baskets and holiday wardrobe, the fashion for fruity libations and breezy spritzers strikes just the right balance and radiates all the right vibes.

super summer drinks

At the drop of a hat, summer seasonal serves – such as strawberry scented beer, canned bubbles and low abv wines – feel as natural as switching our glassware for faux stemware, sage for mint, topping our hampers and cooler bags with a festival blanket and making sure there’s enough ice for the second round.

Whether you’re packing a picnic, heading to the seaside or entertaining al fresco at home, these top drops hit just the right spot…

super summer drinks

1. M&S Cocktail Cans: Aperitivo Spritzer, Peach Spritzer, Cherry Spritzer and Vermouth & Tonic (£2 each, 5.5% abv, 25cl, Marks & Spencer stores)

What’s not to love about these new canned cocktails in four fab flavours, channelling lots of fruity fun. The Aperitivo Spritzer has a core of fragrant orange bitters, the Peach Spritzer screams sweet, ripe peaches, Cherry is sweetly refreshing, while the Vermouth & Tonic boasts a tincture of herbs.

super summer drinks

2. CIROC Summer Watermelon Vodka (£32.40, 70cl, 31dover)

Nothing signals summer like this classic tropical fruit, especially in a flavoured vodka. Introducing CIROC Watermelon Spritz: CIROC 40ml Summer Watermelon Vodka, 20ml lemonade, 40ml soda, 10ml cranberry juice. Serve over ice in a tall glass and garnish with a lime wheel, fresh watermelon wheel and sprig of fresh mint.

super summer drinks

3. Lanson Brut NV Champagne Wimbledon 2019 Neoprene Jacket (£25, Tesco stores)

Champagne of the Championships, a whopping 25,000 bottles of Lanson were popped open at the famous two-week tennis tournament last year – and if you want to soak up the atmosphere but don’t have tickets, a stylish garden party and hamper full of grand slam treats makes a winning combination. The limited-edition racket-themed cooler jackets are specially designed to keep the bottle chilled for up to two hours and will cheer you through the summer season.

super summer drinks

4. Black Cow English Strawberries Vodka (£27.95, 70cl, The Whisky Exchange)

Another flavoured vodka newbie, this blush pink is infused with pressed strawberries to lend a sweet, fresh, strawberry note and makes a fun summery cocktail when it’s mixed with ginger ale. Meet Ginger Blossom: 35ml Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries topped with ginger ale and garnished with English strawberries and a wedge of lime.

super summer drinks

5. Camden Town Brewery’s Strawberry Hells Forever Lager (£6 for 4 x 33cl cans, 4.6% abv, Sainsbury’s)

Still room for more strawbs in your punnet? How about a swift half of strawberry beer? Camden Town are kick-starting the first of their ‘Seasonal Hells’ with this summertime lager brewed with strawberries. Crisp with a faint hint of the summer fruits on the hoppy finish, it’s tart, tastes refreshingly good and should appeal to those looking for new taste experiences. Released every quarter, the one-off beers are inspired by the seasons.

super summer drinks

6. Graham’s Blend No 5 White Port (£21.25, 75cl, Master of Malt)

We’ve been dubbing a P&T the new G&T for a while now, and it only takes a mini heatwave to appreciate how remarkably refreshing a bone dry, white port and tonic is. A delicious aperitif that also bridges the gap between a white wine spritzer and vodka and tonic (at 19% abv), serve on the rocks, top with tonic (Double Dutch have recently launched their premium mixers in cans) and garnish with a slice of lemon and sprig of fresh mint. Serve with salted almonds, olives and petiscos (Portugal’s answer to tapas).

super summer drinks

7. Co-op Own-Label Low Alcohol Sauvignon Blanc, Garnacha Rose and Cabernet Tempranillo, Spain (£3 each, less than 0.5% abv, Co-op stores)

The trend for ‘low or no’ shows no sign of slowing, and these latest additions to Co-op’s low and no-alcohol range are perfect for sipping in the sunshine.

The red is fun and fruity with a brush of blackberry fruit, the rosy pink offers raspberry and strawberry flavours, and the white shows an exotic citrusy note. Perfect for sangria (without a fuzzy head the next day), hold the brandy and sugar and mix with soda water, orange juice and sliced fruit.

Note to self: Check out the crystal-look, oversized acrylic wine glasses and flutes (£4.49 each), tumblers (£3.99) and jug (£14.99) at Lakeland.

super summer drinks

8. The Uncommon White Bubbly, England (£4.99, 25cl, Waitrose stores)

A must for posh picnics, we love this quirky can with its quintessentially British design, formalwear and bowler hat. A lightly sparkling dry white made from bacchus grapes (similar in sorts to sauvignon blanc), it’s naturally low in sugar and offers fizz fanatics a crisper, dryer alternative to prosecco.

super summer drinks

9. Wine Chat Malbec, France (£18, 2.25L, Sainsbury’s)

From beach to bar, a brilliant BBQ, picnic or al fresco red – this box has two finger holes so it’s easy to carry and we love the cute label – this French malbec is brimming with bright blueberries and ripe raspberries, feels fragrant, fruity and juicy and finishes with soft tannins. Pairs perfectly with French bread, saucisson, cheese and dips.

3 Themes for Al Fresco Feasting: Love Island, Festival and Country Cool

al fresco dining

Little beats a lingering outdoor meal in summer. Gabrielle Fagan reveals three ways for setting the scene in style. There's something about eating outdoors. A generous helping of fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine can magically make even the simplest meal taste delicious.

al fresco dining

That’s all to the good, because summer’s no time to be slaving over a hot stove indoors – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a little time and trouble over the table.

By giving a setting a real sense of occasion, maybe opting for a theme, you’ll not only make it memorable but you could ramp up the fun – a few drinks could turn into a party and a supper into a celebration.

“Having lunch and supper parties outside is one of the real joys of summer,” enthuses interior designer, Joanna Wood. “I really like using unusual nature-inspired dishes in the shapes of leaves, and I like to work to a theme and pick a different one each year.”

This year she’s creating her own ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ al fresco setting, to give a patio area a theatrical touch. “A theme allows you to be creative and you can incorporate flowers, candles and maybe floating flower heads with tea lights for evening parties,” she says. “It’s all about a bit of imagination and planning that will result in something you can enjoy for the whole season.”

So turn the tables on dull dining and instead experiment with one of these three themes: Love Island style, a fun festival vibe, or a little slice of calm with country cool…

al fresco dining

Dine like a Love Islander

If you envy those fit reality TV show residents in their sun-drenched Mallorcan villa, create your own sizzling Mediterranean hotspot. It could be perfect for leisurely meals and chilling (romancing optional!).

Group potted palms, ferns and other tall foliage around simple seating. Low benches or boxes made comfy with foam rectangles wrapped in bright fabric will do nicely. Finally, inject another zip of sunshine colour with outdoor rugs and cushions. Then sit back and enjoy the banter!

Mix a decor cocktail and pick up on Love Island style with slogans and beach style accessories – pool blue and flamingo pink rules!

al fresco dining

Go full-on festival

Festival season’s arrived. No tickets – no problem! Simply give a table setting a boho, laid-back vibe, turn on the sound system, and have your own personal ‘feastival’ – without the mud, wellies or sagging tents.

This look i all about personality – pops of colour, mismatched china, and lots of freshly cut flowers and foliage. Don’t take it too seriously – there’s no room for formality here – just give it a bit of hippy-dippy character that makes it kick-off-your-shoes relaxing.

Feel free to pile on the paper lanterns and garlands – use solar lights for when the sun’s gone down – and add jewel-coloured glassware for a dash of glamour.

John Lewis is a brilliant destination for homeware that will ramp up al fresco style, including a brilliant range of tableware and furniture. Their Croft Collection Garden Dining Table Bench, £220, is ideal, while a Camden Garden Bistro Table and Chairs Set is currently reduced to £63 from £79. A Sol Pouffe – Multi, £120, makes a great finishing touch.

al fresco dining

Conjure country cool

The beauty of a rustic scene is its simplicity. All that’s needed are a wooden table and chairs, a linen runner and napkins, and plenty of lanterns and candles. Don’t forget to cater for chilly nights by putting a throw or a blanket on each chair.

“I live on a farm in the glorious West Country, so I really enjoy the chance to make the most of time outdoors with friends and family. And come the summer months, there is nothing I love more than a picnic or eating al fresco,” says Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine (lizearlewellbeing.com).

“Picnics and meals outdoors are a great way of enjoying the great outdoors and making the most of nature’s beauty, but they don’t just have to be daytime affairs. There’s nothing nicer than lingering over a meal on a sultry evening and pretty lighting will transform a setting.”

Battery operated tea lights, which will twinkle into the night, are a pretty and safe way to add enchantment, Earle says.

“Perch them atop jam jars or logs to give them a bit more height, or use them in hanging glass lanterns above a table to turn it into a focal point,” she suggests.

The closer you get to echoing your indoor taste outside in your garden ‘room’, the more successful the result will be. Opt for accessories that would look just as good in a living room as on a terrace.

al fresco dining

9 Expert Tips to Transform Your Greenhouse from Messy Junkyard to Rustic Retreat

updating your glam greenhouse

Hannah Stephenson reveals how to banish the greenhouse clutter and create a horticultural haven instead. If you're tripping over compost bags, battling with broken pots and spent seed trays and can't find a tool in sight, your greenhouse may be in need of a serious makeover.

updating your glam greenhouse

Smart gardeners can create a space that’s not only useful for growing plants but acts as an extension of their home – a stylish, comfortable bolthole through the warmer months and beyond, with the help of a little furniture, cushions, wall art and some nifty tidying accessories.

Where to start with your makeover? Follow this greenhouse guide for inspiration, including tips from garden styling pros and Richard Baggaley, director of The Greenhouse People (greenhousepeople.co.uk)…

updating your glam greenhouse

1. Create a potting corner

To prevent clutter in your greenhouse, carefully plan your layout and segment the space into purposeful areas. Create a potting corner next to where you grow your fruit and vegetables to make planting more efficient and to save space.

This area needn’t be dull. Place seed packets in a brightly coloured tin to store them safely and add a pop of colour to your greenhouse. Rather than leaving tools in a chaotic heap, a row of hooks will keep everything off the floor and neatly stored.

updating your glam greenhouse

2. Be bold with plant choice

The greenhouse needn’t just be a space to nurture seedlings. Exotic and tender plants will thrive in the warm environment and brighten up the space.

Fill your greenhouse with a range of desert and succulent plants like cactus, agave and crassula. These easy-care plants flourish inside a greenhouse and are very on-trend.

If botany is more your style, orchids are among the most beautiful and exotic greenhouse plants. They require a high level of humidity though, so store your misting bottle nearby to keep your orchid healthy.

Tom Barry, managing director of Hartley Botanic (hartley-botanic.co.uk), adds: “Architectural tropical and subtropical species are still very popular with both homeowners and gardeners alike.

“These plants look dramatic and add height within a greenhouse which works well when combined with bench-level succulents and cacti. For colour, and to add an exotic look, orchids in pretty ‘sweet shop’ colours can be grown in individual pots.”

updating your glam greenhouse

3. Create a cosy nook

Acclaimed author and botanical stylist Selina Lake (Selinalake.co.uk), who styled for Alitex (Alitex.co.uk) at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, suggests you update tired items such as old chairs, metal furniture or plant pots by adding a pop of colour with paints. A simple bench can be turned into a sumptuous day bed with a mass of comfy cushions.

updating your glam greenhouse

4. Use insect designs

Entomology, or the study of insects, is the new botanical trend, adds Lake. Get the look by having a go at drawing bugs on greenhouse windows using a chalk pen.

Add prints and posters in frames or clipped to bare walls and use a wire washing line for another display.

updating your glam greenhouse

5. Go for a natural look

‘Upcycling’ is the word on everyone’s lips – and for a good reason. With items sourced from second-hand shops, or even junkyards, it’s easy to go boho on a budget. Simple changes like a lick of paint on wooden furniture or changing the handles on drawers can have a huge impact, says Baggaley.

In line with environmental issues, forgo plastic items for furniture and accessories made from natural materials such as metals, rattan and bamboo.

updating your glam greenhouse

6. Find space to sit

Baggaley advises: “Add comfort to your glass-walled structure with seating and soft furnishings. Textiles will instantly soften the space and make it feel inviting.

“Be aware that these will fade under the concentrated sunlight, so shop for items with a vintage-inspired design or are second hand to accomplish the shabby-chic look.”

updating your glam greenhouse

7. Make use of mirrors

Add mirrors inside your greenhouse to reflect light and the sight of your beautiful plants, Baggaley says. Careful placement will give the illusion of more space but do consider what it will be reflecting. Try to reflect the leafy interest in your greenhouse, rather than watering cans or plastic pots.

updating your glam greenhouse

8. Use your greenhouse as a gallery

To add further interiors-inspired touches to your greenhouse, wall art is a great option to make the space ooze personality and feel more like a home.

Get creative and create your own works of art to display. You could decorate a canvas with cuttings from garden magazines, known in the art world as ‘decoupage’, for garden inspiration as well as decoration.

updating your glam greenhouse

9. Create a herb haven

Drying herbs in a greenhouse is ideal as they dry quickly under the concentrated sunlight, add scent to the space, and look decorative.

Lavender, sage and thyme retain their fragrance when dried – just try to keep them out of direct sun. They dry quickly, so check periodically and package for storage as soon as they are crisp.

Open Plan Living – the Dominant Design Trend Rendering Walls Redundant

open plan living

Some say it's had its peak, but open plan designs are still staggeringly popular. Luke Rix-Standing ponders the appeal of blurring room boundaries.

There are exceptions to every rule, but we’d guess the phrase ‘open plan’ mostly conjures images of a modern, minimalist apartment in whitewashed monochrome, dotted with oddly-shaped furniture from the darkest corners of IKEA. Or, depending on your profession, a vast integrated office space filled with shoulder-high plastic partitioning.

In reality, ‘open plan’ can be a slightly trickier concept to pin down.

“In the simplest terms, it’s a connection between the living room, dining room and kitchen,” says Charles Bettes, managing director of London architecture firm gpad (gpadlondonltd.com), “linking together those three primary functions.”

In pictures and catalogues, you’ll sometimes see open plan bedrooms thrown into the mix, but Bettes says this is usually more aesthetic than practical.

open plan living

“They’re cool spaces and they look really great, but open plan bedrooms are rare,” he observes. “They don’t provide even that basic level of privacy.”

At the extreme end of the open plan scale lies the studio apartment – an NYC staple with just one main room plus a (probably tiny) bathroom. Rarely a stylistic choice, it’s often not a brilliant ambassador for the possibilities of open plan design though.

open plan living

Why would you choose open plan?

Open plan is not for everyone – the lack of privacy might start to grate when the in-laws come to stay, your son takes up weightlifting, or your daughter starts playing the drums. But there’s a reason it’s cantered to the cutting edge of interior design.

First and foremost, open plan arrangements almost always maximise natural light. One glass-panelled wall or set of glass doors can do the job of several rooms worth of windows if unhindered by walls or doors.

Secondly, it encourages social living. An open plan home doesn’t split people into separate spaces, and you can often at least see your loved ones, even if you’re all doing different things.

open plan living

Thirdly, though open plan is often associated with cavernous apartment buildings and sprawling office floors, town and city-dwellers are increasingly using open plan designs to maximise efficiency in smaller spaces.

“In the city, space is at such a premium that the houses and flats we’re designing are getting smaller all the time, and tiny pockets of space can feel quite claustrophobic,” says Bettes. “By opening those spaces up, the whole thing feels larger.”

On one level it’s common sense – if your kitchen and dining table are in the same space, that’s two rooms taken care of in one.

Finally – and you may think this doesn’t affect you but it probably does – open plan living is thoroughly in vogue. Open any magazine, glance at an appropriate billboard, and you’ll frequently see homes that are airy, fluid, high on light and low on masonry.

“A lot of it comes down to fashion,” says Bettes, “and I think a lot of people desire open plan because it gets talked about a lot.”

open plan living

How do you make open plan work?

Open plan design can look sleek, spacious and ultra-modern – or it can seem cluttered, invasive and incoherent. The key, says Bettes, is to strike the perfect balance between fluidity and separation.

“There doesn’t have to be one big rectangular space,” he says. “You could have large doors that fold back, or sliding doors that you can have open during the day or when you have people round. You can use glazed partitions – providing a visual link to other rooms – or curtains that you can pull across to create more intimate spaces.”

You’re looking to create three distinct spaces which are separate without being disconnected – retaining a sense of fluid flexibility without messily merging them into one. Consider the potential of waist or shoulder-high partitions, or doorway-like arches that clearly demarcate your space.

open plan living

Link rooms together with design aspects like colour and material. “Different colours can look nicely contemporary, but can also look quite stark,” says Bettes. “You can’t have one red room, one blue room.”

Sharing wall colour avoids any undesired clashes, while laying down universal flooring links rooms together with one foundational surface.

For most people, open plan is a choice – new builds, redevelopments, moving homes etc – but be aware that it may not be so simple if you live in, for example, a Victorian town house. You can start knocking down the walls, but, even with the right planning permissions, it gets very pricey, very fast.

open plan living

The new normal or a passing trend?

Some architects have argued that open plan living might have already peaked, and that in the coming years more conventional floor plans will once again prevail.

“Five years ago, everyone wanted to be open plan,” says Bettes, “but there’s just a feeling it might go back the other way.

“A key driver is iPads and other devices – traditionally families gather around TV screens, but now people are finding smaller pockets of space to watch things individually.”

Whether or not these predictions pan out, the open plan revolution has changed the new generation – at least in urban areas. A recent survey on home preferences by L&Q development The Gateway, found that only 14% of London’s millennials would consider a separate dining room a priority.

We may yet head back to separate rooms, but who’s to say they’ll be the same ones.

open plan living

Tv’s Lorraine Kelly and George Clarke Reveal 2 Key Ways to Create Extra Space at Home

Lorraine Kelly transformed an unused conservatory, while George Clarke created a garden office. Gabrielle Fagan takes a look.

Who hasn’t felt at times that their home is shrinking? Growing kids, shifting towards working from home, or just having too much stuff can all make it seem like the walls are closing in.

Don’t despair though – there are ways to reclaim some much-needed space. TV’s Lorraine Kelly and architect and presenter George Clarke have done exactly that in their own homes.

Kelly has transformed a conservatory, while George has opted for a purpose-built home office at the end of his garden – both increasingly popular choices, as more and more people prefer to ‘improve rather than move’ to gain extra living space.

Take a look at their newly created retreats, which might just inspire some changes of your own…

Lorraine Kelly’s chic conservatory

“I’m so lucky to have a conservatory,” declares Kelly. She and her husband, cameraman Steve Smith, moved a year ago – downsizing from their Dundee mansion to a smaller house in Buckinghamshire – after their daughter Rosie, 23, left home.

Kelly, 59, wanted to create a comfortable area in her new home for ‘me time’, where she could gaze out on her garden and riverside view and be surrounded by her favourite possessions.

“I absolutely love Scandi interiors but I’m not too strict when it comes to sticking to one style,” she says.

“My personal style’s all about comfort; I’m not into minimalism. I personally love an eclectic home, I’m much more into interesting objects and having a lot of cushions and textiles. To me, home means somewhere you can just breathe out, cosy up and feel safe and happy.”

With help from online interiors brand, Wayfair, her conservatory – formerly an “underused area” which opens off from the kitchen – has been transformed.

“The conservatory’s so light and airy with gorgeous views, and now it’s a complete haven – a room full of light and happiness,” enthuses the presenter, clearly delighted to have somewhere to relax during time off from her busy career as host of her ITV morning show, Lorraine.

“It’s the perfect place to read the Sunday papers, have a cuppa, or just sit and have a chat with friends and family,” she adds.

Little details personalise the space. “I love the weathered penguin ornaments – it’s no secret they’re my favourite animal – and the pretty trays and faux plants scattered around,” says Kelly.

“We opted for a base palette of soft greys and neutrals to create a calming environment for Lorraine,” explains Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor for Wayfair.

“This was off-set with inky blues, emerald green detailing and hints of glittering silver, reflecting the stunning river-side location and panoramic views.”

The results are a hit with Kelly, who enthuses: “My favourite items are the sofa, as it’s a beautiful colour and so stylish, and I adore the plump scatter cushions and cosy rugs. Angus, our pet dog, will just curl up at our feet and snooze – he just loves this room.”

Make the most of your conservatory

Here are McCowan Hill’s top tips for making a conservatory a year-round multi-functional space…

1. Work the space: “A conservatory can be so much more than just a sun room. Why not create a small home office in one corner? A simple corner desk won’t take up too much space, and sitting beside light flooded windows could make work a pleasure.”

2. Style it up: Classic shapes for furniture in Kelly’s conservatory were given a modern twist with jute and linen upholstery, and pouffes double as footstools or extra seating and give the space an informal feel. Textiles – think throws and cushions – can add a layer of texture and warmth.

3. Grow your greens: “For a plant-filled haven, use window boxes to grow light-loving herbs, a tiered vertical garden unit or open shelving potting benches to store garden necessities. Choose natural wood and metal finishes to complement the greenery,” she says.

4. Hang it up: Since conservatories lack wall space for hanging art, she advises opting instead for a selection of hanging baskets hung at different heights across one wall of windows as an eye-catching display. “For a more ‘boho’ look, put up a hanging chair and conjure a reading/daydreaming zone,” she says.

George Clarke’s home office

When you’ve run out of space and can’t extend up, down or sideways, consider building outdoors, suggests George Clarke – best-known for his Channel Four shows, The Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

“Garden rooms are on the rise because they’re an adaptable space that can be used as a retreat, a place to entertain, to work, to get creative or even to sleep,” he says.

“My open-plan house doesn’t lend itself to having an office space so, like a growing number of people, I built a studio at the bottom of the garden. It’s where I come to leave behind all the chaos and noise in the house, do some work, read and focus.”

He credits Tetbury Charcoal Wave Header Curtains (from £163 including measuring and fitting, Hillarys) with transforming the space. “They soften the look of the room, create a cosy feel, improve the acoustics, and I can draw them to stop glare from the sun on the computer,” he enthuses.

7 Decor Updates to Make your Home Sizzle with Style this Summer

summer style trends 2019

Want to transform your rooms into super sunny spots? Gabrielle Fagan reveals some mini decor projects and best buys.

summer style trends 2019

Your home’s interior can be as sunny as you like, no matter the weather – all it takes is a few simple, budget-friendly updates and best buys.

Indulge in the sweetness of the season with sugary shades and accessories; transform your outlook with exotic prints and a mural; change your view with blue-sky window shutters reminiscent of Mediterranean scenes; turn up the heat with tropical foliage (real, faux or palm print will do the job), and last but not least, create your very own ‘hot spot’ for essential chilling on sunny days.

Be inspired and put your own spin on the suggestions – and your space will brim with personalised style all summer long…

summer style trends 2019

1. Scoop up style with ice-cream shades

“We’re all naturally drawn to certain colours and tastes. Why not choose a paint colour that reminds you of your favourite flavour ice cream?” says Sue Kim, senior colour designer, Valspar. “If you’re really brave, go for them all, in a perfect palette of ice cream colours. Choose sugary shades like Strawberry Parfait, Blueberry Mash, Pineapple Crush, Pistachio Cookie and Peach Syrup.”

If you really want to transform your home landscape, splash out on an exotic beach scene mural. Wallsauce’s Acapulco Wall Mural, from £32 per square metre, could have you reaching for the sunglasses and swimsuit.

TIP: If a medley of sweet shades is just too rich for your taste, add one or two as ‘pops’ of colour set against an overall dominant neutral, such as Coconut Juice (Premium Blend v700 Walls & Ceilings, £28 for 2.5L), suggests Kim. Alternatively, choose one shade for a furniture up-cycle project, or for doors and skirting boards for a smart update (use Valspar’s Premium Blend v700 Wood & Metal).

summer style trends 2019

2. Sweet tooth decor

Follow that ‘sweet’ theme with fun stools from Andrew Martin, that look as though you’ve bagged a handful of pick ‘n’ mix. As a ‘healthier’ choice, add a couple of apple ornaments – a five-a-day decor delight.

summer style trends 2019

3. Create a ‘hot destination’ wall

“Bring instant sunshine to a room, no matter what the weather outside, with summer- themed prints,” suggests Omar Obaid, co-founder of art print specialists, Abstract House.

“Photos of dreamy beaches you’ve enjoyed can transport you back to happy times and conjure nostalgic memories, while images of those tropical destinations on your bucket list could inspire you with hopes for the future. Research has also shown that just looking at pleasing art can lift mood and reduce stress.”

TIP: The best way to unify a frame set for a gallery wall is to choose a quality wooden frame in a single colour, advises Obaid. Co-ordinate artwork by colour, tone and subject, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different layouts. A simple trick to help you visualise the artwork display is to lay all the frames on the floor, and swap the pictures around until you find the perfect fit or your favourite shape.

summer style trends 2019

4. Change your view

“If your home could use a seasonal pick-up, windows are a great place to start,” says Susan White, design director at Hillarys. “Whether the light in the room is natural, artificial, reflected, muted or diffused, it can have a major influence on our mood and feelings. Shutters are widely regarded as the ultimate window dressing both from a style and security point of view, allowing plenty of light and air to filter in, and they have a perfect summer feel.

“They can be a boon for allergy sufferers, because as long as they’re wiped down regularly they’re less likely than swathes of fabric to attract dust mites,” she adds. “Tier-on-tier styles, where the top half operates separately from the bottom, offers privacy while still allowing light to flood in from the top.”

TIP: Summer brings longer days and shorter nights, so fitting a blind with a dim-out or black-out fabric is a good solution for restful sleep, especially in children’s rooms. Many Hillarys fabric blinds, roller, pleated, vertical and Roman, have special sun-reflecting features (Blackout Roller Blind from £108).

summer style trends 2019

5. Turn it tropical

“We’re great fans of the sultry colonial aesthetic – tropical birds, hibiscus flowers, fresh palms and bright ferns are key elements in creating this look,” says Georgia Metcalfe, founder and creative director, The French Bedroom Company.

“This on-trend look combines perfectly with furniture of all styles from classic to contemporary, for a style that is reminiscent of holidays, summer, jungle-freshness and nature – all things that make our hearts sing!”

summer style trends 2019

6. Let it grow

“Fresh green foliage and plants are the ideal way to bring an outdoor, summery feel to a room, and living wall planters have to be one of our favourite finds in recent years,” enthuses Claire Bishop, from garden centre specialists, Dobbies.

“They were incredibly popular at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the finished look is hugely Pinterest-worthy. A ‘vertical garden’ gives you a statement focal point – you could have a kitchen herb garden or a leafy living room jungle feature – and because they come in sets of three ‘pockets’, they can be tailored to suit your space.”

TIP: “These are quick and easy to fit and simple to use, even if you’re not very green-fingered, and as they’re vertical they take up little space,” promises Bishop. “Simply water the top row of the living wall and this will cascade down to water every pot.”

summer style trends 2019

7. Conjure a summer spot

Rearrange furniture for summer and position it to take advantage of any sunlight coming into a room, so you have your very own corner where you can stretch out and bask on hot days.

“We all like a special place at home where we can kick back, put our feet up and enjoy lazing on summer days,” says Charlie Marshall, founder of furniture company, Loaf.

“Colour choices play a big part in the atmosphere of a room. While light, pastel tones always work well, recently there’s been a big move towards zingier, bright statement shades – yellow, orange and pink – as people become more adventurous about decor. Demand for yellow upholstery is up 64% this year, and this colour’s brilliant way to give a room a visual lift and can’t fail to cheer a space on a dull day.”

TIP: Turn an awkward space – a corner or under a window – into a mini-retreat by building a simple wooden bench. Make it comfortable with foam seat cushions covered in your favourite fabric.

Play with the Power of Pink for Punchy Settings at Home

pink house living

Gabrielle Fagan catches up with the The Pink House's Emily Murray, to discover how to harness the prettiest colour of the rainbow.

Once cast aside as ‘girly’, the colour pink is fast shaping up to be the hottest shade for interiors.

Sugary pinks through to snazzy scarlets, pretty peaches and even funky neons are the winning shades on the palette this season.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that pink is just for girls. Not any more it isn’t,” declares Emily Murray, creator of award-winning blog, The Pink House, which celebrates the colour in all its hues in her own pink decorated home.

pink house living

It’s been such a success since she started it three years ago (she has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram) that her new book, Pink House Living: For People Cheating On Fashion With Furniture, was a natural follow-on. It’s a brilliant guide to seeing the world through ‘rose-tinted’ decor spectacles.

Stepping inside her home is proof of pink’s magic – she shows me around rooms which ooze personality, thanks to the magical touches of her “all-time favourite colour”.

pink house living

Pink painted walls, a pink kitchen island, neon pink signs, splashes of pink to highlight period features, as well as an array of punchy pink accessories, are just some of the ways in which the colour has a starring role in her schemes.

Yet with her skill and sense of style, she makes it sing – rather than dominate or shock – in her Edwardian semi, and this uber-cool interior leaves you wondering why you’ve never thought of using pink more.

pink house living

The mother-of-two is always hot on the trail of perfect pink homes, and her book features an array of brilliant pink settings from around the world, as well as her own rooms.

Even she’s surprised her own pink passion is so widely shared. “I’d underestimated the power of pink. It turns out it’s incredibly popular on every level and in every way. We love pink,” says Murray delightedly.

“We love it on front doors, on walls and on rugs. We love it on Instagram, in magazines and in fabric charts. We love it in barely-there blush, fuchsia and neon.”

pink house living

For those fearing a pink overload, she stresses that embracing the shade “doesn’t mean I like all my rooms dressed in floor-to-ceiling fuchsia… Even when I have free rein to decorate exactly as I chose, I exercise pink restraint.

“For me, the key to making the most of this joyous colour – for I fully believe that pink has an amazing power to make people happy – is using it in moderation.”

pink house living

In the living room, her dream was fabric walls, saturated colours, pattern clashes, loads of luxe and plenty of pink.

“My aim was to turn a north-facing space into a cosy place for cuddling up in the evenings, but with a rock and roll twist.”

She’s achieved it with a “pink ‘play’ neon sign – a copy of my own handwriting – made to order”, as well as a cocktail bar created from a corner cabinet upcycled in green and gold leaf. Hidden LED light strips give it the impression of glowing from within.

pink house living

For those who fancy taking the plunge, she advises: “If you want more colour at home (it doesn’t have to be pink) simply choose your favourite shade and go for it.

“Make a scrapbook or Pinterest board of settings with colourful decor which naturally attracts you. You don’t need to design the whole room at once – start with a piece of art or wallpaper and then slowly add further changes, so a room develops.”

“There are so many ways to use pink,” adds Murray. “You can accentuate a particular architectural feature, piece of furniture or art work, and sometimes simply use it to allow another gorgeous colour to shine.”

Pink House Living: For People Cheating On Fashion With Furniture by Emily Murray, photography by Susie Lowe, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now

pink house living

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

Phil Spencer: ‘Life is about Constantly Balancing, Rebalancing and Keeping All the Balls in the Air’

Ahead of this year’s Ideal Home Show, TV property guru Phil Spencer talks to Gabrielle Fagan about feeling ‘super-fit’ and having no regrets.

Since finding fame on the ever-popular Location, Location, Location alongside Kirstie Allsopp, Phil Spencer’s become a bit of a TV mainstay, with Love It Or List It and History Of Britain In 100 Homes among his most recent credits.

Later this month, the property guru will once again appear at the Ideal Home Show, sharing his industry insights and tips with audiences.

First up, Spencer, 49, who lives in Hampshire with his wife Fiona and their two sons, talks to us about working with Kirstie, why life’s like driving a racing car, and how fitness is helping him stay young…

Phil Spencer interview

Location, Location, Location has been on TV for 18 years now – what’s the secret of it’s long running success?

“I never imagined it would last so long. I thought it might be an interlude and an opportunity to see how TV worked. I think we were the very first property programme, we got the pick of the formats and we chose one that really works. I’d love to see us reach our 20-year milestone. Kirsty and I have always said that if people keep enjoying the show, we’ll keep on making it.

“It takes people through the intense, emotional decision-making process people go through over property – there’s always ups and downs, emotions and drama, hopefully some excitement but definitely some stress!”

What do you like about property-hunting?

“I get a real kick in finding people homes, there are so many hopes, dreams and aspirations tied up in it. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing people’s eyes light up when you get them a good deal.

“I trained as a surveyor, had my own property company, and if I wasn’t doing this job on television, I’d be doing it in real life. I’ve always been as interested in the people as the houses – I love getting to know them.”

Phil Spencer interview

What makes your partnership with Kirstie Allsopp work?

“It’s like a TV marriage, really. We’ve shared a lot over the years. Predominantly, it works because we’ve become firm friends. We’re totally different but our core values are very similar. She’s far more spontaneous than me. I don’t like surprises, I like to have a plan and as much detail about what I’m going to be doing as possible, so I can mentally prepare.

“In my book, when you build a plan, you stick to it, whereas Kirstie usually comes in half-way through the plan, throws it up in the air, and goes, ‘We’re not doing that, are we? We’re doing this!’ At the end of the day, she’s great fun. She makes every day fresh because you never know what she’s going to do next, and when you’ve made a programme like ours for 18 years, you need things to be fresh.”

Have you ever had a big row?

“I think Kirstie keeps a count, and we’ve had around eight, which in 20 years isn’t bad. It all blows up, there’s a fair bit of noise, and then 10 minutes later we’re kind of, ‘OK, we got that out of our system, let’s move on with the day’, and it’s fine. I think only good friends can do that.

“I never see them as, ‘Oh my God, this is the end’, because they usually happen when one of us is hungry, tired, stressed or worried, and then something little kicks it off. It’s normal really, as we spend such a lot of time together. Knowing each other so well, we usually understand why the other person might be a bit frosty, touchy, emotional or cross.”

Phil Spencer interview

What’s been the biggest highlight of your career?

“I’ve just experienced it. One night every week for a month, I’ve had three different series on screen: Love It Or List It; Phil Spencer: History Of Britain In 100 Homes, and Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes.

“I’m not sure many TV presenters can claim to have achieved that. I think it might even have made my mum a little weary of me, with that amount of shows in an evening, so that’s probably a highlight in itself!”

Do you take an interest in your own home?

“I was brought up on a farm and love living back in the countryside. We moved from London to Hampshire a few years ago. I’m always interested in advances in technology that allow us to run our homes more efficiently. My home’s energy-efficient, with solar panels, insulation and glazing. I’m pretty hopeless at DIY; I tried putting some pictures up recently and had to resort to using Blu Tack.

“I’m really into design and gardening, as our large garden needs smartening up. It’s great to be at The Ideal Home Show, because there are so many inspiring ideas and like-minded people who care as much about property as I do.

“My father’s advice to me, which I’ve held to, is: Make owning a property a priority, because an awful lot can go wrong in the world without affecting you if you own the roof over your head.”

Phil Spencer interview

How do you look after your health?

“Generally, I enjoy being fit, but I need a goal. I promised myself at 40, I’d be fitter than I was at 30 – but it’s a bigger ask to be fitter at 50 than I was at 40! The years do count!

“I feel super-fit at the moment because I’ve just climbed Everest in four days, doing around 12 hours climbing a day, in a team of five to raise money for brain tumour research. I did it last year and it was incredible, but just as challenging, punishing and the equivalent of running three marathons. It meant intensive training over five months. It’s made me feel so good and I’m so buzzing with energy. The only drawback is I wake up incredibly early.

“I’m an outdoors person – I love it and there’s nothing better than a good walk with my dogs. My normal fitness regime is exercising for around 45 minutes four times a week in a gym – I have one at home – and seeing a personal trainer.”

How do you look after your wellbeing?

“Wellbeing’s precious, which you don’t appreciate until you’ve lost it, and then you realise just how precious it is. I’m a firm believer that diet and exercise and sleep conquer most things. So if I’m feeling a bit crap, three days of really conscious exercise, diet and sleep generally sorts out most things out in my world. If it doesn’t, then perhaps there’s a bigger problem.”

Phil Spencer interview

How do you get through the tough times?

“I’ve been very fortunate not to have too many tough times. If I’m worried about something, I’ll talk to my wife. I have a very close family, so if step out of line, one of them or Kirstie will pull me up! I’ve got friends I’ve known since I was a teenager and we’re always there for one another.”

How would you sum up your view on life?

“Somebody once told me, life’s like a race. When you watch Formula One, and the driver has a helmet camera, you see his hands constantly correcting, and going from left to right even when the road is straight. He’s trying to keep steering in a straight line, and I kind of see life like that.

“It’s about constantly balancing, rebalancing and keeping all the balls in the air – keeping your marriage going, looking after the children, running a house, being good at work, maintaining a social life, keeping fit and healthy. It’s busy and there are the normal stresses, but I’ve been very fortunate. I have a gorgeous wife and lovely relationship, two healthy children, a nice house, a job I love and a family that are alive, together and healthy. I’m really happy and have no regrets.”

The Ideal Home Show, the world’s longest running exhibition, will return to Olympia London from Friday, March 22 to Sunday, April 7. Phil Spencer is hosting property talks on stage. For more information, see idealhomeshow.co.uk.

Eau De Pooch: 12 Ways to Stop your Home Smelling of your Furry Friends

Love your dog but prefer a home that doesn't smell like kennel? Lisa Salmon seeks some simple steps for dealing with that poochy pong. You may feel your dog is just another member of the family - but chances are his distinct odour sets him apart from his human 'relatives'.

That poochy pong often permeates the whole house, although many owners aren’t aware of it because they get so used to it. Visitors, however, will usually be able to quickly sniff out the fact they’re entering a house where a dog lives.

Of course, considering how much joy they bring, dealing with muddy paw prints and hair on the furniture is part and parcel of living with a pet – but there are steps you can take to help minimise the stink factor.

Mandy Jones, director of rehoming services at the pet charity, Blue Cross (bluecross.org.uk), says: “Dogs like to be able to smell themselves in their home, so homes should always smell of them at least a bit. Over-cleaning and removing the smell completely could lead to a dog marking and urinating, which is obviously not desirable.”

Already have a beloved pooch, but keen to find out how to stop the whole house smelling like a kennel? These 12 tips could help…

how to stop your home smelling of dog

1. Wash the dog’s bed

Make sure the dog’s bed is odour-resistant, or at least washable. Usually, beds have a washable cover that you can slip off and put in the washing machine. The inside of the bed may not smell, but if it does you may be able to wash that too – if the washing instructions say you can, and if it’s not too big for the machine. “To minimise doggy smells, make sure they have their own bed and wash it regularly,” says Jones.

2. Wash everything else regularly

If you let the dog on the furniture, Jones suggests using throws that can be easily removed and washed. In addition, regularly wash the dog’s toys, blankets, etc. Also regularly wash your dog’s collar and lead – put them in a pillowcase first to stop the metal bits banging against the side of the washer drum. When washing doggy items, it can help to add a little apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar to the washing detergent – vinegar helps neutralise dog smells.

how to stop your home smelling of dog

3. Brush smells away

Groom your dog regularly, rather than bathing it, to keep its coat clean without washing out essential oils. Jones says bathing may cause skin problems and make matters worse.

4. Check ears and teeth

Smells don’t just come from a dog’s coat, they may also emanate from its ears or teeth, so check these areas regularly, and take your dog to the vet if you smell or spot something that could be a problem.

how to stop your home smelling of dog

5. Use an air purifier

Air purifiers can cut down on airborne odours, and good ones will not only filter particulate matter, but will also kill bacteria and fungi in the air.

6. Introduce nice smells

Although they won’t get rid of a doggy smell, (pet-friendly) air fresheners and scented candles will at least disguise it, as will simply opening windows and letting some fresh air in. “Keep rooms aired by opening windows often, and consider using incense, scented candles or pet-friendly air fresheners to keep rooms smelling pleasant,” suggests Jones. “But don’t spray the dog!”

how to stop your home smelling of dog

7. Clean the floors, carpets and upholstery

Mop hard floors with a pleasant-smelling cleaner, vacuum carpets well, and buy or hire a carpet cleaner and use it regularly to help get rid of deeply embedded dog dander, dirt and hair in both carpets and upholstery on sofas, etc. Always make sure the carpets are completely dry before allowing your dog back onto them.

8. Tackle super-smelly spots

If you’ve washed everything and there’s still a lingering smell, it could be where your dog’s soiled the floor in the past. You may have to identify the source through sniffing the floor close-up, but once you know exactly where the remaining smell is coming from, either buy an odour-repellent product, or make your own odour neutraliser by mixing two cups of white vinegar, four tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda and enough water to fill a spray bottle.

Test the solution on a hidden bit of carpet to make sure it doesn’t discolour it, and if it doesn’t, spray the mixture on the smelly area(s), let it soak in, and then blot it dry with a clean cloth.

how to stop your home smelling of dog

9. Banish with bicarb

Bicarbonate of soda can help to neutralise smells, so put an open container of it near the dog’s toys and/or bed. It can also help to sprinkle bicarb on carpets, leave it overnight and vacuum it up the next day.

10. Buy a new collar

Your dog’s collar may smell terrible, and while most collars can be washed, if it’s old, it might be best to just buy a new one.

how to stop your home smelling of dog

11. Wipe paws

Keep an absorbent door mat and towel by the door and always wipe your dog’s paws when he or she comes in the house from outside, thus preventing him/her bringing in anything smelly.

12. Dry wet dogs completely

If your dog’s been swimming or got wet, make sure you dry him completely to avoid that ‘wet dog smell’ from tainting your carpets and furniture. That means drying thoroughly with a towel, or even using a hair dryer on a cool setting if the dog lets you.

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

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

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

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

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

For inspiration, check out these 11 bold buys…

2019 bright and bold

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

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

2019 bright and bold

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

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

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

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

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

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

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

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

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

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

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

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

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

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

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

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

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

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

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

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

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

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

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

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

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

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

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

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

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

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

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