Luxury Property Rental Preview

photo period property

This property preview is showcasing a beautiful country house, which is due to the market soon with an anticipated guide range of £7,500 to £8,500 p.c.m.

The property is a significant freehold steeped in history dating to the 15th century. Formerly the Manor House of Great Bramshill Manor, the house began as a timber framed hall in the late medieval period and it was progressively extended and developed through to the 19th century.

The result is a substantial Grade 11* listed country house of several periods, culminating in extensive refurbishment and development between 1990 and today by the current owners; resulting in a rare achievement where historic character and subtle contemporary fuse perfectly.

photo property farmhouse kitchen
farmhouse luxury kitchen

There are many notable historic architectural features including three massive Tudor chimney stacks, each with three separated diagonal flues on a rectangular base.

Inside the house there still exists magnificent Tudor brick fireplaces with four entered arches and the original 15th century winding staircase has been preserved.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn

Immediately outside there is a magnificent Grade 11 listed banqueting barn dating to the 17th century, formed of six timber frame bays, with gabled projecting porch. Leading off of this barn there is a wonderful gym space with shower.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn
photo property banqueting barn
gymnasium

Within the grounds of around 3.3 acres the formal gardens and entertaining areas are of special note, featuring a heated swimming pool and a tennis court.

photo property swimming pool
swimming pool
photo property swimming pool
swimming pool with entertainments barn in background
photo property tennis court
tennis court

For further details about this property, telephone Jacy Barwick on 01252 842100 or visit our residential letting agents and property management experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

1. Hem (hem.com)

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

2. String (string.se)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

4. Habitat (habitat.co.uk)

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

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

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

5. Ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

6. ScS (scs.co.uk)

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

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

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

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

Pantone Colour Of The Year 15 Ways To Add A Splash Of Coral At Home

wisteria trees wall paper

With Living Coral set to make make waves across decor trends throughout 2019, Sam Wylie-Harris reveals the sunny-hued finds to shop now.

If you’re hankering after some winter sun and desperate to get your glow on without having to leave home, Pantone’s new Colour of the Year – Living Coral – could be the next best thing to basking in some natural warmth.

A gorgeously rich coral hue with a golden undertone, we can’t think of a better way to welcome in 2019 than by brightening up the home with this happy, sunny shade.

Every year, design company Pantone look at the latest trends influencing our lives, before revealing the shade taking top spot. The colour experts cite Living Coral as a release from digital technology and social media, and a nod of recognition towards our increasing concern over environmental issues, the energising aspects of colour found in nature, and our desire for playful expression. All sounds good to us.

To celebrate everything coral without having to be ‘sur la plage’, we’ve rounded up the latest must-have decos and homewares inspired by 2019’s hottest shade…

Monkey Table Lamp
MW by Matthew Williamson Monkey Resin Table Light, £85, Debenhams (available late February). Attention-seeking and showy, if you can't resist a little bit of monkey business and thoughts of far-flung places, this designer lampshade will steal the spotlight very nicely.
wisteria trees wall paper
Wisteria in Coral Floral Wallpaper, £120 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia (sofa and floor lamp, stylist's own) Woody wisteria trees may charm us with their violet flowers, but why settle for the usual purple petals when you can adorn the walls in climbing coral?
Seafern Wallpaper
Cole & Son Seafern Wallpaper - Coral 107/2011, £85 per roll, John Lewis Or for something closer to the real deal, this classic design inspired by botanical prints from the late 1700s delves beneath the sea to illustrate living species of coral (although more allusive), such as Staghorn and Ivory Tree.
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion
Embroidered Velvet Palm Tree Cushion, £46, Audenza To evoke memories of tropical holidays and palm-fringed beaches, this luxe velvet cushion with its gold palm tree motif has a timeless allure
Unity Cane Wall Mirror
Unity Cane Wall Mirror, currently reduced to £95 from £145, Oliver Bonas To mirror our fascination with tribal art, this brass frame has been wrapped in woven red raffia inspired by West African celebratory masks. To make a real statement, hang one either side of a dresser or wide chest of drawers.
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade
Orange Coral Table Lamp with Linen Shade, £125, Graham & Green An attractive objet d'art you'd expect to see in a swank retreat by the sea, the exotic coral base and pristine white shade channels beauty while also being functional. Style it with some collectible seashells for maximum impact.
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen
Clarissa Hulse Filix Bed Linen - Coral Ombre, from £19-£125, Lambswool Throw - Coral Ombre, £150, Clarissa Hulse Rise and shine... Nothing spells sassy like a burst of burnt orange, dazzling coral and a splash of lemony yellow in a bright sunrise, ombre effect. Enriched with fabulous feather fern motifs and styled with a luxurious, fringed throw, these sateen sheets are a wake-up call to wonderfulness.
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase
Debenhams Cosmo Painterly Bud Vase, £15, Debenhams (available late February) This bowl-shaped vase adds a fresh dimension to the colour by picking up the golden accents and adding interest with some conch pearly pink and a wash of pebble stone grey.
Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal
Oiva Toikka Bird by Toikka Red Cardinal, £282 (130 x 200mm), iittala A flight of fancy - but if you don't have to penny-pinch, this striking songbird makes a lasting impression. According to mythology, cardinals are spiritual messengers and a sighting brings good fortune, making this a deco 'defo' worth the outlay

Sell Or Add Value To Your Home? Phil Spencer Shares Some Top Tips

Phil Spencer photo

Whether you’re thinking longer term or considering putting your property on the market soon, TV’s Phil Spencer has some advice. By Vicky Shaw.

Here, TV property expert Phil Spencer, shares his insight into current housing trends, as well as the property pitfalls to watch out for…

“I’ve been involved in the housing market for over 25 years and, as with all things, there are trends. There are elements of fashion and, as with clothing, fashion changes, so be careful of that and don’t go too far out on a limb.

“There was a trend for open plan and generally opening things out, but I’d say that’s changing again.

“More en-suite bathrooms have been prioritised recently. They take up more space and don’t always add huge amounts of value when re-selling, so it will be interesting to see if this lasts. Pantries and larders are also on the up, as we crave more and more space.”

sold board

What do home owners need to be mindful of when thinking about making improvements – are there pitfalls to watch out for?

“Simply put – bad DIY. It’s obvious when somethings been done cheaply, we should all be mindful of that. You also need to be realistic with the space you’ve got. Every property has a ceiling price and as long as you’re aware of that, then you’re good.

“I would say you need to be consistent. I’ve seen expensive bathrooms in cheap houses and it can look very out of place. Always match the price bracket of fittings to that of the house.

“Also, not to make things too personal to you and your taste and lifestyle. If you’re doing it for you, great, but if you want to re-sell be careful. You always need to appeal to the largest possible denominator – there is a reason people use magnolia!”

What should home owners bear in mind when considering whether to move or improve?

Forexpert advice on your property valuation and top selling tips, go the McCarthy Holden home page and click on valuation, for a free no obligation property appraisal.

Ask An Expert: Why Is My Toddler More Interested In The Christmas Packaging?

A psychologist tells Lisa Salmon why children often like the box more than the toy.

My two-year-old son plays with the Christmas boxes and wrapping paper more than his presents. Why does he love the packaging so much?

Dr Shona Goodall, a clinical psychologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital who has appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, says: “Many of us have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents only for our toddlers to seemingly push them aside in favour of the cardboard boxes or wrapping. But Christmas packaging has more benefits for children than you might realise.

“Children of this age tend to take a great deal of interest in packaging at Christmas because removing it is often the first thing we encourage them to do. The sensory sound of the ripping noise is a quick win for them to master – it improves their hand-eye coordination and strengthens their finger pincer grip.

Childe in Christmas box

“Free (but safely supervised) play with packaging therefore offers a blank canvas to explore what they can do with the paper and boxes at their developmental stage and get creative and learn, without fear of getting it wrong.

“Playing with packaging can have other beneficial effects on their development too – it can help your son instigate positive behaviours like recycling.

“Young children love to copy at this age – you might have noticed your son will often look at you right before he’s about to do something. Caregivers attune to their child’s responses and assist them to make sense of the world, and research has shown praise will positively reinforce them to do it again.

Child in cardboard box

“By encouraging the behaviour you want to see more of, such as putting something in the bin or recycling, you can lay a fantastic foundation upon which to teach him about sustainability. That’s your chance to chat through some of the materials being played with to educate him about where they come from and where they could go next.

“So, playing with packaging will not only aid your son’s development, but also sow the seeds for him to learn all about recycling and sustainability for both your children and future generations”

For more on cardboard packaging, visit Beyond the Box

Dr Shona Goodall
Dr Shona Goodall - Interveiwed by Lisa Salmon, Press Association

The unknown, or a property market that bucks the Brexit fears?

estate agent sold board

The Market 2018

Let us start with 2018, which was peppered with challenging market conditions for residential property sales.

Because our trading year runs January to December we can report on the full picture for 2018, which may indicate the direction of travel for 2019.

Surprisingly, some branch productivity levels for house sale revenue was at or above 2017 levels, especially in the village locations. That outcome however doesn’t for one moment disguise the fact that during the first half of 2018 we saw one of the poorest levels of house sale transactions for some time, however, buyer positivity surfaced in the summer and remained reasonable through to December despite the increased chaos around Brexit.

When we say house sales were up in the second half of 2018, we are talking about house sale volumes not prices. Large house price gains are gone for a while, but like all markets when they rebound from a low they come back with a sharp and fast uptake.

The rental market performed extremely well in 2018, with a notable uplift in activity for high end rentals outside of London, especially in our core area of operation on the Berkshire / Hampshire borders.

Properties taken to the rental market in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector frequently saw rental offers from multiple tenants. This was driven by high end house buyers deciding to pop into a property rental for the next year or so, using some of the stamp duty funds they would have allocated on a property purchase around £2.0m. or £3.0m., and then wait and see how property values shape up post Brexit.

house let
High end rental activity compensated for house sales

One certainty

One thing that is certain, is that uncertainty impacts on the property market especially around the times of a General Election or a Referendum. How this uncertainty works its way into tangible outcomes for 2019 is not straightforward and varies in different house price sectors of the property market.

In the short term, house buyers generally will be more cautious and slower in their decision making. This doesn’t mean house prices will fall, because buyer demand remains steady and employment levels are excellent. There is the prospect of a flat market in respect of property prices, however, discerning house buyers are seeing the current market conditions as an opportunity to move whilst prices remain static. House sellers will sell successfully in the 2019 market, but they can’t expect a fancy or inflated price and must engage with the reality that over pricing will fail in a market where buyers are cautious.

Different sectors, different outcomes in 2019

Different market sectors will have different outcomes in the forthcoming months ahead. Buying decisions on property sales from around £250,000 to £1.5m. are mostly made by very localised factors such as schooling, access to work, general employment levels and family situations ranging from the three D’s (death, divorce and debt) through to the three N’s (new job, new baby, new beginnings). Decisions around such matters of day to day life will continue to be made by house buyers against the backdrop of political uncertainty, so house sales will be maintained at the current level with price sensitivity being the watchword.

Further up the property price sector, and especially in the £2.0m. to £6.0m range house buyers will be more influenced by global and political factors so we could see further negative price impacts in this sector. Savvy top end buyers are playing a waiting game, but they are there on our books and will respond to excellent marketing and a competitive price strategy.

House sellers and buyers should approach 2019 with realistic expectations, engaging positively with the new beginnings for the country and house moving opportunities and, who knows, there might well be some pleasing outcomes to report at the end of 2019.

We wish you a happy Christmas and the very best for 2019.

 

John Holden – Chairman and Managing Director McCarty Holden

POST BREXIT IMAGE LEAP

6 Alternative Christmas Trees For Small Spaces

alternative Christmas trees

Hannah Stephenson shares some dinky options for space-starved homes - or anyone who can't face the faff of a full-size tree.

Bit short of space? Can’t fit a big Christmas tree into your home, but still want something natural-looking to replace it?

Well, good news. There are wall hangings, houseplants and smaller potted trees that’ll do the job nicely and bring some festive sparkle into your home, even if you live in the smallest space with just a little walk-round room.

So, what are the options?

alternative Christmas trees

1. Nordic Rope Ladder Hanging Christmas Tree, £20, notonthehighstreet.com

A minimalist yet rustic alternative to the classic Christmas tree, this hanging tree is only 80cm tall and can be tucked up neatly against a wall. Add baubles of your choice and drape it with fairy lights to bring it to life. A great choice for those with very tight space to work with, anyone who can’t ‘cope’ with pine needles – or to decorate other areas of the home.

The wooden slats are rounded natural twigs from the bayur tree, making all of these unique.

alternative Christmas trees

2. Mini Letterbox Christmas Tree, from £32, BloomAndWild.com

A survey commissioned by Bloom & Wild found that people are downsizing their trees in a bid to cut down on costs and needle dropping – with 79% of those quizzed saying they’re opting for a smaller tree this year, while 65% of millennials will be buying a cheaper option, without sacrificing the ‘Instagram-worthy’ tradition of buying one completely.

Their mini letterbox trees, which are real and rooted, arrive with decorations, lights and a pop-up pot in a letterbox-fitting box, and can be planted in the garden after Christmas.

alternative Christmas trees

3. Mini Christmas Tree Trio, £25, Marks and Spencer

If you only have space to spare on your windowsill, this trio of frosted mini trees, in winter embossed tin containers, would make a classy edition. You’ll ideally need to place them in a cool position with some natural light and, while they’re fine kept indoors for a few weeks, after that you’ll need to move them outdoors if you want them to survive, and plant them either in a patio container or the garden. Once you’ve done that, they should continue to thrive (you’ll want to make sure the compost never totally dries out but don’t let the tree get waterlogged either, and adding some plant food to their water between late spring and early autumn is advised).

alternative Christmas trees

4. Houseplants (Luxury Basket £30), Wyevale Garden Centres

Who says it has to be a Christmas tree? There are other ways to bring some festive greenery into the home, including houseplants. If you have the space, consider gathering some houseplants together, with some white specimens, such as orchids and lilies, to create a ‘frosted’ look. You could also go for a red and green arrangement to give a room a traditional festive feel, and go as big or small as you like.

alternative Christmas trees

5. Plant Terrarium, £66.99, crocus.co.uk

Terrariums have become the must-have addition to living areas, and if you haven’t the space for a tree then you could consider planting a feast of festive plants in one of these glass enclosures instead, which should keep going beyond New Year.

Once you’ve had enough of them, you can easily change the style by swapping in new plants next year. This one’s produced from sheet glass and brass, with an antique bronze finish.

alternative Christmas trees

6. Pot-grown Tree, from £20, Wyevale Garden Centres

Eco-friendly gardeners may prefer a smaller version of the traditional Christmas tree. They can look superb – and this one is pot-grown, so can be planted in the garden afterwards.

Boxing Day due to be the next big property search event

boxing day go image

According to Rightmove there was a 200% spike in traffic between Boxing Day and 2nd January in 2018, 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.

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 2019 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.

More Buyers and Tenants See Property Video Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Mill House – Sale agreed November 2018

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

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

fake windows home

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

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

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

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

fake windows home

Fake for purpose

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

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

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

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

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

fake windows home

A window of opportunity

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

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

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

fake windows home

A multi-sensory experience

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

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

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

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

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

fake windows home

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

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

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

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

pollution resistant plants

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

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

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

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

pollution resistant plants

1. Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’

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

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

pollution resistant plants

2. Buddleia

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

pollution resistant plants

3. Camellia

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

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

pollution resistant plants

4. Buxus sempervirens

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

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

pollution resistant plants

5. Berberis

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

Destination Style – 3 Expert Takes on the Nomadic Lifestyle

Feeling adventurous? Gabrielle Fagan reveals three routes for channeling nomadic travel-inspired themes.

Interior design nomadic lifestyle

Some trends suit those who like to play it safe, but ‘Nomadic Modern’ certainly isn’t one of them. This is a decor direction for those who want to push the creative boundaries, are open to inspirations from all over the world, and love curating their exotic treasures into schemes which ooze personality.

Tempted? There are three key routes available if you want to journey to this style destination, and join the nomadic decor tribe.

If you’re an intrepid adventurer, show off your souvenirs in a colourful, quirky way with a dash of bohemian, or simply but subtly pick up on tribal patterns and layer them set against an earthy rich colour palette. Alternatively, the stay-at-home but stylish could opt for a sophisticated, uber-contemporary scheme that just hints at global glamour.

Interior design nomadic lifestyle

Be adventurous and take a style journey!

Just follow the experts’ simple guide to joining the global gang…

Let textiles tell a faraway story, says Wayfair stylist Nadia McCowan Hill

“If one word defines this trend, it’s textiles, textiles, textiles! From chunky Moroccan pouffes to scatter cushions in tribal prints, woven accessories are the surest way to bring to life the nomadic look,” enthuses Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor at Wayfair.

“Don’t be afraid of vibrant hues or colour-clashing, as this trend is reserved for the bold. Bear in mind though, that the look should be eclectic and fresh, rather than rigidly devoted to a single style. Accents of metallics, such as a golden sunburst mirror or a bronze or copper lantern or tray, can add an essential touch of glamour and richness.”

Abundant greenery is an essential finishing touch, adds McCowan Hill, who suggests lavishing a home with luscious foliage, from elegant palms to trailing hanging plants.

TRIBAL TIP: This is a great opportunity to show off your most prized treasures. Dig out trinkets and reminders of long-forgotten trips and display on a striking decorative tray or coffee table.

Interior design nomadic lifestyle

Take it tribal, says designer Abigail Ahern

“I’m a big fan of nomadic style because it’s unconventional, artistic and relaxed,” declares designer Abigail Ahern, who has a new collection of curtains and cushions for windows and blinds specialists, Hillarys.

“All it takes are three simple steps to pull it off. First, mix in tribal patterns in small ways through curtains, blinds, cushions, accessories. These are the hallmark of this style and I tend to plump for subdued hues, like super-cool noirs, browns and olives.”

Secondly, she suggests, introduce an infusion of natural and raw materials, such as wood, rattan and hemp – think baskets, rugs, planters and foot stools. Finally, she adds: “Use vintage pieces as an interesting and unique mix, especially if you keep the palette restrained so that it unifies the scheme.”

If too many cushions cramp your seating or sleeping style, take a tip from Ahern’s home and display them hooked on a metal rail, rather like jewellery for the home.

TRIBAL TIP: Accessories are the equivalent of a five-minute facelift for decor and one of the easiest ways to turn rooms around, notes Ahern. “Cushions are a game-changer, especially on beds and sofas,” she says. “Even better if they’re embellished with fringing, as it shouts instant nomadic style.”

Interior design nomadic lifestyle

Get earthy says Kris Manalo, upholstery buyer at Heal’s

“This look allows people to truly explore, and have the freedom to create their own style,” says Kris Manalo, upholstery buyer at Heal’s. “The nomadic trend fuses influences from every corner of the globe, to capture a wonderful sense of warmth, comfort and style. Capture elements of it by layering earthy, terracotta tones against refined neutrals,” she suggests.

“Bring personality with bold tribal prints and rich, wooden finishes. Pair vintage pieces with contemporary updates for an added layer of interest, and for a distinctively personal touch, look for hand-crafted accessories, which will give an organic sense of individuality to a room.”

TRIBAL TIP: Style with luxury materials – buttery leathers, knubbly knitted throws and cashmere cushions are ideal – to create a cosy, intimate and sophisticated sanctuary.

Interior design nomadic lifestyle

Rental Boost £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m.

Uplift in activity for high end rentals outside of London

High end rental property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Spencer shares 5 questions all buyers should ask when house hunting

As a survey reveals many buyers wish they'd known more about their property, TV's Phil Spencer shares his expert tips.

Phil Spencer home buyer questions

Buying a property can be a very lengthy process with lots of back and forth – but many buyers still end up wishing they’d found out just a few more crucial details before the deal was finalised.

California Shutters (californiashutters.co.uk) recently asked 1000 UK homeowners what they most wished they’d known about before purchasing their property: Competition for parking spaces came out tops (20%), followed by noisy neighbours (19%), high renovation costs (13%) and traffic noise (11%).

Oliver Robertson at California Shutters comments: “With all the challenges and decisions to be made when finding and choosing a new home, it’s easy to forget about the little things that will impact on your home life day to day. Whilst our survey shows most movers have a good awareness of problems like damp and pests prior to moving in to a new home, they can still be caught off guard by other things such as having to fight for parking spaces or deal with noise from next door or traffic from the road.”

Phil Spencer home buyer questions

A similar survey of first-time buyers, by My Home Move Conveyancing, found that the level of work needed on the property was the most common thing buyers wished they’d been better informed about. How much this work would cost came out second.

“Aside from the cost of moving, making first-time buyers aware of the practical decisions they need to make when buying their first home will give them a better chance of being able to play the ‘property game’ long-term and benefit from being a homeowner,” says My Home Move Conveyancing CEO, Doug Crawford. “Our advice, and the advice of people that have already learnt these lessons, is to consider questions such as whether the property will increase in value, whether expensive DIY work is needed or whether your mortgage arrangement is going to work long-term.”

TV property guru Phil Spencer, who recently launched the advice site for buyers MoveIQ, agrees that as well as the ‘big’ questions, the ‘small’ things should not be overlooked. “Buying a home is always a mixture of heart and head. Your first impression as you walk through the door is crucial to your decision, but so too are many other less obvious factors,” says Spencer.

“It’s essential that you do your homework, or you risk being blinded by emotion during the purchase. Even worse, you could end up with expensive problems down the line. Asking the right questions before, during or after that first viewing can make the difference between identifying the perfect home and having an unwanted surprise after you’ve committed to buying.”

Phil Spencer home buyer questions

So what questions should you be asking? Here, Spencer, who certainly knows a thing or two about house-hunting, shares his top five…

1. How long has the property been on the market?

“This should be one of your first questions,” says Spencer. “The average time it takes to sell a home in the UK is two to three months, according to the Government. So, if the property has been on the market for considerably longer, it may have an issue that is stopping it selling, beyond just being priced too highly. But you’ll need to get your detective hat on to find out what it is.

“One red flag to look out for would be if the current owners have lived there for an unusually short period of time. There is usually a reason behind a seller trying to get shot of a property after a short period. You’ll need to push the agent or sellers for clues: Is there a nuisance neighbour, what are crime levels like in the area, how busy are the roads and how much does the property cost to run (utility bills, council tax etc)?”

2. Is the property in a conservation area?

“If you are drawn to the history and charm of older homes, bear in mind that your scope for making changes to such a property could be severely limited,” says Spencer. “Specific rules about what you can and cannot do to the property will vary from local authority to local authority. Some may prohibit you from making changes to metal railings, windows, trees and even the colour of the front door. So, if your heart is set on a house with history but you’ve got an eye on modernisation, make sure to ask about anything that might block your plans.”

Phil Spencer checklist

3. Is the property a freehold or a leasehold?

“There are pros and cons to both freehold and leasehold properties. As a leaseholder, you will have to pay annual fees to the owner of the freehold, from ground rent to maintenance charges. These can fluctuate over time, so make sure that when you’re budgeting you factor in the possibility that ground rent will increase or maintenance charges could spike if the building needs major repairs,” says Spencer.

“By contrast, if you buy a freehold property there’s no ground rent to worry about, but you will be responsible for everything, including the roof and the maintenance of the structure. It’s important to get a detailed survey that will flag up any issues that need urgent – or expensive – repair.

4. Are there any pending planning applications that might impact me?

“This is a quick bit research you could carry out before actually viewing your prospective home. Nearly all local authorities have a planning portal on their website that allows you to view any previous or pending planning applications. If, for example, you were considering buying a home close to agricultural land, it might be a good idea to check whether the friendly farmer next door has just submitted a planning application for a new pig-rearing facility!”

5. Has the seller made any changes to the property?

“If changes have been made recently – especially structural ones – you need to know so you can ask the seller for any relevant documents, receipts or guarantee certificates. Equally if the seller has spent money doing the place up, they will have raised the asking price accordingly – so you need to make a judgement on whether the premium is justified. One other question I always ask a seller which can prove revealing is, ‘If you were staying, what other improvements would you make?'”