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SELL YOUR NEW HOME QUICKLY

FIND OUT HOW

House Market Update During Lockdown

cove week 5 icon

Relentless and here for a while

The bleak headlines about the impact of Covid-19 continue and of course our hearts are saddened by the relentless loss of life for frontline NHS staff and Covid-19 affected patients alike.

Any thoughts about how and when an early release from lockdown might occur, must of course be balanced with the high probability of new after waves of coronavirus cases occurring post lockdown, with perhaps the inevitable mini lockdowns being put in place from time to time. There are valuable lessons to be considered from past pandemics especially about the exit stages.

We can be certain that our exit from the current lockdown, will not mean a return to normal in many aspects of day to day life. It is likely we will continue with social distancing and simple matters like viewing property, will be conducted in a similar manner to that which occurred just before the lockdown started.

The House Market

As I mentioned in our last update, writing a few lines about the property market right now doesn’t seem that important in the current circumstances, but house sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants continue to seek insight, because the prospect of needing to move house is still a journey they will embark on post lockdown.

Buyer Attitudes

I remain impressed with the resilience of house buyers, who continue to remain upbeat about their moving plans. This positive attitude is supported by the fact the 95% of the sales arranged we had in place at the start of lockdown, continue to remain in place with vendors and purchasers keeping focused on the opportunity to exchange and complete some time soon.

Other mini indicators of buyer intent are told to me by staff, such as Matthew Fenn from our Fleet branch who has 27 buyers who want to view specific properties as soon as lockdown is over.

Contracts Are Exchanging

Some house sales are progressing to the exchange and completion stages during lockdown, mostly by exchanging and completing on the same day.

Two examples of this in the last week include a £400,000 guided house in Fleet (top image below) and stunning country house conversion in Winchfield at a guided sum of £1.250m. (video below). These special cases where exchange and completion can happen are frequently new house purchases where there are no chains.

VIVIAN EXCHANGED

Exchanged and completed last week

Play Video

Exchanged and completed last week

Working From Home

Creating new sales is virtually impossible due to viewing restrictions, but our negotiation staff are keeping closely in touch with buyers on our books, by phone, email, newsletter and even video presentations. This means that post lockdown we are already creating a list of buyers who want to view specific properties as soon a we are release from lockdown.

More Vendor Inspired Video House Marketing This Week

Many clients continue to ask if we could produce video content of their property if they sent us video clips and still photographs, this enabling them to go on the open market now.

Some of the latest collaborative results are below.

Preview – due to the market soon at Est. Guide £1,675,000

New to the market – Guide £850,000

This works by vendors sending us the video clips and then with some editing help from johnjoe.co.uk a promotional video tour is created.

We look forward to many of these collaborative home grown marketing initiatives in the weeks ahead.

The Week Ahead

In the week ahead we will be giving special focus to our new homes selection of properties for sale, because as we emerge from lockdown we believe the attraction of owning a new home will be higher than usual.

Right now we have 13 new homes development sites available for sale, showcasing a most diverse range of interesting properties for 2020, in amazing locations from rural Eversley in Hampshire, to Virginia Water in Surrey.

The developers we are representing in 2020 are as diverse in size and their personal history as you can imagine, but they all share the same passion for creating beautiful homes and leaving a legacy to their brand and reputation.

Click some of the links below to preview some of the new homes available.

We will provide another market update in a week or so, and you are of course welcome to subscribe free to our newsletter (just click the link near the bottom of our home page).

In the week ahead we will no doubt continue to think, reflect and pray about key workers and NHS people and the risks they face each day at these times. 

John Holden – Chairman and Managing Director

New Homes For Sale Boxing Day

Plot 5 Castlebridge Header Image

T A Fisher will be releasing for sale two new properties at Castlebrook, their small quality development in North Warnborough, near Odiham in Hampshire.

Number 5 Castlebrook will be selling at a guide of £540,000 and we are delighted to provide this news item early.

5 Casltebrook - For sale at £540,000

There are only 11 homes being created at Castlebrook, and at our 23rd November preview event plots 6 and 11 were reserved, so a flying start and the sale of these fine properties which haven’t yet been seen on property portals such as Rightmove.

5 Castlebrook is an end-terraced house, providing around 1,200 sq. ft. of space. The floor plans are shown below and the master bedroom with en-suite shower room and dressing room is an outstanding feature.

floor plans 5 6 and 7 Castlebrook

The above video tour will tell you about the area and showcase plot 6, a mid-terrace house providing around 1,200 sq ft of superb space. We think you’ll be impressed.

Architectural Detail

We have been impressed with many aspects of the T A Fisher new homes, and we were most impressed with the architectural detail of the terraced properties plots 5, 6 and 7. Some of the eye catching features are shown below – 1. Distinctive plinth brick course. 2. The soldier course brick detail to window surround 3. The elegant front doors 4. The substantial porch 4. The wealth of attractive tile hanging to the front and side elevations.

Such attention to detail and styling is to be applauded.

Castlebrook site plan McCarthy Holden estate agents

5 Castlebrook will be available from Boxing Day, and you can take a look at a download pdf brochure.

To arrange to view 5 Castlebrook, and the show house at 6 Castlebrrok early in the New Year telephone our Odiham branch on 01256 704851.

Next re-open days for McCarthy Holden after Christmas are Friday 27th and Saturday 28th (both 10-2)

Property Lifestyle and Boxing Day Event

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

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

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

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

Click the above image to view the full magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Big Property Event - Boxing Day

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

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

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

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

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

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

Full Time Career Opportunities In Estate Agency

career icon photo at mccarthy holden

Start a new career as a property negotiator / property consultant in 2020, by joining McCarthy Holden at either their Fleet or Hartley Wintney branches in Hampshire.

Positions are available at both of these branches, for either individuals already working in estate agency as an experienced negotiator, or for individuals who are currently in a career sector such as the service industry.

If you are an estate agency negotiation with around two years experience we would welcome the opportunity to meet you and explore the career opportunities at McCarthy Holden. We find negotiators who join us with this kind of experience stay with us, many now for 10 to 20 years so we hope this indicates that the real skill of negotiating is something that is highly valued, as opposed to relying on algorithms and online property portals.

For those of you not currently working in estate agency, the refreshing news is that some of our most successful property consultants moved from careers such in the hospitality, retail and wider services business sectors. A couple of examples are shown below.

Victoria at McCarthy Holden estate agents
Victoria - Fleet branch

Victoria joined McCarthy Holden in 2010, when she left a career in the hospitality industry. She has forged a very successful career at McCarthy Holden and is highly respected by customers and colleagues alike.

Matthew at McCarthy Holden estate agents
Matthew - Fleet branch

Matthew left British Rail in 2015, to pursue a negotiating and client management career at McCarthy Holden. His career in estate agency is now firmly established and just like Victoria he is much respected by customers and colleagues.

We are looking for people with a healthy work ethic, who in return for high property sales performance will bring high salary rewards, and yes there are long working days, with frequent out of hours needs of customers to be dealth with.

At McCarthy Holden we won’t crush your spirit with targets for selling financial services, but instead allow you to care for obtaining the best possible price for our vendors by applying negotiating skills and following though with managing the sale process from start to finish.

Every day will be varied and different, but one thing that will not change is our desire to deliver our services with traditional values of trust, honesty and respect for our customers and colleagues. These values are very important, so only candidates that who can truly deliver on these essential traits should apply.

Excellent communications skills are essential.

Because we are looking for both experiences and career change candidates, the salary / rewards scales are varied so please apply in the knowledge that we aim to match or exceed the market levels in the area of salary rewards.

email sholden@mccarthyholden.co.uk with your cv to apply

Saturday Job Opportunity In Estate Agency

Hartley Wintney Cricket Green McCarthy Holden estate agents

Working in your local community is such a rewarding job, and Saturday work at McCarthy Holden results in a part time job that provides a great mix of meeting customers in the branch and viewings at properties, so the day is varied.

We have several part time positions at both our Hartley Wintney and Odiham branches, so if you are looking for a part time Saturday cover career as a property negotiator in 2020 then please get in touch.

At McCarthy Holden we care for obtaining the best possible price for our vendors by applying negotiating skills as opposed to relying on algorithms and online property portals, so excellent communication skills are essential.

Every day will be varied and different, but one thing that will not change is our desire to deliver our services with traditional values of trust, honesty and respect for our customers and colleagues. These values are very important, so only candidates that who can truly deliver on these essential traits should apply.

Hours are 9am to 6.00pm Saturdays.

email sholden@mccarthyholden.co.uk with your cv to apply.

Hartley Wintney hight street mccarthy holden estate agents
Saturday Job vacancy Hartley Wintney - photo by johnjoe.co.uk copyright
Odiham hight street mccarthy holden estate agents
Saturday Job vacancy Odiham - photo by johnjoe.co.uk copyright

6 Ways to Prevent Condensation in Your Home

prevent condensation in your home

Lisa Salmon speaks to a property expert to find out the best ways to avoid the moisture menace which can lead to damp.

Condensation is something none of us want in our homes, as it’s the most common cause of damp problems.

It’s actually a very common issue, affecting one in five homes – and it can be found in properties of any age, size or design. It occurs when humid warm air comes into contact with a cold surface. Warm air can hold a lot more water vapour than cold air, so when it’s rapidly cooled by a cold surface, it can quickly form into the water droplets typical of condensation. Everyday activities, such as cooking, boiling the kettle, using hot water in the shower or bath, or drying clothes inside, can contribute to condensation forming inside a property.

Richard Walker, national technical and development manager at property preservation experts Peter Cox (petercox.com), explains: “Condensation is the visible consequence of the production of moisture within a building, and most commonly occurs between October and April. On average, a family of four produces 14 litres (24 pints) of water vapour each day, so keeping a house correctly heated and well ventilated is an important part of preventing condensation. If left unaddressed, mould and damp can also begin to form, which is not only unsightly, but may create health risks for the occupants.”

Here, Walker suggests six ways to help address a condensation issue, but points out that if it persists or deteriorates despite trying everything, homeowners should consider contacting an accredited surveyor to investigate the cause and suggest a solution.

prevent condensation in your home

1. Ventilate your house

Where possible, ventilate the house to let the build-up of water vapour escape, particularly if you’re drying clothing indoors. If you have double glazing, then keep the trickle vents open. When cooking or boiling a kettle in the kitchen, or using hot water in the bathroom, close the doors and put the extractor fan on to prevent the moisture from escaping to colder rooms and collecting on the walls.

2. Consistent central heating

When you turn the central heating on, heat the whole property on a low heat, rather than leaving some rooms cooler and susceptible to condensation. ‘Yo-yo’ heating doesn’t warm the fabric of the building and unnecessarily increases the risk of condensation forming.

3. Avoid dehumidifiers

Despite their popularity, dehumidifiers merely mask the condensation problem and don’t address the real cause. They can require frequent emptying and will stop once the collector unit is full. Moreover, they’re noisy and can be costly to buy and run.

4. Don’t let condensation settle

If you spot condensation forming in the home, it’s always advisable to wipe damp surfaces down, rather than letting it settle. Remember to wring the cloth out in a sink, rather than letting it dry in the room. When condensation is allowed to settle on a surface for more than six hours, it creates the conditions for mould to form, which in some cases, can damage surfaces by staining.

5. Regular maintenance and expert advice

Regular maintenance is key to preventing ongoing issues. Identify any problem areas as they occur and seek professional advice to address them immediately. Every case is different, and property care specialists are trained to evaluate the specific causes of condensation issues and advise homeowners on how to prevent any reoccurrence.

6. Consider installing a Positive Input Ventilation system

Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) units are sophisticated ventilation and condensation control units to aerate entire homes. Property surveyors may recommend the installation of a PIV system to help to ventilate a building, by diluting and displacing any damp air. From installation, the unit gently ventilates the home with fresh air, which is pushed back down into the house and redistributed. Such systems tend to cost around £250-£400.

New Homes For Sale 5th October

castlebridge new house image mccarthy holden estate agents
castlebridge new house image mccarthy holden estate agents

Visit the T A Fisher Show House Saturday 5th October

We are now only a few weeks away from being able to view the superb new homes in North Warnborough, by renowned developer T A Fisher.

Plots five to seven are to be released for sale on 5th October and the anticipated price ranges is around £475,000 to £500,000.

So make a diary note to come and view the show house, and explore the scale and quality of these new homes. Telephone 01256 704851 to make arrangement and find out the opening times.

Plots 5, 6 and 7

castlebridge new house image mccarthy holden estate agents
castlebridge new house image mccarthy holden estate agents

Plots 5, 6 and 7 are a terrace of three stylish homes, each arranged over three storeys, and each offering you some surprising lifestyle enhancements.

On the ground floor, you’ll find a spacious, bright and airy open plan living room, dining room and fully integrated kitchen with double French doors to the rear garden to make the most of the natural light. There’s also a convenient downstairs cloakroom and storage cupboard off the entrance hall.

Upstairs the surprises really begin. There are two double bedrooms on the first floor where the master has an en-suite and a walk-in dressing area. On the top floor, you’ll discover an attic room. This could easily be a lovely third bedroom, nursery, a den or games room for youngsters.

These beautiful homes give you space, flexibility and practicality.

A Small Select Development

New Homes Property for sale McCarthy Holden Estate Agents

Castlebrook is a small select development of 11 homes, 7 of which are new build and 4 highly individual and intriguing conversions.

Wonderful Location

king john's castle Odiham Hampshire McCarthy Holden estate agents

You can’t help fall in love with this area, steeped in history with beautiful old historic buildings and places of interest such as King John’s Castle and a lovely pub and restaurant which was a watermill just across the road from this site.

There are great opportunities nearby for activities such as walking, cycling and perhaps even water based on the Basingstoke Canal.

Basingstoke Canal In Odiham Hampshire McCarthy Holden estate agents

Allotment Challenge: 3 Easy Veg for Beginners and 3 Trickier Crops for Seasoned Growers

allotment veg challenge

Choosing the right veg for your experience level can make a world of difference. Hannah Stephenson shares her top picks.

National Allotments Week is approaching (August 12-18), with gardeners being encouraged to share their harvests and exchange tips.

And if you’re relatively new to the grow-your-own scene, it’s always handy to hear about what’s easy and what’s not – and which crops to tackle once you’ve got a bit more experience under your belt.

Here are three easy veg for beginners, and three more challenging crops for the seasoned allotment holder…

allotment veg challenge

EASY:

1. Onions

The great thing about onions is you can be harvesting them from February to September, if you plant different types.

For the quickest results, grow onions from sets (small bulbs), planting summer (maincrop) types in March and April, in well-cultivated, weed-free ground, pushing the sets gently into the soil so the tips are level with the surface. Spacing depends on the size of the set, so for small bulbs, plant them 2.5cm apart in rows 15cm apart.

Just keep plants watered in dry spells and you could have a succession of onions for much of the year. Spring onions can be harvested as soon as they are big enough to use, while maincrops will be ready in August and early September, when the leaves turn yellow.

Top tip: Keep on top of weeding because onions can’t compete. You’ll need to hoe or hand-weed regularly.

allotment veg challenge

2. Swiss chard

This veg not only tastes good but also makes a great ornamental addition, as there are several types with coloured stalks which add vibrancy to any veg patch or potager.

Related to leaf beet, you can sow it from April to mid-July in rows outside, then thin the seedlings out to 15cm apart, allowing 30cm between rows. The only thing you need to do is keep it well watered in dry spells and free from weeds. It should be ready for picking from July to October.

Top tip: Swiss chard doesn’t travel well as the leaves look sorry a day after picking, so use it fresh.

allotment veg challenge

3. Courgettes

These wonderful summer veg, great grilled on the barbecue or sliced thinly in salads, are easy to grow, provided you give them enough space (one plant will fill a large container). Their yellow flowers are also edible and can add colour and mild flavour to salads.

They need to be started off indoors in spring, sowing singly in pots on a windowsill in April, and then hardening off outside before you plant them after the last frost has passed, at the beginning of June.

Prepare the soil by filling a hole with compost and topping it off with soil to create a low mound, so excess rainwater runs away from the base of the plant, helping prevent stem rot. Space them 60cm in each direction and lay mulch over the soil to retain moisture and smother weeds.

Keep them well watered during the warmer months and feed them with tomato feed every week once fruits have formed. You should be picking them from July to October and have plenty to share with your allotment pals with just a few plants.

Top tip: Choose a variety bred specifically for courgette growing, rather than a marrow type where you can pick the fruits when they are small, because your yield will be better. Good varieties include ‘Soleil’, ‘Clarion’ and ‘Parthenon’.

allotment veg challenge

A BIT TRICKIER…

1. Florence fennel

This aniseed-flavoured veg with a swollen white bulb-like base is delicious used raw in salads or roasted in the oven.

It’s challenging because it prefers a Mediterranean climate, so you need to mimic that as much as possible growing it in a warm spot in light, well-drained soil, working in plenty of organic matter and watering it during dry spells.

Its main problem is bolting – when it produces flowers and runs to seed – which will make the bulbous base inedible. This can be caused by lack of organic matter in the planting area, dry soil and sudden swings in temperature.

Start the seeds off indoors in May, sowing three seeds each in small pots. Germination can be erratic, but remove the weakest two, leaving one seedling per pot.

Harden the plants off carefully before planting outside at the end of June, or when there’s a prolonged period of warm weather. Water them carefully – you don’t need much to start with, but don’t let them dry out.

If you want to sow outside, leave sowing as late as you can, probably late June or early July, as Florence fennel will bolt if sown too early or in a cold summer. The seeds should be sown directly into a well-prepared seedbed. It grows quickly and should be ready in late August and September.

Top tip: Cover young plants with fleece at night if it’s chilly, even in the summer.

allotment veg challenge

2. Cauliflower

Now a designer veg, with purple and lime-green varieties as well as the traditional types, have a go with them on the allotment if you fancy something a little more challenging. The main problems are bolting and poor soil.

You can get summer, autumn and winter varieties which you’ll need to sow at different times of the year – the only one which can be started off outdoors is the winter variety, which can be sown in April and May.

The biggest job is really good soil preparation. They like clay soil which isn’t waterlogged. If you have light soil, dig in plenty of organic matter. If you have acid soil, add lime over the winter to give it a pH of 7 and a good boost of balanced fertiliser, working it into the soil before planting.

Water young plants in well but once they’re established, only water if the soil becomes very dry. Too much water will encourage bigger leaves, rather than curds.

To stop them bolting, feed and water seedlings well and transplant them no later than six weeks old. When the curd looks full-size, cut it off just below the base of the head.

Top tip: When small curds appear in the centres of the plants, bend a few outer leaves over for protection from bad weather, snapping them so that they stay in place.

allotment veg challenge

3. Celery

Delicious in salads, as crudites or cooked in stews, celery does, however, need attention to detail when growing. Sowing needs to be done indoors in relatively high temperatures (60-70°F/16-21°C). For the best chance of success, choose a self-blanching type.

Celery needs rich, fertile soil, which has had plenty of well-rotted organic matter worked into it beforehand. Plant the seedlings out in early June, after the last chance of frost has passed, spacing the plants 23cm apart in all directions. They need close spacing as the plants need to shade each other’s stems.

Water in well and keep them watered regularly. If you let the plants get remotely dry or water irregularly, you’ll lose the crop. Give them a liquid feed regularly too using a high-nitrogen feed, and keep them well weeded.

Top tip: Be vigilant against slugs, which can settle in and feed on the central stems, making the celery unusable.

National Allotments Week runs from August 12-18. Visit nsalg.org.uk.

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

13 Fab Floral Finds to Spruce up your Space for Summer

chelsea flowers inside your home

Channel some RHS Chelsea Flower Show magic with some blooming marvellous home accessories. Sam Wylie-Harris reveals her pick of the bunch.

Fashions and trends may come and go – but year in, year out, the world’s most famous horticultural event never fails to spark us all to have a spring fling and take inspiration from its fabulous flowery displays.

We’re talking about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May 21-25), of course. Whether or not you can make it to the gardening extravaganza in person, embracing blooms in home styling won’t be a challenge – and there’s a vivid landscape to pick from.

“We’re seeing more adventurous colour and fabric selections coming through when it comes to upholstery, and our love of florals continues to flourish,” says Vanessa Hurley-Perera, chief product officer, Sofa.com

“These bold choices are increasingly popular for accent pieces, such as armchairs, footstools and cushions,” she adds. “Long gone are the days of matching three-piece suites and itsy-bitsy prints – customers are plumping for larger designs and brilliantly bold tones.”

Check out our 13 favourite floral finds to shop now…

chelsea flowers inside your home

1. Snowdrop 2 Seat Sofa in Periwinkle Chelsea Bloom, £1640 (other items from a selection), Sofa.com

“For SS19 we’ve developed a new floral fabric, Chelsea Bloom, in Periwinkle (Blue) and Petunia (Pink), which features large blooming flowers against a dark background,” says Hurley-Perera. “The dramatic design appears to have almost been hand-painted onto your sofa, and works beautifully amongst our rich and vibrant colour scheme of super soft velvets.”

chelsea flowers inside your home

2. Millport Pair of Small Fabric Scatter Cushions, currently reduced to £55 from £75, Furniture Village

You can never have too many cushions, especially when pretty pink sprigs are planted among the greenery.

chelsea flowers inside your home

3. Feather Juju Wall Decoration, £85, OKA

Very swish, this feather deco in the shape of an exotic flower deserves a Best in Show. And if you really want to transform a wall, you could frame a mirror with a bloom on either side.

chelsea flowers inside your home

4. Gold Birdcage Tealight Holder, currently reduced to £39 from £79, Furniture Village

The joy of this whimsy deco is that you can dress it up to suit any scheme. If your space is a pop of colour, mix’n’match bright tealights. Otherwise, keep tealights white and tie a silk ribbon through the loop, or – even better – drape some faux greenery along one side of the cage.

chelsea flowers inside your home

5. Portmeirion Botanic Garden Plate (8 inch), from £15; Teapot (2pt), £66; Teacup and Saucer, £18.50, Portmeirion.co.uk

Throwing a garden party? When it comes to floral-inspired teas, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. We’ve been foraging for the celebrated Botanic Garden range for 40 years; the collection offers endless possibilities with its iconic designs.

chelsea flowers inside your home

6. Yankee Candle Salt Mist Rose, £23.99, The Yankee Candle Company

Yankee Candle are celebrating their 50th anniversary with 16 limited-edition fragrances. We love Salt Mist Rose, which first came to light in the Nineties, and is characterised by ‘the beautiful scent of delicate roses by the sea’.

chelsea flowers inside your home

7. Set of Six Peony Glasses, £69, Graham & Green

Versatile and very pretty, these coloured tumblers are etched with blooms and will be the toast of Happy Hour.

chelsea flowers inside your home

8. Bentwood and Rattan Flower Chairs and Table, £850 for the set, Raj Tent Club

Ideally, this terrific trio is best suited to a conservatory, but would look just as striking in a sunny corner or bedroom setting. Especially with a trendy succulent resting on the table.

chelsea flowers inside your home

9. Morrisons Flourish Jug, £14, Morrisons

This gorgeous jug imbibes a meadow of wild flowers.

chelsea flowers inside your home

10. Pack of Twenty Boho Floral Napkins, £3.95, Graham and Green

A favourite with party planners, you don’t need to be a flower child to prize these quirky napkins.

chelsea flowers inside your home

11. Flower Market Everyday Bowl, £59, Amara

With a lovely vintage feel, you can almost sense the exotic fragrance resonating from this beautiful bunch.

12. Morrisons Flourish Duvet Cover & Pillowcases Sulphur Meadow Bouquet, from £16; Ditsy Bedspread, £27; Bumblebee Cushion, £8, Morrisons

This new Flourish range brings the countryside one step closer to home with its blousy florals, ditsy prints and sweet wildlife illustrations which feel like a breath of fresh air.

chelsea flowers inside your home

13. Face Imprint Plant Pots and Vases, available in White, Green and Taupe, £10.95-£17.95 each, Graham and Green

As if these quirky plant pots aren’t eye-catching enough, they could give your favourite house plant a new lease of life.

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

gardening with kids

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

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

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

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

1. Give them their own space

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

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

gardening with kids

2. Encourage them to grow their own

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

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

gardening with kids

3. Encourage wildlife

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

gardening with kids

4. Make wildflower seedballs

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

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

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

gardening with kids

5. Make a runner bean teepee

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

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

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

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.

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