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How to style your home with books

While photo frames, fresh flowers and candles are more common finishing touches, styling with books is a novel (excuse the pun) way of completing an interior makeover. 

Designers have often used hand-picked books as props when dressing show homes but the art of primping with paperbacks really went mainstream during recent lockdowns.

The Zoom months gave birth to a new design movement, which you can find all over social media if you search #bookcasecredibility. It refers to the careful editing of your bookshelves in case people on video calls are scrutinising the book titles behind you.

The right reading matter is now such an issue that in April 2022, singer Adele reportedly rushed out and bought £1,000 worth of books to create a library behind her ahead of future Zoom broadcasts. It was a similar story for actress Ashley Tisdale, who confessed to buying 400 books ahead of a photoshoot at her home. The good news is styling with books is the interior design trend that everyone can follow, with most of us already having a head start. 

If you already have a bookshelf, merely organising it will create a more polished look. Neaten up your act by displaying books in height order, from left to right, or for an unconventional but still organised approach, lay piles of books flat, working from bottom to top in size order. 

For something more design-led, organise the spines according to their colour. Creating a rainbow is a trend that’s gaining traction on Instagram  – search #rainbowbookcase for ideas. Don’t forget a sparse bookshelf can be pepped up by using bookends, plants or other objet d’art to fill the space. Just ensure anything displayed is kept dust free.

If you’re starting your book display from scratch, you may want to follow a theme. One of the easiest to achieve is a gentleman’s library – especially if the room you’re working on is panelled or painted in rich colours. Scour charity shops and boot fairs for leather-bound books, especially those with gold printing on the spine.

Reluctant readers and those who really don’t like clutter can still incorporate books into their interior design. A neat stack of books is a good way to create interest with different heights. Something to try is a pile of three similarly-sized books on a sideboard, with a table lamp placed on top. Show off the book spines if they feature interesting fonts or if the book titles convey a theme,  or hunt out hardbacks with gilded pages, as flashes of gold can add a touch of luxury. 

Finally, the world of coffee table books is alive and well. A curated collection of two or three large format, hardback books – casually left out or even open – can speak volumes about the lifestyle you want to purvey. The traditional themes of haute couture fashion, photography, travel and architecture are still favoured and Glamour Magazine has done the hard work for you by creating a list of 43 coffee table books selected for their aesthetic appeal.

If you are thinking of moving for more space to display your books, contact us for advice and available properties.

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Elevate your property with portable changes

Whether you’re a fan of interior design TV shows, spend hours scouring the internet for the latest trends or like nothing better than hitting your local homeware stores, many of us love improving where we live. 

The problem is, some of the most eye catching home additions are permanent, expensive or both. While there is no doubt that replacing an old kitchen or installing a new bathroom will transform a property, it’s not a practical path to follow for tenants or for soon-to-be sellers who want to give their home added appeal without blowing the budget.

The good news is there are some really clever – and portable – ways of improving your property. The emphasis here is on items that can be moved from property-to-property. After all, if you’re shelling out to improve the aesthetics of your home, being able to pack the items up and take them with you makes sense. 

Our four portable product recommendations will give you a good return on investment, whether you’re looking to impress buyers or elevate your everyday home style. There’s no need for planning permission, permanent alterations or a trade professional and even better, our suggestions are easy to source on the High Street, online or even in larger supermarkets. 

Textiles can come to your aid when perking up your property. The upholstery side of improvements, such as replacing sofas and armchairs, represents a serious outlay but entry-level soft furnishings can transform how a room feels. The holy trinity of rugs, cushions and throws remains the quickest and cheapest way to make an impact – choose a single colour or theme for the wow factor. 

Lighting is another portable asset that can dramatically alter the perception of a property. Plug-in table and floor-standing lamps can be used to banish shadows, while a string of humble battery-operated fairy lights never fails to cast a magical glow. 

Lights can also be employed to set the scene outside. There are a myriad of solar options on sale, from hanging lanterns to simple stake lights. In fact, creating illuminated garden rooms is one of the most desirable and portable trends for 2022. Everything you’ll find in a living room now has an outdoor, weatherproof counterpart – sofas, rugs and even freestanding lamps. As long as you don’t screw it down or cement it in, outdoor items can move with you.

There’s one other recommendation that straddles both inside and out: plants. Staying in the garden, it’s not wise to waste time and money on shrubs, bulbs and trees that you plant directly into the ground. Instead, pots and baskets can be placed where needed, then packed onto the back of a removal lorry.

House plants are another portable winner and are definitely a shrewder investment than the classic advice of adding colour to your home with cut flowers. Whereas a bunch of blooms will be destined for the compost bin within days, house plants can live for years if cared for.

If you’re looking to move in the next few months, contact our team for advice and the latest local market report.

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How to tell if your next home will be warm

The topic of staying warm at home has never been more pertinent. In the face of a cold winter and rising fuel prices, Ovo Energy – Britain’s third-biggest energy supplier – sent an email to its customers in January, containing ideas on how to stay warm.

Ovo’s advice was ridiculed in the press. The firm’s ‘simple and cost effective’ tips included cuddling your pets and loved ones to stay cosy, eating ‘hearty’ bowls of porridge and consuming ginger (but not chilli as that makes you sweat) and doing a few star jumps.

While the pointers were well-meaning, they aren’t very practical on a long-term basis. A better solution is to ensure your next property is as energy efficient as possible, allowing you to enjoy a warm home without resorting to a daily diet of Quaker oats.

EPC ratings are your best friend

If you are moving home soon and want to know if the property will retain heat, there are a few things you can look out for. The first is the EPC rating – which shows how energy efficient the property is. All dwellings, whether to rent or for sale, will be listed with an EPC rating – look out for the coloured bar graph on our property details.

Properties are given a letter to show how energy efficient they are – an A rating is the best and G is the lowest. Although properties for sale can have any EPC rating to be sold, landlords can only rent out properties that have an EPC rating of E or above. 

If a property’s current EPC is more than 10 years old – or if the home doesn’t have an EPC at all – an energy assessor will visit and look at certain aspects to decide how good its energy performance is. The heating system makes up the largest part of the EPC calculation, so a high rating is a good indicator that the property will be warm. Also taken into consideration by the assessor are windows, loft insulation and the external structure – all of which have an impact on how well heat is retained and cold air kept out.

Ask to see energy bills

While an EPC certificate will provide a guide to a home’s ability to generate heat and stay warm, seeing energy bills or smart meter readings from winter months will give you an idea of how heavily the current occupants rely on gas and electricity.

Energy bills are good for guidance but ensure you know if the property is heated using a gas-fired boiler or by electric storage heaters when interpreting the figures. In addition, bear in mind other energy usages outside of heating a home – lighting, powering electrical goods and cooking on a gas stove, for instance.

Be vigilant on viewings

If you are looking around a property between the months of November and March, there’s a good chance the heating system will be fired up when you arrive. Check the warmth coming from radiators and ask to see the boiler, noting the make and model. Don’t forget to ask about alternative sources of warmth, such as underfloor heating, electric towel rails, wood burning stoves, open fires and gas fireplaces. 

If you would like more information on EPC ratings and what to look out for when moving home, please contact us today.

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Very Peri: how will you use Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2022?

It may be best to stop reading now if you’re a fan of neutral design palettes, as home interiors are set to be full of Very Peri this year – Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2022. For the first time in its annual colour trend history, the company created a brand new shade that wasn’t already in its extensive catalogue.

Very Peri has been described as a ‘periwinkle shade of blue’ that also brings to mind fields of soft lavender and hyacinths in full bloom. Unusually for a colour that is arguably purple, the colour is a blend of cool blue tones and richer violet-reds. As a result, Very Peri is a warm shade that can be embraced in a variety of settings. 

If you are a fan of the colour but are struggling to imagine how you could use it in your home, here’s our room-by-room guide:

Living room: if you are worried about overpowering purple on your living room walls, stick to colour on accessories and textiles. Flashes of Very Peri can be introduced by adding scatter cushions, a rug, a lampshade or even a piece of art hung over a mantlepiece. 

Kitchen: despite its functional role, it’s still possible to bring the latest colour trends to where you cook. Look out for Very Peri themed ceramics, such as mugs, fruit bowls and ovenware, or make a more permanent change by retiling in purple – a colour that works well with white kitchen cabinetry.

Bedroom: if you would like to embrace Very Peri in a bolder way, a bedroom is a great place to start. Try bedlinen or a window blind for a dash of colour, or use the wall behind your bed as your focal point. A painted or wallpapered feature wall would look great.

Bathroom: white bathrooms suites can be perfectly paired with Very Peri as the blank canvas really makes any accessories stand out. As well as soft towels in a shade of Very Peri, look out for colour matched soaps, toiletries and candles that can be used to create a hotel-style display.

Exterior: kerb appeal is very underrated and a splash of colour can transform your front of house. If repainting your front door in Very Peri is a step too far, you can add an essence of the colour by opting for plant pots painted purple.

Garden: its periwinkle description shows how nature has inspired Very Peri; no wonder it’s easy to surround yourself with this shade by refreshing your planting scheme. Opt for lavender, nepeta, hydrangeas, liatris and veronica spicata, whose purple hues are a great match for Very Peri.

If your design ideas lead you to a new property, contact us for a list of the latest houses and apartments available.

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Winter warmers: staying safe and snug this winter

As the temperature drops, we have a tried and tested routine: dig out hats and scarves, revert to warming soups and casseroles, and start speculating about snow days, but what about our homes?

Preparing our properties for inclement weather is more important than ever this year, with many of us mindful about the amount of gas we are using and how low the temperature may drop, thanks to climate change. Now is a good time for a reminder of the basics that may save your boiler breaking down or a pipe bursting. 

The age-old debate still rumbles on – keep your heating on a low setting all the time or only turn it on intermittently? Current thinking revolves around insulation. If your home is well insulated, leaving your heating on is a good option as it may not kick in very often. For those in older, poorly insulated properties, using a timer so the heating only comes on when it’s needed is a more cost-effective approach. 

There’s no harm in trying both methods if you have a smart energy meter, as you can compare costs. You can reduce energy consumption further by using radiator or underfloor heating thermostats to only heat the rooms you occupy, as well as by avoiding plug-in heaters (the Energy Saving Trust says using an electric heater is more than twice as expensive as using central heating), ensuring you have good insulation and keeping draughts out.

Pipework and central heating go hand-in-hand, and the real danger is when temperatures drop below freezing. If your property is left vacant – whether it’s overnight, for a week or for an extended period – leaving the central heating on and set to a minimum of 13 degrees will ensure any standing water in the pipes doesn’t freeze. Frozen water expands and creates pressure, which can rupture a pipe. Any crack or hole will start leaking water as soon as the temperature rises, which will result in a sudden flood or a slow drip – both highly damaging.

You can also protect pipes from freezing by lagging – the process of wrapping them in insulation material, such as foam sleeves. Pay particular attention to pipes in lofts, garages, basements and those that sit against external walls. It’s also sensible to insulate any outside tap and an older-style hot water cylinder.

If a property is going to be uninhabited for a long spell over winter, it’s wise to play it safe and turn off the water supply at the mains stopcock. Don’t forget, most modern central heating systems still work even if the water supply is turned off.

There is another pipe that’s often overlooked and when it freezes, it’s one of the most common reasons gas engineers are called out. The condensate pipe is what removes steam and condensation from a condensing boiler. If the temperature drops below zero, the condensate pipe can freeze solid and cause the boiler to shut down. 

As well as insulating this pipe, you can reduce the chances of it freezing by shortening the amount of pipe that sits outside, making the condensate waste pipe as large as possible with a vertical fall and opting for a boiler with a syphon trap type of water release, rather than a continual drip. 

There’s one final leak that property owners should be mindful of during winter and that’s carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas that can emanate from cookers, blocked flues and chimneys. As well as getting your central heating boiler serviced on an annual basis and installing a carbon monoxide detector, it’s wise to get a health check for other gas-fired appliances and book a chimney sweep before the first fire is lit.

If you have any questions about looking after a property during the winter months, feel free to get in contact with our team.

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Could Swedish fika be the secret to selling your home this winter?

Colder, darker days can be more challenging when presenting a property, especially if you’ve been following summer’s advice of throwing the doors wide open and showing off your garden, but fika can become your secret weapon when hosting viewings this winter.

While potential movers will be interested in the bricks and mortar, they are equally as likely to fall in love with a lifestyle that you purvey and even you as a person, so it’s good to tap into the heart as much as the head. And what better way to welcome people to your home this winter than with a hot drink and a cake?  

Rather than batten down the hatches, take a leaf out of the Swede’s book and embrace fika. It’s the latest Scandinavian trend that celebrates all things cosy and warm, coming hot on the heels of Danish hygge and Dutch gezellig.

The Swedes certainly know a thing or two about making the most of the winter months and fika is easily transferable to us here in the UK. Fika is the tradition of stopping for a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat with friends – less formal than a British afternoon tea but more organised than grabbing a latte on the go.

Fika is considered such a ritual in Sweden that many professionals have a fika break written into their contract but it’s a daily routine that takes place in homes, workplaces and factories across the country. 

Not only will a mug of coffee and a pastry break the ice during a viewing – and provide comfort when coming in from the cold – offering fika will also give you a head start when it comes to the olfactory department.

As this Real Homes survey reveals, appealing scents upon arrival can help conjure up sales success, while Ideal Home reported that the smell of cats is one of the most prominent reasons why people deem a viewing ‘disgusting’.

Your home will smell divine if you have a freshly brewed pot of coffee on the go and just-baked kanelbulle in the kitchen (kanelbulle are cinnamon buns, which are reputed to be the Swedes’ favourite fika snack).

How you present fika can also help set an inviting scene. An Italian-style ‘moka’ stove-top coffee pot always looks attractive and there is something mesmerising about pushing the plunger down on a traditional cafetière. If you have a pod coffee machine, using a capsule display and giving someone a choice of coffee is another nice touch – and it may make their visit to your property more memorable.

Don’t fret, however, if you only have a kettle and a jar of instant coffee. Place your emphasis on serving your drinks in chip-free mugs or even in a set of on-trend, double-walled glass coffee cups. You could even decant your milk and sugar into a jug and bowl to really up the ante. 

While we have mentioned home-baking, we understand not everyone has the time or skill to whip up a Swedish fika feast. If you want to be authentic, Totally Swedish offers a superb selection of sweet treats that can be delivered to your door, or simply pop down to your local supermarket and buy a selection of fresh pastries. 

Whatever treats you have, artfully arrange them on a plate instead of offering them to people straight out of the packet. And why not follow the lead of interior design stylists and display all your fika essentials on a Scandi-inspired wooden tray? Add a candle and some winter-themed napkins and you’ll have won over viewers in no time. 

If you are getting ready to show your property this winter and would like advice about the local property market, please contact us today.

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Revealed: Bright Skies is Dulux’s Colour of the Year 2022

Whether you are preparing your home in advance of a sale or have recently moved into a new property, applying a fresh lick of paint may be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. With literally thousands of paint shades to choose from, the choice can easily become overwhelming, so how do you pick a colour that you won’t regret?

Design and decorating companies usually announce an annual ‘colour of the year’ – a shade that encapsulates a nation’s mood and complements current interior trends – and Dulux has been the first to break cover. It has announced that its Colour of the Year 2022 is Bright Skies – a great shade for those who want something neutral with wide appeal.

Unlike the colours nominated by Pantone, which are unusually bold, often divisive and not always suitable for liberal use in the home (browse its choices from the past 11 years here), Dulux’s annual pick is always less controversial and more accessible. The latest choice doesn’t disappoint.

Bright Skies is a cool, pale blue described by Dulux as an ‘airy and fresh tone that opens up and breathes new life into any space’. Using the colour is also designed to revitalise and bring a new sense of optimism – perfect for anyone stuck in a decorating rut.

Its cool, fresh qualities allow Bright Skies to be used to paint entire rooms and lighten up dark corners. As well as lifting the mood in living rooms and bedrooms, it can be used to refresh bathrooms, hallways and kitchens, as the paint is available in Easycare Washable, Tough Matt, Easycare Bathroom and Easycare Kitchen (the latter two are available as tinted and mixed-to-order products). 

A versatile shade, Bright Skies also works well when combined with other colours. You can create a warm and inviting interior scheme by mixing it with beiges and creams – Dulux’s Cardamon Pod and Fossil Hunting are the perfect neutral paint partners. Bright Skies also pairs well with light greys, duck egg blue, sage green and pastel pink – why not get some tester pots of Moon Cloud, Romantic Reverie, Tranquil Dawn and Frosted Steel to go with Bright Skies? 

If your plans don’t involve painting, you can still join the colour club and use Bright Skies to influence your choice of accessories. Fabric manufacturers and homeware retailers are usually very quick to pick up on colour trends, and the shops are already full of blues that match Dulux’s Colour of the Year 2022.

Changing your bedlinen is a quick way of introducing Bright Skies to your bedroom and Dunelm’s floral design duvet set won’t break the bank, while scatter cushions can perk up a tired sofa – Marks & Spencer’s quilted version in chambray is a good colour match. Other ways to bring Bright Skies into the home include Loaf’s ceramic bowls in Baker’s Blue or Annabel James’s super soft throw

If you’d like more advice about getting your home ready for a sale – or are hunting for the perfect property to paint as you wish – we’d love to hear from you.

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Securing your new home

Moving into a new home is one of life’s most exciting milestones and while it may not feel as exciting as choosing new sofas or deciding who to invite to a housewarming party, paying some attention to the property’s security will help you feel more settled – and may even result in cheaper insurance premiums.

When you’re compiling your ‘to do’ list as you move in, you may find these 6 essential security changes useful:-

  1. Change front door locks: the handing over of keys always marks the end of one property ownership and the start of a new one but there’s no way of knowing whether past owners have retained a spare set, or whether neighbours may have keys too. Changing the front door locks should be up there with reading the meters as a default moving-in ritual. Always opt for a five-lever mortice lock with a BS heart-shaped Kitemark that meets the BS 3621 criteria – the gold standard in door security and a requirement from home insurance companies in order to secure a cheaper premium.
  2. Change or replace a key safe: key safes have grown in popularity  – used by forgetful teens, cleaners and carers, among others – but with many unlocked with a simple 4-digit code that’s easy to share and remember, it’s wise to change the code or replace the whole box.
  3. Install a safe: a fireproof safe is a great addition to a new home – especially for high value items of jewellery, spare keys and valuable documents – but any safe must be fixed securely to a wall or the floor for it to be effective.
  4. Secure windows & other entry points: anything that’s broken, jammed or missing should be repaired. This could include fixing a window that is stubbornly ajar, reinstalling a fence panel that’s blown down or replacing a patio door that doesn’t lock.
  5. Change the alarm code: ask your solicitor or agent to verify if the property you are moving into has a burglar alarm. If so, request that the operational instructions are left at the property, although many manuals are available to download online if you know the make and model. Make replacing the alarm code with something new a priority.
  6. Don’t overshare on social media: moving day is exciting and it’s news you may want to share online but do so with restraint. By all means document your first few days in a new property but it’s a good idea to share photos and details within private groups, and not publicly.

Other security measures for moving day & beyond

  • Update your home and contents insurance so cover starts at your new address as soon as you move in
  • Hang curtains or blinds as quickly as possible
  • Don’t leave valuable items in unlocked vans or cars on moving day
  • Find out whether the property is in a Neighbourhood Watch area
  • Don’t leave empty boxes for new TVs and gadgets in plain sight on recycling day

We’re experts at managing moving days, so if you have any question about the order of events, timings, collecting keys and keeping your possessions safe, just ask!

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Interior trend: make time for mantelscaping

As the temperature drops and we head back into our homes in search of cosiness, fireplaces will, once again, become a home décor focal point. While we may only light the gas, fan the real flames or flick the switch of a stove-effect heater when it’s really cold, the mantelpiece is a year-round feature that you can dress to have a big impact. In fact, there is something called ‘mantelscaping’ – the art of arranging knick-knacks, trinkets and flowers on the ledge (the mantel) that sits above a fire. 

The good news is you don’t have to have a working fire, or even an opening, to have a mantel and enjoy mantelscaping. It’s increasingly common to affix a piece of timber to a wall – such as an old railway sleeper – to create a mantel, while others retain a mantelpiece as a feature after decommissioning a fireplace, just so they can decorate it.

The most authentic addition to a mantel would be a mantel clock – also known as a shelf clock. Dating back to France in the mid 18th century, the tradition still pervades today, although more contemporary styles are manufactured alongside the ornate versions seen in Georgian and Victorian eras.

The perfect companions to a mantel clock – an addition that can be traced back centuries – are candles. While we are spoiled with different sizes, fragrances and types today, the classic mantel candle would be a tapered example held in a decorative candlestick. 

Before you dismiss this candle and holder combination as too pretentious or fussy, the art of mantelscaping includes balancing the height of objects. Elegant candle sticks with tall, slim candles work perfectly with chunkier jar candles and tea lights. Just be sure to leave enough distance between the wall and the candle to avoid leaving soot marks when lit, use a proper candle snuffer to extinguish the flame and always be aware of fire safety 

Varying heights can also be achieved by adding object d’art – items that bring aesthetic delight or tell a story. Glass bell jars and cloches, sea shells, driftwood and decorative urns all work well, and you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a vase. As well as choosing the actual display vessel according to its stature, the height of your flowers (either fresh or dried) can draw the eye and add a dynamic edge.

Photo frames are another mantel staple where you can express yourself and have fun. Choosing to frame only black and white images lends a classic feel, especially when the photos are in gold or silver frames. A more casual look can be achieved by simply propping up postcards, small, unframed prints or even invites to weddings and thank you notes.

Mantelscaping is also rivalling the door wreath as something that can reflect the changing seasons, especially when it comes to festive events. Why not pile your mantel high with mini pumpkins and gnarly gourds when it’s Halloween, or intertwine battery-operated fairy lights between your every-day items at Christmas? For an effortless option, choose a pre-lit, pre-decorated garland – readily available online and in garden centres. Look out for seasonal versions with pine cones, autumn leaves and berries, studded with tiny, warm fairy lights for a cosy glow. 

When mantelscaping, it’s up to you whether you opt for symmetry, with a focal point in the middle of the mantel and items mirrored either side, or whether you follow the interior designer’s much favoured ‘power of three’ rule, where objects always appear together as a trio. The joy of mantelscaping is its accessibility – simply arrange what you love most and make small tweaks until you can sit back and enjoy your display.

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7 Shortcuts to Boho Chic

Just like on the catwalk, interior fashions come and go but there is one which is stubbornly sticking around – boho chic.

So just what is boho chic, we hear you ask? In terms of interior design and accessorising, boho chic is the best of laid back, unstructured living, with global influences and a love of all things handmade.

Before you assume it’s an ‘anything goes’ look, the most relaxed and carefree rooms seen across social media and in the top interior design magazines are actually painstakingly pulled together.

But fear not, you don’t need to be a professional property stylist to create bohemian, louche-living vibes where you live. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be lounging Ibiza-style in no time.

  1.     Wall hangings: the casual essence of boho chic means the clean lines of framed photos and prints are replaced by eye-catching wall hangings. Anything with tassels and tapestry works well so don’t discount wall mounting your favourite rug!
  1.     Texture: fringing, beading, knots and even pom-poms provide a shortcut to boho chic. The texture de jour is macramé, so look out for cushion covers, hanging planters and even indoor hammocks for an arts and craft feel.
  1.     Low-level seating: socialising boho style means sitting low down but not at the expense of comfort. Add bean bags, pouffes and oversized cushions to your living room for maximum lounging capabilities. 
  1.     Exotic treasures: a boho interior should look like you’re well-travelled but don’t worry if your passport hasn’t seen the light of day for years. Scour the internet and no one will know that your gilded tea glasses weren’t purchased in a Marrakech medina or that your Nepalese string of prayer flags were bought on eBay.
  1.     Non-matching furniture: the eclectic nature of boho chic dictates that nothing should match. Vintage and heirloom items can sit side-by-side with more modern pieces. There are no rules about upholstery either, so mix and match velvet, linen, embroidery and bold prints.
  1.     House plants: botanics lend any interior design scheme an exotic vibe and while there are a myriad of faux plastic house plants to choose from, there are more health, environmental and air purification benefits from growing the real deal. Opt for palms, ferns and the on-trend Swiss cheese plant for maximum foliage.
  1.     Colour combinations: almost every boho chic interior design has one common denominator – a neutral backdrop. White or cream walls in a chalky paint finish are reminiscent of far-away villas and allow the accessories to shine. Add splashes of jewel tones for an Ibizan island vibe or choose lush greens and deep turquoise for an Indonesian take on boho chic.

If you’re dreaming of creating a boho chic ambience in a new home, ask us for a list of available properties in your area.

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Sales of halogen light bulbs banned from September 2021

The current Government is serious about improving the nation’s eco credentials. In fact, it has set in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, pledging to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, when compared to levels seen in 1990. We should also be more than three-quarters of the way to being carbon net zero by 2050 and helping us to achieve this milestone is a change to the availability of halogen light bulbs. 

What are halogen lightbulbs?

A halogen light bulb is an enhanced version of an incandescent light bulb, with tungsten filaments housed in a quartz capsule, and filled with iodine and bromine gases. The quality, colour temperature and cost of halogen light bulbs make them a natural choice in the home. 

Banning halogens: a lightbulb moment

Considered an easy and effective eco win, the Government has announced that halogen light bulbs will no longer be on sale in the UK from September 2021. The ban will cut 1.26 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year and deliver consumers savings in the shape of cheaper electricity bills. 

The following halogen light bulbs can’t be restocked from 1st October 2021:-

  •     Compact Fluorescent Helix Light Bulbs
  •     Halogen Linear R7s Light Bulbs (over 2,700 lumens)
  •     12V Halogen Spotlight Bulbs (MR11, MR16)
  •     Lower performing LED lamps

Where might halogen lightbulbs be in my home?

Anywhere that needs a small, compact yet powerful source of light. Halogen light bulbs are commonly used in kitchen spotlights but they can also be found in desktop lamps, security lights, floodlights, in reptile tanks where they are used as a source of heat as well as light and in white goods, such as ovens and cooker hoods. As halogen light bulbs can be dimmed, they’re also common in overhead pendant fixings.

What can I buy as a replacement?

The Government wants us to buy low-energy LED light bulbs instead of halogens, with a prediction that LEDs will account for 85% of all bulbs sold by 2030. LED lights last five times longer than traditional halogen bulbs and produce the same amount of light. They also use up to 80% less power, making them a great green alternative.

Are there any other changes concerning light bulbs?

Yes. As well as an imminent ban on halogen light bulbs, high-energy fluorescent lights will be banned from sale from 1st September 2023, which will spell the end of strip lights commonly seen in offices. A number of LED alternatives will be available to replace fluorescent examples, so the fittings can be retained.

The following fluorescent light bulbs can’t be restocked from 1st September 2023:-

  •     Fluorescent T8 Tubes (2 foot, 4 foot, 5 foot only)
  •     Halogen G9 capsules
  •     12V Halogen capsules (G4 and GY6.35 caps)

Are these light bulbs really banned?

Light Bulb stockists and retailers can continue to sell halogen and fluorescent light bulbs in their possession beyond their respective banned dates but they can’t order in any new stock after the ban. How long the sales continue depends on each retailer’s stock levels, so there could be availability for months or even years. It’s also worth noting that not all halogen and fluorescent light bulbs will be banned.

There is also confusion over a ban on lighting fixtures and fittings where the bulb is fixed or non-replaceable. The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) explains that such lighting designs are not banned but they are being discouraged from manufacture. If you want any further lightbulb and light fitting clarification, the LIA released this helpful statement 

For advice about the moving home process, get in touch with our team.

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Adding shade to your garden this summer

Getting out in the garden has become one of life’s real pleasures and with many of us planning to swap international holidays for time off at home this year, making your outside space as usable as possible has become a priority.

Deciding to add a form of shade to your garden can prolong the amount of time you can sit outside comfortably – and provide somewhere to entertain even if there’s a sharp summer downpour. What type of shade you opt for will depend on your aim, approach to building work and budget.

What do you want to take shelter from?

A traditional British summer can include sun, rain showers and even stormy conditions so with this in mind, decide what you want protection from the most. If, where you frequently sit outside, enjoys full sun, shade can create a cool spot to set up a dining table or outside sofa when the temperature rises. Go one step further by making your shade waterproof and you will stop having to scuttle back inside every time the heavens open. 

A pergola with a wood or metal frame and a transparent plastic roof will be waterproof but may not provide cover from the sun, while growing a dense canopy of plants over the top of a pergola will do the reverse – give shade but will let water in. If you want protection from all of the elements, choose a pergola with a retractable waterproof shade or opt for an adjustable louvre roof, allowing you to adjust the angle of the slats according to the weather conditions. A retractable awning fixed to a wall is another option, as is a sail shade made of waterproof fabric stretched between fixed posts.

Do you want a permanent structure?

The UK is no stranger to blustery conditions and a permanent structure is the safest way of providing shade that will withstand a summer storm. Bear in mind that tenants would need permission from their landlord before adding any form of permanent shade to the garden.

Pop-up gazebos and canopy parasols offer a temporary shade solution but they will need weighting down to give them stability; they can suffer damage if subjected to high winds, so factor in collapsing these items and storing them inside on a frequent basis. A pergola, sail shade or awning will require building works to ensure the structure and fixings are solid, and you’ll need to check the frame’s dimensions don’t break any planning restrictions. 

What is your budget?

You can pop to Argos and pick up an inexpensive, pack-away gazebo but it’s unlikely to be of a quality that can be left outside year round. Likewise, garden parasols and umbrellas vary widely in cost, and it will be a case of you get what you pay for. A permanent structure will involve an investment in materials and labour but you will be repaid with peace-of-mind that your shade won’t blow away into next door’s garden and that the structure can be utilised all year round.  

If moving home is on your list of summer activities, let us find your perfect property match. Contact us for a list of available properties, some of which will come complete with shaded garden areas.

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5 ways to embrace friluftsliv – the Nordic love of outdoor living

Ubuntu is over (the Zulu way of saying ‘we are all one family’). We’ve gone past gezellig (the Dutch term for ‘a cozy atmosphere, which allows good times to happen’). And the cosy, comfortable and convivial hygge? It’s had its day for now.

The lighter, brighter and warmer weeks are here, and that calls for friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) – the Nordic word for open air living.  Even if you’re not a fan of following interior fads, Covid has forced many of us to entertain outside, and friluftsliv can also reduce stress and boost wellbeing, so why stay inside? 

It’s already common across Scandinavia to get together and socialise outside, whatever the weather. While we’re not suggesting that a hike in the pouring rain with friends is the fast track to contentment, friluftsliv is about shifting your mindset and being ready to head outdoors at the end of the working day, rather than loafing on the sofa or being glued to a screen.

Setting the scene in your own back garden or on your balcony will contribute to the success of friluftsliv, especially if you can create an all-weather area. Here are our top 5 tips for those looking to embrace outdoor living:- 

  1.     Provide somewhere to cook: this could be a pizza oven, a BBQ or even an open fire with a tripod set over the flames. Pre-plan a weekly dinner menu that can be cooked outside without an oven or microwave and you’ll find you stay in the fresh air to eat, rather than scuttle back inside.
  1.     Make sure you can see: once we’re past the summer solstice, the nights start drawing in but that’s no excuse. Lights that run off the mains, solar alternatives or even battery-powered lamps can create an alluring atmosphere after dusk and allow you to see what you’re doing.
  1.     Keep your furniture on standby: if the rigmarole of uncovering and arranging your garden furniture is a barrier to sitting outside, opt for weatherproof tables, chairs and outside sofas that are always out and ready for use. Look for metal, pre-treated wood and plastic rattan options.
  1.     Create a sheltered area: it rains alot in the UK, although summer can bring tropical downpours where the temperature remains high and the atmosphere humid. Opt for a sail shade, gazebo, pergola or awning to create a dry corner where you can watch the weather roll in.
  1.   Ensure there’s a source of heat: chilly, clear-sky nights often follow searing hot, cloudless days and when the sun sets, the temperature can drop sharply. A firepit, chiminea, gas-fired patio heater or open fire will provide a welcome social focal point as well as warmth.

If your appreciation of outside space is growing in importance, talk to us about moving home for more friluftsliv. We can show you a list of available properties with gardens, patios, balconies and terraces.

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7 places to start when baby proofing your home

Switch on the TV or visit a news website and there is no shortage of bumps and babies. Among the glut of Royal births and new celebrity offspring, one headline did catch the eye and it concerned the ex Chancellor, George Osborne. 

It was reported that the former political high flyer, who is to become a father this summer, is being encouraged to baby proof his London home, after it was revealed to be a very chic, sharply-styled mews property that is more bachelor pad than baby nest. 

This case highlights how some parents may have to adapt their grown-up interior style to accommodate small people – especially leading up to when babies start crawling and walking.

With this in mind, we bring you our quick guide to baby proofing a new home, bearing in mind that small people are quick, inquisitive and unpredictable.

 

  • Implement electrical safety

 

Tiny fingers will find the smallest of gaps, so lockable plug socket covers are a must, especially when it comes to sockets at skirting board level. It’s also wise to tie up cables and to block electrical hubs with heavy items of furniture.

  1. Remove hazardous items 

Babies love to reach out, grab things and put them in their mouths so hazardous items should be locked away or moved up high before a baby is born. Pay particular attention to batteries, coins, knives, tools, cleaning products, alcohol, sewing kits, plastic bags, house plants and medication. As an extra precaution, add safety catches to cupboard doors and drawers below waist height.

 

  • Eliminate trip hazards

 

As soon as a child’s first step is taken, parents need to remove anything that could cause them to fall. Pay attention to unsecured rugs, piles of shoes, loose pieces of carpet, trailing wires, vacuum cleaner cords and extension cables. 

 

  • Secure windows & doors

 

Window restrictors and childproof locks offer peace-of-mind if you have little explorers, and don’t forget to only ever use cord-free window dressings. Door stops and finger guards will prevent fingers and toes getting squished, and it’s also wise to check if any glazed panels contain safety glass.

 

  • Buy baby gates & a playpen

 

A baby’s new found freedom can also present an accident waiting to happen. A baby gate at the top and the bottom of the stairs is advised and using a baby gate across a doorway will restrict access to an out-of-bounds room or the garden. A playpen is another way to keep a baby safe in one spot.

 

  • Make furniture safe

 

Sharp corners will quickly be at eye height of a toddler, so use cushioned guards to prevent injury, paying particular attention to low-level items. Heavy or freestanding furniture pieces – especially bookcases, dressers and chests of drawers – should be screwed to the wall or securely fastened using anti-tip straps/brackets so they can’t be dragged over or toppled. 

 

  • Fire & water safety

 

Open fires and fireplaces should always be screened with a fixed fire guard, and extreme caution should be taken with candles or wax melt burners. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, if not already in place, and ensure they are tested on a regular basis. You may also like to buy a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket to keep in the home. Don’t forget to keep kettles out of reach and install tap guards to avoid scalds. 

Outside – fence off, securely cover or fill in ponds, water features and pools. 

Download, read or buy now 

This online guide to baby proofing really is a must-read, and covers other areas, such as garages and gardens, in more detail. If you find your home is unsuitable for family life, contact us for a list of alternative properties.

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6 ideas to get your guest room ready

With gatherings given the green light and overnight stays back on the agenda, your spare room may be in more demand than ever but is it ready for overnight guests?

Spare rooms have a notorious habit of becoming dumping grounds, which can render them unusable but with a plan of action, you can transform your space into somewhere welcoming for guests. Here are 6 ideas, tips and tricks for you to try:-

  1. Declutter: cast your eye around your spare room – are there stacks of laundry, piles of books and items destined for the loft? If so, diarise one day devoted to decluttering and remember the ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ mantra.
  2. Upgrade your storage: if, despite decluttering, you have items that need a home in your spare room, think about storing them out of sight. While plastic boxes are practical, they don’t really set a relaxing tone, so opt for storage ottomans, blanket boxes and neat under-bed bags. 
  3. Decorate: tired, dated rooms won’t provide a warm welcome but almost any decor can be refreshed with some basic DIY. A fresh lick of paint on the walls in a restful shade, such as pastel blue or green, is a good place to start. You could also paint wardrobe doors, change drawer handles and replace the floor covering, if it’s especially worn.
  4. Add furniture: while a proper bed is ideal, you could compromise with a sofa bed, futon or pull down bed to save space, a bedside table with a lamp saves fumbling around in a dark, unfamiliar room looking for the light switch. If you have room, a chest of drawers will provide guests with somewhere to store their clothes during extended stays.
  5. ‘Dress’ to impress: you can make the experience of staying away from home more inviting with a few finishing flourishes. Prevent guests awkwardly asking for towels with a neatly folded bale at the foot of the bed, while a reed diffuser will perfume the air and disguise any odours that can occur in underused rooms.
  6. Tackle dual-purpose rooms: if your spare room also doubles as an office or where you practice a hobby, your main preparation before guests arrive will be to find a temporary home elsewhere for your paraphernalia. If not possible, use a room divider to screen off anything that doesn’t set the right scene. 

If you don’t have enough bedrooms to invite family and friends to stay, why not talk to us about trading up? We can show you some available properties that give that extra bedroom and space to host.

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5 ways to fake the top interior trends

Has an interior design trend ever caught your eye and drawn you in…..until you get to the price? If you’re furnishing on a budget but don’t want to compromise on style, there is good news. 

We’ve tracked down the easiest, cheapest and most effective home hacks that even novice DIYers can follow. Why not try one out this weekend?

  1. If you follow interior fashions, you’ll know that Crittall style windows, doors and partitions are all the rage. The Crittall style is when a plain pane of glass is divided into sections by a black metal grid for an urban look. Off-the-shelf options can be expensive to buy and install but there is a quick and cheap fix. Armed with nothing more than a £2 role of electrical tape, people are creating stunning – and temporary – Crittall-style shower screens and doors. Take a look at this home hack and start taping.
  2. Reeded glass is having a design moment and the textured look can be seen across drinking glass, light fittings and doors. Replacing existing glass to get the look isn’t always practical but you could try this brilliant cheat. The DIY approach involves the application of temporary reed-effect film, which can be applied to glass-fronted cabinets and internal doors. 
  3. Even TikTok has been taken over by the interior design experts and one of the most popular tutorials has been posted by Geneva Vanderzeil, as detailed in this upcycling article, and features a surprising kitchen store cupboard staple. People are using a mix of acrylic paint and baking powder to give plastic or glass surfaces an earthen, on-trend terracotta-style texture. You keep costs down even more by browsing charity shops for vases and pots that could be transformed with a quick lick of this home-made mix.
  4. If you’ve been browsing the interior design shops, you may have noticed spirit bottle table lamps made from your favourite tipple. While some are merely stuffed with fairy lights, there are now more substantial versions – with hefty price tags – that are sold with a proper light bulb fitting, flex and plug. It is, however, relatively easy to make your own. This bottle lamp kit is just £14 – just add an empty bottle, shade and bulb for a stunning effect!
  5. When rattan is all over design stores Swoon, MADE.com and Oliver Bonas, you know it’s a trend to emulate. Rather than shell out hundreds of pounds for ready-made items, it’s actually very easy to adapt existing items of furniture. Armed with a jigsaw tool, a staple gun and a pre-woven roll of rattan, you could take on one of these DIY cheats. One of the most popular – and impactful – involves cutting out the middle panel of cabinet doors and fixing the rattan over the gap left.

If your design ideas go above and beyond furniture accessories, why not speak to us about moving home? Our friendly team is on hand to help, so contact us today.

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Hidden storage that’s good to go

There can be very few people who can confidently say they have enough storage in their home. If it’s not a case of clutter accumulating in every corner, it may be that the storage provided is a little on the stingy side, leaving items untidily on show.

One solution is to commission bespoke fitted storage solutions but this route can be just that……fitted, leaving you with an expensive investment that can’t accompany you to your next home. Thankfully, furniture designers and retailers have upped their game in terms of freestanding storage options that allow the owner to hide gubbins and junk out of sight.

No matter what room or your storage problem, there is a freestanding storage solution guaranteed to bring a new level of streamlined Zen to your home. Here are some options that have impressed us:-

Larders: also described as pantries, larders are the kitchen trend that shows no sign of going away and freestanding options are an excellent catch-all in the kitchen. The single and double door options from companies including MADE.com and The Cotswold Company hide a multitude of sins, with internal drawers, spice and bottle racks, and shelves all conveniently hidden from view when the doors are shut.

Armoires: originally designed to hold weapons and armour, today’s armoires are more likely to store linens and clothes rather than lances and swords. You can buy original antique items or off-the-shelf reproductions but one thing that marks out an armoire from a wardrobe is its ornate nature. Try Le Maison Chic for French-style armoires – many with mirrored doors.

Home offices: it’s no surprise that hide-away workstations – also referred to as micro home offices – have gained in popularity, as they offer a tidy alternative to spreading out over the dining table. Dedicated homes offices that are tucked away in freestanding cupboards have shelves set at the right height for keyboards and monitors, and come with the benefit of doors that can be shut to hide the working day. Try the Bruton hideaway home office from The Dormy House or the painted computer stations from Edmunds Clarke Furniture – a trade up from the traditional bureau.

Dressing tables: if you like the uncluttered look, a hidden dressing table is a great solution. The wide Luca wardrobe from Banbury Modern Furniture features sliding doors that open to reveal a drop-down dressing table with plenty of space for trinkets and beauty treasures. For something more space-saving, try Tikamoon’s floor standing ‘twig’ mirrored column cabinet, with its handy shelves hidden round the back.

If storage is such a problem that you need to move home for more space, contact us for available properties.

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6 portable garden trends

A quick skim of social media shows we are styling outside spaces in the same way as our home interiors – with colour, furniture and accessories – especially now our gardens are more important than ever. 

Thankfully, there is a more temporary route to this summer’s hottest garden trends for those not wanting to make permanent or expensive outdoor improvements – ideal if your current home isn’t your forever home. Here are our top 6 portable garden trends for this summer:-

  1. Fire pits & chimineas: with recent emphasis on entertaining outside – and the British weather not always delivering tropical temperatures – a source of outside heat has moved up the must-have list. A bonfire isn’t always safe or practical, especially if you’re renting, but the good news is fire pits and chimineas are very much in vogue. These wood-fired portable sources of heat stand on legs and therefore won’t scorch the ground below.
  2. Plant pots: plants can be expensive and if you do choose to fill beds and borders, there is no guarantee anything you dig up and transport will survive in your next garden. The most portable way of adding flora and fauna is to use pots. Opt for a variety of sizes and you’ll be able to grow everything from bulbs and bedding plants to vegetables and even small trees, then simply load the pots onto the removal van when you’re on the move!
  3. Mirrors: if your garden is more of a courtyard or terrace than extensive area, mirrors can bounce around daylight and trick the eye into believing the space is larger than it is – just as you would inside a home. Prop a mirror against a wall for a no-fix solution or securely wall mount for removal at a later date – just ensure you opt for a mirror designed for outdoor use.
  4. Lighting: whether for safety or a sense of theatre, garden lighting is big news this summer. Solar lights are a fantastic, wire-free way of illuminating your garden and can be purchased anywhere, from supermarkets to garden centres. Choose from strings of festoon and fairy lights, spotlights and lanterns – all with the added benefit of being totally portable. 
  5. Hot tubs: ‘plug in and play’ hot tubs have become less of a novelty and more of a permanent fixture, thanks to their temporary nature and more modest price point. Even though inflatable tubs feel a quick and easy luxury, they still need an outside power socket and careful daily chemical treatment – plus they use a significant amount of electricity. If you’re a tenant, you’ll need to check in advance with your landlord as to whether a hot tub and an outside power socket are allowed under the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  6. Waterproof textiles: the craze for creating outdoor rooms has led to an explosion of waterproof textiles in the form of cushions and rugs. Although it’s not desirable to leave these accessories out for a regular drenching, they will be shower proof and able to withstand a typical British summer. Opt for good-quality classic designs and a set of waterproof textiles will work in any garden you happen to grace.

If you’d like to see our list of available properties with gardens, please get in touch.

 

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Colour by compass

Unless you love the look of stark white walls, most of us like to introduce a little bit of colour to our homes. Did you know, however, where each room faces – north, south, east or west – can drastically impact how a colour looks? Whether you have a free license to paint walls, fancy hanging wallpaper or are adding colour with temporary art, colour mistakes can be avoided with some advance planning. 

One direction

Your first step should be identifying which way your rooms face. You can download a compass app to almost every smart device to help you establish which direction you’re dealing with, or use the compass that comes with Google Maps for a quick start. 

If you want to know which direction your entire property faces, simply stand at your front door, looking outwards, and read which way the compass points. If you’re trying to establish which way a particular room faces, stand in front of the window that is your biggest source of natural light and read the compass from that position.

North facing rooms

These tend to let in cooler light and can feel cold if your colour choices have blue, grey or green undertones. Colours with cream, yellow and orange hues will help make these rooms feel warmer, as will rich, darker shades. In fact, north facing rooms look great with deep red accents.

South facing rooms

These rooms are often filled with a warm, soft light from sunrise to sunset, therefore you can use blues and cool greens without the room feeling too cold. South facing rooms are also the place to experiment with pastels, although any colour tends to work when the natural light is slightly golden.

East and west facing rooms

When you’ll mostly use these rooms should dictate the colours you choose, as they can switch between both cool and warm natural light depending on the time of day. It’s common for west facing spaces to feature cooler light in the morning and softer light in the afternoon – the opposite is true for east facing rooms.

Save stress with samples

The calibration of our phone and computer screens rarely depict colours as they appear in real life, so anything you see online should only be used as a guide. The most accurate way of deciding which colour is for you is by obtaining samples – tester pots of paint, wallpaper cut offs and fabric swatches. 

Try and get enough so you can create four samples of each colour you have in mind, then stick a sample of each to every wall in your room (use something like 3M Command’s no-residue adhesive strips if you’re worried about damaging the wall). You’ll be amazed at how different the same colour looks in various places, as shadows and other furnishings will influence their tone.

Look into the light

To make sure you really love a colour, check the samples under different light conditions. A pale pink, for instance, may look almost white in the morning, like bubble gum at lunch and more orange in the evening. Plus, don’t forget to alter the light source too – natural light with curtains/blinds open, at night with curtains/blinds shut, with overhead artificial lights on and with just side or lamp lights too.

If you’re looking for a new home that’s a blank canvas ready to make your mark – or you’d like a property that’s already decorated with pops of colour – get in touch for a list of available homes.