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Brighten Up Your Conservatory (Part 1)

The birds are singing, the sun is shining and goodness me, is that the aroma of badly burnt meat in next doors garden?

Yes, the summer is here.

Never mind the first cuckoo of Spring, it’s now all about when you hear the first lawnmower of the year. And, whilst we all like to hear the peaceful churrrr-churrrr of a hand operated one, its more than likely going to be the rattling cacophony of one of Hayter’s finest that you find the chap at No.26 pushing up and down his front lawn.

Gives you a warm feeling inside doesn’t it? On the other hand, that might have come from the sausage you’ve just blagged from next door.

Burnt to charcoal on the outside, pink and cold on the inside.

Nice.

This is also the time of year that sees us, once again, take up refuge in a room that, for the most part, is pretty much abandoned and disregarded for seven or eight months of the year.

It becomes a dumping ground, a place to put furniture and accessories that can’t, or won’t, belong anywhere else.

It’s the room that has a flamboyant mix of chairs in it. You know, “just incase people come round”. A mix of garden chairs, armchairs, upright chairs, those nasty chairs made to look as if a film director would sit in one and the Shackleton's high seat chair (it’s lovely) that your wife inherited from her Auntie.

A room that you don’t so much stride through with an air of confidence as carefully edge through, mindful of the corner of that glass coffee table that might as well have a roundel painted on it,  or the former treadmill that is now a convenient clothes horse, an expensive and ugly piece of hardware that’s been wedged up tight against the wall, its stubby legs perfect for rapping into your shins as you gingerly walk past, aware that any one of the 471 pairs of shoes strewn across the floor is waiting, just waiting, to trip you up.

Where, you ask, can there be such interior chaos?

That would be the Conservatory.

They were huge in the 1970's Why? Well, it was the backlash after all those cheap flights and holidays out to the Med that everyone was taking at the time. Eating late and eating al fresco, drinking wine, listening to Gordon Giltrap and generally doing totally outrageous things like sitting outside on “...what the Spaniards call a pat-IO darling, it means an outside courtyard”

“And we’re going to have one”.

Thus, for every patio laid upon the groaning back lawns of suburbia, a conservatory did surely follow, a palace of pallid plastic and glass.

Early versions of Britain’s attempts to live a continental lifestyle were, let’s be honest, a little bit dodgy.

But they’re pretty much part of the domestic establishment now, a welcome place of extra space and light.

The trouble is, we have this tendency to use them as the overflow so, rather than providing us with all that extra space to stretch our legs, read a book and take in the garden, we now see them as storage space. At least, that is, until June, when some bright spark in the family comments that, seeing as it’s such a nice day, why don’t we take our supper out into the Conservatory?

Which is fine. Except you’ll end up eating your Pappardelle as you gaze out onto a garden which is now full of all the furniture you’ve had to take out of your conservatory so you can sit down in it and enjoy a summer evening.

So look. Let’s give your conservatory the respect it deserves.

Starting today.

One of the most important facts to take into consideration when it comes to a conservatory is that it doesn’t have to look anything like the rest of your house.

I’m not kidding. It’s a room that you should use to exercise your imagination, to be a little arty, creative, even quirky with.

So yes, have a living room and bedrooms that are a conservative mix of white walls, pine furniture and a scatter cushions from John Lewis.

Nothing wrong with that.

But how about being a little bit daring in the conservatory? Don’t let it be the missionary position of rooms in your house, check out the Homebase Karma Sutra and look for something a little more edgy.

Look at introducing some colours that reflect the nature that you’re trying to bring into your home, that very same nature that the room allows you to be part of.

So how about choosing from a pastel of light blues, greens, yellows and even that earthenware favourite, terracotta?

Make it a room that’s striking, one that people are taken back by whenever they go into it, a space that makes a statement, that says something about you.


Don’t get all twisted up in that oh-so-British thing about needing to have approval from others for whatever you’re doing. A conservatory should be all about you.

There are those who will say a conservatory needs to be an extension to the home.

An approach that we dismiss most equivocally.

If you’re bringing the outside in as a matter of course-and there seems little point, again, in making your conservatory look like the rest of your home, remember, this is your altar of outside living-then there should always be room for some plants in your newly revamped room.

And by this, we don’t mean a tiny little cactus tucked up and away on a long forgotten shelf or a withered bunch of something that passes for flowers from your local 24 hour petrol station.

Remember, you are thinking big and thinking outside and that means, cue shudder at horrible corporate phrase, but there you go, thinking outside of the box and that box is the rest of the home that you currently live in.

So look to get some big plants, foliage that, again, makes a statement.

You’d be surprised at just how good a big plant can look when its placed against an equally bold and colourful background. And we’ll show you examples in the blog that follows this one.

And talking of colourful....

If, as we suspect you might be, you’re focusing on using your conservatory as somewhere you can eat, either as a romantic twosome, with family or with friends, then what about making a focal point out of a piece of furniture that is often as neglected as the room itself, something that’s pushed up against a wall and forgotten.

That’s right, it’s your dining room table.

The now humble dining room table used to be the focal point of all rooms. Big, bold and in the middle, the rest of a room had to adapt to it, not the other way around. Why do you think all of the biggest and best companies in the world have a boardroom complete with a large table and chairs all around it?

Because it’s paying tribute to the dining room and the meetings that used to take place whenever a  family sat down to eat, the table where folk received and gave council with the head of the family, just as the chairman does today, sat at the head of the table.

There’s going to be a revolution. And it’s happening in your Conservatory. So keep reading...

Published: Aug 10, 2017

Invaders!

Let’s all collectively sigh a big sigh of relief and give thanks that, no matter how moving out to Australia might seem on so many levels...

...better climate, outdoor living, friendly people, barbecue culture, no petty squabbling over Brexit and similar and, best of all, no Britain’s Got Talent...

...there is one overwhelming advantage to living it up here in jolly old Blighty. Because whilst Oz might have its distractions, the one thing that we don’t have here that they most definitely have over there, is a surplus of dangerous animals that can kill you as soon as look at you.

Let’s face it, you can’t even go and hang the washing out in your typical Aussie back garden without running the risk of death in the process. Deadly snake snuggled down in the laundry? Check. Venomous spider crawling up your leg? Yep.

You can’t even go for a swim without putting your records straight first and checking that your will is up to date before you immerse yourself in the hideously dangerous waters incase you float into the path of a box jellyfish or twenty.

Not a nice way to go. But one of many exit options available to you down under that will send you down under as you potter about your borders or spend what you thought would be an uneventful afternoon cutting the lawn...that is, of course, until you disturbed a now feisty Eastern Brown snake which, bless its scales, has opted to make the major population centres of Australia its preferred habitat.

This is a snake, ladies and gentleman that, if suitably annoyed (and simply existing in the first place seems to be reason enough to rattle its cage) will chase you, catch up with you and bite you.

And, as if by magic, weeding out your hardy perennials seems to be the most wonderful task you can ever have. Because no earwig has yet chased after a human being with the set intention of savaging one to death.

And yet, and yet...

We are subject to a few nasty pests in this country. Yes, really. And guess what? Not only do they want to invade your house, they also want to raise several families and set up permanent home there.

So then. What and who are these personal space invaders, how do we know they are in-situ and, most importantly of all, how do we get rid of them?

We’ll start with an old favourite and what might be the worst case scenario as far as the UK is concerned.

A wasps nest.

Now, if your typical Australian found a wasps nest in his home, he’d aggravate them for fun. He’d invite them to sting them before asking his neighbours around to have a good stinging as well. “Bonzer mate...”, they’d tell him, “...it fair dinkum tickles”.

Because let’s face it, if you live with the day to day possibility that you might get chased down your garden by an Eastern Brown snake, a few thousand wasps are a bit of a Sunday School picnic.

But they’re anything but that here.

The best way to ascertain that there just might be wasps nest close by is if you are experiencing a high number of wasps in and around the confines of your home and garden. And yes, whilst that does sound like a case of stating the obvious, most people put up with being dive bombed at their barbecue and just assume that there are “...a lot of them about today”.

Don’t be fooled. If there are a ‘lot of them about’ then it’s likely they’ve just moved in and are acquainting themselves with the area.

And that is quite literally. They’re finding their bearings, seeing where there is easily available food and drink (‘Barbecue? Don’t mind if I do, can I invite 4,999 of my mates?’) and generally getting used to the lie of the land.

A mature wasps nest can, by mid-Summer, contain thousands of wasps. Take, for example, a town like Dartmouth (population 5,068). Now imagine all of Dartmouth condensed into a space around about the size of a football.

Yep, such is the fullness and potential fury of wasps nest in your home.

So you need to work out where it is or at least might be. And fast. Don’t go blundering into your loft or garden shed with a rolled up piece of newspaper or a duster as that would be no more effective than Pitcairn Island declaring all out war on China.

You need a bit of stealth. So, to try and locate the nest, carefully watch the flight path of the wasps, something which, as their numbers increase, becomes a lot easier.

It’ll start off looking very small and insignificant. Infact, when a Queen Wasp starts to build a nest in the Spring, it is usually not much bigger than a golf ball. So, clearly, it isn’t the easiest of things to spot.

But fear not, they’ll get a lot bigger than that. And that is when they can become a problem. A nest can easily become as big as a football-and then some. So even if you notice a few hanging around at this time of year, it’s worth just keeping an eye on things incase they’re looking to settle down, in which case you can, with the help of local experts, do something about it.

The places to look are sheltered spots which have easy access-for wasps, that is. Therefore you’ll often find a nest in a wall cavity, under an eave, in a shed or garage or even in a bird box. And no, don’t try and get them out yourself. Seriously. This isn’t fixing a shelf or dabbing a bit of paint on the skirting board.


Let someone else come and do it for you.

Whilst we’re on the subject of garden and home pests that might, given the opportunity, give you a bit of a sting or a nip, it’s worth mentioning the False Widow spider.

They’ve had a bit of bad PR of late with various media outlets claiming they’re heading over here in their millions amidst our oranges, bananas and pineapples and are so deadly that, even if one of them looks at you in funny way, you’ll collapse and fall to the floor in a state of deathly paralysis.

Quite.

The thing to remember is that they are not called a FALSE Widow spider for nothing.

So let’s deal with the facts.

It’s been given its rather unfortunate name because it resembles, on a rather superficial level, the infamous Black Widow spider which is, of course, notorious for being amongst the most venomous of all spiders but which is, thankfully, a non-resident here.

It can bite. But the bite is usually no worse than a wasp sting and certainly not as deadly or toxic as some of the tabloids would tell you.

So on that basis, a couple of spider related tips from your all round green good guys and girls at Loft Blinds whilst you’re pottering about your home and garden this Spring.

Firstly, don’t assume every spider you see now is a False Widow and squash it. Let them live please. All of them. They do an incalculable lot of good and, in a fast disappearing natural world, we need all the wildlife we can get.

Secondly, if you do come across or disturb a False Widow, it is going to be a thousand times more frightened of you than you are of it. So let it go on its way. This isn’t Australia and it isn’t going to chase you.

More about house and garden pests next time around so keep reading. In the meantime, if you’ve any tales of your own about unwanted invaders in your home, drop us a line here, we’d love to hear how you managed to deal with it and any tips of your own you’d like to pass on.

Published: Jul 28, 2017

Spring Clean Your Loft (Part 1)

 

How many rooms are there in your house then?

Go on, take a guess. And yes, you can count the hallway and landing. I’ll grab a quick coffee and muffin whilst I’m waiting.

Done yet? Kitchen, living room, three to four bedrooms, a conservatory maybe? Say ten, eleven or maybe twelve rooms in total.

Bet you’re surprised at just how many rooms you’ve got. I know someone who lives in a very nice, albeit modestly proportioned house. When I asked him that same question, he had to think about it, indeed, he literally ended up going through them one by one, ground floor first then the first floor.

“I can’t believe it” he admitted after he’d done all of his workings out. “There are ten different rooms in my house”.

But he was wrong. He does, infact, have twelve rooms in his home. Because he’d forgotten his lofts.

Easy to do. So easy infact, that I bet a fair few of you are now saying to yourselves pretty much the same thing.

“Oh yes, the loft. I forgot the loft”.

Such is the lot of the loft, that great forgotten space in so many of our homes.

Dark, dusty, damp and forgotten.  We probably see more of the ski slopes, Kasbahs and medieval cathedrals of the world than we do our lofts.

Sound familiar?

Well, maybe it’s time for you to do something about it. Today.

You may, of course, have grand designs on your loft space. Its somewhere you’ve long talked about as being an extra bedroom, an office or study, a home cinema, a den for the kids. All of those things and more. And that’s great, we salute your vision and ambition. Because the loft is a great underutilised resource, a quite literal waste of space. But listen. It’s not going to become anything fast until you know exactly what’s up there and what you’ve got in terms of space and potential. Because for as long as it’s nothing more than a dumping ground for all the stuff you don’t need, you’re never going to do a thing about it and you’re only ever going to poke your head above the hatch a couple of times a year (ie) to get the Christmas decorations down and, two or three weeks later, to put them back up there again.

What. A. Waste.

So come on. It’s time to spring clean your loft. And we’re going to suggest how you might want to go about it.

First and foremost, if it really is as neglected a space as I think it is, then you are going to have to get dirty. So no popping up with your dustpan and brush whilst you’re wearing your everyday clothes. Because this is going to be dirty. Very dirty indeed.

So prepare yourself and dress for the occasion. You have absolutely no idea how much dust, fluff, mould and other grimy unspeakables are going to be stirred up once you start removing all the old bits of furniture, boxes, crates and numerous layers of loft insulation you have up there. So make sure you are protected. That means getting hold of decent FPP3 grade dust mask from any reputable hardware shop. And make sure its CE marked. And no, this isn’t being over cautious. Inhaling too dust can easily give you a nasty respiratory infection, especially if the dust includes dried bird droppings. So with that in mind, get yourself some eye protectors as well. Plus some disposable overalls. If you get the white ones, you can guarantee that they will be a rather nasty shade of black once you’re finished. Which might otherwise have been the colour of your favourite cashmere sweater. Or even the inside of your lungs. So don’t be too cautious. Lofts, especially ones that have been neglected for a few years, can be absolutely filthy places. So look after yourself whilst you’re up there.

You should also look out for flora and fauna whilst you’re up there. I kid you not, if you leave that great cavernous space above your heads unattended for a few years then you are going to get visitors and they are either going to make themselves right at home and claim squatters rights or, worse than that, they are going to die in-situ, meaning you may have a few rotten corpses to remove. Look out for evidence of wasps, bees, moths, spiders and birds, especially with regards to this time of year, those that would rather like to nest in your loft, starlings being a prime example. If, on the other hand, you get bats up there, then there is nothing you can do about that other than report it to your local council. Once bats make themselves at home in your loft, you’re going to find it very difficult indeed to shift them as they are a protected species which means you won’t even be able to get up there to shift the great quantities of bat droppings they’re going to gift you as part of their stay.

Now, assuming you’ve been able to fight off the starlings and put some ointment on all the wasp stings, what about all the stuff you’ve put up there, pre-loved and forgotten, those oh-so-precious keepsakes of life that are so special to you that you had no choice but to thrown them in a box a few years ago and dump them into a room full of pigeon shit, cobwebs and mould?

Yep, those love letters from a former love must have been special. Likewise your collection of old Marvel comics and the three boxes of videos that you swear you “might want to watch again one day”.

Hey, and why not? Who can’t get enough of watching Big Trouble In Little China again and again and again...?

So come on, be ruthless. If you took the time to pack it all away in boxes in the first place just so you could dump it all in the loft and forget about it, those things can’t be that special, can they? Make a decision: can you live without it? Yes you can. So throw it all away. And that means you can’t just move all the boxes from your loft to the garden shed or underneath a bed somewhere. Seize the day. Be brave. This is about reclaiming lost and wasted space, remember?

We’re getting somewhere now, aren’t we? You’re dressed for the occasion, you’re prepared for anything and you’ve decided, finally, that your household has no need for three spare Breville sandwich toasters, a pushchair with one wheel missing or your collection of Iron Maiden and Saxon albums.

I’m proud of you. You’ve beaten many obstacles to get this far so now, before the real hard work begins, you just have one step to make-which is making sure you’ve allowed for the size of the job in hand and the time it’s going to take you. Is it a case of a bit of dust and grim, some added sweat and around half a dozen bin bags? Or might it be thirty, forty or even more? And are you going to be able to leave it all out for the bin men to take away on Thursday morning or is it a case of you taking several trips to your local dump? Or even hiring a skip?

Don’t underestimate how much muck, filth and rubbish you might end up getting rid of. Remember, you won’t have been the only person whose gone to pack away a bookcase full of books and thought that one large plastic crate would be more than sufficient for the job only to find out that you actually needed four.

Put it another way, there might not look like there is much up there. But that’s because it’s all scattered over a wide area. Once you get it all in one small space, well, things are going to look just a little bit mountainous.

So make like a scout. And be prepared.

But look, you’ve made a start. And, sooner rather than later, you’re going to be able to reclaim all of that lost and wasted space up in the roof and make it your own again. What you can start to do with it once its empty is what we’ll be covering here next.

Which is when things start to get just a little bit exciting. So keep reading...

Published: Mar 27, 2017

Your Kitchen Should Be An Extension of Your Personality

 

New Year, new hope, signs of Spring on the horizon.

After the ravages of a particularly gloomy winter it’s time to look to the future. With optimism. You may not feel like skipping at the sheer joy of life in much the same way a new born lamb does in a lush country meadow, but you can still feel that rush in your heart at the prospect of whatever lies ahead.

We’re looking at ways in which you can symbolise that optimism in your home. By making it more spacious, brighter and more colourful.

Out, out and away with the old. And in with the new, the fresh, exciting and contemporary.

And what better place to start than the living, breathing hub of any good home. The kitchen.

So many of us underestimate the value of the kitchen in our lives, families, homes and, indeed, throughout history.

We’ll often show off a new car, hi-fi or piece of garden furniture to anyone and everyone who’ll care to take a look. And there will be a few. Hell, I’ve known men  who’ll croon like Fathers with their first born over a lawnmower or set of garden tools.

And don’t even get them started on a garden shed. Stick a new one of those in your garden and men from miles around will be drawn, by some primeval force, to come to it, feel  it and admire it’s tongue and groove roof in much the same way you’d expect someone to go weak kneed over Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

Except that it’s a shed.

We fervently believe that if there is any room in the house worth getting about then it’s the kitchen.

Think about it. Why did, for example, Jona Lewie warble on about how “...you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties”.

All the great parties you’ve been to. I bet they centred on the hosts kitchen, didn’t they? A place to eat, drink, unwind, chat and relax. The only place to be.

So let’s celebrate your kitchen. Let’s make it the place in your house where people like to gather, to talk, to live.

So, first things first. Go take a look at your kitchen. Right now if you’ve got the chance.

Does it look tired? Is it cluttered with all manner of culinary paraphernalia about the place. Zesters that have never zested; graters that have never grated and a bread maker that still has the price on it?

Time to reorganise things.

We probably let more clutter accumulate in the kitchen than in any other room in the house. Your kitchen work surfaces should be clear, clean, bright and inviting. But are they? No, of course not. They’ll be burdened by a phalanx of recipe books, a toaster, a mixer or two, a bread bin and board plus assorted cups, glasses, bottles and myriad other containers. All left in-situ because you want them within easy and convenient reach yet, in leaving them all out, you’re making your kitchen look like a bit of a dumping ground, an inconvenience even.

Put. Things. Away.

All of those unnecessary items make your kitchen look crowded and far less cheerful and welcoming as it should be. You don’t want to share a cup of coffee with a friend only to have to be repeatedly moving things to find some space. It’s no good finding time and space to invite them round if you aren’t prepared to let them have some time and space to be in. So get all those excess items put away. That includes toasters, sandwich makers, waffle irons and anyone of your assorted mixers. You keep your clothes in a wardrobe for a reason, the reason being you only get them out when you are going to wear them. So why is the garlic press on permanent display.

Repeat after me. Put. Things. Away.

Now that you’ve done that, take a look at the overall decor of your kitchen. Start with the ceiling. If it’s been painted in a dark colour or if you have some dark wooden beams in the room, then they’ll be casting a dull pallor over a room that should be as fresh and bright as the food that you prepare and present in it is.

A white ceiling in a kitchen will reflect light back into the room and, as well as making it look brighter, give it a little zest and, in the process, even make the room look a little bigger. Light draws people in, we’re attracted to it. So don’t have a dreary kitchen, give it a look of life.

If you’ve painted the ceiling white then it really doesn’t matter if the walls are a darker colour. We’ve said before how the juxtaposition between a dark and light colour in a single room can be really effective. And that most certainly applies here. Even if you really can’t bring yourself to paint the ceiling white, then consider a cream colour, a pale yellow or even a mint colour.

Go on, give it a go. You might even like it!

Other possibilities you might want to consider could include installing a skylight if you are able to. Added light in a kitchen not only brightens up the room but, in a part of the house where attention to detail is mission critical, it helps you see what you are doing, reading and creating so much more  clearly. It might also help illuminate other ideas and inspirations you could want to put into practice.

If you can’t install a skylight then consider spotlights installed over the area where you do all of your work. It can only help to see things more clearly if you are cutting, chopping, dicing or sautéing. But there is so much more to it than that. Think of all the great works of art around the world and how critical it is for an art gallery to light the painting in order to show it off in the best way possible. No-one goes into the Louvre and asks for the lights to be turned up so they can see the Mona Lisa more clearly.

So why shouldn’t you see all of your culinary creations in the best possible light-before, during and after the creation. And that goes for the people who are going to be eating them as well. Put yourself and your cooking under the spotlight, give it an empty stage and let it be admired in all its colourful glory.

No-one ever wanted to squint at a seafood paella through a 40 watt bulb and a herd of dirty coffee cups. So give it the West End treatment and a stage it can be proud to stand upon.

Now, let’s talk about colour. I’ve given you a certain amount of conventional leeway by pointing out the advantages of a white ceiling in your kitchen. Yet, rather than inviting an invasion of further white and magnolia based colour schemes to the room in the wake of your all new ceiling, consider the following.

How about your cabinets? Dark colours, especially wood or wood look can be very dreary and give any kitchen a dark and cheerless look. But you needn’t rip them all out. There are companies that can work with you to replace the doors only.

Then there is your kitchen floor. Odds on its worn and a little bit grubby in places. One replacement surface you might want to consider is a tiled one. They can be bright, hard wearing, easy on the eye and, critically, easy to keep clean.

And how about the colour of your kitchen walls? Well now, that is your choice. If the kitchen is your domain then the hard and fast rule here is for you to choose a colour that you like, that you feel matches your character and the mood of the room you cook and create in.

So spread your wings a little and see what you come up with. Dare to be different.

A bright and cheerful kitchen should be the social epicentre of any home, not the dull domain of soup stains and dried on pasta. Make it an extension of your character and find, in doing so, not only how you want to be in that room more and more but, delightfully, so do all the people around you.

Especially at parties.

Published: Feb 27, 2017

Keep Your Home Warm in the Winter

So, it’s winter.

Don’t deny it. Yes, there are still crazy men out there wearing shorts in that laissez-faire manner that says they are forever living their lives in the sunshine and that a little bit of frost never hurt anyone. Least of all them.

Secretly, of course, they’re as cold as the proverbial witches you-know-what. But they can’t give in to comfort and conformity now and slip on a nice cosy pair of cords. It’s way too late for that. And them.

You, on the other hand want to stay warm. But you want to do so with a little style, a little, shall we say it, class?

I salute you and your covered legs. This blog is for you.

Keeping our homes warm and comfortable throughout the colder weather is a challenge for many people. Especially if their homes are poorly insulated.

And it’s very easy to tell those which fall into that category. Just wait until we have some snow and then go and take a walk around your neighbourhood.

The poorly insulated homes will be the ones that ‘boast’ a bare roof. No snow, just a damp patch and some dripping water. Now, that might all look clean and tidy but in reality, it’s a sign of just how much heat is pouring up, up and away from the house, melting all the snow on the roof as it does so.

The house that has a roof that is deep and crisp and even with the white stuff however. Now THAT’S a well-insulated house. Indeed, you can bet your last mince pie that its inhabitants will be sat in their shirt sleeves inside alongside a thermostat that is set to a healthy (and relatively frugal) 18-20 degrees or so.

Not like those in the house with the bare roof however. Their heating system will be on full blast and they’ll be wondering why they’re still cold.

The answer? Simple. Make sure your loft is insulated.

Insulating your loft is one of the most effective methods you can employ to give your home a good Energy Efficiency Rating (EPC-and yes, the acronym should be EER but it isn’t!) and something you should always give a priority to if you have what is known as a ‘virgin loft’ (i.e.) one that has 25mm or less (and that includes none at all) of insulating.

Take it from us, the sooner you act on a loft that is either poorly insulated or, the horrors, has zero insulation, the sooner you will start to notice the savings on your energy bill.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading then.

It’s estimated that, without proper loft insulation as much as 25% of the heat generated in your house will be lost as it rises upwards and out via the loft and roof. But hey, at least the starlings on the chimney breast will be warm-and if that’s all that matters to you then great!

But most people would rather run an energy efficient home and save on the bills.

Good loft insulation acts as a barrier. But it does it in two ways.

Firstly and, as we are explaining here, it slows the movement of heat out of the house during the winter. But also, almost as importantly, it slows that same movement of heat coming into your house during the summer.

It is then, in effect, a form of air conditioning for you that helps keep the house cool and comfortable.

Does that sound all a bit too good to be true? It gets better.

Because installing it is just about one of the easiest DIY jobs you can do in your house.

Don’t know how to wire a plug or which end of a paintbrush is which? Fear not. This is something you can do for yourself.

Remember, in order for you to have a nice warm house, you are going to need to have a cold loft.

The best ones are those that, when you poke your head above the parapet cause you to take an involuntary breath of frigid air and say, “…bloody hell, this loft is cold”. When you are able to say that my son, your job is done and done well.

Making your loft purposefully cold means laying insulation directly above the ceiling in order to produce this barrier to slow that upward movement of heat out of the home during the winter.

It isn’t rocket science. Yet there are thousands and thousands of inadequately insulated homes all over the country with people living in them saying, “…it’s a bit raw in here love”.

95% of homes are insulated with wool insulation. Easy to obtain and, although a little bit bulky, fairly light and easy to carry-as in out of the store and into the back of your car (or a friends if you have one of those little cars that sounds like a hair drier) and then out of the back of the car, into your house and up the loft ladder.

You’ve got that far? Hurrah!

The part of the loft that you need to insulate is between the joists. They’re the long and sticky out bits of wood that you have to walk on to avoid putting a foot through the ceiling when you go up there to get the Christmas decorations down.

See, you didn’t even know what a ‘joist’ was when you started reading this. Now you can drop the word into casual conversation over coffee with your friends.

They’ll be ever so impressed.

Mind you, it’s all very well talking the talk. You’ve now got to walk the walk.

Most roof joists are around 100mm high. And guess what? You can get rolls of insulation that are 100mm thick (or less than that or greater, it depends on the height of your joists) which means you can roll them out, one at a time and in-between the joists.

Simple.

Then, once you’ve done that (and if you want to be so energy efficient, you need a cape and super hero name) you can roll out some insulation that is 200mm thick at right angles to the joists meaning that, when you're finished, you have a thick carpet-like layer of insulation in your loft that you can, if you wish, cover in sheets of MDF so that you have a surface that you can walk on-so no more hopping about from joist to joist for you.

It’ll be a job well done. A loft that will, should a prospective buyer for your property poke his or her head up there greet with a satisfied nod of approval.

But remember. It’s going to be a bit chilly up there. Infact, your loft may end up being so cold that you might, on occasion, find Bear Grylls doing a spot of arctic survival training up there.

Which would mean a job really well done.

For more tips and tricks on making your home more energy efficient, check out our post on that here.

 

Published: Jan 19, 2017

Don't Abuse the Third Bedroom... Use It!

 

Harry Potter lived in a cupboard under the stairs.

He was lucky.

Had his guardians really wanted to make him suffer they’d have stuck him in what Estate Agents optimistically refer to as the 'third bedroom'.

AKA the box room. The broom cupboard.

Or, more practically speaking, extra storage space. Except of course that it isn’t, not in a practical sense anyway.

Open the door, deposit whatever it is you don’t need but still want to keep, close the door and forget that it ever happened.

A familiar tactic for many. Come on, own up. How many of you have got a room like this in your home?

Yet it needn’t be a lost cause. Indeed, rather than being the room that an estate agent regards as an obstacle, it can be one that draws as much attention and interest as any expensively refurbished bathroom or vast open plan kitchen.

Less really can be more.  A lot, lot more.

Let’s assume that your ‘difficult’ third bedroom is being used for precisely that purpose. If that is the case then, unsurprisingly, the bed is going to be the focal point. Thus, if you have a large bed in a small room then it’s going to look and feel uncomfortable. Yes, it IS a bedroom. But is your own room just a space with a bed in it? Of course not. We want our bedrooms to reflect who and what we are.

They have character, emotion, even personality.

Picture the scene. Someone is being shown around the house. They are shown the kitchen, the living room, bathroom, main bedroom, even the study cum office.

All are accompanied by a long and loving description of the room, it’s decor and the inspiration behind it.

You may as well be in the Guggenheim for all the love and money that’s been splashed out on the master bedroom.

Yet the door to the third bedroom remains firmly shut. No-one goes in there.

That’s the smallest bedroom explains the host, rushing the adoring hoards past it as if it’s contents had leprosy.

Now, let’s go and take a look at the guest WC. Simon found this totally ama-zing  bidet when he was in Japan...

Such is the lot of the spare bedroom. Overlooked in favour of something which...well, you get my drift.

But no more.

Let’s start with the fundamentals. And that means the bed. Having a large bed in a small bedroom will instantly make it feel cramped and uncomfortable. And hotels are as guilty as anyone when it comes to this.

I found myself booked into a smallish room one night. No problem, it was just a place to sleep, nothing more. But the bed was so big, I had to move it to one side in order to get into the bathroom.

Ridiculous.

So consider having a smaller bed and size down the decor that comes with it. If there are a hundred books crammed onto a single book case then get rid of ninety of them and either leave the space clear or put a few carefully chosen decorations there instead.

A candle, a crystal, a vase with a single flower in it.

Get the picture? Indeed, if the picture in on the wall is a big one then get it out and either replace with a smaller one or consider putting a mirror there instead.

Mirrors instantly make small rooms look spacious.

Whilst we’re on the subject of light and space, don’t forget how important your choice of room colour is in all of this. Much like the dreaded avocado suite that dominated your guest bathroom for years-well, let’s face it, you don’t have to use it-small bedrooms, being the runt of the household litter, are usually daubed in whatever cheap and plentiful colour paint that comes to hand.

Failing that, they are the only room in the home that is still afflicted with the dread psychedelic wallpaper of yesteryear.

I know. It looked SO good in the catalogue.

Dark colours have this annoying habit of absorbing light. And, whilst you can blame Physics for that, the noble science is far from responsible for you allowing any room, most of all a small one to be dominated by light sucking shades of brown and similar. So, for the very best effect, select soft tones of off-white, blue and green. Brighter rooms always look bigger and more inviting so, whilst you’re at it, how about painting your wall trim and mouldings in an even lighter colour than your walls.  

I think we’re getting somewhere.

But how about if you don’t want that smallest room to be a bedroom anymore?

It doesn’t have to be. There’s no arcane law that says that you have to shove a bed into the smallest room in your house and hope for the best.

Oh no no no no no, dear me no (try ‘hearing’ that in a Stephen Fry voice) not at all.

Small rooms present big opportunities. And you can, if you want, let yourself go a bit here. Because there is no need to be practical or stay within any pre-defined lines. Especially if it means removing the threat of an errant twenty-something ever returning to the roost just to ‘get their head together’.

I’m sorry but we don’t have a bedroom for you here anymore.

You. Have. The. Power.

One very obvious solution in this era of working from home is to convert your smallest bedroom into an office.

Now there’s no easy way to go about this. But believe me, it’ll be worth it...

The most sensible and effective approach is to totally empty the room and to start from scratch. That also means taking it seriously. So no lugging the bed out and shoving a cheap desk from Staples in its place.

Don’t you dare.

Take rough measurements to determine where you can best out the larger items. That includes the all important desk, filing cabinets and work tables. Note where the electrical sockets are in the room as well as where the window is and whether you want to be able to sit and look out of it as you work (not recommended, can be a distraction) or whether you’d prefer it at your back (in which case a blind will be needed) or at the side.

Much thinking needed here, even before the banging, crashing, nailing, screwing and painting starts.

But, again, it will be worth it.

You’ll still need to maximise the space you have. So think about having a dedicated corner desk unit instead of a standard desk. Lots of space for you and, if needed, someone else, without taking up too much space in the room.

You’re on the way. The rest is up to you. But look. Google started its life in someone’s bedroom. Why not go one better?

More ideas on what to do with the bedroom that doesn’t need to be a bedroom anymore in the next blog.

In the meantime, if you’ve done anything creative with your smallest room, send us a picture so we can feature it here.

Get creative. It’s fun!

Published: Dec 21, 2016

Off The Wall Properties

Church Conversion

We take a lot of pride in our homes.

And rightly so. They will almost certainly be the biggest financial investment that we ever make.

Is it worth it?

On reflection, yes, it probably is. Owning your home gives you the security that you can’t get with renting, no matter how affable your landlord might seem. Indeed, he or she may be the most affable person you know. But that doesn’t stop the monthly rent you pay them almost certainly exceeding what you could be paying on a mortgage for a similar property.

Let’s face it, whenever they see you, all they hear is this.

There’s also the fact that the value of your home will almost certainly increase as the years pass. Consider those who were able to get themselves onto the property ladder for the first time back in the 1990’s for example when the average UK property price was £51,245*.

For the first quarter of 2016, the average house price in the UK was £198,564.

OK, it’s the proverbial mathematics on the back of a beer mat. But it’s not unreasonable to think that those who bought a home back in the 1990’s and have now either paid off, or are very close to paying off their mortgage are sitting on a very nice little nest egg thankyou very much.

As good as cash in the bank? No, better, miles better. Name a bank or a pension plan that gives that sort of return on your initial investment.

You might be struggling.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. That isn’t our style.

What we like to do at Loft Blinds is, as the song goes, accentuate the positive......

Because the property market isn’t beyond everyone. Not, at least, as it might have been a few years ago.

And if you’re ready and willing to be just a little bit leftfield in your property search then you might just end up with something that can not only be bought for a reasonable price but will, over time, almost certainly draw a lot more interest and attention than the average three bed semi.

Because I’m not talking about the average here. And we’re not going to be enthusing about any three bed semi’s. Or anything like them for that matter.

*Figures from House Price Crash.

We’re looking at properties that are a little bit different. Unusual? Yes. Unique? Perhaps. Not the average three bed semi? Most definitely.

Water Tower Property

Take this water tower for example.

Unusual? You bet.

But come on, take a closer look. Open your mind to the possibilities here. Yes, it might, when you first look at it, seem as if it should be on the set of A Clockwork Orange.

Yet concrete brutalism is rapidly becoming, for many, almost a ‘must have’ in terms of its design, look and overall aesthetic appeal.

And with a bit of imagination, that brutal looking water tower might end up looking something like this.

Or how about this?

Don’t tell me that interior isn’t stunning. Because it is. That bedroom looks like the sort of room that people in 1976 thought might be the norm forty years later.

Turns out they weren’t that far out.

Polished Chrome Open Kitchen

This image is one of a kitchen in the same water tower that the one of the bedroom was taken in.

If people didn’t know where that picture was taken, indeed, if they were simply told it was a modern kitchen in that proverbial three bedroomed semi in Purley, well, they’d all want one.

And, whilst one argument might be that having an imagination is all very well, but it takes a lot of time and, crucially, money to make that sort of vision a reality, then consider this.

The price guide for that water tower we showed you earlier was just £4,000.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Let’s move on.

Ever thought about living in a Church, for example?

They were once regarded as places where those looking to escape from the long arm of the law could seek safety and sanctuary.

Yet now, they are, in ever increasing numbers, being seen as somewhere you can seek sanctuary in as your home.

This is the Church of St Mary Magdalen in Radstock.

It was previously the home of Dai Bradley who British film aficionados will remember played the part of Billy Casper in Ken Loach’s acclaimed film Kes.

In a conversion that was anything but a spiritual one, the architects who worked on the Church’s transformation from a neglected place of worship to a much loved family home made sure it retained much of its original character with the vaulted ceilings, beams and masonry all left intact and as they were.

And you know what?

It now looks like a place of real warmth. Something it might never have been whilst it was serving out its life as a Church in the more traditional sense.

Fancy a room with a view?

Then this former RAF Control Tower might be just the place for you. Or at least it might have been.

Offering some superb views of the surrounding Scottish countryside, the airbase was once used to train Polish pilots before being converted into use as a German prisoner of war camp.

How about that as a story for your first dinner party?

Mod Bunker Building

The conversion of the tower into the four storey home that the artists impression shows will now be complete and, no doubt, it will have been sold and be both lived in and loved. And no wonder. As well as those views and that great feeling of space all around you, something which now comes very much at a premium in the property market, the home has three bedrooms, all of them en-suite as well as a glass walled sun room and a roof terrace. It is also, for golf fanatics, just ten miles from Gleneagles, scene of the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Magnificent. No question.

Unusual? Most definitely.

Finally, how about a property opportunity which, not so long ago, would have been the very epitome of all things final?

Built at a cost of £30 Million in 1990, it went on the market for just £200,000 a couple of years ago.

No wonder the MOD is short of tanks and ships.

It’s at the Cultybraggan camp near Dundee and had an original remit to protect 150 local worthies in the event of an imminent nuclear strike on the UK.

So it’s going to be roomy at least.

Among the extra’s that the base offered at the time was a custom built BBC studio designed, in the aftermath of the holocaust, to reach out and see if anyone was left on the outside.

A sobering thought. And plenty of ghosts, no doubt, in and around the place, even today. But hey, with a front door like this, you wouldn’t have any problems keeping the local charity collectors away.

This particular site was eventually bought for just £150,000 by a technology company keen to use it for the storage of data and long term projects of a similar nature. So its brief to provide protection is, at least, still being provided.

And let’s face it, it’s one hell of a place to go to work in. And as safe a work place as you could ever wish for if someone pressed the button whilst you were at work!

Published: Sep 27, 2016

Inspect A Gadget

Has there ever been a year that has flashed by any quicker than this one?

2016. Not so much a Leap Year as a Running Year, one that is passing with all the speed and acceleration of Usain Bolt.

Let’s say you fancy a refreshing drink right now. How about one of these?

Perfect for a hot, dry and sunny Summer’s day.

Yet, before you know it, before you even think it, the only sensible choice is going to be a glass of this.

Mulled Wine

It’s as well then, that Loft Blinds are here to help you out with some of your Christmas gift ideas.

Hey, we’re serious. Because those gadgets which are going to be hot in 2017 are already causing a sweaty stir amongst those in the know. So, if you want to stay ahead of the pack and start looking for the very best pieces of technical wizardry for next year, either for you or a loved one (be honest, it’s for you, isn’t it?) keep on reading.

Because if you leave it for too long they’ll all be gone.

The one that we’re particularly excited about is the Immersit.

Because whether you’re sat on your sofa with your Pimms or that warm and tangy glass of mulled wine, this, ladies and gentleman is the ultimate accessory to accompany it. We kid you not, indeed, we only wish that we were.

Film buffs will fondly recall the sequence in 2001-A Space Odyssey when the mysterious plinth of star matter heralds each and every massive leap in the evolution of man with all the accordant technological advances that go with it.

Immersit is, for those who like to be at one with their furniture, that very plinth.

Immersit

Whether you are watching the latest Star Wars movie or indulging in a spot of Call of Duty on the X-Box, Immersit will take you there. You won’t, as has always been the tradition, be a spectator of the action, you won’t be passive. Oh no, not at all.

You’ll be there, feeling every pitch and yaw of your X-Wing as you take on the Imperial Fleet. Because Immersit is made up of four pads that fit under the legs of your couch of chair, each of which contains motors and parts that independently operate in order to move the couch around in harmony with whatever action you are indulging yourself in at the time.

You can, quite literally, make the earth move under you. And all on your own.

And those pads are clever things. Because they work independently, the back of the couch can go up whilst the front goes down, that or they can move from side to side with varying degrees of pitch and angle. The system plugs into whatever media device you are watching or playing in order to synch up with the action on the screen. This means you can now join forces with Rey as she takes on all comers, feeling, if anything, each and every CGI movement far more than Daisy Ridley ever did whilst the movie was being made.

It’s being called “the fourth dimension at home”. We don’t know about that. But it sure as hell beats playing the Wii whilst sat on a rocking chair.

If you’re a certain age, then you’ll certainly remember when skateboards first became the must have item for anyone and everyone. That’s right, it was back in the 1970’s and rarely did an episode of Blue Peter pass without John Noakes reminding us all to wear the proper safety equipment whilst out skating with our mates.

Things have moved on a bit since then mind you.

The Acton Blink Electric Skateboard is a motorised skateboard that you control via your iPhone. This particular board can cover around six and a half miles or around 45 minutes running time on a full battery before requiring a recharge which takes around two hours. It’s top speed is 12 miles an hour with this and all the other action taking place thanks to a Bluetooth connection to either your phone or a handy remote. When it first went on sale in the US, the asking price was around $500 (£375) which means that whilst even a vaguely ambitious move from those of us who skated back in the seventies might end up with a few bones being broken, at least your wallet needn’t be if you have a new generation of skaters under your roof who want it all and want it now.

Action Blink Electric Board

But here’s a tip. No matter how tempting it looks, adopt a watching brief only.

Now, what do you all think of this?

I know. But it isn’t.

It’s actually known as the Fireside Audiobox, a Bluetooth speaker which includes a fire-based waveform that reacts in time to the music you are playing.

Ingenious.

As with all great ideas, it’s stunning in its simplicity. On top of the speaker is a tube filled with propane. As sound moves along through the gas, waves of high and low pressure form at fixed points along the tube. This forces the propane gas to be expelled from the holes more quickly in some zones (creating a tall flame) and more slowly in others (creating the shorter flame). This effectively allows the..yadda yadda yadda yadda....

Fireside Audiobox

...enough science. Let’s face it. It’s awesome and you want one. Join the queue.

But what about if you’ve got no juice to keep all your gadgets fired up and working?

That’s when the  Estream comes in. It’s a portable charger which means that you never need be without power for any of your toys, no matter where you are in the world.

And yes, we know, we know...you’ve got a solar charger so what’s new here?

Well, they’re all very well when the light conditions are good. Fine and dandy infact. But what about when its cloudy, dark or even raining? Hm, not so reliable.

Enomad, a start up based in South Korea have built one that works on hydropower rather than sunlight. In other words, it converts running water to electricity. Hence the picture. You thought it had been dropped in a stream didn’t you, that or it was some kind of waterproof drone?

Think on.

Once the Estream has been submerged in running water its internal turbine rotates and generates electricity which is stored in its built in battery, a process that takes around four and a half hours to get a full charge.

Estream

Estream’s boffins  reckon a full battery should be enough to charge up to three Smartphones or cameras and that the device itself charges devices twice as fast as items hooked up to a regular outlet thanks to its quick charge function. And yes, whilst the charge time is considerable, look at it this way-whilst you’re out in the wilds somewhere, you can leave it in a nearby steam overnight and wake up every morning with a fully charged and ready power supply.

If only we could all wake up after a night on the side of a mountain feeling so ready and primed for action. Still, at least we will be when its charged up our phones enough for us to work out the quickest way to the nearest Costa.

If only their coffee was as good as the technology which helped us get there.

Published: Aug 26, 2016

It Looks Good on Paper...

 

Rendezvous Stripe

Let’s be honest, wallpaper used to be something which, as far as having a sense of style was concerned, was right up there with hanging a print of the Blue Lady on it;  filling up a nearby bookshelf with a whole bunch of these or sitting down for a bit of chicken in the basket accompanied by a bottle of the very latest in sophisticated wines...

Blue Lady

Mmmm. Classy.

And less of the tittering at the back. We all went there at one time or another.

When we did its almost certain that the wallpaper we had in our homes had been inspired by a particularly bad trip. And I’m not talking about one you take on the road.

Some of the more popular wallpaper designs from its heyday in the 1960’s and 70’s were absolutely hideous.

Wasn’t anyone in on the joke?

Take this design for example. Or these three little beauties.

Quickly, someone fetch me a pair of pliers so I can remove my eyes.

Three Wallpapers Collage

Horrible. At a time when we all lived in fear of imminent nuclear annihilation, make no mistake, these wallpapers would, along with cockroaches, survived and gone on, like the dinosaurs, to rule the earth for millions of years.

Maybe that was the plan all along?

Doubtless there are children of that grim age today, assorted 40 and 50 something’s who are able to look back at the time when their parents had made the fateful decision to repaper the lounge?

That meant the appearance of one of these little beauties. Which meant that DIY Armageddon was coming.

They were so heavy that there was every chance you’d put your back out just by picking one of them up. That or risking the sudden and swift destruction of a kitchen work surface as the book plummeted through it to the ground.

Nevertheless, the task of the entire family was to then dutifully look through the several billion different option it had to offer, taking good care to unanimously decide on the most lurid, tasteless and downright abominable design in the whole catalogue.

Because this is how it was back in the day. We may not all have skeletons in the cupboard. But, like it or not, we’ve all had some macabre wallpaper at one time or another.

And you know, people may now scoff at the easy conformity of a plain wall with a covering of matt magnolia paint. And they will. Yet, considering what that simple and comfortable option succeeded, it’s one that, in truth, remains one of the most popular options for our home interiors.

Eye Mirror

And laugh all you like. But as decorating options go, it’s simple, clean, bright and contemporary.

It works.

Yet, for all that, it seems that wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback.

You’d best sit down.

Because not only is wallpaper making a DIY comeback in our homes, it is doing so to such an extent that you could almost say it is strutting its stuff in triumph.

With one of the reasons for this being the increasing popularity of the so called 'feature wall'.

This gives you the opportunity to exercise your imagination on one part of a room, that or one piece of wall in particular with an absolutely wild and very heavily patterned piece of wallpaper that would, if it was used all over the room, quite probably send you on your way to quiet insanity.

Yet, in just one part of the room, it becomes a striking feature in its own right without taking over.

If wallpaper is just too retro for you though, you can go for a patterned fabric, a framed piece of wallpaper or using a slightly bolder paint colour.

It’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the interior designers of some of the world’s largest hotel chains.

Holiday Inn Executive

Take Holiday Inn for example. They’ve taken to putting a strong pattern on the wall just above the bed in their rooms. The standard paint job in there would otherwise be quite bland and uninspiring yet, by making a feature of part of the walls here, they are drawing attention to it and the bed that resides immediately beneath it.

And what do you go to a Hotel for? Yes, above and beyond anything else, it’s for the bed.

That pattern there makes it stand out. It might not be to everyone’s taste. But it works.

The knack to getting the idea of having your very own feature wall to work is by calming its overall effect by ensuring that the other walls in the room are painted in soft, soothing and undemonstrative colours.

Like here for example. A strong theme in and around the focal point of the fireplace with a more neutral colour throughout the rest of the room.

And yes, if you read ‘a framed piece of wallpaper’ above and wondered if that really meant what it says, then yes, yes it does.

Framed Wallpaper

In fact, framing some wallpaper samples can work exceptionally well, especially if you have a series of three or four such ‘pictures’ on one wall. It’s also an inexpensive way of adding a talking point to your room with bargain frames easily available at such places as Ikea and Wilko.

One of the great advantages of  framing is that you will need one roll of paper which is pretty handy if you are on a budget but still want to use a wallpaper design that is a cut above all the rest.

Something by Osborn & Little for example.

You could also check out Timorous Beasties for example. The company was established in Glasgow in the 1990’s by two textile design students who, from humble beginnings, have set up a studio that produces a range of diverse design options and has become, in the process, a multi award winning and internationally acclaimed business.

Take their London Toile wallpaper for example. It starts at £90 a roll-but the minimum order is just the one roll.

So you can get the ultimate designer wall covering in your home without breaking the bank. It might end up breaking lots of your neighbours envious hearts though!

(Just tell them Loft Blinds gave you the idea and let them know where we are).

So there you have it.

Wallpaper hasn’t gone away. It isn’t extinct, nor has it ceased to be. It isn’t even making a comeback.

Because its already here and making an impression in our lives and homes once again.

The simple secret to its successful renaissance is the old adage that you’ll hear with regard to DIY and home improvements over and over again.

Less is more.

Wallpaper no longer has to smother a room, to drown it out so completely that it is all you can, and will, ever see in that room.

But what it can do and offer is an idea, a suggestion, a hint of something else, a theme or break in the conformity.

And you know what?

‘New’ wallpaper works.


Give it a try.


 

Published: Aug 11, 2016

10 Decorating Moves of the Month

 

There’s nothing like regarding your home as a Dalek would.

You know the score. Traverse it with steely eyes and an eye for every tiny detail whilst uttering those terrifying words as you go...

“Dec-or-ate...dec-or-ate. You. Will. Be. Dec-or-ated”.

Dalek

Frightening stuff isn’t it?

Yet it needn’t be.

Most of us turn a whiter shade of pale at the thought of doing some decorating. I know someone whose kitchen needs a lick of paint for example. It’s a nice kitchen, light and contemporary with lots of new appliances. All that it needs to be finished is for a coat of paint to be applied to the walls.

And that was a few years ago. It’s not even a day’s work. Yet the person in question just cannot bring themselves to do it.

Ridiculous. But don’t laugh too long or too loud.  Because we’ve all been there.

Especially those of you with the bathroom that time forgot.

Well procrastinate no more. It’s time to make a stand. A change even.

Here are ten ways you can make a big difference to any room in your house. And guess what? None of these will take less than a day to do. Simple, quick, effective and pain free.

So what are you waiting for?

Friends Monica Apartment

1. Hang a curtain in your kitchen.

It not only looks good and just a little bit Mediterranean, it also helps to discreetly mask any work that might be going on behind it. Give yourself a little privacy and secrecy where you can weave your culinary magic out of the sight of casual onlookers.

2. Make the most of your rugs.

If you’ve a big rug then placing all of a piece of furniture on it really sets it off both the rug and the furniture, creating a look that is  warm and luxurious. However, if you have a really fine piece then don’t cover it up with a sideboard. Let it stand alone, uninterrupted and glorious with furniture arranged around it rather than over it. Resisting that urge also gives a room a feeling of light and space, one where the eye is drawn to the beauty of the rug astride your floor, something which can be a great conversation piece in itself.

Stairs Lobby

3. Mix and match your bedding.

Well why not? Having your sheets, duvet cover and pillow cases all the same colour might be practical. But practical is where it begins and ends. Do you really want cold practicality in your bedroom, what about some warm creativity?  None of these items match-yet, put together it looks really quite charming, the sort of look you might have got in a New England hotel room back in the 1950’s. Nowthat is classy.

4. Consider your bathroom.

Bright, clean, modern. State of the art even? Well here’s a thing. How about mixing all of that up a bit by putting an antique piece in there? It’s a spectacular juxtaposition of the old and the new-and another talking point. Who needs old copies of Cosmo in there when you can gaze upon a real piece of art?

5. Want intimacy?

How about moving your seating away from the walls? There isn’t some archaic law that dictates that you have to push your expensive three piece suite up against the wall. Pull it inside the room a bit, go for a warmer, cosier look. Having people seated closer together also encourages conversation. Give it a go. You’ll be surprised.

6. How about a swift and easy change of mood in your favourite room?

If the look of your bedroom has grown a bit tired of late, you’ll be surprised at the impact a fresh colour of paint will have on both the room and its users! Try replacing safe magnolia with a vibrant blue or, for a calming and relaxing energy, a pastel green colour, aFeng Shui favourite with its calm and luxurious finish.

Paint Contrast

7. Completely change the look of a room in under half an hour.

Can’t be done? Oh yes it can. And it’s as simple as moving a few things around. This will cost you nothing at all and is the sort of fresh but simple approach that not only gives a room a fresh new look but might also encourage you to create some space by getting rid of some of the clutter that doesn’t really work anymore.

8. Freshen up your old upholstery.

Can’t afford to buy a new sofa (or, if you order one in July, be promised delivery “in time for Christmas”!)? Then why not freshen it up with some stylish throws or new cushions? If you’re a fan of TV series Friends, you’ll recall how Monica’s rather ordinary looking sofa rarely looked the same in every programme? Large and bright cushions atop vibrant throws brought a relaxed and new look to it on several occasions, making the room both welcoming and cosy. The same principle can be applied to just about any piece of furniture that needs brightening up-beds, armchairs even tables which can be given a new look by covering them in either a bright piece of fabric or, for example, a collection of scented candles and bowls. There is no limit to your imagination so think simple but think big.

9. Hall of mirrors (sort of).

Strategically placed mirrors are a great way of adding space and light to a room, a cost effective and attractive way of adding those two great assets to any home. A mix of different styles of mirrors can bring space and personality to even the smallest and most modest of spaces-again, you and your imagination can wield some great results in the most simple manner, completely changing the look and mood of a room by simply opening your eyes to its possibilities.

Window Blind

10. Blinds, blinds, blinds!

Windows are great on sunny, warm days when they let light and warmth flood into a room. But what about at night or on a winters day when you’d rather shut the outside world out of your life and home? Fear not, for the humble window can come into its own yet again. By brightening it up with a colourful blind, you’ll have made the minimal effort for a very high impact. If your windows are by Velux then there is a whole range of blind options for you throughout your home from colourful and fun roller blinds for a child’s bedroom to simple and effective blackout blinds for your own bedroom that manage to block out all of the light even if they are in a light colour.

There are so many simple yet hugely effective ways of brightening up your home in this manner, one that is low on cost and time but high on impact with the only real investment that you’ll need to make being the price you put on your imagination. And as that is completely unique, doesn’t that make it rare and priceless?

Go on. Indulge on both yourself and your home today. Think simple but act big. And let us know how you get on, we’d love to know and share.

 


Published: Jun 25, 2016

Five Reasons Your House Isn't Selling

Cottage

It feels as if you’ve had the FOR SALE signs outside your house since before Christmas.

Signs that were put up by an eager young estate agent in a cheap suit who assured everything will be done and dusted by the New Year.

And you believed him. What is it they say about there being one born every minute?  That must be the mission statement estate agents everywhere.

Illic natus perparvis.

Of course, the reasons that you can’t get anyone interested in buying your house may be obvious.

RoomDoes it look like this? Well...

Yet, on the other hand, if you’ve gone into the whole house selling thing without doing a little bit of hard work and research first, you may as well have put something like this on the market...

...and not see that going anywhere fast either.

So what’s the secret?

How is it that, whenever you see an estate agents sign going up outside a house that you don’t particularly like the look of and think, as a consequence (and we’ve all done it), ...well that’ll never sell.

Except it just did.

So what did the now previous owner of that place you’ve clearly not being doing with your place?

Here are a few tips of the trade to help you out.

Funnily enough, and, at the risk of stating the obvious, one of the main reasons a property remains unsold for a long time is that the vendor is asking for too much money and has priced his or herself out of the market.

Remember. Your house is the carrot and you are the one holding the stick. But you mustn’t hold that carrot so high in the air that no-one is going to even try to take a nibble.

There are plenty more carrots out there after all. Despite how tasty and special you might think yours is.

Take another look at the homes your area that have sold. What sort of prices were they fetching? Some buyers might well set a maximum price on their search and so miss yours out-a house isn’t a car where someone with a budget of £4000 might stretch to £4500. If the average sale of a house price in your area is £400,000 then take it from us, no-one is going to go up to £475,000 for a similar property.

Not only because they don’t want to. But because they don’t have to.

Of course, you may have set the price at an absolutely sound and very sensible level. Well done you. Give yourself a good pat on the back. You’ve done your homework, you’re being sensible, realistic, level headed.

But all of that will mean absolutely nothing if the accompanying sales blurb doesn’t show your property in absolutely and definitely its best light.

Also a Tip

 

Not particularly enticing, is it?

Yes, we’re talking about the accompanying photographs that accompany the information about your home.

These can be shocking. All you need is someone with a camera who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Meaning you end up with photos like this one.

Or even this one.

And look, if that third bedroom really is tiny then don’t make it as obvious as this.

Tip"Maybe you'll start a family one day. Squeeze the kids into this room for £450,000," said nobody. Ever.

Be creative. Strip it out maybe and just call it the ‘third bedroom’. If it is empty in the photo then it can’t look cramped, can it?

You’re learning. I’m impressed. Let’s move on...

Here’s one that few people think of. It’s about being personal. And how to make your house not look too personal.

Yes I know, I know. Your collection of cuddly toys might be your pride and joy, your babies even and you may  dearly love them.

But you know, there is a vague possibility that other people might find it a little, well, strange. Remember, you are selling the house, period. The buyers will have their own ideas of what they want to go in it, not yours. So the less cluttered it is for viewing purposes, the better.

That goes for animals as well. Or clutter in general. The same applies for your, ahem, *unique* take on what passes for art.

Remember. Keep it clear and keep it clean. Let the visible space do the work for you.

One thing ‘you’ do need to do is be available.

It might be tempting to clear off for work and do whatever it is that you do for a living whilst the estate agent does all the work in your absence.

But that just might send out the wrong signal to some people. After all, here they are, potentially interested in giving you half a million quid and, in return, you can ‘t even be arsed to meet them and show them around?

Sorry but that’s bad manners. You’re trying to sell your house. This isn’t a car boot sale, you can’t just wander off whenever you feel like it. Be committed and be there.

Don’t forget, the only person who can give accurate answers to possible vendors is you. The estate agent can’t be expected to know everything about schooling, local shops, garden centres and where you can get the best Cappuccino on a Sunday morning.

But you do. So show willing and be there, be prepared to be the host and part of everything, not some distant and inaccessible person who doesn’t appear to care. That’s only going to send your potential buyers elsewhere.

But, and finally, when you are there and when you are showing willing...know how and when to stop.

No-one wants hard sell. So don’t follow them around all the rooms asking them if they’re going to make an offer else sounding desperate and suggesting you’re happy to throw everything into the deal if they’ll buy-including the kitchen sink.

Tim Mason Buy My HousePlease!

That sort of thing comes across as a tad desperate. Sad even. And annoying. Plus your prospective buyers will end up thinking Why on earth is he/she so keen to sell this house?

What’s wrong with it?.

Believe me, the second that little four word phrase appears in the mind of a potential buyer then they’ve gone, you’ve lost them forever.

And if they aren’t exactly going to reach out and swat you with a piece of rolled up newspaper if you will persist in following them around the house like an excited wasp at a picnic, then they’ll certainly be removing you as an option from their list.

And moving on. Which means you aren’t going to be moving out anytime soon.

One little extra thing to take into consideration is your estate agent.

Remember, you are paying them for the privilege of selling your home. You are their client and they are there to treat you as such.

Rather too many of them regard the arrangement as being the other way around. But don’t accept that. Make them work for their commission, demand their time, attention and expertise and, if there are signs that it really isn’t there, then change your estate agent.

And don’t be shy about doing so either. If they start to think either you or your property aren’t worth their time and trouble, you’ll soon find yourself at the very back of the lowest and most obscure filing cabinet somewhere.

You wouldn’t commission a solicitor to do some work for you and then give them nothing to do. So why do the same for an estate agent?

Get your house out there, get it looking good and get it seen.

And get it sold.

And the very best of luck to you.

SoldWe'll get there. Promise.

 

 

Published: May 23, 2016

How to Make Your Home Your Castle

 

Pyke Castle

We’re looking at ways in which you can make both your home and property a little bit more secure, both inside and outside.

Now, whilst we appreciate that nothing you ever do is going to make your very own little bit of real estate as formidable as Pyke Castle from Game of Thrones, you don’t need to have a moat, assorted halbards and a clutch of bloody thirsty warriors either.

Infact all you need is access to a gadget or two.

And hey, you know us. We love our gadgets. And if they’re as practical these examples look with reference to keeping all about us safe and sound, then we like them even more.

How about one of these for starters?

It’s called Nest Cam. Part of the ever growing repository of gadgets that have recently been launched by Google, it looks like a webcam but is actually a home security camera that is, according to one review, “about as intelligent a bit of surveillance kit as you’re going to get at this price.

Which is, as you’re now asking £159.

Sound a bargain? It does to us. You can tune into the live feed it provides from your home at anytime but, on top of that, can elect to have alerts sent to your mobile phone if any suspicious activity is detected in front of the lens.

It’s easy to set up. You can stand it on any flat surface or even have it mounted on a wall. It’s small and subtle, enough to be missed by all but the most vigilant of ne'er-do-wells. Be honest, would it stand out and scream “security camera!!” to you in this scene?

(OK, I grant you, I’d be a tad more worried about the bloody great dog sat there looking at me, but you get the picture. As does, and will, the Nest Cam which, if you look carefully, is indeed, part of the furniture here).

Nest Cam is, according to Google, capable of differentiating between a swaying tree branch and a burglar intent on forcing his way through one of your sash windows, so intelligent and sophisticated is it’s circuitry. In other words, the chances of you dashing to the rescue with half the local police force by your side only to see a discarded carrier bag flapping away in one of your shrubs is the culprit are, at best, low.

Nest Cam

But that’s not all. Nest Cam has an optional extra included which lets your archive recordings in The Cloud  else set up activity zones in front of the camera (eg) living room windows or even, if you want, record and store an edited highlights reel of all recorded activity for you, depending on whether you want that done over ten or thirty days.

Brilliant! Just be mindful of what you might be getting up to yourself on the sofa in the meantime, that’s all we’re saying. This is a family blog, after all.

Now, what about doing something about your locks?

There are plenty of companies offering smart locks out there but, as far as range and price goes, August look to have a lot of bases covered.

Their locks can be accessed via your Smartphone which means, for example, you can safely let the kids in if you’re still stuck at work or, if you’re away for longer, be easily able to give access to friends and family without having to worry about getting spare keys cut and all the connotations that come with that.

The reason all of this is possible is that your Smartphone app takes the place of keys, codes and everything else we’ve previously associated with getting into our homes up until now. So, if you need to let someone in at a certain time, all those people need are their Smartphones in order to let them in.

Plus August Smartlock  will also let you know, at the same time, who is entering your property and what time they did so.

All makes the traditional key seem a bit, well, Neanderthal, doesn’t it?

August claim that their lock works with most deadbolts and that you can have it installed inside your home in just a few minutes.

If clean lines and simplicity doesn’t necessarily do anything for you and you’d just like something that just does the job, then you might want to consider the iSmartAlarm. It does, and let’s be honest, lack a little something in terms of its aesthetic appeal-Nest Cam it ain’t, but, on the other hand, it looks as if it just might be one of the most comprehensive home security solutions available at this moment in time.

One of the things that is a little different about iSmartAlarm is that, once you’ve spent out on the original outlay (one version of it is currently going for £170 on Amazon) then that is pretty much it as once you have decided on how many of the add on’s that you want as part of your basic kit, your job as project financier is over. And whilst it may, in this age of small and compact, look a bit cumbersome and awkward, it does the job including, via a smart tag, recognising whether or not certain members of your family are at home or not at any given time of day or night.

So your teenage children will just love it!

iSmartAlarm covers a whole range of security related gadgets including cameras, motion sensors, contact sensors and smart switches. So if you want to really blanket your home in security equipment, then this might just be the option for you.

We shouldn’t forget, of course, the more traditional methods of providing security to your home (ie) that which  is provided by security companies such as Yale.

They offer a number of different products and systems including an all in one package that includes a set of motion sensors, a smoke alarm, a key fob for instant access and contacts for both doors and windows that will detect any attempt at intrusion.

The alarm can be turned on and off remotely through your Smartphone-that, or, it’ll automatically switch on an upstairs light whenever movement is detected in your garden and you’re not at home. Inside the home you will be provided with a touch screen panel that will enable you to control the alarm-entering, for example, phone numbers where you can be contacted in the event of an emergency. You can also programme it to go off in response to an intruder or attempted incursion on your property in the traditional manner. So think of it as a rather more old fashioned type of alarm system but one fitted with a few rather smart added extras.

Bear in mind of course that, for a system like this one or similar, you will need to take into account the installation costs as well as a monthly ‘subscription’ to the alarm companies central station.

A few more ideas for you to consider then. But what are your own experiences and/or recommendations when it comes to home security. We’d love to hear about them and include your own thoughts on a future blog. So get in touch and let us know.

And remember....

Nest Cam Smart Home

Published: Apr 29, 2016

How to Keep Your Home Secure

 

Swag Robber

It’s all very well making sure you shut all the windows and lock the door.

But there’s always going to be a chancer out there keen to show off his or her skills in lock picking, eager to defy you and your not unreasonable expectation that your home really is your castle.

With traditional valuables such as the family jewels and Great Aunt Agatha’s collection of Georgian silver now being joined by all manner of high tech must have items such as plasma TVs and hi-fi systems that do everything bar the Sunday roast, you’re going to need to know that, whether you’re heading on a  world cruise or just popping down to the artisan baker in the village for a loaf of bread made of broccoli and rice, everything and anything that you’ve left in the house is safe, secure and free from covetous eyes and grasping hands.

Surveillance Camera

Get yourself some of these bad boys dotted around.

One way of deterring would be intruders is to install some security cameras in and around your property. These are not only a good visible deterrent but can also, in the event that you do suffer a trespass incident, provide crucial evidence in terms of identifying  intruders. Nothing shatters the case of Johnny Burglar more effectively or decisively as a clip of film being played in the courtroom that clearly shows him at large in your home, garden or any other place where he is not invited.

Outdoor security cameras will constantly monitor any outdoor area you choose. And yes, that is rather akin to stating the obvious. But there can be a lot of them, even on a fairly average sized property. Common placements might include front and rear entrances, driveways and pathways on either side of the property. A lot of cameras, a lot of monitoring and a high cost for installation and maintenance? It depends. Often one camera prominently placed at the front of your property can be enough. It will not only cover a large area, including all front facing doors and windows but provide that very visible deterrent to would be intruders who, having seen one there will be left to wonder how many more there are and if, indeed, they are as visible as this one?

In short, if they think there is a risk of getting caught, then they may not take that risk.

Security cameras can be either wired in or wireless whilst an outdoor one can be placed anywhere or be hidden in a variety of different ways. With a digital recorder and PC or separate monitor, all of the camera feeds can be viewed from a central location in the house and even, if required, hooked up to a remote monitoring service, such as those offered by companies like ADT.

Home Security Camera

These are pretty easy to use - and not too expensive!

In short you can cover as many bases as possible. And if you’ve got one of these in your garage the perceived hassle of getting them fitted will seem like nothing if you wake up one morning and it isn’t there anymore.

Worth thinking about?

You may, of course, think that, as you have a home and contents insurance policy, you don’t need to worry too much about security. And yes, it’d be a shame if someone half inched that hideous piece of crap that Grandma left you in your will, but hey, the insurance will pay.

Ker-CHINGGG! and all that.

Well hold on. It may not always be that simple.

Whenever you take out home insurance, your provider is going to expect you to provide a minimal level of security yourself. And, in this case, ‘minimal’ doesn’t mean you only use your locks for decoration or you always leave the back door open “...as the cat won’t come in otherwise”.

Insurers will expect locks on ALL your exterior doors as well as, in all likelihood, all of your ground floor windows.

Lots Of Locks

Not quite this many locks... but almost.

The type of locks you have is important as well. The more secure they are perceived to be by the insurer, the lower your premium might be as a result.

But no fibbing! Because insurers don’t like it. And neither, if you end up making and receiving a claim on what is later found to be false information, do the courts.

An online survey in 2014 revealed that 12 out of every 100 people who took out home insurance had either guessed or withheld information whilst 4 out of every 100 lied about having an alarm!

Don’t these people realise that the insurers might reasonably expect to see the alarm that they’ve been told is in place when they come round to assess the claim? What are you going to say when they check their information and say, “On your form it states that you have an alarm fitted to your property, where is it?”

“Oh, they nicked that as well” isn’t going to cut the mustard I’m afraid and you may end up in a touch of bother yourself as they will regard you as having made a false claim. At the very least if your home is broken into and the security measures listed on your policy had either not been put into place, were working or even existed at all, then you may end up getting absolutely nothing.

Which means you might end up replacing this.........with this.

As we keep on saying. Think about it.

We’re not here to guide or nanny you. And certainly not to preach to you or patronise you. However, it is a fact that both the value of our homes and that of the contents within them are increasing on almost a daily basis.

Which means that security and insurance in, around and for your home has never been more important.

Another option you might want to consider is having some carefully place security lights near to your home as well as some in the more darker or obscure parts of your garden.

Bright Security Light

You've got to know who's out there!

We’ve all seen the old World War Two movies where the escaping POWs are, inevitably, caught in the blinding glare of an enemy spotlight.

It’s obvious of course. But nothing scares the hell out of someone up to no good on a dark night than a bright light. And if you’ve got an assortment of them to hand attached in and around your property then the local ne’er do wells are likely to give you a wide berth.

Buying and installing some needn’t cost the earth. You can, for example, get them from Homebase. Whilst your local branch of John Law will be more than happy to give you advice on where the best place to fit them might be.

It may not be as fancy an option as the security cameras mentioned earlier. But its effective. And your insurers will like it.

We’ll be looking at some other ways you can improve the security around your property in the next Loft Blinds blog, ways and means inside and outside the home which will all serve to giving you and the things you cherish the most just that little bit more  safe and secure. There is, of course, no absolutely foolproof way of keeping the bad guys away. But you can make it as difficult for them as you possibly can.

And the bad news for them is the ways you can do exactly that are growing all the time.

Good night all.

Published: Apr 18, 2016

The Best Tech for Your Garden This Spring


Is it Spring?

Let’s face it. The clues are all around us. Blue skies, sunshine, the distant sound of a long neglected lawnmower spluttering into life.

Surely it won’t be that long before the eternally irritating tinkle of the nations ice cream vans drive both adults and over excitable children into submission, albeit for totally different reasons?

Last time out on here we gave you a few pointers about bringing a flavour of the great outdoors into your home.

The sight and sound of running water, more natural light and enough interior foliage to start your very own ecosystem.

It’s time to take a look at the real thing now.

So pop on your wellies, adopt some appropriate headwear. And get out there.

Bowling Green

Take a look around. Survey your kingdom. Walk its perimeter. It matters not whether it takes you thirty seconds to do so, thirty minutes or if you need a landy for the job. It’s important to re-stake your claim on your own little bit of outdoor paradise, to remind yourself of what’s what, where things are and, in some cases, where they aren’t.

One of the first things you may notice needs some attention is the state of your lawn.

It may well look bowling green perfect in the Summer months. But look at what a few months of winter can do to your pride and joy.

Wet, muddy, overgrown and looking a rather sickly pale yellow in places?

Yep, your lawn needs some TLC. And fast.

Now we aren’t going to give you any gardening advice here. That’s not our brief. But we do think we know a thing or two about gadgets and technology for use in and around the home.

And that includes lawnmowers.

We reckon that Hayter lawnmowers are amongst the very best you can get.

The name of Hayter has been synonymous with grass cutting in the UK for nearly seventy years. They’re used and championed by both homeowners and professional contractors alike and have, amongst their devotees, the owners of some of the most well known and exclusive private residences in the country.

You don’t need to have a back garden the size of this one to make the most of their products either.

Congham Hall Hotel

Hayter offer a wide range of both electric and petrol mowers, so whether it’s just a tiny little one you can push around your postage stamp sized piece of lawn or a macho sit on job that looks as if it used be part of Operation Desert Storm, there’s one for you amongst their range.

A piece of kit the lads might just be so impressed with, they’ll volunteer to do the job for you!

And, if all of that is just too horrible a fate for you to contemplate and you just see a lawn as a facility for sitting or laying down upon, fear not. LazyLawn can take all of the afore mentioned aggro out of the equation for you.

For many people, one of the most important elements that they can bring to their garden is shape and depth.

So it’s not all lawn and accompanying flat borders.

What about adding some height?

One way of doing that is to make some raised borders using old railway sleepers.

Old railway sleepers offer you an inventive and very cost effective way of customising your garden in order to give it a unique touch that sets it apart from most.

UK Sleepers discovered long ago that sleepers were tried, tested and very much loved by both the gardening enthusiast and DIY fan as well as those wanting something that could be used over a larger area of land-farmers for example.

They offer either new and untreated or salvaged sleepers for you to choose from. Plus, and perhaps surprisingly for such an item, in a wide variety of woods and finishes.

And take a look at some of the things that you can do with some old railways sleepers...

Ash Banner

Sleeper Steps

Who would have thought something so humble would be capable of firing the inspiration quite so much?

Now, if you were one of those readers who liked the look of the options we have you last time about having the Zen like sounds of running water in your home last time out, then what about adding to the vibe by making part of your outside space a little temple to the therapeutic effects that plain old H20 can bring?

Water adds magic to a garden, whatever its size.

The look, the sound, the magnetic appeal. And the haven you are providing for wildlife.

Ask anyone you know who has a garden pond. They will have barely filled their newly excavated hole to the brim and no end of different life forms, large and small, will have paid it a visit.

Within three months it’ll be home to no end of flying and swimming beasts. And, as the owner of wildlife garden pond myself, I guarantee you that, if there is nothing on TV during the Summer, you’ll find just sitting and gazing into the shimmering depths of your very own private sea gives you as much pleasure and fascination as anything that can be churned out on television.


It’s not quite as straight forward as digging a big hole and then filling it with water. But not that much more.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust are one of many organisations who are promoting garden ponds as a very real and genuine haven for both flora and fauna suited to such environments. These are species that are increasingly becoming marginalised by the loss of so much green field sites to new housing developments.

You’ll have a lot of choices to make when you plan, dig and build your pond. The type of pond you want for example. Wildlife or decorative? Concrete base or butyl liner? Do you want fish or not? And how about its surrounds? Natural? Slate and pebbles? Or concrete slabs? Wooden railway sleepers even?

Too many decisions and options to consider here, it’s a subject that deserves a blog of its own. And that’s something else we’ll be considering later this year.

Garden Pond

If you are going to sit and gaze at your pond (or the patch of land you’ve earmarked for it-maybe you’re having a planning meeting with yourself about it, together with a nice glass of red wine), then it’s time to consider getting some new garden furniture.

After all, you’ve been scurrying about cutting the lawn, heaving old railways sleepers into place and shifting enough earth in which to bury a Saxon war chief for the sake of a tranquil garden pond.

You need a rest. So take the weight off your feet and consider what sort of outdoor furniture you’d like the most?

Bridgman have been manufacturing and supplying luxury furniture for the garden since the 1970’s. They consider furniture to be a long term investment, something that can be handed down through the years, a constant in family photos and memories throughout the lifetime of a home and garden.

Whilst if you want some of those memories to focus on play, rather than work, then look no further than Garden Games, a leading manufacturer of games, large and small, for the garden.

Although you may want to suggest something a little less aggressive than a garden badminton set of you want to keep your lawn looking pristine for at least one weekend in the year.

Here’s a much better pursuit for the garden.

Awesome Garden

Endless possibilities. Enjoy them. And if you’ve got any suggestions else have any questions, then let us know.

You’ll find us at the bottom of the garden.

 

Published: Mar 21, 2016

Getting Back to Nature

 

Everyone is hugging trees these days.

It used to be the reserve of age old Hawkwind aficionados with a permanent chemical imbalance. Where most people saw a trunk, branches and leaves, they saw a kindred spirit, a companion from the ages, a convenient place to tarry a while over the odd spliff or three.

But now even the Hipsters are getting back to nature. Propped up against the nearest oak tree by day, laptops and Cappuccinos by their side, trendy Camden pad by night.

With each and everyone of these little pied-à-terre’s a twenty first century shrine to all things green.

Because even nature has its price. And if you want to bring elements of the elemental into your home, to feel at one with Mother Earth in the safety of your own home, then there are ways and means of doing it.

If you can’t get to Grantchester Meadows then let Grantchester Meadows come to you.

One of the easiest ways of bringing a little bit of Mother Nature into your home is to festoon it with plants.

Easy to do. But maybe not so easy to do well.

Your Great Grandma, for example, might have been content with an aspidistra in the corner of the front room.

Those days are long, long gone.

But if you want to carry on the tradition of sharing your home with plenty of foliage then one place you could go for a few ideas is Ikea.

Yep, they’re not all about incomprehensibly difficult to construct bedside cabinets or meatballs. They also provide a wide range of greenery for the home with a choice of plants that will see you spoilt for choice. There are even plants that won’t take it personally if you’re out and about for weeks on end. Cacti are very low maintenance plants that will pretty much get on with it for years on end, even if the only attention you pay them is dusting around them, the Pincushion cactus (stop sniggering at the back) being a particular favourite.

Cacti are members of the plant group known as succulents, that is, plants that have parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy, the prior purpose of this being to retain water in arid climates or dry/poor soil conditions.

In other words, you won’t be able to kill them off by deliberately not watering them.

Another popular succulent plant is the Mother in Law's Tongue, so called because of its fiery appearance and sharp edges.

Cheap gag or not, its sculptural looks enhanced many an atrium and they certainly add depth and shape to any room, from the smallest one upwards. It even won an award last Summer.

Just imagine all those delicate orchids and blood red roses standing in the corner of the greenhouse and all muttering bitch in unison as the lucky winner was announced...

You can find out more about succulents here. And if you end up succumbing to them, send us a photo or two of them in their new home. We’d love to share them with all the other readers of this blog.

Now, what about a water feature?

No, not a contemporary garden pond. In anycase, we’re going to be dealing with them later in the Spring.

We’re talking indoor water features here.

It doesn’t have to be as spectacular as this one either.

A simple indoor water fountain like this can be bought from any specialist online company like, for example, Waterfeatures2Go or UK Waterfeatures.

And they aren’t just for show either. Well go on, they are a little bit. But there’s more.

Indoor water features can bring several benefits to your home. It goes without saying, for example, that one will add a soothing, natural and comfortable atmosphere to the home. Running water will attract negative ions, these attract dirt particles in the air, the water feature succeeding in pulling them right out of the air (as if by science, rather than magic-but hey, who’s bitchin’?) and into the fountain where they can be purified.

Just think, that’s dirt that’s been snatched right out of the air and away that might, otherwise, have ended up inside your lungs.

I can tell you're impressed. But hold on.

The sound and appearance of running water relaxes the mind. Come on, that’s not rocket science. Look at how we are all attracted, lulled by still and calm waters, beguiled by the sea.

It’s where we came from for goodness sake. And if we can’t go back there, then let’s have some of it in our homes.

That relaxes state of mind that the sound and appearance of running water brings us can even lower tensions in our joints and muscles. Imagine, if you will, the installation of your home water feature being the first of your health dominos. Watch them topple, one by one.

The sound and vision of running water can lead to a relaxed and eased state of mind. Which can mean more restful sleep cycles, something we all need but rarely get enough of.

So yes, there are those that will claim installing a water feature inside your home is over the top, a pose, an unnecessary frippery.

But you’ll be too calm and chilled to notice.

We’ve ticked the indoor plants and water feature boxes. Now, how about having some natural light, the best way to show everything off?

Light is life. We can’t live without it. So shouldn’t we bathe ourselves in it as much as we can?

We think so.

There are, of course, very obvious ways of adding more natural light to the home.

Adding windows is, of course, one of them. But hold on their Tiger, don’t go knocking down the first wall you see. Think about it. Yes, kitchens and living rooms are obvious places to do so, but what about those that hardly get any light at all, what about stairwells and landings?

Would you prefer this? Or this?

See, you’re getting the idea now. There will more than likely be a range of builders near to you who can advise you how best to utlise natural light in your home in the best possible way by adding some new windows. So give some of them a call and see what they think.

Another solution is to have glass doors.

I know, it’s so simple, it’s stupid. But look. The average two bedroom semi will have, not counting those at the front or back, around eight internal doors in it. And, if they all look something like this, well, that’s a lot of light that isn’t getting into your home.

But hold on, what if they all looked like THIS? A (so you know what to ask for)  Contemporary African wenge interior single door lined with frosted glass.

Frosted glass, of course, has two benefits in addition to letting natural light stream through them.

Firstly, it looks more attractive than plain glass.

And, secondly, it gives an element of privacy. So there is, for example, no reason not to have it on a bedroom or bathroom door. And in anycase, you can always put a blind on the inside of the door if you insist on some privacy.

But then again, if you’re wanting to let the light into your life, then why on earth would you have any reason to then block it out again?

Our homes have never been so modern or state of the art.

The digital age has brought speed and convenience to our fingertips. Yet we can all too often forget those things which helped put us all here in the first place.

Plants, water, sunshine. Three fundamentals of living-and where living really does mean living.

Lets share our homes with them. We owe them that at the very least.


 

Published: Mar 1, 2016

How to Declutter Your Home


So, is this one of the most annoying songs of all time or what?

Not so much an earworm as a couple of hundred kilos of the very finest TNT primed and ready to go off inside the brain.

Tinnitus with a semblance of rhythm.

And yet, and yet...I can’t help but find myself agreeing with the sentiments expressed.

“Let it go”.

I mean, let’s face it. The girl is decluttering. Listen, if you can bear it, to the lyrics.


Let it go. Let it go.

Get rid of all those knick knacks you don’t want.

All the stuff gathering dust on bookshelves, in cupboards, up in the loft.

The unwanted Christmas presents, the clothes you never wear, the kitchen utensils that are as pristine clean and shiny now as they were when you bought them over a decade ago.

All of your surplus goods, your excess baggage, your personal crap.

Let it go.

Let it go.


Well, it’s something like that anyway. And you know what? The girl is spot on. It’s time to let it all go.

It’s time to declutter.

Now, let’s be honest. Decluttering has become a bit of a 21st century buzzword. It’s now, it’s hip, trendy and happening. Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Well, OK, maybe it doesn’t work that far down the tree of life. So throw that goddam tree out. And do it now. But then let’s be honest, if you are someone or aspire to be anyone at all now, then you need to declutter. But not only that. Because when you’re not decluttering, you need to be talking about it.

It’s hardly surprising that decluttering your home has become such a hot topic. Living, as we do, in a time when material wealth is both King and Queen of the social spectrum, decluttering came about as partial rejection to that concept and partial adoption of the new must have when it comes to the home.

As in space. And lots of it.

Lots of light, lots of room and space in which we can do our own thing. Space that is unhindered by clutter. It’s meditation for the home, for, as we realise that a mind free of complications and excess information, worry and stress is a healthy one (altogether now-Ommmmmmmm) we also learn to appreciate that a home that is equally free of excess can be as equally healthy and happy.

And let’s face it, even if you don’t subscribe to all things Feng Shui, it doesn’t half save on the dusting.

If you going to declutter, then this is as good a time of the year to do so as any.

Cluttered Up Room

January and February follow swiftly on the well oiled heels of Christmas and all the excess that it inevitably brings.

Excess that means more stuff in and around the house. Stuff everywhere. You can't move for stuff.

Self styled cluttering guru Marie Kondo has had it up to here with clutter. Or rather, she used to.

On Planet Tidy she is the absolute ruler.

You can sit at her feet-or, rather, buy her book and find out all you need to know about making space in your home, clearing and creating it, decluttering and reorganising its layout to a degree of perfection that  is, quite frankly frightening-although hugely impressive in its detail. The book takes you on a tidy tour of the entire home, showing how you can declutter and organise specific items throughout, from kitchen to bathroom items and everything inbetween. It even deals with the stuff that you’d rather keep, with instructions on how to effectively fold and store items in order to maximise the space they take up. This includes shirts, underwear, socks and jackets as well as anything and everything that might be hidden away in drawers and cupboards. She also advises on moving house and all the packing and unpacking which it entails.

She’s so thorough infact, you wouldn’t put it past her to tidy up and efficiently fold away teenage children and pets as well. Yes, she’s that good.

One word she uses with reference to keeping your home free of clutter is annihilate.

I’m not kidding. Try this for yourself if you’re feeling brave.

She doesn’t believe, for example, in doing things bit by bit. Taking it one cupboard at a time for example. Oh no. No no no.

One recommendation is to sweep through the entire house, from top to bottom (this is where ‘annihilate’ comes in), grabbling every item of clothing you have before making a big pile of absolutely everything in the middle of the floor.

You might be horrified at the end result.

With that being your total and utter shock at just how many clothes you’ve got. And, as you go through them one by one, you’ll stand there whilst one dominant thought keeps reoccurring in your mind.

“I never wear this...or this...or this...and what on earth was I thinking when I bought this...and as for this, I didn’t even know I had it in the first place...”

That’s probably 60% of it. Gone. Get out of my house. I mean, red trousers? Oh do come on...

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to hard core decluttering. Adopt this process for absolutely everything in your home and, well, who knows-you might end up living in a minimalist paradise that Robert Mangold would be proud to call his own.

Or should that be c l h   wn?

You see, you’re starting to get it now.

Yet you don’t need, of course, to be obsessive about decluttering your home. Not to those levels anyway.

Here are six - yes, six rather less severe ways in which you might think about going about it.

1. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Decluttering Your Home.

Seriously. Study it. Live by it. Bedtime reading. Holiday reading. Follow the rules, and get rid of the clutter. You'll be glad you did!

2. Give each room a five minute limit.

Yep, as simple as that. Go into your bedroom for example and allow yourself just five minutes to assess what’s in there, what stays and, crucially, what goes. The time limit give you clarity, time enough, yet not too much time, to really know what you don’t want to keep-and what you do want to keep.

Multi Drawer

3. A Multi drawer

We’ve all got things dotted about the house in the most unusual of places. Batteries for examples, used stamps that are being saved for charity, an assortment of loose change or similar. Well stop right now and designate one compartmentalised drawer for all of whatever it is-in this case candles-and make it your one stop shop. No more leaving them on bookshelves, kitchen worktops, in plant pots or on the edge of the bath. There’s neat. And there’s neat. And this, my friends, is neat.

4. Roll and file those shirts.

Say no more. Wave farewell to all those teetering towers of cotton that are set to tumble out of your wardrobe and all over the floor at the slightest provocation.

5. Designate a spot for all household papers.

If you were to take a walk around your home or home office now, take it from me, you’d be shocked at just how much paper there is about the place.  Well it’s time to put a stop to that. We tend to put paper down as soon as we’ve looked at it-any time, any room, any part of that room. It could be a counter, in a drawer, on a desk, on top of the wardrobe, in the wardrobe, on a bookcase or on top of the TV. So have a dedicated paper Inbox in one part of the home with the rule that ALL pieces of paper, no exceptions go in there. You’ll be surprised how even this one little idea makes a huge difference.

Crowded Bookshelf

6. Clear a shelf.

This is as easy and as straight forward as it gets. Any shelf. It might be a shelf in a cupboard, it might be an overcrowded bookshelf. Don’t think you have to do the whole bookshelf if that is the case-just do the one. Clear away all the non-essential things and leave it looking neat and clutter free. You’ll be amazed at how good an uncluttered bookshelf can look.

How does that all sound? All good? Excellent. Now that we’ve started on your decluttering, don’t worry that we might now abandon you to it all. Far from it. The next blog will examine the subject further including features on some of the items that you can get for your home that will help make it look more spacious.

Never mind believing that a man can fly. You really will believe that less is more.

And no more so than in your very own home.

Published: Feb 8, 2016

Freshen Up Your Home for the New Year

 

Happy New Year.

New hope, new dreams, new experiences. Rebirth. Light. Energy. Vision.  Yadda yadda yadda.

Seriously, who subscribes to all of that quasi-new age thinking?

You do? So there is someone. Well I never. How’s that working out for you then?

Something which we could all be working on during these damp and rather dreary times that mark that traditionally awkward period between Christmas and the New Year is brightening up our homes.

Though we’re not too convinced about that parallel lines thing to be perfectly honest, but hey, if it’s your bag, then to hell with good taste and a sense of style, you go for it anyway.

At least the wallpaper will be in synch with all of your hangovers.

Anyway. Even if we don’t feel clean, fresh and reborn with the advent of 2016, there is no reason why we shouldn’t give our homes a new look to mark the occasion, brighten them up a bit here and there, smooth done the dull edges and pimp up the magnolia here and there.

And let’s face it. How many of us really appreciate the house that we live in?

Dirty Bathroom

Does your most intimate of rooms look anything like this? Sort it out.

Go on, be honest. Would you happily allow yourself to get as tatty, down at heel and occasionally threadbare in all the important places as you might be occasionally prone to with regard to your home?

You know, that thing that just happens to be the biggest and most important financial investment you’ll ever make.

Well exactly. I’m glad we can at least agree on that.

We’re not talking about you having to spend a fortune here. This isn’t going to be about extensions, conversions, swimming pools and underground car parks.

It’s more about bringing some Spring into your home in time for it, jet stream permitting, to greet the advent of the brighter, optimistic and warmer days ahead.

We could, of course, all be shivering under ICY GRIP of an ARCTIC FREEZE by Easter of course-and yep, have you noticed how the tawdry and downmarket tabloids like to capitalise scary words? Still, at least it detracts from the fact that no-one on their staff would know a story if it turned up in their front gardens in a Winnebago and stayed put for six months, sorry, SIX MONTHS.

Let’s see if we can’t find a use for unwanted newspaper in here somewhere.

But first of all: let there be light!

Phillips Wake Up SAD LampSomething like this could make your winter far more tolerable.

Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter. And that’s hardly surprising. We spent week after week, either in the house or at the office; getting up, going to work and going home whilst it’s still dark as well as spending much of the day under artificial light wherever we go.

But there is no longer any need to scared of the light-at least not that harsh, unrelenting and migraine inducing type of white light that eats into your soul in the same way it devours the darkness.

Because you can now purchase a light that attempts to replicate artificial daylight rather than trying to tear a hole in your retina. Read about some of them here.

If, like me, you like to spend a lot of your time communing with nature and generally getting it on with Mother Earth, then you’re probably missing your garden at the moment. After all, what might look something like this in the Summer:

Sunny Garden

is, given the amount of rain we’ve all had lately, more likely to look like this at the moment:

Rainy Garden

But don’t despair. If you can’t yet get out into the garden, you can at least bring the garden to you. And no, I don’t mean keeping the Christmas tree in-situ for the rest of the year. You can enliven an empty corner or sad console with a new plant. There are many unique options for urns and plant stands out there, so much so that, whatever the size of your home or room, that simple shot of greenery will not only bring some ever changing sculptural appeal but also a sense of height and depth to the room in question.

House Of Plants not only offer a wide range of suitable indoor plants, they also help you choose what might be suitable for your home according to the size of plant you want or room you want to keep it in.

If, on the other hand, you feel like you might want to be a bit more hands on with what you’ve got, then how about giving some of the trims in your home a bit of a touch up?  Show the paintbrush to your door and window frames, skirting board and architraves, give them the sort of love and attention a fresh coat of paint with a gloss finish can give. They’ll look newer, brighter and smoother-but not only that, the contrast between them and your existing wall colours will give new life and depth to any room.

Dulux and Crown trade paints are reckoned to be the best available by the experts, so take a look at some of the exciting new colour options that are going to be available this Spring and see where it takes you.

Now, have you considered throwing out some of your old cushions and throws?

I’m serious. I know you like them and think it helps give your place a sort of swanky New York apartment look, as lived in by Monica and Rachel in Friends.

But look, come ON! You probably had some of those cushions since before that programme even first aired. So be brave, gather them up and take them along to your nearest dog or cat sanctuary.

They’ll be eternally grateful for them. And so will you after you’ve seen what a difference to a room some bright new cushions and throws will make.

How about, and look, this is only a suggestion, seeing past the chill of winter and tossing out those fur and woollen ones and looking for a soft alpaca or breezy linen alternative? Look for a bright colour or unique pattern to really enhance your existing decor or keep it a tad more simple with a soft solid for that more classic look.

Urbanara know all that you will ever need to know about the throw. They claim that you simply cannot underestimate the value of having a few of these laying around the house, and no matter what room you have them in. They can, for example, give your living room a lovely warm look if they are draped over an armchair or couch, else, if placed in a guest bedroom, they can double as bedding at night time. And chaps, don’t be shy here, even you deserve something warm and snug that you can hide under, along with a damned good book during the chilly daytime.

How very civilised.

But that’s what we’re all about here at Loft Blinds. We want to help you make your home as comfortable, contemporary, light, bright and, well, civilised as possible. And secure. Indeed, if we had a mission statement, it would be something along those lines.

We’ll be looking at more ways in which you can brighten up your home in time for the Spring before the end of the month. In the meantime, if there is any subject, topic or relevant issue which you would like us to cover here in the coming weeks, please let us know so that we can look into writing a blog about it.

In the meantime, we wish you all a very Happy New Year. Here’s to some wonderful adventures in both home and garden throughout 2016.

And don't worry. We'll get here again before you know it:

Summer BBQ

Published: Jan 14, 2016

How to Have a Classy Christmas

 

Twat Christmas LightsDoes this look at all familiar? Grim, isn't it?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

And sound like it too, judging by the incessant playing of those festive musical offerings come aural sacrifices.

Over familiar dirges that commenced in your local supermarket back in October and which are now everywhere; a mass blitzkrieg of nails scraping their painful way ever down the seasonal blackboard with assorted sleigh bells thrown into the mix.

Then there are the lights. Not so much Ho Ho Ho! As No! No! NO! What is it with people and their obsession with no only making the outside of their house look like one of the seedier parts of Las Vegas but, in doing so, increasing their carbon footprint so much that, every time they flick the On switch, a dozen Polar Bears simultaneously drop dead?

Seriously, I’m with the chap who lives in the house on the right. He gets the irony as well.

He’s probably the sort of person who appreciates some of the finer things Christmas can offer for you and your home.

Like some of those being suggested by The Soil Association for example.

The Soil Association are the UK’s leading membership charity that campaigns, exclusively and positively, for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.

Land that you should be proud to stride across in your Hunters Wellies when you take the air for your Boxing Day walk this year.

They’re currently showcasing and promoting a veritable potpourri of  goodies relating to Christmas, ranging from organic mistletoe to Bonnie & Bailey's brand new range of dog shampoos and fragrances.

So yes, you really can have the sweetest smelling black Lab in all of the Home Counties. Or wherever you live for that matter. I dare say it even works for Spaniels as well.

Organic Christmas Trees

Now, about your Christmas Tree...

Please don’t tell me that you have an artificial one that you drag down from the loft every year?

You don’t? Good. But don’t pat yourself on the back too firmly. Not just yet.

Because it’s no good thinking that popping along to see the “bloke selling them out of a van” counts as having a proper tree either.

It doesn’t. Because he or she might not have obtained them in the most honest manner. And Christmas is supposedly all about peace and goodwill to all and sundry, remember?

The best thing to do, and look, you can even use this information next year if this has come too late for you this time around, is to source and purchase a green one. And that’s green as in the way it’s been grown and sold, not its colour. Mind you, it probably won’t go brown after just a few days either if you follow those basic rules.

First and foremost, what are you going to put on the tree?

If you are anywhere in or near London then a visit to Liberty is a must. Their Christmas department is one of the best stocked, varied and, let’s be honest, downright classy in existence.

Their range of baubles and assorted dangling offerings will put the ‘Ooooh’ into your ‘Ahhhhh’.

So pay them a visit if you get the opportunity.

Alternately, you can take a trip to one of the numerous Christmas Markets that are dotting the country at the moment.

Winchester has a very good one for example, crammed to the snowy gunnels with British made craft items as well as some of the finest food and drink the region has to offer.

You can find details of many more here. So bookmark the page and make sure you pay a visit to some of them next year if you’ve missed out this time around.

Now, what about those home comforts? How about getting yourself comfortable to sit on whilst you’re opening all those presents?

Grande Dame

If you’re tired of your current three piece then maybe a visit to Sofa Workshop would be in order?

They claim to be ‘obsessed’ with sofas. And, strictly between you and me, I think they are. But in a really good way.

Their products aren’t mass produced or disposable. Not at all. Infact, they’re so proud of each and every sofa they make, that every frame is guaranteed. And what’s more, they’re made in Britain by experienced craftsmen who employ all the time honoured techniques whilst they are making them.

Plus every frame has a hardwood in it which will be either beech or birch.

You wouldn’t have thought sofas could be a thing of beauty. Well think again. Da Vinci would not only been the first man to fly if he’d had this one in his workshop: he’d probably have invented in-flight service into the bargain.

Now, I know I gave Christmas lighting a bit of a bad rap at the start of this blog, didn’t I?

Cable LightsNow, these don't look half bad, do they... ?

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to enhance the ambience in your home at Christmas time with some moody lighting.

Just focus on having them on the inside, maybe?

You certainly don’t need to look very far if you want to get some to add a little magic to the living room.

How about these, for example, from Marks & Spencer? Or these from John Lewis?

Very nice. Simple, classic. And not something that will break the bank.

Which is just as well. Because if the man of the house likes a festive Whisky, then we’ve got just the thing for him.

Our old favourites, Amazon, offer some truly tempting treats in terms of highly-aged Malt Whisky - like a Talisker 18 Year Old. Mature enough to use a pipe and slippers, no?

Go on. It IS Christmas, after all.

Of course, if you truly want to indulge in this, or any other year, then what finer idea is there, than a traditional Christmas Hamper?

Fortnum And Mason HamperLook at that absolute feast!

Fortnum & Mason are probably the Daddies of the festive food in a wicker basket thing.

But Waitrose do them as well. And very nice they look too.

All that’s missing, infact, is some really nice wrapping paper to put them in. Well look no further.

Enough of that Christmas paper that looks and feels like it would be more suitable to blow your nose on.

Cox & Cox have a tremendous range of paper as well as just about anything else you may care to need-from crackers to wreaths –and a whole lot more besides.

Well worth a look. The business was launched in 2001 with the desire to create a handpicked collection of homeware products that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else. They feel, as we do, that people want to make their homes as unique and beautiful as they can, so, with that in mind, they’ve brought together a truly eclectic mix of the old and the new, a wide variety of products that can transform any room, space or home.

Which sounds good to us. Hopefully it will to you as well.

Cox & Cox Stars Wrapping PaperHow's this for distinguished, elegant, and classy? Plus, they're an excellent business!

We will make it our own fervent cause to bring to you the very best, original and new items and accessories for your home on this blog throughout 2016. So much so infact, that there is every chance that you might have read about them on here before anyone will have done elsewhere.

So bookmark this page today. And, if you want us to feature or write about a subject of interest to, or close to your heart and home, let us know.

We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, we wish you all, friends, customers and visitors old and new, the very happiest of Christmases and a peaceful and joyous 2016.

See you there!


 

Published: Dec 19, 2015

Winter Warmth: How to Stay Snug This Christmas

 

It’s all too easy to seek comfort in the bottle when we’re feeling the cold.

Winter does, after all, have the not so happy knack of creeping up on us unawares and knocking us to the ground, courtesy of its icy cudgel. We get complacent. Sure, the leaves are falling and we’re needing to turn the lights on earlier by the day. But hey, look. It’s still mild enough for linen shirts, chinos and deck shoes.

Yep, pantomime season may well be fast approaching. But is it time to get out the thermals and thick sweaters yet?

Oh, yes it is.

Oh no, it isn’t.

Come on, you only need to take a post-Sunday lunch stroll to see the evidence of our fashion defiance. Darkening skies, quickening breezes and berries a’plenty adorn the trees. But Ralph Lauren still rules the highways, byways and frost kissed hillsides.

That is, until the balmy days become barmy ones. And the talk around the water cooler turns from new cars and holidays to whether you’ve bitten the bullet and turned the central heating on yet!

It’s a bizarre ritual. Many people see flicking that little switch on the boiler from Off to On as evidence of a lack of masculinity. Wives and children are sat in a corner shivering like extras in one of Charles Dickens’s darker novels. But turn the heating on, in November, meYou might as well chew off my balls and put me in a frilly tutu. Put another sweater on if you’re cold.

It’s like the standoff in a Western. No-one dared make the first move, no-one blinks, there is nary the flicker of a finger. Until, that is, someone gives.

Dave in Marketing turned his heating on at the weekend. He’s a marked man now. Yet, his act of self sacrifice now means everyone else can follow suit; “I wasn’t first, other people put their heating on long before I did mine. Boo-YAH!”. Cue triumphant fist pumping.

Well for goodness sake, take a look at yourself.

We just want to be warm and comfortable, that’s all.

Fortunately enough for today’s macho man, there are plenty of gadgets and gizmos about the place for him to not only keep his home and family warm this winter, but to make him feel like the Captain of the USS Enterprise in doing so.

Boo-YAH indeed. Everyone’s a winner.

Futuristic Heaters from Dyson


Take
Dyson Hot & Cool room heaters, for example...

Dyson Hot And Cool

Come on, look again. He’s even made it look like some kind of intergalactic technology from the 25th century. When no-one’s at home, you can pretend it’s a Stargate to another Universe or something.

If you get one of these, then believe me, you’ll be looking for any excuse to get it out and switch the thing on. “I know its June but you can never be too careful!” Plus, it'll do cool as well as warm - making for legitimate all-year-round use!

It’s got a remote. Plus jet focus control. Hell, it’s Top Gun in a box. Keeping the house warm was never so, well, macho.

Or classy, come to that. Disregarding the fact it looks like it was something that was once owned by Darth Vader for a moment, consider the design. It's sleek and contemporary. Sure, it’s there to keep you warm. But it could equally sit in a corner of the Tate Modern.

The Most Desirable Radiators Ever

 

A more traditional form of heating is, of course, the humble radiator.

They’ve never really been objects of desire. Yet, even the most functional design can be transformed into something desirable. Either that, or you can opt for a more modern radiator, designs that are so cutting edge that they appear ‘rad’ in both name and nature.

A Wiltshire based company has done just that, offering a wide range of both traditional and contemporary radiators for luxury and designer interiors. Cue, the Livinghouse designer radiators...

Black Mirage Radiator

Is this a radiator? Or that mysterious black slab from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Nope, must be a radiator. After all, 2001 is, well, so 2001 darlings. And radiators have moved on.

You can ever get designer radiators for your children’s bedrooms now. Have a child that is a Lego addict? Say no more. Get one or two of these and they’ll stay in their rooms for hours, warm and snug, whilst you get on with other things.

And talking of bedrooms, how about an Anthracite radiator or two to help maintain the heat in there? Say no more.

The Ambience of Candles


Candles are something else that can add warmth and comfort to a home.

No, we’re not advocating you all huddle around one with outstretched hands. It’s the kind of warmth they add to a room in terms of its ambience we’re thinking of...

Candle Ambience

Like this. You can almost hear the Barry White CD - sorry, vinyl - starting up in the background.

It's quite easy to find a range of elegant and contemporary candles and candle holders that will go a long way to adding warmth and atmosphere to a room online. Take a look at this Yankee Candle Christmas set - containing six different scents; Christmas cookie, Christmas eve, season of peace, sugared apple, red apple wreath, and snowflake cookie. How's that for Wintery warmth?

If you like candles but aren’t so keen on the prospect of all that soot on your furnishings, then fear not. Because you can buy Beeswax candles that are both smokeless and soot less from the West London based Scented Candle Shop.

A modern twist to that most fundamental of warmth providers now: fire.

A Classic Throwback: Contemporary Fireplaces


Who hasn’t secretly yearned for a
real fireplace in their home?

The advent of central heating saw both property developers and home owners ripping fireplaces out of their homes with some vigour. They were seen as costly, dirty and time consuming follies.

Not anymore.

Shanghai Fireplace

They’re becoming must-have items. Contemporary, classy. Plus, if you really want it, most reassuringly expensive. Yet, if you ever wanted to change the character of your home, then installing a fireplace is a sure fire, pun intended, way of doing so.

You can burn wood, solid fuel, gas or electric. There is an option for everyone. In fact, the one and only Sarah Beeny has discussed the benefits of enjoying a Christmassy hearth - are you going to argue with her?

But not only that. They’re also considered to be a most ecologically sound option now. Fossil fuel supplies are falling almost as quickly as demand is growing so, with that in mind, wood, a renewable resource is now widely accepted as an economic and carbon neutral energy source.

How about that? A warm, cosy home and a clear conscience.

Admittedly, the message has taken a little while to get through. The actual concept was being pushed over three decades ago.

It’s just that we’re only really warming to it now.

But with designs like these available from Holme-based stone artists J. Rotherham, should anyone be that surprised?

Cosy and Convenient: The Hot Water Bottle


Even the once oh-so-humble hot water bottle has acclimatised to modern living.

It was once bracketed alongside fluffy carpet slippers, nylon sheets and draughty stairways. But not any more - for under £50 you can now have a hot water bottle that is completely in tune with the 21st century. One that will attract admiring glances rather than sympathetic looks:

Fatboy Hot Water Bottle Pillow

Is it a hot water bottle? Is it a pillow? Well, technically, it's both - and it's also really, really comfy.

They’ve taken this concept a step further in Japan with a stunning piece of furniture known as a Kotatsu. It’s nothing more than a table that is covered with a blanket but with a heater placed underneath it. It looks good, it’s contemporary, practical and it keeps you warm.

A Futon with attitude.

Kotatsu Futon

Japan leads, the rest of the world follows. Everyone will be wanting one of these soon.

So remember where you saw it first. And thank us for the tip. You can get the jump on everyone else with one from here.

Whether we like it or not, December is well and truly upon us. Not so much the a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness but one of colds, chills and frigid air.

Yet there is no need to cover up about wanting to keep warm. Don’t hide it, embrace it.

With a warm and comfortable house that not only feels good - it looks damned good as well.

Plus, remember that there are ways to improve your energy efficiency at the same time, with our "Don't Move Out, Move Up!" home improvements graphic.

Published: Dec 8, 2015

Saving Money on Home Repairs & Maintenance

 

Cleaning Gutters

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...

Well no wonder, did you see the shocking state of disrepair they let it get into?

It doesn’t take too much these days for properties to get into a bit of what might realistically called “a state”. An initially curable problem around the home such as dry rot, damp, a missing tile or two or damaged rendering might seem a bit of an distraction when you first notice it, something that you’ll either “get around to” or ask someone to “take a look at”.

But more often than not we just leave it to fester. After all, if we’re warm and dry indoors, what does it matter what the outside of the house looks like?

It’s when the outside comes indoors where the problems start.

Developers know this only too well. One of the tricks of their trade when they’re looking to build on a plot where planning permission might otherwise be difficult to get, will be to expose various parts of the existing property to the elements. Some tiles missing here and there, a window or two left open or outside doors removed.

Voila! In come all the elements and, after a time, the structural integrity of the house is, shall we say, slightly compromised. “Oh dear” say the developers, “...it’s become a bit of a liability, a danger even. It’ll have to come down”.

And so it does. Nature PLC has started the job for them, they’ll more than happily finish it off.

Fortunately, you are somewhat more conscientious about your home. And rightly so. Indeed, your focus, over time, is making it more pleasant to live in-an extension or loft conversion, maybe a conservatory and, as much as possible, a drive to make it thoroughly energy efficient.

I doff my cap to you.

It isn’t too surprising that repair costs to properties depend on both the age and type of the property therefore.

So if you’re scratching your head and wondering why it seems so much more expensive to maintain your late nineteenth century detached home in comparison to those your son or daughter has with their modern, purpose built flat then look no further than the properties in question.

The older a house is then, as a rule, the more it will cost to maintain and keep in a good state of repair.

Which sounds fairly obvious. But that hasn’t always been how it is perceived by property buyers.

Take, as just one example, the massive building programme of council housing that took place all over the country in the from the 1950’s through to the early 1970’s.

Many of these are now desirable properties to buy. The rooms are spacious, the gardens generous and the roof spaces, if a conversion might eventually be your thing, are generally cavernous.

Go into one with any prospective buyer and you can bet the one thing they will always do and say is give one of the internal walls a  proprietary slap before saying, “...ah, they built these to last. They’re solid”.

And so they might be. Providing they’re looked after. Because research into repair costs show that the cost of repair and upkeep to one of those property types, built, say between 1945 and 1964 is £11.80 per square metre, the same price for a property built after 1980 is just £3.10.

That’s quite a difference. So yes, they may well be “solid” and “built to last”. But it doesn’t mean they are self sustaining, indeed, if properties of that age are left to get into a state of disrepair then that once valued solidity will be one of the reasons that repair costs are so high. Solid means a lot of work and therefore a lot of labour will be needed.

So let’s hope that you never need a total electrical rewire in one.

Property is a good investment. Twas’ ever the case. But that doesn’t mean you can, as with an ISA or some stocks and shares, just leave it alone to accumulate in its own time. Because if you leave it well alone the only thing you’ll be accumulating is repair bills.

Take another look at our graphic. If you want to avoid hefty repair bills, either when you’ve moved in or over a period of time, it’s always better to buy a newer property. Detached and semi-detached houses plus purpose built flats from around 1980 onwards are the cheapest to maintain so purchasing any of these in good condition (and ensuring that it stays that way) could end up to be a more than worthwhile investment.

If you’re looking to convert an abandoned seventeenth century Church on the other hand-well, let’s just hope a little divine inspiration is still present in the walls-they weren’t forever banging on about how the roof needed repairing for nothing.


 

Published: Nov 2, 2015

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