Archive for March, 2009


Our own homes are responsible for more than 25% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere but whether you are choosing energy efficient appliances, or making larger changes to your home, such as building a conservatory, or converting your loft or garage into extra living space, there are a number of measures that you can take to reduce these harmful emissions and lower your energy bills.

If you are building a conservatory for example, it may be wise to accept that it will be comfortable to inhabit in spring, summer and autumn, but not perhaps in the depths of winter. This will save you the cost of a dedicated heating system in your conservatory, which can be hugely wasteful in any case. Similarly, if you are planning a loft or garage conversion, consider the use of the latest, energy efficient double glazing for windows and skylights and solar energy systems – such as solar water heating, or solar panels – for generating your own electricity.

Energy efficient appliances – cookers, refrigerators, etc. – can be identified by their energy labels and even something as simple as replacing traditional tungsten light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, or LED (“Light Emitting Diode”) lighting can have a major effect on your CO2 emissions. You can, of course, also make the most of the natural light entering your home by placing desks, work surfaces, etc. where they receive as much natural light as possible.

You may also like to think about insulation and draught-proofing in your home. Loft insulation – ideally to a depth of between 250mm and 300mm – and cavity, or solid, wall insulation are the types that spring immediately to mind but, especially if you live in an older property, you may also like to think about your hot water cylinder and hot water pipes, your existing doors, windows and floors. Even your letterbox can be a source of energy loss in winter so get that fitted with a draught excluder too.

Category : Green Energy | Blog

A fierce debate recently broke out on a DIY website regarding who was better at home improvement: Men or Women. The editor of a DIY website named ‘Lets Do DIY,’ John Burry, was quick to comment on the furore and said: “We thought asking if men or women were better at DIY would provide [the website] with a little light relief, but both sexes appear to have very strong views on the subject.” He added: “The poll clearly suggests that today many more women are undertaking home improvement projects and consequently DIY is no longer the predominantly male activity it once was.”

According to the UK national statistics website: “When it comes to DIY, nearly half of women.” in their studies: “say that they do not do DIY repair work, compared with [only] 16 per cent of men.” Therefore, the majority of men believe that they carry out some home improvement work, whilst only half of all women do activities such as sort out the new kitchen design or loft conversion. However, when asked about specific forms of DIY work such as decorating and gardening, roles are much more balanced, with both men and women claiming to do an equal share.

In 2006 a study which was funded by The Halifax showed that 5.3 million women in the UK believe they are ‘the best person in the household’ to carry out DIY home improvements and the Daily Mail ran a story on these findings.

Only one in ten men agreed that their female partner did a better job with the DIY than themselves. Whilst four percent of men admitted that their girlfriends or wives did most of the DIY and when asked if their wives had more skill than them with screwdrivers and power tools seven percent of the men in the report agreed that in fact their wife did. The newspaper reported that the studies revealed a lot about men, saying: “men are not ready to accept the new balance of DIY power and are grudging about the abilities of their partners.”

Category : Home Improvement | Blog

Unsurprising figures were released recently regarding the decline of interest and expenditure in the US home improvement industries. These figures come in the wake of the huge 2000 – 2007 housing boom which has been blamed by many financial experts as the cause of the recession; it was mortgage markets which dealt the first big hit to the world economy due to a high number of failing sub-prime mortgage loans.

However, the dip in home improvement spending is damaging the US economy further because tradesmen, such as builders, decorators, interior designers and architects are struggling to find work. According to studies by Harvard University, Spring is typically a busy time for the home improvement industries but this year fewer people are interested in having work done due to a lack of funds.

Harvard University have predicted an annual decline rate of 12.1% by the third quarter of this year and they stress that spending is unlikely to rise until the economy on the whole sees some recovery. USA Today reported that: “Total sales fell 4.5% to $290.5 billion in 2008, the second consecutive annual decline, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute.”

Adding that: “With housing markets still weak and consumer spending falling generally, the Institute expects home improvement product sales to fall 6.4% more in 2009 to $272 billion,” furthermore, the lowering value of US homes is also being blamed. Many homeowners are concerned that the cost to’re-model’ their home could be greater than the increased worth this would add to their home’s value. To date, the catastrophic effect these trends have had on ‘re-modelling’ industries total $306 billion in losses.

Home furnishing companies are also being hit hard by the decline in the home improvement industry and USA Today also reported on a small business named: Linens ‘n Things which specialised in soft furnishings. They reported that the company “filed for bankruptcy last year.” They also commented that the big brands were not beyond being punished either: “Home Depot saw a fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $54 million and Lowe’s fourth-quarter earnings dropped 60%.”

Category : Home Improvement | Blog

A garden patio has become an essential element of almost any garden design, providing not only a space in which to eat, or simply to relax in comfort, but also transitional space between the exterior and interior of your home. As such, a patio needs to be large enough to accommodate you and your family and/or friends, but as a space that will be seen and used or a regular basis, it also needs to be attractive and hardwearing.

There are, of course, many different materials that you can use for the basic construction of a patio. Real stone, or lighter, less expensive, stone veneer, are popular options along with brickwork – using new or recycled brickworks – pavers, and at the less expensive end of the market concrete. Concrete need not necessarily be bland and grey and can, nowadays, be professionally stamped and coloured to resemble more expensive materials. Above anything else, however, you should try to choose a basic material that blends congruously with your home and indeed with your garden.

Similar comments apply to patio furniture, which can be chosen to match elements of your home, or of your hard landscaping. The chances are that you probably want a table and chairs, but maybe you want a bench, sun lounger, or a hammock too to wile away those sunny summer afternoons. Plastic is cheap, but not particularly aesthetically pleasing, whilst wicker or wood, is a little more expensive, but can be treated with paint, stain or oil for longevity and provides a more natural look and feel. At the other end of the scale, wrought iron patio furniture is expensive and heavy but is highly durable provided that it is treated against the elements, in which case it can be left outside all year round. Aluminium is a lighter, more portable alternative, but is once again extremely durable and easy to clean.

Category : Garden | Blog

With Spring approaching we are all looking forward to spending more time in the garden. Indeed, this is the perfect time to consider adding a greenhouse to your garden so that you can enjoy its benefits all year round. Greenhouses make a fantastic addition to every garden, their environment is a perfect nursery for seedlings and growing plants. Greenhouses also encompass an all important potting area, and are perfect for storing pots, compost and garden equipment.

Greenhouses come in an array of different shapes and sizes. Developments in Greenhouse designs mean that all budgets and garden areas can now accommodate a greenhouse.

Stand Alone and Lean-To are the two basic designs of domestic greenhouse. For those looking for something smaller, a mini or portable greenhouse may be the answer. Greenhouse frames are usually constructed from plastic or metal, older models may be wooden. Greenhouse ‘glass’ can be either horticultural, toughened or even plastic. Horticultural glass is prone to breakage, and plastic windows can result in restricted sunlight over time.

Lean-to’s are ideally built against your house (or your garage), they are ideal for those people who are short on space and once constructed are usually permanent features. Comprising of three walls, a sloped roof, ventilation and a door, Lean-to greenhouses are ideally situated East or South facing, so they receive the most sun exposure. Benefits of having a Lean-to greenhouse include saving space and being close to water and electricity sources. Disadvantages and complications include high sun exposure and limited ventilation and space issues.

Space permitting, few gardeners can ignore the temptation of a stand alone greenhouse and this is one area where bigger really is better! An integrated electrical and heating system is preferable, and stand alone greenhouses should be situated to ensure maximum sun exposure and adequate shade. Stand alone greenhouses come in various shapes and sizes, from traditional (Wendy) house shaped greenhouses, to domes, rectangles, apexes and squares.

Accessorise your greenhouse with heaters, digital weather devices, sunshades and solar lighting. Above all else, enjoy your greenhouse all year round. For more information click here

Category : Garden | Blog

Fresh from the brand that is synonymous with ‘flat-pack’, IKEA have launched their eagerly anticipated 2009 Summer collection. Inviting you to “create an outdoor space that you will never want to leave”, IKEA’s garden range delivers everything you would expect from IKEA: great quality, minimalistic furniture and living solutions all available at affordable prices. The Swedish company have once again managed to create a stylish range whilst upholding their promise to maximise the use of raw materials.

Our top picks from their stunning new garden range include the following:

From the ÄPPLARÖ series, the ÄPPLARÖ Rocking Chair – a bargain at only £59.00, this stylish chair is made from the highest quality solid Acacia hardwood. Perfect for relaxing during those warm summer evenings.

From the VÄNÖ range, IKEA brings you the Easy Chair – available in assorted colours and made from weather resistant plastic rattan. This low maintenance, highly quirky chair is the ideal show piece for your garden in 2009.

Add some pizazz to your garden this summer with a DYNING Hammock. Made from Heavy polyester fabric which is an extra hard-wearing and durable material. DYNING Hammocks are available in an array of assorted colours. Could anything feel as good as swinging in the summer sunshine?

For a family functional table and chair set, IKEA brings you the TULLERÖ Garden Set. Once again this is designed from Solid acacia durable hardwood, which is renewable and recyclable!

Finally, if you want to create a stylish space for all your funky new furniture to be showcased upon, then IKEA have the solution… from the PLATTA range, IKEA have designed affordable decking made from Solid acacia durable hardwood. With prices starting at an astonishing £2.99 (per 45cm x 45cm) there really is no excuse not to ‘deck out’ your garden!

Accessories to the garden range include vibrant cushions and colourful seat pads, from ranges including SÄRÖ, RÅSSÖN, SÄLSÖN, HÅLLÖ and LÖVÖ, and an array of Parasols from the KARLSÖ range.

Category : Garden | Blog

A sofa is likely to be one of the largest and, depending upon its exact situation, one of the most often used pieces of furniture in any modern home. A sofa is the focal point of many living rooms, but depending on the size of your home and any overnight guests that you may wish to accommodate from time to time, you may also want to incorporate a sofa as an element of bedroom design, for example. Taste of course is personal and you can choose from a range of materials – fabric, leather, etc. – to match the other elements of your interior design. A sofa can make a bold colour statement and coordinate subtly with your other soft furnishings, curtains, blinds, etc..

A simple, squared off design is suitable for most spaces but if you have an especially large, or small, room there are one or two design tricks that you might like to bear in mind. A sofa that reaches right down to the floor, for example, visually fills a larger room better than a sofa with legs and thinner arms which may be better suited to a smaller room. Be careful too with your choice of material, particularly if you have pets or your sofa will be exposed to direct sunlight. Leather is aesthetically pleasing but can be scratched or punctured easily, and may require occasional treatment with specialist leather cleaner. Fabric, on the other hand, may be prone to staining, pilling, etc. and may hold onto odours, dust and pet hair. Some materials may also fade, or crack if exposed to direct sunlight for lengthy periods.

Like most pieces of furniture, you typically get what you pay for with a sofa. Expensive sofas tend to be constructed from kiln-dried hardwood, and have dowelled joints and steel coil springs, designed to last for many years to come. Cheaper models may use staples instead of dowels and suffer from inferior materials, and build quality throughout, and cannot therefore be expected to last as long.

Category : Living Room | Blog

How do you express your love and gratitude to the woman who gave you life? It is actually a pretty daunting question! Sadly, for the majority, Mother’s Day has been lost in the sea of commercial ‘celebrations’ and has been reduced to a box of chocolates added to your trolley during the weekly shop or a hastily purchased card and drab bunch of flowers from the local garage!

So why not put in a little extra effort for for Mother’s Day 2009 (which is on the 22 March for anyone that has forgotten!). Instead of the usual flowers or chocolates, this year give your mother a gift that will enhance her home. The 2009 ‘hot to have’ gift, as recommended by the Ideal Home Magazine, is stylish ceramics from Susie Watson Designs. With designs as fresh as the coming spring, these handmade beautiful gifts are of the highest quality. Available as individual pieces or part of a set, this pretty pottery collection is as beautiful as it is functional.

Ranging in price from £6.75 for a delicately decorated daisy egg cup, to £15 for a ‘mummy’ cup (perhaps the perfect mothers day gift?), £25 for a star themed candle stick, and up to £75 for a Large duck egg blue fruit bowl, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets within this collection.

If pottery is just not your mother’s thing, then Susie Watson Designs also stock an extensive range of Textiles and Fabrics (napkins and tablecloths), Accessories (wall hangings, beach bags and bathrobes), Lucy Art (cards, prints and gift wrap), Bed Linen (quilts, sheets, throws and pillowcases). The site is also worth bookmarking for fabulous gifts ideas for weddings (gifts or lists) or babies (nappy bags, cot bed quilts and play mats).

All items can be purchased online from the shop website ( or from the Susie Watson Design shop on Marlborough High Street. Gift vouchers are also available and orders can be placed by telephone – for further details see the website.

Category : Uncategorized | Blog

Whilst the experts battle it out trying to decide whether we are experiencing human made global warming, natural global dimming, or random climate change there is one thing they all agree on – mould! Climate change advice from the English Heritage site – the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment – has expressed concern about traditionally built houses and solid wall masonry buildings and their adaptability to extreme weather conditions.

Whilst it is thought that coping with extreme summers may not be a problem, warmer winters could spell bad news and mean an increase in mould growth. Although mould growth is more likely to spread in poorly ventilated rooms, a reduction in sunlight (due to increased cloud coverage) may mean that all houses will experience an increase in the dreaded affliction.

Remember, mould is not just unsightly it can also seriously affect your health. Research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in America has stated that “All moulds have the potential to cause health effects. Moulds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mould… mould is known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants”.

So, bathroom or bedroom, how can you protect yourself and deal with mould? Firstly make sure rooms are ventilated and open curtains/blinds during the day for maximum sun exposure. Remember, opening the vents on your double glazing will keep air circulating, decrease mould growth and reduce condensation.

There are many bleach based products available on the market which will treat mould. For a more natural approach do not discount traditional methods. Try spraying white distilled vinegar straight on to the effected area. Grapefruit Seed Extract and Tea Tree Oil are also effective natural remedies. Always wear gloves and, if possible, a protective mask when treating areas affected by mould.

Once treated, ensure all surfaces are clean, clear and dry before repainting. For long term treatment of mould consider purchasing a humidistat-controlled electric fan and take precautionary steps towards insulation and draught proofing.

Category : Home Improvement | Blog

The kitchen is the heart of the modern home and, whatever its size, there are several practical and aesthetic considerations that need to addressed in any kitchen design. A kitchen is, of course, primarily a functional space used for the storage and preparation of food but, above and beyond that, it should also be a warm, comfortable space that you can enjoy for its own sake.

Cabinets and worktops are integral components of any fitted kitchen, and from the point of view of hygiene, durability and aesthetics, you can choose from a range of materials such as wood, laminate, granite or stainless steel to suit your own taste and practical requirements.

All kitchens also obviously have walls and floors and the characteristics of wall and floor coverings should reflect the practical use of the kitchen. Tiles are easy to clean in the event of spills or splashes but wallpaper or paint can be a cost effective alternative and humidity resistant, easy to clean versions are available specifically for use in kitchens. Vinyl flooring similarly is water resistant and easy to clean and can provide the look of ceramic tiles at a fraction of the cost.

A large proportion of the activity in a kitchen takes place during daylight hours so bright, bold colours are often appropriate. For food preparation after dark, however – or for creating the right atmosphere for a “candlelight” soiree, if your kitchen is large enough – task and ambient lighting is important. Ambient lighting, which provides general illumination for a kitchen space, can be provided by a central ceiling fixture or multiple recessed fixtures for example. Task lighting on the other hand which allows you to see what you are doing can be included beneath kitchen cabinets, for example, for the illumination of the work surface(s) below.

Category : Kitchen | Blog