Summer is finally here and what better way to welcome it into your home than by a spot of home improvement, with an influx of Oriental Style, hard and soft furnishings.
The Daily Mail (20th June 2009), advises that we take a softly, softly, approach to adding a hint of Oriental into our residences, and, although never previously knowingly associated with subtlety, The Daily Mail promoted and encourages the use of flourishing florals, in addition to tasteful eggshell and fiery pink hues.
Try adding a feature wall, decorated with Pompadour wallpaper. A mere £46, for a ten-metre roll, this Oriental style wallpaper is available from Osborne & Little website, and it is the epitome of Oriental chic. But be careful to use it sparingly, so as not to take over the whole room!
For a show stopping item of furniture, The Daily Mail recommends an Oriental style lamp, that, whilst not to everyone’s taste, will certainly be a talking ‘statement piece’ of any room. A metal branch style table lamp, with an owl perched half way and topped off with a white and pink lampshade, is available for £325 from the Designers Guild.
If you are looking for stylish flowers and summer florals to complete your Oriental look, then go to the An Angel at My Table website. A potted Cerise Orchid will cost you £30, but will last a lifetime.
If you have cash to splash, then an Oriental floral patterned Norton armchair, costing just under £1400, could be yours from Heals. Finally, The Daily Mail recommends a trip to Knots Interiors for a Florence Broadhurst Rug, a steal at just under £3000.
Not only do we all spend a small fortune on cleaning products each year, but we also expose ourselves to (and inhale) an array of chemical concoctions every time we clean our houses! Surface cleaners for the kitchen that are bleach based, which include floor cleaners that are disinfectant based, harsh liquid toilet gels, air fresheners and spray polishes!
All these chemicals can build up in our systems over the years, and manufacturers have no idea what harm they could do!
So, is it possible to clean your house in a more environmentally friendly way? Be kinder to your body, and save money in the process? Stars of Channel Four, ‘How Clean is Your House‘, Kim and Aggie, certainly think so! Fresh from their website, ideas for a more natural way of cleaning.
First off, Bicarbonate of Soda – this is so much more that a baking ingredient. Mix with a little warm water to make a paste, and this will clean everything from fridges to ovens. (Leave the paste on the oven overnight for sparkling clean!)
Clear Vinegar – great for getting stains out! Mix 2 parts of water with one part vinegar and leave overnight. Clean lime scale off bathroom showers and taps by soaking in hot vinegar (wrap kitchen roll around taps), and you can even use a vinegar solution to clean the windows!
Soda Water – fantastic for getting red wine stains out of carpets!
Try unblocking sinks by pouring down some bicarbonate of soda, followed by some clear vinegar. This solution should fizz and bubble up, and give your pipes a good cleaning out! You can get more useful tips from Kim & Aggie’s Cleaning Bible.
NOTE: We are not Kim & Aggie and unfortunately unable to offer cleaning tips.
With July just around the corner, the BBC gardening experts have complied a list of things to do in your garden before the end of June. So, with less than a week to go, time to get on your gardening gloves, find your kneeling pad and get stuck into your garden!
Encourage Buds and Thin out seedlings in beddings! June is the ideal time to use a notching technique (where by you just remove a small section of bark) just above any buds that need a helping hand. This should encourage sap to flow to the bud and stimulate growth.
Flower Garden Maintenance! Add some support to Lillies, Sprinkle Roses with special fertiliser, divide Iris and Primulas, once they have finished flowering and replant any congested lumps. Since there is no longer a fear of frost, plant any delicate bedding plants (from your greenhouse).
Cut dead flower stems off Lupins and Perennials, as this can lead to a surprise second flowering!
Greenhouse maintenance – paint windows or put up shades to protect garden plants from strong summer sun. Replant cuttings, but try to use the same compost. June is a great time to take any house-plant cuttings to cultivate in the greenhouse.
General care tips include mowing lawns regularly to encourage a strong healthy grass growth, and tending to and removing any pond weed. It has also been advised to weigh up pros and cons of pesticide use, as the season of pesky pests is upon us! Also a top tip is to place netting over fruit trees, small fruit bushes or even berries being grown in potted containers.
Despite the never ending Credit Crunch, many people have held on to their properties, and are keen to move up the property ladder. However, large numbers of home owners have found that they cannot afford to ‘physically’ move up the property ladder! The advice to these home owners, from the Money and Property section of Sky News, is to make some home improvements that will raise the value of their property.
Experts for Sky News were asked to compile a list of home improvemets that would boost the value of your property, but also to estimate how much these renovations would cost you! The results showed that the most valuable home improvement you could make was adding space to your downstairs. An Extension of the downstairs living area could add as much as £20,000 to the value. Beware of spending more on the extension, than it will actually add to your house!
Next on the list was Loft Conversions. For inner city properties a loft conversion could cost up to £15,000, but in London this could add upward of £40,000 value!
Next up was a fitted modern kitchen, this type of conversion could add up to £8000 to the value of your property. A top tip being to shop for a kitchen during Bank Holiday Sales!
Sky News also recommends that you splash out on a conservatory. Experts estimate that for an initial outlay as little as £3000, you could add upwards of £12000 to the value of your property!
The final improvement regarded central heating, but it was concluded that this is now an expected feature of modern properties, however, new style high efficiency condensing boilers can add value through improvements of the home’s energy rating in the home buyers information pack.
Near the top of Mr Clark’s most pressing ‘do’s’ (when it comes to home renovation), is sort out any problems your house may have before you start renovating! Check your layout plans, and understand any structural issues that may need attention.
The Home Show presenter also advised to beware of picking builders from the phone book, instead suggesting you find a builder based on reputation, and preferably having seen their completed work. It is advisable to get a contracted rate (and ensuring a contract is in place) this should save money, as opposed to paying anyone on-site on a daily basis! Also, try to pay anyone who is contracted on-site on a regular basis, only up to the value of work that has already been completed, and never pay ‘upfront’ for anything! (Beware cowboys!)
Mr Clark also recently stressed the importance of knowing and sticking to your budget, but never trying to cut costs by scrimping on electrics or plumbing, kitchens or bathrooms – you may save money now, but will end up paying for it in the future!
To conclude the top tips from the Architect with the know how and can do attitude, you are advised to never limit the amount of natural daylight you can get into your property (a top design tip stated that natural daylight can make spaces feel bigger!). Also, remember to maximise your amount of space, as extensions can rarely be ‘extended more’ later on!
Clutter is an almost unavoidable consequence of living in a home, especially where children are involved! Books, toys, clothes, small gifts, christmas cards, DVD cases and yet more toys have a nasty habit of building up until the home is no longer recognisable. In fact, clutter can reach such a state (without the house actually being messy or unclean) that simple tasks such as walking, sitting down or finding a lost slipper can become time-consuming nightmares filled with frustration and the potential for injury – when it gets this bad, it’s time to throw out the clutter. However, some things just cannot be thrown out and space must be made for them.
An ideal solution for storing away all that curiously essential clutter – which will invariably never be used or looked at again – is through the use of a window seat storage box. As described in its title, this item serves two primary functions: first, it can be used to store clutter; and, second, it makes for a fantastic seating area alongside a window. This has the obvious benefit of creating more seating space in the house, which is perfectly suited to childrens’ bedrooms (although keep windows locked!) and living room areas.
Whilst the window seat storage box can be bought in various home improvement stores, it is often better to create one from scratch to ensure a perfect fit and sufficient storage space. Using an existing sturdy wooden chest, the solid wood lid (unless it has drawers) must be lined with a seat pad that comprises strong and cushioning material. It is also important to add several cushions for added support when people are resting against the window sill itself.
The task of breathing new life into a home is not always as straightforward as it may initially seem. Especially so for the do-it-yourself crowd, achieving a professional look requires a fundamental knowledge of – and eye for – how different colours work together. Although this is largely a matter of personal taste, there is still a basic science behind colour schemes that will work in most cases. Thus, anybody who wants to freshen up their interior décor this year will need to learn a little colour theory if they want to achieve the desired look and feel without an undue amount of trial and error.
In order to create an entirely original décor, it is essential that the decorator can visually match colour samples. The most effective way of doing this is to use a palette and add blobs of red, yellow and blue (the primary colours) paint to it in addition to secondary colours of green, orange and purple. Daubs of white and black are also very useful for providing balance and contrast.
The next stage is to get mixing and matching, using sheets of paper initially to see how certain colours work together before moving onto a spare patch of wall. The various ways in which colours match with others can produce entirely different effects for the home. For instance, if the intention is to create a focal point on a wall, this can be achieved by painting it black and then adding a deep red colour in its centre. The red will stand out brilliantly whilst the background back will appear deeper and richer.
Finally, if the colour schemes appear too bold or striking, there is always magnolia!
In consideration of MET Office predictions of a hot and dry Summer this year, it is understandable that most homeowners and property developers look to the garden for their home improvements. Indeed, a new garden patio or spot of landscaping will work wonders when barbecue season arrives. Moreover, there is arguably no better place for homeowners to spend the cooling Summer nights than in the comfort of their own garden. However, unless the idea is to spend the entire night laid back in a deck chair with a glass of wine on hand, people looking to improve their homes will be well advised to spare a thought or two about their bedrooms.
Redecorating the bedroom for the Summer involves a re-arranging of furniture and a refreshingly new décor. Especially where the miserable Winter had forced property dwellers to erect blackout blinds and dark tones, a Summer décor is all about letting the light flow throughout the room. Indeed, the bedroom should be a cool, calm and relaxing place to rest and sleep, which is going to be a whole lot harder if the room is cramped, dark and gloomy.
The easiest and most straightforward way of opening up a room is to whitewash the walls. White helps to redefine the space available in a room by distorting the mind’s perception of where the boundaries actually lie – in effect, white walls can make a small room look spacious and airy. In contrast, dark walls have the effect of closing the boundaries in considerably, therefore giving the impression of less space than there is in reality. Nevertheless, refreshingly white walls ought to be complemented by bold bedroom furniture colours. The bed in particular must be a focal point in the room, therefore it is advisable to opt for rich, deep colour schemes with vivid and imaginative patterns that will instantly draw the eye’s attention.
Furthermore, it is essential that the bedroom is clutter-free and, unless it is absolutely necessary, electrical equipment in the room should be limited to a radio alarm clock and television – peace is essential.
When homeowners, designers and developers consider renovating their property they tend to think on either side of the scale, from a simple paint job makeover to a fully fitted kitchen. Whilst there is nothing wrong with either of these, it is sometimes more beneficial to improve the home from its base. That means flooring, carpets and rugs. Indeed, it is easy and quite forgivable to overlook a well-trodden carpet or scuffed and run-down boards – at least for a time.
The feel of wood beneath the feet can be something of a ‘marmite’ experience, but to those who enjoy the cold connection and solid feel it is really the only choice. Unfortunately, some wooden floor products are quite expensive, at least in comparison to carpets. However, laminate flooring provides the perfect solution as it starts from a very affordable price. Indeed, some of the cheaper laminate floor packs, which are of a very good quality, can actually prove less costly than an average carpet fit. Moreover, laminate is a low maintenance solution that can be installed relatively easily, although be warned that there will be a lot of sawing (at angles) to be done!
The key to buying the right laminate flooring is to ensure that the colour and style matches the interior décor of the house in which it is to be laid – there is little worse than mismatched wood! Also, choose planks that fit the scale of the room, ie. narrow planks for a small room. In respect to natural flooring, this is a more luxurious option generally but must be carried out by a professional – too much can go wrong in inexperienced hands.
A carpet replacement is another surprisingly simple yet effective way to improve the home. Carpets can harbour dust and grime over time that is difficult to remove, so a straightforward replacement can quite literally breathe new life into the home. Also, rugs are an excellent way of introducing new colour schemes and patterns into the home without going overboard on a redesign.
Across the Atlantic divide, our American cousins are more or less in the same financial crisis as we are. Indeed, the whole world appears to be firmly held in the jaws of the ubiquitous credit crunch monster. Moreover, in the USA the crippled realty market has had a negative impact on home improvement spending. Indeed, a recent report published by analyst Fitch Ratings suggests that home improvement spending will slow further in 2009 following a 4.5 percent drop in 2008 from 2007. This represents lost revenue of around $13 billion across the industry. Meanwhile, though, the UK market is looking altogether different…
Towards the end of May 2009, the Halifax Home Improvement Survey (HHIS) confirmed what industry experts have been saying all along: home improvements in the UK remain big business. Seemingly undaunted by the housing market collapse, homeowners and property deveopers are availing of a weakened market economy to make improvements to their property. Whilst for some this may simply mean a little redecorating amounting to little more than a late Spring clean, to others it means a loft conversion, extension or garden landscaping. Indeed, the HHIS figures show that 55 percent of homeowners have undertaken home improvement projects in the last year. The average spend of these projects, excluding major jobs such as extensions, rests at a fairly whopping £5,300.
Figures also show that redecoration is a priority amongst 64 percent of homeowners, whilst 39 percent are electing to improve their gardens. Additionally, 13 percent of homeowners have added space to their homes, comprising either a conversion, extension or conservatory. These figures may suggest that homeowners are planning for the future by improving the sale price of their homes for a time when the credit crunch monster has since been slain. However, they could also suggest that homeowners have given up on selling their homes and have instead decided to make changes to improve their living conditions. Either way, home improvement is on the up in the UK at a time when everything else seems to be heading South, which is good news for everybody.