Despite the launch of interior design ranges from John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, notable for their vivid colour designs, floral patterns and natural materials (including deer antlers used to make candlesticks), it appears the more modern and minimalist approach to interior décor is not officially dead and buried.
The release of home improvement products by Vivienne Westwood, Ella Doran and Thomas Paul amongst many others appear to compete directly with the belief seemingly shared by John Lewis and Marks & Spencer that interior design trends are set to depart from the sleek and sophisticated, modern and minimalist and, most notably, the monochrome colour scheme.
The traditional black and white or monochrome colour scheme is one that has become synonymous with sleek modern interior designs. In fact, 2009 saw Emily Dupen-Hopkins’ monochrome Dupenny wallpapers dominate the black and white interior design scene, which enjoyed a modest revival despite worsening economic conditions. With the emergence of more vivid home improvement products on the high street and in consideration of the commonly held belief the black and white home requires a certain obsessive neatness and cleanliness, the monochrome look appeared to be destined for a rather colourful demise.
Nevertheless, it would seem the monochrome look is likely to survive all attempts made to undermine its appeal in 2010. Ella Doran has recently launched a new digital stonework print that works exceptionally well in modern monochrome houses, whilst Vivienne Westwood’s range of ceramics also provides a certain black and white charm for use in the kitchen and dining room – however, few such items are as cheap as those provided by John Lewis and Marks & Spencer. Indeed, with exquisitely stylish and comfortable monochrome furniture pieces available, such as Zanotta’s £7,800 ‘Delta’ sofa, there are many reasons why 2010 will be a year of contrast for those redecorating their homes.
As Christmas approaches, the thoughts of homeowners throughout the country turn to buying presents for loved ones and decorating the home in that unmistakably festive style. Thus, many people will soon be digging out the dusty boxes of holly, tinsel, lights and baubles from the attic in time for yet another Christmas.
However, there is no need for homeowners to follow the tried and trusted routes each year, despite the fact that money can be saved by using the same old Christmas tree and the aforementioned box of decorations on an annual basis. Indeed, the Christmas of 2009 ought to be a special occasion that celebrates the passing of what has been a difficult year for homeowners.
As such, certain improvements can be made to the home that serve to increase its Christmas splendour. For example, Branch Fairy Lights from flowerglow.com can be used to great effect in rooms throughout the home, as this product offers a tidy and pleasant indoor sparkle that is available in seven colours – the rose and carnation colours being by far the most festive. Homeowners can also brighten their homes in time for Christmas by adorning rooms with Mistletoe Light Garland from coxandcox.co.uk and Leaf Skeleton Lights from crocus.co.uk, which both constitute delightful alternatives to traditional Christmas decorations.
Furthermore, high street retailer John Lewis has recently launched its revised Christmas decorations range, which comprises categories of ‘Glamour’, ‘Vintage’ and ‘White’ among many others, including the classic range. In particular, John Lewis’ superb Glamour range features a number of luxurious items that are designed to support a more sophisticated festive look, which includes Black & Gold Glitter Flower Christmas Tree Decorations, two tone baubles, black Christmas trees and stylish indoor Cluster Fairy Lights, which boast a distinctly wintry look.
According to the interior design ranges that are now on display by leading home improvement stores, the look and feel of early 2010 will be far removed from the minimalist style that has dominated recent times. Notably, gone are neutral tones, clean layouts and uncomplicated styles.
Instead, homeowners should brace themselves for a collection of decorative items that has been best described by The Times Online as a “wild thing type of bric-a-brac“. Indeed, John Lewis will see cushions that feature various prints of birds, whilst Marks & Spencer will be offering a wooden stag’s head priced at £199 and candlesticks worth £85 each that have been made from (naturally shed) deer antlers.
Furthermore, 2010 will feature much more vivid and vibrant colours than of late. Specifically, retailers will be introducing a distinctly 1960′s flair to new sofa and chair ranges, whilst John Lewis will be offering a more subtle – but still relatively striking – crocus style. Curtain fabrics are also set for a return to floral patterns and designs, which will likely attract interest and rejection in equal measure. In fact, John Lewis will be selling red rose patterns at £25 per metre and giant peonies will feature on bedsets sold by Marks & Spencer from £45.
Naturally, the departure from minimalism is not likely to appeal to everyone. Of course, it has been a decade or more since British chintz was truly pushed out of fashion and, although trends can return to the fore with surprising alacrity, it is not often that such an eclectic selection of designs return simultaneously. As such, both John Lewis and Marks & Spencer appear to be making fairly bold predictions about consumer trends in their 2010 spring collection, which also features unfinished wooden pieces and crewel-work embroidery.
Homeowners who want to introduce stylish light fittings into modern homes are likely to be interested in a new range of glass lamps that has been produced by the renowned Italian company, Lucente. Available in a range of different styles, the Noa series of lamps comprises exquisite mouth-blown Murano glass that is ideal for use in today’s contemporary style homes. The Noa series features globes of glass, which are available in white, apple green and orange external colours with white interiors, that provide attractive and alluring focal points in the home.
Whilst maximising the spread of light in the room, the Noa lamps also serve to augment the ambiance of a home – indeed, their gentle and warming colours do much to brighten a modern interior design, which often appears more sterile than originally intended. Available in ceiling and wall mounted, tabletop, floor and pendant lamp designs, the Noa series by Lucente can fit directly to the ceiling or wall. Noa lamps can also be suspended from the ceiling by strong yet attractive metal supports, which allow the lamps to dangle gracefully.
The Noa lamps by Lucente are perhaps best displayed against dark grey or black ceilings and walls, as these tend to highlight the striking beauty of the lamps whilst showcasing their vivid and bright colours. The floor, tabletop and pendant lamps are also visually appealing and can prove every bit as practical as they are aesthetically pleasing. A home’s minimalist look can thus be complemented by the Noa lamps, the colours of which can be mixed to provide a bolder and more striking design. Furthermore, environmentally conscious homeowners will be pleased to learn that the Noa lamps use energy saving bulbs, so good design need not be at the expense of the planet.
According to Savills, which is one of the leading estate agencies in the country, there will be a 6.6 percent reduction in house prices across Britain during 2010. Although this forecast will come as a blow to many homeowners who have aimed to ride out the recession in hope of a quick market recovery, it is clear that the UK housing market remains depressed.
In fact, this forecast follows previous predictions of a forthcoming slump, as one of the main reasons behind this year’s 3.7% increase of house prices is that low interest rates have enabled homeowners to buy new properties whilst letting their old houses.
However, as rental prices continue to decrease, so too will the margins within which such a rental market can survive. Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has long argued that house prices remain significantly over-valued and are due another major crash. Thus, homeowners ought to brace themselves for another difficult year in respect to house prices. In fact, the depressed housing market is not expected to recover fully for a number of years, with conservative estimates suggesting that a period of between 3 and 5 years ought to be anticipated.
Savills is, however, predicting a much improved market in 2011 onwards, where house prices are expected to increase by 2.7% followed by a 5.5% rise in 2012. Therefore, homeowners are advised to continue making improvements to their homes in order to increase its value when market conditions have sufficiently recovered to make selling up an affordable option. Homeowners whose houses are no longer big enough to accommodate their families may wish to consider a building extension, loft conversion or garage conversion in order to increase space for a new bedroom. Likewise, a home office can be moved into the garden for a relatively small cost.
Although official crime statistics do not always paint an accurate picture of the less savoury side to society, they are helpful in shaping a portrait of criminal trends. According to the Home Office, statistics indicate violent crimes and vandalism are down for the current term by 6% and 10% respectively. However, home burglaries have increased by 1% during 2008-09, which is perhaps indicative of the ongoing recession and rising unemployment. Moreover, as Christmas approaches, it is argued that burglaries will only increase in frequency.
Therefore, it is important for homeowners to ensure their domestic security measures are up to scratch. In this respect, little is of greater value than solid, heavy front and back doors comprising several strong locks and deadbolts. Furthermore, windows should be lockable and security alarms ought to be checked to make sure they are functioning correctly. Likewise, spy holes, garden gates, intercom systems, motion sensor alarms and even panic buttons can all prove useful in preventing and defending against crime. However, one type of security equipment so commonly overlooked by homeowners is the home surveillance system.
Typically, a CCTV system would be installed to record activities in the front and at the back of a house. High-end outdoor CCTV systems such as the Axis 211W provide maximal coverage but come at a price – usually just under £1,000 or so. Good quality indoor cameras are available at £100 or less, but it is advisable to invest in a high resolution wall-mountable outdoor surveillance camera. Buying the IQCCTV EVD4TX/250 networking CCTV DVR is also a sensible choice, as this product enables real-time recording from up to four cameras to a 250GB hard drive that allows for one month of continuous high resolution video and around three months of lower resolution data. Camera data can also be streamed to a secure website for remote viewing.
In the UK, November is traditionally regarded as the month in which the autumnal weather finally loses ground to winter. Although trees will continue to shed their leaves and the occasional sunny day will have an unmistakable Indian summer feel about it, November is usually the time for rain, hail and howling winds. Indeed, if there was ever a time to finally get around to fixing or replacing the garden fence it is likely to be November.
However, whilst nailing the odd panel of wood into place is not all that difficult, replacing a fence or erecting a new one can be a challenging task for those used to more comfortable home improvements. Nevertheless, ensuring that a garden fence is safely intact is important for privacy and security. Moreover, it is often best to simply pull down an existing old fence and erect a sturdy new fence in its place. In this respect, the most effective solution is to buy good quality fencing that comprises large concrete posts.
Ultimately, the best advice that can be given to someone who wants to install such a fence is that precision is everything – if the holes into which the concrete posts will be secured are not measured to perfection, the fence panels will simply not fit. Thus, it is essential that each fence panel is positioned into place, then measured carefully in order to determine exactly where the posts will sit. Holes should be outlined using a wooden stake and string to ensure a straight line, whilst holes should be dug to around 60-70cm. Then, the posts and concrete fittings can be secured into place before the fence panels are slotted into position. Before doing this, however, it is advisable to fit a gravel board directly underneath the panels in order to eliminate water absorption.
It is accepted, in the majority of circumstances, values of homes can be increased by creating an additional bedroom via a loft conversion or a home office via a garage conversion. Building extensions, fitted kitchens, en suite bathrooms and conservatories can also improve the value of a home in these difficult market conditions.
In fact, according to Douglas & Gordon estate agents, improving the kitchen is the most cost effective home improvement project that can be undertaken. It is suggested that a kitchen extension and refurbishment may cost around £45,000 but will probably add double that figure to the value of the home. Adding a new bedroom can raise the sale price of an average home by up to £150,000.
However, there are more adventurous ways to improve the sale price of a typical home. Although relatively inexpensive houses will not normally benefit financially from large scale home improvements, those that are on the more lucrative side of average will be capable of attaining the so-called ‘wow factor’. Indeed, more showy home improvements tend to focus on improving the entertainment value of a home. According to Knight Frank’s surveyors, a well-constructed and maintained indoor swimming pool can increase the value of a home by a massive £300,000, although outdoor pools are sometimes considered a liability.
A tennis court can add close to £300,000 value to the home, whilst home gymnasiums and home cinemas can add anything from around £30,000 to up to £600,000. The vast difference in value for gyms and cinemas can be attributed to the variable sizes of properties and the subjective opinion of the potential buyers as to how important these facilities are – nevertheless, it is argued that the gym is the better way to go for homeowners, as cinemas are at risk of becoming technologically outmoded in no time at all.
Modern interior designs are no longer dominated by stylish but sterile contemporary looks – in fact, as with so many seasonal trends, the older or ‘retro’ styles are making a comeback of sorts.
Minimalism in its most aesthetically pleasing form is not entirely dead and many homeowners and developers continue to decorate their homes as if they were sleek designer showrooms. One hallmark of the contemporary look that has managed to establish itself is that rooms and living spaces are somewhat empty without ever being so – indeed, contemporary interiors often comprise plenty of features but little in the way of substance.
Although the contemporary interior decor is one to which many will aspire when redecorating their homes, for most people the look can feel barren, lifeless and austere – certainly no design for a family home. However, the contemporary design, which has traditionally been the preserve of the rich playboy or professional ‘never-at-home’ couple, has taken on a new form with the introduction of that to which it has long been opposed: clutter.
Indeed, the sleek contemporary design can be transformed into a usable family home with the odd compromise here and there. This is especially important for homeowners who wish to cling on to their stylish past despite the fact that their children are running riot over any such dreams. Of course, it is entirely possible to maintain that contemporary look whilst also introducing family (timber frame or electronic) photographs, symmetrically positioned ornaments, well-stocked book shelves and the odd keepsake here and there.
Notwithstanding this, it is crucial that any such items are positioned deliberately, as the random look does not mesh well with the contemporary feel. Moreover, lighting is extremely important when attempting to balance the modern look with the homely feel, so it is often useful to employ a range of overhead lights to create an interesting and inviting atmosphere.