Fab Friday Bargains: Next home sale picks

September 26th, 2014


Bag a bargain for your home

Have you heard there’s a sale on at Next?

If you fancy treating your home to a set of new cushions, a cosy rug for the floor, a stunning new light feature or a fresh look on the wall, now’s the time to head swiftly in the direction of the store. We’ve been browsing the homeware reduction offers online and here are our top sale picks:

1. Bright flowers cushion, now £6

2. Auden five light chandelier, now £50

3. Blossom wallpaper, now £12

4. Poetry floral appliqué bed set, now £22

5. Luxe ombre rug, now £70

6. Set of three glass bottles, now £5

7. Floral print on wood, now £20

8. Pig cushion, now £6

In-depth product review: The new Samsung WW9000 Ecobubble touchscreen washing machine

September 24th, 2014

A few weeks ago, my laundry routine was overturned by the arrival of the WW9000 washing machine, a new product from Samsung, and I wrote at the time about my first impressions of this addition to my household arsenal. Now, the WW9000 and I have had time to get acquainted. Here’s how it went.

Features of the WW9000

* One of the most promoted features of this new machine is the intuitive touch screen interface, which offers you a range of wash options at the touch of a button. It will also store your ‘most used’ preferences for quicker access. The menu reveals a whole range of washing options, ranging from the conventional ‘wool’ and ‘delicates’ programmes to the more exotic sounding ‘active sports’ and ‘outdoor care’ (for walking jackets etc). 

* There’s also a specific ‘babycare’ programme for parents. If that all sounds a bit complicated, the machine also has an ‘auto optimal wash’ setting which automatically detects the best temperature, time, rinse cycle and spin speed.  You can even choose between ‘super speed’ and ‘super eco’ – in fact, the WW9000 has excellent eco credentials, and as it holds up to 10kg of washing at once, you’ll be able to wash more in fewer loads which is good news for both you and the environment.

* Next on the list is the ‘auto dispense‘ feature for detergent and conditioner. This is a reservoir at the bottom of the machine that you fill up with the products of your choice. The WW9000 then dispenses the right amount of product for your specific wash, so there’s no need to add detergent each time (although you can disable this feature for specific loads if you want to, for example if you’re washing towels and don’t want to use any conditioner).

* Like many things these days, the WW9000 is really a computer. It’s possible to control it remotely from a Smartphone, meaning you can start, cancel or pause a cycle or check where it’s up to without actually being at home.

* Ecobubble technology is another selling point. Air and water are pulled in to generate bubbles, dissolving and activating the detergent, which then penetrates faster and more evenly throughout the wash load. This feature also seemed to mean that the clothes came out less creased, and some I didn’t need to iron at all.

How it worked

I loved the sleek, minimalist look of this machine, which fitted well into my traditional decor. The touchscreen technology meant there were literally no controls except the screen and an on button, making it look very clean and unfussy. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

From the everyday to the speciality, there’s a setting for every occasion

First up was a ‘normal’ load of laundry, mostly cottons including T-shirts and shirts. The large capacity meant I could add over half as much again compared to my old 6kg machine, which was very satisfying. I used the ‘cotton’ cycle, and the machine showed me a progress bar all the time so I could see where it was up to with the wash. The wash quality was excellent, and the machine offered me the chance to see the eco impact of the wash afterwards.

Next, I experimented with a large tablecloth that’s never before been washed at home as it was too heavy for my old machine. This had several old food stains which a commercial washing machine had failed to remove. I was pleased with the results of this wash in the WW9000 – many of the stains were removed or greatly reduced when using the Cooking and Dining cycle, even though they weren’t freshly made. The only exception was a red wine stain – well, you can’t expect miracles!

The Cooking and Dining cycle comes up trumps

The final test was a fleece rug belonging to my horse. Although it’s washable, I’ve never before tried to wash it in a machine as it’s quite big and heavy. After weighing it dry, I was pleased to find it was well within the machine’s capacity. As horse hair and washing machines don’t tend to mix, I first put it in a special wash bag to protect the machine’s drum from the fur and buckles – these bags are also great for dog and cat beds. I ran it through on the synthetics cycle, and the rug came out looking like new although it was at least five years old. 

I was also keen to try the Smartphone feature, although as I work from home this is probably of less use to me that it would be another user. It was easy to use though, and would be a godsend if you set off on the school run having forgotten to turn the machine on.

All in all, I can honestly say I loved the Samsung WW9000 washing machine. At £1,499 it’s not cheap, but the cleaning performance, eco credentials and functionality are all outstanding. For more information, visit the WW9000 product page on the Samsung website.


Unusual seating: Annie the trolley chair

September 23rd, 2014

Contemporary upcycled shopping trolley chair


As far as unusual seating goes, this certainly has to be a contender!

Annie the trolley chair is designed and handmade in the UK by Reestore Limited, a company who specialise in upcycling everyday waste items and transforming them into functional furniture. When other shopping trollies with wonky wheels or exposed wire get consigned to the rubbish heap, Reestore rescues a lucky few and creates these fab seats.

Annie the trolley chair can be made in your choice of colours and fabrics and ordered from Bouf. The chairs aren’t cheap, but they’re certainly unique.


Exterior issues: Using paint to refresh the outside of your home

September 19th, 2014

Decorating photo from iStock

There always seems to be somewhere in the house that needs painted – if it’s not painting bedrooms, it’s glossing skirting boards or painting over pen marks on the walls. So the outside of the house tends to get forgotten about.

We have lived in our current house for four years, and one of the things that attracted us to it was that it is easy to maintain. As you can see from the pictures it is a bungalow, so good for my husband who doesn’t like heights, and quite a bit of the exterior is brickwork which doesn’t need painting.

But as I said, we have been here four years and it really was time to paint the outside of the house. As anyone who had done a bit of painting knows, cheap paint is a false economy. You end up having to buy much more paint in order to get the job done and this of course means extra coats and more time spent painting.

So when Crown Paint offered us the opportunity to review its paints we were very happy to do so. If you could ever get away with cheap paint on the inside I don’t think you can on the outside of a house. And since it had taken us four years to get round to painting the house we wanted to do things properly.

Outside house makeover using Sandtex exterior paints

Here’s a photo of the driveway and the side of the house before it was painted. As you can imagine, that garage door gets some knockings from basketballs and footballs being thrown against it.

Sandtex exterior house paint makeover

We used Sandtex 10 year exterior satin paint for the garage door and for the bottom of the house. The colour was bay tree and it is a stronger green than it looks on the tin.

For the rest of the house we used Sandtex Ultra Smooth Masonry Paint in magnolia.

For the guttering and pipes we used Sandtex One Coat exterior gloss paint in pure brilliant white.

Sandtex exterior paint reviewed by Fresh Design Blog

Here is the end result:

Sandtex exterior house paint review by Fresh Design Blog

Here is a close up of the side of the house. It shows you how much it needed doing:

And here it is afterwards. I am sure you will agree it is much better!

Fresh Design Blog review of exterior house paint

The front of the house is mostly brickwork but here is a before picture anyway:

And here is it afterwards:

We were pleased with the quality of all the paints, and with the end results. My husband and I both prefer Crown paints to cheaper brands and this confirmed to us that it is worth paying just that little bit more for a reliable finish.

Product review by Jackie Cosh

(Disclosure: The paints for this review were supplied by Crown Paints, but all views and experiences are those of the reviewer).

Book review: Modern Country interiors by Caroline Clifton-Mogg

September 18th, 2014
Modern Country interiors book reviewed by Fresh Design Blog

If you love the idea of country living and embracing rural traditions and are keen to adapt it into a more modern style, then there’s a new book out today that could be the perfect read for you!

Modern Country: Inspiring interiors for contemporary country living is written by Caroline Clifton-Mogg and published by Jacquie Small. It explores elements of country living, and ways in which the essence of this interior style can be effectively brought into modern homes.

The book is split into four sections. The first looks at different types of country locations, such as rural areas, coastal and mountain retreats. Next up is a look at different architectural styles, including grand country homes, property renovations and other buildings.

There are distinctive materials associated with country homes and properties, so part three looks at materials and finishes, such as wood, stone, brick, plaster and metal. The final section explores country living and looks at different rooms in the home and how they can reflect the country style in a modern way.

The book as a whole is interesting and it’s lavishly illustrated with inspiring images, including photographs from the archives of the exclusive Côté Maison French magazines.

However, it’s the final two sections (Materials and Finishes and Country Living) that offered the most appeal and relevancy to me (the others seemed somewhat more aspirational – great for coffee table browsing, though!). The materials and finishes section, for example, offered plenty of ideas to consider when adding country style to a contemporary home and I loved the range and scope of materials included.

Modern Country book review by Fresh Design Blog

When it comes to adding country style to your home, it helps to have some achievable inspiration, and that’s certainly what shone through in the final section of the book. It’s packed with inspiring photos and ideas that could easily be applied to your home – even if you live nowhere remotely near the country. I love the colour palettes and room ideas, from bedrooms and bathrooms, to outdoor space and kitchens, and the fact that there are small elements you could take inspiration from.

It emphasises the fact that country living doesn’t have to involve a grand country home – you can create your interpretation of country wherever you live, and in as modern a way as you like.

Overall, it’s a well written and very nicely produced hardback book, full to the brim with images and ideas to inspire in the creation of your own modern country home style.

Special reader offer

If you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of Modern Country at a discounted price, then we’ve arranged a special reader offer for you.

You can order Modern Country at the discounted price of £24.00 including p&p* (RRP: £30.00) by phoning 01903 828503 or emailing and quoting the offer code APG217.

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Create a modern country interior in your home

Vote for Fresh Design in the Amara Interior Blog Awards

September 16th, 2014

Vote for Fresh Design Blog in the Amara Interior blog awards

Fresh Design Blog has been nominated in the Best Design Inspiration category of the 2014 Amara Interior Blog Awards. If we’ve ever succeeded in giving you inspiration and ideas for your home, then we’d very much appreciate a vote!

It’s quick and easy to do – just click on the nominee badge image above, or follow this link. Then enter your name and email address into the box provided and, voila, it’s done.


Fresh Design Favourites: Cassette tape inspired homeware

September 15th, 2014

Long live the mix tape!

Today we’re feeling a tad nostalgic and paying homage to an 80s classic – the wonderful cassette tape. Loved and enjoyed by a generation, they were the source of many a heartfelt mix tape and the essential companion to recording the Top 40 on a Sunday night.

But despite the demise of this music recording essential, the wonderful world of cassette tapes lives on and you too could have them in your home again. Creative designers have bought tapes back to life in all manner of new guises.

From original cassettes upcycled to form brand new home objects, to furniture, cushions and accessories featuring classic tape designs. Here are a few of our favourite cassette tape themed home products:

1. Kare cassette cabinet, £250 from Urban Outfitters

2. j-me rewind desk tidy, £18 from A White Room

3. Cassette tapes floor lamp, £120 from OOO My Design on Bouf

4. Woouf retro cassette tape cushion, £29.99 from Find Me a Gift

5. Retro cassette tape knitted cushion, made to order for £85 from Nervous Stitch

6. Retro mini cassette tape coffee table, $1499 from Tayble

7. j-me cassette tape design tape dispenser, £14.99 from Amazon

8. Personalised playlist mix tape print, £18 from Sarah Hurley Designs


Fresh Design lighting: Fab light ideas from Notonthehighstreet

September 12th, 2014

Fresh Design blog's pick of fab home lighting ideas

If you’re keen to have lights in your home that are both practical and decorative, with an added distinctive flair that makes them stand out or be admired, then there are plenty of excellent options available. In fact, we’ve found a host of fab lights at, including designs made from materials such as concrete, wood, metal and recycled old pallets.

Here’s our pick of some of the freshest options:

1. Geometry light, by Jenny Walsh Design

2. Industrial handlebar wall light, by Tony Miles Designs

3. Handmade recycled pendant lamp shade in shades of pink, by FactoryTwentyOne

4. Handcrafted concrete pendant lamp, by Gant & Mania

5. Random wood lampshade, by Randomlights

6. Personalised light box, by Occasional Studio

7. Skull pendant light, by ATTN Studio

Fresh Design colour: Green home decor and product ideas

September 10th, 2014

Decorate your home in fresh greens

If you’re not yet ready to embrace the changing seasons and the autumnal shades that will soon start appearing outside, then why not opt to bring some fresh greens into your home to keep reminding you of lush green fields and trees covered in green leaves?

Cheery, bright, calming and, in some cultures deemed lucky, a green colour palette can work across many rooms in your home. Change the decor by updating your walls in green paint, create a stunning green feature wall with some elegant wallpaper or make some easier changes through swapping pieces of furniture or accessories to those in shades of green.

Here are some home decor and product ideas in fresh green shades to get you started:

1. Kartell Francois ghost mirror in green by Philippe Starck, from £238 at Heal’s

2. Little gems wibble bottle vase, £20 from Dartington Crystal

3. Lucky charms Georgian green wallpaper by Barneby Gates, £78 from Clippings

4. Water stripe leaf green ikat-style wallpaper, £15 from Habitat

5. Bird mobile, £35 from Littlenestbox

6. Green button drawer knob, £3.95 from French Grey Interiors

7. Kilo leaf green metal side table, £25 from Habitat

8. Dino dinosaur lamp, £28 from Next

9. Lacquered steel storage unit, designed by Frederic Gaunet for Tolix, £286 from Made in Design

Top 10 silhouette home accessories for a fresh look

September 8th, 2014

Here at Fresh Design, we like our home accessories simple. The clean design of these monochrome cushions and decorations will stop an interior looking too fussy.

1. Kissing stag coasters, Anorak

Join the stag party with these striking coasters

These coasters from the Kissing Stag range from Anorak uses a simple stag silhouette to maximum effect. Inspired by the childhood camping adventures, of Anorak’s founder and creative director Laurie Robertson, these coasters are  made with a melamine front and cork back so they won’t damage furniture. £13.50 for a set of four, available from Home Candy.

2. Cocker Spaniel mug, Sweet William

This mug will make you smile every time you put the kettle on

How adorable is this mug? Featuring ‘Hugo’ the Cocker Spaniel in a repeat pattern all the way around the mug, it’s the perfect addition to your home or present for a dog lover. Dishwasher and microwave safe, it’s handmade in Stoke on Trent from Cornish clay and has “Lovingly handmade in England” inscribed into the base. £15.95, available from Sweet William.

3. Safari walk animal wall stickers, The Bright Blue Pig

Create a talking point with this safari sticker

Go on safari from the comfort of your armchair with this safari animals wall sticker. Made from self-adhesive low-tac vinyl they’re simple to use and can be removed without damaging the wall when you want a new look. This would make a great focal point in a child’s room or conservatory. £36, available from The Bright Blue Pig.

4. Boy with hoop picture, Greypeg

Add a little retro chic

Originally a calendar illustration from 1937 by Margaret W. Tarrant, this picture features a silhouette of a boy playing with a hoop and a stick in  blustery winds. Framed in solid wood which is hand-painted with a subtle distressed effect in Farrow and Ball paint, it costs £90 from Greypeg.

5. Window silhouette Paris, Spin Collective

Bonjour la France

Keep those holiday dreams alive throughout the year with this sticker showing the instantly recognisable Paris skyline. Available in two sizes and 20 colours to suit any decor, it costs £18 from Spin Collective.

6. Pylon cushion, In-Spaces

This unusual cushion features a bold, structural design

Here’s an ultra-modern cushion that’s a bit different. Featuring the recognisable silhouette of the modern day electricity pylon with its steel geometric forms, this graphic cushion comes in a range of colours including this alumina blue and sulphide grey combination. With a reversible design inverting the colours, the cushion is digitally printed in Britain and made from 100% cotton. It comes with a duck feather insert, and costs £60 from In-Spaces.

7. Birds in flight wall stickers, Koko Kids

Let your imagination take flight.

These birds in flight wall stickers add a vibrant splash of colour to walls. They’d look great in a baby nursery but are also funky enough for teenagers’ rooms. The silhouettes of the birds are created with a combination of Asian-inspired prints and are easily repositioned over and over again. Available in a range of sizes, prices start from £19.95 from Koko Kids.

8. Handmade aviation cushion, Le Cocon

Chocks away!

Add a touch of old Hollywood glamour to your home with this silk cushion, made from 100% pure handwoven Thai silk. It features the silhouette of a vintage aeroplane, comes complete with a duck feather pad and costs £105 from Swanky Maison.

9. London skyline letter rack, Susan Bradley

Don’t let your post go to rack and ruin

This London skyline letter rack is made from pressed steel, and can be free-standing or wall mounted. It’s designed by Susan Bradley, and costs £20 from One Brown Cow.

10. London skyline mirror, Chandeliers & Mirrors

This mirror makes an unusual focal point.

Another depiction of the iconic London skyline  - this time it comes as a frameless, black edged, bevelled mirror, with a  black perspex silhouette picking out the shapes of the buildings. £215, available from Chandeliers & Mirrors.

By Sara Walker

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