Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

10 essential tips for speedy house cleaning

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Get your home clean, with these essential speedy cleaning tips

Love it or loathe it, keeping the house looking clean and fresh can be a real time investment. Get the maximum result for the minimum of effort with our top tips.

1. Clean little and often

No-one wants to feel that they’re cleaning and tidying constantly, but just half an hour a day is enough to help you keep on top. Tidy up as you go along, put everything away as it’s finished with, give bathroom sinks a quick daily wipe over and straighten sofa cushions when you leave the room.

2. Sort out your cleaning cupboard

Spring clean your cleaning cupboard. Image: Pixabay

If you’re anything like me, a lot of your cleaning time is spent rummaging for cloths and brushes in an over-flowing cupboard!

Turn everything out, and get rid of anything that you never use. Invest in some small coloured plastic baskets, and fill each one with the right tools for different rooms – for example, the ‘bathroom’ basket could contain disposable cleaning cloths, cleaner, soft cloths for buffing taps, bleach and rubber gloves. If that sounds like overkill, have an ‘upstairs’ and a ‘downstairs’ basket.

3. Invest in some door mats!

The less dirt brought into the house in the first place, the better. Use an exterior plastic or jute mat outside the front door, then a washable, ‘dirt trapper’ mat indoors. Position a boot scraper outside, and ask people to remove dirty shoes before coming in.

4. Love your oven

Line the bottom with a non stick oven liner (available from eBay, Amazon, Lakeland, John Lewis, Argos and many other retailers), and you’ll never have to scrub it again. The liner can be wiped occasionally with a damp cloth, or even put through the dishwater.

5. Go modern

There are hundreds of cleaning products on the market now designed to take the effort out of cleaning. Using shower shine on the cubicle (a no-rinse, spray-on cleaner) every morning after you’ve showered will banish soap scrum and keep everything sparkling for minimal effort. We also like microfibre cloths, which are washable and mean you can clean bathrooms and kitchens using water only.

6. Clean top to bottom

Being organised really does save time. Start at the top of the room and cleaning downwards, so that dust falling from windowsills, shelves and furniture ends up on the floor before, not after, you’ve vacuumed!

Keep taps sparkling with a quick daily wipe. Image: Pixabay

7. Let products work

When you’re in a hurry, it’s really tempting to apply products like bathroom cleaner to sinks and then rinse it off immediately. What’s happening, though, is that you’re wiping it off before it’s had a chance to sink in and dissolve soap scum, meaning you’ll have to rub harder to remove stains. Apply cleaners and let them sit for two or three minutes while you do something else, then you should be able to rinse with very little scrubbing required.

8. Keep tools clean

Keep cleaning equipment tidy, and empty vacuum bags regularly. Image: Pixabay

Cleaning equipment soon gets covered in grime, and won’t do a good job unless it’s looked after.

Keep a stack of cloths so you can use clean ones each time, wash broom heads and dustpans regularly and empty the vacuum clean bag when it’s three quarters full, to give the best clean.

If you prefer using disposable cloths, cut them in half. The smaller size is fine for doing most jobs, and you’ll get double the use out of each pack.

9. Distract yourself

Pick a half hour podcast, plug in your headphones and listen while you clean. If you prefer music, anything with a lively rhythm is great for vacuuming to!

10. Create a ‘clutter basket’

Most people have a dumping ground in their hallway or kitchen where odds and ends accumulate – things that aren’t required in the short term but can’t thrown away. Give them a special home with a smart lidded box or basket, keeping surfaces clean and tidy.

By Sara Walker


15 must-read UK home interior design blogs

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Looking for new home interior design blogs to read? Check out this guide to 15 top blogs to add to your must-read list!

Fresh Design Blog has been going for seven years now (where has that time gone…?!) and things have changed a lot in the interior design blogging world since then, not least in the range of other UK blogs in existence.

Back in the day, there weren’t that many UK-based home-related blogs. Some of the old favourites that I used to read daily have sadly fallen by the wayside over the years, as people have moved on to other projects, priorities have changed or life has taken over.

The good thing though is that many more blogs have started up. In fact, there’s been a major surge in the popularity of home and interior design blogs and there are now heaps of great UK offerings to read with different focuses and design style ideas.

With so many more out there, I don’t always manage to keep up with reading them all every day, but I do enjoy regularly checking in to see what renovations people are tackling, checking out new decor ideas or getting inspiration and ideas.

If you’d like to discover some new reading material too, then here’s a guide to 15 fab blogs!

A Beautiful Space 

If it’s ideas for creating a beautiful space that you’re in need of, then Becky Goddard-Hill’s blog is an ideal starting point. Her blog celebrates all the ‘lovely things in life.’ Becky is a very prolific blogger and also writes Thrifty Home, which has some great ideas for home makeovers on a budget.

Ana Mum Diary 

The Ana Mum Diary, written by Amanda Cottingham, is more than just a home interiors blog. She writes on a range of lifestyle topics, including travel, food, fashion and beauty, so there’s always something new and interesting to read here. Do check out her recent summerhouse project, as the end result is stunning.

A Residence 

Penny has been blogging at A Residence for six years. It’s a bit of an unusual blog, as it was bought by online homestore in 2014. Although it’s now owned by a company, the integrity and charm of the blog is very much still in existence and Penny’s passionate about family homes, makeovers and creating a happy home.

Arianna’s Daily 

Interior designer and stylist, Arianna Trapani, is the star of Arianna’s Daily. She co-founded and co-edited the wonderful Heart Home magazine and now blogs about interiors, fashion, travel, food and lifestyle issues. She posts lots of healthy recipes and always looks stunning in her fashion shoots.

Dear Designer’s Blog 

Interior designer, Carole King, is the author of Dear Designer’s Blog. She’s the other co-founder and editor in chief of Heart Home magazine and her blog is packed with home decor ideas, shopping tips and plenty more. She’s recently completed a project transforming a country cottage, which you can now book for a holiday – it looks divine!

Fifi McGee 

Fifi describes herself as a ‘self-confessed cushion addict’ – something I know only too well – so it’s no wonder I can relate to her blog! She’s on a decorating mission and is currently looking to buy a new house that needs plenty of decorating. I’m looking forward to following her progress on this front.

Love Chic Living 

I’ve been a reader of Love Chic Living for a while and it never fails to impress. The blog focuses on style and design for a family home and it’s written by Jen Stanbrook, who’s passionate about home interiors. Amongst her recent projects, I loved following the progress of her loft conversion.

Molly and the Princess

If it’s simple but stylish home living that you love, then have a read of Molly and the Princess. It’s written by Molly and the Princess is her bike – something it took me ages to realise! Molly explores the latest trends and products and loves showcasing them in her own home.

Old Fashioned Susie

The lifestyle and interiors blog, Old Fashioned Susie, is penned by Susan Earlam. She loves mixing old and new and is busy renovating her Edwardian home. I love reading about her renovations and also her unusual makeover ideas – do check out what she did to brighten up and personalise a camera case!

Pippa Jameson Interiors 

If you’d like to discover more about life as an interior stylist, then Pippa Jameson’s blog is a must-read. As an experienced interior stylist and consultant, she shares blog posts on interior trends and home styling ideas. I particularly  enjoy seeing shots of her interior styling shoots and finding out what went on behind the scenes in creating them.

Renovation Bay-Bee 

Stephanie is busy transforming her 1960s house into a family home and you can follow her progress on her blog. She’s keen to create a beautiful home, but is mindful of budgets, so you can be sure to find achievable decor ideas.

The Design Sheppard 

The Design Sheppard is written by freelance writer and blogger, Stacey Sheppard, and features both high-end and budget-friendly design ideas. She writes some in-depth posts on products, projects, events and designers and is a big fan of wallcoverings.

The White Approach 

Love white? So does Karen Jones, blogger at The White Approach! She’s renovating her all white Art Deco home in Devon using innovative and cost saving ideas. What’s more, she’s recently launched an online store full of handcrafted and vintage finds. Definitely worth a browse!


Interiors enthusiast, Antonia Ludden, started her blog four years ago. Her posts focus on inspiring and affordable ways to improve your home and garden. She’s recently converted her bathroom to a shower room and has some great tips on creating gorgeous style in a small space.

Well I Guess This is Growing Up 

Self-confessed interiors geek Karen founded her blog in 2011, after the purchase of her first home. You can follow her home renovation journey on her blog, as well as discover plenty of ideas for quirky family-friendly decor on a budget.

5 Top Tips for Finding Your Dream Home

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

The Orchards Barratt West Midlands new home development

Are you thinking of moving out of your current home or even buying your first one? Well, no doubt you’d like to snap up the house of your dreams… but do you know how to do it and where to start? Here’s five top tips to help you find ‘the one’.

1. Decide what your ‘dream home’ looks like

Is your dream home a country cottage nestled deep in the hills of the rolling countryside? Or is it a bright and airy modern pad in the heart of a bustling city?

Either way, you’re going to need to identify what it is that makes your chest ache when it comes to finding ‘the one’, as well as taking ‘logical’ steps toward securing it by writing down your list of priorities.

This will help you to narrow your focus and ensure that you’re only spending time and energy on the right kind of property.

2. Evaluate what spaces are most important to you

The second bit of soul-searching you’ll need to do is to question how you want to use a house.

If you’re a budding chef, it’s likely that a property is only going to have the potential to be your dream home if it has a generous kitchen area.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to run a business on the side and need a work station in your home, a workshop or garage space is likely to be essential.

Decide on how you’d like to use the space within a property to help you see what’s important.

3.  Be clear on your budget

If you’ve lots and lots of money to spend, you might not be limited by a property’s price tag.

However, for most buyers, there is an upper limit. So, don’t be tempted to view a property that is well above your budget – you’ll only end up feeling resentful or frustrated that you can’t afford it, and the properties you can afford will begin to look a bit lack lustre!

Of course, it might be OK to consider homes above your budget in case the seller is prepared to negotiate on the asking price, but try not to get too swept away with properties that are well above your means.

4. Decide if you want to do any renovations

It’s OK if you want a house that’s completely ready to move into without having to so much as open a tin of paint, but bear in mind that the house of your dreams could be secured by taking on a ‘doer-upper’.

You’ll need the ability to see through the ‘ugly’ bits, and some cash to make the necessary changes, but it might be precisely the way to get the features you want without breaking the bank.

5. Stay one step ahead

Finally, when you’re ready to start house hunting, sign up to property websites and portals to receive notifications when your dream property is available.

For example, if a new build in a prime location is your kind of dream home, check out a website such as WhatHouse – it will ensure that you get alerts when new homes are being built, putting you at the front of the queue when your ideal property hits the market.

(Image credit: Barratt Homes ~ The Orchards development, West Midlands)

(Disclosure: This is a collaborative post)



How to Add Value To Your Home: Three Simple Steps

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Do you want to add value to your home without the stress, mess or costs that come with building an extension? Well, fear not, because although adding an extension is often the first thing that comes to mind, it is not the only way.

There are actually other quicker, simpler and more cost-effective ways of adding value to your property. These won’t only add to the value, but they will also make your house a nicer place to live for the duration you are there – you may even find yourself putting off the move!

So, here are three simple steps to add value to your home.

Step 1: The interior

How to update your interiors and add value to your home

You don’t need to make any huge changes to your interior to add value to your home – it could be as simple as giving it a refresh.

Your carpets, for example, have probably become worn and faded over the years, especially in the hallway and stairs, which you walk over the most and any stains can make your property look dated and create odours, if not removed.

Getting your carpets cleaned or changing them completely, will give your home a fresh, clean look and feel. Plus, there’s a good chance that you will see a 50% return on your investment as a result – bonus!

Likewise, give the walls a lick of paint, but keep colours neutral – you aren’t decorating to your taste, you are creating a space that someone else will be able to picture themselves living in.

Step 2: The exterior

Paying attention to the exterior of your house can help add value when you want to sell

When decorating or renovating a property it’s easy to focus mostly on the interior of your house but it’s important not to neglect the exterior. Curb appeal can not only enhance the value of the property but also attract potential buyers if it’s on the market.

After all, the outside is the first thing visitors will see, so update everything you can from fence panels to walls, garage and front doors. However, be sure to use specialist paint for these tasks – shop at Rawlins Paints to find exactly the right product for outdoor projects.

Don’t forget about the garden because this is a major part of that first impression. If it is messy and overgrown, then this is how house hunters may view your home.

Start by simply giving it a tidy – mow the lawn, cut back the bushes and throw out any rubbish. Then start planting and add in a few garden ornaments, like the quirky ones you can buy from Create a space that is modern and welcoming because, with an 88% return on investment, this is actually the second best thing you can do to increase the value.

Step 3: Focus on the kitchen and bathroom

Add value to your home by installing a brand new modern bathroom

The kitchen is the heart of the home – we don’t just cook and eat in it anymore, it is the place where the family gather for a cup of tea to discuss their day, or friends sit to gossip over a bottle of wine.

Therefore it is probably one of the first places a buyer would look to update – so, if you are only going to update one room – make sure it is this one! This could be a complete renovation, or simply an update of cupboards (try painting wooden cupboards while for a fresh new look) and counters or installing modern appliances. Research by HSBC has found that a new kitchen can add at least £5,000 to a property’s price.

Next, move on to the bathroom – again this doesn’t have to be a complete renovation – it is actually the little things that will make a big difference! Add in a larger showerhead, swap the shower curtain for a glass screen or door, and update the taps – how about this wall mounted waterfall bath filler – for something stylish, but a bit different! These changes won’t cost you much time or money, but it will add 2.88% onto the house value!

So, put away that planning application form and start shopping for taps, paint and garden ornaments – you will be surprised how quickly and easily it will add a significant amount of value to your house!

(Images courtesy of Pixabay, via Midascode, Giovannaorlando and ErikaWittlieb)

(Disclosure: This is a collaborative post)

Surviving home disasters: Together Mutual and John Lewis giveaway

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Fresh cheery and bright bedroom interior design scheme

Sometimes it’s good that we can’t predict the future and don’t know what’s about to happen – and that’s certainly the case when a disaster is just around the corner.

Like any unexpected disasters, those that occur in our homes vary in severity, from a mild inconvenience to complete devastation. Some of the factors involved in disasters include water, fire, dodgy decorating jobs and electrical issues.

In the past, we had the unfortunate experience of a water-related home disaster. Having been away for a long weekend, we returned home to discover that water had poured down from the loft through the loft hatch and ceiling and flooded our bedroom. By the looks of it, and the horrible smell of damp, it had been soaked for a while.

The relatively new and carefully chosen carpet was super squelchy and the bed, with our super comfy mattress, was completely soaked. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls and part of the ceiling had caved in.

At that point we were obviously unsure of the cause, but the first port of call was to turn the water off at the mains to prevent any further flooding. Next up was to phone our insurance company for help and advice.

First thing the next morning an assessor arrived to see the damage. Although we knew it wasn’t great, part of us still thought things could be dried out and salvaged, but it was all condemned  as unusable and a skip was arranged.

Also important on his list were some dehumidifiers. Any home disaster involving water leaves a dreadful damp smell which seems to permeate everything. Plus, it makes the house feel cold.

When it came down to identifying the source of the problem, it turned out to all be due to a dodgy ballcock. One of those things that you’re unlikely to be aware of in advance, but what a mess it caused.

Bright and airy corner of bedroom with cushions and blinds

Over the next few weeks things were a hive of activity, with dehumidifiers on and workmen coming in to help replace and redecorate the room. There was an extra mishap with the plastering, when even more of the ceiling caved in on the slightly slap-dash plasterer (and, to be honest, the end result of the plastering wasn’t great).

That aside, everything else worked out fine and the furniture, bed, bedding and carpets were all replaced like-for-like.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but we were slightly relieved it hadn’t occurred when were at home and asleep in bed, as that would have been a very cold and wet shock to have water pouring down!

For us, it was only one room affected. It must be absolutely horrendous for people whose entire homes are flooded.

To give you peace of mind that you’re covered in the event of an unexpected home disaster, and have some money to spend on your home, Together Mutual are running this giveaway.

Win a year’s home insurance

Want to win a year’s free home insurance and £200 worth of John Lewis vouchers? Enter the Together Mutual Insurance competition below.

Or take advantage of their current special offer and save up to 40% on your home insurance.

Disclaimer: I teamed up with Together Mutual Insurance (@TogetherIns) to tell the story of my home disaster.

Buying a home: What families with children tend to look for

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

An open plan kitchen diner is perfect for a family home.

If your family has grown and your current house is bulging at the seams, then maybe it is time to move to a new property. Ensuring that your home appeals to house buyers requires some preparation.

If you are trying to reach out to a specific market, in this case a family, there are things to consider to secure that sale. But what are families with children looking for when buying a home?


We all get that instant feeling of warmth, cosiness and a sense of belonging when we visit a home that is right for us.

You may have experienced this before when buying a property or even when visiting a friend’s house. Now you need to make sure that your home gives the perception of a safe and comfortable family home that they can see themselves in.

There are a few old classic tricks that have been tried and tested that help with selling homes such as baking bread or filling your home with yellow flowers.

So if you are selling a certain lifestyle make sure your home feels that way. For great tips, read Fresh Design Blog, or have a look at a home lifestyle magazine such as House to Home, Elle Décor or House and Garden.

Blank canvas

Creating a blank canvas can involve clearing out all of your personal touches that could potentially be barriers to someone feeling that this could be their home.

No one who moves into your home wants to see bright colours or unusual décor that makes them uncomfortable in a room.

If you are trying to make it appear as an ideal family home, then leave photos of you and your family as this will show them the life that they could have if they buy your home.


When it comes to moving out many of us like to start packing things into boxes before you’ve even found a buyer or sometimes we really should start packing away some of our clutter before putting the house on the market.

People do not want to move into a house that feels full and cluttered with your possessions as that makes them think it is too small and won’t work for them. So, have a good clear out of your possessions or put your precious items into storage to keep them safe until you have moved into your new home.

Fit for purpose

Making sure that the room’s use is clear to the potential buyer is very important to give them an idea of what it will be like to live there.

So if you are using a bedroom as a study then change it back to a bedroom, or, if your study is currently being used as a storage space then quickly restore it to its desired use.

By not showing the rooms as their intended use you could lose out on a sale or even worse, lose out on money if they don’t consider your storage room as another reception room.

Outdoor space

Your outdoor space could be a deal breaker – whether it is the curb appeal at the front of your house or the back garden for the kids to play in.

Make sure that everything is neat and tidy and that there is plenty of space.

(Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post)

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