DIY Garden Furniture – Make a Branch Lamp Stand!

Now the summer is finally getting closer there is nothing I like better then spending as much time outside as possible. I cant wait for the long, warm summer evenings, eating al fresco with friends, watching the sun go down and sitting outside for as long as possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have some stylish lighting outside to make our evenings last even longer? Wouldn’t it be even better if you can make your own light, for free, out of garden waste? You can! With just big branch, a little bit of left over wood, a drill and a spare hour you can turn your garden waste into something stylish. You can also use the branch lamp stand indoors, just add a great bright coloured fabric cable. Have a look at the video to see how I made this great outdoor light.


You need: a big branch a piece of left over wood, mine is 30cm by 15cm a wood drill chisel and hammer wood glue 2 wood screws paint a solar lamp if you want to use your light outdoors or a light bulb on a bright coloured fabric cable if you want to use in indoors.



3b) Unique & Unity


Once you’ve picked the perfect bedroom furniture from Utopia’s fabulous collection of fitted and unfitted solutions, it’s time to turn your attention to wallcoverings and flooring. These surfaces can make or break a scheme and whilst it’s tempting to choose a neutral backdrop for a calm, tranquil environment, why not shake things up a little this summer and indulge in one of the latest trends for prints, patterns and colour.

I’m a huge fan of stripes – in clothing and interiors – so I love Crucial Trading’s Wool Audrey collection, which costs £140 per sq m and includes chunky stripes in contrasting colours (

1a) Crucial Trading

1b) Crucial Trading

1c) Crucial Trading

‘When buying carpet, how a carpet looks and performs is dependent on the fibre content used,’ explains David Cormack for Cormar Carpets. ‘It has a bearing on the durability, resilience, appearance retention, feel, practicality and price. Basically, the more pile you put into the carpet, the more wear you will get out of it.’

As an alternative to the safe option of beige or cream, introduce a subtle hint of colour with Sensation Twist polypropylene from Cormar Carpets. In 16 shades including Paper Moon, shown, and 4m or 5m widths, it’s priced from £22 per sq m (

2) Cormar Carpets 

Feature walls are still big news, especially if you want to do down the wallpaper route. My current favourites are by Swedish designer and illustrator Sandra Isaksson – Penguin, Tulip and Lovebird cost £49 per roll and are available at Unique & Unity (

3c) Unique & Unity 3b) Unique & Unity 3a) Unique & Unity

I also adore the summery feel of this Mazarine wallpaper by Albany Festival, priced £25 per roll at Wallpaper Direct. I have the silver one as a feature wall in my living room and it looks stunning (

4) Wallpaper Direct copy

A good compromise is to go for something in a floral print that doesn’t shout colour. This Banbury Plumbago 91/7029 wallpaper (£82 per roll at Cole & Son) is pretty and not too overwhelming and works wonderfully with the Peony bedstead in Mercury, priced £845 at Button & Sprung ( Add a wooden peg rail and hang family photos or treasured holiday memories for a personal touch.

5) Button & Sprung


For a painted look, there are so many colours, tones and finishes to choose from that it can be difficult to know where to begin.

‘I love grey in the bedroom,’ explains Judy Smith, Crown colour consultant. ‘either a really watery tone for a bright and clean look or a deep slate or charcoal for more drama. Anything goes with these – a shocking pink, touch of metallic, a deep mustard. Choose the atmosphere that you want to create and decide whether that means you want to use deep and dramatic tones or light, reflective ones. Use natural breaks like corners, alcoves, shelving, dado or picture rails to start and stop your different colour choices. If you don’t have a picture or dado rail, try painting up to that height in one colour, mask with tape then paint above in the other. It’s simple and very effective.’

Walls: Up Beat (£18.47 for 2.5L matt emulsion) and Scrumptious (£10.98 for 1.25L Feature Wall range). Ceiling: English Muffin (£18.47 for 2.5L matt emulsion), all Crown Paints (

6) Crown Paint

If you just want to add depth and drama with a painted alcove or chimneybreast, how about Crown’s Shocking Pink matt emulsion for walls (£18.47 for 2.5L) and Smoky Mist quick dry gloss for skirting (£15.99 for 750ml)

Breatheasy Label-Final Breatheasy Label-Final

And finally, I can’t resist the new colour themes from Dulux, especially Day at the Beach, a palette that whisks you away to happy days at the seaside (Dulux MixLab Vanilla Scoop, Sunny Day and Sandy Steps, £24.49 per 2.5L matt emulsion) (

8a) Dulux

8b) Dulux

8c) Dulux


Finding Your Own Interior Style

Style comes in many shapes and forms. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Style depends on situation, personality and practicality amongst other things, and it is not something that happens over night. Personal style is often honed over a long period of time – many of us start to experiment with developing our “image” during our teenage years or even earlier.

With interior style, however, it is a different story. Yes, most of us will have had a go at “beautifying” our teenage bedrooms – with fan posters and other paraphernalia, but few of us will have embarked on a complete interior decoration project until the day we receive the keys to our first place of our own. And then it hits home: where do I start?

Take your time
So what would my advice be? Well firstly, take your time. We moved into our house over four years ago and are still eating our dinners from an old battered family hand-me-down dining table. Why? Because we still have not found the perfect table for our needs and are not willing to compromise. No need to take it to such extremes, but building a comfortable home takes time and lots of love and devotion.

Take a step-by-step approach
Apart from things like flooring (which should flow throughout the house), tackling one room at a time will make a big project feel less daunting. A good place to start is the sitting room. You spend a lot of time there, it is the place where you relax and unwind. Once you have achieved a happy, serene space there, you may be more confident and full of ideas for other parts of the house.

Get inspired
There is no denying that looking for inspiration is a time consuming task. Luckily the internet does make research a lot easier. Pinterest is a great place to start if you are looking for inspiration for the home. Magazines and ezines, such as Elle Decoration, World of Interiors and Houzz are also some of my favourites. Often, I even come away from hotel and B&B stays with some great ideas for the house and I love spending time browsing places like Etsy and for some brilliant handcrafted treasures. While the High Street offers some great designs these days, don’t forget to look to smaller producers and antique shops for quirky pieces that you can fall in love with.

Choose your statement pieces
There are some things no house can be without: a sofa, a dining table and chairs and a bed. These are big ticket items that will last many years, so it is worth taking your time to choose wisely. Do think about the practicalities as well: a white sofa might be impractical if you have small kids or pets at home, leather sofas are particular favourites for cat claws and sharp edges on dining tables can mean trouble for active toddlers.

Don’t be afraid of colour and pattern
Many people are afraid to introduce colour and pattern into their homes because they are unsure how they will work together, fear the end result might be overwhelming and are concerned the look will date quickly. If you fall into this category, take baby steps: maybe start with a bright picture, some colourful scatter cushions or vases and build up from there. Soon you will become more confident in your choices.

Don’t worry, have fun
That’s the key thing I am trying to get across. It’s your home, so don’t worry what other people may think. When you feel happy, relaxed, comfortable and cosy in the space you have created, you can be proud of your own perfect little paradise. Be your own personal style icon.


Weird and Wonderful Ways To Relax Around the World

When you think of relaxation, you most likely imagine yourself relaxing in the sun on a tropical beach or taking a long hot bath, but how does relaxation differ around the world? Here are some of the weird and wonderful things different cultures do in order to relax:

Japan – Relaxing Amusement Baths
For hundreds of years tourists have travelled to Mount Fuji as the area is filled with natural minerals and elements. In recent years the Japanese have been taking ‘amusement baths’ within this area – where they take a dip in public baths of red wine, green tea and even coffee in order to release toxins that don’t get released from bathing in normal water.

Malaysia – Fishy Foot Massage
This relaxation method which began in Kuala Lumpur involves placing your feet in a tank with hundreds of tiny doctor fish which feed on dead skin. Fish foot massages aren’t only a natural way to exfoliate, but people describe the feeling as ‘ticklish’ and relaxing.


Spain – Siesta
Many hot countries all over the world practice the midday siesta – or afternoon nap. This is usually taken after lunch and in Spanish countries in particular employees are given extended lunch breaks so that they can nap at work!  Many countries who practice the siesta report having longer lives, less stress and less cases of terminal diseases.

India – Laughter Yoga
A doctor from Mumbai in the 1990s got together a group of people and encouraged them to tell stories and do silly things to incite laughter in each other – this idea caught on and has spread across the world. Practitioners say that laughter yoga lowers blood pressure as well as exercising the core muscles and bringing serenity of the mind.


Asian  Countries – Manaka and Acupuncture
This relaxation method – where superfine needles are inserted in to the skin to help align the energy pathways of the body – is practiced in a number of Asian countries. If the thought of inserting needles in to the skin is not appealing, the Manaka works in a similar way, with a small hammer and wooden peg being used to tap the pressure points.

Brazil – Active Meditative Relaxing Capoeira
Capoeira is a national Brazilian martial art which involves a lot of acrobatic, balletic and unpredictable motions; it looks almost like a dance and is still practiced by many people. Capoeira is very much like T’ai Chi and is enjoyed as an aerobic workout to express joy, happiness and strength.

Japan – Cuddling ‘Sexy’ Pillows
Japanese companies have started to develop “sexy pillows” for people to cuddle up to when they want to relax and unwind. In Japan, you can now buy body length pillows in the form of popular anime characters as well as sculpted pillows that replicate female body parts (such as the ‘girlfriend’s knee’ pillow which is the most popular.)


Relaxation takes place in many different forms all over the world – it isn’t always about being in the peace and quiet. Next time you’re feeling stressed out and your usual chill out methods aren’t working, why not take inspiration from these weird and wonderful techniques?


4 Ways To Find Inspiration For Your Sustainable Designs

Finding the latest sustainable design, hot trends, or the new blend of interior colours to use, has changed drastically over the years.  We now have access to so many design sources.  Here are our top 5 favourite ways of keeping up to date:

1. With over 30 large interior design exhibitions taking place in the UK this year alone, we live in a great place to get out and find inspiring ideas. ( From Eco Build, to Ideal Home Show or Grand Designs Live, the list goes on. Each show will have their own displays of exciting and sustainable interiors.    And a real benefit of going to these shows, are the talks that take place.   Often leaders in the field will share their creative ideas and expertise.

2. Pinterest ( Pinterest we love you!  The pin board that has fast become a designer’s dream board.  You can search on it.  You can create your own interior boards.  Share boards and ideas with others.  You can find trends you love and then start following these boards.


It’s the paradise for designers!  You’ll often find that most furniture design websites will offer the pinterest icon on both the main home page as well as product pages.  Allowing designers to pin more images to their boards.


3. Interior Magazines, both on and off line, are not to be forgotten! These magazines will often lead the way for consumers. Thus a marketing dream for any company getting coverage in them.  There are a whole range of magazine to watch out for, and they don’t always need to be the big brands such as Living Etc, Ideal Home, House to Home and so on.


4. And last but not least. Just good old-fashioned window shopping! Yes, looking at the latest window displays is an easy and enjoyable way to get ideas.


How Good Design Can Help you Sleep

In this age of modern distractions and fast pace, many of us struggle to manage the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep impedes our well-being, mood, productivity and is important to maintaining our body’s important metabolic and neurological functions.

HM 1

According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we spend one third of our lifetimes sound asleep. Assuming the average life expectancy this equates to 227,468 hours asleep.

So what is the secret to a restful night’s sleep?

I think the answer lies in both environment and mindset. The bedroom environment can have a significant influence on sleep quality and quantity. Several variables combine to make up the sleep environment including light, comfort and temperature.

Hmmm. This started a chain of thoughts. Could I design the perfect sleep? An oasis of calm where the stress of the day would theoretically melt away.

As a designer I am naturally curious and drawn to solve problems. I conceptualise, experiment, test and launch products every day. I decided to run an experiment of my own – could I use interior and product design to improve my sleep patterns in a meaningful manner.

I set myself the task to overhaul my own bedroom and test how design could enable a great night’s sleep.

HM 1

The Bed
I started with the obvious place – the bed. My bedding had seen better days and my feather mattress topper was all plucked out and starting to shed. The bed half-resembled a chicken coup. In addition, I suffered from occasional neck pain from my unsatisfying pillows which never seemed to be the right height for my head.

New 600 thread count sheets from the Fine Cotton Company were luxurious and the right balance of crisp and soft I imagined I was in a five star hotel. Next, the Goose Down Feather Topper from John Lewis provided was akin to lying on a cloud. I then contacted the St Moritz Hotel in Cornwall to ask them who supplied their duvets and pillows as I remembered having the best night’s sleep of my adult life in this hotel. They kindly referred me to Mitre Linen who delivered a “Downie 13.5 tog duvet” and “Lucy” pillows the following week which provided just the right support and temperature.

Paint & Lighting
Hotel booking site Travelodge studied 2,000 British homes and found that the colours most conducive for sleep were blue, followed by yellow and green.

I chose a shade of Dulux which had a lovely grey-blue calm cool tone called Grey Steel 3 and added a yellow insect pattern Fly du Soleil lampshade from my own SS15 collection.

HM 1

Scents and Sounds
Now that the colour scheme and bed were sorted, I slipped two lavender sachets under my extra fluffy new pillows and bought a Good Ideas Naturecare Sound machine which mimicked sounds of the beach and the sea.

HM 1

Sleep Technology & Gadgets
As I am a frequent traveller, I’ve been tracking my sleep patterns on my Apple iPad through an application called Sleep Cycle so I had a sleep quality benchmark to beat of 80% achieved on 15th May 2014. The application works by tracking your breathing and physical movements throughout the night to determine how well you slept and how long you remained in deep quality sleep.

There are also a plethora of meditation applications which claim to meditate you into a relaxed state preparing you for sleep. I downloaded a few focused on improving sleep through a voice guided meditation at bedtime.

I also have been trialling a light therapy handheld device called a Valkee made in Finland which claims to reset your body clock in a way similar to a seasonal effective disorder lamp. You attach headphones to your ears once a day in the morning at the same time to promote sleep and reduce anxiety.

So, did good design help me sleep in the end? The bed was probably the most significant difference. I fell asleep quickly and looked forward to going to bed in what I found to be a calm quiet environment. The fresh paint and décor also lent itself to relaxation. According to my sleep tracking application, I did improve my previous best sleep quality metric by an additional 8% and had scored 88% on sleep quality. The sound machine troubled me as I found it very difficult to suspend disbelief and envisage I was at the beach. The meditation application made me giggle as I found the narrator sounded like the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The jury is still out on whether my Valkee, Apple applications and contemporary cool blue walls are making a difference. Now, time for bed.


Uncovering the historical secrets in your home

Every day I have the great joy of delving into the hidden stories found in the history of houses across the country. By searching through historic records and gaining understanding of how our houses – and lives – have changed over time I am able to reveal all manner of stories from the past. I was once referred to as Miss Marple delving into the history of houses, which is actually rather accurate as researching the history of houses is very much like being a detective.

Whether it’s tracking down who were the first residents to walk across the threshold or uncovering a long lost mystery of a former occupant, there is always a story to find in the history of your house. I have researched many houses across different parts of the country: from cottages in Devon, former rectories in Hertfordshire, manor houses in Nottinghamshire, terraced houses in Manchester, and grand town houses in London, there are many stories to be found in the history of our homes.

Much of my work looks at the social history of the house, by looking at the people of the past, but there are also some fascinating insights to find in uncovering more about the history of the rooms and how people used to live in the house. A great many of us live in Victorian houses, and in most cases they weren’t even built with a bathroom and the only option was a bath in front of the kitchen fire and walking out to the back yard (night or day) to use the loo. Improvements in water supplies and plumbing, as well as interior fixtures and fittings began to change this, but for what many now consider one of the most important rooms in the house, it had a less than auspicious beginning.

Through my blog post I will be revealing stories behind the history of our houses , which is not only a fascinating glimpse into the past, but can give greater understanding to your home today. In a nation of property lovers, where the old adage of ‘A man’s home is his castle’ still rings true, you will be amazed at the stories you can find!

If you wish to read more house histories, you can visit my blog – – and for more details about my work you can visit my website –



Getting Ready For Your First Meeting with an Interior Designer

You have finally made up your mind to hire an interior designer for your home project and scheduled an appointment for them to come. Now all you have to do is just relax and anticipate the meeting that will open your eyes to a whole new world you didn’t know existed.

Most people who hire a designer for the first time don’t really have any idea what to expect. An interior designer is able to advise you on specifics, but to get the results you want it is important that you prepare yourself first. There is plenty to do and the time you spend doing that homework will be worth it. So definitely take some time to think about what you can afford, what you want, what you need, and what is most important to you and the entire process will run much more efficiently and it will be fun for you and your interior designer.

First of all, decide what your budget is going to be so that your expenses are something you can live with. Making a preliminary budget will help you come to terms with how much your design plan is likely to cost. Think about the cost of each room:  dining room, living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, appliances, soft furnishings, accessories, art, lighting, etc. Don’t underestimate how much things cost. Do some research and check prices. It’s better to be realistic with your budget than be surprised when the acutual projected cost is presented.

Next question you need to answer is when will you be ready to start, what is your timeframe to complete the project and what are the deadlines that have to be met. Will you or someone you delegate (project manager) be on hand while work is being done?

Spend some time considering the look, style and options that you want. To help you with this, look through design magazines that you feel best represent your tastes and in addition search the internet extensively. There are literally dozens of websites which act as online inspiration galleries like achica, Houzz and Homify for example. Look at the overall feeling of the room, colours that appeal to you, patterns you like, fabrics that look wonderful, window treatment styles, furniture shapes and styles. Tear out pages or tag the photographs and ads of styles that appeal to you most. The Internet is also full of great ways to inspire you. Search on Pinterest, which creates inspiration boards on a visual social network and check out the online versions of popular interior design magazines.

Save all the information from magazines and internet that you find in a folder or scrapbook in addition to saving any swatches of fabric, paint colour cards, furniture catalogs or brochures, pictures of appliances, plumbing and lighting fixtures, cabinet and door hardware, flooring materials, etc. All this will help the designer better understand your tastes and preferences.

Next step would be to plan your space. Write what you want from certain rooms and the look you wish to create. Study the good and bad points of the household. Mention the items you would like to keep and those that you don’t.

When you first meet your interior designer, provide them with the floor plans of the project.  If you don’t have them, measure and map out the rooms accurately. Always measure the dimensions, including the height of each room and the windows and door openings on your plan.

Decide what you want the interior designer to do. Whether you want for them to create or reproduce a look or style for your house or improve the use and efficiency of space. Will it include selection of furnishings, accessories, appliances, etc.?  Will it include designing a lighting plan, selecting and integrating audiovisual, security and other technologies into the design? Will you expect them to recommend contractors and manage the project?

When you hire an interior designer you get the benefit of an experienced professional who can solve problems, help you avoid costly mistakes and, most importantly, create a space designed to meet your needs, desires and dreams.  At the end, if you’ve gone to the trouble to find an interior designer that you feel you can work with, then let them work their magic.