Five Houseplants that will see you through winter
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Five Houseplants that will see you through winter

  1. Poinsettia

The poinsettia is an absolute Christmas classic (yes we did just mention the festive season).

Its vibrant hue will brighten up any room in the house, especially when placed strategically on windowsills to offset those harsh winter whites. Easier to maintain than is often made out, poinsettias just need to be shielded from the cold on your way home from the shop, and kept warm but not too hot when inside.

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  1. The Christmas Cactus

When the November sleet gets you down, and the reality of winter is setting in, welcome the tropical Christmas cactus into your home. The Christmas cactus, or Schlumberga as it is also known, remains green for most of the year, but when Christmas comes around this plant gets in the seasonal spirit by sprouting purple, red, orange and white blooms. To ensure the Christmas cactus lives up to its name, make sure you provide the plant with twelve hours of darkness a night in the month leading up to the big day.

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  1. Kalanchoe

Kalanchoes grow in small bell-shapes in a variety of colours. Walking through the door to a warm bouquet of reds and pinks will instantly brighten your mood on a cold day. A bonus is that Kalanchoes are low maintenance houseplants, taking autumnal mornings in their stride.

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  1. Jerusalem Cherry

This bushy, evergreen shrub is the perfect addition to your houseplant collection. The Jerusalem cherry blooms small, long-lasting berries in the winter, ushering life and vitality into your home. These cheery, squat houseplants need to be kept in a humid setting and benefit from being watered twice a week. A word of warning: these poisonous fruits should be for decorative purposes only as ingesting them could lead to serious illness – not what you need during the party season!

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  1. Holly

It may not be the season to be jolly quite yet, but it is almost essential to welcome Holly into your home during the autumn/winter season. The plant’s waxy, pointed leaves and red berries bring seasonal joy wherever they rest, and can certainly be an eye-catching botanical centrepiece for your home. Hollies require thoroughly drained, acidic soil and proper exposure to sunlight to thrive indoors.

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The Blogger Edit – RVK Loves

The Blogger Edit – RVK Loves

If striking colour choices, vintage finds combined with contemporary pieces, and sociable open plan living is your favourite style of interior decor then ideas from our latest Inspiration Gallery blogger will be right up your street.

Award-winning interiors and lifestyle blogger, Rebecca Sterling (aka RVK Loves), has kindly invited us into her beautiful home, and we have to admit – we are pretty amazed by it!

Mixing her love of flowers, travel, styling and photography, you can find Rebecca over on her Instagram channel (@rvk_loves) as well as on her blog, Roses & Rosstops’.

Check out Rebecca’s interior vision over on our latest Inspiration Gallery here  – but be careful, it’ll make you want to decorate your entire house again!

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The Mustard Trend – Our Top Five Picks

The Mustard Trend – Our Top Five Picks

One of our favourite colours used throughout 2017 has been the stunning mustard trend that came straight off the Spring/Summer catwalk and straight into our homes.

From luxurious throws to striking mid-century style furniture, let’s take a peek at how you can incorporate this look into your seasonal décor with our top autumnal picks…

Mustard Throw / IKEA / £15

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Image credit: IKEA

This cosy throw would look fantastic mixed with a navy colour palette. If you’re a Farrow and Ball fan then ‘Hague Blue’ is the paint choice to go for. Team with mustard accessories and vintage furniture for a bold, Scandinavian vibe.

Floor Lamp / MADE / £79

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Image Credit: MADE

Lights…camera…ACTION! Combining industrial chic with sleek modern design, this statement lamp is the perfect on-trend design for those looking for a minimalist movie star home appearance.

Armchair / Maisons Du Monde / £145.50

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Image Credit: Maisons Du Monde

Described as ‘cocoon-like and cosy’ this fabulously retro armchair is the perfect brightly coloured addition to your living room. We particularly like this matched with grey walls. Try Dulux ‘Tranquil Retreat’ for an affordable yet stylish hue.

Moroccan Tile Lampshade / Not On The High Street / £45

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Image Credit: Not On The High Street

If mid-century modern isn’t your preference, take a look at this vibrant Moroccan lamp from Not on the High Street. A contemporary take on North African patterns, this lampshade would look stunning with teal, royal blue or soft pinks. Who said we need to say goodbye to summer so soon?

World Map / Etsy / £6.46

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Image Credit: Etsy

Been on an amazing gap year? Or are you simply lusting over travelling the world one day? If you’re looking for a cool and modern style without waiting for delivery, this digital print is just a snip at £6.46. Where is your dream destination?

Are you embracing the mustard trend this season? Let us know what you have been loving in the comments below!

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Bringing autumn into your Home

Bringing autumn into your Home

There’s no denying that ‘winter is coming’, and while it may be hard to let go of the last whimsical days of summer, welcoming Autumn style into your home is an experience second to none. We’ve compiled our five favourite ways to do this without breaking the bank.

  1. Lighting

The first step to bringing an autumnal vibe to your home is to fill it with candles. As the days grow shorter, reach for a match instead of the light-switch and your house will soon be filled with a gentle glowing light that is quintessentially autumn. Pleasantly scented candles also have the added bonus of filling the house with all sorts of wonderful scents.

If you’re not one for the maintenance that comes with having to replace candles, lampshades with soft fabrics such as linen can create that gentle light that will dramatically change the feel of your home. The perfect atmosphere for blankets and ‘Bake-Off’!

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  1. Textures

A change in textures around your home can make a huge difference to the atmosphere, and actually have a very practical use. When buying a few, seasonal pieces, focus on picking up warm fabrics, such as a shag pile rug, or velvet cushions. Having a more inviting and cosy vibe to your home will not only bring out a different look, but will also make staying warm during the colder months a lot easier, with items such as a cable knit wool blankets, faux fur cushions or sheep skin rugs adding a texture that retains the precious warmth we all crave.

 

  1. Dishware and Serving Pieces

Copper seems to be that autumn trend that returns without fail every single year, and the easiest way to incorporate these beautiful tones into your home is often by swapping your lighter, summer dishware and serving pieces for this timeless, seasonal option. Kettles, bowls, mugs and even silverware can be changed into ‘copperware’. Thankfully this has been a huge trend in 2017 so you won’t struggle to find some fabulous pieces on the high street!

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  1. Scents

As the seasons change, the scents that we use in our homes will change too. Switching from summery florals to deeper, warmer scents can completely revamp the ambience of your home. Amber, musk and cinnamon spices are just a few different options that scream autumn, and can be incorporated into almost every space in your home. Candles, diffusers, soaps and potpourri only just scratch the surface of the vast selections available. However, we do recommend that when choosing these scented products for your home, you try to stick with a single scent per room, or even for your entire house.

 

  1. Festive Accents

While putting up your Christmas tree during September might be a little early, this doesn’t mean you need to completely shy away from any festive touches to your home décor when autumn comes to visit. A neutral colour palate with pops of warm colour and themed items such as decorative pumpkins, or even a bowl of pine cones taps into that festive feel without you being branded as the one person in the neighbourhood who welcomes Christmas three months too early.

 

 

Are you looking forward to autumn? From pumpkin-spiced lattes to cosy nights in front of the fire – let us know what you are craving most this season!

 

 

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Dealing with home insurance as a first time buyer

 

You’ve secured the mortgage, paid the fees, and you have chosen your dream first home, but the work isn’t over once you move in. After the challenging experience of first time buying, insurance can often take a back seat. Here’s some helpful guidance on choosing home insurance and how it will protect your new investment.

What is home insurance?

Home insurance is often split into two parts – building and contents insurance. Put simply, building cover insures damage to your physical property (the bricks

house floodand mortar) from unfortunate and unforeseen events such as fire, flooding and weather damage. In places which have high risk of weather damage, such as flooding, your choice of insurance providers may be limited and premiums may be more expensive.

Contents insurance covers all of your belongings, from your laptop to your fridge, and protects them from potential theft, loss or damage.

Do I have to have it?

While you pay off your mortgage your home is technically still “borrowed” from your mortgage lender, therefore they will most probably require you to take out building insurance to protect their investment. However, you don’t need to use your mortgage lender to obtain your insurance. Shop around to compare coverage, there are plenty of price comparison sites such as Confused.com that can help guide you.

How much is my home worth?

It’s highly important to get the right type of cover for your home, so giving your insurance company truthful and accurate answers, when they ask you questions, is essential. Your insurance company will most likely ask you the rebuild cost of your home, which means how much it would cost in total to build your home from scratch again. Many people get a surveyor to help calculate this amount; however you can get an accurate estimate by using the Buildings Cost Information Service’s free online calculator.

Contents insurance is slightly easier; you just need to estimate the worth of all of your valuable property. Money Supermarket has a great online calculator to help you calculate the value of your property.

Do I need to update my insurance?

Planning on a fancy extension? Or dreaming of a spectacular loft conversion? You’ll need to have a chat with your insurer as any changes to your home may affect the rebuild cost. If you don’t change your policy to match any changes and you become underinsured, you may be left to pay the extra if anything was to happen to your home.

Are you a recent first time buyer and have any helpful advice on home insurance? Pop your tips in the comments below.

 

Image Credits: Wikimedia

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Understanding Stamp Duty

You hardly need reminding that it’s tough to to be a first time buyer. But one problem – and it just happens to be Britain’s oldest tax – has become easier.house

This is of course Stamp duty, originating in the 17th century and imposed to cover the cost of registering a change in ownership at a government office called the Land Registry.

This process requires a stamped certificate from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – the tax man to you and me – but HMRC will provide this only when the duty is paid.

So how is it easier?

Well, stamp duty used to be charged on a ‘slab’ basis. So buying a home for £250,000 meant you paid the old charge of one per cent duty on the full price, making it £2,500.

But if you bought, say, a £260,000 home you would have been in the old three per cent category applied across the whole price – so the duty would become a whopping £7,800.

This slab system was considered unfair and a disincentive for buyers. Therefore stamp duty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is today levied like income tax.

Up to £125,000 it’s zero, and over £125,000 to £250,000 it’s two per cent. Then from over £250,000 to £925,000 it is five per cent.

On that £260,000 home you therefore today pay no duty up to £125,000, then two per cent above £125,000 to £250,000, and then five per cent above £250,000 to £260,000.

It adds up to just £3,000 and in this example saves you £4,800.

There are a few exceptions to stamp duty – but don’t raise your hopes.

There’s no duty at all on zero-carbon homes (but these are rare) while some Right To Buy properties, where tenants purchase their council home, have reduced duty. In Scotland, stamp duty doesn’t exist but there is Land and Building Transaction Tax which is roughly similar and means that north of the border, our £260,000 home would cost £2,600 in LBTT.

Across the rest of Britain buyers of almost all homes sold for above £125,000 have no choice but to pay stamp duty within 30 days of moving in.

In reality, it happens quicker because it’s handled by your conveyancer – that’s the expert you will have instructed to handle legal elements of the purchase.

Sometimes a mortgage lender may offer to add the stamp duty to the loan for the house. It sounds tempting but try to resist: saving for stamp duty may be tough but it will cost less than adding it to a mortgage on which you repay not just the loan itself but interest as well.

One final thing – it’s always buyers who pay stamp duty. That’s not really unfair because as you move up the ladder and sell up, so someone will pay duty to buy from you.

 As the saying goes ‘What goes around, comes around.’

Image Credit: Geograph

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Author Bio

This article was provided exclusively to First Home News by Graham Norwood, a successful journalist who specialises in writing about residential property. Read Graham’s blog at Property News Hound or follow him on Twitter.

 

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Six top tips for a barbecue at your new home

Everyone knows that one of the main features of a great British summer is a barbecue. So why not use that new home and garden of yours to host one for your friends and family? The British summer isn’t the most reliable when it comes to its weather, but in the hope that we do have at least a few nice weeks this year, why not give it a go using these top tips:

 Theme9539470342_308fa83bd3_b

A themed barbecue is a great way to build enthusiasm among you and your guests, whether you simply theme the food you plan on serving or opt for something  more creative. Whichever you choose, have fun with it! Create an idea that both you and your guests will enjoy being a part of. Make sure it’s not something overly  difficult or complicated, just something to add to the occasion.

 Games

Games are a great asset to a barbecue once the food and drink is underway. This will add to the fun aspect of your barbeque and give you the chance to try out your  creative skills as a host. You could even incorporate your theme! Why not divulge some family jokes or something that will trigger a memory among your friends? The  games can be anything as simple as a game of cards, to an amusing game of Twister!

 Try some new food

There are a number of conventional foods associated with a British barbecue; from the classic beef burger, to the good old hot dog. Why not show off your cooking and creativity by adding to these classics using recipes that people may not have tried before? Go back to your original theme and try to alter the food accordingly, whether adding some salsa and guacamole to your Mexican themed barbie, or making a big paella to channel your inner Spaniard.

Create some drinks

Exciting drinks to go with your food, whether alcohol or juice based, themed or none-themed, will enhance your barbecue even further. Try your hand at creating some cocktails or make a good old fruit punch or vintage lemonade for those less inclined to alcohol.

Invite the neighbours

You’re in a new house, which most likely means you’re in a new neighbourhood, so why not invite some of the neighbours? A laid back event like a barbeque is a great opportunity to meet and get to know some of the people on your new street, so try to invite them along to join you.

Make the most of your garden

You’ve got a nice new garden, so make the most of it! If you have garden furniture, make sure it’s accessible to your guests and spread out as to use as much space as possible. Even if your garden isn’t very big, you can still make the most of what you’ve got; put some rugs out for people to sit on or utilize your dining room furniture if possible.

 

Image credit: Takuma Kimura via compfight.com

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Save hundreds on your fuel bills
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Save hundreds on your fuel bills

Do you live in the Greater Manchester area? Do you receive state pension credit, child tax credit or working tax credit? Then you could be entitled to a free high efficiency boiler which will not only make your home more efficient but save you hundreds of pounds on your fuel bills.

Housing specialist, Keepmoat is working in partnership with The Greater Manchester Local Authorities and its energy partners to bring you this exclusive offer under the Government Grants Initiative known as Energy Company Obligation 2 (ECO 2).

The ECO 2 scheme is part of the ECO Affordable Warmth Obligation launched in January 2013, and aims to reduce energy consumption within the UK by providing free boilers and insulation grants to those who receive certain benefits.

Freephone 0800 0197377 to find out if you’re eligible.

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Bohemian garden design for your outdoor nook

Bohemian garden design for your outdoor nook

Ever since the 60’s, the bohemian lifestyle has been intriguing thanks to books like On The Road. However, with it carries many downsides – lack of financial stability for example –  and it’s this that deters the majority of us from ever truly living it. However, as a substitute, there’s no reason why you can’t implement some of the aesthetic ideas that are characteristic for bohemian style in your own home. While you might not want this type of bohemian garden design to run throughout your entire property, your backyard or outdoor nook is the perfect place to turn into your own bohemian hideaway. Here are some practical tips on how to do this most efficiently.

Anyone can do this

Bohemian style is achieved by mixing all available styles, picking what you like and using it together. Even though that might sound easy, the trick is to make it look accidental and entirely effortless; a sort of creative chaos, but still welcoming and functional. Any item used needs to be carefully chosen and suitably placed to maintain the authentic atmosphere, and to avoid looking too contrived.

Furniture

Vivid colours and natural materials are the way to go when it comes to furniture. Since we’re working with a small outdoor space, you won’t have to use many items, just a comfortable armchair with colourful upholstery, a small ornamented table, a fold-able bed in “hippie” design and some shelves made of wooden crates, for example. Of course, rustic appearance is preferred, meaning second hand or reclaimed is the best route to go.

Rug

A rug is an absolute must given that sitting and resting on the floor is typical behaviour for any true Bohemian. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable or cold each time you do that. Opt for an Oriental ornamented or native North or South American Indian style rug. They are uniquely patterned, vividly-colored and certainly comfortable to sit and lay on.

Lights

Candles are most certainly a bohemian feature and different sized ones – either stood alone or put into a candelabra with rich ornamentation – are a sure win. However, they are more suitable for special occasions, not for everyday use.

If you are a practical person, you can include a floor lamp. It will make your outdoor nook feel even more like a living room and more comfortable, and make reading outside a lot easier. You can find a lot of inspiration for floor lamps in online light shops in Sydney. Choose a lamp that is simple in its design and you can always use it as a part of some other décor. Since Bohemian style is vivid and allows for a lot of mixed styles, you can paint the lamp shade to your liking. In addition, lanterns would be a suitable accessory, too. Their soft lights receive universal liking.

Some other inspiring ideas

Cushions and pillows in as many bright colours as possible should also find their spot in your Bohemian nook, not to mention old suitcases, record players and even old wind-up clocks. Let your imagination fly when you pick up particular items, make a statement and leave a personal, above-all colourful touch.

This is a guest post from Derek Lotts, an Australian writer who covers home improvement and gardening (he considers these as self-improvement topics). He believes in the power of sharing ideas and communicating via the internet to achieve betterment. Image credit: John Mould via Compfight

 

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How to make moving into a new home as stress-free as possible
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How to make moving into a new home as stress-free as possible

Moving into a new home is incredibly stressful for the majority of us, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide will walk you through the entire process and advise you on how to make your move as stress-free as possible. Why not print this article and use it as a checklist? Here’s to the easiest move you’ve ever had!

Prepare for the move at least a month in advance

Much of the stress that is associated with moving is feeling like you’ve left everything to the last minute. You can eliminate most of this angst by getting the process started early and by spreading out the work over several weeks.

  • An audit of your home should be done a month or so in advance. Sort through your entire house from top to bottom and decide which of your possessions you’d like to keep, donate or throw away (hint: be ruthless!)
  • If you plan on using one, begin to source your quotes for a number of different removal companies. Once you’re confident you’ve found the best deal, get yourself booked in. You’ll take great reassurance from knowing that this element of the move is all taken care of.
  • Begin to make your way through your cupboards full of food and only buy new food if you absolutely can’t make do with what you’ve already got in.
  • Keep an eye out for used cardboard boxes that you can get for free from local shops. You’ll also want to purchase a couple of rolls of industrial tape.
  • Arrange transportation for your pets, if necessary. If you’re moving abroad you will need to get a Pet Passport.
  • Create a floor plan for your new home and assign a number to each room. Later you can label boxes with the corresponding number to keep everything organized.

A couple of weeks leading up to your move…

  • Start packing items that you won’t need between now and moving day. Label the boxes with their assigned number and set them aside.
  • Request a final bill from your utility providers and give them a forwarding address to send the last bill to. You should also notify your bank, post office etc of your change of address.
  • Transfer plants to containers more suitable for moving. Clean out decorative pots and pack them.
  • Clear and pack items from shelves, wall hangings and curtain rods as well as all other decorations from around the house.
  • If you’re taking it with you, defrost the freezer several days prior to the move. Drain water from fountains and any other items that carry water and give them a few days to dry out.
  • Set aside the items you’ll need for moving day and begin packing everything else. Try to keep boxes with corresponding numbers together.
  • Disassemble furniture the night before moving. Keep all screws and tools packed together and labelled correctly.

Moving Day

  • Provide directions and a spare key for your new home to removals staff and give them a copy of the numbered floor plan you created.
  • Do one final check of your home to make sure nothing gets left behind. Turn off any necessary utilities. Give your key to the landlord or estate agent.

Enjoy your new home!

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