Christmas tableware

Christmas tableware

To some, the Christmas dinner is the focal point of the big day. To others however, preparing a huge dinner for a large family, along with the other rigours of the day and being constantly scrutinised by your guests is just one big nightmare. It might not be something you’re instantly worried about, but creating that special meal means nothing if you serve it to special guests on a tray in front of the TV with no special crockery or cutlery. Make sure your first Christmas dinner in the new home is one that goes smoothly, and take a look at our guide to presenting your meal impressively to any guests.

Crockery

If you’re entertaining guests this Christmas, and are going to the expense and effort of preparing dinner on a mass scale, the last thing you want to be doing is plating up your masterpiece on an assortment of mismatched plates that aren’t big enough to hold your vast range of prepared foods. Although you probably don’t want to be investing in new pots and plates solely for use over the festive period, if you buy smartly you’ll gain possession of some best crockery that can be brought out for the special occasion and to wow guests at any point in the year.

Cutlery

If you’re planning to entertain over Christmas, there is no better time to whip out your very best silver cutlery than during the festive period. Adding some stylish, traditional cutlery will help to add the perfect finish to your festive table. They will also help to add a sense of special occasion to your meal, as you will be using your very best dinnerware items for a wonderful meal with family and friends.

Presentation

It’s unavoidable that come mid afternoon on Christmas day, everyone will have overeaten. If you’re playing host, that means you need to prepare an absolute feast for your guests, as they’ll definitely expect to eat like a king. With so many meat and vegetable options for the big day, you’ll need a regimen of serving bowls, rather than having to embarrassingly go through the process of plating up everyone’s individual meals. Similarly to the crockery situation, try not to have a mix and match situation as it’ll go some way to ruining the other Christmas decorations you opt for on the table.

Table decorations

Napkins, crackers and other festive accessories are great additions to your festive table. We all know that you get exactly what you pay for when it comes to Christmas crackers, and whilst it may be easy to fob off immediate family with a pack of three tiny screwdrivers, if you have a large group coming you may feel obliged to push the boat out that little bit further. If you want to tailor the prizes to your party guests, check out the vast range on offer at department stores like John Lewis.

 

Image used under creative commons courtesy of Liz Lawley.

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Make the most of your bijou kitchen
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Make the most of your bijou kitchen

As much as we’d all love the luxury of a vast spacious kitchen that gives us plenty of space for preparation, storage and cooking, it can’t always be a reality. If your kitchen is more pokey than palatial then follow these easy tips to work your way around a small space.

Utilise the full height of your kitchen
You might not have a kitchen that is blessed with huge space dimensionally, so it’s vital that you don’t waste the precious little space that you do have. Most people don’t realise that you can utilise storage all the way up to your ceiling. High shelves are great, especially for items that you need to use in your daily cooking, but don’t particularly want to show off in plain view. If you need cupboard space, make sure you use all the wall space you have available.

Try and open up the room
If the room really is too small for you to get successful use out of it, why not attempt to open it up? We aren’t advising a large scale demolition, but if your kitchen backs onto a dining area, why not remove the door or widen the access area. Making your kitchen and dining area open plan will make the rooms feel larger, and also allow the area to be utilised to better effect when entertaining guests.

Layout
With any kitchen, you want to try and keep your main appliances together to make your time cooking as productive as possible. By making sure your kitchen layout is efficient, the worry of it being too small becomes less of an issue. If your oven and stove are located next to a space of worktop that can be used as a chopping space, it makes your cooking area infinitely easier to work in.

Walls
Get creative with storage in a modest sized kitchen. Small wall cupboards are great for basics, but for items that get used in your everyday cooking schedule you might want to utilise ceiling mounted hanging racks for items like pans and other crockery. It looks trendy and comes in handy when you’re in a rush.

Colours and natural light
One main trick to fooling the eye and making a room seem bigger is to utilise bright airy colours. Whites and light blues are great when making a room feel open and airy, and if possible, try and make sure you let plenty of natural light flood into your kitchen. It might not make your room any bigger in size, but you’ll certainly feel less claustrophobic.

Only the necessities
A cluttered kitchen is a restrictive kitchen, and that’s the last thing you need when struggling for space when cooking. If you aren’t going to be using an item regularly, then there is no need for it to be in the kitchen. Have a thorough sort out of your most necessary cooking items, and for those that aren’t going to be constantly used, store them away somewhere that is easy to access, but hidden away.

Do you think we have missed something? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Images used under creative commons courtesy of chotda.

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Three tips for updating your conservatory
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Three tips for updating your conservatory

With the cold months now settling in, you might find yourself using your conservatory less and less, due to its poor heat retention. While the appeal of a conservatory in summer is obvious – lazing in it and admiring the garden through dappled sunshine – as soon as the weather changes, your view becomes dominated by drizzle and gloom. Don’t fear, we’re here to provide you with the best interior design tips to help make your conservatory liveable this winter.
Flooring

Flooring is crucial in a conservatory, as it sets the mood for the whole room. Although carpet might retain heat better through winter, it isn’t exactly ideal throughout summer. Carpeted areas are also much higher maintenance than other flooring options, so we recommend a laminate flooring, which works best in most conservatories. If you’re looking to retain some warmth on the floor throughout winter, then adding a deep pile feature rug is an idea. It not only breaks up your floor space and adds warmth, but can add a dash of much needed colour to the room too.

Seating

If you want to make your conservatory a popular and well-used room, then your choice of seating is crucial. Many home owners make the mistake of neglecting conservatory seating, assuming the living room is where people like to be. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it’s always nice to have a choice when entertaining friends and family. While you might not quite opt for the leather suite that’s in your lounge, you still need to make sure that you have a comfy seating option. In most cases, conservatory sofas will be less substantial than a three piece suite, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on comfort or looks. Something light coloured and casual is always a popular option, with cream and beige colours being a light way to decorate your room. Wooden elements often work well with these light colours, and woven sofas often look elegant when utilised well in a conservatory.

Furniture

You have an abundance of options available when it comes to selecting furniture for a conservatory, and it all comes down to how you want to utilise the room. Do you envisage using it to read the paper and drink coffee in the mornings? Or is it more about a TV area where you can watch sport? For a quiet haven away from the rest of the house, consider a quality coffee table in the middle of the room. Choose wood for a more rustic look, or glass-topped for a contemporary focal point.   If you’re looking to entertain guests regularly with dinner parties, then you might want to decorate the room with fashionable accessories such as candles or lanterns, both of which can help to provide warmth throughout the winter cold snap. Also invest in a quality lamp to ensure just the right level of mood lighting. If you have any wall space, use upward lighting to show off a painting, or use hanging down lighting if you want to make the room feel more enclosed and personal.

 

Whilst we haven’t addressed a full scale redecoration, the three above areas are all worth thinking about if you’re looking to give your conservatory a different feel. If you have any further tips, or have recently made changes to your conservatory, be sure to let us know in the comments section.

 

Image used under creative commons courtesy of karen.tkr

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Wooden log burners: Why you need one
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Wooden log burners: Why you need one

Over recent years, sales in log burning stoves have been roaring. Not only do they help to save you money in the long run, but they provide a true sense of character to any room in which you want one. Through the cold winter months, they provide unrivalled heat at a low cost, and add a homely feel to your living room. Although they aren’t cheap to install, the long term benefit is that, provided you use your living room as a family room on a night, you make big cuts into the amount of energy you use on heating. The homely feel of a family gathered around a roaring fire is one many would love to return to. What could be better on a cold winters weekend than a communal gathering area for the kids to play, you to watch TV and chat, and all stay warm.

Cost

Heating your house through the winter months can prove to be extremely costly. Even with heating on, you can still struggle to warm up whilst moving from room to room, and heating your whole house for the duration of winter will result in very large bills. If you have a room in your home that your family spends most of their spare time in, having a log burner installed makes a lot of sense. Although installation costs can be pricey, you’ll begin to see the savings almost immediately when you aren’t required to leave your heating on night after night.

Heat

Radiators are effective for providing the specific temperature of heat you need, however wooden log burners are no slouches when it comes to warming your home up. If you close doors to contain heat within your room, it doesn’t take long to get a drowsy feel or warmth flowing through your room. After a full evening of burning, you really will be sweltering if you don’t open doors to let some heat escape – they’re that effective.

Range

You might think that having a burner is fine for one room, but won’t have any effect on the rest of your house. Whilst a log burner will obviously struggle to replace your heating system throughout the rest of your house, it does succeed in providing enough warmth to spread into joining rooms. Leave a door open to cool down your living room and your dining room or hallway will feel markedly warmer.

Fuel

Wood is cheaper than central heating, it’s as simple as that. You might think that finding wooden logs is an unnecessary pain and one you can deal without, but once you get into sourcing your own wood, it becomes an addictive pastime – to the point where you’ll be offering to cut down unwanted trees in the garden of friends and family, as long as you get the reward of keeping the wood for your log store.

Installation

One problem with wood burners stems from the need of a chimney to release the emissions. Many new houses are now built without a chimney as fuel burning fires are not as common as in the past. Even despite this, not having a chimney doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take advantage. Many fitting companies do everything they can to make an installation viable, with the most cost effective move for houses without a chimney being to install an insulated twin wall stainless steel chimney. Once you get the all clear that an installation is viable, you’re clear to pick your style.

Log burners are the in thing, they look good and can be chosen in a number of styles to fit your personal preference. From small and dainty styles to those that are large and dominant and provide a focal point to your room – there are options to fit all tastes. If you have a wood burner already, or are looking to make an investment, let us know your feelings below.

Images used under creative commons courtesy of olivia.may.

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Hallway Touches
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Hallway Touches

When entering your house, the hallway is often the first area any visitors will see. You don’t need to spend a fortune on furniture, as a hall is often only used as a walk through, however your guests will immediately build up an idea of your taste based on the care and attention you’ve given to making that initial view of your house pleasant. With that in mind, we’ve provided a few touches you need to make your hallway a pleasant thoroughfare.

Feature wall

If your hallway seems like a monotonous walk, with too much empty wall space, why not get a feature wall to add a focal point to the area? Popular options for feature walls include utilising brick slips to give a natural building feel, to creating a montage of personal and meaningful photographs positioned together. If this all seems too much effort, the simple option is to give your feature wall a lick of paint in a different colour. It breaks up the room and looks great when done with the right colours.

Artwork

We aren’t recommending anything expensive, because there’s no need for excessive and overpriced artwork to make your room look more homely. Having an eye-catching photo, or picture however, just helps to break up empty wall space. If you have a particularly long hallway, then using wall hanging art is a great tactic to add personal style to your room. Check out specialist artwork retailers online, or you can pick up cityscapes and large works of popular world destinations on your high street.

Don’t be bland

If you keep the whole room bland, it will act simply as a through route from one area of your house to the next. It might be easy to opt for neutral colours and floors, but it’s such a waste of a room. If you want to opt for neutral walls, then choose a carpet or flooring that will give some impact to the room. Make sure whatever flooring you lay is hard-wearing, as hallways are often high traffic areas.

Rug on wood

If your hallway flooring isn’t carpet, then  the area could benefit from a carefully selected rug to fill the room opening. Entering a home onto cold tiling, or wooden flooring can provide a somewhat empty feel to the room. Opt for a fashionable rug to add a personal style and provide a welcoming feel to visitors. Positioned correctly, your new addition will work well at breaking up floor space, if your hallway seems never ending in length.

Welcoming accessories

A nice vase, some flowers and a few well chosen accessories can quickly turn a house into a home. With a hallway, you aren’t going to be relaxing and spending your evenings in the room, so you don’t need to go overboard, but just to provide a welcoming feel to the room, a few well placed, easily picked up items can make a world of difference.  As it can be the first room you meet upon entering the house, why not provide storage options for footwear, coats and other pieces of outdoor wear? A nice wooden coat rack can be both practical and attractive.

Images used under creative commons courtesy of gaspi *yg.

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How to create the ultimate family bathroom
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How to create the ultimate family bathroom

Bathrooms aren’t the most stylish of rooms, and often don’t showcase the greatest of personal style when it comes to decoration. Everyone loves to accessorise when it comes to a living area, but for many, the bathroom is a place in which you only require the essentials. If you’ve got a young family, or are expecting your family to grow in the not too distant future, we have some top tips on how to  make your bathroom area more child friendly, to make those bath times an enjoyable experience, rather than a chore.

Brightness

This tip can generally be applied to any bathroom, which are very rarely seen decorated in dark and gloomy shades. Especially with children, it is even more important to give a light and airy feel to the room. Kids love brightness and if you’re looking to make the room inviting enough to make bath-time an easy, regular occurrence and not a chore, make sure that you get the colours right. No-one would enjoy an hour in the bath surrounded by dark brown walls, never mind a child – make the room fun.

Kid it up

Juggling a grown-up room with making it appealing to kids is tough. You don’t want to decorate the room in a juvenile way, as then the room is a no-go should you have visitors around. You want to provide the sophisticated feel of the rest of your house, whilst also utilising elements that your kids will love. Don’t line the walls with Thomas the Tank Engine, as a year or so down the line, even your kids will be tired of it, and you’ll be forced to redecorate. Decorate the room like any other in your home, in an adult way, but make sure you add kid’s additions like accessories that are easily removable when the time is right. Bath toys are always a favourite, so stock up on rubber ducks and frogs for when bath time rolls around.

Keep is safe

Flooring is vital for safety in the bathroom. Modern day wet rooms are often decked out with floor tiles, which is the more convenient option, as a carpeted floor will eventually lead to a smell of dampness. The danger with tiling however, is that the floor can become extremely slippery when wet. With youngsters not being the most sure footed, make sure you have appropriate slip proof rugs in areas prone to moisture, such as near a shower. Also, slip proof mats near the sink will stop any potential accidents.

Accessories

Adding a few small touches through nifty kids’ accessories can make your children feel right at home. If the sink is still a bit high, let them choose their own step stool to make the room more accessible to them. Little touches, like individual toothbrush holders are cheap, can be fitted where necessary and removed when the time is right. They don’t add too much of a juvenile feel to your nicely decorated new bathroom either, which is always a bonus.

Cupboards

Even though your children will need access to some of the cupboard contents in your bathroom, a lot of personal grooming tools will need to be kept well clear of wondering hands. If you have self standing drawers that are easy to access from low heights, fill them with soaps, toothbrushes and other items that aren’t dangerous. Make sure that razors, clippers, scissors waxes and any other items are well out of harm’s way though. Adding a fitted wall cupboard to your room plan will make sure it looks good in place, and is convenient for your storage needs.

Images used under creative commons courtesy of Rachel Carter.

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How to update your kitchen on a budget
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How to update your kitchen on a budget

We all dream about installing brand new kitchen fittings complete with state-of-the-art appliances, and designer fabrics; but the reality is that after purchasing your first home a total room revamp is often far too costly.  However First Home News has come to the rescue by providing you with our top tips to updating your kitchen on a budget.

Furniture

You don’t have to fit a new range of cabinets to make the most of your kitchen. The easiest way to give your kitchen a new lease of life is to sand down wooden cabinets and paint them in a different colour. By doing this, you can totally transform the aura of a room. If the worktops are the main issue, you can replace only the worktops without a complete new range of cabinets. IKEA stocks some very stylish and pocket-friendly ideas on its website.

Accessories

Update your accessories!  You may not think it, but simply by adding new tea towels, crockery and ornaments, the whole colour scheme of a room can be changed and look rejuvenated.  We love Cath Kidson inspired floral prints and bright colours, especially during the winter season to brighten up those dreary days.

Appliances

If you’re in need of new appliances, hold out on paying over the odds for brand new state-of-the-art machines. Instead, wait until the seasonal sales begin, as some retailers knock hundreds of pounds of various styles. If you can’t wait that long, just log onto Kelkoo or Pricerunner to source the cheapest places to buy your appliances. Surprisingly, it’s always worth negotiating with suppliers – they’re experiencing the recession too!

Re-decorating

Re-decorating on a small scale always works extremely well: replacing the curtains or blinds in the kitchen can provide you with a whole new style and colour scheme to work with throughout the room. You could even introduce a feature wall painted in a statement colour to tie in with new furnishings. Easier still, by re-arranging the layout of the kitchen, you can completely change the appearance and atmosphere of a room.

What do you think? Is updating your kitchen better than fitting a completely new one?

Images used under creative commons courtesy of hammocks & high tea.

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To Wallpaper or Not to Wallpaper?
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To Wallpaper or Not to Wallpaper?

The colour or pattern of the walls in your home may not seem like a huge decision, but each tone and style adds a whole new feel to a room. From a dark, enclosed room to a light, airy and spacious one, how you decorate your walls is all down to personal preference. Obviously the final decision on how you want a room to look is down to your own style, but to guide you along, we’re offering the ultimate guide to wallpaper versus paint.

To Wallpaper…

Pros
Wallpaper is extremely durable, which can be an important asset in your new home. The last thing you want to be doing after six months is having to retouch paint up after delivery men chip and scuff it. Durability is vital if you have kids, as we all know the battering your walls will be taking from toys in high traffic areas, so if you need it be sure to opt for a paper you can clean, so you can get rid of any dirt or marks. Choose your ideal wallpaper from a huge range of high street home improvement stores like Laura Ashley and The Range.

Cons
Generally speaking, wallpaper can be more expensive than a quick paint job. Obviously, as with all things prices can differ greatly depending on quality and type, but on average you’ll have to pay that little bit more to deck out your room in a good wallpaper. Even with the most sturdy and durable of choices, damage can still be done to paper which leaves you with the hassle of redecorating. It simply isn’t as easy as whipping out your paint brush and covering over the marks. Removing wallpaper can be a chore too when you decide the time is right to redecorate, and you’ll need to spend a number of hours scraping the walls clean. If you’re hoping to leave your walls for a few years without needing maintenance, wallpaper may not be for you, as from time to time, moisture can begin to weaken the wallpaper adhesive and leave corners curling up and looking untidy.

To Paint…

Pros

Painting is generally the easier option. All you need is to get you started is a tin of Dulux from your local B&Q or Wickes. Obviously, if the walls had previously been papered, you have a real chore of a task removing it all, and may even need to get the walls skimmed before you begin – but in general, painted walls are easier to maintain. Any scuff marks and dirt can be wiped off, but even if they’re stubborn it shouldn’t be anything a quick lick of paint can’t handle. Repainting to change your style can be done more frequently, and should only take you at most, a day to do.

Cons

We might have said earlier that quick touches up are a pro of painting, however the real issues begin when you need to do it so often that you run out of paint. When this happens, it can be a real effort to match colours, and becomes expensive if you need to buy new paint that blends in perfectly with your wall colour. If this is the case, you may be better off repainting completely than just touching up again.

Do you see yourself as an interior design guru? Leave us some of your tips and advice below.

Images used under creative commons courtesy of Jen B.

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Five living room additions that won’t break the bank
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Five living room additions that won’t break the bank

As a first time buyer, it’s no secret that money will be running low after your big purchase. Heading into an empty house with limited funds can be scary, but there are ways to fill that room without emptying (what’s left of) your bank balance. With your living room being the main place to congregate in your new home, we look into some budget items perfect for your living room.

  1. Coffee table
    If your living room is large and you feel daunted by the task of filling it, don’t worry. A coffee table placed in the right spot can drastically reduce the amount of space you need to fill. Naturally fitting well near a settee or suite, the coffee table is convenient and catches the eye. Retailers such as Ikea are great for finding homeware at a reasonable price, and if wood is to your liking, this oak veneer table from the Vejmon range would fit nicely into any new home, and is available in three different styles.
  2. Lighting
    Nothing is as depressing as an empty, dark room. Be it through natural or artificial sources, you need to make sure your new living room is well lit. To kill two birds with one stone, why not accessorise with a number of lamps for the room. Allowing you to fill empty space on top of tables and units whilst also brightening up sections of your room, well positioned lighting gives any room a whole new feel. For everyday run of the mill accessories that won’t stand out to guests, check out Amazon; it offers a wide range of basic products, such as this chrome lamp. It might not be top of the range, but would blend in well to most living rooms.
  3. Pictures
    If bare walls aren’t your idea of a homely room, then you’re probably searching everywhere for something to fill them. Whilst real paintings by top artists  ay be out of your price range, there are options available to fill your wall space. Most chain furniture stores offer mass produced pictures and other items, such as the choices of London city scenes and Sherwood Forest available online at the Furniture Village. Alternatively, if you want to add a real family feel to the home, the internet is packed with sites willing to print your precious photo memories onto a large canvas, with prices ranging from £30 to £80 depending on size.To further explore your options, click over to our article on filling empty wall space (linked to another of our articles).
  4. Rug
    Large empty rooms can often be made to look even more sparse if the floor seems to span for miles. Break up the floor space with a well placed and stylish rug. In addition to adding a homely feel to the room, your new rug will add a feel of warmth and comfort. Even though some high end styles can run you into the hundreds, there are plenty of options around for the budget shopper. This Maestro range comes in a selection of colours and shades, and can be used to add a touch of beauty to your living room.
  5. Cushions
    So you’ve moved in, got your TV and sofa in place and the room still looks empty.
    How about throwing some cushions on that sofa to add another element to the room? Now we aren’t saying go out and get enough cushions that you’ll be swimming in them whilst watching Coronation Street, just settle on two or three. Department stores such as Debenhams have huge stocks of cushions like this Taupe burnout leaf cushion, that add colour and comfort without breaking your budget.

That’s five I can think of but do you think I have forgotten anything?

Images used under creative commons courtesy of Yvonne Eijkenduijn.

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Curtains, blinds and more: Five window coverings for your new home
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Curtains, blinds and more: Five window coverings for your new home

After months of planning, organising and waiting, you’ve finally secured your first home. You can see the light at the end of the home buying tunnel, and just want to get settled into your new place. One instant task will be to decorate your empty new home, and especially cover those windows and stop the annoying echo that comes with an empty home. We look at the best five options you have to block out the morning sunshine. 

  1. Blinds
    Blinds are the easy and cheap way to block out the glare through the window. While Venetian, roll up and vertical blinds are definitely not the most sturdy of options, they are arguably the most practical, needing very little upkeep. Easy to customise and available in every colour you could want, using blinds means you can easily match them up your rooms colour scheme. They’re easy to pick up at both specialist blind stores online and locally, along with being stocked by nationwide home stores such as Homebase, B&spacerQ and Dunelm Mill.
  2. Curtains
    The most traditional window covering, curtains are seen throughout every home in the country. Convenient, easily available and with prices ranging widely enough to fit any budget, it is easy to see why curtains are so popular. Often seen as more decorative than blinds, be sure to pick out a design that not only fits the colour scheme of your room, but blocks out the bulk of early morning light. The last thing you want is to be woken at the crack of dawn by the sunrise. Check these out at Next and Argos with styles to and prices to fit any budget. If you’re in need of some help, have a look at John Lewis’ guide to curtain buying for style, size and price tips.
  3. Honeycomb shades
    Working in a similar way to a roll up blind, honeycomb shades only differ in shape, allowing material to scrunch up and compact when opened up. Easy to fit, durable and available in a range of materials, you can choose your shades to suit your style needs. They’re great for making sure you get a full sleep, as they block out the whole window and stop those rays of sun bursting in. Check out Amazon for a range of honeycomb shades from as cheap as £20.
  4. Sheer curtains
    Better suited to living rooms and non-sleeping areas, sheers are a great way of getting the look of a curtain, but with a less substantial material. Even though the thin materials mean sheers allow light to flood through into a room, they manage to add an element of style to a room in which you won’t be sleeping. Sheer curtains make an ideal budget window cover due to their cheaper prices. Check out Ikea for a sheer curtains from as little as £7 per pair.
  5. Roman shades
    Merging the material feel of curtains with the opening style of a blind, roman shades can be used anywhere from your kitchen to your living room or bedroom. Cheaper than curtains and a more stylish choice than vertical slat blinds, roman shades let you block out the sunlight and personalise your room at the same time. Budget options can be seen through home ware sections of supermarket websites like Tesco, or for slightly more cash and greater style options, try the John Lewis’ range.

 

Special thanks to PanPote for the use of their image.

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