How to make your home pet friendly

Many landlords have strict ‘no pets’ policies meaning renters are forced to live without a furry, loyal companion in their home. Once you become a homeowner, you may therefore be tempted to rush into buying a pet, but there are many factors you need to consider before you adopt a Pug or Labrador! The main one being ‘is my home pet friendly?’ Here’s what you need to do to make sure it is…

Fur babies

  • A good rule of thumb when pet-proofing your house is to use similar health and safety measures as those you’d use for a baby or toddler. From hiding electric cables behind appliances to not leaving lit candles out, do a risk assessment around your home and try to spot all potential hazards!
  • Putting child locks on your kitchen cupboards can prevent a variety of incidents! Many every day food items, such as grapes or chocolate, are highly toxic to dogs so it is essential you lock your cupboards to avoid tragedy.
  • If you hpugave a small or young pet, invest in a child’s stair gate to avoid any nasty falls as they learn how to navigate the steps. Alternatively, you can pop it on your kitchen door to keep out any hungry pups!

Decorate for your dogs

  • Cream carpets and expensive sofas may be your décor of choice, but with a pet (especially a dog!) it may prove less than practical. Good quality wooden flooring or tiles are much easier to clean, especially when house training, and doesn’t show up those pesky dog hairs!
  • When buying a new sofa, make sure you get one with removable covers so they are easy to clean. Choosing a natural colour is also great at hiding that summer fur shedding.

Glorious garden

  • Your garden should be your pet’s paradise. Be sure that it is completely safe by making it fully fenced, with no gaps and potential repair work needing to be done. This not only protects your pet from escaping, but also lowers the risk of your beloved friend being stolen.
  • Prevent a tragedy by making sure your garden is also completely poison-free. Avoid putting down slug pellets and look out for any hazardous plants that could make your pet ill, even cocoa chips in gardens are highly poisonous to dogs who mistake them for chocolate due to the smell.
  • Make sure that all ponds are covered; your dog may like a dip in the sea but for don’t expect your smaller animals to be good swimmers!cat

Safety first

Just as with children, make sure that you keep your house as safe as possible by closing windows and closing appliances such as your oven. Cats are notorious for finding cosy spots to sleep the day away in and can easily be missed while snoozing in the washing machine. The same is applied to open windows with many cats having serious or even fatal accidents by falling from a great height.

Do you have any helpful advice on how to keep your home pet friendly? Pop your tips in the comments below.


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Attaining a stylish garden

zen Gardens are an important part of any home; they’re a place to be at one with nature, to enjoy peace and tranquility in between neighbours mowing their  lawns, and relax whilst soaking up the sun (the little amount that we get). In true Brit-style, we’ll take any smidgeon of sunlight emerging from behind  the clouds as an excuse to crack open the beers and get the BBQ going, but this is almost impossible to predict. It’s therefore important that your garden  is ready for any impromptu summer barbecues, parties or outdoor get-together’s you may decide to host, and we think that one simple yet effective way  of doing this is to replicate the style of your home from the inside, out.

Imagine yourself in your living room minus all of its furnishings; you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time in there would you? Well the same  applies to your garden. Decorating your garden with plants is only the first step in creating a harmonious and stylish area, but furniture is an  increasingly vital element. There are a range of different furniture designs available to suit your desired garden style and theme. For example, Japanese Zen gardens have become very popular in recent years and are a modern favourite in garden design. Some others include Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Traditional English country for example. Allocating a theme to your garden will enable you to stay within a colour palette, chose materials complimentary of one another and above all, avoid mismatched items.

Choosing your Style

When looking for garden furniture, you made find than you’re overwhelmed by the vast number of different types and styles that are available.ratan furniture

For a more traditional and classic look, there are many different types of wooden furniture that are of high quality and well-made to look simple but effective. Rattan is also a great choice of furniture that is extremely charming. Rattan is made from superior quality resin and comes in two different types: Flat weave is a more cost-friendly and gives a more modern look whereas round weave is more traditional and perhaps a little more attractive and luxurious. Metal too has the potential to be attractive and luxurious and is conveniently simple to maintain. For a more modern appearance, darker coloured furniture such as black is more appropriate, or even sheer white – however white furniture, particularly fabric coated ones can be difficult to clean, but is nevertheless just as beautiful.


Picking up the Pieces

Garden furniture doesn’t have to be dull, however many flock towards the standard green or white plastic chair and table sets or the regular old wooden pieces. Not  that there is anything wrong with this, but your garden should be a place you actively want to return to due to its beauty and charm. Furthermore, many shy away  from the more interesting types of garden furniture as it is often found to be pricey or overindulgent. However, realistically you do not have to spend that much  money and stylish garden furniture can be picked up at a decent enough price.

You first need to establish what type of furniture you are looking for. Are you looking for an outside dining set, chairs, a coffee table, a bench, sofas or something  else? Are you buying according to a theme? You also need to think about who will be using the furniture and when.

Chairs and sofas are great for if you host an occasion or get together and even to also create an outside relaxation area. You may be more interested in purchasing  an outside dining table, allowing you and your family to enjoy the evening, or perhaps a coffee table for reading your book with a cup of tea or coffee. There are  many different arrangements to choose from, it’s simply about finding the right one to suit you.


About the author

Laura Morrissey


Laura Morrissey is a digital content editor and home improvement enthusiast at George F Knowles Furniture. She is a native of Liverpool with an interest in high quality craftsmanship & traditional luxury furnishings and passionately writing about them.


Image Credits: PixabayStatic

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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:


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 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

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Giving your summer garden the wow factor
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Giving your summer garden the wow factor

We all know that, with the summer on the way, we need to get out into the garden and begin to trim, prune and prepare those outdoor spaces after months of neglect over the winter. It might seem like a thankless job, however when the warm weather arrives and the barbecue season kicks off, you’ll be glad to have a spot in which you can relax and entertain. If you’re wanting to go that extra mile this year and truly make your garden a haven for entertaining guests, here are some of our favourite creative additions.

Keeping warm

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We all know that, even on the warmest of summer days, once the sun sets the inevitable chill will hit. If you want to keep your outdoor party going long into the night, why not make a statement, rather than opt for the standard garden parasol? A fire pit can become the centre piece of your garden, whilst also being functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Creative furniture

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Speaking of garden centrepieces, we’d like to think that over the coming month, the outdoor table will see plenty of use (although given the UK’s weather, who knows?) What better way to impress guests than to get inventive with your outdoor furniture?

Garden structures

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Feel like your garden is just a bit drab? Nothing to get excited about and no area in particular is perfect for relaxing? Just one small addition of a garden structure, such as a pergola can make a huge impact and add a real point of interest to your space.

Outdoor cooking

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We all love cooking up a storm on the barbecue, and nothing quite makes us feel like summer has arrived like the smell of grilled burgers and sausages wafting through the air. Rather than having to endure the embarrassment of bringing out a tiny disposable barbecue, invest in an area to cook that will really add to your garden, and stand the test of time.

Then relax…

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What’s the real purpose of your garden when the warm weather hits? It’s a place to lounge in, relax and just soak up the limited warm weather we have. Create a zone in which you can truly unwind, and finally enjoy your summer.

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Spring updates for your living room

Spring updates for your living room

With winter now behind us, April is the perfect time to give your living room a revamp. We’d all like to hope that, over the summer months, an abundance of sun will mean we spend every free minute basking out in the warm garden. In reality however, it’s fairly safe to say that we won’t be spending all our summer outdoors. Prepare for the coming months by revamping your living room, for when the weather turns grim and you have to move guests and visitors indoors. Here are our top tips for updating your living room to be a bright and breezy summer area.

Feature wall

In many cases, people decorate a room and leave it for numerous years just to avoid the hassle of redecorating. Whilst we aren’t advocating that you do a complete renovation after every passing season, it can make a pleasant change to the feel of your room if you implement, or simply repaint your feature wall. Having a feature wall within your room adds a greater depth to your space, and providing you chose the right colour, it means that you can change the tone of your room from season to season.

Change window coverings

Over the winter months, in an effort to keep out the cold, rain and howling winds, a thick heavy curtain is a great option for dressing your windows. However as the winter comes to an end and the weather picks up, it’s a great decorative idea to switch out your heavy duty curtain for something a little lighter.  In many households, blinds are a popular choice as they’re easy to use, provide the option of allowing in light even when closed, and can also be easy to work around when you have numerous open windows. If you have a curtain rail in place and want to alter the look of your windows over the summer, simply switch for something in a lighter material. It’s amazing how much of a role something as simple as a window decoration can play in the overall feel of your room, so making the most a light delicate window dressing can give your room an uplifting feel of summer.

Plants and flowers

Bring a feel of the summer indoors with some home-grown greenery. Nothing makes a room feel brighter than well chosen plants and flowers, and the injection of life to your room can really improve the overall feel and help you escape the feeling of winter. Don’t overdo it, as you don’t want your room to feel like an indoor greenhouse, however a selection of summer greenery can instantly help your living room.

Summer rug

If you want to add a splash of colour to your room, but don’t want to take any drastic permanent action, then adding something as simple as a spring summer style rug can help to drag your living room out of the winter and into the warmer months. Something like a floral rug can bring a real feel of spring into your room, and paired with another couple of light and bright accessories, it can have a real impact on the feel of your room.


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Top tips for your spring garden

Top tips for your spring garden

Winter finally looks to be at an end, and with weekends warming up and the sun finally showing itself, it’s time to head into the garden and begin to prepare your space for the spring and summer. Having a well kempt and blooming garden gives you a great area in which you can bask through the summer months, and although it might take a bit of work, it’s well worth it when you have a nice spot to relax, enjoy a drink and cook up a barbecue with friends. In order to prepare your garden, you’ll have to start early and ready the area, here are out top tips to get you started.

Plan your garden

If it’s your first year in a new home, and you aren’t accustomed to taking care of the appearance of outdoor spaces, there’s no need to panic. Similarly, you don’t want to jump straight in, as you’ll get the best results if you carefully make plans. One mistake many people make with their garden layout is failing to plan beforehand. It might not seem vital, but there are areas of your garden that will have more access to sunlight, making them ideal for your vegetable patch, or areas shaded from elements such as wind, meaning delicate flowers would ideally make this area their home. You don’t need to create a garden master plan, but just make sure that you have a logical layout sorted.

Be self sustaining

If you’re planning to invest time and effort into home growing your own vegetables, fruits and flowers, then you’ll be in need of large quantities of mineral rich compost. Make your garden greener by making the most of a compost bin. They can be picked up for a relatively cheap price and, using your own discarded fruit and veg peelings, you can begin the decomposing process in your own garden. Similarly, the abundance of plants and flowers in your summer garden will lead to you needing more water. Water buts are a simple solution that, when connected to your home drainage system, collect and store rainwater for general garden use. Invest in these two simple but effective ideas and make your garden more self sustaining this year.

Prepare your tools

Once you’ve made your plans and invested in flowers and plants, the hard work isn’t over. You’ll need to dedicate portions of  your free time to garden upkeep and maintenance, in order to keep your plants looking trim and blooming. If you’re a relative rookie when it comes to gardening, begin to build up a collection of necessary tools. Trowels, rakes, shovels, trimming tools, watering systems and lawn mowing equipment are all necessities – so if your equipment is somewhat lacking, now is the time to begin investing.

Prepare your space

Winter can be tough on your garden, so it’s likely that the cold months will have left your garden looking a little worse for wear. Before you begin to organise out your spring garden, you’ll need to have a thorough clean up. Clear away items such as tree debris, twigs and branches from your grass and soil, plant grass seed in any bare looking areas and turn over your soil to prevent it being compounded. Weeds may have run rife through your garden over the winter, so have a thorough check and remove any from your lawn and soil areas. Check fences and other items aren’t in need of repair, and touch up on any surfaces that are looking tired.

Photo Credit: CC image hosted on Wikipedia.

This article was kindly provided by gardening and outdoor home expert Chris Hay exclusively for First Home News. 

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Coping with your winter garden

Coping with your winter garden

This winter it’s time to make that extra effort and ensure your garden stays in pristine condition, and doesn’t take on the dishevelled look of most outside areas through the winter. You can probably think of more appealing ways to spend your free time than being out working in the cold, however maintaining your garden in winter will heavily reduce the work that needs to be sorted for spring and summer. Don’t hang up your gardening gloves just yet; a little bit of winter preparation can get your garden ready to flourish this summer.



Think about the wildlife in your garden. Supplying extra food for the animals in your garden will help them survive this winter and encourage them to stay. (image CC via Wikipedia)

Grey Squirrel

(CC image via Wikipedia)

Get furniture protected

Now is the perfect time for a garden spruce up. Sorting and cleaning all equipment can be a great way to improve your gardening resources. Cleaning any outbuildings can help you organise your garden preparations for the spring.


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Keep plants alive

During the winter it is critical that gardeners protect any plants from frost and snow. Soil should be dug over to loosen and improve the structure, and compost can be added to contain food reserve for the plants. Lawns need to be checked for moss and thatch once the temperature drops, and any root vegetables should be covered with straw. Any heavy snow must be shaken from shrubs and trees to prevent branches being broken.


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Get ahead with trends

Even though gardening in the winter can feel unappealing, it is a great time to start looking at the latest gardening design trends. This winter, why don’t you plan your garden makeover to showcase this summer?


Move inside

Don’t forget the plants that are kept indoors; greenhouses, homes and conservatories hold tender plants on the herbaceous border that won’t survive in low temperatures. Ensure the indoor space is suitable regarding temperature, dryness and exposure to sunlight.


(CC image via

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Preparing your garden for the changing seasons

Preparing your garden for the changing seasons

Over the last few days in the UK you will have noticed the temperature swiftly dropping. All of this talk of Indian Summers and autumn heatwaves is long gone, and winter is definitely on its way.

Winter isn’t the best time to be outside, but unfortunately if you want your garden to be looking it’s best for the new year ahead, there are jobs that you need to be done. It’s best to get these jobs out of the way early, before the temperature plummets further and the frost starts to strike.

To help you along your way, here are some of the best preparations you should be making:

Tidy up your borders

This time of the year presents the ideal time to tidy your borders and move poorly placed plants. Dig up annual plants you have, move poorly placed plants, cut back perennials and just generally have a tidy up. Ensure they are clean and tidy by ridding these areas of any dead plants, leaves and anything else that shouldn’t be in there. Once this is done set your borders up for the winter by spreading them with a thick layer of compost or bark chips.

Move tender plants

Ideally, any tender plants you have will be grown in pots, doing this makes them easy to move indoors once the cold weather strikes. If they are not being grown in pots, you will still need to lift them from the ground, you will just need to be a little more careful in doing so. To do this, cut back the stems, clean the soil from them and store them in trays of dry compost or sand with just the top of the crown visible.

Consider coverings

For any plants that cannot be lifted from the ground, consider utilising ground sheets instead to protect them from the frost and help them to retain heat. While specialist ground sheets are available, old blankets and sheets will also work. When covering plants, drape the coverings loosely and secure them with stakes, rocks or bricks. When covering plants, consider changes in the weather and remove the covers as soon as the sun comes out to avoid them being suffocated.

Look after your lawn

And by look after it, we mean really look after it. Pull up any weeds and moss, rake up any grass clippings, gather up leaves and then leave it alone. The best way to look after your lawn in the colder and wetter months is to simply put it to bed and leave it to enjoy a breather.

Start a compost bin

If you haven’t got one already, this time of year makes for the ideal time to start a compost bin. Put any grass clippings, fallen leaves and other garden waste to good use and turn it into compost. If you have already got a compost bin, put the current contents to good use by using it in your borders. It takes a while for compost to develop, so be patient and keep an eye on it. If the compost is not quite ready, be sure to turn it to aid the decomposition process when adding new waste.

Clean up your paved areas

Autumn and winter can be a tough time for paved areas and driveways. It’s common to find moss, algae, liverworts, lichens and other slippery coverings on paved areas at this time of year and not only are they unattractive, but due to their slippery nature they are also an accident waiting to happen.  This can be easily remedied however by utilising a pressure washer. If you haven’t got one, it’s a handy piece of equipment and is available to hire from many garden tool hire companies. Alternatively there are many chemical products available. If you opt for a chemical product, go for one that is either based on benzalkonium chloride, acetic acid or nitrilo triacetic acid/trisodium salt.


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Autumn heating options

Autumn heating options

As we head into autumn and the summer sun begins to seem like a distant memory, here in the UK our attention turns to keeping warm, rather than trying to head out and enjoy the outdoors. If you’re looking to prepare your home and garden for the cooler autumn and impending winter, here are our favourite options for heating your home.

Wood Burner

Our top tip when it comes to heating the home with an element of style is to install a wooden log burner in your house. 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. Easy on the eye and carrying an element of back to basics style, a log burner can be a great visible addition to any communal room.


They’re the go-to option in every home, however that doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and accept bog-standard radiator options in your home. Whilst the standard central heating and radiator method is seen in every home, when you’re wanting to make a real design splash in a room, why not push the boat out with something a little more flamboyant that can make a statement. If you want to get creative, here are some simple yet eye catching options.

Bathroom Rack

In many homes, through the colder months radiators double up as a spot for drying clothes. As part of many modern bathrooms, heated towel radiators have become commonplace, meaning you can heat the area whilst also having a convenient method of drying towels. In addition, heated towel rails are specifically designed to retain heat within the vicinity of the operating fitting, meaning they’re not only great at keeping towels warm for once you get out of the shower, but are great at keeping the room warm when the shower and bath are in use.

Patio Heater

Whilst summer may now feel like a distant memory, heating garden areas through early autumn can make spending time outdoors enjoyable. Items such as chimineas can be utilised as more of a style piece, adding a touch of class to a chosen area. On mild summer weekends, providing a form of patio heating means your outdoor areas won’t be deemed out of bounds by winter just yet.

If you’re a new home owner readying your home for the autumn and colder winter, we’d love to hear your thoughts and top tips on keeping warm over the coming months.

Image credit: Free to use courtesy of Pixabay.

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Patio cleaning in 5 easy steps

Patio cleaning in 5 easy steps

The patio area of your garden is a place where you entertain and gets a lot of attention. Ensuring that the surfaces are clean and well maintained is crucial, even heading into the autumn months. In Britain, the up and down weather means that there is only really a small period where you will be using your garden, and it is pretty essential that you are able to put it to good use ensuring it looks its best. With late summer sun still a possibility over the coming weeks, you’ll undoubtedly be heading outdoors to lap up the last fragments of summer whenever the cloud clears, and having a clean and presentable patio means you can entertain guests without having to worry about how your place is presented. You will find that cleaning the patio is like any other house cleaning job, though of course, it requires a little more elbow grease or power than your standard domestic clean. You may want to get a contract cleaner in to do the job, as they will have the best machinery and knowledge, but if you want to have a go at it yourself, here are our top tips.


Clear it

To start, clear the patio. To have a thorough clean, you’ll need to ensure that absolutely everything is clear on your floor surface. Also, be careful with the finish on your decking or plant pots. You might find that the power of the pressure washer can damage smaller things like paintwork, and decorative items.


Remove foliage

Next, it’s time to get in and remove any weeds that have grown in between your patio tiles or pieces of decking. It’s important that when removing weeds, you use the correct tool or scraper to ensure you remove as much of the weed root as possible. Try not to simply pull the head off any weeds you find, as the root will still continue to live and thrive, leaving you repeating the task a couple of months down the line.


Pressure wash

The quicker option, when it comes to washing, is to ensure you have a good pressure washer at your disposal. Whilst hand washing is an option, it’s a far more laborious way of getting the job done. No one wants to spend their Saturday afternoon on all fours, scrubbing their patio until a bad back sets in. A good high powered washer will easily lift up the dirt and mould that has set in any crevices over the months of use, and if you invest in a new washer, it will come in handy for plenty of jobs around the house.  However, if you don’t want to expense of a new washer, and don’t see good re-use value,  it may be cheaper to get a cleaning agency in to do the job for you, as the cost of a top end pressure washer can be a lot more than a cleaner.


Clean up

Once the washing is done and the water has dried, the dirt will settled on the tiles, having been contained in the water. The next task is to simply sweep this away, and it will be removed rather easily, without any difficulties.


Once swept, you can apply any treatment that the area requires, although it is rarely necessary. Once you’re done, simply replace all furnishings and head out to enjoy the new, clean area.

Public Domain CC0 image used courtesy of 

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