How to Add Charm to Your New Build Home

Moving to a new build or planning a large extension on your home? Check out these ideas for adding character to your “blank canvas”

Original article first published on Houzz – Helen Winter, Houzz Contributor

A brand-new house or extension is like having a lovely blank canvas on which to put your own design stamp. However, an empty room can be daunting, and it might be difficult to know where to start. Follow this guide for clever tips on how to get the most from your newly built space.

Pick a palette from a painting
If you plan to start from scratch, with new furniture and accessories, you’ll need a jumping-off point for your colour scheme and room design. A large piece of art can be a great starting point to pull a scheme together.

This evocative seascape is reflected by the sofa cushions and ikat rug to stunning effect. Find something you absolutely love, whether it’s a print or an investment piece, and create a mood board based on the key colours. Make sure you keep the scale of the artwork appropriate either to the size of the room or the piece of furniture above which it will be displayed.


Lay art beneath your feet
A beautiful rug can be almost like a painting on your floor. Whether you buy one off the peg or go down the bespoke route, it’s straightforward to then furnish and accessorise the room using the same colour scheme.

Don’t forget to add small doses of accent colours to avoid the space becoming too bland. The shots of dark wood in this room offset the blue, grey and white scheme.

Check out more rugs with beautiful designs


Exploit space in your walls
It’s a good idea to think about storage at the planning stage of a building project; there are lots of built-in options your architect or builder can help you with. Here, the recessed shelving is a neat and attractive use of space, and looks even better with the integrated lighting.

Niches like this are popular in bathrooms, and can be fitted fairly easily into any non-load-bearing wall. It can be messy and inconvenient to retrofit them, so it’s much better to plan them in early on.

Get your bearings
In which direction does your home face? This will be a huge consideration for planning the inside and outside flow. The orientation of a room’s windows will affect how you arrange the layout and which paint colours will work best.

Where the sun falls late on a balmy summer’s evening should be a consideration with patio doors, but also take note of prevailing winds – you don’t want your home to become a wind tunnel every time you open the doors.


Scale it up
Play with the scale of your new space. With a vaulted roof light like this, the oversized pendants balance the space above the dining table and look stunning day and night.

If you’re working with an architect, you’ll most likely see a 3D visualisation of your project. Be bold and listen to professional advice, as you might be surprised by how you can change the look and feel of your room.


Love your light
Design your lighting as soon as you have a floor plan. Work out where you’d like your task, ambient and decorative lighting to go, and decide what types of fittings you’d like. Discuss this with an electrician, who can advise you on all the options.

This is a golden opportunity to avoid the messy jobs of chasing in and pulling up floorboards and carpets, which you’ll have to do if you fit wall lights and dimmer sockets down the line.

Check out this beginner’s guide to lighting in layers

Breathe life into the garden

To give a new garden a kickstart, make sure you allocate a reasonable budget for mature planting and shrubbery. This will give a foundation of coverage early on. A professional landscaper should be able to advise on which plants will work best for your garden’s location and soil, and which varieties will really play to your home’s architectural strengths.

Factor in wiring for lighting, a hot tub, pond or water feature, which could add value to your home. These can be planned during the early stages, while the soft landscaping will need to be done after all the builders and tradespeople have left.


Gently break up the space
If your new space is open-plan, you might want to consider ways to break it up. An architect or designer will be able to create interesting room divisions and even offer flexible space with moving walls and room dividers.

Here, an open-plan space has been zoned by a row of long, narrow boards. The effect is simple yet stunning.

Explore more open plan kitchen areas


Big up a beautiful ceiling
A new build or renovation is a great opportunity to create a stunning ceiling. Instead of the usual plain option, you could go for a dropped ceiling, where a panel hangs below the original area. Alternatively, a coffered design features recessed areas.

Other choices include stepped ceilings, or ones featuring decorative plasterwork. An ornate ceiling can work just as well in an ultra-modern home as in a traditional one.

Future-proof your home
Both lighting and home automation technology have made huge advances in recent years, and are only going to get bigger and more exciting. You’ll be able to connect every electrical device in your home to a network and remotely control it from a central computer or tablet.

Research the options available and perhaps start with your TV and audio equipment, or look into how the technology can make your home more secure.

How to Create the Feeling of Home in a New Area

A big move can be a daunting experience, so make it easier for yourself with these helpful ideas

Original article first published on Houzz

Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor

If you’ve ever made a big move, whether to a different county or a different country, you are probably familiar with that uprooted feeling that comes along with leaving everything known for something different and new. It can be exciting but also… terrifying. How do you build a life in a new place? When you’re wondering how to find the supermarket, navigate the tube and perhaps even learn a new language, having a warm, cosy, comfortable place where you can rest your head becomes even more important than usual. Making a home away from home is hard — get the ball rolling by trying out one or more of these ideas.

Set up a routine
When you arrive in a new place, whether it’s a different city or a different continent, a daily routine can help create a feeling of normalcy. Seek out a few spots in your local area – a café, bakery and newsagent, for instance – and visit them each day. Smile and say hello (or bonjour or ciao) to the shopkeeper, sip your coffee, eat breakfast and repeat. After a few days of this, you and the shopkeepers (and maybe a few other regulars) will get to recognise one another, making the greetings more familiar and perhaps warmer.



Shop and cook à la Julia Child
Channel Julia Child, who famously explored France, often solo, while her diplomat husband Paul Child was busy working. Although Julia must have stuck out in a sea of native Parisians, she fully embraced the experience by tapping into her passion for food — something people of all cultures understand. Give yourself a mission to explore the markets and local foods of whatever area you have moved to, whether that’s Paris or Edinburgh.

Learn more about where you are
It’s natural to feel out of sorts when you first arrive in a new place — but don’t let that discomfort turn to feeling judgmental or bitter about the differences between where you are now and where you used to live. Read books about the area and the culture. Sign up for a language course or join a conversation group. Cultivate an attitude of optimism and curiosity about your surroundings.



Create a sanctuary in your bedroom
Exploring a new city can be exhausting, especially if there are language differences involved. Give yourself the gift of an utterly safe and comforting place in which to land at the end of each day by making your bedroom the ultimate sanctuary. Soft lighting, lovely bedding, a scented candle, cosy slippers and perhaps a small radio or a phone dock so you can listen to your favourite music will help the space feel like home.

Discover tranquil bedroom ideas



Embrace the local coffee (or tea) break
From English teatime to the Swedish coffee-and-cake break known as fika, it seems nearly everywhere in the world has its own break-time tradition.

So wherever you are, do as the locals do. In Italy enjoy a shot of espresso taken in a single gulp while standing at the bar in the café, like the locals do on a quick break from work.

A small shift in the way you do things, even in your own home, such as taking afternoon tea rather than coffee, can be a gentle way to nudge yourself into a new culture.



Treat yourself to lots of fresh flowers and candles
A simple but highly effective way to make your new home feel cosy and welcoming is to go a little wild with candlelight and fresh flowers.

Cluster candles on trays, put one on your bedside table and line them up at the centre of your dining table.

Visit a flower stall or grocery store and treat yourself to fresh blooms once a week. When your mood needs bolstering, light all your candles, put on some lovely music and inhale the scent of the flowers gracing your space.

Check out how to display flowers

Connect online with people back home … but not too much
This is the digital age, after all – you might as well take advantage of it! Connect with friends and family through video calls and social media, if you like. But remember, connecting with long-distance loved ones should be a nice treat, not a substitute for getting out there and building a satisfying and interesting life in your new area.



Put personal treasures on display
Books, photos, artwork and other personal items become even more important when you’re in a new place.

Take an afternoon to display your things in your new place – hang up photos of friends and family, organise your bookshelves and put your favourite linen on the bed.



Reinvent your style … if you want to
You’re in a new place, and no one knows you yet. Why not take this as an opportunity to try out a new look? Edit your wardrobe, organise your wardrobe and go shopping. Besides, shopping is a great excuse to get out there and explore a new area.



Make a personal connection in the new place
Easier said than done, but well worth the effort. If you’re finding it hard to meet people, try seeking out a local group related to one of your passions or hobbies. Take a class, volunteer for a local charity or attend an event that sounds interesting. If you’ve moved to a new country, connect with the local expat community. If you’re a parent, seek out a play group to join. Once you’ve made one connection, it’s bound to lead to others.



Tend a garden
Planting something, even a potted garden on your balcony, makes a statement that this is a place you plan to stay in for a while.

If you love gardening but don’t have a garden of your own, see if there is a local community garden where you could get a small area to tend — it could also be a great way to connect with other like-minded people.

Get more garden inspiration

Collect moments of beauty
Of course, there are places we immediately think of as beautiful, but every place has its own charm. Grab your camera and head out on a daily walk, snapping pictures of the little things that catch your eye.

If you want to make it interesting, issue yourself a creative challenge – take photos of a single colour, or find the first letter of your name or a heart shape. The creative project will loosen you up, and you may end up with some frameworthy shots to boot!

Reignite your wanderlust
Plan a day trip to a region you’ve never explored. After the shock of being somewhere totally new, you may realise that the place you come back ‘home’ to feels exactly like that … home.

Make your home feel sweet, even if it is temporary
Those who move frequently, learn that home is where you make it. No matter how long you think you’ll be staying where you are, you might as well make it the best possible experience while it lasts.

How to Turn Your Home into a Haven

Create a welcoming haven every time you open the front door with these tips for designing a home that makes you smile

Original article first published on Houzz

Amanda Pollard, Houzz Contributor

It’s where you come back to at the end of every day, and the first place you see in the morning, so it’s important that where you live brings you joy. Follow these inspiring ideas to spread a little happiness in your home.



Let in the sunshine
Nothing will lift your mood more than sunlight beaming in through your windows. So to ensure your home gets its full quota of rays, keep the glass clean and free from streaks and finger marks.

Of course, for the outside it’s best to call in a professional, but the insides are easy to clean yourself. Use a dry brush to sweep away dust from the frames, then sponge the glass with soapy water. Finally, remove the water by making ‘s’ shapes on the window with a squeegee. Windows need to be cleaned at least twice a year. Don’t think yours are dirty? Give them a clean and you’ll immediately notice the difference.



Promote a warm welcome
Ensure you feel good every time you come home by creating an inviting hallway. You’ll need some good storage for all your outdoor paraphernalia, so that the entrance is tidy as you enter. Include some hooks for your coats, a shoe rack and some baskets for scarves, gloves and umbrellas.

Freshen up the area by painting the walls and door. Here, everything has been kept white to make it feel really bright and airy. However, a bold colour would work just as well. The key is to choose a scheme that makes you happy. Add some mood-lifting extras such as flowers, a mirror, or a beautifully scented reed diffuser.

Essential style tricks to give you hallway a boost



Make your bed
A good day needs a cheery start, so one of the most positive things you can do at home is make your bed. By tidying your sleeping area when you wake up, you’ll begin your day on a good note. This simple act will make you feel super organised and ready for action.

Then later on, when you head sleepily up to bed, you’ll find a restful space to relax in.

Get a good night’s sleep
To make sure your sleep is even more restful, it’s best to be in a completely dark room. When it’s dark, our bodies produce more of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel tired. Light, on the other hand gives powerful cues to the brain that it’s time to wake up. To stop street lamps or early- morning sunlight poking in, put up blinds or curtains with a black-out lining.

Similarly, keep a low-wattage incandescent lamp on your bedside table to help you wind down before you go to sleep.



Bring in fresh flowers
A vase of beautiful flowers instantly cheers up a room, and lifts the mood of whoever is looking at it. By putting some flowers on your kitchen table you will connect with nature every time you come into the room.

Your choice of flowers can be anything from a huge mixed bouquet, to a simple seasonal sprig. Start in January with some early daffodils and hyacinths, then keep checking what’s around throughout the year. If you have some outside space, try growing flowers that you can cut. A great choice are pretty, fragranced sweet peas, which you have to cut every day to encourage growth.

Find beautiful vases for your flowers


Photo by Life on a Wall

Fill it with happy memories
Display things around your home that remind you of friends, family and places that you’ve visited. Put travel souvenirs where you can see them, to remind you of experiences, and to perhaps prompt you to make new plans.We all have hundreds of photos on our digital equipment nowadays, but we often forget to print them out. Put an evening aside to sort through them all, get a selection printed and plan a creative way to display them. The bright photo-collage on the back wall of this kitchen has really brought the room to life.

Discover dining room design inspiration



Share it with animals
Want to instantly de-stress after a long day? How about curling up on the sofa and stroking your pet. Studies have shown that the simple act of cuddling an animal releases the chemical oxytocin, which makes us feel calm.

The benefits don’t stop there though. By keeping a pet at home, you’ll have the opportunity to form a new relationship with another creature, and hopefully you’ll be rewarded by lots of fun and cuddles.

Do those quick fixes
Those troublesome household irks, such as leaky taps and broken door handles shouldn’t be ignored. Every time you come across something that needs fixing, you could find yourself irritated by it. So rather than putting these annoying jobs off, get stuck in instead.

A little effort will result in a well-run home with no tricky hindrances, and you’ll get a welcome feeling of accomplishment to boot.



Make a space for you
In a busy household it’s important to find a place to gather your thoughts and spend a few minutes by yourself. Being alone for a while will allow you to recharge, and get ready to face the world again.

If you can’t grab a whole room for yourself, a cosy corner will do fine. Here, the armchair is ideally located next to the fire, with an angled table lamp placed perfectly for reading.

If you have a hobby, such as crocheting or painting, create a designated space for it. Devise storage that will keep all your equipment to hand, so you can easily dip in and out whenever you have some spare time.

Connect with your neighbours
What really makes most of us happy are our relationships with other people. By making friends with your neighbours, you’ll be able to nurture those relationships every time you’re at home.

Make the effort to start a conversation every time you see your neighbours, offer to water their plants while they’re away and invite them round for a cuppa. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to turning your street into a real community.

Discover ways to nurture a happy neighbourhood




Make healthy eating easy
Encourage a positive lifestyle, by making sure healthy food is within reach. The most obvious way is to put a bowl of fruit on the table, but there are other things you can do.

Avoid last minute dinner decisions by displaying a meal planner in the kitchen, with nourishing options for the whole week. If you have children, get them involved by asking them to contribute their ideas.

Think up ways you can make it easy to choose a wholesome snack. Keep nuts and granola bars in tempting glass jars. If you’ve invested in a juicer or yoghurt maker, don’t let it languish in the cupboard. Make room for it on the worktop so you’ll be more inclined to use it.

Give Your Home a Refresh this Autumn

Say goodbye to summer’s lethargy and have a sort-out at home. It’s time to channel that back-to-school-feeling for domestic good!

Original article first published on Houzz

Jo Simmons, Houzz Contributor

Even if your school and uni days are far behind you, there is something about September and October that always feels new and purposeful. The summer is over and the streets are full of young people bustling off to school each morning and adults settling back into a working routine. OK, so you no longer need to organise your pencil case and cover your textbooks with wallpaper, but you can still channel this new-term energy by whipping your home and yourself into shape, ready for autumn. A touch of targeted tidying, some clever organising and a few small lifestyle tweaks should help you start afresh.


Take care of yourself
Growing children need new shoes and clothes at the start of an academic year and while your feet may not have gone up a size over the summer, this could be a good time to book in for any key health appointments. Is it time for an eye check? Are you overdue at the dentist? Perhaps you just need a haircut! Channel the new-term feel by booking health reviews, check-ups or personal grooming sessions now.



Overhaul your diet
Don’t wait until New Year to start a new healthy-eating regime. After a summer of rosé and holiday food, now is a great time to rethink what you eat. Injecting some new, healthy dishes into your tried and trusted repertoire will perk up the shorter evenings and help to ensure everyone in the family is fighting fit and able to cope with school, work and the coming sniffle season.



Prepare the garden for autumn
Clean and store garden furniture safely for the winter. Leaving wooden chairs out in the rain can damage them and shorten their life, while chairs with any metal detailing can rust. Pack up your barbecue, too, and take down any summer bunting that might not survive the winter. Now is also a good time to hang bird feeders, as the weather grows colder and our feathered friends find their food supplies drying up.



Look at your lighting
Before the clocks change and we plunge into winter, take some time to think about your lighting. Over summer, we are able to overlook any deficiencies in our lighting, but come the shorter days these become more obvious. Use your new-term energy to tackle lighting now, before autumn fully arrives and you lose impetus. Dealing with domestic problems outside the season when they are most apparent is the smart thing to do, so using that logic, get any roof repairs, draft-exclusion work or insulation done now, ready for when it will be truly needed.

Welcome winter with new lighting products

Blitz a junk drawer
Every home has one, and it could be anywhere in your house (although the kitchen is the usual suspect for harbouring a junk drawer). This space supposedly holds kitchen utensils, stationery or underwear, but in fact it’s become a wilderness of junk, containing everything from elastic bands and takeaway menus to dead batteries and odd socks. Time to take action.

Discover 9 ways to deal with clutter in your home



Bring winter clothes out of storage
If you have stored winter clothes in boxes over the summer, think about getting them out of storage now. This gives you time to check over your jumpers, scarves and coats to see if any need dry cleaning before the cold weather arrives. You can then whizz through your wardrobe and store any seriously summery clothes away, too.



Service your bike
You might remember to service the car once a year, but how about your bike? Servicing it will ensure it’s safe to use and can prolong its life, so direct some new-term zeal towards your two wheels. If your children are cycling to school, perhaps after a summer of not using their bikes much, it’s a good idea to get their bikes serviced, too.



Ditch what’s out of date
Have a new-term tidy up, but give it a focus, too. Chuck out any expired medicines, lotions or bath products. There will be a use by date on medicines but apply common sense with less serious products. If you haven’t used that tube of foot exfoliator this summer, you probably never will. Bin it! Take the same approach with make-up. Old make-up can harbour bacteria and lead to eye infections, so check the labels for how long each item should be open and in use for, and ditch accordingly.

Discover more bathroom ideas

Go back to school yourself
Many adult education colleges are still enrolling for courses, so if you have always wanted to improve your Spanish or learn how to throw a pot, see if you can book onto a course now and go back to school this autumn. Failing that, set aside some time to enjoy learning at home. Create a list of books you have always intended to read, or go online for suggestions. The broadsheet Sunday supplements and review sections often have lists of the best new books – these could become your autumn reading list.



Purge the dodgy plastic
Bulky plastic containers are essential for food storage, but many of us are guilty of keeping too many. So have a plastic cull. Ditch any containers that are stained, smelly, distorted or without a lid. Pare down your collection of old takeaway curry containers, too. One or two might prove handy; a whole stack of them will not.

The benefits of using a BAR-certified moving company

When moving home, you want to be confident that your removal company can be trusted to meet your needs without any issues. Whether you’re about to undergo a small, local move or are shipping a large household overseas, assurance that your goods are in safe hands will be paramount.

For over 100 years, The British Association of Removers (BAR) has promoted excellence within the removals industry, awarding membership only to reputable, professional and safe British removal companies.

To be a member of BAR, a moving company must meet a range of stringent criteria and undergo regular inspections to check that their employees, processes, facilities and vehicles all meet the highest standards set out in the BAR Code of Practice.

Customers choosing to work with a BAR-certified moving company can rest assured that their move will be handled with the utmost care and attention. In the unlikely event that any issues arise, the BAR’s advice and conciliation service to help resolve the matter.

Choosing a BAR-certified removal company guarantees the best possible service, giving you peace of mind throughout your move.

To find out about moving home with a founding member of the BAR; contact Pickfords for expert local, national and international packing and removals. Click here for a quote or find out more.

Questions to ask when choosing a removal company


When preparing to move home, you want to make the whole process as simple as possible. The best way to streamline your move is to enlist a professional home moving company. But with so many removal companies available, how can you know which one you should ask for help?

Once you’ve made a shortlist, ask each company the following questions to help you find the best possible company to carry out your move:

Are you members of the British Association of Removers?

The British Association of Removers (BAR) is an organisation dedicated to promoting professional excellence throughout the removals industry. All members must adhere to the BAR Code of practice, which requires the highest standards of service, materials, vehicles, warehousing and training. Working with a BAR member provides assurance of a high quality, reliable service.

What insurance do you offer?

A removal service provider should offer some form of insurance, giving you peace of mind that your belongings will be protected in transit. Different providers will offer different forms of cover, so make sure you find out what cover you have access to before making a decision.

How will you pack and secure my belongings?

If somebody else is packing and transporting your prized possessions, you want to know they will take the same level of care and consideration that you would. Don’t be afraid to ask about the packing and moving processes they will use with your belongings.

Can you give me more information about the moving process?

It will be useful to know how many people will be working on your move, how long it is estimated to take, what time the crew will be arriving, and whether somebody from your home needs to be there.

Do you provide national and international removals?

Some home moving companies only offer local moves or moves within the UK. If you’re moving outside of your local area or even to a different country, check that your removal company is experienced in moving customers to your chosen destination.

Membership of the BAR Overseas Group or the FIDI Global Alliance  are strong indicators that the company provides a high standard of overseas moving services.

How long have you been in business?

One of the best ways to be sure that you are working with a trustworthy and reliable removal company is to ask about their history. If a business has been around for a long time and built up a loyal customer base, you can be more confident that they will be able to handle your requirements.

Do you offer local storage services?

If you need to store some of your belongings during the removal process, a removal company with a storage centre near you makes it far easier to access your goods whenever you need them.

How decluttering can help you sell your home

Sofa Set

If you’re looking to sell your property, you’ll want to do everything in your power to increase the chances of finding a buyer. One significant way to maximise interest in your home is by ridding it of clutter: all that unsorted paperwork, children’s toys, clothes and shoes you no longer wear, old CDs, DVDs and books; anything that might be a distraction to potential buyers at the viewing stage.

So how can declutting help you sell your home?

 1. Potential buyers will picture themselves living there

One thing that can throw people off when looking round a property struggling to visualise themselves living in it. You may have spent years accumulating all manner of knick knacks and possessions that make your house feel like a home, but if the abundance of ‘stuff’ prevents viewers from picturing themselves in the space, this may harm a potential sale. On the other hand, a tidy home with visible floors surfaces will help prospective buyers to see themselves living there.

2. It helps showcase the property’s best features

Decluttering allows your property’s best features to shine through; freeing your viewing space of clutter will help potential buyers to notice elements of your home that might be a tipping point in the buyer’s decision-making process.

At the same time, it stops buyers from wondering if there are any serious issues hiding beneath the clutter, or thinking that the home doesn’t have adequate storage space, which can be high on their list of priorities.

3. It demonstrates the potential of each room

After accumulating more and more belongings over the years, your may find your storage space has started to run out, and that certain rooms in your house have become inadvertent storage rooms, such as that study you no longer use, or a child’s bedroom after they have left home.

Removing the clutter from these rooms allows prospective buyers to see them used for their original purpose, and gets them thinking how they might utilise them if they purchased the property.

Pickfords: helping you declutter

If you’re looking to sell your home but have a problem with clutter, Pickfords can help. As part of our declutter storage service, we arrange for a removal team to visit your home and help you to pack unwanted items before delivering them to one of our storage facilities. Once you have moved to your new home, our team will safely transport your belongings back to you.

If you are looking to remove clutter more permanently, Pickfords also provide a clothes collection service in partnership with Clothes Aid, raising money for the NSPCC by collecting your unwanted clothes and shoes to be recycled.