Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Brit Decor: 'Seal The Deal' Style

Images (from top) 1/ The Lifestyle 2/ INT2 Architecture 3/ Digs Digs 4/ Spaceedge 5/ Woon Guide 
6/ My Scandinavian Home 7/ Heidi Sperre 8/ Skona Hem 9/ Jelanie 10/ I am just Angela

Whilst carrying out a valuation of the cottage last year, I was quietly shocked at just how impressed my Estate Agent was by what he described as 'highly desirable decor' and a very 'marketable lifestyle'. Of course it was a huge compliment to receive such a flattering appraisal and yes, as a designer, my home probably should be highly presentable anyway. Nonetheless I was taken aback when the Agent proceeded to reveal the shocking details of clients who seemingly hadn't given presentation a thought when placing their homes on the market (and trust me, there were some horror stories). These same homeowners were experiencing agonisingly low interest amongst prospective buyers.

Style-conscious homeowners tend to create desirable homes as a matter of course, even if unintentionally. And here we reach the crucial part - inspiration is key in helping prospective buyers to envisage themselves living in your space and to showcase the full potential of the property. However, even for the designers amongst us, there are still a few tricks that we can pull out of the designer bag to help seal the deal - so here are my top ten tips for maximising your potential to sell. Where do I sign...?

1. Curb Appeal
It's not just about looking good on the inside - the first hurdle of the property game is to entice prospective buyers into your home. A freshly painted front door can create instant curb appeal, as can adding colourful pot plants or neatly clipped evergreens.

2. Create an Illusion
'M' is for...Magic and more specifically, Mirrors. These not only make beautiful decorative pieces, they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to bouncing extra light around a room and creating the illusion of additional space. Particularly useful for those smaller rooms and darker hallways.

3. Sell a Lifestyle
Things like freshly baked bread, a sewing bee corner, or a stylish bistro table and chairs on a secluded patio can all show that you are selling more than just a property, but a lifestyle too. We all want a piece of the good life, right?

4. De-clutter
This may be one of the more obvious tips but it's a problem that rears its ugly head time and time again. An untidy home can cloud prospective buyer's visions of a room and quickly diminish available space, not to mention inspiration. Store as many non-essentials away as possible to streamline surfaces and free-up space.

5. Just add Co2
In makeover terms, I frequently refer to the beauty of having plants and/or flowers in the home. They look great, and can introduce a natural floral scent. This is also a great way of softening the look of a room and creating an air of tranquility.

6. Bedside Manner
Most of us work so hard these days that the bedroom needs to genuinely look like a place where buyers feel they could relax. Freshly laundered bedlinen can smell comforting but more importantly, looks inviting too. If your budget will allow, purchasing new linen will help to create a fresh and crisp look. Adding extra pillows and a throw will help to create a more luxurious finish.

7. Slimline
Do any of your rooms need to go on a diet? Survey each room to see if any furniture items are a little oversized. Furniture should be in proportion with the room it is housed in, if not, then it can make a space look overcrowded. The cost of temporarily storing bulkier furniture items away, can prove to be money well spent.

8. Inspire the Senses
Be very mindful about using scents during viewings - your favourite scent might not be to the viewer's own taste. According to research, the smell of freshly brewed coffee is very welcoming to potential buyers and is much less time consuming to prepare than baking every day!

9. Get Fresh
Whilst your wall colours might be looking fit for a photoshoot, don't forget the finer details. Woodwork, especially white, should be clean and fresh looking. This might mean a quick lick of paint or a simple wipe down.

10. A Little Bit of You
In the rush to present the perfect property, don't forget to leave small but visible traces of personality. Perhaps some favourite books neatly perched on a coffee table, or an edited selection of personal photos. After all, you are selling a home and not just a house.

If you have recently sold your home or are in the process of doing so, I'd love to hear if you have tried any of the 'above' tricks, or if you have your own gems of wisdom to share!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Brit Decor: Pastel Perfection

Images (from top) 1+2/ H&M Home 3/ Dulux 4/ Ferm Living

I am thrilled that pastels are still riding high on the interior waves this year - as one of my all time favourite palettes, this look is surprisingly versatile and in 2015 we can totally immerse ourselves in a candy shop selection of pastel pinks, sherbet oranges, pale mints and chalky greys - to name but a few. So today I have the perfect pastel palette in my sights!

I tend to view the pastel 'look' as one of the easier styles to replicate at home, with a very simplified approach we can lap-up this soothing yet energised palette in no time at all. Pick a pale neutral base colour (greys work extremely well) and apply coloured pastel tones liberally, like this classic Kensington Rose pink emulsion from Mylands (no.5), paired for perfection with Mini Modern's Pale Verdigis (no.6).

To add focal points to a pastel scheme, I find that incorporating pattern, especially geometrics, really hits the spot like these stunning chalky striped tiles from Bert & May (no.4 below) and the eye-catching Jasmin geometric rug from Woven Ground - for that high-contrast in textures.

For added structure, I like to see the incorporation of natural woods, if only in glimpses, as a warming partner to the pastel tones. The Hello floor lamp from Normann Copenhagen (no.9) is perfect for this, whilst the darker grey ensures that this piece will not get lost in the crowd, and again, this provides a strong focal point.

Moving towards the more energetic end of the pastel scale, check out the angled design of this super-sweet cushion (no.8), also from Normann Copehagen. These colours will work beautifully with the washed Peony fabric on Loaf's fab Berlin armchair - for an irresistibly fun look.

In terms of artwork, black and white prints work well in this setting but your scheme will be even better rewarded if you can bag some melt-in-your-mouth pastel prints like this retro-style Koenig Shulman print from Tom Pigeon (no.1).

So this is how we perfect the pastel look - has it tickled your fancy?

1/ Koenig Shulman print £65 Tom Pigeon 2/ Berlin armchair in Peony £795 Loaf 3/ Duvet cover set £19.99 H&M 4/ Light grey Salon tile £6.80 per tile Bert & May 5/ Kensington Rose emulsion (from) £4 Mylands 6/ Pale Verdigris emulsion £30 Mini Moderns 7/ Jasmine Rug £645 Woven Ground 8/ Angle cushion Rose $100 Normann Copenhagen 9/ Hello floor lamp $830 Normann Copenhagen 10/ Woven blanket £14.99 H&M

Friday, 20 February 2015

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Rocky Road Doughnuts

All images / Mike Ahern

There is just something so cheerful and comforting about doughnuts. These sugary gems take me back to days spent at the British seaside - the sweet smell of freshly cooked doughnuts for sale in painted wooden huts on the seafront, or temptingly lined up alongside fluffy pink candy floss at the fairground. I love to reminisce!

I was recently asked to reveal the contents of my coffee table for an article (more to come on this soon) and one of the things I included was my 'food of the moment'; a doughnut. Although it's not one of the healthiest food items I could have chosen (that's an understatement), doughnuts have always been a favourite 'pick-me-up' treat of mine, and who can deny that the glazed and icing topped versions look particularly fun and vibrant.

In technical terms, the doughnuts I am sharing with you today are not, strictly speaking, Rocky Roads, due to the lack of crunchy ingredients, however, the flavouring is very much there - thanks to my recent discovery of Whittard's Rocky Road hot chocolate powder (yes it's an easy option) and the all important marshmallows of course.

Difficult to resist, right? 

Sunflower oil (for deep frying)
250g strong white flour
7g instant yeast
30g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter (softened)
1 egg
Pinch of salt
80ml warm milk

For the topping:
2 tsp Whittard's Rocky Road hot chocolate powder
1-2 tbsp water
150g icing sugar
Chocolate sprinkles

How to make:
Mix half a teaspoon of sugar with the yeast, along with a couple of teaspoons of warm milk. Leave to froth-up for around 15 minutes. 

Then sift the salt and flour into a mixing bowl with the remaining sugar. Into the middle of these ingredients pour the yeast mixture, adding the egg, softened butter and the remaining milk. Knead all of these together to form a soft and springy dough. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel for up to one hour (in a warm place) until the dough has doubled in size.

Lightly spinkle flour over a work surface before rolling out the dough to a thickness of approximately 1cm. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out the doughnut circles and a 2cm cutter for the inner circle. Lay the dough circles onto a baking tray and cover with cling film. Leave for a further 20-30 mins until the dough has risen.

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan - I used 1litre but could have used less. Once the oil is fiercely hot (be very careful!) gently place the doughnuts into the oil (2 or 3 at a time depending on the size of your pan) cooking each side until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked doughnuts from the oil and place onto some kitchen towel to drain. Leave to cool.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the water and then add the chocolate powder. Mix these ingredients together until you have a thick(ish) paste. Place this onto each doughnut and then top with finely chopped marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles.


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