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May 26th  
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Summer is….toying with us! We recently got a definite sample of what’s to come, but then it disappeared again.

Now’s the time to sort out your outdoor living space ready to make the most of the warmer weather when it comes back.

Tidy up patio areas, removing any moss that might make surfaces slippery. Empty and re-fill any of last year’s pots that are looking a bit sorry for themselves, and invest in some new garden seating – all you need now is the sunshine!

Here’s our pick of the best garden chairs and benches to add a finishing touch.

1. Anja metal chair, B&Q

Anja egg chair from B&Q, £285

This Anya steel frame egg chair is ideal for lazy summer days in the garden. It comes complete with a cushion, and the mesh is handwoven in high quality UV resistant resin which can be left outside all year round. £285 from B&Q.

2. Traditional striped deck chair, Dobbies

Traditional deck chair, £44.5 from Dobbies

If you do like to be beside the seaside (or pretend you are), you’ll love this traditional stripy deckchair. Available in two colours, red or navy, it’s a classic design made for those who enjoy the summer sun. £44.95 from Dobbies.

3. Orquidea hammock chair, Viva Lagoon

Purple garden hammock, £79.90 from Viva Lagoon.

Lounge in style with this swish hammock, produced in Colombia from pure, high-quality cotton. Reinforced edges make the material extremely tear-proof while the large number of cords ensures optimal weight distribution, comfort and durability. In eye catching shades of purple, it costs £79.90 from Viva Lagoon.

4. Heart garden chair, Mia Fleur

Distressed shabby chic garden chair, £95 from MiaFleur

This simple and stylish garden chair has a heart shaped back. With its distressed rustic finish this garden chair would look lovely in a corner of the garden, ready for you to take a rest from gardening with a cup of tea. Made from steel with a distressed rust and cream finish, it costs £95 from MiaFleur.

5. Roble Bengal chair, Alexander Rose

Bengal outdoor chair, £189

Made from roble, a very strong hardwood with light yellow colouring, this classic chair will mellow down to a silver grey appearance if left untreated. It’s perfect as an alfresco dining chair, but also for positioning in a sunny corner, together with a little table for evening drinks. £189 from Riverside Garden Centre.

6. Retro garden chair, Rigby & Mac

Retro bright garden chair, £45 from Rigby & Mac

Add a splash of colour to a dark corner of your garden with these simple, budget friendly chairs. Available in lime green, turquoise, red and white, they’ll keep the garden bright until the flowers start to bloom! Available from Rigby & Mac, £45.

7. Distressed garden chair, Out There Interiors

Distressed metal garden chair, £105 from Out There Interiors.

If you like the shabby chic look, these chairs are perfect. Featuring an attractive intertwined backrest and round seat comprised of coiled metal, the slightly bent legs add to the quirky-chic style. Finished in blue and deliberately rusted to look naturally aged, it’s available in blue, hot pink, turquoise and dark grey. £105 from Out There Interiors.

8. Salcombe bench, B&Q

Salcombe wooden bench, £157 from B&Q

This hardwood bench, made from acacia, is perfect for entertaining friends and family this summer. It won’t need repainting, and is easy to clean and maintain just by wiping it with a damp cloth. Tailored cushions are available separately. £157 from B&Q.

9. Pair of rattan chairs, Living It Up

Pair of synthetic rattan dining chairs, £199

For a really weatherproof option for you and a friend, these two chairs are made from high quality synthetic rattan. Use them as part of a table set, or just put them under a tree in the shade. £199 for the pair from Living It Up.

10. Regal Bench, The Orchard

Decorative metal Gothic bench, £457 from The Orchard

Create a focal point for any garden or patio area with this Regal bench. Made in England from steel and covered in durable antique black polyester paint, this decorative bench will stand the test of time. £457, available from The Orchard.

 

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May 17th  
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If you’re thinking of updating your home, the bathroom’s a great place to start.

Adding a smart new bathroom can be a great investment too. Research by HSBC suggests it may add around £3,500 to the price of your property, a return on investment of around 48%.

If you’re not ready to update the whole room, then why not how just focus on adding a new bath? Here are 10 gorgeous baths to inspire you!

1. Acrylic boat bath, BC Designs

Boat bath, £1260 from BC Designs

This classic boat bath (sometimes called a ‘bateau bath’) will add a touch to style to any bathroom. It has an acrylic inner and outer and is available in white as standard but can also be painted to order. It is available in three sizes to fit different room sizes- prices start at £1260 for the 1580mm size from BC Designs.

2. Summit freestanding bath, Frontline Bathrooms

Summit freestanding bath, £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms

This beautiful freestanding bath has clean, simple lines meaning it can be paired with a contemporary or traditional interior. There’s also a matching bathroom suite to complete the look. £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms.

3. Darling New range, Duravit

Darling New bath, from £1,909 from Duravit

The Darling New range can be as high tech or traditional as you like. It’s available as a classic freestanding unit, or boxed in with wood panelling. You can have an extended rim forming an additional seat, atmospheric LED lighting under the rim or even whirlpool options to turn your bathroom into a home spa. Prices start at £1,909 from Duravit. 

4. Cooke & Lewis Antonio freestanding bath, B&Q

Cooke & Lewis Antonio bath, £792 from B&Q

The Antonio oval freestanding bath from Cooke & Lewis is perfect for creating a focal point in your bathroom. This style gives you greater flexibility with where it’s placed, and is ideal for larger bathrooms. It’s designed so you can choose where to place your bath taps and holds 210 litres of water. Compatible with duchess plug and chain waste. £792 from B&Q.

5. Ascot bath tub with metallic finish, Soakology

Ascot bath tub, £1,299 from Soakology

For a truly luxurious soak, lean back and relax in the Ascot freestanding double ended roll top bath. Inspired by iconic 19th century bain de bateau, it has gently sloping sides and a beaten platinum foil finish. Was £2,255, now £1,299 from Soakology.

6. Admiral roll top bath, Victorian Plumbing

Admiral ‘back to wall’ bath, £349.94 from Victorian Plumbing

For style at a budget price, this ‘back to wall’ roll top bath comes with traditional chrome feet. It’s the perfect centrepiece for a traditional bathroom and as it’s made with double skinned acrylic it’s practical as well as attractive. £349.94 from Victorian Plumbing.

7. Cooke & Lewis Duchess oval freestanding bath, B&Q

Cooke & Lewis Duchess bath, £892 from B&Q

If you like a clean, uncluttered look in your bathroom then the Duchess oval freestanding bath is for you. It’s designed so you can choose where to place your bath taps and holds 230 litres of water. £892 from B&Q

8. Casini bath, BC Designs

Casini bath, £3996 from BC Designs

For something really unusual, how about this Casini one-piece cast bath that suits both traditional and contemporary spaces? The original design, by Barrie Cutchie, has a large bathing area and slim rim for an elegant finish. The unique Cian material is warm to touch and retains heat for longer. £3996 from BC Designs.

9. Pano freestanding slipper bath, Frontline Bathrooms

Pano slipper bath, £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms

Slipper baths are shaped to have one end higher than the other, making them comfortable for relaxing in. This Pano bath with its sleek silhouette would be perfect as the centrepiece of any style of bathroom. £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms.

10. Vitale roll top twin end bath, Homebase

Vitale roll top bath, £919 from Homebase

For a Victorian feel combined with the practicality of modern technology, we like this Vitale roll top twin end bath. It’s made using high grade 5mm acrylic and has a period feel.There’s plenty of space to lean back and relax, and it comes complete with ornate feet. £919 from Homebase.

 

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April 27th  
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Fancy growing your own vegetables this year?

There’s nothing quite like it – you can be absolutely sure there’ll be no nasty chemicals added, and you’ve got all the benefits of eating very fresh, very seasonal foods which are packed with nutrients.

The only downside is that you might find yourself with 50 lettuces or 25 courgettes at once on your hands, so make friends with the neighbours!

Here’s the Cosy Home guide to getting started with preparing your vegetable garden.

Raised beds for vegetables

Raised beds look attractive and make tending easier, as you don’t have to bend down as far to work them.

If you’re planning to get serious with your veg, raised beds are a great investment. They’re easier to reach and weed, improve drainage and can be used to hold a different soil type, if the native soil in the garden isn’t suitable.

For one or two small raised beds, you can use a ready made kit. Retailers such as Harrod Horticultural, Wickes or Homebase sell a good range of raised bed kits made from different materials that are easy to put together. Or you could buy the raw materials yourself and build one from scratch.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you leave a good pathway between beds and that there’s plenty of room to work them from all sides.

Raised beds keep plants warmer, but they also have a tendency to dry out in hot weather so ideally make sure you have a source of water nearby, or get ready to fill and carry a lot of buckets!

Raised beds are ideal for growing your own, but aren’t a necessity – you can grow a lot of vegetables very successfully in ordinary flower beds, or troughs or pots, depending on how much space you have.

Planting ideas

When you’re ready to start growing, dig in a good layer of manure into the beds.

Planting a row of herbs at one end of the bed looks attractive, adds colour, fills in any unused space and encourages pollinating insects.

Potatoes

Potatoes are an easy and satisfying crop for a beginner. Ask your supplier to recommend a hardy variety.

Potatoes are easy for beginners, and you’ll have plenty of delicious new potatoes for salads and steaming.

Buy special seed potatoes from a garden centre, and let them chit before planting. (To chit potatoes, spread them out in a cool, dark place until they sprout. When the sprouts are a good few centimetres long, you can plant them.)

Plant second early potatoes in early spring (April), then change to maincrop potatoes.

Peas and beans

Turn trellises of peas and beans into an architectural feature in the bed.

If you’re planning to grow peas or beans, build the trellises now for support.

These plants will grow up almost anything, but if you’re planning from scratch you might like to consider making your own rustic supports with twigs or thing branches, pushed into the ground in a circle then bound together at the top with string, so the finished support is bell-shaped.

In mild weather you can plant the peas and beans now, but get ready to cover them with fleece in case of late ground frosts.

Tomatoes

Baby tomatoes will show little rounded leaves called ‘seed leaves’. Wait for adult leaves to come through before potting them up.

If you’re growing tomatoes from seed, plant them now indoors. Keep the soil moist but not wet, as tomatoes like a lot of water.

As the seed starts to sprout, it will grow with little round ‘seed leaves’, then gradually develop jagged-looking true leaves. At this stage, you can transplant the seedlings into individual pots or growbags.

Other vegetables

If you’re growing less hardy vegetables such as courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers or celery from seed, you can start off trays either in a greenhouse or indoors.

Hardier crops such as parsnips, beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauiflower, turnips, spring onions, cabbages and radishes can be sown directly into the ground now. Garlic and maincrop onions can also be planted now.

Where to buy vegetable seeds and plants

Good places to buy vegetable seeds online include Sutton Seeds, Thompson & Morgan or Wilko. Look out for offers on seeds, if you’re planning on buying multiple packets.

Most garden centres sell ready-started trays of vegetable seedlings, if you want an easier job. Some nurseries and garden centres sell plants that are certified organically-grown.

eBay is also a good place to look for both seeds and plants, as there are growers who sell popular seeds and vegetable plug plants when they’re in season. You might even strike it lucky and find a local grower who you can buy and collect from.

(Images courtesy of Pixabay)

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April 20th  
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Spring’s a wonderful time of year – the flowers are starting to come out, there are leaves on the trees and longer, brighter days. The downside of all that extra light is that you might get a bit of a shock when it streams through the windows!

If you’re getting ready to tackle the spring cleaning, keep yourself motivated with these bright, quirky and fun accessories.

1. Rubber washing up bowl and brush, Normann Copenhagen

Rubber washing up bowl and brush, £60 from Design 55

New materials and manufacturing processes bring this simple washing up bowl into the 21st century. Made from rubber, it will bend and fit in to any sink and is 100% dishwasher safe. It comes complete with a washing up brush made with real bristles, and is available in black, grey or mint green. £60, available from Design 55.

2. Fred Dust Bunny dusting mitt, KitchenCraft

Fred Dust Bunny Mitt will help make spring cleaning less of a chore

You’ll have the children lining up to help you with the housework with this cute mitt, made out of super-cling microfibre so dust doesn’t have a chance. Toss it in the wash to make it like new again. Guaranteed to turn a boring job into one that makes you smile, Fred costs around £10. For more information and stockists, see KitchenCraft. 

3. Princess laundry bag, The Contemporary Home

Girl’s laundry bag, £10 from the Contemporary Home

Fed up of nagging your little princess to pick her tiara up? Make sorting dirty laundry more of an occasion with this princess laundry bag. It features a cartoon of a princess on the front and the words ‘Please wash me’, with ‘laundry’ on the back. £10, available from The Contemporary Home.

4. Kitchen cleanser,Mangle & Wringer

Natural kitchen cleanser by Mangle & Wringer, £5.80

We’re always on the lookout for cleaning products that do their job but aren’t packed full of chemicals. This kitchen cleanser is safe, natural and biodegradable, cutting through grease and grime on all kitchen surfaces. Safe for use on marble, granite, chrome, ceramics, enamel, plastic, paintwork, glass and stainless steel. Great for removing tarnish on silver too. £5.80 from The Cottage in the Hills.

5. Bucket dishwashing set, Zone Denmark

Washing up set by Zone Denmark.

Cut your sink side clutter and with this four piece washing up set, designed to keep everything tidy in style. The set includes a microfibre dish cloth, one-hand-operated refillable soap pump and free-standing scrubbing brush (with a replaceable brush head),all in a bucket with an integrated T-shaped handle for easy repositioning and for draping the wet dishcloth over. Available in four colours, £40 from Red Candy.

6. Blue shore birds dishcloth, Kippan

Shore birds dishcloth, £3.99

Washing up isn’t the most popular chore, but this sponge cellulose dishcloth from Swedish company Klippan will make it a little more bearable. £3.99 from And Shine.

7. Flora sink brush, Kizmos

Kizmos Flora sink brush

With an easy to hold handle, this sink brush is great for cleaning those hard to scrub plates and dishes and is especially good when cleaning the inside of tall glasses. It also adds a little colour to a dark corner. There’s a separate drip holder to stand up the brush and keep your worktop surface dry and clean. Priced around £5, for more information and stockists visit KitchenCraft.

8. Large enamel caddy. Laura Ashley

Cleaning products caddy, £18.20 from Laura Ashley

Keep cleaning materials and other household items neatly stored with this large caddy. Divided into four sections this caddy boasts a contrasting wooden handle and is subtly embossed with Laura Ashley branding, while the cream enamel finish give it neutral appeal. Was £26, now £18.20 from Laura Ashley.

9. Spray and Go natural cleaner, Mangle and Wringer

Natural multi-purpose cleaner, £5.60

This safe, natural and eco friendly multi purpose cleaner removes grease and grime from all hard washable surfaces with no need to rinse. It contains all natrual ingredients including aqua, acetic acid, coconut and sunflower oil soap, lemon oil, palm free vegetable glycerine, potassium chloride, potassium citrate. £5.60 from The Cottage in the Hills.

10. Dolly dustpan and brush, MAIDEN

Dolly dustman and brush, £6.50

This quirky dustpan reminds us of Dutch dolls, and it’s certainly a change from basic grey plastic! £6.50, available from MAIDEN.

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April 10th  
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With connotations of cool, gracious outdoor living, furniture and accessories made from rattan are perfect for adding a touch of colonial style to any home. We take a closer look at what it is and how to care for it.

What is it?

‘Rattan’ is a collective name for around 600 species of palm, which grow in tropical regions such as Africa and Asia. It’s also known as manila or malacca. 

Unlike their close relatives palm trees, rattan plants look more like slender stems of bamboo with a diameter of between one and three inches, and they grow like vines, using other vegetation for support.

A single rattan plant can grow to be hundreds of feet long! The stems are solid wood rather than having a hollow core like bamboo, and as a result they’re very strong and durable.

The stems are cut and steamed to shape into furniture and other items, and the outside peel used to bind the stems together.

How to look after rattan

Rattan’s very versatile, and can be made into almost anything from chairs to trays to lamp bases. As it’s a natural material, though, it does fade if exposed to strong sunlight.

It’s also not very good at getting damp, and if it frequently gets wet or is stored in a damp place, it may go mouldy. Most manufacturers will apply a coat of lacquer or sealant to rattan furniture to make it more weather-proof and practical. It’s easy to care for, and doesn’t normally need any special attention, although as it’s porous unlacquered furniture may stain if you spill something like coffee or red wine on it.

To reduce the appearance of stains or simply give it a bit of TLC, put a few drops of washing up liquid into a bowl of warm water. Dip a cloth in, and squeeze it out until almost dry (excessive moisture can damage the rattan).

If you do get it too wet, dry it off with a hairdryer. Use a dry toothbrush to clean out any crevices.

To rejuvenate old, dry rattan, boil up some linseed oil in an old pan, and apply it with a paintbrush. Leave it for a few hours between coats. When the rattan won’t absorb any more oil, buff off any residue with a soft cloth and, in the case of furniture, leave it to dry completely before using it.

Synthetic rattan

Although manmade alternatives will never quite capture the texture and colours of the real thing, there are now some very good synthetic rattans available which have the advantage of being completely weatherproof. Some are even made in the same way, and woven with strips of synthetic material.

We love:

1. Louis rattan French white bed, Newtons

Louis VI style rattan bed, £759 from Newtons

For a true touch of colonial luxury, how about this gorgeous Louis XV style caned bed?  It has a hand-carved solid mahogany frame with rose motifs, a curved foot board and sustainable rattan woven by hand. Was £949 for a double bed, now £759 from Newtons.

2. Rattan paperclip stool, Mia Fleur

With a retro 70s vibe, this rattan stool, £89 from Mia Fleur, is useful as well as attractive.

This striking green rattan stool is perfect as an occasional seat for when you have guests, but also makes a nice way to showcase a favourite plant. Made from natural rattan and painted in dark green, it costs £89 from Mia Fleur.

3. Grey washed rattan rectangular coffee table, The Orchard

Add some eco elegance with this traditional rattan coffee table, £468 from The Orchard

At just over a metre and a half long and a metre wide, this coffee table would suit most sizes and styles of room. Made entirely by hand using organic materials, each one is slightly different. £468 (also available in a smaller size) from The Orchard.

 

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April 4th  
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If you’ve vowed to ‘be more organised’, then decluttering your house in true spring clean fashion is a great place to start.

A clean, tidy house will make you feel calmer and if everything’s filed and sorted you’ll save lots of time looking for lost essentials under piles of stuff.

‘Clutter’ is subjective, and one person’s ‘crowded’ is another person’s ‘cosy’, but as a rule of thumb, if it’s not adding to your life in some way, either practically or aesthetically, you probably don’t need it. It’s better to let all that clutter go on to have a useful life elsewhere by donating or selling it.

Here’s how to tackle decluttering, the Cosy Home way.

1. Take it step by step

Tacking a whole house might seem ridiculously daunting, so break it down into more manageable stages. Work on one room at a time, or even one cupboard. Clearing out kitchen cabinets and throwing out anything past its sell-by date is an easy starting point and very therapeutic!

Take everything out of the cupboard and clean it out. Then, put back only what you really need or love. Put any (non-food) items straight into a box to donate to charity.

2. Don’t stop

Once you’ve started the good work, keep going! Even if you only spend an hour a week, you’ll get it done in the end.

Set yourself goals for motivation, such as ‘This weekend, I’ll clean out the garage before I go out for dinner/go for a walk/go to the cinema.’

3.  Enlist some help

Rope in the rest of the family as well and make it into a game, competing to see who can fill the most boxes to donate to charity.

Engage children’s interest by asking them to choose which charity will receive the donation.

4. Be tough

Many of us have drawer and corners stuffed with items that we feel emotionally attached to but will never use or even look at again.Good examples here are gifts or legacies from relatives, clothes and shoes with special memories or childhood paraphernalia.

No-one would suggest not hanging onto things with a genuine emotional attachment such as baby shoes or wedding dresses, but often we keep things such as gifts because we don’t feel quite right about getting rid of them.

Hiding something you’re not that keen on in a drawer is a waste, both of your space and the object itself. Put aside a pile to sell online, and use the money to buy yourself something you do love – you’ll think of the giver every time you use it.

If you have photographs of you wearing your special clothes, you don’t really need to keep the clothes themselves, especially if they no longer fit you – selling them online or giving them to charity will mean they have a second lease of life, and someone else will have a chance to love them.

The mantra here is ‘you don’t need the objects themselves if you’ve got the memories’.

5. Keep it clean!

Once your home is a haven of tidiness, try not to let the clutter creep back in.

Things like opened post can quickly spread over hall tables and kitchen counters until you’re back where you started, so buy an in-tray, find a home for it and put post that’s waiting for attention straight into that. Keeping flat surfaces clear goes a long way to creating a feeling of space.

6. Dress down

Wardrobes tend to be a clutter blackspot. Empty everything out and lay it all on the bed while you give the wardrobe a good vacuum and wipe out.

Then, take each item of clothing in turn and ask yourself the following questions. Does it still fit? Is it still wearable (i.e. in fashion)? Have you worn it in the last year? Put any garments that don’t get a resounding ‘yes’ to one side.

If you haven’t worn them recently, why not – do they need cleaning or repairing, or have you just gone off them? Make a pile of anything that needs a little TLC (i.e. buttons to be replaced, dry cleaning needed), and bundle everything else up for the charity shop or for selling.

Do the same with shoes, and be honest – how many pairs of black court shoes do you really need? Most of us tend to wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time, so do some serious sorting.

By Sara Walker

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