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February 5th  
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Taking your loved one out for dinner on Valentine’s Day is a lovely romantic gesture – but restaurants can be busy, overpriced and it usually means someone has to drive! This 14th February, why not stay in with a special heart-themed meal?

We’ve tracked down the best serving, baking and mixing dishes for that perfect gesture.

1. Sweet heart bowl, Sagaform

Designed by Ulva Olsson, this heart-shaped stoneware bowl is as sweet as its name. Ideal for serving pre-dinner snacks or post-dinner chocolates or petit fours, it’s also available in a large, serving bowl size. This little version would also make a lovely gift, filled with favourite sweets or handmade chocolates. £9.99, available from The Scandinavian Shop.

2. Heart-shaped baking dishes, Gisela Graham

Doubling up as serving or baking dishes, use these for vegetables or side dishes, or to bake a special heart shaped pie or pudding. In a selection of three pastel colours with polka dot design, these pretty heart shaped dishes are perfect for adding a splash of colour to the kitchen, as well. £12 each, available from The Contemporary Home.

3. Heart bowl with ladle, Sagaform

This is a heart-shaped stoneware serving bowl with eco friendly bamboo ladle by Sagaform of Sweden, complete with a heart-shaped ladle so you can get right into the corners. Perfect for serving almost anything from vegetables to fruit salad. £30.50, available from Cloudberry Living.

4. Pink heart mixing bowl, Gisela Graham

Cakes and puddings will taste better when mixed in this pretty ceramic bowl in soft pink with a heart design. It’s practical too, generously sized and nice and sturdy. When you’ve not using it for mixing, it would also look nice on a kitchen counter filled with fruit. £18 from The Contemporary Home.

5. Pink silicone heart-shaped cupcake cases, Katie Alice

These unusual cupcake cases mean you can bake heart-shaped cakes for the ideal romantic afternoon tea, making the whole day special. As they’re silicone, cakes will turn out in a perfect heart shape ready for decorating. £6.99 for a set of 12, see Creative Tops for stockists.

6. White ceramic heart dish, rigby & mac

Ideal for serving sauces, nibbles or chocolates, this heart-shaped ceramic bowl will grace any Valentine’s table. After the big day, it would make a nice holder for keys or jewellery. £4.95, available from rigby & mac.

7. Set of three sunset heart bowls, Oliver Bonas

A set of three, ceramic heart shaped nesting bowls, these will add splashes of orange, pale pink and grey to your afternoon tea or dinner party. They’d also be perfect as gifts as little trinkets bowls for jewellery, make up or any other bits and pieces. £15 for the set from Oliver Bonas.

8. Ornate small heart jug, Live laugh love

Serve hot or cold sauces from this sweet little ceramic jug with scrolling and heart detail. At just 9cm high, it would also be ideal for holding a posy of flowers for the middle of the table or to decorate a ‘breakfast in bed’ tray. £3.95 from live laugh love.

9. Large hammered heart dish, Culinary Concepts

Serve delicious chocolates after dinner on a plate that says it all – this hammered silver-plated heart dish will really help to set the scene, and looks lovely reflecting candle light on the dinner table. Also available in two smaller sizes, it costs £45 from IN SPACES.

10. Heart ice cream spoons, Alessi

Designed by Mirri Miriam, this set of four heart shaped spoons is manufactured from a high quality polished stainless steel and designed to last. Just add Haagen Daas ice cream for the perfect end to the meal. Available from Design 55, £19.80 for a set of four.

By Sara Walker

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January 31st  
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If you’re looking for that one special item to transform your bathroom and provide a wow factor, then look no further than these amazing basins.

They’re all made from porcelain, and feature some amazing patterns, colours and designs, both on the outside and the inside of the basin.

Coralie

Gorgeous blue and white Coralie porcelain bathroom basin

The Coralie basin features a white and blue crackle design with a swirly Oriental pattern on the outside, then leafy borders inside the bowl.

Melody

Contemporary Asian inspired multi colour porcelain bathroom basin

The Melody basin is a riot of colour. It’s got an all over (inside and out) Asian inspired design with rich russets, blues, greens and golden accents on a soft white background.

Traditional Oriental blue and white porcelain sink with a surprise twist inside!

From the outside, the Lorelei basin gives the impression of being a traditional royal blue Oriental style. But when you look inside, you’ll spot two orange and grey goldfish – the perfect unexpected twist!

All of these basins and more striking designs are available from The London Basin Company.

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January 29th  
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Useful guide to various children's bedroom decorating themes

Themed rooms are great for kids. They can celebrate their passion, enjoy the magic of being young and you can be creative in how you decorate and accessorize their rooms.

We’ve focused on various different themes for kids bedrooms, so here’s a guide to our most popular posts:

1. Fit for royalty: 10 accessories for a child’s princess bedroom

A selection of suitably royal themed accessories for decorating a princess style bedroom.

2. Pirate theme decor: 10 accessories for a child’s bedroom

Ahoy there, me hearties! Look no further for all your pirate themed decor.

3. Dinosaur decor: 10 dinosaur accessories for a kid’s room

If dinosaur’s rock your kids world, then check out these fab ideas.

4. Animal magic: Zoo decor for a cosy child’s bedroom

Unleash a spot of animal magic in your home, with a spot of zoo decor.

5. Clip clop: 10 ideas for a pony-themed bedroom

Saddle up and canter on, with these perfectly pony themed ideas.

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January 20th  
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The great British cuppa has been a tradition since the late 17th century, and now we drink almost 900 cups per person per year in the UK, enough to fill two bath tubs.

At this time of year, when nights are long and the weather’s uninspiring, a good cup of tea is the ultimate comfort drink.

It’s good for you, too -the antioxidant action of drinking three cups a day can help with skin cell renewal, and there’s evidence that it can also help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

According to a study by the British Science Association of 1,000 people, around three quarters of us drink at least one cup of tea again with the nation’s favourite being English Breakfast tea. 91 per cent of us prefer a china mug, and drink tea with milk and no sugar.

Here’s how to brew up properly for the perfect pick-me-up.

  1. Start by running the tap for a few seconds to aerate the water – tea loves oxygen, and ‘flat’ water can affect the taste. Fill the kettle and let it boil, then leave it for five minutes to allow the temperature to reduce slightly. Tea made with water that’s just off the boil tastes better, as the amino acids which improve the flavour dissolve at lower temperatures than the tannins, which govern the bitterness and astringency. Only boil the kettle once before using the water, as re-boiling removes oxygen.
  2. Use loose leaf tea, which allows more air to circulate. If you’re using teabags, choose the pyramid-style bags which allow more oxygen flow.
  3. Use a thin china mug or cup and saucer, and a teapot.
  4. Rinse the mug and teapot out with hot water to warm them, and add one spoonful of tea or one teabag per person and one for the pot.
  5. Leave to brew for 4 to 5 minutes to allow maximum flavour infusion. According to the British Science association, most of us don’t leave the tea to brew for long enough.
  6. Pour the milk into the cups then add the tea. Add sugar to taste.

Top five tea pots

The perfect brew needs the perfect pot. Here are our picks:

Cobalt blue floral teapot, Annabel James

Blue floral teapot, £19.95 from Annabel James

This teapot featuring a cobalt blue auricula is designed, manufactured and hand decorated in England. It’s got a two pint capacity and is now on sale at 50% off, from £39.95 to £19.95 at Annabel James.

Kaleidoscope teapot, Collier Campbell

Kaleidoscope teapot, £25 from Collier Campbell

This fine china teapot in a bright mix of retro geometric patterns will cheer up a winter’s day. The body and lid of the teapot are decorated in brightly coloured larger scale ‘Kandi’ design while the base of the teapot is edged in the smaller ‘Quicksilver’ design. £25 from Collier Campbell.

Elephant teapot, rigby & mac

Elephant teapot, £14.95 from rigby & mac.

Everyone in the household will clamour to be the one to make the tea in this irresistible elephant teapot, £14.95 from rigby & mac.

Sagaform Blossom teapot, Camilla Engdahl

Sagaform Blossom teapot. £34 from The Scandinavian Shop

Brew up in Scandinavian style with this retro-floral teapot by Swedish designer Camilla Engdahl. £34 from The Scandinavian Shop.

Blue hen teapot, Emma Bridgewater

Blue hen earthenware teapot by Emma Bridgewater, £59.95 from Daisy Park

Love a traditional cup of tea? How about this Emma Bridgewater Blue hen and border four-cup teapot, perfect for family breakfast or afternoon tea. £59.95 from Daisy Park.

By Sara Walker

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January 13th  
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Lovely designer tea towels from Emma Bridgewater

It’s not the most exciting thing in the world to buy, but tea towels are a much needed part of home life, especially in the kitchen.

If you fancy a new design or two to pep up your dish drying activities, pop over to Emma Bridgewater, as the tea towels are now only £5 each in the sale. Choose from a range of designs, including these four beauties:

Blue wallpaper tea towel

Seaside landscape tea towel

Matthew Rice Year in the Country Best Cook tea towel

Come Dry With Me tea towel

 

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January 4th  
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The 1970s is back with a vengeance (and honestly, did it ever go far away?), so if you’d like to unleash your inner Cher and John Travolta, here’s how.

Less is more

The 1970s may have been labelled ‘the decade that taste forgot’, and it’s true you wouldn’t want to revisit every type of decor – fringed lampshade, anyone? It was, however, a very energetic, vibrant period with bright colours, graphic prints and clean, space agey styles that translate well to a modern look.

Colours and patterns

Think bold. Large geometric and floral patterns in primary colours such as bright green, turquoise, bright yellow and those 1970s classics orange and brown are the way to channel some retro style. Don’t go mad, though – place one or two bright pieces such as lamps, cushions or bedspreads against a neutral background for maximum impact.

We like:

1. Isobel’s flowers yellow table lamp, Hunkydory Home

1970s floral lamp and shade, £75

This handmade lampshade is made from exclusive retro flowers fabric and is coupled with a glossy ceramic lamp base. Ideal for modern spaces to add a touch of retro design and a splash of colour. Lampshade is suitable for ceiling fixtures or lamp bases with UK or continental light fittings. £75 from Hunkydory Home.

2. Vibrance Indian rug, Ella Claire

1970s geometric print rug, from £59

Perfect to bring life and colour to any room, this 100% wool rug rocks a 1970s vibe with its swirly brown and orange pattern. Available in a range of different sizes, prices start at £59 from Frith Rugs.

Flooring

The 1970s saw a whole range of different flooring options coming onto the market, but fluffy shag pile (remember that?) to patterned ceramic tiles. Linoleum was popular, and fitted wall-to-wall carpets became a must have. Tiles were brightly patterned and often quite busy and overdone by modern standards. For a 1970s feel without the fussiness, try a plain wood flooring with a few strategically placed rugs – bold geometric patterns or fluffy natural sheepskin will give the right feel.

Seating

Faux leather and knobbly, textural wool fabrics are 1970s essentials. Chair and sofa shapes are boxy and deep with square cushions and buttons. We like these modern takes on the look:

3. Alexa sofa, Living it Up

Retro 1970s sofa, £549

Hand crafted to order and showing off a beautifully simple design the Alexa is the perfect addition to any modern room. Perfect for your living room but would also look wonderful in a large master bedroom to offer somewhere to kick back and relax away from it all. Available in a range of different colours, prices from £549 from Living it Up.

4. Monaco footstool, Delcor

Retro-style 1970s Monaco footstool, £471

A modern take on a retro Seventies style, the slim lines of this velvet covered footstool create an elegant silhouette. £471, from Delcor.

Lighting

Lighting entered a new era in the 1970s – think the lava lamp, arc lamp and globe lamp. This is one of the easiest 1970s trends to pick up on if you’d just like to introduce an accent or two.

5. Pineapple lamp, Eva Newton

Kitsch 1970s pineapple lamp, £60

This kitsch lamp will bring a taste of the exotic to your home.Designed by Eva Newton, it will fit into any decor and provide a splash of colour in a kitchen or a talking point in a sitting room. Each piece is handmade in Spain, moulded in vinyl, with an LED fixture emitting a soft glowing light. £60, available from Furnish.co.uk.

6. Hexagonal pattern glass table lamp, Out There Interiors

1970s-style glass table lamp, £125

This vintage-inspired contemporary table lamp with glass shade features a hexagonal design and a natural mango wood tripod as a base. £125 from Out There Interiors.

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