Thinking outside the box: 3 key rules to maximise small spaces

Since the 1980s, houses across the UK have been getting smaller, with many incorporating that common design flaw known as the box room. In addition, the average number of bedrooms in new homes has dropped below three for the first time ever and living room sizes are the smallest they’ve been in 50 years. Home movers, however, are undeterred – willing to compromise on space if it means moving to the perfect location.

Thankfully, homeowners and tenants alike have become more innovative and interior design approaches more creative; even the most restricted of spaces can be easily transformed.

Whether you’re preparing to put your house on the market or want to make a small room feel bigger in a home you’ve just moved to, following these three key rules will help:

  1. Less is more

While you may feel the urge to cram as much stuff as you can into a room, this is a big mistake. Clutter, especially for home sellers, makes a room look messy and cramped. To open out the room, think about how you can store belongings out of sight.

When it comes to ornaments, select one or two large feature pieces that catch the eye rather than multiples of miniature nicknacks. The same goes for furniture. Choose larger statement pieces that make the room appear calm, not crammed.

Avoid dark colours, despite what interior trends dictate. Dark colours absorb light and can create a sense of oppression in small spaces, so choose light, soft shades from the same colour family for your walls, floors and ceilings. You may also consider striped wallpaper to elongate either the height or width of a room.

  1. Create a room with a view

If your room has no windows – like many bathrooms in a mid-terrace – or there is barely room to swing a cat, expanding the view of a room to make it appear more spacious is crucial. It’s all about smoke and mirrors – well, kind of.

Mirrors certainly help give the illusion of space, as does glass, reflective surfaces or Perspex furnishings. Strategically placing a mirror opposite a window – or a doorway in a windowless room – can make a space feel twice its actual size, while transparent tabletops let light flow freely. Clear, as opposed to opaque shower doors, also have the same effect in small bathrooms.

Go easy on the window dressings to ensure you let in as much natural light as possible. You may want to think about leaving windows uncovered altogether, if appropriate, or use sheer fabrics for a less stuffy feel.

If you have limited natural light, consider adding a couple of table or wall lamps in addition to a central ceiling light, which results in a harsh pool of downlight in one area and leaves corners in gloom.

  1. Super space-saving storage

The general rule of thumb is that the more floor you can see, the bigger the room will appear. With this in mind, look for spindle-leg furniture and choose open bed frames over divans so clear space is visible. Ottomans and footstools that double as storage will help keep clutter to a minimum, while folding or ‘pop up’ furniture will save space.

Diagonal lines are the longest in a room, so furniture placed on the angle – such as a coffee table – can work well. Consider vertical storage if your ceilings are low to give the illusion of height and you could install shelves just below the ceiling or above door frames, which makes use of otherwise wasted space and serves to draw the eye upwards.

In larger spaces that are small for their purpose, such as open-plan kitchens and living/dining rooms, use furniture to effectively break up the space without restricting its function. Folding dining tables, alcove seating and a kitchen island unit with a deep enough overhang to accommodate bar stools are good ideas.

With our living spaces getting smaller, we need to ensure our ideas are getting bigger. By following these three key rules, you’ll be able to turn any small room into a functional and stylish space to live, laugh and love.

The great countryside escape

The coming months look set for a seismic shift in buying and selling habits, with early indications showing that urbanites are ready to swap the city for the countryside.

In fact, analysis of search activity on property portal Rightmove has shown home searches conducted by those in cities – including London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol – are rising during lockdown as people reassess what ‘quality of life’ means to them.

Restrictions on movement have highlighted how an open space within walking distance and a private garden are real assets, and it appears lockdown is sending city dwellers running for the hills – quite literally. And who can blame them for feeling a pang of envy when social media is full of posts showing woodland walks and far-reaching field views?

The apparent success of home working is also another factor behind a rise in countryside home searches. A whole host of new locations and settings are possible if office professionals can agree flexible or permanent remote-working rights. This will undoubtedly be a catalyst for a change in commuting habits, with the need to be within striking distance of a business hub a thing of the past.

If you are contemplating an out-of-city move – or you live in a town and want to surround yourself with a more generous amount of greenery – there are some considerations, as we explore:


Keep a city connection

The rural way of life can present a refreshing change of pace but there may be times when you need to travel into a town or city centre – for work or pleasure. Think about rail and road connections in any new location: can you walk to a train station; is there a direct line to major hubs; is the road network reliable?


Research communications

It’s no secret that cities are usually the best connected in terms of broadband and mobile phone reception, when compared to more remote locations. If you’re planning to work from home or your family rely heavily on bandwidth and speeds, it’s worth looking into the cable, broadband and mobile phone signal capacity in any new countryside location.


Be ready to embrace ‘off grid’

You may not give some of your current home comforts a second thought but removing yourself from the rat race may come with caveats. Some properties in the countryside won’t be connected to the main gas board, drainage system or cabling network, so ask how happy you’d be with oil-fired central heating, an overhead electricity supply, a cesspit or satellite broadband.


If you’re ready to swap your city brogues for a set of wellington boots – or would like to move home to suit your re-evaluated lifestyle needs – the good news is the property market is open for business. Please get in touch today as we’re ready to help.

Lockdown has shifted our property focus

Many Brits have rekindled their love for where they live during lockdown, with 31% of adults feeling more positive about their property since being asked to stay home. The research by Halifax also revealed that 36% of the public has discovered a greater sense of community with their neighbours.

For some, however, lockdown has amplified the faults in their current property. Nearly a quarter (22%) of those taking part in the survey commented that spending so much time at home has made them see the faults with their current property. 


Access to outdoor space is crucial

Almost half (47%) of those living in a flat or apartment are not inclined to stay in their current property. This is probably a result of almost 1 in 10 not being able to enjoy a garden or even a small balcony. Of those questioned, 8% are enduring lockdown in a property with no outside space or garden, while a further 14% only have access to a shared garden, a balcony or a terrace.

Unsurprisingly, 15% said they wanted to move to a different property as they’d like increased access to outdoor space, while 30% of occupiers are planning to swap where they live because they need more room. Others (9%), said they’d like to move to a less populated part of the country. 


Work from home trends set to influence

It is also expected that future moves will be motivated by a greater inclination to work from home, with the survey findings revealing 24% of Brits have found their desire to set up a home office has increased since lockdown.


Less happiness in flats & apartments

Interestingly, the type of property someone lives in has affected levels of lockdown happiness. Those living in detached houses have felt the greatest increase in ties with their local community and neighbours (43%), followed by those in semi-detached houses (41%), bungalows (36%), terraced houses (31%) and flats/apartments (26%). 

It’s also a case of the older you are, the more likely you are to feel that sense of improved neighbourliness. People aged 55 and over are also more likely to have noticed an improved sense of community (38%) compared to  those aged 18 to 24 (31%).


Terraced houses triumph 

The Halifax research also shed light on house price growth by property type. Over a five year period, terraced houses have grown in value by 45%, while flats have grown by just under two fifths (39%). Detached houses have gained the least value overall growing 29%. First-time buyers are primarily buying terraced housing (35%) followed by semi-detached properties (30%). A fifth (21%) choose flats and one in 10 (10%) purchase detached properties.

The Halifax survey was conducted online between 15th – 17th May 2020, and all property prices are based on the crude average prices from the Halifax House Price database between quarter one 2015 and quarter one 2020.


If you are looking to trade properties or lifestyles, please contact us for our latest list of available properties.

Happy road. Happy prices!

Many of us have heard of the ‘Waitrose effect’ – the link between the value of a property and how close it is to a branch of the upscale supermarket – but did you know how happy your road name sounds can also impact how much your home is worth?


Positivity lifts prices

New research by Bankrate discovered a correlation between streets with upbeat names and a property’s potential selling price. In fact, its analysis of thousands of road names in the UK found that a positively-named road could add as much as £24,830.86 in value.

Some happy monikers add more value than others, with Chipper the top name – possibly adding as much as £56 £56,571 to a home’s selling price. This was followed by Pretty (+£44,918; Gay (+£40,293); Pleasure (+£39,029); Dancers (+£32,029); Beam (+£30,623), Heaven (+£29,273) and Merry (+£27,619).

Of all the different happy road names, Hope was the most popular, appearing in 216 road names in the UK. Taking second spot in the most-common list was Summer (127 different streets) and coming in third was Sunny (in the title of 126 separate UK roads).


Apply to change 

With such value attached to road names, it may come as a surprise that Government guidelines state residents can actually apply to have their road name changed. A request needs to be made to the local council, who will also consult with Royal Mail before a decision is made. 

The request must also have strong grounds – such as a large group of residents being unhappy with the street name – and it’s worth bearing mind the process can be lengthy, not always successful and with no guarantee a granted change will inflate your house price

So, will we see a rise in applications for new road names that reflect an emblem that has become the symbol of hope and gratitude during the pandemic – the rainbow? The name already sits at number 9 in the 10 most popular happy road names, found in 48 different streets in the UK but we think Rainbow Walk and Rainbow Road just might become more common.


Other road names where money matters

Past research by Zoopla found some of the most valuable homes in the UK were along roads that featured the words Warren, Chase or Mount in their name, while addresses that had a royal connection – Queen, King, Prince, Princess and Elizabeth – also cost significantly more that the average UK property. At the other end of the scale, the roads with the lowest value homes were found to have Court, Terrace or Street in their address.


Add or change a house name

If your property is known by a name and not a number, you’re half way to adding value but a subtle tweak can make all the difference. If your property’s character lends itself to the name, ‘Cottage’ is reputed to be one house name that makes a property more desirable, along with Hall. No name? No worries. Although you can’t apply to remove your house number, your local council may permit you to add a name that can be used as the first line of your address.

If you have a property to sell or rent in a happy, royal or grand-sounding road, please get in touch and we’d be happy to supply a free, no-obligation valuation.

How to create a workstation anywhere in your home

Working from home, or ‘WFH’ as is now the trend, is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity and part of the new ‘normal’.

After a while, however, the novelty of working with your laptop on your knee while watching daytime TV, or being constantly distracted by household chores, wears off. As with the desire to have a garden or more outside space, a comfortable workstation is likely to become a must-have for home movers.

If you’re a vendor, it’s time to show how versatile your home is in accommodating a WFH area. And if you’re currently evaluating how to utilise the space in your own home, here are some ideas for creating a home office anywhere.

All you need is a desk space and some imagination to create the perfect and most productive environment to work from home. 


The ‘other’ room

We say ‘other’ because no room in any house is ever spare for very long. Either you’ve already made it into an inviting guest bedroom or perhaps a walk-in wardrobe. Most probably, it’s become the junk room – a hoarding place for everything and anything.

Whatever the case, it’s time for a clear-out and rethink. This doesn’t mean that your guest bedroom can’t double up as your office or you can’t store an overflow of belongings in some well-placed furniture. It’s about being creative with the space you have so it becomes multifunctional.

If you have the room, it might be as simple as swapping the dressing table for a trendy desk. If space is a little tight and your budget allows, then consider swapping the double bed for a sofa bed. If there is barely room for anything other than a bed, then there are some innovative flip-down wall-mounted desk options.

For those lucky enough to be able to use an entire room as their office, the world really is your oyster. Have fun decorating and browsing for the right furniture and accessories (more on this later).


Communal living spaces

There’s absolutely no reason why the breakfast bar in your kitchen, table in your dining room or coffee table in your lounge can’t facilitate your laptop from time to time.

If, however, working from home is likely to become a more permanent fixture in your professional schedule, then you should think about creating a dedicated area – even if it’s temporary.

Fold-away desks, C-shaped and pop-up coffee tables (perfect for the living room) are great and can be pushed aside at the end of the working day. You can even get desks that slide out from under your breakfast bar and use kitchen cabinets and tall cupboards as secret office spaces.

If you have no choice but to work from the surfaces available and sit on the sofa with a lap desk (not recommended), think about getting an increasingly popular stand up desk. They are quite small and will give you that much-needed break from sitting down all day.


Unconventional cubby-holes

There are probably plenty of corners, cupboards and cubby-holes in your home that you could transform into a workstation.

Some are easily modified while others need full conversions but under the stairs, alcoves, landings, hallways and larders are just some areas you could make your dedicated office area. And if you have room for a sideboard, could you trade it in or adapt it to become a desk?

Corners are also highly under-utilised, used mostly for lamps and collecting cobwebs, so a corner desk could be a great investment. The same goes for under windows where slim desks would help create a workstation with a view.  


Final tips & touches

So, you’ve now found the ideal location in your home for a workstation but is it productive and safe?

You will find you are more productive when you’re relaxed and have all the tools you need. This means not being distracted by the pile of dishes on your kitchen worktop or slowed down by your laptop’s touchpad.

Ensure your working environment is clear of clutter and distractions so you can focus on the task in hand. You could even invest in a decent lamp and maybe a house plant. Also try to mimic your usual working style when in the office – using two screens, a mouse and a keyboard, if that’s what you’re used to.

Mundane as it sounds, a workstation self-assessment will help you avoid any long-term physical strains from inadequate home working set-ups. Your physical health is important too. Slouching on the sofa or perching on a bar stool all day is not good for posture. Get yourself an ergonomic chair or sitting aids like wedges.  

And let’s face it, the working-from home trend is unlikely to go away any time soon, so it’s time to get comfortable.


Plan your house move now

Moving house can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be, if you plan ahead. With the property market back open for business, now is the time to get things going and plan your move. Follow our guide so you’re ready to go!

6 weeks before
Appoint a removal company
We suggest getting quotes from three reputable companies that have been recommended by friends. They should be able to answer the following:

  • Are on-site estimates offered?
  • How is pricing determined?
  • Will the removal company pack items? If so, what is the cost and are there any restrictions?
  • What insurance is included? (contact your insurance company for additional cover options).
  • What additional charges may arise?
  • If social distancing is still in place, what precautions are taken?

Get your paperwork in order
Having all your paperwork to hand will help speed up processes, such as a mortgage application and tenant referencing. Create a folder to hold hard copies of agency-sent letters, contacts and guarantees. Digital versions are handy too – especially if you need to access anything on-the-go.

5 weeks before
Sort through your possessions
It’s time for a room-by-room survey so you move as few items as possible. Sort your belongings into piles, using the themes ‘keep’, ‘donate’, ‘discard’ and ‘sell’.

4 weeks before
Prepare to pack
Gather packing supplies and start saving boxes (unless your removal company is supplying them). Your stash should also include:

  • Scissors & a Stanley knife
  • Brown tape & masking tape, with dispensers
  • Bubble wrap, tissue paper & newspaper
  • Sticky labels & Post-It notes
  • Permanent markers

3 weeks before
Start packing
You can make progress by packing seasonal and infrequently-used items now. Concentrate on lofts, garages, sheds and storage areas. To help with unpacking at the other end, you may like to:

  • Assign a colour to each room and mark boxes/furniture with colour-coded stickers
  • Label and number each box so you can create an inventory list with each box’s contents

Prepare for your departure
Now is the time to tell your utility (water, gas and electricity) and phone/internet service providers the date you are moving. If you live in a rental property, book a check out deep clean if it is prescribed in your tenancy agreement.

2 weeks before
Notify key contacts
With a firm moving date, you can tell people your new address – banks, healthcare providers and surgeries, subscriptions, insurance providers, DVLA, friends and family, credit card/loan/pension/investment providers, mail order companies, employers and schools. Don’t forget to set up post redirection with Royal Mail.

Pick up the packing pace
It’s time to pack the bulk of your items, leaving only your daily essentials out.

1 week before
Plan for moving day
Check in with your removal company to ensure they have your current and new address, directions and your mobile phone number. You should finish packing but set aside three piles that won’t be loaded on to the removal van:

  • An overnight bag with clothes, toiletries and medication
  • Valuable and sentimental items, which should be left with a trusted friend or family member the day before moving, for safekeeping
  • An essentials box that travels with you on moving day. This may include:- basic tools, cleaning supplies, mobile phone, charger and battery pack, snacks and bottled drinks, loo roll, towels and bed linen, and all move-related paperwork.

Moving day
It’s easy to get swept away on moving day but remind yourself of the following:

  • Conduct a property sweep before the van leaves, ensuring no items are left behind
  • Take meters readings at both your old and new home – send to your utility suppliers the same day
  • Give your property keys to the agent and collect new keys
  • Arrange for someone to be at your new home to direct the removal team
  • Check items off the inventory as they are unloaded, inspecting for damage as you go
  • Test taps, toilets, boilers, utilities, land lines, smoke detectors and security systems in your new property

If you have any questions about moving home, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What Is The Best Way To Clean Windows?

It’s amazing what a difference clean windows can make to your home. Not only do they look a thousand times better; cleaning them can let in surprisingly more light, even if they were only slightly grimy.

But before you grab your trusty rag and bottle of window-cleaning product, why not consult with the pros about the best window cleaning solution? We’ll take you through the process and tell you what you should – and shouldn’t – do to achieve the ultimate clarity.

What you’ll need, the basics…

  • A bucket
  • An old towel
  • Some washing-up liquid
  • A sponge or window washer
  • A squeegee
  • Several clean, dry microfibre cloths


  • Vinegar
  • A lemon
  • Newspaper

1. Get prepared

Get your bucket and fill it with warm water, then add a few drops (about a tablespoonful) of washing-up liquid. What you don’t want here is bubbles in the bucket. If you put too much detergent in and you create a foam, start again – soap equals streaks.

One note of caution: we wouldn’t recommend washing your upstairs windows, no matter how comfortable you are on a ladder. Remember you’ll be sloshing water around and unless you really know what you’re doing, it can quickly become dangerous. Get a window cleaning professional in – even if they’re only doing the upstairs.

2. Wash the window frames

Now you’re ready to wash the frames. It’s best to start outside, where spillages and dribbles won’t matter.

Dip your sponge in, give it a light squeeze, and wipe around the frames. If it’s your first time for a while, you’ll probably need to rub hard, but as with all cleaning, start light and press harder if the dirt isn’t lifting off. (It’ll be easier next time.)

Get one of your dry cloths and wipe excess water off the frame.

3. Wash the window panes

Now dip your sponge into the water again, bring it out and give it a really good squeeze. You want your sponge to be slightly damp, not dripping wet. If you’re using a window washer (a T-shaped contraption with a sponge bar and a handle), dip it into the bucket, bring it out and squeeze excess water off it by running your finger and thumb along its length.

Now you can set about wetting the pane. Most of the time, you’ll only need a light wash over the whole pane. You’ll only need to start rubbing harder if there are stubborn marks on there. Tree sap is particularly tough, so if your window is under a tree or shrub, you might want to use a light scourer or something slightly more abrasive than a sponge, for example, a cloth – nothing too scratchy, though.

4. Rinse with a squeegee

Now comes the most important part – removing the water. You can’t call your windows clean until this part is over, because they are essentially coated in dirty water. If you let the water evaporate, the dirt will remain, only now it’ll be mixed with sticky soap.

Here’s the expert touch: wrap a dry cloth over one finger and drag it from top to bottom right down one edge, so you have a dry line of about 1 cm (half an inch) touching the frame. This is because the squeegee won’t quite fit in the angle between the frame and the pane. If you’re right-handed, dry the left edge; otherwise, do the opposite.

Now, starting at the top left (assuming you’re right-handed), place the dry squeegee vertically on the window touching the left frame and pull it to the right. When you reach the other side, do a rotating motion with the edge of the squeegee pressed against the right frame, so it ends up horizontal, level with the bottom of the dry area.

Now – very important – dry the squeegee with a cloth.

Repeat the step above, slightly overlapping the last sweep, and keep doing it until you reach the bottom. Remember to dry the squeegee between sweeps.

Finally, you should be left with a bit of a puddle at the bottom of the frame. Flick off any excess with the squeegee and dry any remnants with a clean cloth. You should be able to get about 6–8 windows out of a cloth before switching to a new clean one.

You shouldn’t need to dry the pane with a towel or cloth after squeegeeing. Any small wet patches will evaporate.

5. Go indoors

The process for cleaning indoors is exactly the same, but you should put towels or old sheets on carpets and window-ledges to minimise splashing.

Greener solutions

There are some detergent-free solutions, too. Pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle and squirt it all over the pane. Some people swear by the power of lemon – cut a lemon in half and rub it all over the pane. It definitely works … sometimes. Finally, wipe off the vinegar or lemon with newspaper.

Tools and gadgets

There are plenty of other window cleaning solutions you can buy to assist your window cleaning. Whether you invest in one depends how seriously you want to take it. Three popular ones are:

Steam cleaner

These come in hand-held and traditional canister-and-tube types, with cloth, squeegee and scraper attachments. Pressurised steam cleans the windows, which is supposed to kill germs and remove the need for detergent. They can also be adapted to clean tiling grout, mirrors, shower screens and furniture.

Window vac

Wash your windows with soapy water, suck it away with a vacuum squeegee attachment for a streak-free finish.

Extendable cleaner

Your squeegee and cloth are attached to the end of a long pole so you can reach your upstairs windows safely. They come in two forms: a simple extending pole, and a system that pumps water to the top. These are more useful if you clean regularly, but if you’re tackling dirty windows, you might lack the pressure and precision to do a good job.

Expert window cleaning

So there’s our guide to window cleaning like a pro. If it looks complicated, it really isn’t – it’s all about finding the method that suits you, and doing it frequently. Welcome to a new world of light!

Original source:

I’m selling my home… has lockdown impacted asking prices?

Are you thinking of selling your home soon? Or is your house already on the market and you’re wondering how lockdown will impact your sale?

Here at Rightmove we’ve received lots of questions from sellers hoping to understand how the housing market has been impacted by the current restrictions.

So we invited Miles Shipside, one of our founding directors and a regular BBC News guest, to field your questions in a live chat.

You can watch the full talk online, and we’ve summarised some of the highlights below.

What’s the overall picture of the market at the moment?
Political uncertainty in recent years caused many people to hold back on making decisions about buying or selling homes.

So when there became a majority government in December, combined with low interest rates and freely available mortgages, many home-movers felt the time was finally right to move ahead with their plans.

This release of pent-up demand saw the market looking quite active and buoyant at the beginning of the year, with an increase of 11% in agreed sales compared to last year, and record-breaking traffic on Rightmove.

Demand was outstripping supply and asking prices were also on the rise, with a 2-3% increase compared to the same period last year.

But lockdown has put all of this on pause. That said, offers are still being made and accepted, and some contracts are exchanging if they adhere to current guidance.

What did sellers do when lockdown happened?
The vast majority of people selling their homes before lockdown have decided to keep their properties on the market. The number of available properties after lockdown, compared to before, has only dropped by less than 3%.

For obvious reasons, there have been very few new properties coming to the market since lockdown. This is because agents cannot carry out valuations in person.

What’s happened to asking prices?
So far, there’s been no notable change in property asking prices, but we’ll get a more accurate picture once we’re out of lockdown and there’s been some time for new properties to enter the market.

For those of you who remember the economic downturn of 2008, there are some key differences between what caused house prices to fall then, and what the situation is now.

One of those differences is that mortgages, particularly low-deposit mortgages, are still readily available today. While this is in place, there will be buyers lining up to get on the property ladder, and it is this demand that keeps house prices stable.

What do you think will happen to prices after lockdown?
This question has come up a fair bit recently. Lots of sellers want to know whether they should be worried that, if prices were to drop after lockdown, the buyer they had lined up would withdraw or lower their offer in order to get a better deal.

Well, as long as low-deposit mortgages are available and interest rates remain low, the pent-up demand that we saw early this year is likely to begin to surface again before long. And demand, of course, sustains prices.

The most likely outcome will be a flat period for some time, and slowly, demand will return and could begin to push prices upward again.

When will we be able to do valuations and viewings again?
Whilst lockdown is in place, the government guidance is that physical valuations and viewings should not take place. . Until we get further guidance from the government, this will remain the case, but we’re optimistic that the government will want to prioritise unlocking this section of the market as quickly as possible, as it represents a major part of the economy.

And there are still many things you can do now if you’re thinking of selling. Using this time to get prepared and ready to sell will give you a significant head start once lockdown is lifted.

It may also be worth getting in touch with your local estate agent, as they will be able to give you advice specific to your circumstances.

Original source:

Which Fruit and Veg Can I Grow in a Tiny Space?

Whether you’re short on outside space, have a garden with already-full beds, or simply have no garden at all, there will be edibles you can grow. But which fruit, vegetables, herbs or shoots will flourish in the patch of soil you can make available to them? Read on for a brilliant beginner’s guide.

Professional advice from: Patricia Tyrrell of Patricia Tyrrell Living Landscapes; Victoria Philpott of Victoria Philpott Gardens; Ben Renfrew of Fig Garden Design.

What do I need to know before I start?
When embarking on a new edible gardening project, Patricia Tyrrell advises: “Experiment and be adventurous. Just because it says ‘full sun’ on the seeds or instructions doesn’t mean it won’t grow in less. Don’t worry too much – just give it a go!”

When it comes to growing your own, simplicity and utility are key. “Don’t grow too many things,” Patricia says. “Also, grow something you’ll eat and in sufficient quantities – one leaf of lettuce is not much use.”

What grows in containers?
Lots of things, is the pleasing answer.
Potatoes If you have a large-enough pot – because they take up space – potatoes will grow well, Ben Renfrew says. “As the leaves emerge, add more soil to bury the new growth,” he advises.

Runner beans Use a large pot and add bamboo supports for them to grow up. “Runner beans can also be grown up a garden arch – I do this every year,” Ben adds.

Blueberries (and strawberries) “When it comes to breakfast, walking out of your door and picking some blueberries and strawberries for your muesli can be one of the simple pleasures of summer,” Patricia says. For blueberries, she advises these are undemanding to grow, “but they do need an acid compost”. (See What can I grow in hanging baskets, below, for Patricia’s strawberry tips.)

Chillis “I like to grow chillies every year,” Patricia says. “They’re quite hardy, as long as the frost has gone, and they come in so many colours and shapes, so are really ornamental.” She adds that a green chilli “is just an unripe red one”, meaning you can pick them at different stages. “At the end of the season, freeze them or make chilli jam,” she says.

Herbs “Great if you have a sunny corner,” Patricia says, advising that mint is especially suitable for containers, as it can be invasive in a bed.

Other good container edibles
Ben also suggests: tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, strawberries, peas, butternut squash, courgettes and lettuce. “The list is endless for pots and containers,” he says. “Carrots are particularly good in containers, especially if you have stony ground, as stones stunt the carrots’ growth and make them split.”

“Lettuce is particularly good in long window boxes,” Patricia adds.

What can I grow in a hanging basket?
The good news for balcony gardeners, or those short of floorspace outside, is that hanging baskets can be extremely fruitful (pardon the pun) for edible gardening. Here are our experts’ favourites:

Tomatoes “Tomatoes need to be a variety call ‘Tumbling Tom’ or a similar specific hanging basket variety,” Ben says. Patricia adds that these come in reds and yellows, so they can look pretty, too.

Strawberries Patricia suggests choosing a ‘day neutral’ variety, such as Tristar, because this will give you fruit for a long period of time. “Alpine strawberries are also good,” she says. “They crop for a long period and, even though they’re tiny, they have a wonderful flavour.”

Lettuce “I like ‘cut and come again’ varieties of lettuce,” Ben says. “You can just harvest some leaves and then they regrow, rather than having to harvest the whole plant, as with iceberg or little gem.”

Herbs To make your herb basket look stunning, Ben suggests mixing trailing and upright varieties, such as purple leaf sage, with trailing marjoram or thyme. “You can always add some edible flowers, such as viola, pansy or nasturtiums, for a bit of colour for both the basket and the salad,” he says.

Peas “You won’t get enough for dinner, but you will get the pleasure of splitting open a pod of fresh peas and eating them straight away,” Patricia says. She advises a small variety, such as ‘Little Marvel’.

“For mangetout,” she adds, “try the heritage variety ‘Carouby de Maussane’ with flowers as beautiful as any of the ornamental sweet peas.”

How do I keep my hanging basket in good shape?
Patricia underlines the importance of really good, preferably soil-based, compost and making sure whatever the basket is hanging from is strong enough to support the substantial weight of plant, crop and water.

“Remember, plants in baskets will dry out more quickly than those in the ground,” Victoria Philpott says, “so be sure to water and feed them frequently.”

Tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies grow fast, so are in particular need of regular top-ups of nutrition, Ben adds. He recommends high potash feed as the best to encourage fruiting.

Is there anything I can grow in a partly shady area?
“Partially shaded spots will receive 3 to 6 hours of sun per day,” Victoria advises. So spend a few days assessing the light in your potential planting area. As a general guide, she notes that the least tolerant of shade are plants that blossom before fruiting, such as peppers and tomatoes.

Her top tips? “Brassicas, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens including kale, spinach and chard, will do well in shade. Radishes, spring onions, leeks and carrots can also grow happily in partly shaded spots.”

“If [the plant] has a lot of green leaf, it’s probably happy with a little shade,” Patricia adds, noting that spinach, rocket, kale and lettuce will all grow well. “Peas, too, are tolerant of shade and may even last a bit longer in it,” she says.

Patricia adds that broad beans are a favourite shade-happy plant and also suggests that pots of herbs can be placed in partial shade. Particularly good varieties to try are: parsley, mint, coriander, spring onions, chives, pak choi, rocket and chard.

Which varieties would work better in a small bed?
Some plants are happier in a bed than containers. However, unless you have a standalone veg patch or raised bed, Patricia advises choosing plants that won’t become invasive. “Garlic, for instance, is a no-no, because it can become a weed in your garden if you forget to harvest it,” she says.

If you’re short on space, it’s handy to know that mixing flowers and vegetables can work well. “Many vegetables are really ornamental – red cabbage, for example, or the myriad varieties of kale, with frilly, textured leaves and dark green or purple colouring, such as ‘Red Russian’,” she says. “These could work beautifully with yellow or blue flowers.”

Victoria advises that some vegetables, such as squashes and courgettes, need room to spread out. “So, depending on the size of your garden, it might be best to grow them in a bed [rather than containers],” she says.

“Brassicas – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts – can also work better in beds, as they take a long time to mature,” Ben says. He also suggests leeks and onions grow well in small beds.

What will thrive in a grow bag?
“Grow bags are filled with rich compost that’s great for growing vegetables including tomatoes, leeks, courgettes, onions, cauliflowers, cabbages and peas,” Victoria says.

Ben adds that cucumbers and squashes also work well. “One tip, though,” he says. “Only put in two plants per bag: the packaging always suggests three, but two tends to be better in my experience, as the roots have more space, so the plants are stronger and the fruit is better.”

Can I grow anything edible indoors?
“As long as you have a sunny spot, you can grow a variety of fruit and vegetables in pots indoors,” Victoria says. Her tips include: herbs, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, peppers, lettuce, lemons and celery.

“I always grow a pot of peas indoors,” Ben says, “not for the peas, but for the pea shoots. Just pinch out the growing tips and throw them in with your salads.” He says many of the softer herbs, such as basil, tarragon and parsley, are well-suited to being grown indoors in a sunny spot, as are chillies.

“Biquinho, Orange Thai, and Bird’s Eye are some attractive small varieties of chilli to try,” Patricia adds. She also suggests basil. “It’s a Mediterranean herb and loves heat and sun. Grow it in succession from seed and keep it on a sunny windowsill. There are lovely purple varieties, so combine one with green basil for some leafy contrast.”

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DIY fans get creative with feature walls – thanks to this £6 must-have

With a steady hand and a bit of patience, plain walls can be transformed into captivating feature walls.

You’ve only got to browse Pinterest and Instagram to see just how creative homeowners are becoming with painting feature walls. Armed with paint and the £6 secret weapon every keen DIY fan knows about – FrogTape!

The growing popularity of geometric walls and mountain-style murals are all made possible because of this easy-to-use tape.

But just why is it so good? ‘It delivers lovely straight lines, so works really well for box shapes and geometric patterns’ explains Jason Burns, spokesperson for FrogTape UK. You simply tape the areas you want to protect, and paint the rest.

All you need is some paint and roll of tape, and a little bit of inspiration…

Striking! And the possibilities are endless, if you know how.

How to use FrogTape: Top tips

Jason goes on to tell Ideal Home, ‘The key is to make sure your surface is really clean and to plan out your design first.’ He offers his top tips to help perfect your feature wall

Tip 1. ‘Prep the wall ready to paint by cleaning thoroughly first. If needed, use a paint stripper to remove any old finishes/paint.’

Tip 2. ‘Scuff’ any wood in the direction of the grain to dull the shine from old finishes ready to paint over. Wipe the dust away with a tack cloth.’

Tip 3. ‘Plan out your design on the floor or a piece of paper first.’

Tip 4. ‘Create your design on the wall using FrogTape Delicate Surface Painter’s Masking Tape. Make sure to rub the tape down well to get a good seal – it goes more opaque as you do. The Delicate surface tape is more gentle to unfinished wood surfaces, FrogTape MultiSurface works well on walls.’

He adds, ‘Tape can be cut carefully into thinner stripes to make narrower strips using a cutting mat, safety ruler and craft knife.’

Tip 5. ‘Paint in the shapes using a flat, soft synthetic brush. Add one to two coats more until the full colour is reached.’

Tip 6. ‘Remove the tape slowly and steadily, pulling back on itself.’

Buy now: FrogTape Masking tape, £6, Amazon

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