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Blown Away by glass: The best delicate baubles and ornaments in shops this Christmas

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Christmas trees reveal much about current trends. Keep an eye out this year and you’ll see gorgeous glass ornaments dangling from the branches of festive trees in what likely will be an enduring theme throughout 2022.

Glass blowing’s appeal has stood the test of time as each piece is unique with its own special and sometimes delightfully imperfect feel — the opposite of mass-produced tat.

Sir Elton John is one of several celebrities who are fans of U.S. artist Dale Chihuly, aka the Prince of Glass, famous for his exuberantly coloured sculptural creations.

Skilled: Contestant Nao Yamamoto making glass in the traditional way on Netflix’s TV series Blown Away

Skilled: Contestant Nao Yamamoto making glass in the traditional way on Netflix’s TV series Blown Away

One of his chandeliers, a 27 ft extravaganza, hangs in the Victoria & Albert museum.

But the combination of the pandemic and a popular Netflix series is making many aspire to smaller and much cheaper pieces of this glass.

Glass blowing is made through a process that traces its beginnings back to the first century BC in Syria and Ancient Rome.

In Blown Away, the Canadian Netflix series, ten glass blower artists battle heat and breakages to secure a £45,000 prize. 

This competition is to turn sand, lime and soda (the constituents of glass) into winning objects — rather like The Great British Bake Off.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that blowing down a pipe to shape liquid glass, while standing close to a furnace burning at a temperature of 1,000 c, is rather more dangerous than piping icing onto a layer cake.

Sophie Conran’s £55.25 set of six gold-plated and patterned baubles is hand-made in Cairo from Borosilicate glass

Sophie Conran’s £55.25 set of six gold-plated and patterned baubles is hand-made in Cairo from Borosilicate glass

The pandemic has deepened our appreciation of home and our determination to make it as cheery and comfortable as possible, especially this Christmas.

In lockdown, uniformly neutral interiors, however elegant, could seem chilly. People have tried to bring more colour and individuality into their homes.

Some households have been opting for bolder paints and wallpapers; others have been introducing brighter accessories like patterned rugs or throws.

But amid the growing planet-friendly desire to move away from the throwaway, there has been a surge of interest in crafted items made to last.

Pooky’s £111 Lisboa hand-blown glass shade for a pendant light in amber, green, pink and turquoise typifies the ‘buy less, buy better’ movement and would enliven a grey and beige interior.

Habitat’s hand-blown £20 Cielo blue and green vase or Toast’s small French-made £15 Amour green vase are the sort of heart-lifting presents that many would like to find under the Christmas tree.

Fine Nordic’s £33.99 set of five mix-coloured hand-blown glass tumblers, meanwhile, would add some Scandi to a Christmas table. 

Oka points out that no two tumblers from its Pulcinella white hand-decorated and hand-blown £70 set of four is the same, making it ‘a unique and interesting addition to a dining table or a home bar’.

The preference for smaller events at home with family and selected friends has made people more willing to splash out on fine glasses and tableware which, with care, can continue to delight for some time.

Christmas decorations come into service just once a year. But there is the same wish to buy less, buy better, with the calculation that if you keep a £50 set of ornaments for a decade, this works out at £5 a year.

Sophie Conran’s £55.25 set of six gold-plated and patterned baubles is ‘designed to be treasured for a lifetime, and passed down from generation to generation’. The Dawn Gold Leaf bauble, pictured, is hand-made in Cairo from borosilicate glass.

Cox & Cox has a range of hand-blown glass baubles from £7.88 for six, including a delightful £30 set of 12 baubles with a Victorian feel.

Glass of Venice sells pieces created in the Venetian island of Murano where glass was blown in medieval times and continues today. 

A Murano star in blue, green or red costs £23.20 and is sure to spark joy. Just make sure you pack away safely all these beauties once the festivities are over, and mark the box ‘fragile’.

What your home needs is a… Christmas cushion 

Cosy: The £68 Anthropologie Snow Day cushion

Cosy: The £68 Anthropologie Snow Day cushion

A Christmas cushion is comfort and joy combined, which is why your home needs one, especially since there is a style to suit every taste and pocket.

Dunelm caters for lovers of glitz with its £15 Catherine Lansfield angel cushion, decorated with sequin wings.

It also has £14 cushions each with a picture of a different breed of dog wearing Santa hats.

Other options from the worlds of birds and animals include M&S’s £19.50 robin cushion, or Joe Browns Glorious Stag £24 cushion in burgundy and gold. 

Anyone dreaming of a white Christmas will be drawn to the £68 Anthropologie Snow Day cushion decorated with fir trees and figures on a frozen pond.

Habitat has a £14 Christmas Joy cushion printed with people carrying a tree and presents.

If you’re after a modest option, B&Q has green cushions with the message Merry Christmas in gold lettering at just £5 each. 

And H&M Home has £9.99 linen-blend cushion cover with the words Merry Christmas To All. Very plain, but it’s the thought that counts.

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Girl who fell from ‘Santa train’ settles High Court action

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A girl who fell out of a miniature “Santa train” on her way to visit a festive grotto has settled her High Court action against the operators for €192,000.

Freya Moore, who was six at the time of the 2016 incident, fell out through a door gap over which a chain was placed as the train was going around a corner in the Donegal attraction, it was claimed.

Her jacket allegedly got caught in part of the train and she was dragged for a short distance with her leg getting caught under the train before the alarm was raised, it was further claimed.

Freya, now 11, suffered a soft tissue injury to her leg and later required plastic surgery.

Through her father, Chris Moore, Breton Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, she sued the operator of the Santa Train, Gerry Robinson, trading as Difflin Light Railways, operating at Oakfield Park, Raphoe, Co Donegal.

The accident happened on December 17th, 2016, when she was on a visit to the Santa Train excursion which involved travelling from “Oakfield Park Station” to a Santa’s grotto.

Liability was not conceded and there was a full defence to the claim.

In the action, it was claimed the defendant was negligent on a number of grounds including a failure to provide a safe premises and to ensure the chain across the door was at a height suitable to ensure a child of her age would not fall out.

It was claimed she was left with a scar on her right lower leg and may require further plastic surgery in the future. Afterwards, she was worried about accidents and falling out of a car and was anxious when visiting fairgrounds.

Micheál Ó Scanaill SC, for Freya, told the court the case had been settled for €192,000.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna approved the settlement with a payout of €2,000 for Freya and the remainder to be lodged in court until she reaches 18. The judge wished her the best of luck.

Mr Robinson died in October 2021.

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Catella invests €15.5m in Portuguese student accommodation

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The Catella European Residential Fund (CER) has made its first venture into the emerging Portuguese institutional investment market for student housing with the acquisition of an asset in the municipality of Cascais, just to the west of Lisbon, for €15.5m. The vendor is Value One HoldingThe property is located close to the beach in the Lombos neighbourhood of Carcavelos within the Cascais municipality and is a 10-minute walk from Portugal’s most prestigious business school, the NOVA School of Business and Economics, which has a student population of over 3,500. The centre of Lisbon can be reached within 20 minutes via two train stations. The 6,622m² property was built in 2020 and comprises 192 spacious single rooms (20m² on average) with a gym, rooftop terrace, study, music and leisure rooms and parking. It is 99% occupied and has obtained LEED Gold sustainability certification for its construction.

 

European student accommodation provider MILESTONE operates the residence under a management contract. MILESTONE was founded in Vienna, is a member of the Value One Group, an international real estate Developer and student housing operator and brings extensive knowledge of the conception, design and successful management of student housing, combined with international expertise. MILESTONE currently has 4,627 beds of purpose-built student housing under management and in development across Austria, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

 

Eduardo Guardiola, Managing Partner of Catella AM Iberia, said: This is a milestone for CER marking the vehicle’s first investment in Portugal. It is also an important step for CRIM as it represents the investment manager’s entry into Portugal. For Catella AM Iberia it marks our third transaction as advisors on a student accommodation acquisition in the Iberian region. The Portuguese real estate market is becoming increasingly relevant across both the affordable rental and student housing markets – which although very different in maturity and size offer some excellent investment opportunities.”

 

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Kirstie and Phil’s Love It Or List It viewers slam father-of-two who ‘clearly wants a bachelor pad’

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Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed a father-of-two who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said he wanted a home where his children were ‘out the way.’

Sophie and Paul, from Aylesbury, who had spent the last eight years  in their home, had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years. 

The couple had allocated £90,000 to transform their house, but also had a £525,000 budget to look at new homes elsewhere. 

Following Kirstie’s advice on the show, they spent £80,000 converting their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension.

But many of those watching were unimpressed by Paul’s attitude after he said he liked their new playroom because it meant his children ‘couldn’t bug him’.

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil's Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who 'clearly wanted a bachelor pad' after he said a home where his children were 'out the way'

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said a home where his children were ‘out the way’

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage 

One wrote: ‘He doesn’t like his in-laws, his kids or his house. Think he wishes he was still a bachelor.’

Another wrote: ‘The partner is just gross, he just keeps going on about not being a bachelor anymore and how he doesn’t want the kids to bug him.

‘I get the sense he still likes to think of himself as a bachelor, I can just imagine him on a night out without her.’ 

Appearing on the programme last night, Sophie and Paul had been together for eight years and had two children, seven-year-old Finley and three-year-old Georgia. 

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years 

Following Kirstie's advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

Following Kirstie’s advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

But when Paul bought their three bedroom house 13 years ago, a family home was not the objective. 

He explained: ‘This was my bachelor pad. I’m team List It, I want something fresh and new for Sophie and the kids.’

Meanwhile Sophie said: ‘I’m definitely a home bird and I love being here.’

She said they relied on her parents ‘a lot’ because they lived at the bottom of the road.   

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were 'always on top of each other'

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were ‘always on top of each other’ 

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property's conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn't fit for purpose for their children

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property’s conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn’t fit for purpose for their children 

But Paul said: ‘My pet hates include the location, the small bedroom upstairs is a tiny box-room. 

‘The playroom downstairs isn’t fit for purpose, the kitchen needs overhauling and the garage is a mess.

‘The most important thing for me in a house is having the divide between adult space and children space and I think that’s important especially as they grow up.’ 

Sophie added: ‘We’ve been in a limbo now for three years where nothing has been done.’  

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured)

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured) 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner)

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner) 

While Sophie said the bedrooms were 'nice' (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was 'a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk'

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’ (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk’

She told Kirstie and Phil she wanted to extend their home, while Paul said: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the property. We’re all on top of each other here.’ 

But Sophie admitted she was unwilling to move further than a 15 minute drive from her parent’s home. 

Kirstie warned they would have to go to the top of their budget to fix the home’s problems, suggesting extending the kitchen diner into the area where the current conservatory is.

Meanwhile she said they could also convert the garage into a new living room, creating space for a new hallway. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured)

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured) 

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it's playroom, adding it would 'keep the children out the way' (pictured)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it’s playroom, adding it would ‘keep the children out the way’ (pictured) 

Upstairs, the extension would give space for four bedrooms and a master suite.

Meanwhile the first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was. 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden.

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’, Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk.’  

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured)

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured) 

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom 

However the couple ultimately decided the downstairs living space wasn’t large enough for their family. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000. 

The detached home had been on the market a while, and Phil hoped that a deal could be done.

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen.   

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple's changes to their property and were blown away

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple’s changes to their property and were blown away 

Commenting on the couple's decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they 'wouldn't come through to bug us'

Commenting on the couple’s decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they ‘wouldn’t come through to bug us’

Paul commented: ‘Good playroom at the front…keep them out the way. Eventually this could be my main cave.’ 

And the final property in their search was in the quaint village of Stoke, with Paul saying: ‘I like the outside and it’s in a good location.’

The four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000, with a large kitchen diner and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom.

Outside, there was a double length garage which could be used for storage space. 

Fifteen months after the couple started the renovations on their home, Kirstie and Phil returned to find the property had been completely transformed. 

However despite Sophie and Paul's joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

They were blown away by the extension the couple had added to their home, with even Sophie admitting it was ‘bigger than they expected it to be.’

Meanwhile Paul added: ‘It’s definitely not a bachelor pad now.’

And commenting on the decision to build a separate  play room, he said: ‘The children can turn right [to the playroom] as opposed to coming all the way through here and bugging us.’ 

Overall the couple spent £80,000 and the property value has increased by £150,0000.

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitude. 

One wrote: ‘I think this guy just doesn’t want to live in the same house as his kids.’

Another added: ‘The guy on this obviously wants away from her parents and somewhere to shove the kids out of the way…he wants a bachelor pad…just come out and say it!’

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