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Design It Yourself: Lockdown fuels surge in budding home stylists

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We may be a nation of DIY-ers, but many of us have been taking bolder design decisions, too.

Lockdown fuelled a trend in home improvements as we spent more time surrounded by the same four walls and furnishings. 

This interest appears to have led many to consider turning pro: the Inchbald School of Design (inchbald.co.uk), which runs a number of courses from one-day online events to three-year diplomas, reports a 200 per cent increase in inquiries for its student interior design courses.

DIY boom: Lockdown has fuelled a trend in home improvements as we spent more time surrounded by the same four walls and furnishings

DIY boom: Lockdown has fuelled a trend in home improvements as we spent more time surrounded by the same four walls and furnishings

‘The idea of learning how to design and create dynamic interiors is increasingly attractive,’ says Alan Hughes, the school’s principal. ‘It’s about taking on a new creative challenge.’

The prevalence of inspiring interiors across social media platforms has made design feel more attainable, too.

We’re all looking for ways to decorate with more confidence — and it’s easy if you follow a few simple rules…

Back to basics

‘Instagram is full of people panelling their walls, hacking Ikea cabinets and painting over their UPVC doors and windows,’ says Kate Watson-Smyth, author and founder of homeware edit store Design Storey (designstorey.shop). 

‘But it’s important to start with the bones. Bear in mind that a cheap sofa can be elevated by a great floor, while an expensive chair will be brought down by laminate.

‘Equally, good lighting can enhance great furniture as well as disguise the bits you’d rather not focus on.’

Floors, walls and lighting are the holy grail of interior architecture and it makes sense to focus on those first. Then, pay attention to touch points.

‘Swap out white plastic switches and sockets for a feature metal or even versions that co-ordinate with the rest of your decor,’ says Kate.

‘Play with scale, too; when it comes to rugs and plants, always buy the biggest you can afford for an instant luxury look.’

Soft touch

Fabric has the ability to change the energy of a space with its colour, texture and pattern.

The secret to creating a room with interest is layering. ‘When it comes to fabrics,’ says interior designer and textile specialist Alexandra Morrall (studiomahala.com), ‘this could mean adding an antique flat weave rug on top of a sisal carpet, a tonal trim to the leading edges of your curtains, mixing cushions of varying textures, prints and colours, opting for softly gathered lampshades, or draping a Suzani tribal textile over the back of a sofa.’

Cushions look effortlessly good with inners, preferably feather, that are one inch bigger than the cover itself, perfect for Insta-worthy plumped pillows.

Switch it up

Swapping handleware or cupboard fronts is a game changer. HØLTE (holte.studio) specialises in hand-finished plywood or wood veneer kitchen cupboard fronts and worktops for Ikea and other High Street cabinet carcasses.

For something different, try commissioning a maker. Decorative artist Natasha Mann (natasha-mann.com) can transform anything from ceilings to door panels in hand-drawn designs inspired by Moroccan Zouaq geometric painting.

Show your shelves some love, too. Display books both vertically and horizontally — while to add interest and depth, stud your arrangement with sculptural pieces in glass, ceramic or wood.

‘I like arranging pieces in threes,’ says interior designer Omar Bhatti (spaceshack.co.uk). ‘For instance, three different-sized vases clustered together with a flower stem in one creates a natural vignette.’

A vintage or unexpected piece, whether a chair or a mirror, will always lend a relaxed and individual feel. 

That extends to smaller items, too, such as colourful Murano glass or vintage ceramic vases. Rebecca Arts (rebeccaarts.co.uk) is a good source of one-off accessories like these.

App happy

There are plenty of user-friendly and affordable (sometimes free) phone apps to help your design.

Roomstyler 3D Home Planner (roomstyler.com) for example, creates floor plans that can be furnished using real brands, while Homestyler (homestyler.com) allows users to take a picture of a room and use the tools to try out wall colours, furniture and decor.

The internet can also assist with finding a new look for a room. Oka has a cushion arranger tool so you can drag and drop different designs on to a sofa (oka.com/cushion- arranger).

Ask for help

It helps to know when to draw on professional advice, not just for major works but for imaginative input.

‘My clients send photos and ideas, challenging us to create ever more meaningful and exciting spaces,’ says designer Staffan Tollgard (tollgard.com).

John Lewis offers free 90-minute sessions with their in-house stylists as part of its Home Design Service. At Heal’s (heals.com), there’s a free interiors planning service.

You’ll be ready to go pro before you know it. 

What your home really needs is a… gallery wall 

A gallery wall is a collection of smaller pictures, photos, posters and prints grouped together for maximum effect in a hall, sitting room or cloakroom.

You may not nourish an ambition to become a museum curator, but your home still needs a gallery wall, as it supplies the quirky elegance that’s now fashionable. 

A gallery wall is a collection of smaller pictures, photos, posters and prints grouped together for maximum effect

A gallery wall is a collection of smaller pictures, photos, posters and prints grouped together for maximum effect

It’s also an opportunity to make the most of artworks that individually lack impact, but together have that wow factor.

To achieve cohesion, choose works of the same hue (a group of flower and leaf prints pictured) or use frames of one colour only. 

IKEA’s selection of frames includes Fiskbo and Hovsta, priced from £1.50 (ikea.com).

Images with a similar theme — landscape, portraits or travel — are a winning combination. 

The London Transport Museum shop stocks copies of retro posters, with prices starting at £5 (ltmuseumshop.co.uk).

If you are determined to be your own gallerist, antique and charity shops should yield suitable gallery wall-worthy finds.

ANNE ASHWORTH  

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Sirius Real Estate sells London business park for €18.8m (GB)

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Sirius Real Estate has agreed to the sale of an asset in Camberwell, London, for €18.8m (£16m), representing a NIY of circa 2%. The property formed part of the portfolio Sirius acquired in November 2021 with its purchase of BizSpace, the leading provider of regional light industrial, workshop, studio and out of town office units across the UK. The sale price represents a 94% premium to the valuation at the time of Sirius’ acquisition of BizSpace.

 

The multi-tenanted business park, which comprises approximately 34,700ft² of industrial and office space is 91% occupied following a series of asset management measures delivered through the BizSpace platform. The sale is expected to complete in July 2022.

 

Commenting on the transaction, Andrew Coombs, Chief Executive Officer of Sirius Real Estate, said: “This disposal is further proof of the latent value in the BizSpace portfolio we acquired late last year, the price being significantly ahead of last September’s valuation on which our purchase was based, and the attractive sale follows our recent announcement that we had since improved like-for-like rental income across the portfolio by 7.5%. The sale will allow us to invest in new opportunities for BizSpace in the UK as we continue to build our acquisition pipeline. Bringing together the Sirius and BizSpace platforms, with a strengthened management team at BizSpace, is already delivering strong results and operational synergies that will enhance our UK portfolio.”

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Southwold beach hut which is 10ft wide with no running water or electricity up for sale for £250,000

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A beach hut in an upmarket seaside town which is famed for its celebrity visitors has gone on the market for a record £250,000.

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in – and is double the cost of a three bedroom terraced house just 10 miles away.

The hut, numbered 149 and called ‘Here’s Hoping’, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town of Southwold, Suffolk.

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis.

Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000.

But the huts in Southwold, which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight.

A beach hut called 'Here's Hoping', pictured, which sits on the promenade of the upmarket seaside town Southwold in Suffolk, Doset, famed for its celebrity visitors, has gone on the market for a record £250,000

A beach hut called ‘Here’s Hoping’, pictured, which sits on the promenade of the upmarket seaside town Southwold in Suffolk, Doset, famed for its celebrity visitors, has gone on the market for a record £250,000

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in. The hut, called 'Here's Hoping' and numbered 149, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in. The hut, called ‘Here’s Hoping’ and numbered 149, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000

The buyer will still have to pay annual ground rent of £998 and will only have 18 years left of a 30 year lease, although there will be an option to renew.

They will be able to enjoy spectacular views from a veranda overlooking the beach and the North Sea, while being just a short walk from pubs, restaurants and shops.

But just 10 miles away in Lowestoft, Suffolk, there are several homes up for sale, priced between £120,000 and £140,000.

But the huts in Southwold (pictured), which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight

But the huts in Southwold (pictured), which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight

Southwold beach (pictured) has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis

Southwold beach (pictured) has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station.

Another property on the market is a £90,000, three-bed semi-detached bungalow at Broadlands Park and Marina in Lowestoft which has a garden, one bathroom and one living room.

The listing for the beach hut boasts that it has ‘glazed double folding doors’ and ‘a number of storage cupboards’.

The previous highest price asked for one of Southwold’s 300 beach huts was £150,000 in September 2018.

Prices have soared since then as property prices have continued to increase and the demand for staycation breaks following the Covid epidemic has boomed.

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations.

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station

Many are rented out for around £600 a week to visitors who flock to the town.

The latest asking price is more than double the price of a three bedroom terrace house on the market for £110,000 around ten miles away in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

More than half the properties in Southwold are second homes and the full-time population is now below 1,000, putting extra strain on local services.

Earlier this year, councillors unveiled plans to try and stem the number of second homes in the town and make more affordable housing possible for local people.

A spokesperson for estate agent Flick & Son, which is selling the hut, said: ‘I am sure it will go very quickly.

‘There is a high demand for huts and we expect there will be a bidding war in the end.’

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EU will retaliate to any unilateral action on NI protocol, Coveney warns

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British prime minister Boris Johnson has been warned of the consequences of unilateral action on the Northern Ireland protocol, including the prospect of “retaliatory” action from Europe.

On the eve of Mr Johnson’s visit to Belfast, the Government and Sinn Féin said moves to disapply parts of the protocol risked damaging east-west relations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke of a “landing zone” for negotiations and indicated that the European Union was willing to make adjustments through “partnership and dialogue” due to what he said were “legitimate concerns” within unionism about the operation of the protocol.

However, he also said that if London moved unilaterally it would make matters “significantly worse” and that “then the EU will be forced to respond to that with some form of retaliatory action”.

Mr Coveney said it was not “helpful” to expand on what form that might take, but that a response “would be very negative”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “there is a real and urgent obligation now” for Britain to engage with the European Commission “in a real and professional way to resolve issues that have been raised”.

Powersharing

Ahead of talks between Mr Johnson and Northern Irish political leaders aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont, Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill said unilateral action would “represent an appalling attack on the international rule of law”.

“Only through joint agreement with the EU can solutions to problems or concerns be resolved,” she said.

“I will be telling Boris Johnson that unilateral action deepens political instability and economic uncertainty and must not happen.”

Ms O’Neill is to meet Mr Martin in at Government Buildings Dublin on Monday morning ahead of her meeting with Mr Johnson.

Mr Coveney travels today to Brussels for a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council and will later speak with EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic and British foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is expected to announce legislation on Tuesday that will unilaterally override central elements of the protocol.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said Mr Sefcovic is open to making “significant progress” on the protocol.

“I believe there are solutions we could pursue and we can agree relatively quickly if there was an attitude to do so on both sides,” he said. “But we need a partner in London to do that, not a partner that is making threats of unilateral action.”

Envoy

The Minister also said he believes it is “likely” that US president Joe Biden will appoint an envoy to the North, saying the US administration is “extremely interested” in marking 25 years since the Belfast Agreement next year with “its institutions intact and functioning as they need to be”.

Mr Johnson is expected to affirm his commitment to the agreement and assert that he is not seeking to scrap the protocol. But Downing Street said ahead of his meetings with the North’s party leaders that he will not drop his government’s threat to unilaterally disapply parts of the protocol, which Mr Johnson agreed with the EU in 2019.

Downing Street said in a statement that Mr Johnson will tell party leaders that the door will always be open to “genuine dialogue” but that “there will be a necessity to act” and protect the Belfast Agreement if the EU does not change its position.

Writing in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson outlined that the protocol “has not been adapted to reflect the realities of the [Trade and Co-operation Agreement]”. He will signal that there is “without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone’s interests are protected”. However, he said that if the EU’s position does not change, “there will be a necessity to act”.


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