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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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Instagrammer captures abandoned Welsh property in series of eerie photographs

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Who would live in a house like this? Instagrammer photographs abandoned Welsh property – complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday, dishes still in the sink and a newspaper dating back to 1956

  • Photographs reveal the rooms have been untouched for decades and house opened bottle of Champagne  
  • Discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales 
  • Kyle said: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory’ 
  • ***Do YOU know who lived in the abandoned house? Contact izzy.nikolic@mailonline.co.uk*** 

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An abandoned Welsh house has been captured in a series of eerie photographs complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday and dishes still in the sink.  

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx.’  

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. 

A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up and dishes still in the sink.

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: 'Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can't be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx'

Pictured: A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx’

The property has been dubbed 'Granddad's abandoned house' after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property 

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex (pictured) while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

Mr Urbex said: 'I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn't too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open'

Mr Urbex said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open’

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales.

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home.’

He said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open.

‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many.

‘The porch area had been trashed, however the seating still remained intact and of course the champagne bottle for his 90th birthday still left on the fireplace.

He added: 'Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many'

Dishes are left undone in the sink in the kitchen

He added: ‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house. He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was’

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone's 'dream family home'

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home’

Mr Urbex added: 'Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind'

Mr Urbex added: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind’

‘I found it quite sad really given all the memories just left to be forgotten about. As well as the house there was a caravan hidden at the back in all the overgrowth which had more memories inside, old books and so on.

‘I managed to uncover an old bike in the shed which looked like it had been there quite a while.

‘Alongside all of these findings I came across a newspaper dated from November 3 1956.’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house.

He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was.

‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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Over 40 complaints made about ‘unsuitable’ books on English curriculum

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Some books being studied by Junior Cert and Leaving Cert English students feature “disturbing and sick content” and material that is “clearly unsuitable for minors”, complainants have told the Department of Education.

The department has received more than 40 complaints on the issue in recent months, with one email to Minister Norma Foley describing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as “nothing but sadistic, upsetting and of no moral learning or value to students”.

The acclaimed dystopian novel is based in a patriarchal totalitarian state where women, or handmaids, are forced to produce children for commanders.

One “concerned parent” said they were “perturbed” that their teenager was studying the novel Room by Irish author Emma Donoghue.

‘Questionable’

They said many of the topics in the book were “questionable” and that greater consideration should have been given before the book was “forced upon sensitive people in this day and age”. The Booker-shortlisted story is told from the perspective of a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother.

The emails, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, were from parents, one of whom said they were “appealing to and begging” the department to change the curriculum.

One parent expressed “shock and concern” about the prescribed reading lists, citing a perceived “lack of vigilance regarding the age appropriateness” of some books. “The material is offensive, abhorrent and clearly unsuitable for minors,” they said.

The curriculum could “only be described as the sexualisation and desensitising of our children… there needs to be an investigation into this whole sordid affair”, another complaint said.

‘Enslaving’

One person said the book list was “enslaving” students to “abominable ungodly content”, while another sarcastically suggested there was “nothing to stop” Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestselling explicit erotic romance novel, being added.

Some emails were directed towards Ms Foley personally, and called for her to be fired and “held directly responsible”. The department’s response stated that the curriculum at all levels was considered to be for all learners “regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or orientation”.

It said it was important that each book was viewed “in its entirety rather than being reduced to particular sections which may be especially controversial”, and that the texts had “strong literary pedigrees” and featured on curricula internationally.

There were also several emails sent to the department in defence of the curriculum, predominantly from students.

The text-list working groups for each subject, convened by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, are comprised of teachers, third-level lecturers, staff from relevant support agencies and experts in children’s and young adult literature. The curriculum did not change this year though the Minister said it would be reviewed in the coming months.


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