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How concrete is cementing a trendy new reputation in our homes

Banish any images of concrete tumbling inside a mixer ready to be poured. Industry’s most useful material is now enjoying a dramatic — and surprisingly colourful — reinvention.

Architects have long appreciated its unfussy aesthetic — Rome’s 1,900-year-old Pantheon was created from an early version — and the Brutalist movement used concrete for monolithic buildings in the 1960s.

The cement, aggregate and water mix is gloriously tactile when set — and, if polished, cool to the touch and bowling ball-smooth.

True grit: A concrete kitchen island. If polished, concrete is cool to the touch and bowling ball-smooth

True grit: A concrete kitchen island. If polished, concrete is cool to the touch and bowling ball-smooth

The downsides? Concrete is heavy and, in its raw form, has the most gloomy of hues.

But thanks to a handful of British companies it’s set to become the material of the year, and used to create statement interior pieces in a rainbow of bold colours.

Tim Bayes is founder of Kast, which sells elegant, high-end basins in 28 eye-popping shades. After art college in the UK, Bayes began experimenting, mixing concrete in his South London back garden before placing an ad in Elle Decoration magazine offering bespoke products.

More than two decades on, Kast focuses solely on sculptural sinks, often with an Art Deco slant, that are light years away from traditional rough, grey concrete.

On-trend earthy tones such as Wheat, Ember and Brick are set to be 2022’s most sought-after shades.

In its most basic form concrete may be cheap, but a painstaking production process puts Kast at the higher end of the market. 

Its least expensive sink, the Terra, costs a wallet-wincing £1,075, although Bayes defends this, saying. ‘They’re all hand-cast.’

Interior designer Harriet Forde, a past president of the British Institute of Interior Design, says concrete is versatile enough to use in every room of the house, in everything from sanitaryware to concrete lamps, tables and planters.

Unique: Kast focuses solely on sculptural sinks, often with an Art Deco slant, that feel light years away from concrete’s trademark hostile look. Prices start at a wallet-wincing £1,075

Unique: Kast focuses solely on sculptural sinks, often with an Art Deco slant, that feel light years away from concrete’s trademark hostile look. Prices start at a wallet-wincing £1,075

Hit the floor

Polished concrete floors bestow a gleaming, minimalist vibe that’s also practical. Nervous about going the whole hog? 

Skim floors with a thin layer of micro-cement instead, it costs about £125 per square metre for a 3mm top surface on stairs, walls and floors — but imitates full concrete perfectly.

And sophisticated printing technology means tiles and even wallpaper can do a fine impression of concrete. 

Forde says: ‘A client has just used large format porcelain tiles in her kitchen; it’s a lot cheaper than pouring a concrete floor.’ Try Mandarin Stone’s porcelain Industry Cement Tiles from £28.80 per sq m. And premium wallpapers can make a striking feature wall.

Heavy duty kitchens

Before you fall head over heels for the idea of a concrete kitchen, remember the material is often prohibitively heavy in larger pieces, so faking it might be more practical.

Laminate work surfaces aping its texture and colour are readily available. Ikea has two shades, retailing at £60 for 2.5 m. Or plump for a table with a micro cement finish. 

‘Micro cement has enabled anything to be covered to look like concrete,’ says Forde. ‘It will instantly create a monolithic industrial look that is lighter in weight.’ Living Concrete’s 2 m concrete-surfaced dining table costs £3,840.

Bolder bathrooms

A colourful concrete basin or pedestal, with trendy satin brass or matt-black taps makes a stand-out piece; and looks great offset by lively wallpaper or encaustic patterned floor tiles. 

Concrete sanitaryware is hardy too; once sealed and with the right maintenance, it should see its 20th birthday and beyond. A Bron concrete basin in Iris from Formed Concrete Basins is priced at £2,400.

Solid set-pieces

Adding a concrete showpiece — such as a coffee table — is one way to embrace the trend without your home looking too industrial.

The high Street — from Primark to Selfridges — is awash with budget-friendly concrete planters, lampshades, clocks and candelabras, often in punchy colours or daubed with metallic paint. Oliver Bonas has a Vico Concrete Lamp for £36 in terracotta.

Savings of the week! Faux plants 

Artiplanto has a 198cm Traveller's palm (pictured) down from £269 to £202

Artiplanto has a 198cm Traveller’s palm (pictured) down from £269 to £202

 By ANNE ASHWORTH

There are just nine days to go until the first day of spring — so why not mark the occasion by adding foliage to your home?

But real greenery can be tricky if you struggle to keep house plants alive.

Luckily, the faux alternative can appear as leafy and glossy as the real thing. And you can save as much as 50 per cent on large pieces at the moment.

At Argos, a 90cm Swiss Cheese plant which previously cost £40 is now £20. 

This plant remains fashionable, but the ficus or weeping fig is fast gaining a following. 

If you want to spend a little more, Homescapes has 120 cm variegated ficus reduced by 11 per cent from £44.99 to £39.99.

Victorian fern-fever was called Pteridomania. If you like them, too, see The Range’s 150cm fern, whose price has been cut by 10 per cent from £80.99 to £72.99.

If palms are your thing, Artiplanto has a 198cm Traveller’s palm down from £269 to £202, a 25 per cent cut. 

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The 11 things that make your garden look tacky, revealed by a top expert – including the flower colour that just screams cheap

A well-maintained garden may be a relaxing retreat – but it can also boost the kerb appeal and even the value of your home.

But, if done the wrong way, efforts to enhance your outside space can leave it looking cheap.

From choosing the wrong plant pots to – counterintuitively – being too tidy, the Mail’s gardening editor looks at the 11 common errors that can cheapen your garden, rather than helping it thrive. 

When tidy is too tidy

Many of us were brought up with strict ideas about well-kept gardens, with lawns neatly mown and weeds all pulled up. But that is no longer the prevailing aesthetic.

Letting go a little and being slightly untidy can lead to a more expensive looking haven. And leaving self-sown plants in summer and seed heads over winter will make your garden look more expensively abundant. Phew!

Wildflower beds with self-sown plants are now the prevailing aesthetic

Wildflower beds with self-sown plants are now the prevailing aesthetic 

Yellow’s not mellow

Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for bright yellow flowers such as daffodils and sunflowers. But such garish flowers must be used in the right context.

Expansive garden beds the colour of a hi-vis vest? It’s a no. Yellow is difficult to match with other colours and should be used sparingly.

The perils of artificial grass

The quickest way to make your garden look cheap is to lay artificial turf. Used widely in sporting venues, fake grass became popular because it doesn’t need to be mowed or watered so is seen as low-maintenance and hard-wearing. But it almost always looks naff.

Plus, the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. It is ruinous for wildlife and adds to global warming by absorbing more radiation than living grass, which acts as a carbon sink. Natural lawns allow rainwater to be soaked up, whereas artificial grass can cause run-off after heavy rainfall leading to flooding.

In hot weather, it can reach dangerous temperatures, especially for pets who might burn their paws. Plus, it only has a lifespan of ten to 20 years, after which time it is difficult to recycle.

 Soulless bare fences

Fences without greenery can make your garden look boxy and cheap. There are plenty of easy climbers you can plant to soften the feel and make your garden look more high-end.

Star Jasmine is a lovely evergreen with pretty white flowers, while climbing hydrangea is good for a shady corner.

If you want privacy, remember evergreen hedges can’t be more than 2m high, according to the High Hedges Act. Instead try planting deciduous silver birch trees with attractive white trunks and green foliage in summer when you are out in the garden.

Don’t settle for plastic furniture

Moulded plastic chairs are unsightly and should be avoided at all costs. Plus, they’re uncomfortable and topple if you lean too far back, or slice into any bare flesh unfortunate enough to touch the seat.

If your budget won’t stretch to buying new wood, rattan or metal alternatives, search local online groups to see if anyone has second hand deck chairs or outdoor dining sets on offer.

If you are willing to buy something preloved and weathered, it can often cost less but look more expensive.

Thin borders, a thing of the past

Narrow flower beds around the edge of a rectangular lawn used to be thought of as the ideal garden design, but these days it just looks scrimping.

Borders should be at least a metre deep to allow for multi-layered planting. Don’t just put them around the perimeter of your garden. Flower beds used to divide up a space add a touch of mystery and look much classier.

Gadgets and gazebos

Barbecues, fire pits, corner sofas, gazebos, over-sized paddling pools – its easy for your outdoor space to become cluttered with so many garden gadgets you can’t move around without tripping over them.

Decide what you really need and use often, then recycle the rest. Or store them away neatly in the shed until you want to use them.

Plastic plant pot horror

It is tricky to keep plants looking good in plastic containers, even the ones that attempt to imitate terracotta.

As well as the lack of sustainability, the trouble with plastic is that unlike materials such as wood and stone, it provides no protection for plants against drying out in summer and freezing in winter, and it is not breathable.

If you do have plastic pots, reuse them for propagating and save your best non-plastic containers for display purposes.

Paving the way to disaster  

Every gardener needs somewhere to sit, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of losing too much of your lawn.

Ideally there should be a ratio of at least two-thirds planting and grass to one-third hard surface. If you are putting in a new patio, consider leaving gaps between the pavers for low plants such as creeping thyme and Mind-Your-Own-Business which will also help with drainage. 

If you want to park your car in your front garden, choose a permeable surface with planting around the edges.

Fly-away greenhouses

I must confess I own one of these mini shelving units covered in a zip-up, see-through plastic smock. But after it fell over outside one too many times in windy weather, despite being tied to the wall, I have brought it in to our lean-to where I now use it as a propagating unit. A pile of overturned seed trays and spilled soil does nothing to add to kerb appeal.

Do away with dead pot plants 

Well-tended container planting can add a cheerful welcome to a garden or balcony, but there is little as off-putting as being greeted by a collection of unidentifiable shrivelled dead plants in pots.

Avoid this by doing your research and choosing plants you love which will encourage you to water and feed them regularly. Having a water butt nearby makes this task much easier.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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The house that Poundland bought: Moated manor complete with a swimming pool and a museum about the budget chain that was owned by late founder Keith Smith goes on the market for £7.75m

A stunning manor that was bought by the late founder of Poundland has gone on the market for £7.75million.

The nine-bed refurbished Jacobean mansion in Claverley, Shropshire has its own swimming pool and features a museum dedicated to the budget chain. 

Keith Smith launched the discount chain in 1990 with his son Steve and together they grew the enterprise to over 70 stores before selling it for £50million in 2002.

Mr Smith, who grew up in nearby Willenhall, bought Ludstone Hall in 1997 with his Poundland profits upon returning to the UK.  He died in 2022, aged 79, after a short battle with cancer and his wife Maureen passed away a few months later.

Now, his son Steve and his siblings are selling his late father’s beloved home for £7.75million. 

Ludstone Hall dates back to Medieval times but the current property was built in 1607 for the Whitmore family. The estate stayed in the family until 1867 and has only had a handful of owners since.

Steve Smith (pictured) at the moated manor home which his parents bought in 1997

Steve Smith (pictured) at the moated manor home which his parents bought in 1997 

The Poundland museum which is located inside Ludstone Hall

The Poundland museum which is located inside Ludstone Hall 

One of the dining rooms in Ludstone Hall which was owned by co-founder of Poundland Keith Smith

One of the dining rooms in Ludstone Hall which was owned by co-founder of Poundland Keith Smith 

The home is now on the market for £7.75million

The home is now on the market for £7.75million

The swimming pool located inside the manor home in Shropshire

The swimming pool located inside the manor home in Shropshire 

Poundland's co-founders Steve and Keith Smith pictured together

Poundland’s co-founders Steve and Keith Smith pictured together

The manor has period features such as mullioned windows, panelled reception hall, stone fireplaces and the remarkable survival of the original lead rainwater goods.

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars. 

A leisure complex at the rear includes the swimming pool with retractable floor, a handmade oak bar, separate dining area and a hot tub under a raised platform.

There is a two-bedroom gate lodge on the grounds and a number of outbuildings, including a coach house that the Smiths converted to create a museum to the history of both the estate and Poundland.

The formal gardens include box hedging, lawns, squash court, the moat, raised terraces, a lake and an orchard.

Steve Smith (pictured) outside his parents' home in Claverley, Shropshire

Steve Smith (pictured) outside his parents’ home in Claverley, Shropshire 

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars

The kitchen area inside the property which has an island and a chandelier

The kitchen area inside the property which has an island and a chandelier 

One of the living rooms in the property which boasts period features

One of the living rooms in the property which boasts period features 

A luxurious main double-bedroom at the home which features a four-poster bed and fireplace

A luxurious main double-bedroom at the home which features a four-poster bed and fireplace

A Poundland store in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

A Poundland store in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

After leaving school, Keith Smith worked as an apprentice draughtsman before running a market stall and the Hooty’s cash & carry in Willenhall, Walsall. 

When his son Steve turned 18 and wanted to launch a business of his own, his father gave him the idea of starting up a shop where everything was £1.

With a £50,000 loan from Keith, the pair co-founded Poundland, with the first shop opening in Burton upon Trent, in Staffordshire.

Steve, 61, said: ‘When my parents came back to the UK they wanted to find a home where they would never want to move from, and they certainly found that at Ludstone.

‘My mum and dad really loved their time at the estate which can be seen in the amount of money they invested in the property – it really is the home that Poundland built.

The home was bought in 1997 by Keith Smith with his Poundland profits

The home was bought in 1997 by Keith Smith with his Poundland profits 

Mr Smith and his wife Maureen spent £7million on a major refurb of the nine bedroom Jacobean mansion

Mr Smith and his wife Maureen spent £7million on a major refurb of the nine bedroom Jacobean mansion

The swimming pool which is located underneath the floor

The swimming pool which is located underneath the floor

A bridge across the moat which surrounds the stunning property in Claverley

A bridge across the moat which surrounds the stunning property in Claverley 

‘One particular investment they made was installing the swimming pool. They wanted to have a big party for the millennium so had one with a retractable floor installed so that the room could also be used to host events.

‘Living locally myself, I have some really happy memories of their time here. I used to bring dad the broken sweets we couldn’t sell and he’d feed them to the cows that he kept in the grounds. The cows were sold to a supermarket chain who said that it was the sweetest meat they’d tasted.

‘We’d also hold charity events and open up the museum to visitors and raised thousands of pounds for local good causes over the years.

‘The property holds so much historic significance, and has only had a handful of owners since it was built. We’re now keen to see the property go to a new family who can make their own memories here.

‘While the Ludstone Hall Estate section of the museum will remain at the property, we’ll also be donating all of the Poundland memorabilia to Poundland so that they can preserve the history of the company.’

Ludstone Hall is being sold by estate agents Fisher German.

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