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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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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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