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Relax in flax: Linen will breathe new life into your home

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Nubbly and naturally crumpled, linen has always had certain appeal, and now it’s back in a big way. 

High Street stores, including Zara and H&M, are bursting with linen products, from curtains to cushions, tablecloths to tea towels.

The fabric adds depth and texture to an interior, as well as a natural element to a decor scheme.

Material gains: Flint grey bed linen. The fabric adds depth and texture to an interior, as well as a natural element to a decor scheme

Material gains: Flint grey bed linen. The fabric adds depth and texture to an interior, as well as a natural element to a decor scheme

It also comes with a feelgood factor that has nothing to do with its looks; linen’s sustainability credentials are top-notch as it comes from renewable source the flax plant.

Linen gets softer with time and wear and will last for ever, so it’s a good investment.

‘It’s the relaxed nature and beauty of linen that makes it so popular,’ says Emma Deterding of Kelling Designs. 

‘It offers effortless style and the natural texture makes an eye-catching, tactile statement. However you introduce linen into your home, you’ll be met with beauty, texture, cosiness and more importantly, longevity.’

Here’s how you can add the soft touch.

Soft seating

Bringing a linen sofa or armchair into your main sitting room will set the tone for the whole house. 

Not only do the muted tones and fibres of linen make for a versatile choice year round, the fabric’s robust qualities mean it’s perfect for furniture used daily by the family; wriggly kids included.

Hot seat: The Phil armchair with eye-catching linen flashes on the back, £1,800

Hot seat: The Phil armchair with eye-catching linen flashes on the back, £1,800

At The White Company all linen sofas, armchairs, love seats and bed frames are woven in Lancashire by the suppliers of Ian Mankin textiles. 

Try the Earlsfield natural linen union love seat (£1,600, The White Company). Those ever loyal to grey will be drawn to the Truman grey linen sofa at Andrew Martin (£3,990).

For a more colourful take, you can plump for a patterned linen on the back of an armchair as a contrasting fabric for the front and arms to make a statement piece.

Try the studded Phil chair with eye-catching linen flashes on the back (from £1,500, KD Loves).

Instead of splashing out on new furniture, you can simply add accessories.

Try the sunflower linen cushion at Graham & Green (£60), or the cheerful cushion covers at Zara Home (from £11.99). And add a plant-dyed, handwoven linen throw from H&M Home’s new collection For the Love of Craft (£49.99).

Beautiful bedding

Linen has long and natural fibres that ensure body temperature regulation during the night with its breathability and high absorbency. 

That means it keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. And with every wash, it softens.

What’s more, linen sheets are low maintenance as the fabric has a naturally crumpled look, so can be left to dry naturally. Happily this means you don’t need to go anywhere near the ironing board.

‘When buying linen bedding, look for high-quality options that are made without any harsh chemicals or toxins,’ says Jonathan Attwood, founder of Scooms.

‘It is important to ensure your linen is as natural as possible as it will help you to sleep better and will also help with any allergies.’

At Scooms, sustainable and eco-friendly French flax is used to make linen bedding, produced in small batches in a family-owned mill in Portugal.

It comes with the Oeko-tex Standard 100 kitemark, which certifies it has been made without harmful chemicals or toxins (from £40).

If the crumpled look isn’t for you, choose a linen blend. At John Lewis, the Mother of Pearl range features elegant designs on European linen mixed with organic cotton in earthy tones, cream or tan (from £125).

A sustainable bedding collection — Kara Hemp — launched earlier this year at The White Company blends Belgian and French linen with hemp to create a luxuriously soft fabric with the perfect weight and drape, (from £40).

Dazzling dining

Add some vibrance to your table with bright runners, placemats and napkins.

Check out the Lario collection at Designers Guild for colours such as azure blue and coral among many others that are perfect for mixing and matching (from £27.60).

Linen lighting

Seek out bold linen light shades to add some serious flashes of colour to any room. Pooky has a range of delightful designs.

Try the empire gathered shade in linen ikat which comes in orange, teal and eau de Nil (from £73, Pooky).

If you’re feeling brave, go for the stonewashed linen shade in flame (£79). Head to Dunelm for a selection of budget-friendly options such as the Fernely oval ochre shade (£35).

Windows that wow

Linen curtains and blinds will keep a light and airy feel. Lighter, muted colours will brighten a room while bold colours make a feature of your window. 

Roman blinds at Loaf come in beautiful tones from inky blue to burnt umber (from £285).

What your home really needs is a… storage bench 

Some people are baffled by the new fashion for a bench placed at the end of a bed, thinking it is one piece of furniture too many.

But they are mistaken. Your home needs this item because it makes your bedroom look like a five-star hotel suite and provides storage. 

The summer sales provide a chance to pick up a bench for less. 

Practical and stylish: The Asare bench from Made.com is down from £199 to £169

Practical and stylish: The Asare bench from Made.com is down from £199 to £169

At Made.com, you can choose between three styles in a variety of shades: the Abel is reduced from £199 to £159 and the Asare is down from £199 to £169. 

The Roscoe is £179 from £229 (made.com). Maisons du Monde has the Oliver at £164.

The £199 Stocksund from IKEA would store sheets and duvet covers. 

And OKA has the deluxe £595 Nott bench, named after the Norse goddess of the night.    

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Property battle of the Nobel Prize winners on Zoopla

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When you’re wandering the streets of Britain, often you’ll spot circular blue plaques on the exterior of properties highlighting the potential historic significance and links to a famous person of the past.  

While these may not increase the value of a property, it does add creditability in terms of authenticating its history.

This can be of huge interest among some buyers, particularly overseas buyers – although some wealthy buyers prefer to be more discrete and not run the risk of having tourists flock to their front door steps to take a photo. 

We have picked two impressive blue plaque properties with links to Nobel Prize winners and seven figure price tags in our latest property battle series and ask: If you had deep pockets, which one would you choose? 

We pick two impressive homes with blue plaques and seven figure asking prices, and ask which one would choose to live in?

We pick two impressive homes with blue plaques and seven figure asking prices, and ask which one would choose to live in?

Poll

Which would you choose

  • (Left) Birmingham house where Sir Austen Chamberlain was born 45 votes
  • (Right) London house where Rabindranath Tagore lived 21 votes

Guy Meacock, buying agency Prime Purchase, said: ‘Provenance is great when it comes to property and a blue plaque is a nice to have. 

‘But you can get some unwelcome attention, particularly on garden squares and some of the swishier streets in the capital where buyers would prefer to be discreet.

‘If you pin a badge on the side of the house saying John Lennon lived here, you could end up on the tourist trail with an altar by the front door and people staring through the window, wanting a tour. 

Many high-net-worth buyers don’t want to draw that sort of attention to themselves.’

The two blue plaque homes we have picked include one where where Sir Austen Chamberlain was born. It is in Birmingham and it has a price tag of £1.75million.

The second house is where Indian writer and poet Rabindranath Tagore lived and it is being sold for £2,699,500.

Five-bed detached house in Birmingham – £1.75m

This Grade II listed property dates back to 1855 and is currently on the market for £1,750,000 via estate agents Robert Powell

This Grade II listed property dates back to 1855 and is currently on the market for £1,750,000 via estate agents Robert Powell

The property is called Giles House and has a blue plaque on the front that reveals that Sir Austen Chamberlain was born there

The property is called Giles House and has a blue plaque on the front that reveals that Sir Austen Chamberlain was born there

This Grade II listed property dates back to 1855 and is today accessed via electronic gates.

It is called Giles House and a blue plaque on the front shows the name Sir Austen Chamberlain.

The former leader of the Conservative Party, Foreign Secretary, and older half brother of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was born at the house in 1863.

Sir Austen shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 1925 with the American Charles Dawes for his role in negotiating the Locarno Pact, aimed at preventing war between France and Germany.

The house has a large drawing room with a grand fireplace surround, arched windows and enough space for a grand piano

The house has a large drawing room with a grand fireplace surround, arched windows and enough space for a grand piano

At the rear of the property, there is a mature walled garden with a lawn area and a separate patio for outside dining

At the rear of the property, there is a mature walled garden with a lawn area and a separate patio for outside dining

The grand property has five bedrooms, including this one that boasts a fireplace and room for a separate sitting area

The grand property has five bedrooms, including this one that boasts a fireplace and room for a separate sitting area

The five-bedroom detached home is currently on the market for £1,750,000 via estate agents Robert Powell.

It has arched ground floor windows, an ornate corrugated iron entrance porch and a panelled front door.

Daniel Copley, of Zoopla, said: ‘This opulent family home has many sought after features including a mature walled garden with a terrace for entertaining family and friends, as well as five spacious bedrooms and plenty of natural light.

‘Five Ways train station, which has a journey time to Birmingham New Street of just four minutes, is also a short walk away.’

Three-bed terrace in London – £2.7m

This Grade II listed Victorian property in London is surrounded by Hampstead Heath and has an asking price of £2,699,500

This Grade II listed Victorian property in London is surrounded by Hampstead Heath and has an asking price of £2,699,500

The property has a blue plaque recording the residence of Rabindranath Tagore in 1912, one of the most influential figures in Indian literature and culture who won the Nobel Prize for Literature

The property has a blue plaque recording the residence of Rabindranath Tagore in 1912, one of the most influential figures in Indian literature and culture who won the Nobel Prize for Literature

This Grade II listed Victorian property in London is surrounded by Hampstead Heath and has an asking price of £2,699,500.

It dates back to around 1863 and while it has been refurbished, advice has been sought about extending at the rear of the house to create a conservatory and dining room.

The property has a blue plaque recording the residence of Rabindranath Tagore in 1912, one of the most influential figures in Indian literature and culture who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Inside, there is a modern kitchen with black marble worktops, wooden flooring and a five-door Aga oven

Inside, there is a modern kitchen with black marble worktops, wooden flooring and a five-door Aga oven

The end of terrace property has three bedrooms and is is surrounded by Hampstead Heath in London

The end of terrace property has three bedrooms and is is surrounded by Hampstead Heath in London

Philip Green, of estate agents Goldschmidt & Howland, which is handling the sale, said: ‘This property’s brilliant location and spacious interior make it the perfect home for a growing family.

‘Hampstead is often nicknamed ‘Pramstead’ due to the many families living in the area and the wide range of excellent primary and secondary schools, both state and private, nearby. 

‘Aside from that, Hampstead Heath is a stone’s throw away, there are great transport connections and friendly Hampstead village has many boutique shops, cafes and restaurants.’

One of the bedrooms has two windows and a door with a staircase leading to a roof terrace with rooftop views

One of the bedrooms has two windows and a door with a staircase leading to a roof terrace with rooftop views

The centre of desirable Hampstead Village is nearby, with its array of shops, cafes, restaurants

The centre of desirable Hampstead Village is nearby, with its array of shops, cafes, restaurants

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Teenager arrested after car driven through Co Down parade, injuring two

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A teenager has been arrested after two men suffered minor injuries when a car was driven through a band parade in Co Down.

A 16-year-old has been arrested over a number of alleged driving offences and suspected common assault.

Police said a black Seat Leon failed to stop for officers and drove into the parade in the Newry Street area of Rathfriland.

The incident was reported to police at around 8.40pm on Friday.

Video of the incident shows the car driving towards the group before it mounts the footpath.

People can be heard shouting at the car to stop but it left the area at speed.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district chief inspector Barney O’Connor said: “Last night, a black Seat Leon failed to stop, a number of times, for police who were on duty in connection with a band parade in Rathfriland.

“This vehicle then drove into the parade as it made its way up Newry Street.

“One man aged in his 40s and one man aged in his 30s received minor injuries following the incident.

“The male has been arrested on suspicion of six counts of dangerous driving, six counts for failing to stop for police, aggravated taking and driving away, disqualified driving, no insurance and three counts of failing to stop and report and remain at an injury road traffic collision.

“He was also arrested on suspicion of two counts of common assault and other related offences. He remains in police custody at this time.

‘Utterly reckless’

“At this stage, we are not investigating a sectarian hate crime motive in relation to this incident.

“Our officers are continuing to robustly investigate the circumstances of this incident.

“Officers have already spoken to a number of those present and I know this has been alarming for all those involved.

“I would like to thank those in the community and those involved from the band, who have already come forward, for their cooperation and assistance.”

Alliance councillor for the area Eoin Tennyson said: “Shocking reports from Rathfriland that a car drove through two marching bands last night.

“Utterly reckless and disgraceful behaviour. Thankfully no-one was seriously injured or killed.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “There is palpable anger across the unionist community following last night’s outrageous incident in Rathfriland in which a car was driven into two bands.

“This is entirely understandable as we could very well be waking up to news of many people injured or worse.

“The shocking behaviour captured on film needs to result in a robust PSNI investigation and arrests.” – PA

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Floating assets: Static homes on water are the new des res

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Living on a narrowboat or barge might be a dream for many, but the practicalities can be daunting; filling up water tanks with a hose, having to take the boat off to pump out and running out of electricity.

But it’s now possible to buy a modern static houseboat, which is just like living in a flat on water with the advantage of a beautiful location and being cheaper than a home on dry land.

Caroline Clark, 55, bought a luxurious 45 ft by 16 ft floating home from Prestige for £230,000 and is waiting to move in next month. 

Tranquil: Caroline Clark and her dog Aggie on their Prestige floating home at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford

Tranquil: Caroline Clark and her dog Aggie on their Prestige floating home at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford

After she sold her bungalow in a village just outside Bedford, she put the deposit down and worked out with Prestige exactly what she wanted for her home: a study rather than a second bedroom, and a separate bathroom and walk-in wardrobe instead of an en suite.

Since April, she’s been living in the showhome at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford, where there will eventually be 12 houseboats.

Caroline had frequently walked round the back of the marina and seen all the boats moored there and thought they seemed appealing. 

So, when idly looking for properties for sale, she saw the floating homes advertised on Rightmove and couldn’t believe it.

‘I sent the link to my parents saying I’m tempted by this, then went to see it and immediately fell in love with the whole place.

I remembered going to Amsterdam in the past and seeing the houseboats on the canal and thinking what a fantastic way of life, but never imagining that I could live like this in Bedford,’ she says.

She hadn’t thought about living on a boat before as she didn’t want all the hassle involved and the potential cold in winter.

‘But these houseboats give you all the benefit of a boat, in fact with much better views out of the French doors, as well as the luxury of central heating, sewerage and running water from the mains.

‘As I live on my own, apart from with Aggie my rescue dog, those things are important.’

Caroline says she can walk into the centre of town in 20 minutes, swim in the river and she’s bought a big Canadian kayak.

‘You start doing different activities when you live on the water. It’s very sociable here, too. So far, there are four other boats on my pontoon and the owners are all in their 50s/60s.’

But it’s not that cheap to live on.

‘You can’t get a mortgage and insurance is quite expensive as if anything goes wrong, you have to pay for salvage. 

‘I pay about £900 a year and £3,000 in annual mooring fees, which includes water and sewage,’ she says. ‘But it would take a lot to tempt me away from here. 

‘There is a lovely tranquillity about this place and you feel connected to nature. It’s like a little haven in Bedford, tucked away, and it feels magical to be part of it.’

Nine similar floating homes are also available at Sawley Marina in Nottinghamshire, priced from £179,000, prestigehomeseeker.com.

Richard Homewood, of River Pod Houseboats, has been making bespoke floating homes for more than four years. 

Based in Kent, he delivers them on a low loader lorry all over the UK and these environmentally friendly houseboats have been bought by people as young as 22 and as old as 80, who all want a slightly different way of life on the water.

‘All our boats are on mains water and plug into mains electric. Sewage can either be pumped out every six months, plumbed into mains drainage or if someone chooses to have a Klargester system installed, the dirty water is treated and sanitised before going back into a river or into a holding tank. Then it only needs to be pumped out every one to two years,’ says Richard.

A couple of these homes have been bought for use as an Airbnb.

Tara and Quentin Branson, who are commercial builders, live near Allington Lock on the River Medway, Kent.

They bought The Lady Florence, which is moored alongside their land for £100,000 and have been surprised how much interest they have had in it.

‘We’ve used it a bit, it’s so beautiful on the river and a step away from our hectic life, but it’s fully booked through August.’

And they are so pleased with their investment, they are thinking of buying another. One, two and three-bedroom River Pods start from £68,000, theriverpodcompany.co.uk.

One problem to be aware of when buying a houseboat is finding a suitable mooring, which can be difficult. So, if you can find a houseboat that already has a ‘home’, then that should really float your boat.

On the market… and on the water

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