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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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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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Selling your home? Here’s how to make sure it has kerb appeal by sprucing up outside space

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As anyone who has indulged in the brutal ‘swipe left’ culture of internet dating will testify, you don’t often get a second chance to make a first impression. And the same is true when trying to sell your property.

That’s why what lies at the front of your house — be it lawn, gravel or flagstones — can play a major role in making a sale.

Indeed, having a pleasing ‘shop front’ to snag potential buyers scrolling through listings or even walking past outside can offer leverage to boost the asking price, says Colby Short, CEO of estate agent comparison site getagent.co.uk.

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

‘Homes that offer a front garden carry a 4 per cent property price premium versus those without, and that equates to more than £11,000 in the current market,’ he says.

So what changes can you make to the patch in front of your house to help improve the saleability of the property?

Some alterations are simple, entry-level innovations. For example, even the smallest swatch of grass should be mown and rubbish-free. 

In fact, bins and recycling boxes are often the first thing you see in a front garden, as well as the detritus left by squirrels who have curated bits of dinner from your bags of rubbish. But it’s easy to hide bins away in a box unit.

‘If you’re trying to hide ugly bins, how about building a bin store with a planter on the top, then you can have some gorgeous outdoor succulents and flowering alpines?’ says QVC UK’s gardening expert Michael Perry. 

You can also buy wooden bin stores from outdoor furniture suppliers such as Wayfair (from £125.99).

Meanwhile, hanging baskets outside your front door help to break up a harsh brick wall, says Sean Lade, of Easy Garden Irrigation.

‘Hanging baskets are an excellent choice for adding colour and scent to your front garden and soften the front of your house. They should be installed at eye level —about 5 ft off the ground.’

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

And think about replacing tired fencing or dilapidated brick walls with natural borders, such as Boxwood hedging, which will add visual interest and is also easy to prune throughout the year.

‘If you prefer a cottage garden appearance, then why not train climbing plants to create natural archways around your front door, porch or gate?’ says Deborah Cobb, product manager at builders’ merchants MKM.

‘Raised flower beds are also a clever way to add some natural foliage. If you fill them with evergreen shrubs, then they are an easy-to-look-after and low-maintenance option that will look good all year round.’

In terms of what plants to go for, Nicola Bird, founder of seed subscription service The Floral Project, suggests some annual flowers are perfect for planting at the front of your house if you’re looking to sell. 

‘They include varieties such as cosmos, phlox, zinnias and sweet peas — not only to bring a bright splash of colour to your front garden, but also serve as a great conversation starter with your potential buyers.’

Even if you don’t have a patch of grass in front of your home, there are other fundamentals which will help with the sale, says Jonathan Rolande, professional property buyer at housebuyfast.co.uk.

This includes jet-washing your path. And just before a visit from potential buyers, remove any vehicles, where possible, to help to create an impression of space.

‘Clean the windows, frames and front doors — and clean the house number,’ he says. ‘If the garden is mostly given over to parking, soften the look with pots and planters filled with bright flowers and attractive shrubs.’

 You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy

He adds that if you don’t have a lawn, terracotta planters on the front sills look great with fragrant plants such as lavender and rosemary appealing to the sense of smell, too.

If your front garden is really small, use decorative gravel such as pea shingle or slate chippings, suggests Thomas Goodman, property expert at homeowner and tradesman connection website myjobquote.co.uk.

‘This will give you an attractive, low-maintenance base for topping with a few nice plant pots.

‘Fix anything that’s broken, including gates, fences and walls. These detract from any nice planting and give the impression of a home that’s not properly maintained and is going to need work.’

Colby Short says some items in your garden should be permanently jettisoned to improve the chances of a sale.

‘You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy. The same goes for any large statues or display items, particularly if they are of a political, religious or risque nature.

‘When it comes to potential buyers, you want to present a blank canvas. But that doesn’t mean this canvas can’t look good and add appeal in its own right.’

On the market… with kerb appeal 

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

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Elephant Park expands its retail offer (GB)

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Lendlease has announced the openings of two new spaces at Elephant Park: all-day kitchen and bar RAREBIT; and community garden store The Nunhead Gardener.

 

RAREBIT – the all-day kitchen and evening dining, bar, and grocery store – has opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Elephant Park’s casual dining hub, Sayer Street. The brand-new concept has a menu focusing on British favorites including the Welsh ‘rarebit’, and its grocery stocks a range of independent wines, craft beers, and coffee from East London coffee shop, Climpson & Sons. This selection is complemented by cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, charcuterie from London Smoke & Cure, and produce from Natoora.

 

The Nunhead Gardener is the latest brand to move from one of Lendlease’s meanwhile units into a permanent space at Elephant Park, following the likes of Dima Beautiful, Beza Ethiopian Vegan, and bar and bottle shop The Tap In. The 900ft² unit on Sayer Street stocks a selection of indoor and outdoor plants, as well as specialty gardening tools, seeds, and seasonal scented candles.

 

Guy Thomas, Head of Place Assets at Lendlease, commented: “Both of these openings speak to our core values at Elephant Park, with a commitment to providing our local community with uses that are independent, sustainability-oriented, and unique. The arrival of RAREBIT adds a new cuisine to casual dining hub Sayer Street, and The Nunhead Gardener’s revamped permanent space has created a plant haven that we know local people will love.”

 

Mark Angell and Will Nias, Co-Founders of RAREBIT, said: “RAREBIT is about bringing a modern, fresh concept to people who want top-quality food and drink. Whether that be for grocery shopping or sit-down dining, we are so excited to be welcoming customers through our doors at Elephant Park. It is such a buzzing area, and we are proud to introduce RAREBIT to this diverse and vibrant environment.”

 

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