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Stay home, stay happy: Now’s the time to embrace ‘warm minimalism’ 

Voice Of EU



Sanctuary, workplace and chill zone: our homes have had to dance to several tunes lately. And this isn’t set to change any time soon.

Since we’re likely to spend the next few months locked indoors, it’s a good opportunity to launch a fresh start.

Breathe new life into your home with this year’s biggest trend: warm minimalism — spaces that are free of clutter, but still embody character and warmth. A few tweaks are all that’s needed to find your groove.

Inviting: A sitting room by John Lewis featuring its Reed sideboard, £899 to add an instant injection of warmth and texture

Inviting: A sitting room by John Lewis featuring its Reed sideboard, £899 to add an instant injection of warmth and texture

Softly, softly

Banish thoughts of stark schemes and hard angles; 2021 is all about warmth, embodied by natural finishes such as boucle, cane, sisal, wool and velvets. A palette of soft neutrals from plaster pink to caramel is the order of the day, with green acting as a nod to nature.

‘Creating a space that feels uncluttered yet welcoming is key,’ says Helen Shaw, of paint company Benjamin Moore.

We usually associate simplicity with a sense of ‘less is more’. But new minimalism allows for an element of homeliness to be incorporated into the scheme.

‘When it comes to paint colours, avoid hues with grey-blue undertones, as these can feel cold, whereas yellow or red-based neutrals help to warm a room,’ says Helen.

‘Shades of oatmeal are a wonderful alternative to white without being too overpowering. These tones work especially well with natural woods and linens to add depth.’

The key to this look is to complement soft hues with plenty of texture. Don’t shy away from bold accent colour, too, such as an ebonised dining table, a midnight blue kitchen or monochrome to add weight.

‘Consider heavier textures like wool and cord for soft furnishings such as upholstered pieces or cushions and curtains, and reeded wood and rattan on furniture finishes like tables and consoles,’ says Wil Law, home design stylist at John Lewis & Partners. 

Try its Reed sideboard, £899, for an instant injection of warmth and texture.

Natural look

Look to the natural world for inspiration. Schemes that bring the outside in remain integral.

Touches of greenery bring hints of the outside world in

Touches of greenery bring hints of the outside world in

‘This is not about a return to magnolia, it’s about using soothing tones to create interiors that are smart and inviting,’ says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene.

‘Warm, earthy neutrals are not only pleasing to the eye and soothing for the soul, they also form a beautiful backdrop to simple contemporary furniture and accessories.’

Look to the brand’s gentle Mushroom paint, which has a hint of red oxide for warmth, and neutrals such as Rolling Fog, which provides a mid-tone grey backdrop to materials such as wood, rattan and stone.

‘It’s crucial to add in natural elements – a soft rug underfoot, or a diaphanous drape at a window can truly transform a room,’ says The White Company founder Chrissie Rucker. 

‘Natural materials, such as weathered wood, slubby linen or marbled slate, connect us back to nature and add interest.’

Touches of greenery bring hints of the outside world in. Place large houseplants in corners and smaller varieties clustered on shelves or sideboards for maximum impact. Patch Plants and Conservatory Archives sell unusual varieties.

Personal touch

Pieces that are meaningful create unique interiors.

‘Recently, customers have been investing in coveted, wishlist items to elevate and revive their space,’ says Sabina Miller, head buyer at Heal’s. 

‘Opting for pieces you love, such as a show-stopping four-poster bed or a beautiful dining table, will quickly transform the overall feel of your interiors. Look for quality craftsmanship.’

A slim or sculptural silhouette will add a sense of modernity, creating a natural focal point.

Try the hand-turned pieces by Galvin Brothers, whose scale and finish can often be customised. We love its Bobbin sidetable, from £375, for its modern take on timeless design.

Handmade accessories can also add depth and warmth to a considered space. There’s a range of orb-shaped porcelain vases by Arjan Van Dal, from £130, at The New Craftsmen which come in burnt orange, rust and ochre shades, lending an earthy note to softly minimal schemes.

‘I like the challenge of introducing considered, sustainable pieces of furniture and accessories and taking the time to appreciate the maker or its lineage,’ says interior designer Alice Leigh. 

‘I often opt for a mix, whether handmade, antique or a celebrated modern design. Then I layer in neutral colours, cosy upholstery fabrics, aged leathers, warm woods and woven materials found in jute rugs, baskets and lampshades.’

Don’t forget art. ‘Abstract pieces are key to any minimalistic design,’ says Topology’s Athina Bluff. Take a look at hanging art with warming colours such as rusts, browns, beiges, blacks and creams.’

Combine these elements and you’ll create a nurturing environment perfect for heralding a more optimistic year.

What your home really needs is… new towels

Prices for Next¿s 650 GSM Egyptian cotton line go up to £24 for an extra-large bath sheet

Prices for Next’s 650 GSM Egyptian cotton line go up to £24 for an extra-large bath sheet

The ancient origins of the word towel (dating back to about 500 BC in what is now Germany) indicate that it was a household essential long before the contemporary obsession with personal hygiene.

In today’s testing times, your home needs a towel upgrade to create the feel of a luxe spa in your bathroom. 

Towels with a high GSM (grams per square metre), a measure of weight and absorbency, provide the best experience.

GSM information can be hard to uncover, but The White Company is happy to come clean. 

Its 500 GSM HydroCotton range starts at £16 for a hand towel to £52 for a super-jumbo.

A four-piece set of 650 GSM Egyptian cotton towels in charcoal, pink, silver and white from Fox & Ivy, the upmarket Tesco brand, costs £28. 

Prices for Next’s 650 GSM Egyptian cotton line go up to £24 for an extra-large bath sheet.

Your home may not be a hotel, but with towels like these, it can be the next best thing. 

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Johann van Graan non-committal on prospect of Conor Murray return

Voice Of EU



Johann van Graan was somewhat less than adamant that Conor Murray will make his seasonal re-appearance in their United Rugby Championship (URC) fifth round match away to the Ospreys next Saturday night, which is just two weeks out from the first of Ireland’s November test series, with the All Blacks to follow a week later.

“He might possibly be involved next week,” said the Munster head coach after their latest act of escapology to beat Connacht 20-18 at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

Might possibly?

“We’ll see how the week goes. We’ve taken our time with his recovery, so if he comes through the week then we’ll make a call at the back end of the week whether we’re going to select him or not.”

Van Graan assured us that Murray is not injured.

“No, he’s good. He had non-23 training on Friday so really looking forward to getting him involved.”

Van Graan wore the smile of a relieved man after Connacht had pushed them to the wire with a clever, fired-up all-round display in a spicy derby, during which the lead changed hands five times.

“I think if you look at the table, it’s three Irish teams at the top. Connacht are always such a big team in the interpros and you’ve got to give credit to them. Last season they beat all three of the Irish teams away.

“That’s why the players and the coaches and the supporters, and everybody involved loves an interpro, because that’s what you get. It’s not a classic but for the purist it’s a battle.

“That’s what the game is about and that’s why Irish rugby is in such a good place because they have got four top teams and some very good players across the four teams. That was a grind from our side, and proud of the way we finished that with that try and the conversion,” he said in reference to Diarmuid Barron’s 78th minute try and Joey Carbery’s nerveless conversion.

His counterpart, Andy Friend, was left with immense pride in his team’s performance mixed with acute frustration at their infuriating inconsistency and key mistakes, not least at restart receptions, but also the key decisions that went against his team.

Most notable of these was the failure by TMO Brian MacNeice and referee Chris Busby to spot that Tadhg Beirne was clearly in front of the ball before hacking on Rory Scannell’s crosskick in the build-up to Chris Cloete’s 39th minute try.

“I’ve got to be careful here,” he said when asked if he felt Connacht don’t receive a fair rub of the green from officials. “I’ve been here three and a bit years, mate, and if it’s a 50-50 I rarely see it going our way.

“I know that, but listen we’ve got to keep pushing our limits and making sure that we’re trying to be as squeaky clean as we can with things. I’m just…. to me, that try and the missed offside there – that’s inexcusable. Whether it’s Connacht or somebody else, I don’t know, it’s just inexcusable.”

To compound his frustrations, nor does the URC have channels to go through.

“We don’t have a referees’ manager, so I’m assuming that URC will be looking at that and hopefully something happens to the TMO that missed it. But it doesn’t help us, mate.”

Putting his own team’s errors into perspective, Friend highlighted their lineout pressure, strike plays, kicking and defence.

“On the whole the majority was really good, there’ll always be elements we need to work on. Otherwise we’d be out of a job.”

With next Saturday’s home game against Ulster at the Aviva in mind, Friend said: “What we will use is that we know we’re a good football side.

“We’ve just pushed a good Munster team who haven’t looked like losing a game this year and have played some really good rugby.

“We’ve turned up at their home field, where we beat them last season, knowing full well there was going to be a kick-back and we pushed them all the way to their limits.

“So, we know we’re a good football side. Our blip last week (against the Dragons) was a blip. We just have to make sure we never drop to that again and we keep our standards high.”

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Irish man (24) who drowned in swimming pool in Marbella is named

Voice Of EU



A 24-year-old man who drowned in a swimming pool near Marbella in Spain has been named locally in Co Clare as Irish Defence Forces member Gerard McMahon.

Authorities responded to a distress call at 10.25am on Friday. The alarm was raised by friends who found Mr McMahon lifeless in the pool.

Spanish authorities are treating the death of the holiday maker as a “tragic accident”.

Mr McMahon lived in the Killaloe area of Co Clare. Local priest Fr Jerry O’Brien confirmed he had met the family of the young man and expressed his sympathy on behalf of the community.

Ogonnelloe GAA posted a tribute to Mr McMahon who was well known and liked in the community.

“It is with profound shock and sadness that we learned today of the sudden passing of our young member and friend, Gerard McMahon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, Pat and Carmel, his sister Bríd, and all the McMahon family at this extremely difficult time.”

The club Facebook page posted a picture of Mr McMahon from 2016 when he and his team mates won the Division 3 League.

Scarriff Hurling also paid tribute to Mr McMahon who played for them at juvenile level. “Always with pride, great skill and giving all to the team and club.”

Meanwhile, local Fine Gael councillor Joe Cooney said the family of the young man were in the thoughts and prayers of the community.

Mr McMahon was a Private in the First Infantry Battalion in Renmore Barracks in Galway. St Patrick’s Garrison Church posted a message on Facebook asking for prayers for Mr McMahon and for his “family and comrades”.

A postmortem was expected to take place over the weekend at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga.

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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Don’t waste energy switching

Voice Of EU



For years, Money Mail has urged readers to regularly switch energy supplier.

It wasn’t the most glamorous money-saving tip, but sticking with your existing provider meant you were almost certainly overpaying. 

And the return on this straightforward, mundane chore was lucrative, with households saving hundreds of pounds a year. But for now, you should forget all that.

The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices. And the market remains incredibly volatile, with experts struggling to predict what will happen over the coming months.

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers   

This means suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, are just not able to offer competitive fixed deals.

Some comparison websites are still running an energy switching service, but there are only a handful of tariffs listed. 

And, as we reported last week, some would cost the average household almost £3,000 a year.

So for now, your best course of action is to stay put.

If you are coming to the end of a fixed deal, roll onto your supplier’s standard variable tariff. 

These default deals are protected by the energy watchdog’s price cap — £1,277 a year for the average gas and electricity user — until April 2022. And there are no exit fees, so you are free to switch away the moment better deals return.

For those who signed up to ultra‑cheap deals a year or two ago, there is no getting away from the fact that your bills are going to rise. 

But locking into a new fixed deal now could mean you’re hit with even higher energy costs over the cold winter months.

To avoid adding to any confusion, Money Mail has temporarily removed all energy tariffs from our Best Buys tables. 

But rest assured, we are tracking the market closely and will update you as soon as something changes.

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can't offer competitive fixed deals

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can’t offer competitive fixed deals

Tip top!

While on the topic of rising bills, a big thank you to everyone for their top energy-saving tips after I publicly scolded my husband, Chris, last week.

Money Mail reader Molly Clark suggests leaving the oven open after cooking so not to waste the heat, using candles for softer lighting and ditching the dishwasher in favour of a good old-fashioned washing-up bowl. 

Another reader, Robert, goes a step further and washes his dishes with cold water. 

A small squirt from a 29p bottle of diluted white vinegar along with a dash of washing-up liquid on a little green fabric scouring cloth used in circular motions will ensure they are squeaky-clean, he assures me.

But I was most taken by Julie Priest’s suggestion of a fridge alarm that will go off when the door is left open.

Amazon has one with a ‘repeated siren’ mode — and if that doesn’t teach Chris to close it, I don’t know what will.

But at £21.99, I might stick to nagging for now.

Keep those tips coming!

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix's Squid Game)

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix’s Squid Game)

Need for Netflix

It’s fascinating to see how our spending priorities have changed since the pandemic.

Take the popular streaming service Netflix. Once a luxury, a monthly subscription is now considered essential, according to a report by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association published yesterday. 

One pensioner commented that their partner’s quality of life would just not be the same without it.

Another man from Wales said that he had not realised how important dining out was for ’emotional well-being’.

But as the cost of living soars, experts fear people could cut back on pension saving. With many already failing to put aside enough for the lifestyle they want in retirement, this could prove disastrous.

So if you have spare cash leftover at the end of the month, consider using it to give your future self a better life.

It could be me…

Inspired by a colleague, I bought my first ever EuroMillions lottery ticket last Friday. It was a rollover with a juicy £174million jackpot, and I was feeling lucky.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. But what fun I had daydreaming about what I’d do with such a windfall. 

And since no one scooped the prize money, I figured there was no harm in having one more go in last night’s record £184million draw. Who knows, I could be a multi-millionaire by the time you read this.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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