Table of Contents
Paint everything the same colour
White skirting shows marks and scuffs. Instead, paint walls and woodwork the same colour, even ceilings if you’re feeling bold. With enough light it gives the room a rich depth, with fewer lines and edges breaking up the space, making for a more streamlined look. This creates a cosy feel in smaller areas, and with no contrasts to distract the eye, it creates a connected look in larger spaces. It can also emphasise the architectural detailing of a room and allow furnishings, pictures and decorative items to sing. We paint the walls in an emulsion and woodwork in an eggshell or a satin finish.
Painter Sarah Cockings; purebrilliantpainting.com
Don’t hang art
I have been increasingly propping up artworks rather than hanging them. I have one propped up on the mantelpiece, another on a bookshelf, even a framed painting on top of the fridge. I’ve also built very narrow shelves with a little lip on them so artworks can be propped up on them. I like the informality.
Albert Hill, co-founder of The Modern House and Inigo; themodernhouse.com
Rehang your doors
The number of people who live with doors that don’t shut properly is surprising. It’s easy to replace a like-for-like door latch: if your hinges are loose, remove the door and stuff the existing screw holes in the frame with wood glue and matchsticks to help the screws fit tightly in the holes. Hammer the matchsticks in and the ends will snap off. Once dry, rehang the door and the screws will grip better. With the hinges more tightly screwed in, the door will fit better. I would also advise investing in a relatively powerful battery drill: you’ll be surprised how often it will come in handy.
Philippa Skinner, carpenter; pskinnercarpentry.weebly.com
Change your lightbulbs
Change all your lightbulbs to LED. It’s fairly simple to do and has huge benefits in terms of bills and being greener and safer. A standard 60W halogen bulb costs about 2p an hour to run, whereas a standard LED 5W bulb costs about 0.17p an hour. They are safer because they don’t get as hot, so there’s less chance of a fire. Also, buy automatic PIR (passive infrared) battery-operated lights and place them in the fuse board so if the power trips out you still have light. They’re motion-sensor and stick-on, so easy to use – try Argos’s Vigilamp LED sensor light, for £18.
Laurence Lane, electrician; lane-electrical.com
Have one joyful thing in every room
Rather than worrying about trends, have something in every room that makes you happy and reminds you of good times, whether that’s photographs, books, things you’ve been given or things you’ve picked up on your travels. I had pictures printed off my phone on to fridge magnets – memories of the kids and holidays we’ve been on. Little things like this make a big difference.
Emily Wheeler, stylist and founder of Furnishing Futures, a charity that furnishes the homes of domestic abuse survivors; emilywheeler.co.uk
Locate your stopcock
Ensure you know where your stopcock is and check your water toby (the outside stop valve) in the street is clear. If it’s blocked, fill in a form on your local water board website and they will clear it. You need to be able to switch your water off should a pipe burst. If you can’t switch it off in the house, the toby is the next best thing but often they get filled with grit and silt. I switch off my water before going on holiday, having been to jobs where people came back to Niagara Falls. Get a Surestop stopcock – it switches the water off at the touch of a button.
Master plumber and lecturer Jimmy Hendry; inverness.uhi.ac.uk
Buff your taps
First, clean taps, sinks and shiny areas thoroughly with soap and water, then sanitise with a kitchen spray or limescale remover and dry with a simple microfibre cloth – then buff to a shine with furniture polish. Not only will this make them shiny and leave them smelling nice, it will also leave a slight film, which will prevent limescale and soap scum buildups.
Cleaners Lynsey Joseph and Sam Brady; sparklingsisters.co.uk
Start tiling in the middle
To ensure your tiling – in a bathroom or kitchen – is as symmetrical as possible, the last tiles on both ends of the wall should be a good size, rather than having to be cut very small, which looks messy. Measure the whole area vertically and horizontally to pinpoint your centre. Then, for brick bond tiles, sometimes known as metro tiles (the ones that look like bricks), measure a tile and mark its centre, use that mark against the centre point on the wall, then move the tile across, marking and including a 2mm gap each time (for the grout joint) to see where your tiles will finish. If the last tile will be a sliver of a cut, measure from the middle again, but place the edge of the tile against the centre point on the wall and you should finish with a better size piece of tile at the edge. For herringbone or chevron tiles, which sit at a 45 degree angle, the centre point is half the width of the tile rather than half the length. Use a laser to keep things level.
Tiler Tony Felgate; @tf_tiling
Make furniture eye-catching
For every three pieces of furniture, make sure one is quirky or has an iconic design. It doesn’t need to be an expensive designer piece: it can be an armchair with a bright colour or fabric, a vintage chest of drawers or even a good quality replica chair. The trick is to bring character not only through decorative items but also with functional furniture.
Architect and curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado; gonzaloherrero.eu
Consider the brightness of your lights
There are many different “temperatures” of white light, and differences are jarring to the eye – use the same colour-temperature lightbulbs throughout a room. Warmer white is more relaxing, while cooler whites enhance productivity. 6000K is similar to daylight at midday, while 2000K is a warm yellow/orange similar to sunset, firelight or candlelight. I recommend extra-warm white (2700K) for living and bedrooms, warm white (3000K) for kitchens and natural/cool white (4000K) for home offices.
Lighting designer and electrician Eleanor Bell; eleanorbell.co.uk
Bring plants closer in
Try to achieve a sense of being among plants by bringing them closer to your house. If you have a patio that meets a lawn, create a bed along the join so you see plants from the house, not just patio and grass. Herbs are brilliant: you can appreciate the scent, they’re easy to grab for cooking and are mostly evergreen. In small spaces use height: plant tall, airy plants such as Verbena bonariensis or fennel in pots. They’re also see-through so they don’t block precious views.
Jane Porter, gardener and gold medal winner at Chelsea flower show 2022; @plantyjane
Plant for colour, scent and hope
A few simple things bring healing and happiness. First, colour – choose plants that have restful and calming colours (mauve and white salvia) and lift the spirits (yellow yarrow, nasturtiums and marigolds). Use fragrance: plant herbs such as rosemary, mint and thyme, as well as sweet peas and shrubs including lilac and daphne. Start things in autumn to give signs of hope through winter: crocus, daffodils, tulips, primroses and later pansies. Create a comfortable place to sit quietly and look at the sky and the colours of the flowers, listen to the birds, breathe and relax.”
Vicar Fr Steve Hall of St Mary’s therapeutic garden, London; lewishamparish.com/garden
Trust your bugs
I haven’t used a single pesticide in five years, and our flowers, fruit, herbs and veg grow in abundance. Left alone, in time a garden’s ecosystem balances out to look after itself, as I’ve proved in our courtyard in London and allotment in Yorkshire. Aphids are food for ladybirds and hoverflies, which are in turn food for small birds. Slugs and snails feed frogs, toads and the amber list song thrush, which smashes snail shells on stones and patios. In smaller spaces, grow slug- resistant plants such as brunnera, as well as flowers like astrantia. Vulnerable veg are best grown away from hedges and walls where slugs and snails hide.
Landscape designer Jack Wallington; jackwallington.com