Traditional wooden toys are back in fashion

George Home is reporting a huge growth in sales of traditional wooden toys in the run up to Christmas

New research from high street hero George Home reveals that online searches of wooden toys are up 250 per cent year-on-year, far outnumbering their plastic counterparts.

Forget gadgets and gizmos, this Christmas Santa’s list is far more likely to be filled with traditional wooden toys as parents encourage children to play the old fashioned way.

Christmas is just around the corner! Check out our Best Christmas advent calendars to make the most of the countdown

‘In a market dominated by technology and plastic toys, the George Home wooden collection encourages traditional child play. Wooden toys are designed for entertaining as well as educating young minds,’ explains George Home Buying manager Gemma Begin. ‘Wooden toys are known to develop skills, imaginations and encourage role play whilst incorporating real life skills. They also allow for children to play in groups or on their own, creating a calming, peaceful atmosphere compared with noisy, battery-operated toys.’

The dream wooden toy kitchen…

Feed their imaginations with a fully equipped toy kitchen. This super stylish piece beautifully emanates the real thing – just look at the on-trend brass details and the metro tiles! The design shows a move on from the classic vintage look most associated with playtime kitchens; it’s a style conscious update for the modern day – in cool grey and trendy mint green.

Buy now: Kitchen with Washing Machine, £65

wooden-toys-asda-George-Home-Deluxe-Kitchen
Buy now: Wooden Deluxe Kitchen, £40

How does it compare on price? Known for great value, George Home doesn’t disappoint, with this smaller version priced at £40 compared to similar toy kitchens on sale for £93 at John Lewis, £59 at Ikea and £110 at Great little Trading Company.

Related: Create the kitchen of your dreams with these top trends for 2017

wooden-toys-George-Home-Washing-machine

Doing the laundry has never looked so appealing thanks to this charming washing machine design complete with pull out detergent drawer, moveable dials, working door and ironing station on the side.

Buy now: Washing machine coming soon…

Looking to update a child’s playroom? Be inspired by these Playroom ideas everyone will love

Wooden-toys-Asda-George-Home-Wooden-Fridge

In true representation of the modern fridge, this toy design features an inbuilt drinks dispenser and chalkboard shopping list – totally cool, don’t you think?

Buy now: Free-standing fridge coming soon…

To keep play safe, all the wooden toys in this range are easy to assemble and painted in toy safe paint.

Traditional wooden toys are back in fashion

Make your home Insta-perfect: 5 secrets to take amazing interiors photos

Discover how to take pictures that have the Instagram wow-factor with the top tips that stylist Sophie Brown and photographer Chio Fernandez shared at the first Livingetc and Fujifilm interior photography masterclass

In Partnership with Fujifilm

 

Let your picture tell a story

A good picture starts in your head. “Interiors photography is storytelling,” says Sophie. “Your images will only work if you have a story to tell and a clear idea of who you are telling it to.”

 

Create a mood to match your story

Each interiors story calls for a different angle or styling props that help you deliver your message. “Think about your story,” says Sophie. “If I wanted a living room shot to feel cosy and moody, I’d light the fire, I’d like a book turned upside down like someone just got off the chair and I’d turn down the lights to get more glow. But if I wanted this to be about coffee in the morning, I might take the cushion off the chair, take the lamp and logs away and put fresh flowers in.”

When in doubt, go portrait

You need to pick the right format for your photo story as styling for a landscape shot is very different from styling for a portrait shot. As a rule, Chio advises to go for portrait. “That’s because this format works best in magazines and on Instagram. She also recommends always leaving a little extra space in your picture. “You don’t want to have the perfect photo already because then you are not going to be able to crop it in any way. Capture everything now and if something bothers you, you can always cut it later.”

Channel the light

Chio suggests aiming to have natural light in your images. If your room is dark, using a good camera and selecting an aperture (the setting that determines how open the diaphragm of your camera lens will be) that is large enough to allow in a lot of light while keeping the main elements of your image in focus. Beware that there is a trade-off between aperture and depth of field.

 

Don’t forget to use the right camera

Making the most of light is just one of the reasons Chio and Sophie suggest using a good camera rather than a phone when photographing interiors. “Camera photos are of much higher quality so cropping them is not a problem, whereas if you crop a phone picture, it may become pixelated or lose focus,” Sophie explains. Chio particularly likes the new Fujifilm X-E3 because it combines the quality of a camera with the immediacy of the phone. “It has Bluetooth and it connects directly to your smartphone, so any image you take is immediately available to share directly to Instagram or on your blog.”

 

Photography by Chio Fernández

Make your home Insta-perfect: 5 secrets to take amazing interiors photos

7 reasons we still (and always will) love marble

There are plenty of jaw-droppingly beautiful ways to use marble in the home – our love affair with this luxurious material shows no signs of waning

From book-matched to carrara, there are many different types of marble – and let’s face it, pretty much all of them are stunningly beautiful and luxurious. From the traditional marble fireplaces found in Georgian homes, to the contemporary marble bathrooms so popular today, there are many amazing iterations of this trend (trust us, it’s bang on trend). Here at Ideal Home, we’re huge fans of this durable, yet gorgeous stone. Here’s just a few reasons why we’ll always love marble…

1. Book matching is simply stunning

Image credit: Paul Raeside

This stunning effect of book matching is achieved when a block of veined marble is cut into slabs (similar to a loaf of bread being cut into slices). The effect is simple stunning. We’re big fans of veined marble – the dark, dramatic versions are the best. Here, a contemporary bathroom has been decked out with huge slabs of book matched marble and the results are incredible.

2. It works well in the kitchen

marble-kitchen-island-love-marble

Image credit: Colin Poole

Marble is heat resistant so is ideal for kitchens. The only problem is that it can be porus (so liquids such as oil and lemon juice can stain it) although if sealed properly this shouldn’t be a problem. This beautiful island unit has been covered in a beautiful slab of calacatta marble and we think it looks downright gorgeous.

Kitchen in need of a refresh? READ: Clever tricks to make your kitchen look more expensive

3. It looks oh so elegant

marble-bedroom-love-marble

Image credit: Mel Yates

This simple bedroom scheme proves how marble can look effortlessly stylish. The cool grey tone means it works well with modern interiors. Warm wood and textured linen is a great way to warm it up – making it perfect for bedrooms.

4. A marble fireplace always looks luxurious

marble-fireplace-love-marble

Image credit: Colin Poole

Marble has been used as a material in interiors for centuries. It’s resistance to heat has made it the choice for fire surrounds. From Elizabethan to Baroque and Regency to Victorian there are many different styles of marble fireplaces, but one thing is for sure, if you have a marble fire surround in your home consider yourself lucky. They are a thing of beauty.

5. Who doesn’t love the classic chequerboard design?

There are few houses were you can actually have a marble hallway – a glamorous Victorian villa, a striking Georgian townhouse, etc. But if you have one, enjoy. They are incredible (as this picture proves)…

Do you need decorating inspiration? READ: 8 ideas that will help you to become a braver decorator

6. It looks great with brass

marble-and-brass-bathroom

Image credit: Malcolm Menzies

First it was chrome, then it was copper. This season it’s all about brass. The cool grey tone of marble looks great teamed with the strong orange hue of brass. This striking bathroom is the ultimate in sophisticated luxury (and it mixes several new season trends)…

7. There are loads of fun ways to use in your interior scheme

Jaw-droppingly beautiful book matched marble? Check. Ultra cool contemporary statement piece? Check. Yep, this wing-backed chair made from marble ticks just about everything on our wish list.

Will you be adding marble accents to your home?

7 reasons we still (and always will) love marble

Airbnbs most haunted houses to rent at Halloween

These spooky home listings come with gruesome secrets and ghostly legends – book a stay if you dare

With Halloween around the corner, how would you like to experience something paranormal? Whether you’re a sceptic or a true believer, these spine-tingling haunted Airbnbs will offer you a spook-tacular night in a holiday rental sharing with other guests of a ghoolish and ghostly nature…

Love a spooky house? The ultimate haunted house! Artist transforms her home into a menacing monster for Halloween

The Madness Chamber, York, United Kingdom

Set in York, which is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, this apartment is over 600 years old and is cryptically dubbed “The Chamber”. Visitors have noted the spookiness of this atmospheric and wooded apartment, complete with unexplained bumps in the night.

“The flat is very, very old and oozes ye olde character, the ghosts are friendly too and the spooky paraphernalia great fun. You would be mad not to stay here.” -Jason, Brighton UK

Book now: entire flat, 1 bedroom, from £97 per night

The Girl in the Yellow Dress, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Nestled in New Orleans’s Garden District, this Parks-Bowman Mansion has hosted countless guests, But it is also home to a breezy presence described as a young, raven-haired girl wearing a long yellow dress. After moving into the home in 2005, host Adrienne Parks first learned of the hauntings through neighbourhood chatter, but soon learned that the mystery girl was a benign, helpful roommate – although no one has yet solved the mystery of why she still roams the property – or what exactly she is searching for.

“This is our go-to place in New Orleans. The location is ideal, and the mansion is perfect – filled to the brim with the whimsical, hysterical, and sometimes perception-shifting.” – Michael, Florida

Book now: private room in house, 1 bedroom, from £90 per night

The Soldiers’ Asylum, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

This Historic Civil War Farm House looks like the perfect place to fish, pick wildflowers and laze away a summer day. But just over 150 years ago, the stately stone house was a scene of unimaginable anguish thanks to its location in Gettysburg, a battleground for the bloodiest war in U.S. history. After the Civil War ended, 56,000 dead or gravely wounded Confederate soldiers were carried through the town’s main artery. The host didn’t learn about the home’s tortured past until years after moving in, which made certain strange events that had been happening come clearly in to focus…

“Beautiful place, exciting for Civil War history lovers, and rejuvenating for those looking for an escape to the countryside.” – Atticus, Cambridge MA

Book now: entire house, two bedrooms, from £80 per night

Love a patriot look? Americana room ideas

The Lady in Waiting, Piedmont, Italy

At Italy’s Castle “Dal Pozzo” estate, there’s a high tower where sighs still pierce the night, and a murky shadow watches over the grounds. The presence has a name: Barbara. More than 500 years old now, she’s still mending a broken heart. Her lover was a captain named Matteo, dispatched to the castle in 1467 to help the Duke of Milan defend the region as a battle roiled nearby. Despite being promised to another man, true love beckoned. The pair plotted to flee together, but were found out. Matteo was exiled and Barbara’s father locked her in the castle tower, where she slowly wasted away from sheer despair.

Book now: entire house, eight bedrooms, from £3211 per night

Prefer to stay somewhere a little less chilling? Airbnbs for October sun

So, if you think you are brave enough, go on trick or treat yourself!

 

 

Airbnbs most haunted houses to rent at Halloween

Christmas mantelpiece ideas for the festive season

Make your mantelpiece stand out this Christmas with these festive ideas.

Your fireplace or mantelpiece is the perfect feature to decorate for Christmas. It’s a focal point of most living rooms, so it’s the ideal spot for displaying your favourite decorations. Whether you’re planning to dress your home in modern, country or traditional Christmas decor, have a look through these beautiful Christmas mantelpiece decorating ideas for inspiration.

Read more: Christmas hallway decorating ideas to impress your guests

Go glam with blue and gold

Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

Who says Christmas decorations have to look tacky? Opt for an opulent gold and blue scheme, with a variety of golden candle holders and a gold leaf garland adorning your mantelpiece. Continue the colour scheme to your Christmas tree and gift wrap for a particularly sophisticated look.

Hang stockings above the fire

Christmas mantelpiece

Get ready for Santa’s imminent arrival by hang traditional red and white stockings above the fire. Keep them company with some cute robins and some freshly cut ivy.

Create a magical forest scene

Create a magical forest scene

Image credit: James Merrell

Start with multiple layers of paper pine trees and add sparkling silver stars and frosty white foliage. Create a decadent display of candles and tea lights for the warmest and cosiest of mantelpiece displays.

Stay minimal

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: GAP Interiors/Dan Duchars

If you’re not into glitzy Christmas decorations, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it lowkey. There’s something classic and Scandi about this minimalist mantelpiece, with a simple wooden star and sprig of mistletoe.

Hang a Christmas wreath

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Sussie Bell

Keep your mantelpiece simple and elegant with an array of elegant glass and silver candle holders, and make a beautiful wreath hanging in front of a mirror the focal point of your mantelpiece display.

Create a woodland-inspired scheme

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Simon Whitmore

Opt for the natural textures of winter with a dainty pine garland and a heart-shaped pine cone wreath on the mantelpiece for an elegant, woodland-inspired scheme. White and silver reindeer ornaments, cosy faux-fur throws and blankets and a wolf-print cushion complement the look.

Read more: Best artificial Christmas trees to light up the festive season

Make it red hot

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Simon Whitmore

Embrace the spirit of Christmas with a bold red wood-burner and go to town by adorning the mantelpiece with lots of pretty colour co-ordinated decorations. Give it some extra love with a festive red and white heart-shaped garland and red tree-shaped ornaments.

Choose a traditional country look

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Rachel Whiting

Thick green foliage adorned with traditional decorations and warm glowing fairylights looks beautiful alongside a charming country scheme, with rich-coloured tartans and a crackling open fire.

Create a vintage display

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Polly Wreford

Display a selection of vintage jars filled with pine cones, cotton reels and dainty paintbrushes for a vintage and minimal mantelpiece. Lace fairylights between the jars and add pretty white foliage.

Go ambient with candles

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

Display tall candlesticks in silver candle holders of varying heights to create an elegant yet relaxed ambience. Add tealights and dainty fairylights for extra glow, and a sparkly ‘Merry Christmas’ garland for a touch of understated glitz.

Read more: Best Christmas advent calendars to make the most of the countdown

Forage for foliage

Christmas mantelpiece

Image credit: Mark Bolton

If you’re not a fan of bold and bright Christmas decor, opt for a beautiful foliage display atop your mantelpiece. This gorgeous assortment of white roses and greenery wouldn’t look out of place any time of year.

Christmas mantelpiece ideas for the festive season

Take a tour around this 17th-century Monmouthshire Cottage

Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, the traditional whitewashed exterior of this shepherd’s cottage gives way to an inspirational modern country interior with vintage touches

The owner of this four-bedroom 17th century cottage shares her home with her husband, three daughters, two border collies, five cats and three ponies. Being the founder of a luxury holiday lettings company, this property too was bought as as a holiday home and they never imagined that they would ever live there permanently. ‘When we first bought it, we weren’t ready for such a rural setting,’ says the owner. ‘Then, after we had children, we decided on a complete lifestyle change.’ The cottage needed a lot of work, and the family wanted to modernise it whilst evoking its history too.

Exterior

The property is a 17th century shepherd’s cottage situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It actually straddles two counties – the cottage itself is in Monmouthshire while the land is in Powys. ‘We love the connectivity that we have found with nature, the mountains and the constantly changing seasons.’  But the building itself seemed to have lost touch with its roots. ‘Nothing original was left so our plan was to bring authenticity back by buying as much as we could from reclamation yards.’

Hallway

Original flagstones are a wonderful period feature in the country hallway while the mirror enhances the light. Large lettering in a bold colour adds character and personality to the otherwise neutral space.

Kitchen

The owners have set the tone with a traditional Shaker-style kitchen in a soothing neutral colour, which they’ve teamed with retro furniture and antique-style lighting to create an on-trend look. ‘I choose vintage and retro items because I love old things that have a story behind them or are upcycled.’

Kitchen-diner

Galvanised metal chairs make for relaxed seating while giving a nod to retro style.  Pretty striped cloth over the table and teamed with grain sack cushions creates a a chic yet rustic French café look. The owner has chosen a trio of iconic prints to add interest to the walls.

Get the look

Buy now: Inox chair, £249, Made in Design
Buy now: Slim oak peg rail, £16, Willow and Stone

Living room

The eye-catching geometric rug has visual impact that lifts the scheme, then leads the eye to the rustic texture of the exposed stone walls and inglenook.  The owner has followed through with fabrics in harmonising knocked-back stripes for a classic, understated feel.

Get the look

Dining room

In the dining room vintage chairs have been mixed and matched with a time-worn feel. Wooden chapel chairs sourced from reclamation yards and antiques fairs introduce mellow tones while distressed wooden chairs creates a relaxed rustic ambience. The owner has also sourced decorative cast iron radiators to add character.

Get the look

Home office

Tuck a desk under the stairs for an instant home office that doesn’t intrude on the rest of the room. For period elegance, choose a classic distressed design, but be sure this is not just a decorative item – try to find a desk with a worksurface large enough for an unobtrusive laptop, lots of drawers for handy storage, plus enough legroom for comfort. Warm up your ‘office’ with a collection of framed prints on the wall beyond.

Bedroom

The master bedroom is calming Nordic space using neutral shades as a backdrop with pops of bold colour that sing out. ‘I painted almost everything white before adding colour,’ says the owner. ‘My palette is white, grey and red.’  Accent colour is used here sparingly for maximum effect. The owner has injected a few well-chosen red accessories such as a desk lamp, a clock, a striped cushion, and even a collection of colour-coordinated books in the bedside storage area which makes goo use of awkward areas when space is at a premium.

Get the look

Buy now: Anglepoise Type 75 mini desk lamp £105, The Conran Shop

 Children’s room

As with the master bedroom white walls and  flooring creates a fresh backdrop in the children’s bedroom which is anchored with matching timeless iron beds.  Jolly bedlinen and a playful rug adds a sense of fun. Stringing up pretty bunting – a key country-style ingredient – makes for a pretty decorative touch.

Bathroom

An elegant roll-top bath stands out against the tongue and groove backdrop in the country bathroom, while a specially-built vanity unit with capacious storage is crowned with a rustic reclaimed counter-top basin. ‘This is a small house and bespoke furniture really helps keep it as clutter-free as possible.’

Take a tour around this 17th-century Monmouthshire Cottage

Best Christmas cushions for adding a little festive cheer

Christmas cushions are an easy, inexpensive way to instantly inject some festive cheer to your home.

The trend for decorating your home beyond simply dressing the tree is one that grows bigger with every year – with Christmas themed cushions playing a major role. Cushions are the simplest way to add decoration to your living room just for Christmas – cushions are easy to swap in swap out once the holidays are over, adding festive cheer at very little cost.

Looking to add more festive cheer? Christmas hallway decorating ideas to impress your guests

Be inspired by our pick of the best Christmas cushions to give your home an instant makeover for seasonal festivities.

Best sequin cushion

Add a touch of glamour to your home during the festive season with a little bit of sparkle! We’ve found just the thing in this velvet cushion from Debenhams that features a stand-out sequin appliqué reindeer.
Dimensions: 43 x 43cm

Buy now: Home Collection Silver Reindeer Jingle Cushion, £28, Debenhams

Best appliqué cushion

Christmas-cushions-marks-and-spencer

This wool felt cushion is beautifully made, with a real handmade quality to it. The appliqué stitching gives this design a folklore feel that compliments both the traditional red and green decorating trend and also the red and white Scandi scheme.
Dimensions: 50 x 50cm

Buy now: Reindeer Applique Cushion, £35, Marks & Spencer

Best pudding cushion

Christmas-cushions-Very

Who doesn’t love a Christmas pudding? Especially one that will only plump your cushion collection rather than your belly. This pudding cushion is sweet enough to make even the biggest Scrooge raise a smile. The simple felt layers are topped with charming 3D berries and holly leaves.
Dimensions: 38cm diameter

Buy now: Christmas Pudding Cushion, £14.99

Best festive cushion cover

Christmas-Cushions-HM

If you’re looking for a quick and cost-effective option go for a cushion cover, to give an existing cushion a temporary festive makeover. This simple but fun play on words is a great statement cushion cover – it’s mixing the sentiment to keep calm and carry on (a good reminder during Christmas madness) with the carol Silent Night.
Dimensions: 40 x 40 cm

Buy now: Christmas-print Cushion Cover, £3.99, H&M

Best kids cushion

christmas-cushions-John-lewis

Pom poms and Llamas…they are literally everywhere this season? This adorable cushion from the Little Home collection will have all the kids excited about Christmas. Not only is it bright and jolly, it’s tactile nature makes it even more perfect for little ones – with tassels and pom poms making it even more cuddly.
Dimensions: 43 x 43 cm

Buy now: Little Home at John Lewis Lima Llama Embroidered Cushion, £15, John Lewis

Best novelty cushion

Christmas-cushions-Next

Llamas again. Every year there is a key character who appears on the novelty cushions – previous years have been dogs and polar beers, this year it’s randomly all about the Llama?! This loveable South American native has been spotted on Christmas cards, baubles and of course cushions. You heard it here first, this year Christmas you need a Llama accessory.
Dimensions: 43 x 43cm

Buy now: Christmas Llama Cushion, £10, Next

Best Scandi style cushion

Christmas-cushion-snowflake-cushion

Inject some cool Scandi vibes into your home this Christmas with the help of this chic wool cushion. The elegant woven design features one statement snowflake on the front and a selection of small snowflakes decorating the reverse.
Dimensions: 45 x 45cm

Buy now: Snowflake Woollen Cushion, £45, Cox & Cox

Best quirky cushion

Christmas-cushions-Prosecco-Matalan

It’s not only pets that aren’t just for Christmas folks! We’ll certainly drink to that, we love this mantra. This fun cushion would certainly be a talking point at Christmas parties, not to mention an Instagram dream! Anything Prosecco related is a great gift idea too, because we all know at least one bubbles fan.
Dimensions: 43 x 43 cm

Buy now: Prosecco Christmas Cushion, £8, Matalan

Best bauble cushion

Christmas-cushions-Tesco

Add a splash of on-trend teal to festive proceedings with a little help from this colourful cushion. The three bauble are printed in a mix of gold and teal, with stitched hanging strings to add further decorative detail – along with gold polka dots on the back to ensure it’s attractive from all angles.
Dimensions: 43 x 43cm

Buy now: Christmas Sparkle Spot Cushion, £12, Tesco Direct

Best sophisticated Christmas cushion

Amara noel-snowflake-cushion

This cushion has a beautifully handmade feel thanks to the hand embroidery and thick blanket stitch detail on the edge. It’s charming Noel message would add an understated festive touch to any home, without being remotely novelty. The mix of the grey wool background with the snow white embroidery make for a perfect sophisticated colour palette.
Dimensions: 36 x 28 cm

Buy now: Noel Snowflake Cushion, £68, Amara

Dress your sofas and armchairs in style this Christmas with any of one of these fabulous designs. Be quick, in our experience they don’t last long once the countdown gets away.

Best Christmas cushions for adding a little festive cheer

5 worrying signs you could be pet obsessed

Have you taken your love of pets too far? Here’s 5 worrying signs you could turn into an obsessive pet owner…

Here at Ideal Home we’re slightly animal mad! After endless office discussions about our pets we’ve come to realise how our love of animals may not be the healthiest thing. Ok, so the term ‘obsessed’ may be a bit extreme, but it nevertheless got us thinking about the love we have for our four-legged friends. So how far is too far when it comes to our pets?

Love to spoiling your pet? Attention pet owners! Aldi has a new range of pawsome pet accessories

Here are 5 worrying signs you could be pet obsessed…

1. You crave the attention and affection of the animals

Image credit: Matt Cant

All of us love nothing more than to stroke our pets when they sit on our laps, but sometimes our need for affection can go too far. Do you chase your animal around the house longing for cuddles? Do you sleep with your pet on (or in) your bed? Maybe it’s time to shut the door and get some uninterrupted 40 winks without the cat or dog to cause distraction.

2. You are addicted to kittens, puppies or simply acquiring new pets

pet-obsessed-cat-and-dog

Image credit: Colin Poole

Don’t you just love it when your kitten is only a few months old and they have to learn how to walk, clean themselves and play? We all love pets when they are babies, but sooner or later they grow up into big adults who grumble when they are picked up. Most pet obsessives are addicted to acquiring new pets, and kittens are the cutest of them all.

Related: 6 ways to tell you’re in a cat lover’s home

3. You prefer their company to anyone else

pet-obsessed-Dog-owner-CHI

Image credit: Polly Eltes

Don’t you love that moment when you arrive home and your dependable four-legged friend runs to the door to greet you. It’s easy to see why we love them, but let’s face it, it’s a bit weird if we favour their company over humans. When you start declining invitations for nights out in favour of sitting in with your cat, you know it’s become a problem.

4. You love the idea of rescuing animals

pet-obsessed-dog-on-chair-detail

Image credit: Michael Sinclair

Do you feel a strong need to rescue animals from shelters, friends who can’t care for them and other situations? If you also find it hard to refuse any new animals, it could be consider an obsession. The serial animal rescuer is only a few steps away from becoming an animal hoarder.

5. You treat your animals like humans

pet-obsessed--Style-at-Home

Image credit: Keith Henderson

Do you refer to yourself as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ and talk to them in your best baby voice? Do your colleagues at work groan every time you go on about Felix’s fussy eating habits? Do you offer up an adorable photo montage, like a proud mum, at the mere mention of your pets name? If any of these ring true, maybe it’s time to stop treating them like your kids – and own up to the possibility you’ve become obsessed.

How pet obsessed are you?

5 worrying signs you could be pet obsessed

Kitchen extension ideas that will open up your space

Maximise the potential of your extended space with these savvy decorating ideas for beautiful – and practical – kitchens

Looking for beautiful kitchen extension ideas? Our showcase of light and bright kitchen ideas will inspire and help you create your perfect scheme, transforming a cramped layout into an inviting modern space for living, dining and entertaining.

A must-have in new properties and one of the top remodelling projects in period homes, the generous open-plan kitchen is now the epicentre for modern living. There are several ways to scale-up space, from combining adjoining rooms or adding a conservatory to building a completely new room or digging out the basement. Be under no illusions, all options require time and money but, once the dust has settled, it’s a decision few regret.

Do you need kitchen planning advice? READ: Kitchen extensions – how to design, plan and cost your dream space

Make colour the star

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

In an all-white or neutral kitchen, pick a standout shade for a single feature. This will simplify and streamline the scheme, particularly in a smaller extension. In this stunning space, reflective turquoise glass is the material of choice for the splashback and it has been repeated as a decorative feature on the kitchen island. The island also functions as a space divider that defines the dining area on its opposite side.

Consolidate storage

Modern-open-plan-kitchen-extension-with-valuted-ceiling

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

Plan your kitchen extension storage with care. If you have the space, it pays to keep cupboards to a specified area rather than have them dotted all around. In this impressive extension, base and wall units have been banked together on a single wall and long, full-width island. This not only keeps everything close to hand at the busy, business end of the space, but allows you to co-ordinate your colour scheme – in this case, a dark-grey matt paint finish.

Related: Kitchen cabinets – what to look for when buying your units

Use a peninsula as a divider

White-modern-kitchen-extension-idea

Image credit: James French

Define the different functions of your extension with well placed units. If you have extended out into your garden from the back wall of your house, the line of the old wall will quite often make a natural dividing point for the new extension. Here, a rigid steel joist and window mark the spot. The worktop below houses a sink, a couple of cupboards and a mini breakfast bar and divides the working kitchen from the dining and sitting area overlooking the garden.

Consider glazed doors

Modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-crittal-windows

Image credit: James Merrell

In larger extensions with high ceilings you may feel you need more than furniture to divide up an open-plan space. These full-height sliding glazed doors are a revelation, adding smart, defined verticals to the design and marking a change of function between kitchen and living areas without screening anything from view. Low-hanging pendants and fabulously tall storage emphasise the height of this space, with cornflower blue paintwork and slate wall tiles uniting the decorative elements.

Build in, build out

Modern-kitchen extension idea-with-grey-cabinetry_0

Image credit: Amanda Turner

Enjoy the freedom to fit out a room from scratch. Plan your new extension carefully and in a perfect world you will end up with a room that balances practicality and beauty. Every appliance and every ounce of storage will occupy its ideal spot. This kitchen uses a false wall to house built-in ovens, open shelving and upright and overhead cupboards, while the hob, sink, wine cooler and supersized drawers have been incorporated into a standalone island.

Related: Kitchen lighting – everything you need to know

Unite a multifunctional space with wood

Traditional-open-kitchen-extension-idea-diner

Image credit: Alistair Nicholls

Use a single material throughout an extended space to keep the feel orderly, contained and open. This extension features a country kitchen with breakfast bar, a seating area and separate dining space. Decoratively, this could be a messy arrangement, but the use of wood throughout brings its own settled order. From the fitted shelves and larder unit at the back of the room, through to the impressive breakfast bar at the centre and out to the low coffee table, farmhouse dining table and mismatched chairs, the warm wood tones unite the scheme, with pops of vibrant colour on soft furnishings and ceramics to add to the fun.

Follow the light

Modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-statement-lighting

Image credit: Paul Raeside

In a kitchen extension, position a dining table where the maximum light falls. In this space, which lacks conventional windows, roof lights bring drama and atmosphere to the table. An adjustable, wall-hung pivot light adds a modern touch. Look for furniture that fits the space you have as exactly as possible. This table is the width of two place settings and no more, allows room for chairs to move in and out and is the perfect length to make full use of the room’s dimensions.

Unify with a theme

Duck-egg-blue-kitchen-extension-idea-with-white-cabinets

Image credit: Colin Poole

Integrate your extended space by using a single decorating scheme throughout. Pick calm, soothing and co-ordinating colours that will lift and lighten the feel. For a fresh, coastal vibe, go for a powder blue backdrop. Match woodwork and cabinetry with cream Shaker-style doors for a sense of continuity – in this space, built-in cupboard doors are painted to match the units. In a similar way, use oak for worktops, tabletops and seats and blue striped fabric for seat pads and kitchen linen.

Let architecture lead function

Country-kitchen-diner-with-conservatory

Image credit: David Merewether

Consider the features of a building when designing your kitchen space. Set aside the space under a glazed roof for dining – this space also has a square bay, perfect for enjoying garden views – and keep the original space for more functional tasks, such as cooking and food preparation. Choose a cream palette to link the spaces together and warm up with oak worktops and a matching butcher’s block.

Adopt multifunction living

White-modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-island-unit

Image credit: Rob Sanderson

Plan well and a large kitchen extension has all the makings of the perfect open-plan living space. Create distinct and separate zones for cooking, dining and relaxing, but ensure continuity with a neutral shade throughout. Use a central island to divide the room and make cooking social by adding a breakfast bar. Position the dining table adjacent to patio doors to get the best view and a comfortable armchair in one corner for enjoying the new-found light.

Related: Kitchen worktops – everything you need to know

Create a viewing room

Modern-family-eating-area-with-mix-and-match-chairs

Image credit: Malcolm Menzies

If you have extended into your garden space, make the most of lovely views. Let the windows be the star of your decorating scheme and wherever possible place furniture where it can oversee your outdoor space. Keep a decorating scheme pared back, simple and unpatterned so the view is always foremost. Go for matching neutrals across the board with simple blinds, a reclaimed table and eclectic chairs. Use a pair of pendant fishing lights for added character at night time.

Temper the new by referencing the old

Traditional-cream-kitchen-with-breakfast-bar

Image credit: David Still

When designing and decorating a new extension, always keep the style and period of your home in mind. Pick up on any period architectural features and incorporate design elements of any adjacent rooms into your new space. In a large, multifunctional area emphasise continuity by using freestanding cupboards or sideboards as feature cabinetry. Choose finishes that reflect the mix of old and new, such as the mahogany and Shaker-style designs used here.

Reflect architecture in interior design

Modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-hi-gloss-handleless-units

Image credit: Nicholas Yarsley

Whatever type of extension you choose, be sure to reflect that design in your kitchen scheme. Let the architectural style and shape inspire your choice and positioning of cabinetry and furniture – here, an impressive seven-metre-long workstation mirrors the run of roofline windows above, creating a balanced design that is also a practical solution to providing naturally lit worktops. Enhance the visual impact with a strong matt colour and the storage potential by including cupboards.

Related: Basement kitchens – how to plan, cost and convert your ideal space

Pick simple – but strong – colour schemes

Modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-large-island

Image credit: Fraser Marr

The modern extension will increase the light levels in a property, so be adventurous with colour in your new kitchen. Working against a white or neutral backdrop, make a strong statement with a black gloss central island and black modern stools that create crisp, clean-lined silhouettes. Use gunmetal-finish patio door frames to tie in with stainless-steel appliances. Complement and uplift the scheme with a bright yellow splashback and matching pendant lights that draw the eye upward to impressive roof lights.

Keep your outside space in mind

Open-plan-kitchen-extension-idea-neutral-modern-kitchen

Image credit: Rachael Smith

Lose a wall by installing folding/sliding doors for a space that opens up completely to the garden beyond. Pick and position wall and base units by thinking about the outside space too – here the honeyed tones of cabinetry and fencing co-ordinate, while the height of the panels echoes the run of wall cupboards. A high traffic throughway will need a hardwearing floor so choose a durable dark-wood version.

Blur the boundaries

Modern-kitchen-extension-idea-with-sliding-glass-wall

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

Use an extension to continue your kitchen space outside. Choose floor tiles that allow a continuous flow from kitchen to patio, giving the illusion of one large room. Use the white of your cabinets and kitchen walls on external brickwork, masonry and planters. Create an outdoor cooking area that has all the features of a kitchen rather than a barbecue, including a worktop positioned to continue the run of the kitchen version inside.

Colour code kitchen zones

Modern-white-kitchen-with-blue-island

Image credit: David Giles

Make large, open-plan spaces work by using colour to define different functions. Try white, handleless cabinetry for a practical, easy-to-maintain cooking and food preparation area. Introduce a contrast shade on a breakfast bar island to signpost the change of function, but keep the worktop white to indicate that this is a dual-function surface. For dining, go unfinished wood – in keeping with its proximity to the patio, this table and chairs could be mistaken for garden furniture. Unify the whole with timber flooring, a wooden sideboard and a row of wooden bar stools.

Will you be extending your kitchen?

Kitchen extension ideas that will open up your space

Would you pay a £30,000 premium to live in a market town?

Thanks to their rural charm, historic buildings and amenities, market towns command much higher house prices than their neighbouring towns

Homebuyers are prepared to pay more than £30,000 extra to live in a British market town.

This is according to mortgage lender Lloyds Bank, who carried out a study and discovered that a typical home in an English market town costs £280,690, an average of £30,788 more than properties in neighbouring towns.

Read more: Calling all first-time buyers – these are the most affordable cities in the UK

Richmond, North Yorkshire. Image credit: Getty Images

But why would they be willing to pay such a premium? Market towns have the perfect combination of rural charm, historic buildings and desirable amenities such as shops, restaurants often set around a beautiful square. Factor in good transport links and it’s easy to see why they are very attractive places to live.

Thanks to their popularity, house prices in these towns have jumped by an average of 21 per cent over the past five years, but some market towns are significantly more expensive than others. There is a clear north-south divide in the cost of properties in these towns, with the ten most expensive all in the south east, and the ten most affordable all in the north.

Read more: What does a 1 million pound house look like around the UK?

Market town

Farnham, Surrey. Image credit: Getty Images

These are this year’s ten most expensive market towns and their average house prices:

10. Saffron Walden, Essex, £441,583
9. Marlborough, Wiltshire, £441,623
8. Hertford, Hertfordshire, £452,843
7. Lewes, Sussex, £463,836
6. Thame, Oxfordshire, £476,365
5. Petersfield, Hampshire, £484,524
4. Cranbrook, Kent, £490,566
3. Alfresford, Hampshire, £541,529
2. Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, £831,452
1. Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, £1,049,659

These are the ten most affordable market towns this year and their average house prices:

10. Cartmel, Cumbria, £165,335
9. Boston, Lincolnshire, £161,538
8. Marsden, West Yorkshire, £154,830
7. Guisborough, North Yorkshire, £151,309
6. Tickhill, Derbyshire, £147,543
5. Saltburn, Durham, £144,717
4. Stanhope, Durham, £142,535
3. Immingham, Lincolnshire, £115,769
2. Crook, Durham, £115,659
1. Ferryhill, Durham, £78,184

Want the market town life without paying the premium? Looks like a move to the North East could be on the cards…

Would you pay a £30,000 premium to live in a market town?