Why opt for laminate flooring?

Bedroom with herringbone parquet laminate floor

It really doesn’t matter what type of project you’re working on, your choice of flooring is important. Choosing the wrong floor can ruin the overall look of a room.

The fact that the floor takes up so much space in a room means it’s neigh impossible for people to ignore or not notice. Therefore, if your flooring is shoddy, or doesn’t fit in with the overall style of a property, it will look terrible.

Fortunately, these days contractors and home-owners have plenty of choice. One of the best options is laminate flooring.

Whatever project you’re working on, this type of floor is ideal. Whether you want a stone, marble, wood or tile-effect floor you can find composite flooring with that finish and look.

Whatever colour, texture or finish you want, you can have it. These days, it’s even possible to buy black laminate flooring.

Some companies will even make you a custom floor. These can be quite expensive, but easy to order, and they can even be made at relatively short notice.

All you need to do is to take a very high-resolution photo of the surface you’re trying to recreate and send it off to the flooring firm. They then take that image, blow it up to the right size, and print it onto a composite wood surface. A transparent, hard finish is then applied to protect the image and make it hard-wearing. All you then have to do is lay it in exactly the same way you would any other laminate floor.

Black walnut laminated flooring in a dining room

Laminated flooring is durable

Modern production techniques and materials mean that you can now buy laminate flooring that’s highly durable. This is why laminate flooring can be used in any area of a home, and is suitable for use in commercial settings.

Naturally, you need to do your research and buy the right flooring for the environment in which you are laying it. In most countries, a grading system is used to help you to choose the right materials for the job. If you want to learn more about the different grades of laminate flooring, click here.

Laminate flooring in a kitchen

It can be laid over virtually any sub-floor

This type of flooring material is one of the most versatile available. It can be laid over most sub-floors. You can also lay it over underfloor heating.

However, the sub-floor does have to be perfectly flat to achieve a good result. Modern self-levelling compounds make it easy to create the necessary surface. These products only take a few minutes to lay, although they do take a few hours to cure and dry.

Patterned laminate flooring

It’s easy to install

One of the best things about this flooring material is that it’s extremely easy to put down. It isn’t necessary to hire a skilled carpenter. You can, with a little pre-planning, do it yourself. This, and the fact that the cost of the materials is so low in the first place, means that this is one of the most economical floor options currently available. Therefore, our advice is to look seriously at using laminate flooring for your next building or DIY project.

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How to achieve a dreamy bedroom

How to achieve a dreamy bedroomcredit

The bedroom should be a place to retreat into, a place to forget the stresses and worries of the day. A space that you find cosy and relaxing by night time enabling you to drift off – and refreshing and positive as you wake. So, set the scene for a good night’s sleep by creating a dreamy bedroom.

White painted four poster bedcredit

Choose the right bed

Many of us keep the same old bed and mattress for many years beyond their best – quite surprising when you consider how much time we actually spend in bed over a lifetime – an average of a third by most estimates! Perhaps it’s time to consider a new mattress or complete change of look. Four-poster beds, sleigh beds and French provincial beds make climbing into bed feel so much more dreamy. Add fluffy pillows, soft blankets and throws so you can really snuggle in for the night.

All white bedroom with white beddingcredit

Sheets, blankets or duvet?

Which ever of these options you prefer, choose something that’s made of pure linen, 100% wool or Egyptian cotton. The quality of materials and thread-count, well… count. You want bed linen that keeps you warm but doesn’t make you over-heat. Sleep is only satisfactory if you’re comfortable; not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Electric candlelight at a bedsidecredit

Light up the night

As you wind down and get ready for bed, the room lighting is very important. There’s nothing worse than a stark, bright overhead bulb in the bedroom. A directional bedside lamp might be required for reading, but also think about candlelight, flicker flame bulbs or fairy lights to create a relaxing mood and atmosphere. What about using one of those children’s night-lights that project stars or other shapes on the ceiling or walls?

Lavender linen spraycredit

Make it scent-sational

The wonderful aroma of flowers, scented candles, room diffusers or linen spray creates a real haven of relaxation and natural calm. Lavender, in particular, aids restful sleep; so look for products that incorporate this beautiful fragrance. You could make your own pillow mist which is easily done by combining a little lavender essential oil, witch hazel and water in a little pump-action bottle.

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Get their look: Shipping container home conversion

Shipping container home conversioncredit

If this shipping container home conversion looks familiar, you may have seen it before on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces programme on Channel 4. It’s the Bedford Marina-based home of Max McMurdo – designer, upcycler and entrepreneur.

It may measure a mere 40ft wide, but by using the limited space in a hugely imaginative way, he manages to fit everything you need into this floating house. There’s a double bedroom, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom. It’s completely functional, with more living and storage space than you’d imagine. Go check out the other photos to get a better picture of this amazing space he created!

  1. Rayburn 355SFW solid fuel & wood fired cooker & central heating boiler
  2. SMEG FAB10HLP mini fridge – cream
  3. Vintage Herbert Terry Anglepoise desk lamp
  4. Vintage 1950s footstool
  5. Bob scaffold tube coffee table
  6. Vintage Ercol Jubilee 2-seater sofa

Get their look: Shipping container home conversion | H is for Home

Essential items to include when designing your home office

All white home office

With the invention of internet and portable computers, working from home is becoming an ever more accessible and popular lifestyle choice. Whether you have decided to run your own business, having a baby or enjoy home comforts far too much, when deciding to work at home it is a good idea to set up a home office which will be your work zone. Below is a list of essential items which should be included when designing your home office.

Laptop, notebook & pen, mobile phone and coffee

Computer

Virtually all jobs which require an office environment will require a computer to write documents, access the internet and send emails to clients. A laptop is a good choice, because it will allow you to take the computer out with you if you need to meet clients etc. If you like working on a big screen but are short on cash, instead of splashing out on an expensive desktop computer, why not by a monitor screen which you can link to your laptop, doubling it up as a desktop computer.

Broadband speed test result | H is for Home

High speed internet connection

There is nothing worse than spending hours waiting for web pages to load or media to buffer. Not only can this be frustrating but it is also a huge waste of time which could be put to more effective use. When looking for an internet connection ideal for a home office, wireless, fiberoptik internet is a wise choice for that high speed connection which will allow you to use multiple devices simultaneously. This is ever more important if you have a large family with many people connected at once. Virgin media boasts being one of the fastest internet providers currently.

Ergonomic chair in a home officecredit

Ergonomic office chair and desk

If you are taking working from home seriously, it is likely you will be doing a good 9-5 or similar shift in the home office. Therefore, it is important that you have comfortable, ergonomic working conditions to work in, to increase comfort and reduce physical damage to your body through excessive straining over time. A good place to start is spending some cash on a good quality ergonomic office chair. This will prevent back strain and aches which develop from excessive straining. A large desk, tailored to your height will also prevent hunching which can be bad for posture over time and prevent the development of back problems as you age.

Storing office papers and pens

Organisation equipment

One of the most important tips when running a home office is to ensure it is tidy and organised. A messy environment can be both mentally and physically stressful. Not only will you waste precious time finding important documents and files in a heap of items, but a cluttered work place often leads to a cluttered mindset and therefore you may become less efficient in your job. It is therefore important to install lots of storage units within the office for different items. A few simple, cheap storage units you can buy are filing trays for all your important letters. Ring binders for all your important documents and an online storage account for all your important virtual documents. Dropbox is an online storage provider with a good reputation.

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Designer Desire: Antonio Frasconi

Mosaic of Antonio Frasconi artworks | H is for Home

Antonio Frasconi (1919 – 2013) was an illustrator best known for his woodcut prints, especially the ones in his award-winning 1950s children’s book, The House That Jack Built, a picture book in two languages. and See and Say, a picture book in four languages. He often produced books in multiple languages; namely English, Italian, French and Spanish. A great way to learn a new language – whatever your age may be!

Frasconi was born in Argentina, grew up in Uruguay and, aged 26, moved to the USA. In addition to his work for children he produced very political works on subjects such as the Vietnam War and ‘Los Desaparecidos’ (The disappeared), the people tortured and killed during the Uruguayan Dictatorship in the 197s and 80s.

As well as his own books, he designed numerous covers and illustrations for the works of other authors and poets including:

  • Dylan Thomas – Reading a Child’s Christmas in Wales | Narrating Under Milk Wood (LP records)
  • Herman Melville – On the Slain Collegians
  • Walt Whitman – Overhead the Sun
  • Jan Wahl – The Little Blind Goat
  • Ruth Krauss – The Cantilever Rainbow
  • Henri Pirenne – Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
  • André Gide – Strait is the Gate | If It Die
  • Glenway Wescott – 12 Fables of Aesop
  • Titus Burkhardt – Alchemy

Antonio Frasconi at work

Image credits:

Invaluable | Pinterest | Moma | Amazon

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance allotment

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance vegetable garden or allotment | H is for Home

You may or may not have noticed that we haven’t done an update about our allotment in quite a while. Yes, we still have it. Unfortunately, because of Justin’s back injury, poor weather and neglect due to time pressures, this year has been a wipe out!

In an ideal world, we’d potter about amongst the fruit and veg every day – alas, this just isn’t possible at the moment. We’ve come to the conclusion that, for the time being, we’d be much better off concentrating on low-maintenance perennial vegetables. We’ve done a bit of research online and from Eric Toensmeier’s book, Perennial Vegetables. This is our short list of 12 that we’re going to try out.

Allium fistulosum - Welsh onion

Allium fistulosum – Welsh onion

It may say Welsh on the tin, but this allium actually originates in China. We think it would be perfect for our allotment. Not only is it good for cooking and eating, it’s a beautiful ornamental when it’s in flower. It’s used widely in East Asia in miso soup, stir fries and in salad garnish.

Available here

Allium ursinum - Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Allium ursinum – Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Wild garlic grows… well, wild in lots of places near where we live. We have an old tin bath that we planted up with a few wild garlic bulbs a couple of years ago. It absolutely loves the dark, damp spot where we put it and its spread has already doubled. We’ll dig up a bit of it and replant it in a similar position on the allotment. We look forward to the wild garlic season every year, we use the leaves a lot in cooking.

Available here

Growing asparagus in a pot

Asparagus officinalis – Asparagus

Asparagus is one vegetable that I wish we’d cook and eat more often. It’s always so expensive in the shops – and it’s almost always thick, fibrous spears on offer. Because the soil in or garden and on our allotment isn’t at all sandy, we think we’ll grown a little asparagus in containers. Maybe one green, one white and one purple.

Lots of people say that it can’t grow in pots but we’ve seen on the internet that it can be done. Apparently, the container needs to be very deep with very good drainage – so we were thinking of using a couple of old metal dolly tubs. The downside of container-grown asparagus is that it doesn’t live anywhere near the 10-20 years that it does in open ground and the resulting spears can be a little spindly. The upside is that the taste of asparagus cut from the earth and cooked within hours is incredible – as is the feeling of knowing you’ve grown it yourself.

Available here

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides - Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides – Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

A broccoli that looks like a cauliflower and is a perennial? We’d never heard of it! Each head grows to the size of a tennis ball – so the perfect portion. It would be great roasted or served with a cheese sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Available here

Cynara scolymus - Globe artichokes

Cynara scolymus – Globe artichoke

Yes, it’s a faff to prepare. Yes, there’s a lot of wastage in its preparation. But you never see it in the supermarket and rarely on a veg stall at the market. And it’s such a show-stopping, architectural plant in the garden or on the allotment; we think it earns its place on this list.

Available here

Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Another vegetable that you don’t see in the supermarket, the Jerusalem artichoke (it’s not an artichoke… and nothing to do with Jerusalem for that matter!) is a relative of the sunflower. As such, this perennial root vegetable doubles up as an ornamental having bright yellow flowers on a stem that can grow 5-10 foot tall.

Available here

Matteuccia struthiopteris - ostrich ferns and fiddleheads

Matteuccia struthiopteris – ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern

It’s the young unfurled fronds, or fiddleheads, of the ostrich fern that can be eaten – not raw though. Neither of us have ever tried them, but they are meant be delicious sautéed in butter. They contain omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, potassium, antioxidants… full of goodness!

Available here

Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet runner beans

Phaseolus coccineus – Scarlet runner beans

The pods of the scarlet runner bean conceal the most beautiful beans! Eat them in their pods while they’re still young & tender, cook the shelled beans from fresh or dry and store them for a later date. Grow & train the plant up a wigwam or trellis where you can appreciate the scarlet flowers in all their glory. Even the roots are edible – a true perennial all-rounder!

Available here

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum - Solomon's seal

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum – Solomon’s seal

We’ve had a pot of Solomon’s Seal in our garden for years and never knew that it’s an edible plant. Talking of all-rounders, the starchy rhizomes of Solomon’s seal can be used to make bread and soup, the young stems can be eaten like asparagus and it’s used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, sedative and a tonic.

Available here

Rheum rhabarbarum - Rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum – Rhubarb

One of my favourites! I love it in pies, crumble and as a compote atop plain yoghurt. We may use it like a fruit, but it’s actually a vegetable, similar to celery.  It’s a beautiful, sculptural plant with its huge, tropical-looking leaves at the end of bright pink stalks. It’s only these stalks that are edible – the leaves are famously poisonous… but they are terrific for the compost heap, the toxic oxalic acid quickly breaks down. Rhubarb is known as a bit of a bully and can become rampant, so keep an eye on its spread. We already have a couple of varieties growing in dolly tubs in our garden.

Available here

Scorzonera hispanica - black salsify

Scorzonera hispanica – black salsify

If you live in a cold part of the country like we do, black salsify can cope with that. Another relative of the sunflower, it has lovely yellow flowers. If you’re growing carrots on your allotment, use this as a companion plant as it’s believed to repel carrot fly. Another nutritious root vegetable, it’s rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and various vitamins.

Available here

Urtica dioica - Stinging nettle

Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle

Most people see stinging nettle as a weed, a pest. Poor thing, it doesn’t deserve that reputation! It’s really versatile. We inherited a couple of patches, which we have left alone, when we took on our allotment (their presence is an indicator of a good quality soil!).

Pick the young leaves (wearing gardening gloves) and cook with them in much the same way as you would use spinach. It’s full of protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It can be used to brew tea and beer. Use the leaves and roots to make natural dyes. Even the stalks can be used to make a textile similar to linen. Soak it in a large watering can or water butt to produce home-made liquid fertiliser. Insects love it,  If you keep chickens, feed it to them and the yolks of their eggs even more yellow. If you still feel the need to uproot it, put it on your compost heap, it’s full of nitrogen which helps in the breakdown of the organic material. What’s not to love about the humble stinging nettle?