Winter Wisdom – 8 warming ways to prepare your household for winter

Winter Wisdom - 8 warming ways to prepare your household for winter

Winter is a wonderful time of year for those of us not so keen on extreme heat and having bugs everywhere. In fact, many good things happen in winter. It’s the perfect season for hot food, woolly socks and crackling fires. The key to a good winter is to make sure your home is ready for it. For suggestions on how to get your house in good order for the cold months, read this list of 8 warming ways to prepare your household for winter.

Bathroom shower

Household maintenance

Your house maintenance should be taken care of before winter gets its icy grip on your house, because when things suddenly or catastrophically go wrong it can take much longer to fix. It’s essential that your house is completely watertight – and pipes, drains and gutters are clear and free flowing. The endless torrential rain that often falls in winter and early spring can set back work on neglected pipes or other work that needs excavation…and bad weather can also prevent work being done on roofs or outdoor electrical appliances like water heaters. Imagine not having hot showers for a week in winter. No thank you!

Many companies clear blocked drains in Melbourne, for instance, and getting that done prior to winter’s arrival is a good idea, as some nights can get downright frosty. The last thing you need in the middle of a freezing night is a burst drainpipe.

Slippered feet up with a hot drink in front of an open fire

Light a fire

First and foremost, if your house has a real fire, then it’s time to break out the firewood! Make sure coal stores or log piles are well stocked during late summer and autumn. Organise deliveries early or get some wood chopped in readiness! Fires are a great, economical way to warm a house, and they can provide hours of entertainment. They give a room a real sense of drama and atmosphere. The additional burst of heat will also cut out any need for appliances such fan heaters.

Woollen blanket and patterned pottery mug

Scatter some blankets

Winter is a great time for snuggling up with some blankets. The best thing about blankets is that they not only keep you warm, but they can be dotted around your house and over the backs of sofas as decoration, then easily grabbed if you feel the chill. Distributing blankets around rooms in your home will mean you’re never far from a warm, cosy blanket in the dead of winter.

Bowl of meat stew

Roast away!

Arguably one of the best things about winter is the food that you begin to crave. When it’s 4ºC and raining outside, nothing satisfies hunger like a good roast dinner. Warming food like roasts, stews and hearty soups are perfect for not only warming you and dinner guests, but also make the whole house smell amazing.

Pair of thick, pale-coloured curtains

Heavy curtains

One thing that many people forget when winter-proofing their houses is how much heat is lost through the windows, even when the curtains or blinds are closed. If your house is freezing cold at night and you have large windows, consider buying thicker or lined curtains or blinds for them. This will keep more of the heat in and save you money through lowering electricity and gas bills.

Over the knee winter socks

Dress for the occasion

What will keep you warm in winter, no matter where you go? Woollens and waterproofs are the obvious choice for the cold season, but even within the protected environment of your own home there are things you can wear to keep the chill at bay. Thick socks on your feet will keep cold, tiled floors from freezing your toes off – and a quilted robe can mean the perfect combination of comfort and warmth.

Blue fleece electric blanketcredit

Warm the bed

Your bed will likely be too cold at night before you hop in, and even with pyjamas on this can cool you down before your body heat manages to warm up the bed and duvet. An electric blanket is the perfect addition to a winter bedding ensemble, and all you need to do is switch it on an hour or so before you hop into bed to ensure a nice, toasty night’s sleep.

Radiator thermostat

Radiate heat

Finally, there are ways of keeping heat in the less used rooms, like your bedroom.

While most of the evening might be spent in the common areas of your house, your bedroom will be where you retire to and unless you have put something in place to heat that room, it will likely be freezing cold. A radiator heater can be a great option for this, as it uses very little electricity and stays warm for long periods of time. Turn in on when you get home from work and your room will be toasty by the time you get to bed that night. Or perhaps fit timer switches that can activate heating systems precisely in specific areas.

With these tips in mind, the cold of winter doesn’t stand a chance at infiltrating your abode – so get out there and start winter-proofing your house today.

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Between a vintage bed frame and a sleepy place: the Bruno Mattress

Blue-painted bedroomcredit

Every great picture starts with a great frame – and so should your mattress. Regardless of whose bedroom it is that we’re seeking to rejuvenate, we’ve always thought that the bed itself is the most important place to start (and why shouldn’t it be? If you’re anything like us, it’s where you’ll likely spend most of your time).

Below, we’ve compiled photos of our top 3 wish list bed frames that we want to use in future projects (are there any that we really shouldn’t have left out? Leave a comment below – we’d be interested to hear your opinions!):

Vintage rattan bed frame, side table and chair

Vintage rattan bed

Victorian iron bed

Victorian iron bed

Hand made four poster bed

Hand made four poster bed

For all that we love vintage bed frames, we’re strong believers in spending money on buying a good quality mattress to go with it. Sleep is important – and we’re quite sure that we seldom get enough of it. Life’s too short to suffer with back pain from a bad mattress, and that’s why a good mattress is one thing on which we just won’t compromise. A new mattress that we’ve found which just doesn’t compromise is the Bruno Mattress.

Bruno Mattress on a metal frame

In a world where everything seems to be evolving and we’re given more and more options, it’s refreshing to introduce a company which has sought to make life a little simpler. We’ve recently stumbled upon the Bruno Mattress, brought to you by a small Berlin-based start-up company founded by Felix Baer and Andreas Bauer. The mattress has recently been launched in the UK following great success in Germany and France, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it!

But why has the Bruno Mattress been received with such success?

Ultimate Comfort: After trialling and testing various materials and compositions with sleep experts, the founders at Bruno Sleep believe they’ve engineered the perfect mattress for all types of sleepers – regardless of body shape or sleeping position. That’s why Bruno comes in just one model comprised of a precision cut 7-zone support base, a 3cm 100% natural and organically farmed latex top layer and soft quilted cover top which can be easily removed for washing.

Couple laying on a Bruno mattress reading a magazine

Quality Materials: Bruno Interior takes pride in sourcing sustainable materials that are of the highest quality. Each mattress is assembled by hand by a family-owned and operated fabric manufacturer in Saxony, Germany.

Bruno Matttress label

Peace of Mind: The Bruno Mattress is only available to buy online and is delivered to your door in a box! Bruno Interior uses a direct to customer business model – cutting unnecessary costs involved in traditional mattress selling (i.e. packaging, delivery lorries and middle men) – and are able to pass these savings of 30-40% direct to customers, which is reflected in the mattresses’ fair price. We’re so confident in our mattresses, we offer our buyers a 101 night trial period.

Getting a Bruno Mattress out of its box

Despite what you’ve been told (and what you have experienced as a buyer), don’t believe that you have to spend a huge sum of money on a mattress to get high quality. Just because a mattress is a necessity, that doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of pounds. With Bruno, quality and comfort come at a fair price.

Bruno Mattress logo

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Our Smart Home

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Panasonic Smart Home starter kit

There was an interesting little something amongst the bills and junk mail this week. We took possession of this Panasonic Smart Home starter kit on Saturday. It’s a home monitoring and security system that lets you keep an eye on your home (and pets!) whilst you’re out.

Boxed Panasonic Smart Home box

The starter kit comprises a smart hub, indoor camera, two door/window sensors and a smart plug which allows you to switch on lights, radio etc from a remote location.  There are other components you can buy to extend the system including motion sensor, outdoor camera, siren and, soon to hit the market, a water leak sensor – something we’ll be investing in considering our history!

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home box

Before attempting to set the system up, we watched the 5-minute video tutorial which made the process look very simple.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub

Sure enough, five minutes was about right for me to download the app to my iPhone and link it to the house wi-fi network.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub

Within another five minutes, the hub and the camera were set up and ‘talking’ to each other.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home camera

In the case of the door sensors, all that was needed was to insert the batteries, attach the double-sided sticky tape, line up & attach the two parts of the sensor – one on the door and one on the door frame, press a button… and that was it – another five minutes per door!

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home door alarm

We positioned the camera so that we could see into the sitting room, the kitchen and up the stairs to the rest of the house. For such a small, unobtrusive unit it gives a surprisingly wide-angled view and high-definition live video footage. It even allows you to take still images (see my example below) which you can save to your smart phone/tablet and share via text message or email.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home camera still

Our dog Fudge normally sleeps on that leather sofa to the right when were out (well, that’s where we usually find him on our return anyway). Evidence suggests that he gets up to naughtiness too – like jumping up at the cooker & work surfaces to the left. Soon we’ll have photographic evidence and he’ll be put forward for a doggy criminal trial!

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Design ideas for a stylish home office

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Courtney Adamo's home officecredit

Working from home is living the dream for many people. You can crawl out of bed, put the coffee machine on, and be at your desk in less than five minutes. It really is perfect for anyone who would rather not suffer the daily commute or office politics. It’s also great if you like to work flexible hours because you can pop out to the supermarket or walk the dog whenever you feel like it.

The only disadvantage of working from home, apart from the fact that home and work boundaries can sometimes become rather blurred, is that you do need to have a space set aside where you can work in peace. If you’re lucky enough to live in a spacious dwelling, all is good, but if space is at a premium in your abode, you’re going to have to get a little bit creative. So what are your home office options?

Minimalist under-stairs officecredit

Workspace nooks

When you can’t afford to lose a room, your only option is to create a workspace in a corner of an existing room. This isn’t ideal as there’ll be a lot of distractions if you have other family members at home when you’re trying to work, but it’s better than working on the kitchen table.

Workspace nooks can be slotted in anywhere, but if you have some extra space under the stairs, this is the ideal place to fit a desk and chair. Build shelves and add a small desk lamp so you have a cosy little corner where you can work in peace. Alternatively, install a desk in the corner of a room and build a partition using bookshelves to screen it from view.

Attic office with Velux windowscredit

Attic offices

Attics make great home office spaces as long as they’re well insulated and you install windows for ventilation and light. Velux windows are perfectly designed for sloping roofs, but if installed at height, they can be difficult to open. One solution is to fit an electric window opener from Teal Products – that way you can continue working instead of looking for a chair to stand on to open the window.

Spare room being used as a home officecredit

Turn the spare room into an office space

Spare rooms make useful offices as long as you swap the traditional bed for a futon or sofa bed. You’ll also need to vacate the room if you have guests come to stay.

Garden officecredit

Build an office in the garden

If you’re the type of person who wants complete peace and quiet, building an office in the garden is the ideal solution. Wooden sheds can easily be converted into home offices with the right insulation and heating. If it isn’t too far from the main house it should be easy to install a telephone line. You might not need planning permission if the structure isn’t very large, but do check before you build.

Working from home is good for the environment and your sanity, but you’ll need to be disciplined as it is very easy to waste time watching TV or tackling household chores instead of working!

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Why 2015 is the best year to buy a house

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For sale signs

Buying a house can be a pretty daunting prospect. It’s a process that is expensive, stressful, tricky to get right and long-winded. Yet, despite all of that it’s still something many of us want to do. The safety and security of a permanent roof over our heads makes buying a house an attractive prospect – and the prospect of investing in something tangible makes the hassle financially worthwhile. So, with many people wanting to make that step into home ownership, what makes 2015 the year that they should take the plunge? What about people looking to move up the ladder too?

Stamp duty illustration

Stamp duty

One of the changes all buyers can benefit from in 2015 is those made to Stamp Duty. Brought in in December, these rules make a difference to the up-front cost that you’ll need to bear. Previously you had to fork out 1% of the purchase price in Stamp Duty on properties between £125,000 and £250,000 and 3% up to £500,000. Under the new system you still pay nothing below £125,000 and then above that you pay 2% of the cost over and above that figure, i.e. if your house is £130,000 you now pay 2% of £5,000, instead of 1% of the full cost, or £100 instead of £1,300. In Scotland the duty was rebranded as the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and although it operates in a similar way it carries no charge for the first £145,000 of the cost.

Monopoly board showing Mayfair

Rent

As with any decision there are push and pull factors when it comes to buying a house. One thing that may well ‘push’ you into buying a house this year is the increased cost of renting. The price of renting is rising to a point where the cost far outstrips the amount you could be paying towards your own bricks and mortar – with more than a quarter of landlords plotting above-inflation rent increases during this calendar year.

'Help to Buy' logo

Schemes

If you’re renting then chances are you can afford the mortgage payments, but it could be the deposit that you’re struggling with. The good news is that there are a whole host of schemes on offer during 2015 that can help you to overcome that hurdle. Check out the latest home buying schemes information to see how Help To Buy, Right To Buy and NewBuy all work. Essentially, Help To Buy sees the government stepping in to provide a loan – refundable on sale of the property – so that you’ll only need a 5% deposit. Right To Buy aims to help social housing tenants and NewBuy looks, as you’d expect, at freshly constructed properties.

Red Monopoly houses on pound coins

Economy

Forget the squabbling of the political parties; for house-hunters, the economy is in a relatively good shape to take the plunge in 2015. Low interest rates mean there are some excellent sub-2% deals out there and a host of options on fixed and flexible rates. It’s a competitive mortgage market and that’s a good sign for the buyer. Price increases have slowed – at least outside London – too, making this a steady year to invest.

Rising rents, falling Stamp Duty, a relatively stable economy and support schemes all mean 2015 could well be the ideal year to dip into the housing market.

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Home survey: Money well spent

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home survey word cloud

 

Despite the fact that real estate in Sydney is a significant long-term investment that could impact a buyer’s finances for decades, many prospective home-owners baulk at shelling out for a professional surveyor to examine the property before the sale is completed. This is an unnecessary risk at best and a disastrous error in judgement at worst, as home damage that may be invisible to the untrained eye can cause unforeseen calamity long after you’re left holding the deed.

An expert eye

Surveyors are trained to spot existing as well as potential issues with an uncommon level of detail. Once the 2-3 hour examination of the interior and exterior of the property is complete, the surveyor will provide a thorough report on the various aspects of the home, including structure, plumbing, electrical equipment, and other amenities.

During a surveyor’s report, minor defects, major defects and safety issues will be categorised and detailed to you. You will also find out which items need repair and replacement as well as those that should be monitored for future wear. Home surveyors can even inform you of routine maintenance that should be performed based on the amenities in the home, which is information not even the seller may possess.

Survey contingency

One of the most useful discretions that having a home surveyed before buying affords you is the ability to back out of an offer if significant issues are discovered during the assessment, even after an otherwise enforceable deal is reached in principle.

The survey contingency is a vital resource after an offer has been accepted. Without this protection you may be legally bound to pay the seller a penalty fee or even the full purchase price of a home once an agreement is reached regardless of what issues may later arise.

Your options

If issues are discovered during a home survey, you can choose to ask the seller to fix them at their expense, to reduce the purchase price, or to provide a cash credit at closing to be applied to the cost of repairs. This is where surveyors truly earn their keep, as without the survey your options would be extremely limited and you would likely be responsible for the cost of any repairs necessary before you can live in the home.

It is advisable for all home-buyers to have a survey conducted prior to exchanging. A survey is an investment of time and money, but one that could pay for itself many times over if significant issues are discovered.

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