Renovating a rundown property: where to start

Renovating a property can be hugely exciting and, if the project runs smoothly, ultimately rewarding. But don’t be under any illusions – it’s a massive task to take on and it will feel overwhelming at times. Done properly, you’ll end up with a beautiful new home which has increased in value too, giving you a return on your investment and hopefully a chunk more on top.

Still, that’s the end result and might seem a long way off when you’ve just bought a rundown property – perhaps at a bargain price at an auction – and are gazing at a house in a state of disrepair, looking rather sorry for itself. Here are a few tips as to where to start with your renovation project:

You really should have had a clear vision in mind (ideally down on paper) before you bought the property – if not, the first step after purchasing it is to finalise the design. This guide from Homebuilding & Renovating states it well: ‘The very best thing to do is to take a long, hard look at the house and its grounds and work out which are its best bits, the features that drew you to the house in the first place (such as its views, large garden, characterful beams or original fireplaces and windows) and which are the worst.’

Don’t rush this part of the process. Take the time to work out what you really want and what will draw the very best from the property. You may not be able to do this yourself; you might need to appoint a designer and be prepared to go back and forth making revisions until you’re happy with it.

You’ll also need to hire an architect to formally assess the project, the condition of the property, and draw up plans. Ideal Home has a great checklist to help you to find the most suitable architect for your renovation project. An architect can assist with any structural changes that need making – although he may advise inspection and evaluation from a structural engineer if you want to remove internal walls and load-bearing walls. Depending on the renovation and work you intend to carry out, you might need planning permission or to obtain Building Regulations approval. The architect can manage this process on your behalf. The Royal Institute of British Architects – RIBA – can help you to search for architects in your region.

Of course, you’ll need a good builder to take on the project. It’s vital that you select the right person or company for the job. Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to start – do you know anyone who has had similar work done recently? If so, ask to visit their property and view what was done. Discuss any issues that came up, how they were resolved, how long the project took, and so on.

Don’t go with the first builder you speak to. Set up meetings with at least three or four builders, get quotes in from all of them and compare costs. Price shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Have they handled such projects before? Can they show you examples of previous work? If one builder’s quote is significantly cheaper than all the others’ you may feel suspicious and have a right to feel that way – look back through it and see what is and isn’t included. Ask for more detail if you need.

Discuss availability, too. If one builder is booked up for the next six months that’s perhaps a good sign – they’re in demand and busy. If another says they can start immediately, be wary.

Make your choice, agree start dates, share design and architect plans, and discuss a payment structure. If the project isn’t due to start for several months, stay in touch with any updates.

A final one before the work starts – don’t overlook the smaller details. When the property is legally yours, you are responsible for its maintenance and protection. Even if you’re planning to stay elsewhere while the work is being done, you must have insurance in place – look up RAC Home and Contents insurance for quotes – and you must inform the insurers of your circumstances.


Good luck!

Italian Leather, Fabric and Lace

Italy is well-known for its fabric, leather and couture.

Many of KOTHEA’s velvets are sourced from Italy’s finest mills to provide some of the most luxurious upholstery and curtain fabrics available.

High-end upholstery is often reliant on high quality Italian leather Shoelaces, trimmings and smaller items can be made up from the remnants of the hides that are used on the furniture.

KOTHEA occasionally deal with full hides but, more often than not, designers these days choose faux leathers to minimise wastage and to ensure consistency of finish with a realistic finish often reminescent of Italian leather Lace manufacturers and coutire houses also often make use with off-cuts for handbags and other apparel usages.

Painting from Photographs

Image Credit: & DeepArt

My selfies are never going to grace the wall of the Museum of Fine Art; nor at Tate Modern for that matter.

However with a little internet wizardry, that even Harry Potter would be proud of, it is now eminently possible to turn your own photographs into works of art. Certainly to a standard where they can grace YOUR living room walls.

Essentially, online services will ask you to upload your image and then to choose an artistic style so that it’s algorithms can manipulate your image according to key features of that artistic style and/or medium. You can see that, above, with the Albert Einstein image rendered as in the style of Vincent van Gogh. Cool!

Services like Portraits on Demand offer a more straightforward and practical service that will render your image to mimic specific media such as oil, pencil, watercolour, charcoal, pastel and acrylic. This is a more cost effective approach, as the more complex manipulations that are made when changing the artistic style (rather than medium) can become quite prohibitive from a cost point of view. Sometimes ranging to the thousands of pounds/dollars.

Contrast those thousands with the cost of printing out and sending a media-mimiced image which will range from a few tens of pounds/dollars to a few hundred pounds/dollars. Mostly those costs are dependent on the size of the canvas and the secure shipping costs for getting the art to your door.

Choosing the Perfect Carpet for Your Home

That feeling when you come home from work, kick off your shoes and enjoy a soft, cosy carpet beneath your feet just can’t be beaten. So it’s important to take your time when choosing a carpet to make your home warm and welcoming. Here are a few things to think about:

Type of carpet

Loop pile, deep pile, twist…there are so many different types of carpet out there it’s easy to get confused. The pile of carpet is basically the thickness and length of the fibres used to create the weaves on the carpet. The deeper the pile, the thicker the carpet. Loop pile has a more rustic, textured, authentic look and is hardwearing. A twist carpet also has a more textured finish. These types of carpets are best in an area where there is more traffic, for example on stairs and in hallways and landings.

Kids and pets

Having a carpet provides a safe and comfortable flooring for your kids to play and pets to curl up on. With that, however, comes the risk of muddy paw-prints, general wear and tear and stains. This is where patterned or striped designs are a good option to go for as they are generally hard-wearing and more resilient to the accidental mark.


Make sure you are choosing the right underlay for your carpet. A lot of this does depend on your budget but you will need to think about how much traffic your carpet will be getting. If your house is cooler you will want to put in a warm underlay. The underlay is an important part of the comfort of a carpet.


The best rooms for carpets are where warmth and comfort is needed so living rooms, bedrooms and hallways are popular choices. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to suit laminate and vinyl floorings where spillages are more likely. There are, however, specialist carpets available for these rooms if you prefer the feel of carpet underfoot in these rooms too.


Multiply the length of a room by its width to get the total amount of square metres of carpet required. If your room is an odd shape or you have fireplaces or alcoves, make sure you measure these as well so your carpet does not come short. Always order a bit more carpet than you need. It’s better to have more than not enough. You can then keep any leftovers in case they are needed in the future.

Design and colour

When fitting a new carpet for a room think about the overall look you are trying to achieve. Do you already have a colour scheme and are you looking for a carpet to match or are you decorating the room completely from scratch? Is the carpet going to be the only feature or are you thinking of adding a rug as well? Striped carpets can be quite an eye-catcher but tend to work best with plainer walls. If your wallpaper is patterned, then striped carpets can clash. Similarly if you go for a patterned carpet, keep the wallpaper quite neutral.

Does the room get much light? If not, you’ll probably want to avoid darker colours and go for a paler or bright carpet that could lighten up your room. There are more ideas at Bear in mind, a carpet is an investment and something you’ll have for years, so have a look at colour samples and take your time before making a decision. Get it right and you’ll be onto a winner.

Fibres Yarns Weaves 101

Contemporary beige cotton velvet chair
Contemporary beige cotton velvet chair

Most of us are familiar with the wool that our parents or grand-parents knitted with. Let’s use that wool as a generic example.

That wool is a YARN. It is a spun thread.

It is made of individual fibres that have been spun together to make the yarn. Fibres are threads or filaments or perhaps even animal hair.

The yarn can be woven into weaves/patterns. Usually a weave has many long thread running  running as a warp through a roll of fabric. That weave typically also has another yarn running at ninety degrees from left-to-right called the weft.

Fairly simple. On the whole.

Knitting is not really weaving. Lots of kinds of weaves are used in knitting but knitting includes other methods as well as weaving. I’ll stop there !

Top Interior Design of 2015

Interior design sees a constant shifting in trends for decorating the home. Decade by decade, we’ve seen the nation’s taste go through many changes, from the bright and colourful to the sleek and minimalist. While we’ve all got our preferences, we are hugely influenced by what’s popular and this is no different when it comes to interior design.

What are the latest trends taking the interior design world by storm? Let’s take a look at what’s hot and how you can transform your home into a modern, trendy space that suits your personality down to the ground.


According to the latest style trends from Elle, florals are on their way to make a huge comeback in the interior design world. Given the preference for smooth surfaces and chrome we’ve seen in recent years, this is a little surprising but certainly welcome.

Using floral wallpapers, curtains, sheets and so on makes a strong visual statement that adds a touch of class to the room. Paired with furniture made from rich woods like mahogany, it evokes a classical feeling, like you’ve stepped back into Regency times. This is definitely for people that appreciate the old-fashioned and more traditional style of interior design, though it’s certainly well suited for people looking to make a bold statement about themselves.


One of the latest trends is that of eco-design; in other words, environmentally conscious interior design. It’s a huge thing right now, which isn’t surprising. We’ve been moving towards eco-friendly living for a long time, so it makes sense that it would eventually make its way into how we decorate our homes. The aim is to save you money and reduce your carbon footprint: what’s not to like?

Eco-design has a strong focus on quality and filling rooms with warmth and sustainable fixtures, offering you a way to reinvigorate your home whilst saving money in the long-term. Using fixtures such as the range of eco-heaters from VeriSmart Heating, for example, have an appealing design and allow you to control the heating in your house efficiently. Eco-design is becoming more and more popular for two reasons: the first is that this is the way the tide is turning, and the second is that the quality is constantly improving. It’s now a very desirable option for many looking to redecorate their home; it certainly offers more benefits!

Old Meets New

There’s been a meeting of the new and the traditional in modern interior design trends according to Lush Home, combining the best features of both for a fine balance between classic comforts and futuristic, minimalist design. This combination of ideas gives people more of an opportunity to explore their creative side and create a home that’s personal to them.

Interior design is all about making the home yours, and this trend gives you the chance to make use of prints, colours and furniture that you wouldn’t have necessarily put together before. Results can range from cool and modern to unique and quirky; it’s up to you!

What other trends have you noticed in interior design this year, and are they going to carry into 2016?

5 Tips for Designing Your Home Office

If you have decided to convert a room in your home to create an office, it’s important that you plan this room well to accommodate your working needs. Choosing the correct furniture and the best type of storage space is important. You will also want the room to be comfortable as you may be spending long periods in this space and a colour scheme that aids calm and stree-free work would be ideal…


  1. Lighting


Choosing the correct lighting for your office is probably one of the most important things to get right. If you are going to be sitting at a desk most of the time a good quality table lamp – such as those featured here on Homebase – will help to protect your eyes from straining. Get as much natural light as possible – without staring directly into the sun – and use lamps and lights to illuminate your desk once the sun goes down.


  1. Colour schemes


An article in the Guardian says that working from home can be difficult due to distractions from family members or the TV. It states: “However, if you have set up a home-based business you have little choice but to make the best of your home office, customise your living space”.


This could mean painting your office in totally different colours than the rest of your home, therefore setting the tone that this is somewhere where the serious business of work is carried out. When choosing the colours for an office you will want something neutral and not distracting. Gentle shades with a brilliant white ceiling should do the trick for a calm but functional living space.


  1. Storage space


The online magazine Creative Digest explains how every office should be clear from clutter and as tidy as possible. This is not always an easy task, but it is important. If it is possible then keeping all of your important documents on a computer, rather than printed out and put in a filing cabinet, will save you space and reduce your carbon footprint. For those items you simpy have to have in hard copies, there is a wide range of home storage solutions on the market and these can vary from click together plastic boxes to cardboard folders which can be stored on shelves. Get items that pack in the maximum amount of items into the smallest possible space so that your office doesn’t become cramped.


  1. Choosing the right furniture


When you’re setting up a home office it is important that you choose the correct furniture for your needs. If you’re going to be using a computer most of the time then having a comfortable chair and desk is the first thing you should look at. If you draw out a plan of the room, with the dimensions, you will be able to decide where items of furniture will fit. You don’t want to block radiators or electrical sockets. Making the most of your office space will allow you to have more room to relax in while working. You could install an easy chair too, as you will need to take breaks if you’re using the computer all day.


  1. Blinds or curtains


Once you have planned your office and are ready to work you’ll also need to decide what you’re going to do about the windows. Most big businesses just have blinds or clear glass with no covering at all, but when you’re working from home you’ll want to stop any distractions. If you have built your office on the ground floor then people passing by could irritate you, so having blinds might be the best answer. This is all a matter of personal taste but it’s important to remember that you’ll have to be able to focus once you enter your office in order to carry out your work. Blinds allow you to shut out as much of the outside world as you wish.


House price increase: Is this the time to sell?

The housing market is constantly changing. Many of those who plan to move overseas and want to cash in on low property prices may find healthcare and planning restrictions have blighted their dream. Only sell if you’ve carried out the research.


Buying abroad

Recent changes in UK pension legislation mean that many older Brits can invest their savings in an overseas dream. Low prices overseas tempt investors of all ages, but what looks good on paper or on a tempting TV programme often turns into a nightmare in reality. Local taxes, kickbacks and ancient property deeds mean that you must seek the advice of UK based experts. VP Notaries in London may be able to help you with the preparation of documents required to register your purchase and with some of the intricacies of international property legislation. You may think you speak a foreign language fluently, but once you’re faced with a legal document, often phrased in arcane dialect, you will need help.


Even if you have money, you can’t always borrow

Only sell if you can afford to buy. Many of those who received a mortgage in 2010 or earlier will not be eligible for a mortgage in today’s tough financial climate. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has instructed all lenders to ensure that all borrowers can afford to repay any loans they want to take out; this includes mortgages.


If you received a mortgage as a result of the old self-certification scheme, then check your credit rating to ensure that you can receive a new mortgage under the new rules. Your credit score is an important factor, so, even if you think that you’re financially safe and can easily afford to sell your house and obtain a new mortgage, your credit score might say otherwise.


Interest rates

With the recent announcement in The Telegraph that the era of cheap mortgages was at an end, make sure that you are aware of all the facts. You may sell your house at a wonderful profit, but banks and building societies have recently announced an increase in interest rates, and this is in advance of the Bank Of England’s projected rise. You’ll have to do some arithmetic and take into account the worst possible scenario before you can commit to buying a new home.


An artificial market

There are some who believe that the current housing market is artificial. While on the one hand the BBC states that ‘the housing market is hotting up’ on the other hand reports claim that ‘foreign criminals are driving up UK house prices.’ The number of approved mortgages has increased but this was mainly due to low fixed rate mortgage deals.


Think before you sell

If you have to move for a job or for other reasons then go ahead. Otherwise don’t let your future happiness depend on the headlines. Estate agents write very good press releases that find their way into journalists’ copy. What’s the point of selling your beautiful home in Northampton, for example, in exchange for a rabbit hutch in London? Before you sell, read everything you can, check your credit report and think about whether you’re investing in a future home or just a transitory business transaction.