How to create a year-round garden:take a tour of the ultimate ‘outdoor room’ designed by Abigail Ahern


With a coffee table overhung with a chandelier, a snug two-seater and curvy armchairs ranged around a fireplace, as well as a kitchen and dining table, Abigail Ahern’s back garden has to be the ultimate outdoor room.

When she moved to Hackney with husband Graham 13 years ago, Ahern, an accomplished interior designer but a self-confessed non-gardener, approached the outside space with caution. “At first I did what everybody else did, and had stuff down the perimeter and nothing in the middle,” she says, “but as I became more confident, I realised the same principles I applied to inside could apply to the outside.

“One of these is that you never have everything on the perimeter. I like to design interiors so you can’t walk in a straight line from one end of the room to the other, because there’s always something in your way. It’s the difference between walking in a field, where you can see all around you which is really boring, or in a forest, where you’re not sure what’s around the next corner. That’s what I wanted to do here.”

This atmospheric retreat, with weathered decking, leafy tree canopies and stashes of logs for fires indoors and out, looks like it was built in the heart of a forest. That is, if it weren’t for the cowboy cacti — realistic fakes that Ahern sells in her Islington shop and has tucked in among the hydrangea bushes, adding a touch of Santa Fe to the patio — and the petrol blue cabin at the rear, a £100 eBay find upcycled by Graham.

The roomy patio with York stone paving looks as cosy as the living room on the other side of the huge, two-storey glass doors. Another Ahern design principle is to supersize features and furniture to make a space look larger, so naturally, as well as chandeliers in every room of the house, an outsize chandelier of tiered driftwood pieces hangs over the black lacquer coffee table.

Lighting is a game changer, indoors and out, says Ahern. “I have a problem finding outdoor lights I like, so I put indoor lights outside, and have them professionally rewired.” These include a standard lamp and a Sixties pendant shade, while the bonus of overhanging electric cable is that the mile-a-minute vine scrambles along it, creating playful garlands of green above the patio.

To the right of the patio-cum-sittingroom is the dining area, defined by an Indian zinc-topped table from Petersham Nurseries and a customised concrete kitchen from Dutch company WWOO.

“The company customised the kitchen to fit around the Big Green Egg, a barbecue cooker I’m obsessed with ever since I designed a set for a TV programme with Heston Blumenthal, who uses it all the time. You can bake on it, roast with it and it’s all temperature controlled. We put something in on a Saturday morning, slow cook it for 10 hours and come back in the evening and supper’s ready. We even cook the Christmas turkey on it.”

Playing with different textures is a big part of Ahern’s design philosophy, and is apparent in her choice of materials in both hardscape and planting. The decked garden path that leads down to the cabin is a clever fake from Millboard that resembles old, weather-worn oak timber, and is edged down either side with a deep ruff of variegated tufted grass Carex oshimensis Everest.

Pebbles — another textural contrast — are her choice of flooring on either side, giving Ahern the freedom to gradually plant both areas over time. On one side is a wall of rustling bamboo, which she planted so she could look down from her bedroom window and enjoy the constant movement, and on the opposite wall, a sheet of evergreen jasmine. “We planted about 20 tiny plants and now the scent of the flowers in summer is beautiful,” she says. “I’m mad about watering all the time to make them cover the wall.”


[Source:- homesandproperty]


How to create the perfect winter garden wonderland

Lantern in a winter garden

The festive season may be here but don’t neglect your outside space. While you’re busy beautifying your home and getting your tree ready, you can also create a magical space in your garden.

In fact, all it takes is a little planning and activity. Here, garden specialists Oeco Garden Rooms give their tips on creating the perfect winter garden wonderland.


Having the right garden layout from the get go is the most important thing, not only for the summer months when the flowers are in bloom but also the winter as the plants start to die off; this is where you will see the bare bones of the garden and if it is not laid out properly it can look gloomy and untidy.

Wall gardens, hedges and raised flower beds are all great ways of adding structure to the garden, providing designated areas for different activities and can be repurposed for different times of the year.


Adding seasonal colours such as red and white will make the garden more inviting and flowers such as Hellebores are a great choice. These flowers, sometimes known as the Christmas rose are pastel pink and white in colour and produce big leaves that fill the space in the garden. They flower for a long time as well, generally lasting between late winter and early spring.

Another white flower to consider is Clematis Jingle Bells; these flowers have a bold white colour and typically flower from December to January. Clematis Jingle Bells will need some pruning to keep the size down as they can grow up to five metres high.

Fir trees are the quintessential winter wonderland accessory especially when it snows; they are evergreen and require very little maintenance, but be sure to choose a small species of fir tree as some can grow up to 80 feet tall.

For a festive touch in your garden, why not opt for a holly tree. Make sure that you get a male bush are these are the ones that produce those signature red berries. For those who do not have the space for a Holly tree, Cotoneaster horizontal is or Pyracantha are a great choice for adding a pop of colour to the garden.


While the inside of the house smells of cinnamon, spices and oranges to evoke the festive spirit, the garden is largely forgotten, but there are various ways of creating the sweet smell of winter in the garden with scented flowers.

Planting Witch Hazel is a great choice to add a wintery scent to the garden; its large yellow flowers release a delicious scent of liquorice into the air. Winter honeysuckle is also a good choice, producing a lemony-fresh scent.

For those who want an evergreen shrub that has little maintenance then Sarcococca is the perfect fit. Commonly known as the Christmas Box or Sweet Box, Sarcococca produces small white flowers with a lush, leathery foliage and best of all it exudes a fragrant honey scent during the winter.


Your winter garden wonderland wouldn’t be complete without some decoration. Fairy lights and lanterns are a great way of creating light in an outdoor space and can be hung on trees, draped over bushes or hung from outdoor structures like sheds, garden rooms and decking.

For those on a budget, there are plenty of things to do that won’t cost a lot of money including tying festive ribbons to tree branches, hanging wreaths around the garden and decorating trees with baubles and tinsel.


Many people give the garden a miss during the winter months because of the cold, but adding a heat source is easy and cheap and provides an outdoor space that can be used all year round. Patio heaters and chimera’s are a great way of adding heat to the garden, and building your own fire pit is a cheap way for the whole family to gather around and enjoy.


If there is one bird that evokes a winter wonderland, then it’s a robin redbreast. These majestic birds are strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role in many festive cards since the mid-19th century.

Robins will often come when other birds are around, so make sure that you put plenty of food out for all the birds. Black sunflower seeds and seed balls are great for attracting various species of birds, but be sure to avoid dried lentils as only certain birds can eat them. Robins are also fond of crushed nuts so placing some on a bird table is sure to get them knocking.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

Create a Dazzling display



There’s so much that can be gleaned from the garden to make your own seasonal display, in the brightest of colours down to the beautiful mute browns reminiscent of this time of year. Even plants that have died and faded to produce seed heads are beautiful, and truly capture the spirit of late autumn! Basically, anything goes. Harvest all the colourful, interesting plants you can, and it may be that this forms part of your pruning and general garden tidy up now, too. It’s best to keep it a dry arrangement with no water, so that dry stems don’t rot. You can simply just replace the live blooms that fade quickly with others.



[Source:- gardennewsmagazine]

Create added impact with a splash of colour! Who said all windows should be white?


Our discerning customers are making style statements to create a high quality, woodgrain finish that won’t ever need re-painting. We offer a variety of standard woodgrain colours: mahogany, golden oak and cherrywood. You can even specify white on the inside and a colour on the outside to make it easier to match your interior décor and give a brighter appearance inside your home.

Our premium finishes are of such a good quality that it’s almost impossible to distinguish them from timber windows, which creates a truly stunning look. From subtle chartwell green, cream and irish oak to striking grey, black-brown, blue and red; all of our choices will enable you to get creative, add some colour and add a lot of character to your home.


[Source:- britanniawindows]

How to create a hi-tech home with no cables on show

An Oliver Burns drawing room with a hidden TV

There’s a misconception that hi-tech homes can’t also be knock-your-socks-off beautiful. Speakers, televisions and the smart panels that control audio systems, heating and lighting are just eyesores that get in the way of a well-designed interior – aren’t they?

If that visual clutter is catching your eye, you’re simply not doing it right. Interior designers, working hand-in-hand with specialist tech firms, go to huge lengths to cleverly conceal everything.

Interior designer Rabih Hage’s scheme for a west London home has all the ingredients of an integrated home, including music in every room (even the bathroom) fed through invisible speakers hidden behind the plasterwork. There are multiple lighting “scenes” that transform the mood at the touch of a button, and an entertainment server that stores and plays movies to any television, or to the sumptuous home cinema in the basement. Yet it is all incredibly discreet, barely interfering at all with Hage’s tranquil vision of herringbone oak floors, hand-painted walls and contemporary art.

A Tillman Domotics project in Earls Court
A Tillman Domotics project in Earls Court Credit: Jake Fitzjones

Everything is controlled by iPad minis, which are mounted magnetically on wireless-charging stations in every principal room.

“People can find their way around a tablet much more easily these days,” says Matthew Tillman of Tillman Domotics, which designed, installed and continues to maintain this house’s technology. Because such systems have become so complex, post-installation care is now a big part of his company’s proposition.

“The industry has become less about offering a product and more the service. Everything’s monitored remotely, so if anything changes, we get a notification. We also spend a day or two twice a year at every property, checking everything and upgrading if necessary; and we’re also on call if anything goes wrong.”

Tillman doesn’t feel the need for the fruits of his labour to be on show, but that’s not always the case, says Joe Burns, managing director of interior design firm Oliver Burns. “Some of the technology guys will say ‘but it’s the best television; they’re the best speakers’ – they think that because of that they should be on display – but we explain that it’s better if they’re hidden. The television should never be the focal point of a room.”

The bathroom in an Echlin townhouse in Chelsea
The bathroom in an Echlin townhouse in Chelsea Credit: Richard Waite

Burns will hide the box behind a wall, so that a panel will move back and the television will move forward. “Speakers can go behind plasterwork but there are also ‘art’ speakers, so you can have a screenprint of a family portrait on top.”

Tillman Domotics doctored a divan bed where the television is hidden in a cartridge underneath, and can pop out at the bottom before rising up.

At a Knightsbridge property just completed by home technology firm James & Giles, with interiors by Belgian designer Lionel Jadot, the televisions were all hidden behind exquisite works of art, which slide to one side.

“If you have formal rooms like this, you don’t want to see an ugly speaker grille on the ceiling, or the television on show when you’re entertaining,” says James & Giles’s managing director Giles Sutton. “With every interior, you either have to find technology that blends in seamlessly and more or less disappears, or come up with ways of complementing it.”

An Echlin townhouse in Chelsea
An Echlin townhouse in Chelsea Credit: Richard Waite

For example, the lighting control panels (which set four or five different “scenes” per room) that have replaced the simple on-off light switch are a visible necessity, but most of them rarely meet the exacting needs of an interior designer.

James & Giles has sourced more beautiful alternatives: a minimal, futuristic white pad by Belgian company Basalte for contemporary interiors, and a tactile push-button one in antique bronze by Forbes & Lomax for period homes.

Joe Burns says that great joinery is the real secret to subtly integrating technology, especially in listed properties where the fabric of the building cannot be interfered with.

Wiring can be concealed behind cornicing and architraves rather than chased into the wall, and bespoke furniture created to hide air-conditioning units.

But this is not just any old furniture. Architecture and interior design practice SHH has just completed a project near Regent’s Park that features a pair of opulent bronze and antique mirror cabinets either side of a fireplace: one hides the television, the other contains the heating and air-conditioning unit. SHH’s associate director of residential interiors Rupert Martineau says it’s very common for him to commission reproduction antiques that contain a surprise television that pops up when needed.

A Tillman Domotrics project
A Tillman Domotrics project Credit: Jake Fitzjones

The watchword in home technology is “integration”, with all services controlled in one place.

The limits that this can be taken to is demonstrated by a project that James & Giles worked on, a new-build house in north London by Robert Dye Architects. The house won a CEDIA award, the Oscars of the home tech world, run by the industry body of the same name (CEDIA is a good place to start if you want your own hi-tech home).

As well as controlling the heating, lighting and audio-visual, the system looks after home security, the intercom, and even closes the blinds when the house’s weather station senses that the rooms might overheat.

Integrated systems have the advantage of cutting down on what Sutton describes as “wall clutter” – the various control panels that are needed for every separate element – as well as making life easier for users.

“People don’t want to learn how to operate a thermostat, and then an alarm system – they want everything consolidated, so there’s one panel you can go to, and anyone can use it,” says Sutton.

Interior designer Alix Lawson of Lawson Robb agrees. “People are already overloaded with gadgets and technology. When they come home they want to switch off and relax. Making everything simple is a key way that we can make the home a calm place to be”.


The firm’s ethos of “barefoot luxury” shows in a cinema room it created for a private home in Knightsbridge. Instead of manly rows of leather seats, there are silk-panelled acoustic-panelled walls that conceal the speakers, a super-sized daybed and a cosy fireplace; a dropped ceiling hides the heating and air conditioning.

This softer approach to the cinema room is becoming more common: there’s still a big screen, but the room itself is more informal and flexible. “We try to create multi-use, family-friendly spaces, with specialist acoustic treatment to reduce noise transfer,” says Sam McNally, design director of design and development studio Echlin.

“You still get the ‘wow factor’ cinema-like space, but one which can be used for other things such as a playroom, a space to do a workout class in front of the video, yoga or meditation.”

But with the top integrated home technology systems running into six figures, how do homeowners ensure that things don’t become obsolete?

“We now run data cable to the place where fridges and ovens are going to be installed, even though there are few ‘smart’ fridges or ovens on the market at the moment,” says Sutton. It also goes back to having a good maintenance contract, so that the same experts can upgrade systems as they come along.

[Source:- Telegraph]

How to create a kitchen garden


Plan your design, planting scheme and finishing touches to reap the benefits of a kitchen garden.​

What’s the difference between a kitchen garden and a vegetable patch? Well, the biggest difference is that the kitchen garden, or potager, is both productive and beautiful. A tall order you might think but with a bit of planning it’s perfectly possible to achieve.

Design and layout

  • Think about the shape of the beds. Try for a symmetrical arrangement of four, or six small rectangles, or use triangular beds to make a star shape around a central point.
  • Use pictures of parterres for inspiration.
  • Paths between the beds need to be clear and clean.
  • Arrange plants in blocks or very neat rows for an attractive appearance.
  • Containers are great, not only are they ornamental and provide year round structure but they’re also perfect for growing in.

Decorative plants

  • Grow neat box bushes around each bed to give a crisp edge, or use painted timber boards.
  • Mix flowering plants in with your edibles for extra colour.

Edible plants

  • Grow what you like to eat, and include salads and vegetables like chard, runner beans and different types of lettuce that look attractive, too.
  • Evergreen herbs like rosemary will give year round structure and are good for the end or middle of beds.
  • All herbs are pretty so put in as much as you can of parsley, chives, dill, sage, basil, tarragon, mint, rosemary and thyme.

Finishing touches

  • These really do make the difference between a work-a-day veg patch and a pretty kitchen garden.
  • Use raffia to tie in the plants or tie bamboo canes together, rather than plastic.
  • Galvanised or zinc containers create a shabby chic look. A row of galvanised watering cans is both useful and ornamental.
  • Try hanging colourful bunting across the area or decorating it with lovely lanterns and bird feeders.
[Source:- Housebeautiful]