Blog: 2016

Ideas for decorating your Christmas dining table
By Jo Littlefair of interior designers Goddard Littlefair
Jo Littlefair is a leading designer and she shares her ideas for achieving a beautifully dressed Christmas table. 
'I love to see the outdoors coming indoors at Christmas, via a beautifully-laid table that really reflects the best the season can bring.
'Along with clusters of berries or cones to serve as table decorations, you can find really beautiful seed heads – poppies are particularly good  – which look great arranged over individual linen napkins, loosely tied round with a thick silk ribbon.
'I think a really elegant table should avoid reds and greens and employ subtler autumn colours such as plum or burnt orange. The sparing use of gold will always add some requisite seasonal glitz. Gold leaf, which is less expensive than you might imagine, can be broken up and applied with Gilding Size (a special adhesive) to apples or pears to make great-looking table decorations.
'Candlelight is a must, and a central display of pillar candles of varying heights can’t be beaten, with grosgrain ribbon wrapped generously around the base and tied into artful knots.
'It’s great to make the extra effort too to personalise place settings for your guests, using rubber stamps for each guest’s name or embossed paper to wrap an individual gift. 
'To keep the children and young people happy there has to be an element of fun. Strips of plain brown wrapping paper can be laid across the table in each direction to serve as a cheap-as-chips table runner. Between courses guests could be asked to write down the answers to a quiz or to make their own Christmas joke, with a prize for the best. And why not get more artistic guests to draw a winter animal or bird – foxes and robins, reindeer or owls.'
The pictures above are of the table Jo dressed for an apartment at Southbank Place, a major new development project on London's South Bank.
Christmas, Decoration, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home, art
Easy, natural and eco ways to clean your bathroom
By Coco Piras

Black tea to clean your bathroom mirror? yes indeed. Lemon juice for grubby chrome? yes for sure!

Lots of us are becoming wary of household cleaning products because of the potentially harmful chemicals they may contain, and because we want to limit pollutants flooding down our drains.

If that's you, you'll love this infographic showing how you can having a sparkling bathroom using ingredients from the kitchen. Take a look:

eco friendly, eco home
Home and lifestyle tech - what's worked, what's not and what's to come?
By Sophie Barritt

Home assistance provider HomeServe has been looking at home technology and how it's developed from the 1960s  - and how it could be impacting our lives in the coming decades. Food mixers, hand held phones, and microwaves have all lasted, but products that didn't include a device that was supposed to sound like a cat and so frighten off rodents-  and dare we say the teasmade isn't a staple in that many bedrooms these days.

See the hits and the misses in this fun infographic:

And HomeServe did a survey of 2000 UK adults to get their views on future technological wizardry:

63 per cent of those questioned think smart thermostats will soon be the norm in our homes (if you haven't already got one..)

32 per cent of people think robotic cleaners sound useful and believe they'll take over from us when it comes to cleaning the house at the weekend.

And 41 per cent of those questioned say the boiler is the most important device in the home, compared to 35 per cent who prioritised the television over the boiler... maybe they're the hardy types who like cold showers and wearing their coat indoors in winter.. 


eco friendly, eco home
The 2016 home - according to John Lewis
By Coco Piras

John Lewis  and its sales are a bellweather for the British economy, and what we buy from the department store shows where the Brits are at when it comes to homes and interiors

So its 2016 trend report has some interesting findings - particularly that hummingbirds, flamingos and pineapples have caught our fancy in the year of Brexit....

The trend for all things plain and taupe is clearly in abeyance; no, this year we've wanted clashing patterns, colour and quirkiness in our homes. So John Lewis has crunched the numbers and found that...drum roll... 
●     Sales of its multi-coloured hummingbird wallpaper (£25 a roll) went up by 94 per cent, while sales of chinaware with bold patterns were up 52 per cent.
●     Eye-catching flamingos emblazoned everything from cups and cushions to wallpaper and fairy lights. Searches for 'flamingo' increased by a staggering 200 per cent on,  apparently.
●     Gold pineapples made a quirky style statement. The retailer had been selling up to 70 a day of its recyclable aluminium pineapples (£30) ...though things have calmed down a bit.
The year of the avocado
2016 was also the year of the avocado - though fortunately avocado bathroom suites aren't back in vogue - with searches for avocado-related products 85 per cent higher than last year.
Doing our bit to cut plastic waste
More of us are heeding the plea that we stop buying water in throw-away plastic bottles as that plastic waste is ruining the oceans. JL says so far this year sales of re-fillable water bottles are up 35 per cent. 
Smart home
You may be a Luddite and not mind drawing your curtains by hand..but more of us want to press a button for things to get things moving at home and we're embracing that word of the moment - connectivity.
●     Searches for smart home products on were up 670 per cent. Yes, you read it right, 670.
●     JL has seen an 81 per cent increase in sales of smart home products
So what are we leaving behind?
Well, women don't want to hear big hats anymore, preferring to have a disc-shaped fascinator perched on the head.
Are we getting less group-vain? Well, seemingly because sales of selfie sticks are down, and online searches for them are down by 50 per cent compared to last year.
Designers, stop designing CD and DVD storage units because we all have on-demand telly these days. And mobile phones are putting alarm clocks out of business - sales are down nearly 10 per cent.  
painting and decorating, eco friendly, eco home
If you're visiting people, here are some house guest faux pas you need to know not to commit
By Hari Alexander

This doesn't relate to things eco, but we were amused by it in the Deco office and have wildly differing views on a few of the faux pas..

Anyway, a flooring company has done a survey of 1009 British adults to find out what they consider the most annoying things house guests do.

Top of the list is using a mobile phone at the dinner table (we're all agreed on that) and apparently 77 per cent of those questioned don't like it when guests ask for the wifi password. Well, it does suggest the guest is anticipating being bored and needing to access YouTube Fifa videos...

Third on the list of top irritants is people wearing shoes indoors..and this is where I profoundly disagree. Indeed when I go to someone's house, particularly in the evening and it's not raining and my shoes aren't covered in mud, and I'm asked to take off my shoes, I feel like turning round and heading for home again. I don't want to have to spend the evening in my socks, I find it disempowering to be shoeless in a social gathering and I think it's rude to ask people to take off their shoes at the door.

I mean, let's imagine a posh party and a woman arrives at her hosts' door wearing beautiful high heels which complement her dress and generally make her look terrific, not to mention taller. To expect her to remove her lovely shoes and ruin the look of her outfit for the non existent possibility of damaging the hosts' carpets is unreasonable. Sure if shoes are filthy, take 'em off. But if you're so precious about your carpets, really, don't ask anyone to come round to your house.

Carrying on, we don't like visitors to look into our bedrooms without permission - we feel it's an invasion of privacy. And we hate people opening our fridges and peering inside. I must say, I'm with the survey on that given that my fridge is always pitifully empty bar that lone rotting courgette on the bottom shelf. 
When it comes to home entertaining, nearly a quarter of us say we expect guests not to arrive empty handed - a bottle of wine really is de rigeur, though if people are coming for lunch, we don't feel so strongly about it and only three per cent of those surveyed said they'd expect a guest to arrive with a gift. 
Apparently 22 per cent think it's very rude if you're a guest and you turn down food you're offered. And if you're staying with people for a few days, beware helping yourself to food! Eighty eight per cent of people questioned say they'd think it incredibly rude if a guest is helping him or herself to the contents of the biscount tin uninvited. 
Those top 10 faux pas in full:
Being on your phone over lunch / dinner
Asking for the Wi-Fi code
Wearing shoes on the carpet
Looking in bedrooms without permission
Looking inside the fridge without asking
Turning up to a dinner party without a gift
Helping yourself to food without asking
Putting your feet on the furniture
Turning down food when asked
Bringing around a pet without asking first
What do you think? drop us a line at
painting and decorating, flooring
It's the Dulux Colour Of The does that make you want to repaint your home?
By Noah Dugall

I'm always amused when a paint or a colour forecasting company (yes, they do exist..) does a drumroll and declares this or that colour to be the COLOUR OF THE YEAR.

Ah right, so it's the colour of the year. Gosh, I must repaint my house, yes, I'll get onto it straight away. I mean, I certainly do not want to be the only person in the street whose walls are not in the Colour of the Year.

Mmm, but it would be a help if it could be the Colour of Every Other Year, because I've only just finished painting our flat in last year's (ie this year, 2016's) colour of the year, which was Cherished Gold for Dulux. (And they even had a Face of the colour of the year, which was athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, I suppose for her bronzed complexion). And the year before I had to paint the flat in Dulux's Copper you can see my arms are starting to ache.

In case you are a dedicated follower of fashion and don't see a load of old marketing tosh staring you in the face, this week Dulux announced that its Colour of the Year (for 2017 that is) is...wait for it...a hue called Denim Drift (I wonder how many celebs are keen to be the Face of Denim Blue?)., ok get that, and drift..maybe the grey of driftwood. Because Denim Drift is a bluey-grey colour. It looks nice, so if you like blue and blue goes with your things and your walls needs re-decorating, then perhaps its Colour of the Year status will make you want it.

I suppose it's hard for paint companies to get us excited about paint because every possible colour under the sun is already available - have you ever seen a Dulux professional painter's paint fan? I mean it weighs a tonne! So giving us a Colour of the Year could be one way to jolt us indolent consumers with dirty/faded/flaking walls into action.

Except it doesn't. No one repaints in a colour because it's the colour of the year. I will never want gold walls, or copper walls. And blue walls? Nah, I'll stick with the nice pinky grey I mixed up by combining a pink and a grey paint together in a bucket with half a pot of white emulsion. It's my colour of last year, this year and next year and quite probably the year after that. That said should we ever change the colour of our sofa or carpet, then we might have to re-think the colour scheme.

But the bottom line is if blue or green or pink or yellow doesn't go with your stuff, or you just don't like it - I will never ever like mustard or purple - then no matter its Colour of the Year status, it's not going to work.


painting and decorating, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home
Ikea: Life At Home Report
By Abby Trow

Ikea's brought out its third annual Life at Home report, which the company says focuses on've guessed it.. those elusive little somethings that make a house a home. A bit corny, non?

One thing that struck me immediately..and it's a surprising oversight from a company that does have very strong eco credentials I think... is that the report (read it here) DOES NOT have a section on what we're all doing to be more eco friendly at know, like composting our veg peelings and food waste; turning down the thermostat by a degree and limiting our hot showers to four minutes.

Ikea says it interviewed people in 12 cities inclduing Stockholm, Shanghai, Mumbai, New York and surely it would have been fascinating to look at ways people in different parts of the world are - or aren't - trying to be less wasteful of energy and whether they care about sustainability when it comes to furniture and belongings. i.e have we moved on from the throw-away mentality?

High five for wi-fi

I'm not sure the report offers anything particularly riveting, let alone surprising. Unless you're surprised by the importance of wi-fi to.... well...pretty much everyone.

So, apparently, one in four of us say good wi-fi is more important in a home than having space for socialising.

One in five of us prefer to keep up with friends by 'visiting' them online rather than actually asking them to come to our homes in the flesh.

And (not quite sure how this works...) 16 per cent of millennials (folks born after 1985) admit 'to eating or drinking together through social media than in person'.

What seems very sad - and it's not something Ikea can do much about, alas - is that too many of us are living in overcrowded accommodation and yearn for privacy at home (anecdotes include how people look forward to their morning/evening stint in the bathroom because it's the one place they can be on their own in a property...).

But this report glosses over this burning issue that affects people in so many towns and cities around the world. And it makes you wonder if global businesses involved in furniture, which needs to have a house/flat to go to, couldn't get involved in the affordable housing debate so we aren't all squashed like sardines in our flats. (For example, Ikea might support Userhuus..a Swiss project that's developed super eco modular housing, and put its clout behind a campaign to free up land... See our blog piece on Userhuus.)

Anyway, I'm digressing.. Ikea is happier to tell us that young people like music (didn't we know that?) and they play stuff they like in their bedrooms so things feel more homely.

30 per cent of people questioned associate a certain food with home, and while 63 per cent cook to create the feeling of home (73 per cent in Moscow!)
16 per cent of respondents say they would not have any problems throwing away and replacing all the things they have in their home. (Hope they're not looking despairingly at all their Ikea furniture and wondering where the nearest recycling centre is...) 
25 per cent of respondents would choose to spend an hour alone if they had one spare during the day, rather than with friends or family.
I'm not sure this Life At Home report has anything meaningful to offer other than trifles and observations of the obvious. But read between the lines and you see what we crave is space.
Bigger flats and houses, bigger rooms. Is this a problem of over-population or a global economy that has turned living space into one of the most valuable assets on earth, with those lucky enough to own land/property determined to squeeze people who need a roof over their heads until the pips squeak?
Ikea's survey was carried out in April and May 2016 in 12 cities: Berlin, London, Madrid, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto and Zurich. It received 12,000 responses.
eco friendly, eco home
Why we've introduced a super low-cost paywall
By Abby Trow

Enjoy reading Deco for just £12 a year - that's £1 a month. Not even the price of half a cup coffee at Costa ... 

We launched Deco four years ago and we knew at outset that monetising it would be a challenge.

But now we're in 2016 and it's proving nigh on impossible to attract advertising because of the way digital advertising works, because advertisers are put off by the fact that more of us are using ad-blockers online, and because many small companies prefer to put their marketing budgets into PR.

So we have reached the point where we cannot continue to work with no revenue, and we are appealing to the lovely readers of our small niche independent online magazine to support Deco with a subscription of £12 a year - that is just £1 a month.

We don't need a lot of money to run Deco, but we do need to be able to pay journalists to research and write articles, pay IT experts to revamp and maintain the site, pay to produce video content, pay to advertise Deco to wider audiences. Unfortunately no business can live on viewing figures alone. 

So when the Tinypass paywall box comes up on screen after you've had your monthly free reads, please, click on and support us with £12 a year if you can. (You can also choose the £1.49 a month or £8 for six months options if that's more do-able for you). And we will put your money to very good use by using it to develop and improve Deco.

Thank you.

Abby Trow,
Editor, Deco online

Clearing out my clutter
Louise Parker and Dr Elizabeth Forrester
Brighton-based blogger Louise Parker of worked with psychologist Dr Elizabeth Forrester to help her take a less emotional view of her possessions. Having recently moved home Louise had already cleared out a lot of unwanted items, but realised she was still clinging onto a lot of clothing, toiletries and other beauty items she didn't need.
Louise: 'I was a little nervous about de-cluttering with Liz if I'm honest. I like to think I'm quite a streamlined person, so really thought there wouldn't be anything that I would deem as clutter. However, my wardrobe and drawers that were bursting at the seams and telling a different story, so something really needed to be done!
'Liz's approach was very simple: after putting all my clothes from my wardrobes and drawers (and secret suitcases filled with further clothes) on the bed, it was as easy as picking up each item one by one and really assessing whether I wanted it or needed it. Asking myself whether I actually wore it, or if it was the similar to lots of my other clothes was a particularly handy approach. I found that I hadn't really thought about many of the items of clothes for quite a while, just because I rarely saw them in my packed wardrobe! 
'My drawers full of bottles, make-up and skincare were an area that really needed addressing - it was amazing the great feeling I got when I found something in among the clutter that I forgot I had. It was also really great to rid myself of the little sample sachets and bottles from magazines and make-up counters. Looking at the piles of stuff I was happy to get rid of was quite a shock - nd that image will really stay with me when I next go to Boots!
'Another thing Liz taught me was to contemplate the amount of things I bring into the house every day - and whether I clear the same amount out. So now when I do choose to buy something new, I'll be thinking about what I can get rid of to balance it out.' 
Dr Elizabeth Forrester: 'Louise made some interesting comments about some of the items she’d struggled to discard. This applied to quite a few cosmetic items which had lain unused and unloved in the drawer. Attempts to avoid unpleasant, negative feelings is a key reason for not tackling clutter. When Louise came face-to-face with these items, it reminded her of money she had spent on them, so getting rid of them felt wasteful, and led to further feelings of guilt.  
'A self-confessed lover of shopping, I asked her about the feelings she experienced when she bought the items. When we shop, we see items that we desire and it often seems as if we will never get over that intense feeling of longing we experience. In fact, that feeling has too often fizzled out before we’ve even set foot through the door and the item loses its magic. In a similar way, we may fear that the negative thoughts and emotions we get when contemplating getting rid of some unworn or unused purchases won’t go away either.
'By clearing out a significant amount of clutter (like half-used tubes and bottles), and taking a new approach to discarding her unwanted purchases - such as passing them on to friends and colleagues for a donation to a favourite charity -  Louise had a very different experience. She found that rather than being left with uncomfortable feelings,she got the same familiar buzz she would get when acquiring something new.
'What’s more, delighting friends with a nearly-new bargain (and being able to give some cash to a good cause) will give her additional ‘feel good’ experiences. And by having a good clear-out, it is possible to fall in love all over again with some things that have been languishing in the back of our cupboards.'
eco friendly, eco home, recycling
Bio-ethanol fires: pretty as a picture but expensive to run
By Abby Trow. Photographs by Victoria Moore

We've been putting the Globus bioethanol fire from Imaginfires through its paces over the past few weeks...when it's been pretty chilly of an evening. And my partner, teenage sons and myself have become rather fond of it. 

The pluses

Perhaps the first thing to note is that contrary to expectation, the fire does heat up the sitting room when on 'full blast' so to speak (ie the aperture for flames is opened to its maximum).

You hear that they're these fires are really just for decoration and the heat they emit is pretty feeble, but we've found that if you close the sitting room door and put Globus to work, the room heats up nicely. ...Whether it would make a noticeable difference on a below zero day in the depths of an icy January (we didn't have any such days in January this year...), with no central heating on, I can't comment on; but on a fairly cool evening when the heating's gone off, the Globus does warm things up.

Easy to use

We chose to try a freestanding fire that happens to fit in our fireplace..the Globus is quite heavy but two people can move it around easily, so its portability is a plus. And these fires are super easy to use - you pour the bioethanol into the well (see the close up picture), put a match to it and flames appear..slowly at first but they get more vigorous after a few minutes. And to put the fire 'off', you use the metal tool to pull the metal cover over the well. 

Very pretty to look at

We liked the look of the Globus and think it's an attractive piece of metalwork in the fireplace, but when it's dark outside and the fire's on, it looks lovely - if you've not had the delights of a real fire in your home, a bioethanol offers you that comfort - but with no mess, and no smoke. 

Recyclable product

Being made entirely from steel, the fire will no doubt last for decades, and you only need to wipe it over with a damp cloth to keep clean. And I know that were it ever to go to the Islington recycling centre, it would be destined for the giant skip marked 'metal' and it would be melted down and made into ..well, perhaps a new fire.

The minuses

First and foremost, it's the cost of the bioethanol fuel that makes these fires a luxury product and which deters you from having the fire on too often. A litre bottle costs £5-£6 and you get 3-4 hours of dancing flames from that. So if you wanted to use the fire every evening during winter, well, you do the maths. So while the fires themselves are affordable - you can buy one for a few hundred pounds - if you're not feeling rich and you're naturally frugal you will be put off lighting it because of the cost of the fuel. In short, what could be a practical product becomes a luxury one because of the cost of running it. 

The other thing my elder son and I don't like is the odour from the bioethanol. It does have a slight smell - it reminds me of sweet silage sniffed from a distance. But it's not horrid and my partner and younger son say they don't notice the smell, so I guess it depends on how sensitive your olfactory senses are. 

To buy or not to buy?

I would say go for it...these fires offer those of us who live in flats the chance to enjoy real flames. The fires themselves are relatively inexpensive and attractive, and they do look lovely when lit. They're easy to use, they're mess free and the answer to the cost of the fuel is to accept that you don't light them too often. 

eco friendly, eco home