How clean is your bathroom?
By Adam Moore

Do you find yourself drawn by a certain prurience into watching those hilarious programmes about people who either clean obsessively or live in filth thanks to their hoarding problem? If you so probably find that you involuntarily shriek either 'how could anyone be that weird about cleaning' or 'how can anyone be so disgusting'. And then congratulate yourself on living in clean and tidy conditions that make you a normal civilised person.

Ah, but your may think because it's a room where water's always flowing..from taps, showerheads and loos..that it's a kind of self cleaning place and everything in it is sort of inherently clean. How wrong you are because an organisation called the National Sanitation Foundation (no, we'd never heard of it either..) does research and testing that would suggest many of us take our lives into our own hands each time we visit the bathroom...

This is another of those survey stories but this one's quite fun. An online seller of showers questioned 1,200 Brits recently and found..shock horror...that:

48 per cent of respondents HAD NEVER CLEANED THEIR SHOWER HEAD (that's me)

12 per cent USE THE SAME TOOTHBRUSH FOR A YEAR (er..that's me)


Just 36 per cent wash their towels after 3-5 uses (that's not me..I go for months withouth washing my bathtowel)

And apparently, 65 per cent of us are not cleaning our bathrooms with sufficient vigour or to a sufficiently high standard!

So, we may be leaving our bathrooms dirtier than before we went in and that's because the bathroom is regularly filled with moisture, hosting a variety of potentially harmful bacteria. 
Change your toothbrush!
Only a quarter of those surveyed replace their toothbrush the recommended (by dentists?) every three months, and 12 per cent use the same toothbrush for a year. Your toothbrush can host up to 10 million bacteria, including e-coli and Staphylococci, and some research has even found fecal germs on the toothbrush from when we flush the loo – yuck!

Toothbrush holders are the third most germ-ridden household item, says the National Sanitation Foundation, behind dish sponges and kitchen sinks. Of those tested, 27 per cent had coliforms, 64 per cent had mould, and 14 per cent had Staphylococcus.
Clean your shower head (with hot water and vinegar)
No less than 29 varieties of microbes live on your shower head, we're told. The fact they are moist, warm and dark means they are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria to thrive and when water passes through, they blast out the bugs onto your face and body (keep your mouth closed next time you shower..)
The bath mat is also a breeding ground for bacteria, as once it is damp, it comes into contact with bacteria from the floor. Many do not give their bath mats enough time to dry thoroughly, leaving bacteria to linger. This survey found that almost under half of respondents wash their bath mat on a weekly basis, with 32 per cent of respondents saying they wash theirs only once a month.  
The survey also points out that our towels are full of dead skin cells and bacteria and health guidelines say it's advisable to wash towels after every 3-5 uses – something done by just 36 per cent of those survey respondents.
Over 50 per cent of people questioned say they don't clean much in the bathroom and only when it 'seems dirty'. 
The moral of the tale - be a bit more like those obsessive compulsive cleaners. But if you want to be eco friendly, don't use chemical cleaning fluids...use a good steam cleaner instead.


Bathroom, Cleaning, Health, Hygiene, eco friendly, eco home
Garden spaces: how UK gardens have changed
Hari Alexander
Pictured above: Trex composite decking is made from waste plastic bags and wood scraps. Decking remains a popular way to achieve that outdoor room feel - and extra living space for when the weather's good.
Britain’s homes are shrinking and with it our green spaces. Homes today have halved in size compared to those built in 1920, and the average British garden has shrunk from 168 m2 to just 163.2 m2 between 1983 and 2013.
On top of this, more than two million UK homes don’t have any garden space at all and planning experts predict that by 2020 10.5 per cent of homes will be garden-less. Which isn't good news on many counts, not least research that suggests children who live in homes without a garden are far more likely to become obese compared to those who do have gardens to play in.
However, it’s not just size or lack of access to garden space that's changed. Indeed Britons' entire approach to gardening has shifted as new synthetic materials have become available – from decking to gardening products such as fertilisers.
Plant pots: originally made from clay, pots and containers widely on sale are are plastic while some are now made from biodegradable materials.
Fertiliser: Once, fertiliser was entirely organic. However, chemicals have now been developed to serve as fertiliser – although many gardeners do prefer organic or peat-free fertiliser. 
Lawn mowers: We used to use shears or scythes..cutting grass was a manual job. But machinery was developed in the 1900s saw the development of the push mower and now of course we have electrically-powered lawnmovers which do make it so much easier to maintain a lawn.
Change of purpose
And while gardens are still full of soil, clay, timber and stone, lots of us have added plastic and stainless steel in the form of furniture and railings, and concrete for hard landscaping.
The actual way we see our gardens has changed too. During WW2, gardens were areas for growing food to supplement rationing, and also an area of refuge for those who’d build their own bomb shelters! But by the early 1950s gardeners had shrugged off this sensibility and shifted their focus towards ornamentation and decoration, placing more emphasis on how things look - so manicured lawns and trimmed shrubs.
The late '50s and early '60s saw the arrival of the garden centre, (the first one to open was in Ferndown, Dorset in 1955) – forever changing the way British gardeners cultivated plants. Widespread availability of plants meant heathers, conifers and bedding plants became popular. 
However, the 1970s' counterculture movement also changed the way we garden, reverting attention back on the idea of self-sufficiency and growing your own. And the advent of colour television saw gardening programmes arrive on our screens and interest in gardening as a hobby took off.
The 1980s saw gardens become places to entertain with conservatories and barbecues and by the 1990s we were all getting in to garden makeovers. Which meant putting in decking as a fast affordable way to make a living space in the garden.
The rise of the internet in the 2000s has changed gardening again. Information about growing and cultivating your own plants is everywhere, via your desktop, tablet computer or mobile phone. The renewed focus on climate change and healthy eating also means more of us
want to create sustainable gardens with minimal harm to the environment, using recycled materials in everything from plant pots to composite decking
However, returning to the point that British homes have ever smaller gardens, we need to think carefully about how we can make the most of the new materials and products available and use them to enhance our lives. If you have only a small backyard, fill it with pot plants and remember you can grow fruit and veg in containers too. Or if you're interior space is limited, it might be worth turning your outside space into living space too. You can do this with good decking, some large outdoor umbrellas to shield you from sun and rain and some weatherproof furniture. 
Environment and ecology, Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Outdoor space, Wildlife protection, recycling, eco friendly
London's cultural offer to the world at risk from development
By Coco Piras

The reason cited by millions of visitors to London as to what brings them to the capital is its culture - theatres and galleries large and small, music venues, clubs, arts communities and studios and let's not forget the graffiti and other street art. 

But as planning permission is granted for ever more large scale development - usually for 'luxury' apartment blocks and offices - so the arts are squeezed because high rents means there's nowhere to relocate to. (Teacup chandelier maker Madeleine Boulesteix is a case in point: the arts venue in south London where she and many other artists had lived and worked for decades was closed and the site sold to a developer. She's now based in Devon.)

So the London Assembly's Regeneration Committee has produced a report highlighting the threat posed to the capital's still vibrant art scene by developers which urges the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to take action now. Recommendations include:

·         Developing a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital.
·         Ensuring that the new London Plan includes an affordable cultural workspace policy that means there's affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
·         Carrying out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors. Better quality data on culture in London is essential.
·         Urgently piloting a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, which includes both affordable housing and workspace co-located together.
·         Protecting not just the famous iconic venues in London, but also smaller grassroots venues.
London is home to a staggering 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres and 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit. And don't forget the creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2 per cent), with almost a third of the UK's creative jobs being based in the capital. 
However regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, are putting the capital’s cultural offer at risk. Between 2007 and 2015, the city lost 35 per cent of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 venues to just 88. And some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019.
The Mayor of London has made the promotion of London’s as the best city in the world for culture one of his priorities, and the Regeneration Committee says that means taking action to curb rising property prices which are forcing artists out of their areas.


Culture, Development, Environment and ecology, art
Calling all couch potatoes..get a standing desk!
By Hari Alexander
Here's something that should get you up on your pins - Britons will spend more than 18 years of their adult lifetime sitting down. And sitting down all the time is not good for us, as we all know.
Despite all the gyms and fitness boot camps and home exercise equipment on sale, most of us continue to lead very sedentary lifestyles – spending 51 hours and 44 minutes seated during a typical week, according to recent research. That amounts to more than seven hours a day in their chairs – 4.5  of those hours being at work. The study also found lots of us spend 13.5 hours a week sitting down watching television.
Paul Chamberlain at Solgar UK, which commissioned the research, says inactivity is a real problem with the modern lifestyle: 'Our study of 2000 adults found people exercise only for a fraction of the amount of time they spend sitting down, which can lead to joint and muscle problems. We forget that we weren't built to sit still all the time but designed to move.'
Forty-five per cent of those questioned say they have no idea how much exercise they should do each week, and three quarters say their workplace does nothing to encourage more movement. (The World Health Organisation recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 30 minutes on at least five days.) And over half of respondents say they sometimes sit still for so long they get a sore back.
Fifty per cent of respondents say they’re glued to their desk chairs because they’re too busy to move, and while one in ten of respondents say they worry that colleagues will think they’re not working hard enough if they take a standing break.
So good to hear that more than a quarter of respondents say they would welcome a 'standing desk' and this should act as a spur to companies to invest in these pieces of furniture, while we can also use them at home.
Standing desk makers include Ai Box, which offers very inexpensive cardboard standing desks, and Ikea, which has a good range.
Ironically inactivity is one of the major causes of joint pain because sitting for long period places pressure on the spine and joints.
For some people years of inactivity can lead to weight gain, which increases stress on the joints, along with increasing inflammation which again can impact on joint health.
Furniture, Health, Lifestyle, recycling, eco friendly
California: slower shipping speeds help protect the whale
By Bea Grbic
Shipping company Evergreen Line has been recognised for its outstanding work in voluntary environmental and ecological protection.
From July to November it took part in a protection programme focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vessels and avoiding whale collisions by encouraging slow sailing speeds in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region.
Vessels in the programme were required to reduce speeds to 12 knots or less within 95 nautical miles of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This helps minimize greenhouse gas emissions and so improve air quality in port communities; and during the five-month period the result was a reduction of more than 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and 27 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the smog-forming air pollutant.
The July to November period sees an increase in whale population in the Santa Barbara Channel region - these include blue, humpback and fin whales. With thousands of vessels sailing through the Channel each year, ship strikes are a major threat to the endangered whale population. Slowing ship speeds has been proven to reduce the risk of such fatal strikes.
Kristi Birney, marine conservation analyst for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center, says shipping companies need to be aware that speed can result in fatal strikes: 'Slower moving ships down provide whale conservation -  as well as cleaner air for us to breathe here on the shore.'
Environment and ecology, Wildlife protection
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