Homes, Property and Lifestyle Blog
Whether you’re a fan of ferns, passionate about perennials, or simply enjoy flowers in the house and garden, we have an opportunity you won’t want to miss. At Michael Graham we’re excited to be partnering with Woburn Abbey to offer you the chance to win VIP tickets to the 2018 Woburn Abbey Garden Show on Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th of June.
At Michael Graham we are committed to protecting your privacy and security. When you choose us as your estate or letting agent you entrust us with valuable personal details including your name, email address and telephone numbers. You need to feel confident that your information is safe in our hands.
Along with the rest of the country, here at Michael Graham we’re preparing to celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tying the knot at the weekend. If your invitation got lost in the post (ours did too), and you’re hosting a watch party at home or going along to a street party, the following tips will add a touch of royalty to your celebrations.
The joys of life in the sticks are many and varied, but a family day out at a traditional British sporting fixture takes some beating. At Michael Graham we love getting involved with events across our region and Sunday 20th May is a firm date in our diaries when we’ll pack a picnic and join the crowds who flock to the Grafton Races and Family Fun Day.
If you’re planning a move to the country and have found your dream home, chances are you’ll be considering getting a dog, possibly a puppy. Most dog owners agree that spring is the perfect time to add a four-legged friend to the family with house training easier in the warmer weather (not easy to coax a puppy out into the cold and rain), not to mention more sunny hours for playing outside.
For most of us food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and for some of us finding inventive ways to cook, prepare and serve food is a passion. As a nation we’re obsessed with MasterChef: recently presenter John Torode made headlines with his tears of joy over a seemingly not so humble apple crumble. At Michael Graham we have our fair share of MasterChef wannabees, but if you dream of reaching the top of the culinary world, what sort of kitchen would you most like if you got there?
The weather’s warming up, the month has two bank holidays and a royal wedding is on the horizon. What’s not to love? Pop these dates in your diary so you don’t miss out.
With Michael Graham offices in Milton Keynes and the surrounding market towns of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire, we are perfectly placed to market country homes to London commuters. Recently The Sunday Times featured Bedford as a top choice for Londoners looking for a house in the country with a manageable commute. So why does Bedford tick so many commuter boxes?
Arts and Crafts was a British art and design movement which took off between 1880 and 1920 and which gave us some of the most beautiful houses and gardens in the country. So, what exactly does ‘Arts and Crafts’ mean and what can you expect to find if you visit an Arts and Crafts style property?
If like Mitch you’re dreaming of escaping to the country, The London & Country Property show is for you. Hosted at Olympia in London, the Michael Graham team will be joining other leading estate agents and chartered surveyors from across the country to offer advice to homeowners planning their big move in or out of the capital.
It’s safe to assume that former Great British Bake-Off judge and national treasure Mary Berry has a pantry in her house. In fact, the hit television programme has been credited with causing something bordering on a national obsession with pantries this year.
From April 2018, all privately-rented homes in England and Wales must be rated at least an E on the official energy efficiency ratings for new tenancies.
At Easter time when skies are blue, fluffy white lambs are skipping around the fields and yellow chicks are cheeping in the barns, the idea of moving to the country and living on a farm is enchanting. Living the good life doesn’t have to mean a drastic lifestyle change though. Hobby farming in England has never been more popular. Described as small-scale farming for pleasure rather than profit, hobby farmers usually have a main source of income from a career outside of farming, or from a pension fund, freeing the farm to be a hobby rather than a business. At Michael Graham one of our specialities is hobby farming, so bear in mind the following top tips if you’re considering embracing your inner farmer.
If you’re looking for a new project that gives free rein to your artistic tendencies, why not consider having a folly built at your property? Nobody needs a folly, but that’s just the point. If it provided a useful purpose, rather than just looking charming, elegant or downright eccentric, it simply wouldn’t be a folly.
March is National Bed Month and with increasing evidence that a good night’s rest is essential for health, happiness and success, here at Michael Graham we think it’s the perfect time to focus on bedrooms. So whether we’re getting the recommended eight hours a night or not, here’s what the experts say will maximise our quality of sleep when our heads do hit the pillow.
It’s official: Spring is finally here. As the fields start to fill with lambs and golden daffodils promise more bright days ahead, what better way to firmly blow away any lingering winter cobwebs than by treating your home to a makeover? Here are Michael Graham’s top tips for a lighter and brighter home this spring.
Mothers all over the country are quietly looking forward to being showered with cards, (preferably home-made if children are little) chocolates and flowers on Mother's Day this weekend. So whether you're creating a hand-picked arrangement, ordering from a florist, or heading out to the shops to choose a ready-to-buy bouquet, the following five tips will ensure that your gift is almost as lovely as the person receiving it.
Letting your home can be a daunting prospect. The financial and legal obligations landlords face are constantly changing and complex, and preparing the property for a tenancy, including arranging inventory checks and utility transfers, is time-consuming. At Michael Graham Lettings we are dedicated to removing the stress associated with being a landlord. Equally, if you’re looking to rent, we will strive to find your perfect home, whether that’s a period property, an idyllic country cottage or a new build.
At Michael Graham we love our dogs, but horses come a very close second, making spring and its promise of wall-to-wall point-to-pointing our favourite time of year. Described as amateur horse racing over fences, there are 110 point-to-point courses throughout the UK including 14 across the Michael Graham region, three of which we are proud to sponsor.
There’s nothing like a cocktail party to raise your spirits. Whether you’re hiring staff or channelling Tom Cruise in classic 80s movie Cocktail and playing bartender for the evening, we’ve identified the best bar cabinets, trolleys and tools to help you throw the perfect party.
If you’re considering adding a spaniel to your family, how do you choose between a cocker and a springer? At Michael Graham we’re mad about our dogs, and this is what we found out when weighing up the pros and cons for each breed.
Gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh believes that every garden is the better for an apple tree. You may be lucky enough to have one in your garden already, but if not, February is the perfect month to plant one. What’s more, Britain’s climate is the best in the world for growing apples.
February is full of reasons to be cheerful. Dry January is already a distant memory, the days are getting longer, and today is National Pizza Day. We all love a takeaway pizza, but how about upping your alfresco entertaining game this summer with an outdoor pizza oven?
Viewing a large country house property for sale, you could well find yourself being shown into a traditional library with shelve-lined walls, comfortable armchairs and an atmosphere of escape from it all. Even in smaller properties for sale, libraries can be found occupying a blank wall in all sorts of unexpected places, cheerfully adding character to stairways, landings and halls.
Teeming with as much wildlife as rainforests or coral reefs, wetlands are a wonder of Britain’s natural world. The term ‘wetland’ includes reservoirs and estuaries, as well as wet soil areas like peatlands and marshes. Where land meets water, there is more wildlife than almost anywhere on the planet, so to celebrate February’s World Wetlands day, here’s our pick of the top five wetland sites across the Michael Graham region.
One of the highlights of moving to the country is the variety of birdlife in your garden. Last year the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, the largest bird survey in the world, found that the humble sparrow was the most likely bird to be seen hopping around, followed by the starling and the blackbird. Waxwings, chiffchaffs and robins are also thriving, but starlings and greenfinches are in decline, with the turtle dove now an endangered species in Britain. We can all help to give bird populations a boost, here's how.
At Michael Graham we know that when you’re selling your home getting the lighting just right is key to making the rooms look their best. In a property with high ceilings, nothing makes a greater impact than a statement light in the entrance hall, and this year chandeliers are set to be centre stage. Art Deco chandeliers are already a big trend, according to eporta.com, the online interior design marketplace, who report that chandeliers and ceiling lighting were the most searched-for items among interior designers in 2017.
Along with dry January and new year gym resolutions, many of us have started 2018 with renewed energy for tackling all those niggling jobs and design projects around the house that didn’t quite make it off the to-do list last year. So what trends are set to be big in interior design this year? Here are the ones the Michael Graham team are most excited about.
It's safe to say that velvet is everywhere. Velvet suits have graced the catwalk and the red carpet recently, and velvet pyjamas are also having a moment. As ever, what’s big in the fashion world is also big in interior design.
Although the mere thought of gardening in this weather is enough to make you shiver and turn up the heating, now is the perfect time to take stock. If like us you feel overwhelmed at the work that needs to be done, concentrate on the following areas, layer up, and channel your inner Monty Don.
For anyone with a keen interest in fashion and interiors, Pantone’s announcement of its colour of the year is big news.
A common sight in rural areas during the 1800s, traditional shepherd’s huts were small basic mobile homes for farmers and their sheepdogs out in the fields. There were windows on each side and a hinged stable door so the shepherd could see his flock and could hear the bleating too. The huts were snug, many of them less than 6ft long and 4-5ft wide, and were just tall enough to stand up in.
Are you contemplating a move to a new area, possibly to the country? Perhaps a weekend trip rambling over the fields and visiting a cosy village pub has given you a positive impression of your lifestyle if you move to that area. At Michael Graham we believe in trusting first impressions, but we also know that nothing beats living somewhere for discovering what an area is really like. Research is useful, and a quick online search will reveal the length of your proposed commute, but only by making the journey for a few months can you appreciate what it feels like day in day out, and find out first-hand the answers to three crucial questions: How busy are the roads? How reliable are the trains? And can you always get a seat?
Not to sound ungrateful, but it can’t just be members of the Michael Graham team who have received the odd unwanted Christmas present. The question is do you write a thank you note and then hide the gift in the back of a cupboard, consign it to the present drawer for re-gifting, or donate it to a charity shop? If the amassed unwanted items has inspired you to have a January blitz here are our top tips for clearing the clutter.
At Michael Graham we love a royal wedding and the news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to tie the knot next year has filled us with joy. St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle has been chosen for the ceremony, but for those of us who don’t have a castle in the family, nothing is more fairy-tale romantic than a countryside wedding venue. From stunning manor houses with open fireplaces to charming rustic barns, if you’ve ever considered opening your home to the wedding market, what are the key things to bear in mind?
If you’re looking to buy a country property, your dream home will probably have a farmhouse kitchen with plenty of space for entertaining, an Aga, an open fireplace in the sitting room, a paddock and a boot room. Sometimes called a mudroom, this life-saving room confines the chaos of muddy wellies and running shoes, wet tweeds and riding hats, umbrellas and damp dogs to a separate area, so your entrance hall can remain pristine and welcoming. A staple feature of country homes across Britain, a dash of design can transform this space from a useful dumping ground into a warm and essential part of your home.
Across the country, we’re busy decorating our homes for Christmas. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) suggests the third week after Advent, around 11th December, is the perfect time to buy your tree, so if you’re heading out this weekend, what do you need to bear in mind?
To get those sleigh bells ringing, London has delights galore guaranteed to put you in the mood for a burst of Michael Bublé. The city’s annual Christmas by the River market on the banks of the Thames is the capital’s most picturesque Christmas market, overlooked by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Handmade arts and crafts are sold by independent artisans cosily set up in German-style chalets, and the pop-up food stalls and bars serving Christmas cocktails and mulled wine lend the whole event a party atmosphere. And if you aspire to get Kirstie Allsopp creative with tinsel and baubles this year, check out their programme of festive workshops. From now until 2nd January.
‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’ is a mantra that becomes especially relevant when you’re thinking of putting your house on the market. Not every property has a sweeping, tree-lined drive, but however long or short the approach to your home, lavishing some love and design on the driveway will make all the difference to those all-important viewings.
Pet concierge service Pets Pyjamas not only really exists, but has seen a massive increase in the number of enquiries from people wanting dog-friendly accommodation. Many hotels now allow dogs to stay and some luxury hotels are really rolling out the red carpet for pampered pooches as well as their owners. In Michael Graham’s region there are plenty of dog friendly hotels to choose from, and the following five-star establishments take as much care of their doggy guests as they do their human ones.
It’s almost time to deck the halls and the Michael Graham team have been debating whether this is the year to ring the Christmas design changes. So, before we dust off our favourite baubles and shake out the fairy lights, are there any new 2017 trends we might want to flirt with this festive season?
Residents of market towns have cause to celebrate. Apparently, the happiest place of all to live is in a market town. The secret is a combination of their community spirit and perfect size. Small enough for you to know your neighbours and feel part of the community, yet large enough for you to quietly go about your business incognito. There are roughly 400 market towns across England and Wales, with many of the finest examples in Michael Graham’s region.
A holiday cottage is a lifestyle investment that many of us aspire to make. A holiday home can be both a bolt hole and a valuable source of rental income, especially during the school holidays when weekly charges can be up to three times higher than those in the buy to let market. But gone are the days when it was enough to present a clean house with inoffensive furniture and a lever arch information file on the kitchen table. Nowadays guests expect the five-star package, with a fast internet connection and wide screen TV as standard, and a grocery unpacking service prior to arrival preferable.
Dance floors that turn into swimming pools are no longer a fantasy but a feat of hydraulic engineering. At certain exclusive London addresses, lucky guests can be dancing in the basement one minute, and diving in to the pool to cool off eight minutes later. But nowhere is the competition to stay on top of trends fiercer than in the world of home entertainment. The most affluent buyers today want the best and latest technology at their fingertips and are attracted to homes buzzing with state of the art gadgets and gizmos.
As the nights draw in, nothing beats the sight and sound of a real fire blazing in the hearth. In Victorian times every room in the house had its own fireplace, with the showstopper in the drawing room to impress guests. Then throughout the rest of the house, away from prying eyes, the fireplaces diminished in size and quality, dwindling to just a small cast iron grate in the maid’s room. In the 1960s many fireplaces were boarded up and replaced with electric fires, but now real fires are aspirational again, and not just in period country properties. In London, the most luxurious apartments have designer fireplaces as a focal point.
Now is the time to pick up antique furniture at bargain prices. The demand for period tables and chairs has been steadily falling for some time and London auction houses Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s now list far more contemporary art, jewellery and wine in their catalogues than they do antique furniture. The atmosphere in an auction room is electric, so if you’re heading to one for the first time, bear in mind the following points.
Michael Graham and Country Life have something in common. Not just a passion for interesting and outstanding country properties (although that is undoubtedly true), but a love of Tottering-by-Gently, the iconic cartoon strip by Annie Tempest which charts the highs and lows of life at Tottering Hall, the crumbling ancestral pile inhabited by Dicky and Daffy Tottering and their faithful black Lab Slobber.
At the Cheltenham Literature Festival recently, Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry caused a furore by revealing her view that dining rooms have had their day. She only uses hers at Christmas and occasionally for big family gatherings, and is adamant that her next property is going to be dining room free. At Michael Graham we love a formal dining room, but are we in the minority?
Harvest Festivals took place all over the country last weekend, but if you’re not celebrating a bumper crop of home-grown produce this year, you’re not alone. According to the Soil Association, more and more of us are buying our fruit and vegetables from local shops, and especially online. Vegetable boxes are booming, so which offer the best quality and value for money?
If you imagine life on a grand county estate, the typically English garden will feature fountains, ponds, statues, follies, and a ha-ha. A ha-ha evokes the landed gentry lifestyle, and solves the dilemma of how to separate manicured gardens close to the house from livestock grazing in the grounds, without interrupting the view across beautifully landscaped rolling acres.
This week is National Wallpaper Week, and a perfect opportunity to fall in love with wallpaper all over again. Put aside for a moment the general assumption that wallpaper is a luxury product and an expensive way to decorate your home.
Dwindling congregations have meant a steady stream of churches and chapels have closed their doors for worship, and many of the buildings only survive if they find an alternative use. Lucky owners of chapel conversions know that a former chapel makes for a home with atmosphere, character and charm that’s hard to beat. So, if you’re thinking of converting, bear in mind the following points.
Wet rooms are not just wet, they’re cool. Think of them as the stylish and contemporary cousin of the classic bathroom. So, if you’ve been converted to the benefits of open plan showering, what is the low down on having a wet room?
Do you need a morning caffeine fix, but are looking for something different with a bit of an extra kick? At Michael Graham we have veered off the high street chain tracks and found the best independent coffee shops in the region. You’ll be buzzing after a visit.
What springs to mind when you hear the word 'Aylesbury'? For those of us in the Midlands, it is the Aylesbury duck, a large duck with pure white feathers, a pink bill and orange legs and feet. Raising white ducks became popular in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in the 18th century when there was a huge demand for white feathers as a filler for quilts and pillows. Over the 19th century, breeding for size, shape and colour lead to the classic Aylesbury duck which was prized in London as the most exquisite of all ducks to eat.
Whether you’ve outgrown your home or have no room for guests to stay, a loft conversion could be the answer to your extra space dreams. Going up instead of out is a fantastic way to gain an extra room, especially when extending your property in other ways is too costly or too complicated. A good loft conversion can add between 10 and 20 per cent to the value of your home, without sacrificing any garden space on the ground floor. So, once you’ve decided that your loft is the ideal extra office, playroom or bedroom, what next?
Raspberry and strawberry picking may be coming to an end, but September is the perfect time for some early autumn foraging to make salads, jams and liqueurs. You just need to know what you’re looking for and where to find it, so take a thick pair of gloves and a bag for your bounty and head down to your local woods.
The end of summer may be in sight, but there’s still plenty going on across the region. Here are Michael Graham’s top picks for events and attractions guaranteed to provide some late summer fun.
Northamptonshire is enjoying a moment in the spotlight, and rightly so. BBC’s Countryfile visited the county last month, filming a pioneering retail park and wildlife reserve in the Nene Valley. Then just last week Country Life wrote that “the charming villages of Northamptonshire are the heartland of England”, with Michael Graham director Richard Irlam agreeing on the importance of buyers exploring the numerous beautiful villages when planning a move to the country. So why choose this county of “squires, spires and outstanding schools” over its near neighbours of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire?
There is a perception that eco-homes are triple-glazed, futuristic-looking new builds overflowing with high tech modern features. Many of them are, but we’re all trying to run our homes more efficiently. Not just because it’s good for the planet, but because it saves a huge amount on annual fuel bills. So, what changes can we make to turn our property into an eco-home, without compromising on style?
How would you like to be able to do a spot of wild swimming in your own back garden? Imagine how invigorating and uplifting it would be to start your day with an open-air swim in clean, chemical free water. Having made their way over here from Germany and Austria, natural ponds are now popular as swimming pools, with the benefit of providing a beautiful garden feature all year round. So, should you take the plunge?
If you’re looking for a family day out with a difference, then alpaca trekking could be for you. Bred primarily for their fleece which is crafted into everything from blankets and ponchos to gloves and socks, alpacas are quite common in Britain now and many farms offer the chance to get up close and personal with one on a countryside walk. Although you will be booking a ‘trek’, don’t expect the alpaca to carry anything heavier than your rucksack. They’re dainty little creatures under all that fluff. Alpacas come from South America, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to an exotic getaway fear not, you can enjoy an alpaca adventure much closer to home.
If you’ve got a pony-mad child and are living in the country they’ve probably asked you more than once if they can have a pony. A guinea pig or puppy just won’t cut the mustard anymore. So, what do you need to know about the financial commitment before you’re caught unawares and absentmindedly answer ‘yes’?
If you’re already living it or still just dreaming of a rural idyll, then chances are you’re a fan of the BBC’s Countryfile. The Sunday evening programme which celebrates the best of British countryside is on the road for its second year, returning to Bleinheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire from Thursday 3rd - Sunday 6th August. Promising to bring together everything we love about the countryside, from wildlife and farming, to outdoor pursuits and food, BBC Countryfile Live is a highlight of the countryside show summer calendar.
Along with Michael Graham, the BBC’s flagship gardening programme Gardeners’ World celebrates its half a century this year. Over the last fifty years, television, radio and the media have helped make the latest outdoor trends and ideas fashionable, leading to massive changes in garden design. So from the swinging sixties to the present day, how have gardens changed?
The hardest thing about living in a rental property can be the way it’s been decorated. Even uniformly white walls, though not blatantly offensive, can feel cold and impersonal. Luckily, this problem is easily fixed without even reaching for a paintbrush. Here are Michael Graham’s top five tips for making your rented house feel like home, without upsetting the landlord and losing your deposit, or spending money you won’t get back.
Summer is in full swing and at Michael Graham we’ve pooled our regional knowledge to bring you news of the best local lidos and splash parks. Whether you want to swim a few lengths and then strike a pose pool-side, or be invigorated at a water park, grab your swimsuit and take the plunge at the following attractions.
Have you ever wondered about the history of your house? Who lived there before you? What was it used for and how has it changed? Maybe it has a secret passage? Whether you live in a converted barn, a rambling country pile or a Georgian town house, your home may hold some incredible hidden stories. Television programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and Restoration Home have sparked our interest in researching our ancestors, and increasingly we also want to find out about the history of our home.
As the long school summer holidays approach, days out with the children don’t always involve an experience that calms the mind, eases stress and relaxes the body. But there’s every chance that inhaling the perfume from 20 acres of lavender fields in Ickleford, just outside Hitchin in Hertfordshire, will achieve all three, while giving you the feeling that you’ve been spirited away to Provence.
Now that the Great British summer is well under way, we can look forward to a season of country shows and carnivals across the region. If you haven’t had a selfie with Michalea yet (where have you been?), there’s still time to grab one at some of the attractions listed below and enter the Michael Graham draw to win a variety of gastronomic delights, including a Daylesford Farm Hamper and Hello Fresh subscription. Below are the events we highly recommend committing to the calendar.
Everyone knows that on the Richter scale of challenging life events, moving house is right up there with relationship breakdowns and starting a new job. The good news is that with careful planning the whole process can verge on being almost enjoyable. At Michael Graham we’re passionate about houses, and after fifty years of helping people find and move into their dream homes, we’ve learned a lot about how to make the moving process a happy one. Here are our top ten tips for a hassle-free move.
One of life’s great joys is an afternoon pint at a traditional village pub, and when the sun’s shining there’s no better place to enjoy it than in a beer garden. At Michael Graham we’re keeping everything crossed for a summer of flip flops rather than wellies, so here’s our round up of some of the best pubs in the area to head to for a pint or a Pimms al fresco.
The UK gin industry is booming, with new artisan distilleries popping up all over the country, including several in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. On Saturday 10th June, World Gin Day will celebrate the spirit in its many forms, from the big hitters like Gordons, Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks, to the small batch-distilled gins. Here at Michael Graham we pride ourselves on knowing our cucumber from our liquorice botanicals, so here’s our inside scoop on the top places to enjoy a perfectly mixed and garnished G&T.
What rural idyll would be complete without the requisite flock of hens ambling and clucking about in the garden? Breakfast time is never the same again once you’ve collected freshly laid eggs from the hen house, their taste is beyond compare. Surprisingly perhaps, chickens are full of personality and can become very tame, which makes them great pets for children, as well as having the huge benefit of being one of the few pets which pay for their own keep. So if you’re new to country life, or have often toyed with the idea of keeping chickens, here are Michael Graham’s top tips for starting your own flock.
What does your dream home look like? With summer holidays fast approaching, the chances are it features a swimming pool, either indoors for easy access in dressing gown and slippers before breakfast, or outdoors for glamorous summer entertaining and children’s parties. So, if you’re in the market for a swimming pool at your property, or are viewing properties for sale with a swimming pool, Michael Graham has the insider’s guide on to what to expect.
Did you know that the name of your house may affect what it’s worth? And although it’s almost impossible to put an exact figure on the premium, estate agents agree that the right name does add a certain cachet. In London, numbers can bestow distinction - One Hyde Park denotes wealth and elegance - but in the country, it’s all about the name.
Village life is not as sleepy as you might imagine. In fact, English villages are the last bastions of eccentricity, cherishing customs and traditions which date back hundreds of years. Hen racing was traditionally used as a competition between rival villages and Bonsall in Derbyshire still host an annual hen race. Closer to home, Michael Graham will be cheering on their duck again this year in the annual Bromham Duck Race on Monday 29th May, hoping to scoop a not-to-be-quacked-at £150 prize. After much office debate and consideration, here are our favourite weird and wonderful English pastimes;
Whether you already live in the countryside, or are planning to escape to the country, the question of whether to have a dog has probably crossed your mind more than once. At Michael Graham we have a soft spot for our four-legged friends, but how do you choose which breed is the right one for you? Here’s our pick of the top dogs for country life.
The words ‘More tea, vicar?’ conjure up pastoral scenes of cucumber sandwiches and croquet on the lawn, with bunting fluttering around a tea tent on the village green. The three words ‘The Old Rectory’ are equally evocative, painting a picture of a very specific way of English country life. Estate agents estimate that their cachet adds an extra 10-20% to their value compared to similarly sized village properties.
Robot vacuum cleaners are a fun way to get a rather boring household chore done. And ride-on mowers are great too if you have acres of lawn. But if you dream of lazy afternoons lounging in your garden with a good book, then can’t relax as you feel guilty about all the watering, pruning and dead-heading that needs to be done, it could be time to make a change.
The Grand Designs lifestyle often romanticises the idea of a barn conversion, and they’re right to; these coveted rural properties really do offer the best of both worlds for modern family living. Usually built from traditional local materials, they are brimming with period atmosphere and rustic charm. The exposed stone and brick work, beams and trusses offer all the drama and features of a period property for sale, with the practicality and comfort of a new build. The finest examples are still recognisable as farm buildings, with their rural location affording idyllic settings with picturesque countryside views.
We are a nation of garden lovers, charmed by Monty Don and Gardeners’ World in our millions, and now is a key gardening time of year. Traditionally the garden you keep as close as possible to the back door, a kitchen garden is a place to potter and plant your own vegetables, herbs, fruit and edible flowers. And if you’re thinking of selling, estate agents will tell you that a kitchen garden is a major attraction for buyers looking to move to the country in search of the good life.
Do you ever dream of opting out of the rat race and swapping a hedge fund for a hedgerow and leafy country lane? Do programmes like Escape to the Country have you fantasising about growing your own veg and keeping chickens? From traditional chocolate-box cottages to stunning manor houses, Michael Graham has properties for sale in some of the most picturesque and sought after villages in the region. But what is it that makes village life so special?
New Zealanders are famous for their fondness of a bath tub on the deck. But how do you feel about a bath in the bedroom? In the Middle Ages, bathing in bedrooms was popular with the rich, as having a separate bathroom was unusual. Then in the noughties, chic, boutique hotels introduced roll top baths at the end of king-size beds. Baths then made a glamorous statement appearing in bedrooms of luxury homes for sale, with some estate agents even floating candles in the bath to impress prospective buyers.
What does downsizing mean to you? Freedom from the shackles of financial responsibility? Or the first step on the slippery slope to decline and dependence? Estate agents have noticed downsizers increasingly choosing to buy property in picturesque villages or pretty market towns, where shops and other amenities are within walking distance. So, what are the pros and cons of downsizing and top tips to make the transition as painless as possible?
Richard Branson, Angelina Jolie and The Beckhams all share a passion for them, but wine cellars are no longer the preserve of the super-rich. Cool, climate controlled wine rooms are becoming standard at the higher end of the property market. Michael Graham properties increasingly feature a state-of-the- art wine cellar, or wine wall, which showcases, as well as stores, the owner’s wine collection.
Easter is almost upon us and with the Met Office predicting a sunny weekend, here at Michael Graham we’ve scoured the region to bring you some cracking ideas for Easter days out.
Pop royalty Elton John is famous for filling his house with fresh flowers on a weekly basis. But for those of us without a celebrity-sized budget, a dazzling bunch of fakes is far more economical than flowers that wilt and fade within a week. Luxury homes for sale often display artificial blooms that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, and high-end design company OKA, run by Samantha Cameron’s mother Annabel Astor, reported sales of their stunning artificial arrangements almost doubling last year.
Nothing says, ‘quintessentially English’, quite like a thatched cottage. On the other hand, for some, nothing screams ‘fire risk’ and ‘expense’ quite like it either. Whichever camp you fall into, houses for sale in the countryside often include listed, thatched properties which are typically snapped up more quickly than others. If you’ve fallen in love with a chocolate box cottage, or dream of doing so one day, what are the pros and cons of life beneath the thatch?
Sleep is having a moment in the media, and not just because it’s National Bed Month. It turns out that if you want to be thinner, more attractive and live longer, the key is getting the right amount of sleep. We spend a third of our lives in bed, so how best to create a sleep sanctuary? Check out these top trends if you have a property for sale or simply want some inspiration for a dreamy bedroom makeover.
From quintessentially English manor houses to charming old rectories, many of the best houses for sale in Britain are listed. A Grade I listing denotes “exceptional architectural or historic interest”, Grade II* “more than special interest” and Grade II “special interest”. Most listed building owners live in a Grade II building, but what difference does a listing make?
Daffodils are blooming and lambs are frolicking, so here at Michael Graham we’ve had a root around to unearth the treats in store now that spring has finally sprung.
To quote an old saying, a clean kitchen is a sign of a wasted life. That’s until you have a property for sale, and then it’s all systems go to make it one where Mary Berry would be happy rustling up a Victoria sponge. Be it a rustic country haven or the coolest room in the house, your kitchen is the most valuable room you have for impressing potential buyers. But don’t think about a complete refit just yet. Check out these simple and effective top tips for making sure the hub of your home has the wow factor.
Mansions for sale may not need a mirror’s magical property of making a small room appear larger, but whatever the size of your home, a strategically placed mirror can work design wonders, making any room appear lighter and brighter. So, if you’re thinking of hanging a mirror, these are our top tips.
A cleverly thought out colour scheme transforms the look and feel of a room, and colour company Pantone have chosen a vibrant shade of green as their 2017 colour of the year. Pushing last year’s pastel hues, Serenity and Rose Quartz, into the shade, ‘Greenery’ signifies spring and new beginnings, the arrival of hope. Described as ‘a fresh and zesty yellow-green’ by the global Colour Institute, the underlying theme of the 2017 shade is about re-connecting with our environment and bringing nature inside. Colour affects our mood, so how best to introduce the positivity and energy of this optimistic colour into our home?
Now that the days are finally getting longer, this weekend is the perfect time to pull on a pair of wellies and head in search of snowdrops. The Flower of Hope, or common snowdrop, Gilanthus nivalis is the first bulb to bloom after the winter, flowering between January and March. We’re spoilt for choice in our country for wonderful woodland walks, so here’s a small selection of destinations on the doorstep where you can enjoy these cheerful little flowers.
Sheds are now officially hip, with 21 million Britons owning one, according to research by Cuprinol last year. Couple that with the fact that maximising your outside space can add significant value and increase the price of your property, and this home and garden trend may well raise a smile (as well as a glass) after ‘dry’ January. What we’re talking about here is the popularity in the UK of a shed to bar conversion. So if your humble shed is languishing as a store room for bikes and a lawnmower then this could be a dream DIY project for 2017.
We all feel the need for a bit of a revamp every now and then, and it's no exception for your furniture. 'Upcycling' is the eco-friendly trend of transforming something past its best and no longer wanted into something beautiful and newly cherished. Recycling is great but uses a lot of energy in collecting and processing unwanted items. Upcycling is a greener way of recycling. Things are re-purposed before they find themselves in a bag outside the door.
Baking fresh bread and brewing coffee are time-honoured tips for creating a welcoming first impression. And it makes sense, given that most buyers decide if they’re interested within seconds of walking through your front door. But when you’re not on hand with the coffee pot, what can you do to maximise the value of your home and succeed in a quick sale?
The truth is that no matter how large or small our home, most of us have cupboards, perhaps even a loft, crammed with stuff we no longer use. Retail therapy is one of the joys of life, but how often do we buy things on a whim or that we could happily live without? Unsurprisingly, a huge industry has sprung up to help us declutter, businesses eager to store your stuff or come to your home to sort through and take it away.
Model Daisy Lowe cooks stuffed aubergines in hers. Jamie Oliver thinks having one makes you a better cook (easy for him to say) and Michelin star chef Marco Pierre-White (who has two) agrees, calling it the closest thing to a professional oven. Queen of baking and national treasure Mary Berry is also a life-long Aga owner and for many years before judging The Great British Bake Off taught Aga cooking at her Buckinghamshire home.
Looking to change your Christmas decorations or just want to add some new touches? Our guide to this year’s key trends – and how to achieve them – has the answers.
When Jeeves asks ‘Does one desire the yule-tide spirit sir?’, we certainly all agree with Bertie Wooster’s emphatic response; ‘Certainly one does Jeeves.’ So, what better way to make merry and indulge in style than by artfully acquiring the signature Luxury Christmas Hamper from award-winning wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd?
Looking for something fun and festive to do with the family this Christmas? Make magical memories with our round up of glittering Christmas events coming up this month.
Most of us have dreamed at one point or another of leaving city life behind us for an idyllic life in the countryside. But what are the benefits of moving and what are the things you should consider first?
With the summer holidays out the way, you may be thinking about moving in time to celebrate the festive season in your new home. But with just under two months to go, is there time to complete a move before Christmas and what can you do to speed up the process?
Back at the beginning of August, while most of us were waiting for the British summer to make an appearance, one luxury retailer was thinking ahead.
Since 2010 and now in its seventh series, the Great British Bake Off has ingrained itself into British culture; so much so that when it was announced that the BBC was not going to renew the show for an eighth run, the universe almost went into meltdown.
With the summer weather upon us, where better to be than the great British countryside? The idyllic scenery and fresh air are a draw for the most hardcore of city dwellers, and our patch of green and pleasant land is no different.
This month, we’re rounding off our selection of the best pubs in the region with some fabulous picks to whet the appetite. Our final top five features some great places you’ll be sure to want to try out, whether you’re looking for a top pint with friends or a cosy meal for two.
Last month, we brought you our hotly contested rundown of our top five watering holes in the area. We scoured the length and breadth of the region to come up with a well-rounded selection to suit the most demanding of pub connoisseurs, but there were just too many to restrict our choice to just five.
If you’re a budding agriculturalist, then chances are you are a regular visitor to the Blakesley Show: a well-known and traditional rural event that takes place in Northamptonshire every first Saturday in August. This will be the 132nd annual show for the Blakesley & District Agricultural Society, and we are very excited to be attending once again.
Whether you’re after a post-work drink with colleagues, a relaxing Sunday pint or some pub grub with the family, the region has plenty to offer. We’ve done our research and hand-picked our favourites (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!) Here are our top five pubs in the area:
Summer is here and we are all hoping for those long sunny days. Entertaining is an excuse to decorate, so use interior design know-how to create something unexpected and to transform your outside space into the ideal summer dining experience and your guests will be in for a treat! Take your style and put it outside.
The long-term effects of Britain’s exit from the EU are yet to be seen, but one immediate impact seems certain: the cost of holidays to some of our favourite European destinations will go up.
Recent weather might belie the fact, but summer is here at last, and for most families that means one thing: getting out and about for day trips and local events.
Tomorrow marks the start of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the highlight of calendars of the green-fingered everywhere. Visitors to the annual event will be able to marvel at the range of exciting, relaxing and stimulating show gardens, and perhaps pick up some tips to take home.
Falling oil prices and political unrest in the Middle East are driving interest among Gulf-based property investors to look towards London for their next purchase. According to global real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle, these buyers are spending between $20 and $50 million on high-yield, long-term assets in and around the capital.[...]
In our last blog, we looked at the new stamp duty land tax (SDLT) legislation that came into effect on 1 April, which levies additional tax duties on the purchase of second and buy-to-let properties.[...]
Domestic landlords are paddling on a sea of change just now. At the start of the month, two new laws came into force that could end up snipping away at the profits of those who own and/or let out second homes. [...]
As the weekend approaches, some of us will be planning to get in some exercise, or perhaps go for a run. With the London Marathon just two weeks away, many will be getting in some last minute long-distance training in preparation for the big event. [...]
As our cousins across the pond in the US prepare to elect their next President, a certain Republican candidate is making an unlikely impact in UK homes, too.
Admirers of Mr Trump’s own thatch are setting a trend by having it replicated on their cottage roofs. [...]
Nothing beats entering a home to the smell of a hearty roast or freshly baked goodies. Are you thinking of treating your friends and family to something delicious over the long Easter weekend? If so, here are a couple of culinary ideas chosen by our Technical Specialist Alex – some borrowed from famous foodies, and others from her own personal recipe book. [...]
There’s just two days left to enter our competition to win a delicious experience that treats your taste buds and cultivates your culinary skills.
We know our customers have fine taste when it comes to property [...]
Here’s an odd question for you: what links a famous camel with a north Hertfordshire market town? Answer: our new Hitchin office, which bolsters our existing network of 12 branches across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, not forgetting our London office.
So why the camel? And why is he famous? Good questions! [...]
Being a ‘child’ of the 60s, Milton Keynes is still a relatively young place so it’s natural to assume the area is dominated by modern buildings and contemporary architecture.
Although 2016 is well underway, a rather changeable winter is still upon us, meaning it’ll be a while yet before spring brings its milder climes and brighter days.
But what to do if you’re yearning for a sunnier outlook but not planning on tropical travels just yet? [...]
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour,” wrote Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. If those words resonate with you – especially as Christmas and its festivities near, then you must pay a visit to Elm Farm, the picturesque home Michael Graham is currently marketing on behalf of Dickens’ great-great grandson, Ian. […]
Following our previous blog on marketing of your home during the Christmas countdown, we’ve a few more festive tricks up our sleeve. From cosy fires to fantastic photography, these tips can help you sell your home in the evermore competitive property market, while sustaining the seasonal spirit throughout the period […]
Selling one’s home during the countdown to Christmas is for some, a dream come true, with the prospect of buyers that share similar eagerness to start the new year in a new property. But for others, the house-selling process can put a decidedly Scrooge-like spin on festivities, as parties, gifts and feasts are swapped for packing, gazumping and forms. […]
Waddesdon Manor… Stowe House… Blenheim Palace... our local stately homes never fail to impress us, as agents for some of the region’s most desirable properties. But while these stately homes, as architectural masterpieces, are grand and beautiful in their construction, some of them have ugly histories, full of apparent apparitions and frightful fables. […].
If somebody suggested you could bring a little bit of the Rugby World Cup into your house, you’d probably assume they were talking about enjoying media coverage of the sporting event in the comfort of your home – a nail-biting match on your television, an article in a newspaper or a broadcast on the radio. Perhaps the sport might find its way into your home through rugby-playing family members, when they drag their post-match, mud-splattered, bodies into your pristine pad. […].
Britain’s rich history took on a very literal meaning recently when new research from Halifax found that historic buildings – namely stately homes – seem to be associated with greater property values in the surrounding area. Labelled by the bank as the ‘Downton halo effect’, the research revealed that ‘buying a house close to one of Britain’s stately homes can cost, on average, £41,000 more than in neighbouring areas’ […].
It’s that time of year again. Not Christmas, but back to school season. And although whoever coined the phrase ‘school days are the best days of our lives’ was having a nostalgic moment, we think the saying reflects the current strong appeal of schools as residential properties. They often feature high ceilings, airy rooms and charming history, making perfect family homes. […]
‘Veni. Natavi. Vici’ – ‘I came. I swam. I conquered’ isn’t a phrase that’s often heard in the world of estate agency or in property marketing circles, but it’s become something of an idiom in Michael Graham branches in recent times. […]
Late July might have been a tad rainy – great for the garden, not-so-good for enjoying the great outdoors – but summer is most definitely still here. As August and September beckon, we’re proud to continue celebrating the best of British with a number of local events. From the rugged rural pursuits of the annual Blakesley Show, to the local family festivities of the Finmere festival, here are more summer dates for your diary. Look forward to seeing you there![…]
As the longest day of the year approaches, followed by high summer, it’s time to turn to your diaries as well as your sun cream. Because while there’s nothing like adopting a leisurely, lounging pace for the warmer months, there’s a lot to be said for celebrating summer by getting out to British attractions. And you needn’t travel far – the villages and towns on our doorstep offer a full agenda of family fun, foodie festivities and classic charm. Here are five forthcoming summer events we’re proud to sponsor – and look forward to seeing you there…[…]
One of the latest, most remarkable trends in the property market is a ‘record high’ in cash buyers. According to the Nationwide, about four in 10 people bought properties without the need for a mortgage in the first part of this year. As the building society explained in its May 2015 House Price Index report: “We estimate that the share of cash purchases in the housing market reached an all-time high of 38 per cent in Q1 2015.” […]
April showers have been few and far between over the last few months as the UK experiences its very own Spanish-esque spring heat wave. If these recent Balearic blue skies are anything to go by, we could be in for a scorching summer – how are you planning on enjoying it?
Here at Michael Graham we care about the outdoors just as much […]
Recent weather might belie the fact, but spring is officially here. Whether you’re full of the joys, or the dank start of the season reflects your mood, there’s no better way to mark its arrival than by sprucing up your home.
We’ve chosen our favourite of this season’s key interior design trends to suit everyone, from the timid to the adventurous, and to cater for all budgets. […]
No matter who’s in power after the election, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for gardens are likely to be a reality towards the end of the year in England, and soon after in the rest of the UK.
Direct from the EU as part of a greener, cleaner, healthier and sustainably responsible directive, some of the new ratings criteria are, controversially, thought to include: […]
The annual Ideal Home Show kicked off on Friday, and promises to be another must-see event for foodies, gadget lovers, gardeners and interiors enthusiasts – in fact, anyone interested in making the most of their home.
Chancellor George Osbourne delivered his highly anticipated pre-election budget on Wednesday, and in it, he revealed some positive developments: that living standards are higher than five years ago, with record employment and growth reaching 2.6 per cent in 2014. In addition to this good news, some personal tax breaks were announced that are set to benefit many thousands of hard-working people. […]
An attractive and spacious garden is on many a house hunter’s list of must-haves. Some desire an outdoor area for pets and children to run around and let off some steam; others seek a haven in which to relax with a glass of wine and take in the best of British summers; while the green-fingered among us may want a mature and bountiful plot to nurture. […]
Mention the words ‘UK property hotspot’ and it's often the usual suspects that spring to mind. Like our capital city, with its professional opportunities, culture and architecture. Or Brighton, being ‘London by the sea’. Looking northward, it's Manchester and Edinburgh that invariably attract home movers and property investors. […]
‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’
When, in 1777, noted English writer Samuel Johnson penned these words, he probably could not have predicted how today’s economic outlook would have dampened the commitment of even the most loyal Londoner. […]
If, like us, you watch the property market closely, you’ll know that January always brings at least one certainty about the sector – that there will be numerous experts making commentary and predictions about property in the next 12 months. […]
Knowing when to market your property for sale is always a minefield. Do you opt for summer, when warmer days and longer evenings put people in a more aspirational, optimistic mood? Or does the New Year, and a new start, entice would-be buyers looking for a residential revival? […]
Love it or loathe it, this month’s Eurovision song contest is a notable annual event in Europe’s calendar, offering a night of sparkling kitsch, dubious music and garish fashion. […]
With a Tory backlash failing to derail plans for HS2, the scheme looks set to stay on track for more dissent – not least for those away from the confines of Whitehall. […]
If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party, you’ll know that the usual culinary hurdles that arise in everyday life can often reach boiling point […]
It’s Shrove Tuesday, which holds a special place in the heart of Michael Graham. In particular, the estate agency’s Olney team and head office […]