Whether you live in a chic but compact apartment, a tiny flat or smaller-than-ideal house – you possibly battle the daily challenge of space. With small houses comes the constant struggle to keep your home looking clutter-free, which can be difficult when you consider things like storage, kids and large furniture to name a few.

You’ll undoubtedly have to make some compromises when it comes to decorating, and also your general lifestyle choices, fitting everything into your home that you need without it feeling too cramped.

If this is your current situation, then worry not: help is at hand. If you really feel the need to stretch out in your small space and give the appearance of bigger rooms, there are a few hacks that can help.

They won’t magically double your living room in size, but the tips below do offer a few changes which can make the area look and feel larger, without moving any walls! It’s all about playing around with colour, furniture arranging and knowing some secret hacks.

big windows

Let’s get your space looking less cramped…

1. Chooser Soft, Light Hues

Whereas dark, warm colours make a space feel cosy and intimate, light, cool colours make a space feel open and airy. If you want to make your house look larger, try to opt for light, neutral hues, like shades of white, yellow, and tan. You can play around with more exciting paint colours for the home too, but make sure you select them in muted shades, like soft tones of blues and greens.

2. Keep Furniture Minimum

By this, we don’t mean avoid having more than one key piece of furniture in a room, but ideally to use just a few classic, simple pieces of furniture or accessories in place of several smaller ones. The more you have, the more it would make a small space look cluttered.

A fine example of this is within the bathroom. Bathrooms are meant to look airy and spacious. To embrace the open space look, look at a clean white tradition bath which is of a small size. Bathroom retailer Bathdisc has an extensive collection online. By keeping the bath clutter free without any chunky cabinets or drawers around it gives the room a more spacious feel, appearing more calm and comfortable.

3. Consider Your Window Treatments

If you banish away any big, heavy, light-sucking curtains, you’ll notice your rooms will instantly appear bigger. And this doesn’t mean you can’t have curtains at all. If you wish to keep some form of curtains, start by swapping in floor-to-ceiling curtains with a subtle vertical stripe. The vertical stripe will suddenly make your room and window look taller.

Then, ensure you hang them from a pole that’s long enough so that they can be pulled right back past the window frame, making your window will feel wider, too.

4. Don’t Forget About The Floor

We all know that white walls reflect light and make a space feel larger. Which is why so many homes will have plain white walls. But there is another wall people forget: the floor. By picking flooring that also gives the illusion of light and space will instantly make a room feel larger.

Opting for a floor finish in a light colour is the most obvious way to go. You can either create this by striping and painting existing floorboards white or lay down a cream/white carpet or large-scale rug. Another route to go down is to choose a lime-washed look for engineered wood boards, laminate or vinyl.

If you really want to incorporate patterns, then a more interesting effect is to use diagonal lines on the floor to trick the eye into seeing the room as longer and wider than it is. A huge diagonal line rug would work wonders, or even laying floor tiles diagonally on the floor.

5. Keep Furniture Away From The Walls

While it may seem counterintuitive, moving furniture away from the walls and corners of your rooms can actually make the space look larger. Think about it: your stuff needs space!

By laying out your room with ‘floating furniture’ (furniture which doesn’t lean on any walls) even just a few inches from the wall keep corners clear and open. It also avoids piling things up in the corner of the room, on top of a chair or cabinet.

6. Look Into Clear Accessories

When it comes to making obstacles, rooms and spaces look larger to the eye, one of the key secrets is to utilise clear, see-through objects. This can mean sheer curtains, clear accent pieces, plastic clear chairs, glass-topped tables, and bathroom glass panels. By utilising anything see-through, sheer or clear, it will create the impression that a room is larger than its actual square footage.

7. Add Storage Furniture To Your Space

The worst thing you can ever do to make rooms look smaller is to fill with clutter. Clutter is the enemy of small spaces, making them look even more crammed in. Be clever with your furniture choices and choose furniture with built-in storage. Ottomans are great for bedrooms and lounges, and never underestimate the power of under-the-bed pull out drawers!

Look at large coffee tables which come in block shapes, where they have built-in drawers. The more you keep an eye out for furniture which has hidden storage, the more you’ll see it everywhere.

Follow the design tricks above, and watch your space seem larger in no time.

interiors modern fireplace with bookshelves

money and happiness

Being a single parent is synonymous with being an expert juggling act in terms of time, resources and even finances. With a high percentage of the 1.7 million single-parent families in the UK grappling with the costs of raising children, being smart with their limited income is one of the best things they can do. When most people think of smart money management, they consider ways to save to money as a first step, and rightfully so. One of the first places you should be looking at is your kitchen. According to Money Service Advice, more than 50% of a household’s spend goes on food, housing and fuel, and recreation. So whether you’re a parent looking to save a house deposit or tackle your debt, here are a few ways you can be financially savvy in the kitchen.

Ditch The Branded

One of the top mistakes families are making is buying branded. Many of the supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco all have their own branded ranges with alternatives to many items, ranging from dairy to pasta, and if you take a second to compare against branded products, the ingredients and nutrition are exactly the same. In a few cases, the supermarket brand can actually prove to be better for you and your family’s health, with lower sugar content or caloric value. One example is the cost of a 500g branded pack of spaghetti, costing approximately £1.00, while the supermarket savers range offers a pack at the cost of £0.20, offering a saving of 80%. Even if multibuy offers are utilised at 2 packs for £1.50 compared to the equivalent £0.40, you are still saving a significant amount. So when you do head out to do the food shop, take a minute to consider the own brand alternatives on the shelves.

Use Your Appliances Smartly

The average gas and electricity bill for UK households stood at £1,137 annually, according to market regulator Ofgem. With an estimated 24% rise in energy costs last year, many customers are now finding themselves in debit with their suppliers and having their financial record affected due to late or default payments. Considering your household payments, this means that your energy spend is right up there with your council tax bill, mortgage, and car finance payments. In the kitchen, the UK uses more energy boiling their kettles than when using their ovens. Kettles account for approximately 6% of the electricity use in British homes, and 40% of us boil them at least five times a day.

We are also using more water than we need and wasting much of it each day. Fill only what you need, and time your use to align with when you will actually use the water while hot. Another great tip is to switch off your kitchen appliances when not in use. While microwave ovens are energy efficient, they are still using some energy when idle. By not leaving them in standby, you could be saving around £40 annually.

Employ DIY In The Kitchen

Continuing with the water and energy conservation theme, get into the DIY spirit while in the kitchen. When it comes to dishes, opt to do the washing up yourself rather than using a dishwasher. For prepping ingredients and vegetables, get familiar with a cutting board and carve out 30 mins in your week to cut and prep your fruits and vegetables for the week. Not only does this remove the need for processors and dishwashers, but it also reduces your food spend. Pre-cut ingredients carry a higher markup in the supermarkets to account for the convenience.

Go Shopping In Your Freezer Once A Week

Families toss out millions of tonnes of food, including leftovers, every year. In fact, cooked leftovers were fourth on the list of most wasted food by consumers. Hotpoint estimated that we are wasting 8% of our weekly shop every week. That comes to over £270 in perfectly edible food every year. While more consumers are turning to their freezers for long term food storage, we are still making the mistake of not using up what we put in there in the first place before we head out shopping or order a takeaway. Set a day each week to go through your freezer leftovers and get creative making a meal out of it. If you favour batch cooking, this is even easier, as its simply a matter of defrosting the meals.

Most of these changes take minimal effort, and with practice, can easily become a part of your daily routine. With all the savings you can make, think of what you can do for your family’s future.

Advertisement feature in association with Hello Fresh

Mexican tostadas recipe

I’ve been answering the dreaded ‘what’s for tea?’ question for over 20 years now, so Hello Fresh is really the ultimate dream for me. I don’t mind the actual cooking so much you see, as the PLANNING. After such a long time it’s really difficult to think up new twists on stuff kids like, (plain pasta, dry bread etc), and then if you do find a recipe you like you have to go shopping, and spend £2.99 on red wine vinegar, knowing you’ll never use more than one tablespoon of it.

I’ve used Hello Fresh quite a few times in the past, as they totally cut out all the tedious and wasteful bits of cooking, and just present you with recipes and ingredients, nicely prepared for you in the exact amounts you need. Honestly, it’s bliss, even if it’s only for a couple of nights out of every week.

What I hadn’t realised though was that Hello Fresh, who are the UK’s leading recipe box people, also have a recipe archive, so you can benefit from their food knowledge without having to necessarily buy a box. Even if it does mean having to go shopping yourself, it still cuts out the THOUGHT part, which is the worst bit in my opinion.

Hello Fresh asked me if I’d like to have a go at recreating one of their recipes, so I chose Mexican spiced chilli tostadas. Even though Belle won’t eat things like peas, she will eat spiced Mexican food and guacamole, so I knew she’d enjoy this one. It sneaks in all kinds of wholesome stuff but still presents like a delicious treat from a street market – who’s not going to love that?

If you fancy giving it a go, I’m going to talk you through it now. View Post

unusual things to do in Florence

Italy is known around the world for its picturesque landscape, delectable food, and friendly people. It is not surprising that when people say that, they mean it for every city and state around. Florence has to be one of the most visited spots around in Italy that more and more people consistently rave about. The combination of the renaissance building with the beautiful landmarks simply adds to the thrill and fervor of the place even further. But, what many people do is follow the general norms and visit the crowded spots. If you are planning on visiting Florence, do it a bit differently and indulge in things that many others won’t.

Visit La Specola

If you have known about Madame Tussauds, even Florence has one of its own in the form of La Specola. It dates back to 1775 which makes this place century old. It is one of the earliest museums of science across the world that was opened back in the days. It might necessarily not be similar exactly with Madame Tussauds but the anatomical wax figures are definitely spooky to stare at. It initially had the Medici-Lorraine’s extensive natural history collection. The best part about this museum is the fact that every single model on display is very realistic and can leave you shocked.

Explore the secret hallways of Vasari Corridor

Yet another one of the unusual things to do in Florence is visiting and exploring around the Vasari corridor. This corridor was built as a secret passage for the Medicis to travel between the offices of Palazzo Vecchio and their residence. For access, you need to enter through a hidden stairwell entrance from the Uffizi Museum, the entire passageway being around 1-km in length. The entire passage is also filled with self-portraits all along the way. Majority of the portraits are of Vasari himself but you can also find a few pieces by Bronzino as well. The only thing to keep in mind is to ensure that you plan everything ahead of time because you need an appointment to see this place.

Go crafting at Oltrarno

Majority of the travellers who visit Florence have time and time talked about the beauty of the craft shops around in Oltrarno. If you like crafting and DIY, it is not even a doubt that you absolutely need to visit this place without any second thoughts. The place is quite subtle and not crowded with travellers which makes it a perfect spot to visit and explore around. Taking a tour around the streets of Palazzo Pitti will provide you with a glimpse into the beauty of the simplicity that the place holds. The artisan shops, goldsmiths, leather bookbinders and such are all situated there. If you wish, you can actually learn a number of good things there and even share the same with someone you know.

Eat a lampredotto sandwich

Every place has its unique dishes and cuisines that they take pride in. If you are someone who likes to explore around and find traces of delectable food, you are definitely going to gorge this one down in no time. Walk around the popular “eat streets” and get hold of a trippaio which are also known as the tripe food stands. The lampredotto sandwich is very unique to this place and the content of this sandwich is not something you will usually find. It is made with the fourth stomach of the cow which is braised and stewed with lots of herbs and tomatoes. This is one of the sandwiches that you will only find in Florence and is something you should definitely try while there.

If you are planning a trip to Florence, Withlocals is here to help sort that out for you. This platform works on providing the best local experiences of the place for the travellers. The locals help the travellers get an insight of the culture, food, traditions, and all in a much better way.

It is time you stopped doing what everyone else is doing as a tourist. Try doing something new and if required, take the road not taken and opt for the quieter places that are not infiltrated with abundant travellers. This lets you explore the place better and get to know the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Florence better too.

unusual things to do in Florence

Advertisement feature in association with Ring Automotive

Pretty much every single time I put petrol in the car I look at the tyre pressure machine in the corner of the forecourt and think ‘I really probably should pump the tyres up’. Then I remember that I don’t have any cash, or that it’s pouring with rain, or that I can’t be bothered, and I pay for my petrol and drive away.

In the grand scheme of chores, keeping my tyres properly inflated ranks way down alongside ‘wash the inside of the outdoor bin’ and ‘fix that bit on the banisters where the screw keeps coming out of the wall’.

I.e. it never happens.

It’s silly really. I am a grown woman who owns a box of greetings cards for all occasions for Christ’s sake. I pay into a pension and I once made a hanging basket – I AM CAPABLE. I shouldn’t be neglecting jobs like tyre inflating, jobs that actually have an impact on things like safety and fuel economy.

I’m assuming this isn’t JUST me, which is why I agreed to test the Ring RTC1000 Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator AND managed to wrangle an extra one to giveaway as a competition prize. No more wistful stares across the petrol station forecourt for the winner of this sexy giveaway!

Ring digital tyre inflator review

It’s a pretty straightforward gadget really, but let’s have a quick talk through what’s involved. View Post

I visited Elements Boutique Spa free of charge for the purposes of this review. All opinions my own.

Do you ever have those fantasies where you’re so rich and your house is so massive that you have a private cinema in the basement, with a selection of velvet sofas, and a private gym with a lycra-clad personal trainer standing by for whenever you fancy doing a few guided squats?

God, it would be lush wouldn’t it? I’d probably have a chef too to cook me complicated, delicious vegan meals, and perhaps a fully equipped bar with a cocktail waiter. (You had better buy Playgroups & Prosecco so that I can become a millionaire.) In the meantime, I basically recreated the ‘private spa in the grounds of my mansion’ vibe last week by taking a mid-week trip to Elements Boutique Spa.

Now I have to confess that even though it’s only about half an hour away from me, in the middle of the Somerset Levels, I hadn’t heard of it before. Not surprising I guess as it only opened last year. Depsite being new, Elements Boutique Spa has managed to pull off looking like it has always been there, nestled in the countryside, a beacon of relaxation and tranquility with views over the levels to Burrow Mump.

Burrow Mump

Because it’s still relatively new, and because I was there by myself on a Wednesday morning, I managed to time it so that for over an hour I had the entire thermal spa area to myself, thus creating the illusion of being a hugely successful authoress, Barbara Cartland style. I steamed, I saunaed, I took experiential showers (ooer) and I floated about in the pool pretending to be a mermaid – it was blissful. I also discovered that by taking deep breaths in and out I could make myself float and sink on command. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but it was quite fun. View Post