Anne Ashworth

Anne Ashworth

Property and Personal Finance Editor, The Times

Project Garden

Now is the moment of peak outdoor-space awareness, the moment when images of the immaculate plots at the Chelsea Flower Show cause the British to conclude that a makeover is in order for their terrace, balcony or backyard. This feeling strikes even those who have every claim to horticultural superiority, but suspect that their garden could benefit from an update. As always RiverTribe is here to help. Here are the biggest trends of summer 2017.


Flowers and plants previously deemed a little old-fashioned are making a return. Let’s say hurrah for the resurgence of hydrangeas and peonies and the scent of lemon verbena. There are few quick fixes for a tiny plot as effective as several white hydrangeas in pots. The Annabelle is the hydrangea du jour.


Forget hygge, the cult of domestic cosiness until the days draw in again. The latest Scandinavian lifestyle vogue is “lagom” which is about achieving the right balance, indoors and out. At the heart of this philosophy is the need to make more environmentally-aware and self-sufficient choices. Take composting seriously and grow your own vegetables and herbs. Will lagom be more talked about than practised? Let’s see.


The latest guise of the garden shed, in the wake of the shoffice (the shed- office), is the she shed. This is the refuge of the lady of the house, where she writes her novel or just retreats from domestic and professional cares. In some cases, this accommodation can be rather grand, including a kitchen and a bathroom. Why do we suspect that this could become the teen shed?


The (far) cheaper alternative outdoor sanctuary is the hammock. Engaging in useful activity is impossible while rocking from side to side, trailing your fingers in the wild flower meadow - still a fashionable feature for the larger garden. Lay back and imagine that you are in the midst of an endless Edwardian summer.


The house plant is back, after a period in the decor wilderness. If space in your home is tight, display your spider and other plants on an IKEA ladder plant stand which will show your friends that you know that vertical gardening is a thing.


In some properties, the magnificence of the kitchen inside the house is rivalled only by the outdoor kitchen, sheltered by an oak pergola and equipped with a pizza oven, a sink and a fridge. This marks another step in turning the garden into another room, as families find every way to maximise space.


The expansion of the house into the garden is yet another force threatening the lawn which is being increasingly replaced with paving. But lawns are fighting back, although to the dismay of some, this may be because fake grass has lost its stigma. More people are laying down an artificial lawn. Such is the colour and texture variation of the more expensive forms of fake grass, it can be indistinguishable from the real thing. Some people aren’t fessing up to faking it.


But they will be found out.


The Cacti & I

The British passion for property has always extended to a similar interest in interior style.

Never before has there been such an obsession with the latest home improvement looks:

what’s out, what’s in, keeps on changing.

There is a multiplicity of trends, all vying for dominance this spring, but at RiverTribe,

we have picked the four key style movements.

Don’t pick up the paint brush until you’ve read this guide by Anne Ashworth.

Seldom this century have the words ‘cactus’ and fashionable’ appeared in the same sentence, but house plants tastes have changed and the cactus is the indoor vegetation of choice. If you feel unable to tend a cactus (succulents with spines need tender care) then you can opt for cactus-pattern wallpaper and cactus-shaped chairs. The comeback of the cactus is said to be linked to the choice of ‘greenery’ (a vibrant shade of mid-green) as the shade of 2017 by Pantone, the arbiter of colour style. In 2016, the elegant grey sofa was adorned with ochre cushions. ‘Greenery’ is now bidding to supplant ochre on a chair or sofa near you. Maybe mix the two?


The key decor trends of our era have their beginnings in the hospitality industry. Metro tiles, grey and parquet were first used in bars, hotels and restaurants and then spread to domestic interiors. Now black paint is following this trajectory, moving from smart eating places into chic suburban spaces. You can expect to see people who like their property to be cutting edge to choose matt black paint for even small rooms. If the very idea of black paint fills you with foreboding, then remember that grey was, at first, surrounded by suspicion, before becoming the key neutral of our age. It is unlikely that black will ever rival the reign of grey but you will see more black doors, or black accessories. Navy will be the compromise shade - as so in women’s wardrobes.


Industrial chic is another style that burst onto the world in bars and then made its debut in homes. By now there should be a certain weariness with exposed bricks and the kind of enamel lamps that hung in Thirties factories but quite the reverse. This trend is particularly strong in kitchens, where there is a growing obsession with ‘depth’ and ‘texture’, facilitated by the arrival of ceramic work surfaces that look like stone or wood, but are non-porous and easy to maintain. The aesthetic of yesteryear hides innovation in the kitchen: we are likely to see more ‘smart’ (wi-fi connected) appliances, such as fridges, with screens on their doors on which you will tap out your shopping list.


If you hear people talking about ‘broken spaces’ or ‘zoning’, you can be sure that they are talking about their kitchen extension. The vast, white space that used to be created in such a renovation has proven to be, in some cases, a noisy area, full of cooking smells and inimical to quiet conversation, or concentration on homework. As a result, these rooms are being ‘zoned’ with the split between the kitchen and dining and sitting ‘zones’ being demarcated by a breakfast bar, a bookcase or a fireplace. In some cases, a section of wall with metal-framed Crittall windows marks the dividing line, possibly adorned with one or two soon to be iconic cacti.

©RiverTribe Magazine 2017