Friday, 23 September 2016

Shades of grey

Described as the ‘new neutral’, grey is an interior trend that is here to stay, so we caught up with Samantha Simmonds from Killer 5 to find out how to embrace the subtle yet stylish shade in your home.

“Whether you like a clean and contemporary look, or bright and bold colours, grey is the perfect back drop for your new home. The cool colour palette can help create a relaxed, calm space and by layering different shades or adding textures and prints, it’s easy to add depth to a room.

“Before you find the perfect shade of grey you’ll need to consider the size and shape of the room. Using a darker shade on the walls such as plummett or down pipe, both Farrow & Ball, can make a small space cosy and warm, while using a softer delicate shade like this Home of Colour dove grey will maximise the natural light in the room. 

“If you really want to make a statement, combine with a patterned wallpaper, as seen in St. Modwen Homes’ new Maple Showhome at Locking Parklands. Different textures work particularly well and this marble effect wallpaper from Graham Brown is a fabulous take on the trend, or for a more subtle approach, try this metallic wallpaper from wilko. Wallpaper is also a great way to introduce geometric prints into a room with this elegant Hemsley Lovington design from Homebase.

“Grey works well off the walls too, choose furniture in charcoal shades and layer with accessories in different styles and fabrics. Don’t be afraid to add some personality, grey is a versatile shade and allows bold colours to pop. Combine this stylish Next sofa with bright, quilted cushions or invest in this Ben de Lisi loveseat – the multi-coloured buttons make it a stand-out addition to any space.

“In the bedroom, use soft furnishings in various shades of grey to create a calm and sophisticated look. A statement headboard looks great with simple yet stylish bedding – like this John Lewis set – and a knitted throw, just use a mix of colours and textures to keep it fresh.

“When it comes to the bathroom, combine traditional fixtures and fittings with stone or geometric tiles for a cool and contemporary look. If you’re on a budget, accessories are an easy way to update your bathroom, incorporate this slate set from Dunelm or these Marks and Spencer towels to help embrace the trend without breaking the bank.”

Share your photos of your grey interiors with St. Modwen Homes on Twitter, Instagram or on one of our development’s Facebook pages. Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest too where you can see all the products mentioned in this blog.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Top tips for moving house

With the majority of people placing moving house at the top of their most stressful things they have done in their life, we have put together some top tips to help ease the stresses and strains and make your house move disaster free…

1.  Start packing well in advance of your move date.  As soon as you start going through things you will no doubt start reminiscing over old photographs or baby clothes, doubling the time you thought your packing would take.

2.  Work from the top of the house to the bottom and have a clear out as you go. Be realistic about what you need, if you haven’t used it in the past 12 months get rid of it, either throw it away or donate it to charity.

3.  Pack up one room at a time, clearly labelling each box on the top and the side (so you can see when they are stacked as well) with details of the contents. Don’t forget to label if there are any breakables inside.

4.  Make sure when loading up the boxes that you load the ones you need least first so you aren’t digging around trying to get to your everyday items.

5.  As you dismantle furniture, put all the screws and fittings into a freezer bag and tape it to the item so you aren’t scrambling around for the correct fixtures.

6.  Take your furniture over to the new house first and boxes last, so you don’t end up moving boxes around again to get your sofa or bed in.

7.  Use fitted sheets, pillow covers and blankets to wrap up your fragile items; that way you aren’t carting additional packing material over to the new house. It also saves you money!

8.  Place a number on each box and a number on each door of your new house, that way everyone knows exactly where each box needs to go rather than constantly asking you.

9.  Don’t overfill the boxes as they will be too heavy to move. Aim for no more than 25kg in each box and try to pack heavier items in smaller boxes and lighter objects in bigger boxes.

10.   Pack an essentials box. In here there should be items you will need as soon as you get to the new house, such as bedding (try to make your bed as soon as possible - you will thank yourself later when you are exhausted from a day of unpacking) tea bags/coffee, cups, kettle, teaspoons, sugar, toilet roll, cleaning products and a corkscrew for that first celebratory drink! It is also useful to keep overnight items in this box too in case you are unable to unpack everything in one day.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Paying homage to Stoke's finest delicacy

If someone asked you for an Oatcake for breakfast, you’d be among the majority if you pulled out a packet of Scottish crackers. Unless you’re lucky enough to be from the Potteries, in which case you’ll have experienced the city’s finest, and proudest export (since the pottery industry, of course): the Staffordshire Oatcake.

Providing a wholesome breakfast to the fine people of Stoke-on-Trent – and the many expats who continue to have their supplies shipped-out – the Staffordshire Oatcake is a sight to behold, and can be filled with an array of breakfast fillings.

What is it?

The Staffordshire Oatcake is a type of savoury pancake made from oatmeal, flour and yeast, traditionally cooked on a griddle or 'baxton' and dates back to the 19th century where it was baked over an open fire.

It was once common throughout the Potteries for oatcakes to be sold directly from people’s front windows to hungry customers. Though this practice has now since ceased, there are still a number of traditional family stores in and around Stoke’s five towns, where locals can purchase ‘half a dozen’ or a ‘dozen pack’ of Oatcakes.

Oatcakes are already cooked when purchased and can be re-heated in the microwave, pan or under the grill (definitely our favourite option)! They are traditionally served with breakfast fillings such as cheese, tomato, onion, bacon, sausage, and egg. They can also be eaten with sweet fillings – just don’t let the locals know we told you so!

Our favourite Oatcake recipe

Try this on a Saturday morning, with a big mug of tea – you won’t go far wrong, and we promise you’ll never look back!

If you’re feeling creative, why not have a go at making your own Oatcakes:

Or you can buy your very own (and locally made) ones here:

Added ingredients (makes 4 oatcakes)

  • 8 rashers bacon
  • 75g chestnut mushrooms, cut in half
  • 150g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, scrambled or fried
  • Tbsp. salted butter
  • You can also use sausages, tinned tomatoes and black pudding according to individual tastes


  1. Preheat the grill to its highest setting.
  2. When the grill is hot, arrange the bacon onto a grill tray and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown on both sides. Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat butter in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Use the rest of the butter in the pan and break in eggs – fry or scramble as preferred for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Set aside.
  5. Arrange bacon, mushrooms, egg and grated cheese into the centre of each oatcake. Put under the grill for 2-3 minutes. Remove carefully and roll from one end to the other to create a soft roll (but be careful not to burn your fingers)!
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining oatcakes, bacon, mushrooms, egg and cheese.
  7. Put all rolled oatcakes under the grill for a further minute.
  8. Serve immediately.

Want oatcakes for your breakfast every week? Find your dream new home in Stoke-on-Trent by visiting the Marketing Suite and Show Homes at Trentham Manor, which are open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 5.30pm inclusive of the weekends. For more information or to book an appointment, call 0844 243 4520 or email Alternatively visit or follow the housebuilder on Twitter at @StModwenHomes and on the Trentham Manor Facebook page. 

Why live at Meon Vale?

Did you know that more than 30% of our homebuyers state that the main reason for choosing their new property is its location? With this in mind, we thought we’d ask some of our neighbours about what life is really like in the local area. First up is Charlotte McCarthy who has lived around Long Marston – home to our Meon Vale development – for 13 years. Here’s what she had to say…

“Being equidistant between Stratford-upon-Avon and Chipping Camden, yet living in the picturesque Warwickshire countryside means that you really do get the best of everything by living in this area.

“Perhaps the best time of the year is the summer when each of the local villages and towns hold their own fetes, including the Welford-upon-Avon Maypole event and the Stratford River Festival. Last month, the family and I went along to the Cotswolds Olimpick Games in Chipping Camden where there’s tug-of-war and a welly wanging competition to entertain the kids, as well as a torch-lit parade followed by a concert later on.

“This year, Stratford also held numerous celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, with parades, markets and street entertainment all taking place over the weekend. To be honest, there’s always plenty going on in Stratford, from exploring the independent shops, to hiring a boat on the river or taking the kids to an open day at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) theatre, which they love, especially trying on the various costumes.

“We have more authors than just Shakespeare linked to the area as well. Did you know that J.R.R.Tolkein based The Great Watchtower of Amon Sul, otherwise known as Weathertop, in Lord of the Rings, on Meon Hill in Long Marston? It’s a great place for a walk on a Sunday afternoon.

“Sticking with the outdoors, I’d hugely recommend a visit to Lower Clopton Farm, which is around five minutes from Meon Vale and sells delicious meat and some beautiful gifts.

What’s more, every year in the spring, they hold an open day where you can take your children to see the baby animals.

“Other recommendations include both the Shakespeare Inn (which has a great beer garden) and The Bell Inn (serving fantastic food) in Welford-on-Avon, less than 10 minutes from Meon Vale and both great pubs. As a family, we also love the chippy in Lower Quinton. That’s also where you’ll find your local dentist and doctors. Anyone furnishing a new house should also pop to Barn Antiques Centre in Long Marston itself which has over 40 dealers selling antiques, furniture and collectables.

“People living at Meon Vale will also benefit from the amenities on site, including the Meon Vale Leisure Centre that opened last two years ago. Not only are my husband and I members but we’ve also been to numerous children’s birthday parties there and have signed the kids up to some of the all-day summer clubs whilst we’re working over the holidays. Additionally, there’s the Greenway which St. Modwen has extended as part of its redevelopment of Meon Vale. We’re currently there most weekends teaching the kids to ride their bikes and have used the footbath to walk directly into Stratford, helping to avoid any traffic at peak tourist times.

“It’s great to live somewhere where there’s so much going on, yet has all the benefits of a rural village life. We love living here and would very much recommend the area to anyone considering buying a new home.” 

Storage Solutions

Storage is usually high on everyone’s list when they are looking for a new home. We all want somewhere we can hide the hoover or keep clutter so our home looks neat, clean and minimalist. With this in mind, we caught up with Samantha Simmonds, Creative Director at Killer 5, to look into some clever storage solutions that you can utilise in your home…

“Let’s start with the bedroom, after all this is usually where people need the most storage space. Depending on the shape of your room, there’s not always space for a wardrobe, chest of drawers and a dressing table, therefore you might also consider using your bed for storage. Invest in an ottoman bed like this steel grey one from Time 4 Sleep or look for one with underneath storage, we love this classic style from Next; perfect to hide away those winter clothes when the sun finally makes an appearance.

“When it comes to bathroom storage it’s great to have somewhere to stash all your toiletries, rather than keeping them on show. Try this fantastically nautical drawer set from Homebase, or utilise the bathroom mirror for perfect hidden storage like this impressive Decora mirror. Why not try using shelves to free up floor space too? There’s a huge variety of unusual shelves out there so let your creativity go wild – get inspiration from these small crates, pipes and board or even wire racks.

“When it comes to the kitchen it is easy to get yourself in a clutter with spices, sauces, packets and pans falling out of every cupboard. My advice would be to use every inch of the kitchen to its full potential. Turn your spices into art by converting a chalkboard into a magnetic spice rack. Don’t think it has to stop at spices hanging on your walls, why not utensils or pans as well? From this amazing idea using a peg board so all your equipment has its own place, or even keep things on show but make them look more fun and pleasing on the eye like these baking goods.

“Do you have pets and are fed up of having their food bowls out all the time? Try this amazing idea that uses up usually abandoned space behind your plinth.
“If you’re feeling crafty, make use of furniture that you don’t use anymore and give it a new use. We love how easily you can turn this book shelf into a stunning window bench with built in storage.

“I know you’ll all be shocked to hear it, but even the kid’s bedrooms can be decluttered. Make your own craft station like this one, where all the materials and items are easy to access anytime. Get creative and use jars, shoe holders or buckets to store items off the floor, creating more space in your child’s room.

“A living room can be the hub of the home so try these storage solutions to help keep yours a welcoming space, whether it be trunk coffee table like this from Arbol House or even this handy multi draw unit from Maisons Du Monde that can be used as a TV stand, storage doesn’t have to be boring.”

No matter what size the space you can always transform it to be more useful, share with us your proudest storage solutions - send us your pictures on our Facebook pages or Twitter!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Fabulous Flamingos

With their bright pink feathers and enchanting shape, flamingos have proven a huge hit with interior designers across the country. Here we chat to Samantha Simmonds from interior design agency, Killer 5, to find out how best to use flamingos in your new home.

“If you want to inject a bit of colour and fun into your home, then flamingos are a great way to do it. In fact, the Sanderson flamingo wallpaper we used in the Showhome at Edison Place in Rugby received outstanding feedback from visitors, with many people wanting to recreate the look in their own home. The good news is that, since decorating that Showhome, flamingo printed wallpaper has been popping up everywhere, with many high street shops now stocking their own versions.

“If you have quite a minimalist white or grey living room, why not choose one wall where you can make a statement with this coral flamingo wallpaper from B&Q, or if you’re feeling even braver, try this exotic pink and turquoise print or this textured wallpaper from Etsy. Don’t be afraid to be bold!

“If bright palettes are too much for you, there are also more subtle flamingo motifs out there which can help to create a relaxing and calming room and work well with other coloured and textured walls. Try this duck egg version from John Lewis, this sophisticated and neutral design of flamingos in a lagoon from Homebase or this teal and white option from Debenhams. Think outside the living room as well, these patterns work just as well in the kitchen, hallway or study.

“It’s not just adults flapping for flamingos either, there is also now a wide variety of wallpaper for children’s rooms. If your child loves pink, try this very pretty flamingo print from Laura Ashley, or if you want a more effortless way to transform the walls, go for these stickers from

“Flamingos don’t have to be confined to your walls though. You can add the exotic bird into your kitchen with patterned tea towels, flamingo glasses or mugs, as well as these super stylish plates which I love. Brighten up your living room with these cushions, a colourful candle holder or this digitally-printed silk lamp shade. Alternatively, opt for a flamingo bathroom with this bath mat; there really is something for every room, budget and personal taste!

“So why do we all love flamingos so much? The flamingo first entered people’s homes in the 1950s when people started adopting more colour into their homes. Since then, it has come in and out of fashion, evolving from a lawn ornament to a bright motif on cushions and inspiring some of the finest pieces of art. Last year, it was re-introduced in our modern-day homes and now you can barely go into an interiors shop without seeing a flamingo or two. As homeowners become braver in their décor and move away from the more neutral tones we’ve become used to, bold prints – such as flamingos – will continue to be a feature of people’s homes for the next few years. I love this trend and will always encourage people to express their personalities through patterns and colour.  

“Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your garden, or just fancy a more interesting bath, don’t forget your giant inflatable flamingo!”

Share your photos of your flamingo themed rooms with St. Modwen Homes on Twitter, Instagram or on one of our development’s Facebook pages. Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest too where you can see all the products mentioned in this blog. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

How to buy: What is a Help to Buy Agent?

Welcome to our latest How to Buy blog; a monthly blog that gives you tips and advice on the house buying process.

This month, we’re looking at Help to Buy and, more specifically, what a Help to Buy agent is and how they can help.

Did you know that 60% of our sales in the last 12 months have been under Help to Buy? The Government scheme has become increasingly popular since its launch in 2013, with many people attracted by the 5% deposits and 75% mortgage available.

Helping to meet the high level of demand from people looking to get onto or up the property ladder, theelping Hel Homes and Communities Agency has introduced Help to Buy Agents who are there to help find the right scheme for you.

These agents are fully trained by the Government and are there to be a helping hand throughout the entire process from explaining what schemes you are eligible for, right through to the purchase of your new home.

Help to Buy Agents are able to give you the best advice as well as being the ones who make the initial decision on whether or not you are eligible for Help to Buy or not.
In most instances, people will have initial conversations about Help to Buy with our sales team who will then refer you to our recommended mortgage adviser and the Help to Buy agent.

Our sales team will remain on hand throughout the process to answer any questions you have; meaning you have support from all parties.

You can find more information about Help to Buy on our website. Alternatively, visit The Help to Buy website to see a timetable of the latest Help to Buy roadshows and for frequently asked questions about the schemes.