Ruth Bloomfield

The growing appeal of the outdoor kitchen

For most of us the main ingredients of outdoor cooking are a smouldering barbecue grill, slabs of alternately under- and over-cooked meat and a light sprinkling of frustration. But these days, it seems, there is another option on the menu. Ever since the pandemic, more and more homeowners have been investing in lavish outdoor kitchens

In praise of the suburban semi

In 1939 George Orwell took aim at burgeoning British suburbia and its population of lower middle class lackeys in his novel Coming Up for Air, memorably describing the new homes being built on the fringes of cities as ‘semi-detached torture chambers where the poor little five-to-ten pound a-weekers quake and shiver’. More than eight decades on

Has the regeneration of Elephant and Castle been a success?

It has been ten years since work began in earnest on the regeneration of one of the few surviving sections of old-school central London. While the rest of Zone 1 seemingly saw wall-to-wall gentrification, Elephant and Castle remained an outpost of stubborn, scruffy ordinariness, an oasis of discount stores, greasy spoons and traditional boozers. Over the

How to join the beach hut brigade

They are expensive to maintain, plagued by tourists and influences seeking picture-postcard holiday snaps and cost more per square foot than houses in some of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods – despite lacking basic amenities such as running water. And yet such is the allure of the traditional seaside beach hut that, amid an otherwise shaky

The inconvenient truth about heat pumps

In Britain’s battle to cut carbon emissions, the government sees heat pumps as a key weapon. Unveiling the latest energy efficiency plan in March, energy secretary Grant Shapps doubled down on Boris Johnson’s offer of a £5,000 grant for anyone willing to install one. These smart bits of home technology work by transferring thermal energy from the air,

Why house-hunters are heading to Derbyshire

You don’t get much further from the seaside than Derbyshire, a county landlocked at the heart of England. During lockdowns house-hunters simply couldn’t get enough of coastal property, and prices in Wales and the West Country boomed. But three years after the start of the pandemic, a new property powerhouse is emerging.  According to the latest UK

Mean streets: the psychology of neighbour disputes

Eunice Day’s breaking point came when her neighbours asked if she would move her car from a communal grass verge in their cul-de-sac so that it could be mowed. After several weeks of polite hostilities, Day stormed a neighbour’s home in the Dorset town of Ferndown, a row ensued, and the resulting scuffle left the

Would you pay £24,000 for a fridge?

At the start of this month, the modish kitchen appliance brand Sub-Zero & Wolf proudly announced the launch of its Classic French Door fridge-freezer. This beast of a machine, featuring Nasa-inspired air purification technology and an automatic ice-maker complete with ‘party mode’, will set you back £23,868 ­– or the best part of a year’s salary for the

How ‘DFLs’ saved St Leonards

Almost 30 years ago, my journalistic career began in the faded seaside town of St Leonards-on-Sea, where I spent six months undertaking a crash course in shorthand, typing and all the basic skills of local paper reportage. With no previous experience of just how dismal an out-of-season holiday town could be, my spirits were high on

Gorgeous Georgians: the timeless appeal of Regency properties

In the early years of the 19th century, the extravagant, spoiled and hard-partying Prince Regent had a surprisingly good idea. Encouraged by pals like Beau Brummell, and with the financial backing of the property developer James Burton, the future King George IV hired the architect John Nash to design a new London neighbourhood. His vision was for a series of magnificent

The death of the landlord

Spring is property auction season, when a motley collection of semi-derelict houses, flats with leases in the single figures and the homes of mortgage defaulters get sold off. This year, though, a scan of the catalogues of some of the UK’s leading property auction houses reveals a new class of property under the hammer: rental

A house-hunter’s guide to haggling

Not so long ago buyers were treating house-hunting as a blood sport – price ceiling-shattering bids and gazumping were commonplace everywhere from the Cornish coast to the London suburbs to the Lake District. But six months is a long time in property. Following the debacle of the mini-Budget and amid rising interest rates and soaring

The truth about why we hate estate agents

Once again estate agents have been named among the least-trustworthy people in Britain, rated in the public consciousness somewhere between politicians and journalists (ouch). Less than a third of people believe agents tell the truth, according to the annual Veracity Index from market research firm Ipsos Mori, which tracks consumer trust in particular professions – less

Is North London’s housing market recession-proof?

Of all the suburbs in Britain none has become quite so politicised as North London. This slightly leafy (and lefty) swathe in and around Islington – with Hampstead Heath marking its northern edge and Regent’s Park its southern boundary – is treated by our recent political leaders as a kind of shorthand for, to borrow

House of cards: why are so many property sales collapsing?

Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful life experiences, right up there with bereavement and divorce. But what about the stress of not moving? Amid the upheavals of the past few months increasing numbers have seen their property ladder dreams collapse around their ears. According to market analyst TwentyCi there has

Who wants to live in the Square Mile?

Mixing business with pleasure can be risky business. For decades the City of London has upheld this doctrine, religiously prioritising office space over new homes to preserve its reputation as a global financial centre. In his 29-year tenure as the City of London’s planning chief, Peter Rees famously allowed only one new residential tower to

The rise of the ‘neo-Geo’ country pile

The Queen’s wedding gift to Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 was a brand new 12-bedroom house in the Berkshire countryside. Sunninghill Park was an unfortunate mash-up of architectural styles, from its Tudor-ish chimneys to its vaguely Arts and Craftsy roofline and the monumental columns flanking its entrance. And how we laughed. It was