Bristol is top of the class for PBSA investment

Bristol is top of the class for PBSA investment

United Kingdom
  • The University of Bristol has over 22,000 students yet provides just over 6,000 beds (The University of Bristol)
  • Latest UCAS data reveals that whilst applications might be down nationally, the University of Bristol remains a popular choice (Pro Vice-chancellor, University of Bristol)
  • ‘Perfectly situated next to the new university campus, The Grosvenor is the ideal PBSA investment’ (CEO, Properties of the World)

Bristol is a thriving city, situated just 120 miles from London and home to over 22,000 students studying at the University of Bristol (2016/17). However, just over 6,000 beds, just 27%, are available to these students via the university according to their website.

It is clear that demand for student accommodation in the city is high not only from the booming student population but also with investors looking for a cheaper way to enter the buoyant market. With property prices rising faster than London (Hometrack) and around 16,000 students not being offered accommodation by the University itself, investment into PBSA (purpose built student accommodation) In Bristol is an attractive proposition.

The Grosvenor, available through Properties of the World is the ideal student accommodation investment option within the city, offering 144 studios located next to the new £300 million University of Bristol campus set to open in 2020.

The University of Bristol is one of the most popular and successful institutions in the UK according to the QS World University Rankings for 2016-2017. It is firmly in 9th place and according to Dr Erik Lithander, Pro vice-chancellor, the latest UCAS data has revealed that applications might be down nationally yet the University of Bristol remains a popular choice.

Dr Lithander explains that the total student numbers attending for the 2016-17 academic year were 22,427 and that the university’s aspiration was to grow their student body by around 3% for the 2017-18 academic year.

Indeed, with the University of Bristol so determined to grow its population so too is the local student property market.

Jean Liggett, CEO of visionary property investment consultancy Properties of the World explains further why the Bristol market is a great opportunity for those looking at student property as an investment choice,

‘Perfectly situated next to the new University of Bristol campus for 2020, The Grosvenor is the ideal investment. Demand for student flats in this area is expected to be high as the convenience of being able to access campus quickly and easily will be a top priority for students.

“The site is also opposite Temple Meads train station so if you are looking for a promising investment in this booming city where the average price per student bed is over £10,000 more than the Grosvenor (Knight Frank), then now is the time to act as units are selling fast.”

The comfortably sized student apartments offer a modern living space in Bristol Temple Meads. The apartments consist of a single bed with en-suite bathroom facilities, a kitchenette finished to the highest standard and facilities such as a laundry room, gym, secure storage, communal lounge areas with pool tables and ample study spaces.

From £99,000 per studio, the 6-floor block, with 144 apartments are a unique investment opportunity that provides a passive property investment that delivers 7.5% NET return for 5 years with an option to extend. For more information, visit or call +44 (0)20 7624 5555.

EXCLUSIVE: British students outnumber Chinese students in UK PBSA sites for the first time

EXCLUSIVE: British students outnumber Chinese students in UK PBSA sites for the first time

United Kingdom
  • Exclusive data from leading student accommodation operator reveals top 5 resident nationalities
  • British students lead the way for the first time, with Chinese students following close behind (Collegiate AC)
  • “More and more British students actively seek out higher quality living accommodation for their university years” (CEO, Collegiate AC)

Collegiate AC is leading the way in luxury purpose built student accommodation in the UK. New data reveals the demographics of their residents and exactly who is enjoying the superb facilities that the operator provides.

With first class sites located in 23 towns and cities across the UK, Collegiate AC is well established and according to new data collected by the company, UK residents, for the first time, are the number one occupants.

In the 2016/17 academic year 25% of all Collegiate AC student residents are British with Chinese and Thai students in second and third position respectively.

In comparison to Collegiate’s 2015 student nationality statistics, there has been a notable increase in British residents, from 23% to 26%.

Greek students have interestingly entered the top 5 for the first time in 2016/17, accounting for 3% of all Collegiate residents.

The top 5 resident nationalities at Collegiate AC for 2016/17 are as follows:

  1. British – 25.77%
  2. Chinese – 25.62%
  3. Thai – 4.08%
  4. Greek – 3.44%
  5. Malaysian – 3.41%

  “Collegiate’s doors are open to students of every nationality and we are committed to ensuring that each and every student feels at home. For many years, Chinese students have been our most prolific residents but this is now changing as more and more British students actively seek out higher quality living accommodation for their university years.”

Heriberto Cuanalo, CEO of Collegiate AC


A perfect example of a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at Collegiate AC, is the site in Newcastle. Plummer House is part of the Fusion Collection, this offers breath-taking facilities at the heart of the city such as a private on-site cinema, gym, games room and VIP bar.

From £140 per week, the fantastic location is just 10-minute walk from Newcastle University and the exclusive design-led apartments, with high speed broadband and Wi-Fi throughout, are thriving with likeminded students.

For more information, visit or contact Collegiate AC on 01235 250 140.

Construction Update: Beaumont Square set to welcome Plymouth students this September

Construction Update: Beaumont Square set to welcome Plymouth students this September

United Kingdom
  • Brand new Beaumont Square residence set for completion in August 2017
  • Colossal £266 million investment programme set to transform Plymouth, will no doubt enhance its attraction to students (Aspen Woolf)
  • Investors benefit from an assured 3-year NET return of 8% as early as September, with students to move in for the upcoming academic year (Aspen Woolf)

With the current academic year nearing its exam led conclusion, students will be looking to their accommodation options for September. And with demand vastly outweighing supply, new and existing students will be keen to secure a spot for themselves.

As key university cities continue to attract thousands of students every year, it’s no surprise that many B2L investors are turning to Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). According to figures from HESA, the coastal set Plymouth University was home to 23,155 students in the 15/16 academic year alone. Highlighting an incredibly buoyant market for those investing in PBSA in the city.

To answer this ongoing demand, Oliver Ramsden Director of Aspen Woolf, leaders in providing wealth building opportunities for investors of all levels through property, is delighted to confirm that their brand new Beaumont Square accommodation will be ready for students to move in this September. He comments,

“Plymouth will be the location for a vast array of investment projects over the forthcoming months and years. The colossal £266 million investment programme set to transform the city centre, will no doubt enhance Plymouth’s attraction as a place for students to complete their studies.

“The greater number of students choosing Plymouth will in turn increase the number of student beds required, with PBSA emerging as the savvy investment option. With work on the internal walls of block B due to be complete by the end of next week, we are confident that our Beaumont Square residence is on track for completion as soon as August. Meaning students will be able to choose the luxury accommodation from September 2017.”

Located in an idyllic location, Beaumont Square is less than a mile away from Plymouth University, the bustling city centre and the beautiful harbour of this coastal city with prices starting from just £78,500 for the exclusive studio apartments.

Oliver continues,

“Those investing in Beaumont Square can benefit from an assured 3-year NET return of 8% as early as September, with completion of the development allowing students to move in for the upcoming academic year.”

Every apartment will be offered fully furnished to prospective student tenants and the building will benefit from high end hotel apartment style finishes. Residents will also be able to enjoy an array of additional facilities including a laundry room, staffed reception area and the security of 24-hour CCTV.

For more information, visit or contact Aspen Woolf on +44(0) 203 176 0060.

The art of interior design – creating the picture-perfect home

The art of interior design – creating the picture-perfect home

United Kingdom
  • “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” (Edgar Degas)
  • “Art plays a fundamental role in interior design – no scheme is complete without it” (Alexander James Interior Design)
  • Use art to echo a room’s theme and balance it perfectly with lighting for maximum impact (Alexander James)
  • Damien Hirst print featured in London’s Landmark Place show home (Alexander James)


Art lovers are in for a treat this year, with London’s Lisson Gallery celebrating its 50th birthday with a magnificent series of exhibitions and events. The National Gallery – the UK’s most visited gallery, with well over 6.2 million visitors in 2016, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions – is also offering something special, with Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene, the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition and a Rubens and Rembrandt feature all running concurrently.


However, if we are to believe the words of Edgar Degas, then “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” It is a concept that is familiar to every successful interior designer – those with the powers to make others see an overall vision that is greater than the sum of its parts.


 “Art plays a fundamental role in interior design. Paintings, prints and sculptures are essential to completing a decorative scheme and have to be planned in as part of the overall look and feel of a property. These are not things to be left to chance and then picked out at the last minute.”


Stacey Sibley, Creative Director, Alexander James Interior Design


Having worked in interior design for 24 years, Alexander James’ Stacey Sibley is well versed in finding the right artwork to tie together all the elements of a room, from fabrics to colour palette to furniture.


Art can both echo the theme of the room and inspire it. This Beaconsfield family home, dressed by the Alexander James team, displays the concept beautifully, with artworks reflecting the colours, textures and themes of the rooms in which they feature.


For those looking for a uniquely artistic home, engaging the services of a local artist can be a wonderful way to obtain bespoke artwork. Furnishing the artist with a swatch of cushion fabric, key colour samples or a mood board can allow him or her to draw together all aspects of the design.


In the Beaconsfield home, for example, the open plan living room features beautiful, bespoke artwork designed to fade from bold to light and inspired by the accent cushions, which feature a bold oil painting inspired fabric designed by artist Jessica Zoob for Romo.


Nor is it just private homes in which art plays an important role. Working closely with developers has emphasised to the Alexander James team how essential artworks are when dressing show homes. At Landmark Place in London, their interior designers embraced the use of art by purchasing a limited edition Damien Hirst print for the show home.


‘The Souls III’ is one of a 15-piece signed edition purchased by Alexander James Interior Design as part of their dressing of the stunning new show home. The print is currently on loan to Landmark Place’s developer, Barratt Homes, enabling art to be taken to the next level in show home design.


Whether it’s a Damien Hirst print or the work of a talented, up-and-coming local artist, placing art perfectly is almost as important a skill as choosing the right pieces, according to Alexander James’ Stacey Sibley. She recommends balancing art and furniture by aligning artwork with a sideboard or console table and bordering it with side lamps to highlight it. The right framing is also essential, as is balancing the frame with the lamps and other furniture around it.


Hanging artwork at the right level is also essential. The centre of the image should ideally be at eye level. However, for informal seating areas, hanging the artwork low will make the space feel more cosy and intimate. Hanging artwork in clusters can also work well.


 “Gallery walls are a great way to occupy vast and open wall spaces, especially stairwells which are usually quite bare. Grouping several frames in various sizes, styles and orientations gives a really creative look and allows you to add more whenever you like.


“You can also take inspiration from the environment around your home. If you live in a rural area, seek inspiration from the surrounding trees and greenery, with botanical prints or natural paintings. Likewise, if your home has an interesting history, this can inspire the artwork. If the house has been rejuvenated, perhaps use old architectural drawings to accessorise the scheme.”


Stacey Sibley, Creative Director, Alexander James Interior Design



For more information, visit Alexander James Interior Design at, email or call 020 7887 7604.

Liverpool lights the way as savvy investors head to the north of the city

Liverpool lights the way as savvy investors head to the north of the city

United Kingdom
  • Top tip for investors looking to Liverpool in 2017/8 is to head north of the city centre, around the Vauxhall area (Aspen Woolf)
  • One to watch is L3 postcode, it will be very different in 5-10 years’ time (Aspen Woolf)
  • New Eldon Grove carefully designed to preserve the heritage of the site while serving the needs of a new generation (Aspen Woolf)


As momentum for the Northern Powerhouse builds, more and more investors are looking to the north of the country. However, Oliver Ramsden, Founder & Director of Aspen Woolf, leaders in providing wealth building opportunities for investors through property, believes investors should take it one step further, looking to the north of Liverpool’s bustling city centre to uncover hidden gems of its property market.

We spoke with Oliver after his most recent visit to Liverpool in relation to the changes taking place throughout the city, and which postcodes are showing the most promise to investors.

“What makes Liverpool unique is its young population, nearly 45% of the city is under 30, and many are young professionals and renters looking for quality accommodation that is still lacking in many of the city’s central postcodes.

“For investors, the trick is to spot the next hotspots early. While in Liverpool I spent a significant amount of time walking around the dock area, checking on different builds and their progress, and even for someone that travels to and from Liverpool often, the change I’ve seen in such a short time is simply astounding. The Baltic Triangle, The Georgian Quarter, The Docks, all these areas that stagnated in the past are all thriving now. It was really exciting to see.

Our top tip for investors looking to Liverpool in 2017/8 is to head north of the city centre, around the Vauxhall area. The area is benefitting from a wealth of investment with road expansions, new train stations, a brand new football ground and new cruise terminal to boot. We’ve witnessed a huge spike in planning applications granted in the area, which is always a good indication.

The L3 postcode will be very different in 5-10 years’ time. Prices are still low but that won’t last long if we’re to go by what’s happened in other parts of Liverpool in the past 5 years.”

One property set to benefit from its L3 postcode is Aspen Woolf’s Eldon Grove. Having provided some of the best pre-war social housing built by Liverpool city council, Eldon Grove set a new standard for the whole country and was officially opened by the Countess of Derby in 1912.

The layout, with its central square, well-maintained garden and bandstand, along with the chocolate-box look, helped create a vibrant community, lifting up some of Liverpool’s poorest residents.

Incorporating three original Grade II-listed blocks alongside three new blocks of stylish and contemporary apartments, New Eldon Grove has been carefully designed to preserve the heritage of the site while serving the needs of a new generation. Comprised of 45 apartments including 1,2 and 3 bedroom units, New Eldon Grove is Set within peaceful surroundings, yet on the edge of the vibrant Liverpool city centre.

Apartments situated in the original blocks have been re-imagined for 21st century living, with fully modernised fitted kitchens and bathrooms, while benefiting from the character of the Tudor buildings, with mullioned bay windows and their own front doors leading from the external walkways.

New Eldon Grove residents will also benefit from a community garden and shared landscaping, as well as parking, bicycle storage and secured entrance hallways. From just £94,950, with ready to rent furniture packs available, New Eldon Grove provides investors with an assured 2-year NET rental of 7%.

For more information, visit or contact Aspen Woolf on +44 203 176 0060.

Derelict to desirable: Regeneration breathes new life into Manchester’s Wilburn Basin

Derelict to desirable: Regeneration breathes new life into Manchester’s Wilburn Basin

United Kingdom
  • Wilburn Basin offers investors an average price per sq ft 30% lower than similar developments (Surrenden Invest)
  • When complete Wilburn Basin will comprise four distinct blocks varying in height from 8 to 21 storeys (Surrenden Invest)
  • Phase one already complete and rented out and the second due this summer (Surrenden Invest)

It was only a short time ago that Manchester’s Wilburn Street Basin was nothing more than a neglected patch of wasteland. However, the area has recently experienced a radical transformation and is now home to a contemporary residential hub.

Surrenden Invest, a property consultancy at the forefront of this movement, believe Manchester’s thriving property market has led to areas outside the city centre undergoing significant redevelopment. Managing Director Jonathan Stephens explains,


“Areas of the city historically seen as outside the core are now providing investors with all the amenities and quality of prime central but at a much lower price point. The Wilburn Basin is the perfect example.

“Falling on the Salford side of the Irwell means that investors are looking at an average price per square foot that is 30% lower than similar developments within a couple of minutes’ walk.”

Wilburn Basin is a brand-new residence situated on the historic River Irwell Basin. It offers an attractive waterside setting to residents in the city centre, within a short walking distance of the central business district and its excellent array of shops and leisure facilities.

When complete Wilburn Basin will be comprised of four distinct blocks varying in height from 8 to 21 storeys which offer fantastic views across the city, setting a new benchmark for combining city centre living with high quality facilities and private amenity space.

Jonathan continues,


Wilburn Basin is a project investors can go into with complete confidence with the first phase already complete and rented out, and the second phase completing this summer, whilst also benefitting from the experience and build quality of Manchester’s largest developer.

“This is an area earmarked for substantial capital growth and given the location, will be perfectly suited to take advantage of both Media City and the city centre.”

From just £165,000, all apartments are built to a high specification with Porcelanosa kitchens and Villeroy and Boch sanitaryware. Additional facilities include a private gym, cinema room, a ‘boutique’ hotel style reception with 24 hour concierge and a residents’ lounge. As well as architecturally landscaped gardens and courtyard.

For more information, visit or contact Surrenden Invest on 0203 3726 499.

Sell your home faster this spring with these expert interior design tips!

Sell your home faster this spring with these expert interior design tips!

United Kingdom
  • Pay particular attention to neutralising colour schemes and brightening spaces
  • Remove all clutter – including pieces of furniture
  • Use soft furnishings and scents to stage your home like a show home

Spring is well known to be the best time of year to sell your home. In fact, research by US firm Zillow found that homes listed for sale between 1-15 May sell an average of 18.5 days faster than those listed outside of that time period, as well as achieving a 1% higher sale price.

For those planning to take advantage of the spring sales season, the experts at Alexander James Interior Design have shared their top 10 tips for selling your home faster through creative interior design.


“First impressions count when it comes to selling your home. Everything has to look, feel and even smell perfect in order to impress prospective buyers. It’s essential to give your home the best chance possible of attracting new owners and interior design can play a key part in that.”

Stacey Sibley, Creative Director, Alexander James Interior Design


Alexander James’ top 10 tips for selling your home this spring

1. Be your own critic

Start by casting a critical eye over your home yourself, picturing it through the eyes of a potential buyer. Try and think about the tastes and requirements of the type of person who might buy your home, whether it be a family of six or a couple without children. If it is a family home, you may gear your changes towards a family-friendly layout.

2. Repaint

A fresh coat of a neutral paint colour can work wonders. Use it where needed to cover up more controversial colours, which could put off potential buyers by restricting their vision for the property.

3. Flooring

If carpets look tired, tatty and threadbare, it’s a good idea to replace them, if your budget permits. At the very least, professional carpet cleaning can make a huge difference when it comes to brightening up a room.

4. Declutter

Make the most of every inch of drawer, cupboard and wardrobe space that you have by removing unnecessary clutter. This will open up the space and leave room for the imagination. If you have somewhere to store it, you can even remove two or three pieces of furniture from each room, to really show your home’s features and create a spacious feel. In the kitchen, clear away toasters and kettles to give a clean finish to the room.

5. De-personalise

You’ve likely spent years personalizing your home to perfection. Now it’s time to undo your hard work! Eliminate personal effects so that your home becomes a place where potential buyers are able to envision themselves living. In particular, replace photographs with more generic artwork.

6. Accessorise

Gently accessorise to make your property feel like a home. Use a soothing colour palette to allow one room to flow into the next, creating a cohesive feel. Adding fresh flowers injects colour and warmth to a room, while green plants can add a contemporary touch, creating a feature within a living space. High end magazines can be displayed on a coffee table for a homely effect.

7. Soft furnishings

Soft furnishings are important and the use of luxury brands can really make a difference. While the brands themselves are unlikely to be noticed by the potential buyer, the overall impact will be to add a quality effect. Any garish colours or worn cushions should be replaced, creating a home that the prospective new owners can feel a sense of pride in.

8. Light it up

Homes should have bright lighting to awaken the buyer’s senses. Good lighting can make your home feel more spacious and enhance its features. It may be worth investing in some brighter light bulbs (but not so bright that rooms appear clinical!) for maximum impact.

9. Add fresh scents

Use beautiful scented candles and diffusers throughout the home, but most importantly in the living area, master bedroom and master bathroom. Studies have found that complex scents can distract a buyers thought process, so we recommend simple, fresh scents such as orange, lemon, pine, basil, cedar, vanilla and cinnamon.

10. Stage your home

Cast your eye over your home once more and stage it like a show home for every single viewing. There shouldn’t be a dirty teacup or overflowing basket of washing in sight! Staging your house like a show home will allow potential buyers to feel that it is a property they would be proud to own.

For more information, visit Alexander James Interior Design at, email or call 020 7887 7604.

The ‘Erin Brockovich’ of Spanish property still fighting a decade later

The ‘Erin Brockovich’ of Spanish property still fighting a decade later

Spain United Kingdom
  • Keith Rule uncovered Spanish Law LEY 57/1968 that allows banks to be held accountable for off-plan property deposits
  • In 2012 Finca Parcs Action Group and CostaLuz Lawyers win case against the bank resulting in a pay-out of almost €1.5 million
  • “With Brexit creating uncertainty, now is the time for investors to begin reclaiming what is rightfully theirs” (Keith Rule, CostaLuz Lawyers)

Back in 2006, Keith Rule, an ordinary man from Milton Keynes, decided to take the plunge and buy his dream holiday home in Spain. Like many other Brits at the time, Keith paid a deposit for the off-plan property to a Spanish developer. A substantial sum of €54,000.

However, his dream was short lived as he did not receive a bank guarantee. And when the developer fell behind on the build schedule and ultimately abandoned the project in 2009, Keith’s investment was at serious risk.

Taking matters into his own hands, Keith’s research led him to Spanish Law LEY 57/1968 in which he found what would become a key phrase in his fight for justice. Just three little words, ‘bajo su responsibilidad’, which means ‘under its responsibility’.

Keith believed that according to this law, the developer’s bank which received the off-plan deposits was responsible for issuing or verifying the existence of the guarantee.

In 2008, needing legal assistance in his quest to hold the bank accountable, Keith was turned away by several Spanish lawyers before contacting Maria de Castro of CostaLuz Lawyers.

Keith gathered a group of 46 other buyers who had invested in the same development, in the Spanish province of Albacete, to act against the developer’s bank.  They were known as the Finca Parcs Action Group and in 2012, together with Maria, they won their case against the bank which resulted in a pay-out of almost €1.5 million plus interest & costs.

After this unprecedented success and landmark case, Maria asked Keith to join the CostaLuz Lawyers team in order to help others. Keith now works exclusively with CostaLuz Lawyers, operating the UK office and assisting thousands of other British, Irish and European nationals to recover off-plan deposits.

Dubbed “the Erin Brockovich” of Spanish off-plan property due to his pioneering work, Keith continues to help other buyers who undertake similar legal procedures.


“There are still a significant number of people that are yet to have their deposits returned to them. The Spanish legal system has definitely transformed over the last decade, in relation to allowing owners a high level of success with deposit reclaims, as more and more cases are being won and trust is beginning to grow. However, with the Brexit process creating a sense of uncertainty, now is the time for investors to ask for help and begin reclaiming what is rightfully theirs.”

Keith Rule, CostaLuz Lawyers


CostaLuz Lawyers has successfully won almost 850 claims in total from Spanish property developers & banks, helping more than 1,500 clients from across the UK and Ireland as well as Spanish and European nationals.

In addition, they have around 100 cases still pending outcomes in the Appeal Courts and more than 500 cases still in progress in the First Instance Courts.

For more information, please contact CostaLuz Lawyers’ UK office on +44 1908 635 111 and speak with Keith. To speak with Maria in the Spanish office, please call +34 956 092 687 or you can visit

Getting to know the ‘Designer with the Dogs’ – Stacey Sibley of Alexander James Interior Design

Getting to know the ‘Designer with the Dogs’ – Stacey Sibley of Alexander James Interior Design

United Kingdom
  • Creativity and organisational skills both essential for interior design work
  • Contemporary use of metals, softened by rustic woods, makes for the perfect modern interior
  • Natural elements and eclectic, ‘lived in’ interiors set the trends for the coming years

Beautiful interior design doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, Creative Director Stacey Sibley has dedicated the last 17 years to Alexander James Interior Design, the award-winning company delivering the most stunning interiors to the UK’s show houses, private homes and rental apartments.

Having trained in graphic design and styling, Stacey began her career at an interior design company that specialised in show homes. Her passion for creating beautiful properties led her to Alexander James Interior Design in 2000.

What began as membership of a team of five has evolved into Stacey heading up a department of 22 designers, while the Alexander James group has expanded to employ more than 100 staff in total.

Much has changed as Stacey has grown and developed with the Alexander James team. She is now responsible for the creative side of the business, overseeing designers and managing creative direction, as well as undertaking design work for key clients and keeping up with the latest industry trends. Here she shares her highlights of the experience.

Why is your role essential to the process of delivering stunning interiors?

At Alexander James I oversee the creative teams and the smooth running of the design studio, ensuring we deliver the best possible result on every project, as well as undertaking design projects myself. My role blends both creativity and organisational skills, which don’t always go hand in hand! That combination of skills is essential to delivering stunning interiors, particularly when it comes to show houses, which have to be incredibly efficient and deliver smooth installations that run to deadline.

How would you describe your own style?

I have quite a varied taste, which has changed over the years. For my own home, I like a relaxed style with a mix of old and new. I’ve developed a homely feel that encourages me to unwind and that perfectly suits my family and my two gorgeous Westies, Alfie and Piglet. I’ve opted for soft colours, as I need a calm sanctuary with plenty of light.  I love styling and finding one-off pieces from vintage shops.

How has interior design changed since the start of your career?

Quite a lot! A good example is window treatments, which have changed massively – they’ve gone from Austrian blinds, chintz, big bows, swags and tails to clean lines, and crisp, functional finishes. The days of matching wallpaper and fabrics are also thankfully long gone!

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift away from chrome, which was everywhere five years ago. We’re also seeing the resurgence of gold, which is now being used in a contemporary way, along with copper, brass and rose gold. The mixture of using traditional, rustic woods with modern metals has been a big change in the past few years as well.

What has been your most challenging project?

Most recently, it was The Chapel at Mill Hill, North London. The vast, vaulted ceiling and huge open living space meant that it was a challenge to make it feel like a home rather than a chapel! It also threw up some interesting challenges in terms of getting the scale of furniture and artwork right. It was a fascinating project to work on, but it did have some very unique challenges. The different finishes – lots of marble and stone – also meant that we had to think carefully about the acoustics in order to produce a warm, homely feeling rather than a chamber full of echoes!

Which is your favourite room to design?

Each property is unique, so I don’t have a preferred room, as such. My favourite types of rooms are those that are an awkward shape. That might be a kitchen in one property and a guest bedroom in another. The challenge of overcoming the spatial complexity is very rewarding.

What are the top trends to look out for in the years ahead?

Things now going more into natural elements – bringing nature into the home. Olive green is big this year and we’re seeing muted pinks coming back as well. We’re also finding that clients are keen for quite an eclectic feel at the moment, which looks like a trend that will develop further over the years ahead. It’s about mixing the old with the new in order to achieve a more ‘lived in’ look.

In terms of particular objects, Tom Faulkner’s Odessa cabinet is just beautiful and very on trend – the geometric lines and inlaid bronze are simple yet stunning, and a great example of the future of designer cabinetry.

Is there anything that one should always avoid when it comes to interior design?

There are several things, but top of my list is making rooms feel dark and oppressive. Rooms should be light, bright and airy, not crammed with oversized furniture and so many dark colours that they make you want to leave the moment you walk into them!

What’s your secret quick win for those looking to transform their home on a budget?

Paint! Light, bright walls can completely transform a room. Just make sure they match the colour palette of the furnishings and artwork already in the room, it the walls are the only element being changed.

Finally, what are your top three interior design tips?

Firstly, look at the space and plan furniture scales correctly – don’t assume anything! Measure the room and check dimensions carefully, as well as thinking about the use of the space. Beauty has to combine with functionality and provision needs to be made for storage as well.

Next, let textures be your friend. Enjoy the variety available and be playful with them, layering contrasting fabrics and finishes in order to avoid too much of any one texture.

Lastly, think carefully about lighting. There’s such a huge variety of lighting options available and each can influence the overall feel of a room. Plan the lighting just as carefully as all the other elements to be sure it will work as part of the overall vision.

For more information, visit Alexander James Interior Design at, email or call 020 7887 7604.

Will gold shine bright for Britons as EU divorce proceedings start?

Will gold shine bright for Britons as EU divorce proceedings start?

United Kingdom
  • “The future of the Great British pound is most likely be unstable” (easyMarkets)
  • Brexit vote saw gold hit its 2016 high, while sterling crashed to 31 year lows
  • UK’s gold reserve ranks 17th globally (310.29 metric tons)
  • Gold’s correlation with US dollar means it’s not necessarily best option if pound collapses

It has finally happened. After months of speculation and political positioning, starting from the moment the Brexit vote outcome was revealed, on 29 March 2017 Mr Tim Borrow officially served the European Union (EU) with divorce papers. The UK will be leaving its long term partner, the EU.

Anybody remotely aware of market movements will question the next step for markets and the implications of this historic period for the EU. One particular area of interest will be how potential British Pound movements will affect gold.

“Let’s start with the lead in this soap opera: the sterling. Before the Brexit referendum, the GBP/USD was trading around $1.5007 levels. As soon as the results came out, it crashed to 31-year lows, making it the biggest one-day drop ever for the currency. The sterling continued declining and hit fresh 31 year lows at $1.1500 on 7 October 2016, due to an apparent “flash crash.” It has recovered slightly since then and is now trading back above a potential key level of $1.20. The future of the Great British pound is most likely be unstable with the major events happening in its mother country.”

James Trescothick, Chief Global Strategist, easyMarkets

What does that mean for gold? Any investor worth their weight in gold (pun intended) will know that the general rule is that, at times of uncertainty, many investors look to move their money into gold. It is a well-known safe-haven.

This has become obvious many times over, and emphasised by recent events. When the sterling crashed following the Brexit vote, gold sky rocketed to its highest level since March 2014. According to the Royal Mint (the UK’s official producer of gold and silver coins), during that same time there was a 32% surge in sales, as many Brits rushed to buy gold bars and coins. Britons also turned to gold during the subprime crisis in 2008, as well as the European debt crisis of 2012-13.

The UK as a whole does not offer the biggest contributions to gold. It ranks 15th among the biggest purchasers of gold bars and coins. Even the UK’s central bank does not show as much love to gold as others do – the UK gold reserves rank in 17th place globally. At the end of 2016, the UK’s gold reserve stood at 310.29 metric tons. The number only sounds impressive until it is compared with Germany’s gold holdings, which stand at 3,377.0 metric tons, or those of the United States, the number one country in gold holdings, with 8,133.5 metric tons.

“Why is the UK so reserved with its love for gold? Perhaps arrogance! The sterling has a key role as a global reserve currency, and it is still one of the top five most valuable currencies against the USD. However, now that the UK is standing on the abyss of uncertainty, further falls in the GBP may evoke a change of attitude.”

James Trescothick, easyMarkets

So will the pound’s future movements affect gold? That is always a possibility, but what it is important to recognize here is that gold doesn’t always follow the direction of the sterling. When the Brexit vote happened, gold hit its 2016 high while the sterling crashed to more than 30 year lows. However, in December 2016, gold fell to $1,120 oz, while the sterling was still freefalling against the US dollar.

Why would gold both rise and fall while the sterling was still on the same path? Because when gold declined it was mainly correlated to the rise of the USD on the back of Donald Trump’s presidency win, and optimism on the upcoming implementation of fiscal policies.

This demonstrates that gold tends to look at global economic sentiment and has a closer link to the direction of the USD than to the sterling. Future pound movements will not necessarily push gold in any direction, and if the GBP collapses again, there’s no guarantee that gold will be the best option to protect your money.

“Returning to where the story began, with the high profile divorce; if it creates the kind of mess that the market is currently expecting to see, it can potentially lead to a negative impact on global economy. A messy global economy has in the past led traders to gold helping the metal rise, and it may do that again. In the end it all depends on how this political soap opera plays out and unfortunately it will not be as predictable as an episode of EastEnders.”

James Trescothick, easyMarkets

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