Blue tone: La Roche Posay

Today’s little mention goes to La Roche-Posay’s range of products for sensitive skin.


The range of sensitive skin cleansers wipes away impurities and make-up without using aggressive chemicals and weakening the surface of the skin. I’m obsessive about cleaning my skin each morning but many cleansers can make my skin feel too tight and dry. The thinking here is that while you clean, you soothe and ‘inject’ the skin with goodness.

Included in the line-up from the brand, who are experts in sensitive skincare, is a Micellar Water, a Make-Up Remover Milk, Soothing Lotion, Ultra Fine Scrub and Eye Make-Up Remover.

My favourite is the new Make-Up Remover Micellar Water Gel, £12.

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The blue gel (love the colour – somehow more appealing!) swipes off make-up and grime and – ideal for clean freaks – it has a bubble-like texture that glides on super slick, and leaves the complexion feeling fresh and squeaky clean.

La Roche Posay is renowned for its scientific know-how in targeting specific skin problems (my two boys have eczema and this is the only brand they can use for sun care). It uses gentle Thermal Spring Water in its products to soothe, purify and protect skin. Kindness in a bottle.

Hot trends for cool kitchens

From dining to cooking, completing homework to entertaining friends: the kitchen is a multifunctional hub of the home. Take note of the latest trends to turn yours into a showstopper.


Anthology by Galerie

Anthology by Galerie Wallcoverings

With many of us choosing a neutral palette for cabinets and a clean, pared-back design ethos for our kitchens overall, a statement wall can really bring a kitchen to life. One way to achieve this is by using wallpaper, which is now firmly back in vogue for kitchens.

Galerie Wallcoverings

Galerie Wallcoverings

Renowned for their high-end wallpapers, Galerie Wallcoverings (01892 700730, has a wide choice of contemporary and kitchen-themed papers on offer. Eloise Olde-Wolbers, director at Galerie, comments: “From quirky bold geometric motifs to classic country stripes and florals, the versatility of our wallpapers enables an on-trend look to be created through a striking feature wall or combination of prints, whilst providing the perfect backdrop to cooking, baking and kitchen entertaining. Complete the look by contrasting busy patterns with wooden textures and statement accessories.”

Farrow & Ball's new wallpaper

Farrow & Ball’s latest collection of wallpaper

Calling on images of nature to give an ethereal look to a room is Farrow and Ball’s (01223 367771. new wallpaper collection, which takes inspiration from the Dorset countryside (where the brand hails from). Tall grasses, endless hedgerows and pretty blossoms are all represented to create a soft, peaceful look in the home.

Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow and Ball, says: “Our Dorset inspired wallpaper collection conjures images of lazy days in hazy fields. This range aims to embrace and appreciate the beauty of nature around us. It is also part of a wider design trend for trees, plants and leaves, as people take a moment to connect with the nature around them.”

The kitchen is unique in the home in that it has a variety of architectural elements to take into account when designing a scheme. Search out bold colours and dramatic designs for small areas of the room. This will give a visual impact to contrast against ‘harder’ elements – such as the cooker or range, extractor fan, sink and taps.

Barker and Barker

Barker and Barker

A Theropoda grey Wallpaper Lifestyle

Janet Dixon, chief designer at design house Barker & Barker (01223 733730,, gives her advice: “Creating a fabulous feature wall in your kitchen is not as easy as you might think, as walls are often broken up with cupboards, windows and doors. Choose a wall that will provide the most impact and use retro, geometric designs to uplift contemporary kitchens or transform a country kitchen with soft, floral patterns. If space is limited, create bursts of pattern by framing a piece of kitchen furniture to make it stand out. Vertical stripes are great for creating height and making a room feel bigger, or create an exciting feature by using wallpaper on the inside of an open cupboard or dresser. Colour is also a great way to create that ‘wow factor, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your wallpaper!”


Victoria Eggs at Graduate Collection

American Diner wallpaper by Victoria Eggs at Graduate Collection

Keeping it unique to the kitchen is the quirky wallpaper by designer Victoria Eggs, available at Graduate Collection (0845 872 4919, Featuring images of kitchenware as well as American diner typography, it adds the fun factor into a scheme. Meanwhile, for a true statement, (01772 284 110, creates bespoke wall murals and wall graphics, which can be made to fit any wall, using state-of-the-art technology. The collection includes inspirational photography, contemporary designs, sporting imagery, superhero, film and comic characters and fine art classics.

Photo mural by Wall Sauce

Photo mural by Wall Sauce

Sean Ogilvie, designer at luxury kitchen company, Harvey Jones Kitchens (0800 389 6938,, gives his insight: “We’re seeing a trend in feature walls coming back to kitchen design. A key look is using characteristics already within the room and including these as features within the kitchen design, such as exposed brickwork, or simply using a bold colour on one wall as a focal point.”

Harvey Jones Kitchens

Harvey Jones Kitchens

HJ Shaker Kitchen[1]

“Bright colours work well within kitchens, making a bold focal point and a great way of injecting character and charisma into your kitchen,” he continues. “You can introduce colour to the room through painted cabinetry, the walls, or for adventurous types, on both!”

Tiles, of course, are perfect for creating the wow-factor in the kitchen. Choose a contrasting, yet complementary, design or colour for a small area – such as around a range or in an alcove – to give an elegant focal point.

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Handmade and reclaimed tiles from Bert & May (0203 744 0776, are a beautiful addition to a room. The handmade tiles are made by a family of fourth generation artisan tilers in Cadiz, Spain. Each tile is meticulously crafted using ancient methods and crushed marble is included as part of the cement mix in order to strengthen the tiles, also giving a shimmer to the finish.

Bert and May

Bert and May

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Lee Thornley, founder of Bert & May, says: “Tiles are a fantastic way to add colour and pattern into a space. There are so many different options, ranging from muted and rustic reclaimed terracotta to hand-poured encaustic tiles in gorgeous colours.”


The appeal of a black-and-white scheme is one that has never really fallen out of fashion. It is, of course, a classic scheme, which looks smart and sophisticated and can work in a range of combinations. The high contrast – think black granite against white cabinets – is extremely effective. This time around, mix up the look. Opt for black cabinetry with white surfaces, for instance, or choose both black and white cabinets for a mix-and-match look.

Products from Out There Interiors

Products from Out There Interiors

Out There Interiors - two door display cabinet in green, £1025 Out There Interiors - Wilona 2 drawer french dresser, £895


Jenny Hurren, founder of Out There Interiors (020 8099 7443,, gives her style tips: “The kitchen is arguably the most creative room in the house – whether culinary or visually – it is therefore the ideal playground to experiment with design and style. Go bold with statement walls to perfectly contrast again kitchen cabinets – I love the simplistic, statement look of polished concrete and with Piet Boon’s genius concrete-look wallpaper. Team with luxe golds and marble for modern opulence, or opt for statement monochrome cabinets and accessories for the ultimate in industrial chic.”

Concrete Wallpaper and gold accessories from Out There Interiors

Concrete Wallpaper and gold accessories from Out There Interiors

Out There Interiors - Concrete Wallpaper CON-02 by Piet Boon, £199 Out There Interiors - Concrete Wallpaper CON-06 by Piet Boon, £199 Out There Interiors - Ceramic ginger jar in gold, £95 Out There Interiors - Ceramic vase in copper, £49 Out There Interiors - Charlon polished serving tray, £315

If you have a cream or white kitchen, give it an instant update by adding in all-black accessories, or paint a wall using blackboard paint to achieve a modern-day monochrome look. If black is too stark, choose a midnight blue for a moody, dark and dramatic palette.

Modbox Creation by Tomas Kitchen Living

Modbox Creation by Tomas Kitchen Living

Tom Hinton, founder of the Tomas Kitchen Living brand of kitchens based in Cambridge, (01223 300858, adds: “I’ve used the colours found in my father’s and grandfather’s abstract oil paintings to create a great range of earthy colours – known as Abstract Five Colours. The range includes three ‘interesting’ shades of white – a proper black and a lovely off black – called Foreshore Slate. For a warmed up and turned down monochrome look try Foreshore White and Foreshore Slate.”


Copper lighting, lever handles, contemporary taps and concrete surfaces: kitchens are becoming increasingly industrial in style. Focus on architectural features to achieve the look. Remember that simplicity is key. Polished chrome or nickel, matt finishes and ‘raw’ accessories, such as chunky wood chopping boards, ultra-modern electricals and artisan crockery add up to an ‘unfinished’ look which is part of the trend. It goes without saying that anything floral, frilly or kitsch should be banished to the back of the cupboard.

Walnut Natural Sheer by Tomas Kitchen Living

Walnut Natural Sheer by Tomas Kitchen Living

The clean lines of the Sheer kitchen range by Tomas Kitchen Living (01223 300858, provide the perfect foundation for creating a minimalist, architectural style. The handle-less design with its angled edge profile works well with ergonomic curves or straight square edge designs. The secret is in the simplicity and timeless style. For handles, consider the Skate model by Tomas – a great selection of inset handles.

Fired Earth

Fired Earth


Handcrafted using traditional joinery techniques by skilled artisans, Fired Earth (0113 243 0748, kitchens are timeless and offer a range of freestanding units that fit in with this trend. Fired Earth’s creative director, Rob Whitaker, says: “The industrial kitchen look is surprisingly versatile, working equally well in contemporary and more traditional interiors. Far from being an ‘all or nothing’ style, you can do everything from completely embracing it to simply incorporating one or two key elements. Work with a palette of metallic greys and earthy or rusty browns, and keep lines minimal, with pared-back detailing. Chrome bar handles and streamlined mixer taps in finishes such as brushed stainless steel have just the right utilitarian look, and metro-style, brick-shaped wall tiles and rugged, hardwearing flooring are ideal since they’re functional but a pleasure to live with too.”

One important feature for this look is the choice of countertops and splash-backs. Concrete is still growing in popularity and, as well as shades of grey and earth tones, the material is also now available in a range of muted shades. Hammered and distressed metals in dull finishes are also of the moment for splash-backs. If that feels too harsh, opt for glass in metallic finishes in silver, grey-blue or opaque white.

Cambridge Kitchens and Bathrooms

Cambridge Kitchens and Bathrooms

Noted for its luxury kitchens, Cambridge Kitchens and Bathrooms (01223 213266, is at the forefront of new trends. Sarah Wade-Gledhill, director, reveals: “A neutral palette will always be popular with a modern-day kitchen. To keep it inline with new trends, it is easy to update handles or add in accessories. We are seeing an increasing amount of customers opting for an industrial feel to their space. Think copper lighting, a monotone colour scheme – often with contrasting islands – and pared-back surfaces, such as concrete. Add in opulent tiling and new technology to gives a luxe sheen to the finished look.”


Clever storage is a prime concern when designing a modern kitchen. These days there are a multitude of new ideas to give more room to hide the essentials away. Double-tiered drawers, custom built cutlery trays, hydraulic, easy-close doors and contemporary pantries are all among the latest designs on offer.

Line Kitchen storage wall by Team 7 at Wharfside

Line Kitchen storage wall by Team 7 at Wharfside

Wharfside’s Team 7 cutting edge, made-to-measure kitchens (020 7253 3206, utilises the latest thinking. Owner Jonathan Stewart says:

“Where Team 7 kitchens really come to life is the innovative storage solutions and finishes you can add to make your kitchen extra special. Clever accessories create order, versatile inserts help you make use of every inch and store food hygienically and securely, the glass and stainless steel containers are as good-looking as practical, the stylish sinks are generously sized, the innovative waste sorting systems help keep your kitchen clean and tidy, the optimally matched lighting sets the scene for a feel-good kitchen – we spoil you for choice!”

Open shelving also gives versatility in a kitchen and a modern feel to the look. Keep things neat and tidy and opt for artfully placed crockery, cups and accessories all in the same colour palette. User-friendly and practical, open shelving gives a warm, lived-in feel and is very functional.

Modbox Creation by Tomas Kitchen Living

Modbox Creation by Tomas Kitchen Living

Cambridge-based Tomas Kitchen Living (01223 300858, has developed the clever Modbox Creations. “It’s a collection of dovetailed, modular, box shelving made from solid oak. They work well as part of a kitchen ‘run’ or as freestanding pieces,” says Tom Hinton, founder. “Create your own Modbox with different door options, colours and a range of inserts such as the popular Bottle ‘X’.”

Freestanding units can also work well for adding extra storage – modern, low-level sideboards or shabby-chic armoires can add character and personality in another-wise ‘off-the-rack’ kitchen.

To perfectly match your needs, when planning a complete overhaul of your kitchen, consult a bespoke manufacturer of kitchens, such as Langtry Furniture (01353 725380,, who offer a wide range of storage solutions to suit all needs. Available are hidden recycling bins, wine cupboards, fold-out larders and space-saving, pull-out corner cupboards.


Dial up the luxury factor with layers of texture with opulent finishes: think mother-of-pearl tiles, shimmering surfaces, marble counters and copper accessories.

Homeowners are increasingly choosing warmer metals, such as gold, copper and bronze, instead of the usual silver, chrome and stainless steel. They give a gleaming accent to most colour palettes as well as adding a lavish touch.

Copper furniture from Touched Interiors

Copper furniture from Touched Interiors

Copper Cabinet

Touched Interiors (0845 463 0083, offers handcrafted furniture from all around the world, and boasts an extensive range of opulent interior furnishings. Its latest Copper Collection includes a cast brass gold-plated copper coffee table, a gold-leaf pebble room divide and gold and copper-plated dining chairs. “The collection takes inspiration from the rose-hued bronzes and golds that have dominated the catwalk and interiors trends in 2015,” says Kunal Trehan, director and interior designer.

Gold chairs at Touched Interiors

Gold chairs at Touched Interiors

emporium-chair-limited-edition-boca-do-lobo-16 emporium-chair-limited-edition-boca-do-lobo-Rose

“Metallic colour tones are playing an increasingly important role in modern design, and warm burnished copper is this year’s hottest shade – perfect for adding an autumnal glow to your interiors. The rich tones exude warmth, style and glamour, and the versatility of the shades allow pieces in this trend-setting shade to work in a variety of rooms and settings. Copper works beautifully alongside natural materials such as bare bricks for a modern rustic look, or alongside rich crushed fabrics and dark woods for a luxurious and sophisticated effect.”

Pendant by Dar Lighting

Pendant by Dar Lighting

For those who want to simply give a nod to the trend, it’s easy to introduce small elements into your room. Copper lighting, like the pendants from Dar Lighting (01295 672200,, is particularly effective. Hang a row of three over a dining table or island for impact. And for a professional cook’s look, opt for polished copper cookware – now available at Sainsbury’s (0800 636 262,

Copper kitchenware at Sainsbury's

Copper kitchenware at Sainsbury’s


Iridescent mosaic tiles in pearl tones, with gold flecks, or lustre finishes, contrast beautifully and are a fabulous investment, elevating an otherwise ordinary-looking space. Seek them out from Cambridge-based Fired Earth (01223 300941, or Original Style (01392 473004,

Original Style Mosaics

Original Style Mosaics

Original Style - Mosaics - Modesty EW-MDYMOS freshwater shell mosaics Original Style - Mosaics - Selene GW-SELMOS

Finally By Design (01223 248 409,, located on Clifton Road in Cambridge, is a specialist in creating luxury kitchens. Director Sarah Wade-Gledhill says: “We are seeing a rise in people wanting that look of luxury in their kitchens. Where once the kitchen was merely a practical space our visions are now becoming increasingly imaginative. Gold taps, copper surfaces and statement lights all combine to give the wow-factor. Kitchen areas are becoming larger and incorporating family rooms and dining areas. As the hub of the home, customers are always on the look out for something that stands out from everyone else and which looks a little bit different. I would suggest investing in the basics – quality cabinetry and flooring, that will last for years to come. Then you can easily update by changing handles, choosing new paints and wallpapers as trends come and go.”

Luxury Glam kitchen at By Design

Luxury Glam kitchen at By Design

Fallen fruits: nature in beauty

Just in time for the official start of autumn, the latest batch of beauty products are inspired by the finest ingredients that Mother Nature has to offer.

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Woods of Windsor‘s Honeyed Pear & Amber collection, for instance, infuses the scents of pear, gardenia, rose and almond with the deep notes of amber, woods and vanilla. The result is a warm, sweet floral fragrance with citrus top notes and fruity heart – ideal for the new season.

The collection contains a Hand Wash, £5.99, a Hand & Body Lotion, £8.75, and the Moisturising Bath & Shower Gel, £8.50 (shown here). There’s something special about starting the day with a quality shower gel, and this one is wonderfully luxurious, foaming to a soft lather. The Autumnal products also include a Cedar Woods range of products, too, which is a unisex fragrance for all to use.

I particularly like the honeyed tones of the packaging, complete with their whimsical illustrations meaning they look and smell good.

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My next ‘Autumnal’ finds are from the new Italian beauty brand Green Energy Organics. Launched in Milan, the range of prettily-packaged, and unusual, products
bring together ancient Mediterranean beauty formulas and the evolving science of organic plant stem cell technology.
The organic and natural luxury skincare range includes the luscious Body Scrub – La Recolte des Fruits, £19.95. The refreshing scrub cleanses and softens and seems to ‘pep up’ skin tone. It is perfect for ridding limbs of lumps and bumps and keeping skin radiant and smooth. It has a lovely creamy texture and is scented with wild fruits for a gorgeous fragrance that brings into mind the start of the new season. One of the loveliest body treats I have come across.
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Also from the same brand and in the same fruity scent is this innovative Body Water (in Eau de Soin), £17.95. The gentle fragrance uses aromatherapy so it also moisturises the body after spritzing. The eco-thermal water does not use alcohol so is kind and gentle. A lovely alternative to perfume. Gorgeous.
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As the nights draw in, we all deserve a little treat or two, of course. My suggestion for the long nights ahead are the pretty products from Patisserie de Bain by Rose & Co. Its brand new signature bath and body range, No. 84, is named after the address of the famous Rose & Co. Apothecary in Yorkshire: a beautifully restored Victorian chemist shop filled to the brim with a unique collection of products which Caroline Rose, Founder of Rose & Co, took under her wing over 25 years ago.
Inspired by the love of a bygone era, the range of bath and body products include Cupcake Soaps, £4.99, trios of Bath Melts, £9.99, and the No 84 Hand Cream, £4.99.
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The Hand Cream – in its traditional, glass jar – is enriched with Vitamin E and shea butter. It leaves hands silky, smooth and is scented with the signature fragrance of No. 84 which has been created with elements of tea, violet, jasmine and iris to make for a powdery, subtle scent. The hand-made Bath Melts, meanwhile, gently dissolve in the bath and are enriched with shea butter and cocoa butter so skin is left smooth and moisturised.
The brand is probably best known for its ‘good-enough-to-eat’ Cupcake Soaps, like this Coconut Ice version, which smells divine and simply looks just too pretty to use. If you get tempted, it’s good to know that it melts into the skin to clean and refine. Yummy.
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Finally, the last of my natural finds that I’m indulging in are from Bramley Products, a new range of British made natural bath and body products handmade in the south west of England and decorated with lovely illustrations of flowers and plants, that are the essence of the brand.
Using only natural ingredients, the range includes a range of pampering treats and gift sets. The Bath Travel Set, £22, for instance (shown here), contains a relaxing Bubble Bath, scented with sweet orange and lavender essential oils. The Body Lotion has juniper berry and bergamot essential oils, while the mild Shampoo, £12, uses rosemary and lemon and Conditioner contains geranium and lemon. Ideal for weekends away or jaunts abroad.
It’s a veritable harvest-time for beauty lovers.

A star is born: Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, launches a stellar spa

I’m not an Aman Junkie. But I’m close to being hooked. After staying at the Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, I’m now hankering after becoming one of the elite few who only travel to destinations where there are Aman outposts because… well, no other hotel brand will do.

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Launched by innovative hotelier Adrian Zecha in 1988, Amanresorts are known for their minimalist style, superlative service and refined luxury (rooms average around £500 per night but many are priced in the thousands). They have a knack for getting under your skin. The brand’s 32 resorts are all in inspiring locations and built in harmony with their surroundings – think hidden away in the heart of a jungle, perched on a remote tropical island or a within the walls of a converted palazzo. Aman Sveti Stefan – based on a tiny islet and carved out of a former 15th century village – does not disappoint.

Skadar Lake

Skadar Lake

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Favouring under-the-radar locations, Montenegro is an apt choice for the group’s first European hotel, which opened in 2010. “Where is it exactly?” some may politely ask. The Baltic country is a just-waiting-to-be-discovered European gem on the Adriatic, bordered by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania. The easiest way to get here is to fly to Dubrovnik, followed by a scenic one and a half-hour drive through moody forests and past picture-postcard-perfect coastlines. The choice of this tiny country in 2010 was a bit of a risk, with the country still under the cloud of the Baltic war, and with its neighbouring Croatia the hotspot of choice for savvy travellers. It wasn’t always thus, however. Montenegro’s heyday in the 60s saw a glitzy traveller – such as Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – arriving on their super-yachts, attracted by its crystal-clear waters, medieval villages and old-style glamour.

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The arrival of Aman has, of course, already begun to put the country back on the well-heeled traveller’s map. It’s now set to be thrust further into the spotlight, with the triumphant opening of Aman Sveti Stefan’s new standout spa. The mega-watt opening has ramped up the glitz factor, transforming this mysterious corner of the world into a must-see destination.

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While the hotel’s location is ebullient in its beauty – think verdant, pine-covered mountains and pretty, horse-shoe shaped bays – the interiors of the 50 rooms, which are former fishermen’s cottages, boast the brand’s signature minimalism, almost monastic in style. Bare-brick walls, thick timber floors and rough-hewn ceramic bottles for bathroom toiletries give a pared-back, restrained impression. There are exposed beams, leather-edged seagrass rugs and shuttered windows. Luxury is added in with crisp white bedlinens, hi-tech gadgets and Slovakian oak furniture. It’s an artisanal take on high-end luxe.

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Under the direction of designer Jean-Michel Gathy, it took Amanresorts four years to complete the renovation of the UNESCO-protected island, which is joined to the mainland by a pedestrian causeway. Here, more rooms and suites can be found at a former royal palace, Villa Milocer, a sophisticated appendage to the main resort. Needless to say, attention to detail is second-to-none. Sveti Stefan was originally built in the 15th century to protect local fisherman from invading Turks, and the resort has taken great pains to reference its long, involved history. Winding cobbled lanes take you on an atmospheric journey from your room via piazzas to the dramatic, clifftop pool or al fresco restaurants. You may chance upon one of the three tiny, restored chapels complete with religious icons and relics. Your views are over terracotta roofs across to the twinkling ocean beyond. At night, the glowing lanterns in each of the windows give a nod to the original fishermen, whose wives used to light lanterns to help guide them home. It’s a way of connecting the guests to the past.

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It is, of course, undeniably romantic (in fact Novak Djokivic hired the whole island for his wedding in 2014). Add in the beautifully executed cuisine and you have an intoxicating mix. Whether you are snacking in the piazza at the Antipasti Bar or watching the sun set from the main restaurant, Aman, which has a sea-facing terrace with heart-stopping views, menus have a strong Italian influence, with freshly caught sea bass and black squid ink spaghetti the standouts. It’s swoon-making stuff.

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If you can bear to tear yourself away (and you must), there’s the aforementioned uber-glam spa to be explored. It’s palatial in its proportions – 6,500 square feet to be precise, making it the largest Aman spa to date. You meander along a hillside path, past two pristine, pink-sand beaches belonging to the hotel, until you reach Queen’s Beach. Here is where Aman comes into it’s own. Seriously sexy architecture with rolling lawns and a reflection pond is impressive and a stark contrast to the old-world charm of the island. The glass-housed, black granite, inside-out pool will wow you.

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Seducing you further are the holistic treatments, which use Aman’s own organic products made from locally-sourced plants, flowers and herbs, all mixed by an in-house herbalist. Therapists are hand-picked from across the world so be reassured you are in the hands of the crème de la creme. The spa’s USP is based around privacy and expertise (presumably for the A-listers that will be checking in, away from the eyes of the paparazzi). So expect expansive treatment suites with their own relaxation lounges and bathrooms (communal is a swear word here).

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There’s also an emphasis on bespoke holistic therapies with the Adriatic Rejuvenation being the signature treatment. It’s a delight. You are exfoliated with mint-infused olive oil, wild honey and raw sugar, followed by an oat milk soak and a lavender oil massage. Classic facials are adapted to each guest as are traditional treatments, such as foot reflexology, which uses wild thyme and Adriatic sea salt scrub to balance circulation and reduce any swelling in the feet and calf muscles. The scrub is followed by a foot reflexology massage using peppermint essence.

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If you can muster the energy, there’s also a professional pilates studio, gym and a yoga pavilion where you can have one-on-one lessons. If that’s too much like hard work, book in for an hour with the Master Thai massage therapist. Tantalisingly good and utterly addictive (just don’t tell the bank manager).

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Three nights at Aman Sveti Stefan from £1,164pp based on two sharing a Village Room on B&B basis, including flights to Dubrovnik and private airport transfers. To book visit


Montenegro: Europe’s Secret Hot Spot

The small Balkan country that is Montenegro is one of Europe’s most under-the-radar gems. It’s just waiting to be discovered.

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We all have travel wish-lists and there’s much left to do on mine. Dance the tango in Buenos Aires, stay in a traditional ryokan in Japan and see the turtles in the Galapagos Islands are just a few of the things I still want to tick off. Europe, on the other hand, I thought I had mostly ‘done’. And then I was offered the chance to visit Montenegro.

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First of all, I had to look it up on the map and, even on paper, it’s an elusive place. The tiny country on the Adriatic is tucked away in the shadow of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania, all of which border it. Or, you could say, hide it. Turns out that while the travel cognoscenti have all been flocking to Croatia, they’ve been missing a trick right on their doorstep.

Our Lady of the Rocks Church, Perast

Our Lady of the Rocks Church, Perast

Skadar Lake

Skadar Lake

Its name – translated as Black Mountain – sounds like something from a fairytale and its dramatically beautiful landscape doesn’t disappoint. You can’t go far in Montenegro without having moody, forest-covered mountain ranges as your backdrop. By way of contrast, the country’s glittering coastline to the south, stretching 175 miles, is having a moment, literally, in the sun. Glorious bays with pink-sand beaches are unspoilt and unfathomably unpopulated. Historic coastal towns are charming places to wile away the hours.

Kotor Town

Kotor Town

One of these is the walled town of Kotor. Like any good fairy story, it is a place rich in myth and legend. Kotor’s list of past occupiers, for instance, reads like a roll call of western civilization: from the Romans to the Byzantines, the Russians to the Venetians – there are not many who did not conquer this beguiling place over the past 2,000 years. It’s a wonder that the town’s walls – which climb impossibly high into the looming mountains – are still standing.

These days, thankfully, it’s peaceful here. Instead of battle cries, the gnarled and weather-worn market sellers call out the prices of their organic produce bought in from nearby farms – plump, red tomatoes, gloopy honey in unmarked jars and bunches of wild flowers. Winding streets and tiny squares are dotted with orthodox and catholic churches, home to relics and rich paintings, their bells marking the hours. Secret piazzas and characterful buildings, some dating back to the 12th century, house restaurants whose menus reveal the mix of Montenegrin cuisine that is influenced by other people’s homelands. Italian seafood risottos jostle with Albanian-influenced meat dishes, such as the staple lamb cooked in milk. Hearty Balkan soups, Mediterranean fish dishes and Turkish coffee reveal a culinary hotpot that is inspired from both eastern and western cultures.

Kotor’s spectacular fjord like bay is a real highlight. Classed as one of the most beautiful in the world – it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it is gloriously picturesque and the picture-postcard still waters are only slightly rippled (some might say marred) by the oversized cruise liners that float in the distance.

RS911_Aman Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan (and below)

  RS912_Aman Sveti Stefan Day RS914_Aman Sveti Stefan

Further north is the stretch of coastline that in its heyday in the 60s attracted a glitzy jetsetter: Sophie Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton all lay down their sunhats here. These days the glamour has been reinstated – in a rather more understated way – by Amanresorts, which has restored a former fortified village, dating back to the 15th century, on the tiny islet of Sveti Stefan, as well as the eight-suite Villa Miločer, a former royal palace, located on the mainland.

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The Asian luxury hotel brand has converted the island’s former fishing cottages into stylish guest rooms and suites, pristine cobbled lanes have been scrubbed up and are now lit by designer sea lanterns, referencing those of the original fishermen who built the stronghold to protect themselves from marauding Turks. The original tiny piazzas, with artfully-placed olive trees, make ideal courtyards for al fresco meals while the signature restaurant Enoteca has magical views over the crashing waves below.

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Aman Sveti Stefan is no exception to Amanresorts’ signature minimalist style. Rooms retain bare brick walls, rustic sisal rugs lay on wooden floors and there are rough-hewn ceramic bottles for its toiletries – a nod to the various tribes that have lived here since 1400. But add in fine bedlinens, Slovakian oak furniture and handmade linen slippers, and you find yourself on the luxury side of restrained.

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If the cliff-top pool is not enough for you (stunning but small), then saunter across the causeway back to the mainland and discover the hotel’s latest uber-glam addition that is the new spa. You meander along a hillside path, past two pristine beaches belonging to the hotel, until you reach Queen’s Beach. Here is where Aman comes into it’s own. Seriously sexy architecture – rolling lawns, a reflection pond and a glass-housed pool – will no doubt attract a new wave of so-called Aman Junkies, who only travel to destinations where the group has an outpost.

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The spa’s USP is based around privacy and expertise (presumably for the A-listers that will be checking in). So there are expansive treatment suites housing their own relaxation lounges and bathrooms, private yoga lessons and a Master Thai massage therapist. There’s also an emphasis on bespoke holistic therapies with the Adriatic Rejuvenation being the signature treatment. You are exfoliated with mint-infused olive oil, wild honey and raw sugar, followed by an oat milk soak and a lavender oil massage. It’s a sensory, enlightening treat much like my journey of discovery in Montenegro.

Three nights at Aman Sveti Stefan ( costs from £1,164pp based on two sharing a Village Room on a B&B basis, including flights to Dubrovnik and private airport transfers. To book visit



Europe’s other best-kept secret


Cavallo, France

This tiny private island – just a short ferry ride from Corsica and close to Sardinia – offers immaculate sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons straight out of a Dolce & Gabbana advert. Check in to the chi chi Hotel & Spa des Pêcheurs for a lavish get-away-from-it-all and tour the island by bike. (


Sintra, Portugal

History buffs will fall in love with Portugal’s most underrated city. Filled with 19th century romantic architecture – think castles, palaces and rambling estates – it is framed by lush hills and close to the sea. It was also inspiration for many literary greats – such as Byron and Hans Christian Anderson.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

Made up of four main islands which are connected by bridges and tunnels, Norway’s Lofoten Islands are ruggedly beautiful. Expect sheltered bays hidden between craggy peaks and traditional villages beside fjords. Wonderfully scenic there’s tons to do: from whale safaris to Viking museums (

How to make a house a home: interiors trends A/W 15

Take the chill out of winter by warming up your home with some simple, stylish updates. From indigo blues to statement lighting, this season it’s all about making your home indulgently cosy.


Susie Watson Designs

Susie Watson Designs

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There’s nothing better than coming home to a warm, inviting haven when the temperatures begin to drip. This autumn, there’s a definite leaning towards indulgence mixed with cosiness, with rich velvets, soft faux furs and silk textiles adding a touch of luxury. Contrast different textures by using mix-matched cushions, throws and rugs.

Susie Watson, founder of Cambridge-based Susie Watson Designs (01223 367527,, which specialises in handmade products for the home, gives her advice: “Creating a cosy haven in your home is all about mixing colour and texture, and can be achieved without spending a fortune. Combine warm tones of red, burnt orange and even hot pink into your scheme, in soft silks, velvets and wools, to create a really warm, homely feel. If you invest in one thing then a Shetland Wool throw in beautiful colours is the perfect instant update to a favourite sofa or chair.’

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Primary-coloured sofas and chairs, like those available at Italian-furnishing brand Arper (above) (020 7253 0009, and makers of bespoke English Furniture I &JL Brown (below) (020 7736 4141,, will give a pop of colour to a room, not to mention some cheer on gloomy days. Mix in a classic piece of furniture by an iconic design brand for instant fashion brownie-points.

IJLB Stubbs Chair - Blue Stubbs Chair £1650 plus fabric Coral Fabric Cushion £85 Orange Enamel Side Table £195 Laurel Leaf Lamp £185 IJLB

British furniture brand Ercol ( was launched in 1920 and its pieces are still widely coveted today. Creative director Rachel Galbraith gives her view on what is currently in vogue: “Today’s home environment is a collection of beautifully crafted, considered pieces, that inspire your individual heritage and aesthetic.  This season’s trend draws on visual style notes from past classics through a contemporary interpretation. Rocca with its deep buttoning and sumptuous fabric selection embodies the opulence and heritage of past eras. Aluetta’s graceful arms and crafted natural oak legs highlighted with a statement chair draw on a contemporary aesthetic for today’s lifestyle.”


Ian White, owner of Cambridge-based Shaw Spencer Furniture Warehouse (above) (01638 744201,, also adds: “One of the most important factors in choosing furniture for a home is not only practical considerations but also making sure a piece adds some personality to your room. We all want a cosy haven to retreat to at the end of the day. We offer characterful dressers and inviting sleigh beds that are ideal for achieving this.”

Marilyn Throw, Cream Marilyn Throw, Grey 01

Pile on soft furnishings, such as fur throws, available at Shimu (above) (01274 610961, and The French Bedroom Company (01444 415430, for added cosiness.

The French Bedroom Company

The French Bedroom Company (and below)

Ice Queen Throw Rectangular (RS)

Cambridge-based home-lifestyle store Catesby’s (01223 355444, is a treasure trove of luxury accessories for the home. Neil Honor, owner, comments: “We pride ourselves on our curated collection of beautiful, useful and original items for the home and garden. Sourced from around the world, you’ll find elegant tableware, timeless furnishings, rare decorative objects and a range of everyday necessities. We believe that your home should be a tranquil, relaxing retreat from the outside world, and we strive to find pieces (and makers) with a story to tell, creating things that you’ll enjoy for years to come. You can create a uniquely inviting environment by mastering the art of layering, using different textures in a room: fold a soft Alpaca throw over an old armchair, add a linen cushion with a contrasting print, store your magazines in rustic baskets and inject character with a vintage-style hexagonal mirror. Let the things around you become part of your story.”

Oval Willow Baskets - from £35

Catesby’s (and below)

Herringbone Baby Alpaca Blanket - £149

Soft carpets add warmth underfoot. While a luxury, statement rug, such as the new range available at Harlequin (0845 123 6815, can be a beautiful focal point.

Harlequin Rugs

Harlequin Rugs

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“Carpet is perfect to create a cosy living space. The texture of wool underfoot coupled with a warm colour or welcoming pattern makes it a great way to build a comfortable and inviting décor scheme,” says Natalie Littlehales, consumer marketing manager at British carpet manufacturer Brintons (0800 505 055,



For more of a mid-way point between carpets and wood flooring, however, sisal is a good practical choice. Adam Robertson, managing director at Urbane Living 
(020 7138 3838,, says: “Sisal provides the perfect hardwearing floor covering that is able to take the wear and tear that goes with living in a modern family home. Sisal carpets ooze rustic character and, with an array of shades available, from soft gold to husky brown hues, they create the perfect welcoming look for a country home.”

Urbane Living

Urbane Living





While geometric prints are still going strong, there’s now a definite hexagon and honeycomb presence emerging in tiling, furniture design and fabrics. For an elegant and sophisticated finish, tile walls and floors in the same repeat honeycomb design in simple white or black contrast. You can also create a standout floor with contrasting coloured tiles, such as those available at luxury tile brand Bisazza (

Fired Earth

Fired Earth


Fired Earth’s (01223 300941, senior tile category manager ,Caroline Gow, adds her expertise: “Hexagon-shaped tiles are perfectly in keeping with the trend for using geometric pattern throughout the home. Tiles such as Fired Earth’s Handmade Classic Terracotta Hexagons offer a contemporary take on a classic material, giving floors a fresh, modern look. Hexagonal marble or glass mosaics are ideal for adding beautifully subtle decorative detail to walls and floors but if you’re looking to create bold geometric effects, think about using bands of contrasting hexagonal mosaics to add really dramatic lines and angles to a room. Use hexagonal tiles to give a traditional monochrome scheme a contemporary, eye-catching finish that brings this classic look right up-to-date.”

When it comes to fabrics, less is more, but the style comes into its own with patchwork style quilts and bedspreads for beds. For an immediate update to a living space, invest in curtains and pillows in bold mustards, clarets and blues with a smaller version of the honeycomb or hexagonal design.

Barker & Barker

Barker & Barker

Amelia Lime

Janet Dixon, chief designer at interior design house Barker & Barker (01223 733730, agrees: “Hexagonal designs have been used for decorative items for thousands of years and are about to make a comeback incorporating bright bold colours. Dress rooms with intricate hexagonal tiled patterned cushions or curtains to create a statement hallway or bathroom or add accent hexagonal side tables in a living room or conservatory.

A quilted bedspread using pre-cut hexagonal fabric swatches is a great way of incorporating hexagonal or trellis patterns to homes and would make a stunning addition to any bedroom or living space.”

Wallpapering a statement wall or just the alcoves either side of a fireplace is another easy way to update a room. The polygon ‘hive’ style feels modern yet organic, giving a timeless feel.



Jim Carlile, managing director at Ely-based Reeds Furniture and Bed Centre (01353 669754,, comments: “Homemakers want a place that is inviting, warm and stylish. At Reeds we pride ourselves on being able to give a personalised approach to our service. I’d advise anyone to invest in a few pieces of good quality furniture, which will last for years to come. Choose classic items that you really love so you’ll want to keep them. Then add fun and character with accessories. Cushions, throws, rugs and good lighting will all add to the ambiance of a room. Keep your palette to two-three colour-ways so it doesn’t look too fussy. The new fashion for hexagonal prints gives a sophisticated and on-trend twist. You can simply refer to it by papering a statement wall or by adding in a few cushions or rug.”


Banish the winter blues by updating with blue: this time around, though, we’re talking deep indigos, midnight blues and inky shades for a striking colour scheme. This colour palette is the next step on from the recent charcoal and grey trend, with deep blues giving an added richness and drama, and working well with pale pinks and bright yellow.

Cook's Blue Hall Stiffkey Blue Room Stiffkey Blue

Josephine Rance, marketing director, at colour experts Farrow & Ball (01223 367771,, gives her take: “The strength of using deep blues, like Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue or Hague Blue, creates a fashionable dramatic interior, contemporary and relaxed, so it’s perfect for use in both urban and country settings. Use it in isolation in small spaces, with Hardwick White on the ceilings to create a moody feel that reminds us of slightly brooding, squally seas and skies. Or it can be used in a more light-hearted fashion on a feature wall in combination with on trend colours Pink Ground or Setting Plaster. These beautifully easy colours feel faded and natural and are the perfect antidote to compliment the intense colour of the darker blues.”

Lakeland Paints

Lakeland Paints

Ecos Chalk Clock

Packed with rich, autumnal tones, Lakeland Paints (01524 852371, new collection for the winter season is the perfect antidote to a cold, grey day. Inspired by myths, legends, nature and traditional nordic shades, the collection brings together an eclectic palette of bold autumnal tones and playful, romantic accents.

Ian West, colour stylist at Lakeland Paints, gives his insight: “The passion for inky blues is an emerging trend and one that will grow in the New Year. One of Lakeland’s own inky blues – Creek – is perfect as an accent or feature wall in a living area, or for a bold bathroom makeover. Dark dramatic blues like Teal work extraordinarily well with pure whites and creams – think Santorini villages. It is a strong blue that is robust enough to hold its own in any setting – north or south facing, indoors or out without any hint of coldness and being such a rich shade of blue/violet will add warmth and cosiness as well as drama.”



Chesterfield Large in Ross Pastiche (RS) Boxer Corner and Bliss (LR)

Deep blue is also a colour that works particularly well for upholstered furniture – think sumptuous inky velvet sofas as seen at Delcor (020 7352 5551, While an accent piece of furniture, such as a sideboard or cabinet, in cobalt blue looks fresh, modern and striking in an all-white white room. Painted dark blue kitchen cabinetry, available at Cambridge-based John Lewis of Hungerford (01223 305480,, is also worth considering – a versatile and thoroughly modern choice.

JLH Pure Wood and Painted

John Lewis of Hungerford

John Lewis of Hungerford


The statement light fixture is a must-have for the modern home. Like a piece of art, it is a sculptural focal point and comes in many forms

Lladró - Giselle Arabesque and Belle De Nuit Chandelier Lladró - Lithophane Chandelier Lladró - Fairy Lighting and Round Mirror

Lladro’s (0800 015 2413, pretty pastel-coloured glass chandeliers and white fairy wall lighting, for instance, give a feminine touch and will contrast well in a minimalist scheme (above).

Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt’s ( modern glass chandeliers, meanwhile, draw inspiration from the old and primitive as well as new and modern art, with each piece built with great attention to subtle detail and proportion. At Bert Frank (020 7164 6482, clean lines and new metals are the order of the day, with a range that gives impact and style.

Bert Frank

Bert Frank

Simon Wallis-Smith, director at lighting experts Fritz Fryer (01989 567416, gives his advice on getting it right: “The best locations to really splash out on a feature light or chandelier are the hallway, stairwell or over a dining table.  Over a dining table hang your chandelier so that the bottom is around 70cm from the table.  This looks stunning and means you can get away with a larger fitting than normal as you don’t need to walk underneath. Hallways and stairwells often benefit from additional ceiling height and lighting can be used, in much the same way as a piece of artwork, to make a design or architectural statement. In these locations the right lighting will be a real feature.”

Industrial Cluster Lamp 01

Fritz Fryer

Adding her viewpoint, Jenny Hurren, owner of Out There Interiors (020 8099 7443,, says: “Don’t forget the lighting when you’re planning your room make-over. A statement light is the ideal way to add that final flourish to your signature style. Like the industrial look? Opt for a dark metal Maginti Inspection Light. Want to add a dash of colour to a kitchen’s white palette? Go for a vibrant contrast with a large ‘colour-pop’ pendant lamp. Have a period property? Then why not consider a subtle and sophisticated Maurice Table Lamp, reminiscent of the Art Deco period.”

Out There Interiors

Out There Interiors

Maginti Pendant


Urbane Living

Urbane Living

Monsoon Mosaic Wallpaper 4

Whether it’s intricate fretwork or lacquered furniture, interiors evoking Middle Eastern design have long been in vogue. This season, inspiration is in the form of oriental wallpapers, such as the naturally woven and shimmering gold versions at Urbane Living (020 7138 3838,



Renowned for handcrafted luxurious furnishings, Aztaro’s (020 8908 6328, rich textiles also give a nod to the east and an added touch of intrigue to a room’s scheme. The brand’s Paisley Collection builds on the history of the motif it is named after, which originated in Persia in 221AD. The collection of silk dupion cushions and accessories give a haute bohemian feel, with the fabric woven on a hand and foot shuttle loom by expert weavers with modern appliqué.

The French Bedroom Company

The French Bedroom Company

Add in pretty lanterns, like the Casbah range at The French Bedroom Company (01444 415430,, and beautiful lacquered furniture from The Nine Schools (0117 332 3673,, manufacturer of oriental collections, for an opulent look.

The Nine Schools

The Nine Schools

Having the last word, Patrick Rawson, founder and director at The Nine Schools (0117 332 3673, says: “Luxury is back! Following the recession, interiors are now seeing a dramatic increase in opulence, as both trends and designers look towards a more indulgent future. Inspired by traditional designs, our handcrafted wooden furniture features exquisite gold leaf edging, capturing the true essence and history behind sumptuous oriental design. The colourful Painted Butterfly collection, for instance, features detailed Chinese designs and symbols that demonstrate a number of oriental philosophies including, happiness, wealth, fertility and strength. The Oyster Grey and statement Black Gloss ranges combine Chinese teachings, such as Feng Shui, with current colour trends, creating stunning pieces of furniture that are perfect for the style-conscious homeowner.”

Summer loving: turn up the heat

I’ve been busy testing lots of lovely new products (well, someone has to do it!) that are just perfect for when the sun comes out. Here are a few of my faves:

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Vichy’s new Normaderm BB Clear is just the thing for troubled skin. No one wants to wear too much coverage in the summer, with foundations and powders feeling too heavy, especially if you have blemishes. Vichy has come up with the ideal solution – a BB Cream that both conceals and reduces the appearance of imperfections. Vichy’s Normaderm range targets blemishes skin and the latest launch is formulated with highly concentrated salicylic acid and mineral pigments so it is actually doing some good as well as making you look good. The BB cream hydrates and controls shine and gives an even-looking result. It is available in two shades – Light and Medium and has a light, featherweight texture, enriched with Vichy Thermal Spa Water. One of my new ‘essentials’. £16,

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On the subject of blemishes, which incidentally is a growing problem with older women, this little gem is a real lifesaver. I’ve tried skincare with silver in before (Cor Moisturiser) and was really impressed. This Silver Serum from Skin Shop works on the premise that there are good bacteria which can help prevent and rid the skin of acne and blemishes (created by bad bacteria). It contains a patented form of silver called MicroSilver which kills bad bacteria, while letting good skin flora flourish and multiply. Most skin-care treatments kill all skin bacteria so ridding the skin of spots but also leaving the skin dry and flaky. This can cause premature ageing.

Silver Serum remains active on the skin for several hours after applying, so skin is protected for up to eight hours. I’ve been using this for a few weeks and I can honestly say it has worked wonders on a few problem areas – and is now one of my ‘must-haves’. £12.95,

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Great for taking away on your hols for a quick spa session are these face masks by Anatomicals. Targeting problems skin, signs of stress and oily complexions the three variations come in travel-friendly packs and work within just 10 minutes on the skin. Available is a deep cleansing, clarifying mud mask, a mattifying face mask to reduce shine and a calming, anti-stress face mask. 99p each,

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There’s nothing better than achieving sparkling clean skin after a day in the heat. Elemental Herbology‘s new launch Vital Cleanse gives you just that. The facial cleanser resurfaces skin with its potent Vitamin C ingredient. Manuka honey, papaya, green tea and calendula helps to give a calm, smooth complexion, while jojoba wax beads, organic sea buckthorn oil and essential oils of grapefruit, mandarin and geranium deep clean, stimulate cell turnover and dramatically improve the texture, radiance and vitality of the skin. You massage it into damps skin and simply rinse off. Skin looks truly gorge. £29,

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Launched to hydrate sun-parched skin is Neom‘s lovely Daily Boost Face, Body and Hair Oil. Perfect as a multi-tasker, it works to improve the condition of skin, hair and scalp. Containing nourishing safflower, jojoba (both rich in vitamins A and E) as well as essential oils of wild mint and mandarin, it nourishes and hydrates and imparts the brand’s signature uplifting scent (called Make You Happy Great Day). Light enough to use on the hair for taming frizz or for hydrating dried out ends it can also be used on limbs to enhance a tan and as a facial oil. Massage in, breathe in and smile. £32,

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Finally is the surprise new launch from broadcaster Kate Humble. Boosting green credentials, the new Humble eco-friendly collection of products are natural and biodegradable (great play on her name, too). The collection of products come in two floral fragrances – Sweet Pea and Verbena (my fave) and Rose and Frankincense. I’ve tried the Intense Hand Cream, which is very nice indeed, sinking in quickly and leaving hands silky smooth. The collections have been inspired by Kate’s love of the countryside and her farm in Monmouthshire. One to watch. £8,