For many homeowners, after mortgage payments, council tax can represent a significant chunk of overall household bills. Now a new report has proposed an initiative that could help to cut this cost, and help the planet too.
As part of it’s ‘tech in the town’ report think-tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggests the roll out of ‘smart bins’ fitted with sensors that would be able to monitor how much each household is actually recycling. Those who recycle would then be rewarded with council tax cuts.
Image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies
Technology that reports ‘bin-fill levels’ is already in use in UK councils including Rugby and Wandsworth, according to the analysis, and is currently used for street litter bins and in other public places. Bins are only emptied when sensors indicate they are full, representing cost savings for the boroughs concerned.
The SMF suggest that the use of technology similar to the above in the home could result in a number of benefits, including incentivising homeowners and tenants alike to recycle more.
The report also goes on to highlight the stark differences between recycling rates across the country, with the top and bottom local authorities by household recycling rate outlined below:
Image credit: Lizzie Orme
Top 5 local authorities, by household recycling rate:
1. East Riding of Yorkshire Council – 64.5 per cent
2. Rochford District Council – 63 per cent
3. South Oxfordshire District Council – 63 per cent
4. Three Rivers District Council – 62.4 per cent
5. Surrey Heath Borough Council – 61.4 per cent
Bottom 5 local authorities, by household recycling rate:
1. Newham – 14.1 per cent
2. Westminster City Council – 18.8 per cent
3. Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council – 19.6 per cent
4. Birmingham City Council – 20.7 per cent
5. Council of the Isles of Scilly – 21.2 per cent
Image credit: Simon Whitmore
Commenting Scott Corfe, Chief Economist at the SMF and author of the report, said:
‘Quite rightly, there is growing concern about the environment and the amount of waste produced by UK households. Local government needs to explore how new technologies – including smart bins – can dramatically drive up recycling rates and reduce waste.”
‘Critically, we need to ensure that all parts of the UK are doing their bit to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill. At the moment there are huge differences in recycling rates across the country, ranging from close to two thirds in East Riding of Yorkshire to a paltry 14% in the London Borough of Newham.’
Continuing he added:
‘To get households on board with the green agenda, it is important that carrots are used, as well as the occasional stick. A Council Tax rebate for households that do their bit for the environment, by not producing as much as waste, would be a good reward for doing the right thing.’
Getting a good night’s sleep can feel like a serious challenge at times. With the stresses of everyday life and a seemingly never-ending exposure to technological stimuli, it’s no wonder we spend the majority of the night tossing and turning. Naturally, those stresses rear their head often in the most inopportune hours: right before bedtime.
We may swear by various fixes for such situations—CBD or candy (yes, really)—but don’t be quick to overlook a more natural approach to de-stressing: tea. While the market may be saturated with calming and sleep-inducing teas, it’s not uncommon for the boxed varieties to be loaded with sugar, spices, and various other extraneous ingredients. More often than not, they tend to run on the pricier side as well. For as committed we are to getting a solid snooze, spending upwards of $36 on a box isn’t our cup of tea.
The solution? DIY-ing a calming brew, which is not only cost-effective but it also allows you to pinpoint specific types of stress. Ahead, the herbalist-approved blends and ingredients you should familiarize yourself with to create the ultimate sleepy-time teas at home.
What are calming teas made of, exactly?
The majority of the sleep teas on the market typically contain the same active ingredients—some more well-known than others. Chamomile, lavender, and passion flower can be grouped under the popular subset of calming herbs, while catnip, skull cap, and holy basil run a bit less traditional.
“If you are having trouble falling asleep, and don’t have a specific calming/sleep tea on hand, you can combine chamomile with a soothing mint blend by using two teabags for one calming cup,” advises acupuncturist Stefanie DiLibero, who specializes in Chinese medicine at Gotham Wellness.
The herbs to know
To fall asleep
If you find yourself experiencing trouble falling asleep at a basic level—think high-energy and general restlessness—chamomile and valerian are your go-tos. The herbs function as a natural sedative, which will not only help you fall asleep faster but they also reduce anxiety and restlessness. According to DiLibero, chamomile is proven to be a significantly beneficial aid for those suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in clinical trials funded by the NCCAM.
Acupuncturist Jen Becker suggests steeping a teaspoon of dried Valerian root in hot water for ten minutes. “It’s a flowering plant, but only extracts from the root are used for medicinal, sleep-inducing purposes,” the Chinese medicine specialist adds. “It helps increase levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in your brain that promotes and protects sleep by basically sedating the neurons in your central nervous system.”
Catnip and passion flower are typically earmarked as the “calming” herbs. “Catnip contains nepetalactone, which converts to nepatalic acid, and helps calm the nervous system,” says DiLibero. The latter of the two has been shown to inhibit anxiety.
Herbalist Karen Rose of Sacred Vibes Apothecary suggests pairing passion flower with skullcap, an herb widely known for its ability to reduce anxiety and help those struggling with insomnia. “Passion flower helps reduce the practice of making lists in our head whereas skullcap centers you by helping release tension,” she adds.
Becker adds that a few promising studies have shown that passion flower may also help with headaches and insomnia. “When making passion flower tea loose-leaf, you’ll have to let the tea steep longer than you’re used to—probably about 15 minutes,” Becker notes. The bonus here? You’ll also benefit from passion flower’s high levels of magnesium, vitamins A and C, calcium, and powerful antioxidants.
To promote relaxation
Lavender not only inhibits anxiety but it also has the power to enhance sleep quality. While common in the form of essential oils, it can be a bit bitter to ingest it on its own. Rose suggests combining it with lemon balm and chamomile for an ultra-relaxing blend. In short, it’s the one to take if you feel like you need to “turn your brain off.”
Try out The First Mess‘s take on the herb, which features a calming blend of chamomile, dried lavender buds, and milk.
On a similar front, Rama Tulsi, aka holy basil, is an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. According to DiLibero, it has been shown to treat anxiety and depression, helping lower cortisol levels, which can help you stay asleep longer.
The adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha is yet another that modulates your body’s response to stress. “Recent studies have shown it to be as effective as prescription sedatives and antidepressants at promoting relaxation and calm, reducing anxiety and lifting your mood,” notes Becker.
As it can be quite bitter, a little goes a long way. Becker suggests ½ teaspoon of the herb, in powder form, when making tea—but you can add it to smoothies or lattes as well.
To quiet the nervous system
Ever experience that sinking sensation in your stomach, which can be likened to a gut-punch? That’s stress manifested by way of your digestive system. “Lemon balm is a great fix for those who hold stress in their stomachs,” notes Rose. Used as a sedative, the herb, much like peppermint, can be a great aid for those who struggle with that feeling of uneasiness in the gut.
“We all have our individual ways of processing stress,” says Rose, “it’s important to identify where you hold stress before you work towards alleviating it.” If you’re the type who spends hours in bed running through an imaginary to-do list, make a lavender-based tea to encourage slumber.
“These herbs aren’t going to hit you hard and knock you out,” adds Rose. Instead, they’ll induce a soothing sense of relaxation to help you wind down.
DIY a personalized blend
The beauty of the aforementioned calming herbs is that you can mix and match them to produce a mix best-suited for your source of stress. The fact that the majority of these flavors can be seamlessly paired with one another is an added bonus.
Invest in a loose leaf tea brewing kit or opt for reusable muslin cloth tea bags to contain the dried herbs and flowers for your tea. Keep a small stockpile of herbs in your pantry and experiment with various combinations to find the perfect one for you.
Becker’s favorite DIY sleep tea is comprised of a combination of rose, chamomile, and ginger. “After steeping, I’ll filter out the tea leaves and add a little nut milk and a squeeze of honey. It’s simple and delicious and always sends me off into a deep, serene sleep.” That’s a de-stressing ritual we can definitely get on board with.
You probably think that a chair is a chair, but today’s designs are as artful and unexpected as they can be. Cool chairs can take many forms and shapes, including pedestal types and three-legged styles, as well as the more standard four-legged variety. The materials used to make them can be really different too. Adding a new chair to a room can instantly upgrade a space and give it that sometimes undefinable characteristic we all call “cool.” Not sure what we mean? Check out these amazing picks:
A Little Futuristic
A little futuristic, a little retro, the Bixib from Adrenalina is a cool chair because it straddles the styles. The name is from the Latin term for a silkworm: Bombyx Mori. The geometry of the chairs adds to their appeal because the shape appears to change depending on what angle it is being viewed from: It might look symmetrical from one vantage point while from another it looks more organic. The material used for the base also makes it different because it is printed in silk and a bio-resin composite, transforming the ancient into a three-dimensional artifact using an innovative lamination process that is environmentally friendly.
Pleasingly plump, this is the first armchair from Palpo, fittingly named oooh. The deep seat sits atop sturdy legs and is surrounded by a semicircle of well-padded velvet. The classic luxury upholstery choice takes on a whole new look in this piece because of the minimalist aesthetic and lack or any channels, tufts or other detailing. While it’s perfect for a modern space the clean lines help it fit in with many decor styles. It’s available in red green, blue and black.
Those who are guilty of throwing their clothes over a chair in the bedroom will want to take a closer look at this Joly chair for Colé. This is a super cool and functional type of chair that is termed a “chairdrobe.” It serves as a butler, a chair or an occasional table depending on how you need it to function. Besides the bedroom, this is great in the family room or bathroom too. Use the back of the chair or the crossbar to hang items and keep them from getting wrinkled. The wooden seat can be used as a tray for jewelry of change overnight, or as a small tray. The chair is made of gold or black powder-coated metal with a solid natural walnut or blue lacquered top/seat. An optional cushion is also available.
If there was ever a chair that makes you want to sink in and snuggle, it is this one, the Undecided by Manerba. Tall sides form an insulating cocoon around the seat, enveloping the person in softness and comfort. It is a lightweight chair that comes in myriad colors and several sizes. Sitting in it is almost like hiding away in plain sight. This style of chair is great for a sitting room, living room or better yet, a bedroom.
Some of the coolest chairs are those that have unexpected shapes and proportions, like the Aliko. The cushions of this small chair are all tubular, with the back made from a full tube while the seat itself is made from a larger unit that was halved. Upholstered in pink velvet, it has a feminine touch, but it’s also available in gray or blue velvet. The frame — which can be had in black or gold — is assembled by hand. The design was created by Gianni Arnaudo in 1977 for a nightclub that was part of the Night Fever exhibition in 2018.
With the air of a throne — but a casual one — the libellule is actually a princess high-backed chair from Brühl. Designed by Kati Meyer-Brühl, the chair’s unusual silhouette features slender, wing-like backrests. The lower part of the backrest is curved, which is a nod to the Empire style. Despite their impressive size, the chairs are lightweight and can easily be used for dining room seating. Now that would be a dinner table fit for a king…or queen!
Another cool chair from Brühl is the Grace, which has an elegant, minimalist frame. While the frame is the same on every variation of this piece, the seat, upholstery and colors are different on each one. Some have a wooden seat painted in a high-gloss finish, while others have a seat formed from interwoven bungee cords, which are also used for detailing. Yet another version called the grace cut-out has closed armrests with circular openings. Surface finish, colors and material options for these armchairs are very wide-ranging to create a very special chair.
The design may be a few simple lines but the resulting profile of the Line Chair from Riluc is far more complex. Made entirely from stainless steel, the craftsmanship is a challenging proposition. Elegant in appearance and daring in form, the Line Chair is just as much a sculpture as it is a piece of seating. The slight chair is available in bright stainless steel or with a titanium coating for a gold or copper version.
Bowl of Balls
At first glance, the Many Worlds sofa (which we think is more like an ample chair) looks like a bowl of balls. The sight of it is cool but offers little if any clue to the complex construction technique required. The stainless steel shell of half-orbs is hand formed, tooled and polished, then filled with handmade padded balls to create the comfortable seat. The 40 individual spheres come together in one piece of very cool seating that challenges the limits of furniture-making.
Full of Function
These Milano 2015 chairs from Colico are cool for more than just their looks. The materials used mean that these can be used indoors and out, which means that they can do double duty, eliminating the need for a lot of extra chairs. Crafted from soft-touch polypropylene or transparent polycarbonate the chairs are also stackable. On top of that, they are available in a range of colors that can match your dining space and still be appropriate for the deck or patio,
Like a Line Drawing
These marvelous Jackie dining and bar chairs, also from Colico, look like line drawings. The simple silhouette and hairpin leg are rendered in steel rods for the frame of the chair. The seat is fashioned from rope and upholstered with durable, quality leather. These are versatile for the kitchen, dining room, or bar area and will shine in any room, with their metallic finishes, highlighting whatever area they are placed in.
All curves and cushions, the Daydreamer from JORI looks a bit like the usual recliner, but the upholstered extension on the front makes it completely new. Instead of a big, fat cushioned leg piece, the support is sleek and slim, making it great for today’s pared-down living room environments. A mix of upholstery and leather make this uber comfortable chair on-trend with regard to mixed materials. The central base is available in black or bronze finish. This cool chair is the company’s first collaboration with German designer Joachim Nees.
Good things come in small packages and that is certainly the case with the Pre chair from Bensen. The compact piece has clean lines and takes up very little space, yet offers great comfort along with a swivel base. As an armless chair, the Pre is modeled after the traditional slipper chair silhouette, but the designer took it a step further adding the 360-degree swivel mechanism and base that is undercut. It has a crisp and fresh appearance, which is not always the case with fully upholstered chairs.
If swiveling isn’t enough movement, then perhaps the LAZY by Calligaris is the right choice. This generous armchair has modern lines and a swivel — as well as a swinging — mechanism. The shape is perfect for settling in and relaxing and the seat cushions the lower back as it wraps around the body. No matter what the choice of upholstery, LAZY is a cool design that works well in a living room, home office or bedroom.
Low and Loungy
Called the Alpe, this armchair is meant to evoke the profile of mountains with their varying heights. The plump seat and ample back are fixed atop slim legs that contrast with the volume of the chair. With an optional ottoman, the chair — with or without arms — becomes a very comfortable lounge. Designed by Yonoh Studio for Mobboli, the Alpe has a solid wood frame, elastic strap suspension and totally customizable look
Relying on traditional joinery techniques, Wewood of Portugal created this very sophisticated chair design. The Caravela Lounge is a cool chair that was inspired by the traditional Portuguese Caravela boat. Designer Gonçalo Campos conceived this as a tribute to the small, maneuverable ship that the Portuguese used in the 15th century to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the western coast of Africa. With so much historical inspiration, this chair will be a conversation piece as well as a comfortable seat in your living room!
When searching for a cool chair, you can never go wrong with an iconic piece like the sculpted Ox Chair by Hans Wegner. Known as one of the most difficult chairs to upholster, it was designed in 1960 but not produced until 1989 when Wegner entrusted the job to Erik Jørgensen. The first ones produced had to be made without a drawing because none existed. The unique shape came from Wenger’s desire to challenge the “neat and understated expression” he was taught at the School of Arts and Crafts. The modern shape sitting on the slim angled legs is a profile that will help change the nature of your room.
Wear your heart on your sleeve? Why not show it off in the form of this delicate Love Chair from Ghidini 1961. Designed by Nina Zupac, this cool chair features an airy twist of brass that forms the back along with a sumptuously padded velvet seat. This beautiful chair is ideal by a vanity, as shown here, but a pair of them would be oh-so-adorable matched with a small bistro table. The design is so light and elegant that it’s hard to think of a space where it would not add a special touch.
The Stool Option
For those spots where a chair just isn’t the right choice, a really cool stool may be the best pick. This bright brass-topped number is called the Leporello Junior, also from Ghidini 1961. Not only is it a stylish space-saver, but it adjustable, which makes it extra functional. Designed by Paolo Rizzato, the stool comes in light or dark Durmast oak for the legs, which feature an ever-so-slightly bent shape. The brass seat spins on a central screw that adjusts the height. This is a very attractive stool for lots of locations in the house, especially in a row at the kitchen counter.
Either one of the variations of this Vuelta FD Chair would add an understated edge to the decor in a room. Created by well-known designer Jamie Hayon, it is an enveloping upholstered form that sits on four legs — with two very different looks. Produced by Wittman, the chair’s back tapers slightly to form an armrest. At the base, the chair can sit on four tubular legs or on a central swivel base supported by the four legs. This latter option makes it look like the seat is floating above the legs. These are some very cool chairs to add to your dining table. These would be very cool chairs — and very comfortable ones — to add to your dining table.
These cool chairs run the gamut of styles and materials but they all have that special something that will make friends and family look twice — and probably ask, “Where did you get this cool chair?”
A lot of pressure is put on work. It should be a passion. It should be an identity. It should be fulfilling. And really, given all of those expectations, it’s fair if your relationship with work is complicated. But through it all, one thing is certain: If work must exist, then it should happen in an inspiring setting, and IKEA desks can provide just that without spending an entire paycheck.
While IKEA’s wide-ranging products are often applied to more relaxing activities—like, say, gathering in an organized kitchen for breakfast or unwinding in a calm bedroom before sleep—they also make for hard-working details in a home office. Need proof? We gathered five projects that use versatile IKEA supplies to craft stylish desks which range from easy spray-paint jobs to more advanced wall customizations.
No matter which one you choose, if you’re looking to get down to business with a home office that suits your needs, these five IKEA desk hacks will do the trick. And we have every expectation that your version will look great.
If you have a full wall to fill…
Emily Lex at Jones Design Company created this work area in a space above her garage using three Hemnes dressers and wood countertop. She also attached inexpensive pulls that she spray-painted gold to the fronts of each dresser to give it a sophisticated finish.
If you need room to work comfortably…
Interior stylist Åsa Dyberg designed this desk combination using a Linnmon table top that sits on an Alex drawer unit—which provides enough space and compartments to keep a work desk neat. A Skadis pegboard makes it easy to keep tools at hand, too, in case you already know which ones you reach for the most.
If you like to have enough space for your knees…
Mandi Johnson, who is a contributor at A Beautiful Mess, shows how to create a custom desk using plywood, lumber, a few power tools, and IKEA cabinets. The key to remember about this project is that Johnson measured the desks based on how much space she and her husband wanted between their knees and the bottom of the table top. The more room, the better.
Rachael Mae Smith at The Crafted Life went vertical with her desk storage by creating a shelving unit using IKEA shelves that can be moved up and down along tracks—and a mounted desk that takes up zero floor space. The shelving brackets were painted in a kaleidoscope of colors for a fun detail, but sticking to one shade would be equally stylish, too.
Happy Tuesday! I’m on the hunt for a 30-something inch round table this month. I’m not going to use it in a foyer, but I do need something smaller than the average round dining table. I’ve been looking at local flea markets and antique malls, but I’ve also been scouring the web. Here are my…
I just returned from my whirlwind trip to Portugal, I saw *so much* in the nine days I spent there, and I’ll do a recap post in the coming weeks of this magical country!
As you know, I’m always inspired by traveling to new cities and countries, for me the best thing in life is the intersection of travel and design. There was no shortage of ceramic tile inspiration in Portugal, in fact it’s one of the primary reasons I journeyed there, to witness it in real life and I was completely mesmerized by it. Every town I visited had its share of buildings covered in azulejos tile in incredible patterns, it filled me with such happiness seeing such beautiful tile around every corner.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, azulejos depicted religious or historical scenes, I saw many of them at the National Tile Museum in Lisbon and in churches and historical places. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Portuguese began using azulejos tiles in repeating motifs on buildings, and today they dominate the exteriors of small towns and larger cities. Azulejos tiles embellish not just the residences of Portugal but also churches, restaurants, fountains, and railway stations.
I captured dozens of tile images for my own inspiration files, here are some of the pictures I took as I strolled the streets that showcase the beauty of azulejos tiles on exteriors around Portugal. Notice the differences in the motifs, some are more modern geometrics, others are more intricate and old world, but all unique.
Beautiful aren’t they??
I had such a fantastic experience in this country, walking the streets of smaller towns like Albufeira and Aveiro and larger cities like Lisbon and Porto. The food, the wine, the people, the cafes, the vistas, they were all incredible! I’ll do a recap of my favorite experiences soon. 🙂