Author Archives: Andrew Knight

The Garden Chef: Outdoor Dining Table Ideas

Garden Chef

If there are many among you Garden chefs who didn’t eat outside or BBQ’d outdoors in the glorious sunshine of the last Bank Holiday, I will eat more than my slightly raw in the middle and burnt on the outside hat. There’s nothing quite like making the most of the rare warmth and sunshine in the UK and using your outdoor garden furniture to the full – it just puts people in a good mood. Outdoor dining allows you to invite more friends than will usually fit around your dining table. Neither do you have to worry what the ketchup is landing on when it drips out of the bottom of a loosely held child’s hotdog and hand held food cuts down on the washing up. Al Fresco BBQ’s are great and food tastes much better when cooked on them – whether it’s the effect of the charcoal taste or just the eating outside at your garden furniture, there’s definitely something a bit special about it!

Taking outdoor dining table ideas to the next level

A big current trend is to leave your trusty old BBQ where it lives for most of the year – in the shed. While it has given great service over the years, BBQs are now being whipped up into something special by being integrated into a full on kitchen garden. This not only gives you space to BBQ in style, but also prep surfaces, other cooking devices and even sinks. Sound like something your cheffy self could get excited about? Here are some ideas on how to turn your outdoor dining furniture into a garden galley that even Gordon Ramsay would be proud of.

Garden Dining Ideas

  1. Location – where are you going to set up? It’s important to consider things such as route from the inside kitchen to the outside kitchen; if you want the smoke from the BBQ getting too close to your home or creating a fire risk; if you are intending to cook alone and bring the food to the dining area or if you want to integrate the two to stay social while you cook. If you’re planning on installing an outdoor sink, a cheaper option can be to make sure that one wall of your garden kitchen is in line with the external wall of your inside kitchen so that water can be sourced from there rather than running new pipes. If you’re not sure where to put it, why not look at a kitchen island which combines storage, preparation space and a cooking device all in one but which can be moved to the outdoor dining furniture location of your choice as and when you desire.
  2. Budget – quite an important one, and can be the difference between investing in a proper all-singing kitchen area, or one that you create yourself out of reclaimed pallets, bricks or other hardy materials. While it can be easy to simply buy the units, it can be a lot more satisfying to create it yourself, as well as ensuring that it meets your requirements perfectly.
  3. Cook – what are you going to cook? If you’re happy just to grill, then integrate your BBQ into the kitchen on its own – useful if you’re limited on space and can also be a very cost effective way of creating your outdoor cooking space with a pre-made unit. If you want to really impress, add in a pizza oven or even a side burner for that paella you just knocked up to your outside table ideas list. We even thought “If you have a good supply of kippers, how about your own smoker”?
  4. Storage – if you are going to bring your ingredients and tools in from the kitchen as and when you need them, you don’t need to worry about this part (but please refer to point 1 about being able to easily navigate from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor kitchen!). Hooks in the external walls can make easily reachable utensil storage while cupboard space under worktops, integrated fridges…all can be planned into your space and ensure that none is wasted. Make sure that any fridges are, however, suitable for outdoor dining use.
  5. Shelter – with more cool days than hot in this country, it makes sense to plan for using your garden kitchen on those colder days as well. Shelter can be provided simply with allowing space for a parasol, but also look at awnings or canopies, both of which can be decorated with strings of lights for ambience once the night draws in. Allowing space for a firepit can also make sure that your guests don’t look longingly at your living room when the temperature drops.
  6. Materials – open to the seasons, make sure that all materials used in the construction of your kitchen are up to being battered. Concrete is strong and very on trend, as are dark woods and marble – although these can take the construction into the next price bracket. Try to use sustainable sources where possible as well as ensuring that materials are heat, UV and waterproof so that they last more than one wet summer! Don’t forget to look at our Ironfire Garden furniture for outdoor dining range!
  7. Light – don’t make my mistake of BBQ’ing in the dark and then serving your guests raw chicken at a birthday party (luckily no-one was poorly but then the gin probably killed off any nasties). Make sure that you have plenty of light for both your cooking and so that you can carry on the party into the night. Whether you choose to install electric lights if you don’t plan on having a portable kitchen, or solar lights if you are moving your kitchen around the garden, they will make sure that your chicken is cooked and the kissing is saved for bedtime!

We hope that the above tips help empower the garden chef in you

But if its not enough there are some great ideas on www.landscaping.co.uk who also offer a full planning and installation service. Most of all, make sure that it is somewhere that you can enjoy and relax, and impress your guests by cooking in a way that they will be green with envy at (just not green with food poisoning – if you’re not sure about this, just stick to vegetarian options!).

Where to Buy Industrial Style Furniture

industrial style furniture

Best place to buy industrial style furniture

We sell best industrial style furniture in the market; Anyone who has seen anything of our website or social media platforms will know that our range of coffee tables, console tables, dining tables, bistro tables, chairs and lighting fit into this category as if it was named for them. The industrial style theme is popular for many domestic and business interiors, having developed from the New York loft apartment trend, and is now seen across living rooms, dining rooms, restaurants and offices everywhere. It complements both rustic and modern interiors, and thanks to the strong metals and wooden materials used to produce it, can have a long life where it will stand up to the elements as well as constant use.

If you are looking for your base range of furniture to fill up your home or commercial property, we have a great range for your on our site. For shopfitters and interior designers looking to fit out an industrial property which needs a bespoke colour or size, we can produce industrial lights, industrial tables and industrial racking or shelving to suit any branding. Likewise for your home interior.

Some more place to get industrial furniture ideas

However, furniture is one thing, accessories are quite another! If you are looking to increase the industrial style decor in your home as a whole, here are some more ideas and where to buy industrial style bits and pieces to finish your interior off nicely!

 

A great website for inspiration is www.redcandy.co.uk. They offer ideas as well as a great range of complementary and striking pieces such as these…

 

industrial style clock industrial style wall trellis

 

 

Also worth looking at are websites such as Black Country Ironworks who produce a plethora of industrial style bits and pieces such as this cast iron cook book stand.

industrial style furniture uk

 

And for really funky cushion covers to match your industrial style decor, Zazzle has some really interesting collections, including the option to take a plain white cushion and customise it with prints that you have found online.

industrial style decor

 

So if you’re looking for the finishing touch to your industrial style decor and interior, I hope these ideas give you some inspiration! If you need any more ideas, have a look at our website where there are images of all of our products, or give us a call on 01985 878795 if you want to talk through options.

Teak Garden Furniture – Why You Shouldn’t buy it!

garden furniture

Teak Garden Furniture is not eco friendly

With the sun making a rare appearance for so long at the moment, many of us will be looking at purchasing garden furniture to take our dinner, drinks and friends outside. When you are looking for a completely new Teak garden furniture set as a starting point or a complete upgrade, there are thousands of options available both in stores and online. Size of garden, storage and material preference all play a part in which set you go on to purchase.

But when you choose your garden furniture, do you think about where it actually comes from? (No, I don’t mean Argos). Are you aware of the impact that buying garden furniture made of wood can have on the environment? Or the illegal trade involved in the manufacture of your wooden chairs and table? If you’re looking for teak garden furniture especially, it may be worth reading on before you click on that “Buy Now” button..

Teak Furniture: King of the Woods

Teak has been used for many years in the manufacture of anything that needs to last and stay attractive. It has long been known as the ‘King of the Woods’ due to it’s ability to weather as well as its natural resistance to insects, fungus and acids. Teak was a natural choice to build boats out of and now is used as a popular choice for garden furniture. It seems to be readily available. When purchasing, it may be easy to overlook the issues that can arise with it in the way that the wood itself was obtained.

Friends of the Earth estimate that the UK imports enough illegal hardwood every year for garden furniture, decking and other uses to destroy tropical rainforests over three times the size of Luxembourg annually. This not only has an effect on the native animals and indigenous people, but also the environment as a whole. Forests contain over half of the planet’s animal and plant species and over 3 billion people. This is being taken from them illegally and immorally.

The Illegal Teak Furniture Trade

It is really important that you find out where the teak is coming from if you buy it. Burma is the only country that still exports Teak from natural forests, mostly illegally. Unfortunately, Burmese teak is the best on the market. Laos and Canadian teak is seen to be of lower quality for Teak Garden Furniture. It also comes from tropical rainforests which environmental agencies are protecting from illegal logging. African teak is young, which hinders its quality. There are many doubts over it’s legality also.

The growth cycle of a Teak tree is between 60 and 100 years before it is ready for commercial felling. New forests do not provide the quality that older ones do and it can obviously ta -ke years to regenerate the forests that are being felled. Buying Teak from Burma destroys the forests for which the people living in rely on for their homes and income. Up to 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihood across the world.

Teak Furniture and Human Rights

It’s not just the lack of places to live or find an income though. The bloodshed and fighting over the forests in Burma is truly shocking. The military in Burma control the forests and local people are being imprisoned or fined huge amounts. This is just for being in parts of the forest that they are told not to visit and extreme violence is often used. Many of these people are reluctant to leave not only because they live there but also because of a spiritual attachment to the place.

Illegal Logging

The money from the wood that is illegally imported through China (for whom the demand for teak is huge) goes to the people who run the council (the SPDC) in Burma. They pass this on to political and economic allies. This is instead of being invested into improving the country and the lives of the people who live there. Many environmental activists have been killed who were trying to stop illegal logging. Due to the control through violence that is now seen in the cut and run forestry taking part, teak is now known as “blood timber”. An unfortunate and lesser title than the King of the Woods by which it was once known.

Burmese Teak Trade

Destroying natural primary forests, funding groups guilty of human rights abuse. Depriving animals of their natural habitats and threatening the survival of the indigenous people. It seems that it is certainly worthy of it’s new title through no fault of it’s own. The teak in Burma will disappear in decades if the illegal logging continues at the rate that it is going. For all of these reasons, the FSC refuses to certify Burmese timber. For more information on the situation in Burma, have a look at the Human Rights Report from 2019. It may shock you with some of the figures and acts against the Burmese people.

How to Buy Safe Garden Furniture

How do you ensure that you are not helping to fund this destructive regime? Look at these woods as alternatives:

  • Bamboo and Rattan: but ensure that you check the source via www.inbar.int. It is relied on as an income for people as well as a food source for Giant Pandas and the mountain gorillas of Africa. It is, however, part of the UN’s sustainable development policy and has a negative carbon footprint so definitely worth looking at.
  • Pine: do not buy the pine from Latvia or Estonia which is from ancient forests. Any that has an FSC certificate is fine.
  • Douglas fir: All European Douglas fir comes from managed plantations. Avoid any from North America or Canada.
  • Larch: European Larch plantations are FCS certified and safe to use. Avoid Russian and Canadian larch which have put species at risk of extinction.

Saving the Forests

There are loads of other points to consider to help save the forests. There is loads of recycled timber available on the market which you should use if you can. Locally produced FSC products will have low transportation costs as well as assuring you exactly where it has come from. Look for chain of custody numbers and FSC certification on imported timbers. Support the WWF, Greenpeace and The Woodland Trust in their work to save the natural forests from devastation. Have a look at the ethical buying guide before purchasing to ensure that your garden furniture is guilt free.

Ironfire Sustainability

For your peace of mind when purchasing from IronFire, all of our timber is from a local sawmill (keeping our carbon footprint low) who proudly display their FSC certificate on their website.

You may think that one less purchase of an imported teak garden table may not make much of a difference, but if everyone stops buying…..

How to buy furniture for the garden

So today my original blog idea has been thrown aside in favour of a more relevant subject, inspired purely by the beautiful sunshine and blue skies that we are seeing here in Wiltshire after what seems like endless months of rain and snow. I’m still on a garden furniture type roll, so this post is designed to help you decide how to buy your furniture for the garden. As with most furniture, it’s very rarely a cheap impulsive buy, and as a consumer you will need to make sure that you are getting the most you can for your money and that it’s suitable for purpose. As a friend of mine likes to chant regularly, “buy cheap, buy twice”, and for a product that is going to be spending its time being battered by the weather it is certainly worth bearing this adage in mind. Therefore, as follows is my guide to investing in garden furniture, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on which you think is the most important and what has helped you…

Garden Furniture Buying Guide

  1. Functionality: What is the purpose of your garden furniture? Where is it going to go? If you are planning on keeping it all on your patio and surround it with lots of friends for al fresco dinner parties, a large table and plenty of seating is key. It may even be worth looking at benches as a seating option rather than chairs to allow you to squeeze those extra couple of bottoms on when not expected. If your furniture is to go in a smaller nook of your garden and you’re more of a sit out on your own type, then don’t over-table! A bistro table which can sit subtly in a corner or under a pergola is a better option for four or less people. Add as many chairs to this as you need or want – most places will let you purchase chairs individually so if you want to sit alone and read, just buy one. They’ll soon get the message!
  2. Care: It’s bad enough keeping your living room sofa clear of crumbs and stains without having to worry about your garden furniture as well. Most metal garden furniture will be treated so that it lasts for years and will just require a wipe down with hot soapy water as and when it needs it. Wooden furniture can be slightly more labour intensive, but if you’re painting your fence then you may as well tidy up your furniture at the same time! A lot of tabletops will have been treated – just check on this when you buy. If you do go for a wooden option, ensure that the wood is from an FSC forest…
  3. Storage. Many garden furniture sets will need to be brought inside over the winter. Bear this in mind if you’re buying a cheaper set, as it will need to go into a garage or shed to make it last longer than a single summer. Cushions can be affected by the damp, so look for cushions made of materials that are UV resistant so that they maintain their colour and are waterproof – it’s surprising where the water can get in and cause mould.
  4. Colour. Why stick to just brown wood when there are so many other colours out there! Look for painted woods, bright table tops, and match these to your plants, plant pots, shoes. A brightly coloured garden furniture set can be a stunning talking point as well as adding a bright splash to your garden and the opportunities for colours really can be endless.
  5. Invest. I know, it’s not going to be cheap but you really will get what you pay for. Investing that bit more into purchasing a quality set of garden furniture will mean that you won’t have to update it every year when it goes rusty or falls apart. It’s false economy to buy cheap, and think of the good that you are also doing the environment by not using what we call “fast furniture” – products that are cheap and then discarded quickly.
  6. Additional Accessories. If you’re feeling a bit flush and want to carry on with your garden furniture purchases, don’t just stop at the table and chairs! Consider a patio heater or fire-pit if you want your parties to go on that little bit later into the night, and for warm lighting. Matching planters can deck your decking or patio, and can be filled with pretty plants such as olive trees, or even look at filling them with practical vegetables! A bright parasol to match or complement your table is always important for that one really hot day of sun we get if you’re an English rose who shrivels in the sunshine (like me!). And if you’re eating outside, you may as well cook outside as well. If a BBQ is a bit too standard for you, have a look at outdoor pizza ovens – easy to use and will make you roll pizzas out so often you may put Dominos to shame!

Disclaimer: If you now go out and invest a lot of money in stunning garden furniture, invite your friends round and buy all of the burgers and sausages in Tesco only for it to rain tomorrow….it’s not my fault.

Garden Design Inspiration

Garden Design Inspiration

Garden Design Ideas

Once you’ve got the plants and the garden table chair sets sorted, it’s easy to think that your garden is ready for Summer and up to Chelsea Flower Show standards! Is there nothing you can do better to improve your small garden design? Well I’ve got some news for you…it doesn’t have to stop there! Things like railings and gates can be overlooked in the planning of your garden, and sometimes updating these can add that finishing touch which you didn’t even realise you were missing. Patio tables and chairs from Ironfire will also complement the industrial tmetal theme and you can choose hundreds of different wooden top finish colours to create garden design inspiration

Not only can these increase the aesthetics of your garden but also be useful in the improvement of security and safety. As a mother of young children, the combination of ponds full of fish and frog spawn plus my children’s slightly feral natures put the fear of God into me when visiting a garden with large murky and deep water features. Makeshift pond guards just aren’t the right size of shape, and when the pond is a bit of Grandad’s pride and joy, he may take offence at suggestion about filling it in t. Bespoke pond guards can be inexpensive, attractive and also give mothers of mermaid inclined children that extra peace of mind.

Garden Design Inspiration

Keeping children out? Keeping children in? Gates and railings for both your own safety but also security from intruders can be an instrumental part of feeling safe at night, but also that the patio and garden furniture, koi carp and other treasures that your garden holds and you have worked hard for kept where they belong. Have a look at the FH Brundle website for loads of ideas about these. Whether you want your garden to be seen by Julie next door who thinks her roses are better than yours, or you want to keep prying eyes out for when the weather is right for topless sunbathing, all options are available. Combinations of timber and steel, but also security graded if you need to have them installed for insurance reasons, bespoke options means that you do not have to worry about them not fitting properly or settling for second best if you can’t decide on one style or another.

Garden Design Inspiration

Are you lucky enough to have a raised decking or patio area, or even balcony? Railings around these are an obvious buy, but they don’t have to be simply fencing or iron railings if you feel that these don’t fit in with the way that your home and small garden design are styled. Ornate, plain, rustic or modern = there are lots of options available. Glass panels can also look brilliant if you have a modern property, around the span of a balcony area with metal poles and handrails along the tops.

Garden Design Inspiration

Share your ideas and solutions for garden design inspiration with us,

and thanks to Sykes Bespoke Steel for all of the images used in this post.

Garden Furniture Trends for 2022

Industrial Style Metal Planter

Inspired by the threat of warmer weather and lighter evenings, March is the time that many people start looking into planning their garden optimistically ready for the upcoming Summer. With websites and garden centers full to the brim of different plants, garden furniture, paving stones and so on, it can be hard to know where to start so we’ve gathered together some of the trends for your outside areas ready to impress your friends and neighbors this year.

Garden Dining Ideas

  • Al Fresco All Night – there is nothing quite like eating outside, whether a picnic on the lawn or a more formal dinner, the fresh air makes everything just taste that little better and makes meal times much more of an event (as long as you don’t spend the whole time swatting pesky wasps away!). To take al fresco dining to that next level entirely, why not make the whole experience an outside one? Get bit of a posher Barbecue, or if you want to really impress, we love these pizza oven kits. When the lighting and temperature drops, bring in one of our industrial style firepits alongside plenty of rustic throws and blankets. For long-lasting garden furniture that makes an impact, have a look at our industrial dining tables and industrial bistro tables. Depending on the size of your garden and the amount of people you like to entertain, there are plenty of size and colour options to suit any garden or budget.

 

  • Wabi-Sabi – no, not the really hot pea things that make your nose fizz…this is the ancient Japanese art (much like our shou sugi-ban) of accepting the cycle of growth, decay and death. This is a winner for the lazy gardeners out there, and is about embracing the imperfections (my partner knows all about this!). So let the shrubs grow out and be replaced organically and naturally, and accept them for their imperfect, natural state.

 

Industrial Style Dining Table

 

  • The Pantone colour for 2020 is purple, and this should not be just used in your interior. Focus the colour across your plants with a mix of beautifully pungent lavender, clematis and catmint. If your fingers aren’t that green, bring purple into your garden with our purple chair cushions or get us to create a custom made purple table top for an industrial style dining or bistro table for you.

 

 

  • The trend for growing your own vegetables is getting even bigger, and with more of us not wanting to pay out for expensive vegetables in the supermarket that go against our sustainability values by being shrouded in plastic and flown in from other countries when out of season it makes sense to utilise on any space that you have available. Even the smallest garden can have potato bags or window boxes for herbs, and nothing tastes quite as good as your own, in-season, grown from seed veg. It’s a great way of getting exercise, the kids love being involved in the process and you’ll be set up nicely in case of a zombie apocalypse.

 

aloe vera image

  • Being in a garden or outside always makes you feel that little bit healthier and optimistic about life, but the trend of healing is going to be big this year. Growing plants which have health benefits and can grow in this climate include aloe vera – simply cut the plant to release the gel to act as a treatment for burns, or as a moisturiser, lavender – sprinkle on pillows once dried to aid restful sleep, camomile – make into a tea to aid sleep and toothache and rosemary which can help your memory and digestion. Have a look at this website for more information on how to grow them and use them in the best way.

 

  • With companies offering yoga to their staff and children taking part in mindfulness sessions in school, it’s not surprising that this trend has spilt over into the garden as well. Taking time for the moment, appreciating what you have and clearing your mind to notice what is around you are all good for the soul and general well-being, so much so that even the NHS is advocating it. In the garden this can be as simple as gathering your thoughts on your patio before dashing off to work, carrying out your sun salutations on your driveway (I had a neighbour who did this and she always looked really calm so it must work) or even just the simple act of gardening. Mary Berry CBE, President of the National Gardens Scheme, says: “I have long been aware of the therapeutic benefits of gardening and visiting gardens and how being outside in lovely surroundings, in the fresh air, is so good for our wellbeing.” Well, if it’s good enough for the queen of cakes….

Sustainable Furniture Design – Victorian Style

industrial style console table

Sustainable furniture inspired by the Victorians.

In Victoria’s reign the Industrial Revolution came of age and sustainable furniture design is one of it’s many legacies. Many significant innovations saw the light of day during this time. Trains, Cars, Telephones, Lightbulbs, X-Rays are among the many things we now see as ordinary. This gives an idea as to how important this period was. Here’s a timeline showing the most important Victorian inventions.

In fact, before X-Rays, the only way people knew if they had broken bones, was by letting a doctor take a wild guess. Some patients were even cut open to confirm if they had a severe bone injury. A simple fracture often snowballed into a fatal infection back in those pain filled days. And there were no laws to stop medics from working drunk either!

The years leading up to the 1900’s were a literal explosion of Industrial innovation. Many incredible changes took place. In transport alone engineers invented the first bicycle in 1839. Rubber tires and Tarmac to make roads smoother followed quickly in 1845. They even introduced the world’s first flushing toilet in London back in 1852. Oh and don’t forget Sewing machines came in 1850 and Cars in 1895.

In fact, all these advances predated our crucial invention of chocolate Easter eggs. Flushing toilets were obviously a bigger step forward. Like many early breakthroughs they are still, in principle, unchanged today. We’ve improved them though – by letting them into the house!

Why don’t modern products last like Victorian ones?

One thing has changed since those days though. Engineers back then, as a matter of course, made quality products which would last a very long time. Unlike say, a mobile phone today, they made products to be kept. The motto was to build something once and with replaceable and renewable parts. This was better than our modern way of discontinuing old products and issuing new models. A good example is the Kodak box camera of 1888 which was continually modified. Over time this improved capturing memories and people treasured them as prized possessions. This ongoing developmental process has over time led to Smartphones. amongst other goodies we treasure these days.

Does this mean there’s is conflict inherent in the way that we make and use products today? Are our lives improved by letting us take more photos of ourselves (during trips to our indoors flushing toilets?). Neil Armstrong only felt the need to take five photos during the entire moon landing!

Isambard Kingdom Brunel knew how to build things to last!

A famous engineer of the Victorian period who played a key role in Britain’s industrial revolution was Brunel. He designed and constructed railway lines, tunnels, ships and bridges. When only 20 years old and working for his father’s company, he created the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe.

This was one of the first to run underwater isambard kingdom brunel and later became part of the London Tube network. So, we wouldn’t be riding the tube today if it wasn’t for his long-lasting design principles.
It’s even more impressive when you think he wasn’t
even old enough to rent a car or have a beer in America today!
In 1829, Brunel won a competition to design a Suspension Bridge in
Bristol (not too far from Ironfire HQ). He went on to mastermind around 1200 miles of railway. That included the main line between London and Bristol including many bridges, tunnels and viaducts. Imagine if those weren’t long-lasting and made from durable construction materials. We would never risk driving over a bridge ever again.

 

In search of sustainable products image of bridge collapsing

The Victorians were non stop innovators. They showed us how to create sustainable design in the best sense. That means it lasts a very long time because it is solid and repairable. There are many of their ideas that, even today, we all still use. We have of course made changes to improve those products and make them more efficient. The essential spirit though remains the same.

In 1872, British engineer James Starley invented the penny-farthing bicycle. Starley’s bicycle had a front wheel that was six feet tall with a tiny back wheel. It looked more like a suicidal unicycle when people rode it around. The bike is a good example of great sustainable design that’s became more practical over time. We use them more and more today and electric bikes are a great modern advance. We have these days changed both wheels to be the same size! Much more efficient, even if we look less entertaining. Penny Farthing picture

We live in a disposable society where we throw away anything that we don’t need anymore. We even have terms like “planned obsolescence” to excuse wasteful manufacturing.
 

Reclaiming sustainable Victorian design.

We should recognise that modern mass production makes things available to many people.

We would just like to see manufacturers grasp the challenge of the Rs. Repair, Recycle, Restore and Re-imagine are some!

That’s why Eco friendly companies like Ironfire take inspiration from Victorian long-lived design. It’s also why we reference their beautiful, heavyweight, industrial forms in our tough furniture.

Like the Victorians, we build our things to last and be easily renewed and repaired. In fact we hope your Ironfire becomes part of your family story. That’s the essence of sustainable design and it’s in the Ironfire DNA. We only use Zinc coated steel and sustainable UK timber so our furniture lasts and lasts. Ironfire is contemporary but sustainable furniture with Brunel’s made for life design ideas in mind. They’re much smaller of course and so much more affordable!

Sustainable furniture today needs more than Victorian design.

The Victorians might have built things for the long-term but they didn’t need to think about the environment. Modern, ethical design has to think about where the materials come from too! That’s why Ironfire invests in strong, robust, and durable materials from the UK. We also avoid harmful V.O.Cs. Aside from being durable and eco-friendly, we also put a lot of effort into getting our furniture and service right. Putting it simply, we want your home to feel and look good in every single way.

Our sustainability ambition?
To have members of your family arguing over ownership of our pieces – Long after you’ve gone?

The Sustainable Market

industrial style dining table close up

Facebook images of rubbish being washed up on beaches, the banning of microbeads in cosmetic products on the news, the disappearance of plastic bags from supermarkets (leading to you taking your shopping to your car in a basket if you’re like me and forget your reusable bags)…the issues that the world has with regards to the rubbish that we create and how we deal with it is something that no-one can claim to be ignorant of.

Locally to us at IronFire, there was a recent meeting at Morrisons of local shoppers who all took back their plastic wrapping to the manager in the trolley load, and the pubs are no longer providing plastic straws, only paper ones. We are all taking notice – seeing rubbish on beaches at the weekends, it can’t be ignored – and the passion that some people and businesses are showing is in turn inspiring others. (Iceland are paving the way as they are aiming to be the first plastic free supermarket by 2023). Looking at your kitchen and bathroom shelves though, we seem inundated with plastic and throwaway materials and it can seem that there is no easy way to get around this. Well, look no further! Here we are with a short guide (we love a list) to some products that we have found online that can help you do your bit in keeping the planet plastic free…

  1. Waitrose have announced that they are going to stop providing paper cups for their free coffee, and many coffee shops will give you money off of your takeaway cappuccino if you take in your own reusable cup. KeepCup say that they are “there for the everyday changemakers” – a mantra which we love, after all if we can all make small changes then they will amount to a lot. Their reusable cups are made from tempered glass and they also manufacture a barista standard cup, all of which are available in multiple colours and sizes. Worth the investment if you frequently indulge in a takeaway coffee or can’t walk around Waitrose without a caffeine hit!
  2. Did you know that many teabags are made of plastic? As a tea-addict, my contribution to the plastic issue just from my habit has shocked me somewhat. The big players – PG Tips and Tetley – both contain plastic, but if you are looking to be more plastic free, then simply change your tea-bags over to Aldi, the Waitrose Duchy brand or Pukka tea (their peppermint and liquorice flavour is amazing). Alternatively, look at making your own teabags or using loose tea. You never know, it could always lead to a sideline in fortune telling!
  3. No one wants to be a bit smelly, even at the expense of the planet, but Salt of the Earth deodorants are on hand (or armpit) to tick both of these boxes. Designed to be not only sustainable in manufacture, packing and distribution, they are paraben free and perfect for people with sensitive skin. They also offer a massive refill bottle so that you don’t have to continually replace the original. What’s not to like!
  4. Lush shampoo bars seem to be a bit of a weird idea at first – who even uses soap apart from your nan?!? – but each of these bars are the equivalent of 3 x 250g bottles of shampoo. Saving you not only money but also keeping your plastic usage down massively, and your hair clean and full of bounce! The reviews are great, with people claiming never to go back to normal shampoo after using this product.
  5. Cling film. Plastic. But without it you end up with pockets and a handbag full of crumbs and bits of lettuce. Not an endearing lunch for even the hungriest of people. So here’s the alternative – beeswax wraps. Made in Stroud from cotton with pine resin and local beeswax to help them ‘cling’, these wraps do seem like a costly investment at first but can be reused for a year simply with by washing with water and soap. And once they have been used to their maximum, they can be thrown on your compost heap as are fully biodegradable. Fresh food and a crumb free bottom to your handbag, all guilt free!
  6. As it is just thrown down the toilet, loo roll may not be at the forefront of your mind when thinking about living sustainably apart from buying the recycled version in the supermarket. However, they come in plastic packaging, and the roll in the middle needs to be recycled (or made into Jesus and Mary and various others who you are NOT ALLOWED TO THROW AWAY EVER). Who Gives a Crap manufactures toilet paper that is made from recycled paper and books, comes in a recyclable cardboard box and is fully biodegradable as well as being ok for septic tanks (not sceptic tanks – definitely no doubt). Not only this, but they give 50% of all of their profits to help build toilets in third world countries. No bum deal here.
  7. Ecover are launching a clean world revolution, and want us to join! Abandon your Mr Muscle and enter the realms of eco-friendly cleaning right here. An eco-sound factory, all products made from plant-derived materials (no nasty chemicals) which include no phosphates which inevitably end up back in our water, and a war on single use plastic all mean that Ecover are maintaining their lead as one of the most popular and effective cleaning solutions for planet aware cleaners. A recent study showed that inhaling the chemicals from kitchen and bathroom cleaners can be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, so while it may not be fun to be scrubbing bathroom dirt away, you can at least make it healthier both for yourself and the planet.
  8. The Natural Bed Company make all of their beds from wood that has come from sustainable forests and never from endangered tropical sources. All made in the UK, they share our passion for not using the fast wood that has been used in the construction of cheap furniture from China and the suchlike. Not only beds though, they also offer fully organic bedding for a bedtime experience that is just dreamy!
  9. Last but by no means least, IronFire Industrial Furniture (I’m not going to miss us out now am I!) have a range of industrial style furniture that is only available online. Our products are made by British craftsmen using sustainably sourced products; keeping the forests healthy and our time on the roads shorter. Sustainable and a bit stunning!

True, all of these solutions may not be suitable for everyone but if we all just make little changes to our everyday habits this may make our beaches, air and water cleaner for that bit longer for the generations to come.

Buying Furniture for Your New Home? What to Avoid and Money-Saving Tips

Exciting news we have a guest blogger – Maria Jose is a Marketing Specialist and does Content Marketing at Porch.  She is passionate about animals and her hobbies are reading, writing, traveling and music.  She shares with us some handy tips on the particle ways of buying furniture for your home and shows that you can produce sustainable furniture.

If you’re gearing up to move into a new home, there are probably a ton of things to take care of on your to-do list. Buying furniture is one of the most important and biggest investments you’ll make, so it’s always a good idea to make sure you choose the right pieces at the right price. There’s a lot to consider when you’re furnishing a new house, from the dimensions to the durability and much more. Check out this guide featuring some advice on what to avoid, along with actionable, helpful tips to make your next furniture buying adventure easy and, most importantly, affordable.

Modern Living room design image
Modern Living room design image

If you’re gearing up to move into a new home, there are probably a ton of things to take care of on your to-do list. Buying furniture is one of the most important and biggest investments you’ll make, so it’s always a good idea to make sure you choose the right pieces at the right price. There’s a lot to consider when you’re furnishing a new house, from the dimensions to the durability and much more. Check out this guide featuring some advice on what to avoid, along with actionable, helpful tips to make your next furniture buying adventure easy and, most importantly, affordable.

10 Important Things to Avoid When Buying Furniture 

White room with doors image
White room with doors image

There are some common furniture buying mistakes that people make, which often leads to buyer’s remorse. Here are the 10 most important things to avoid when buying furniture for your new home, along with some suggestions.

Not measuring: Measuring your space before you buy any new furniture is absolutely crucial. If you don’t measure, your furniture might not fit through the door, or it won’t fit properly in the room. Record the dimensions of every room of your home, noting the length and width in feet. You should also draw a basic layout on paper to help you choose the right size furniture for every space. A sectional won’t fit correctly if you have a small living room, for example. Measuring furniture includes checking the length, width, depth, and height of every piece. This will ensure that every item you buy fits nicely in its designated spot.

Painting first: You might be tempted to paint your new home before you buy new furniture. However, it’s much easier to purchase furniture based on the colors in the room after it’s already there. Go ahead and furnish the rooms in your home, then choose a beautiful paint color to match so everything coordinates nicely for a cohesive look.

Not scaling: Proper scale and proportion are key to a functional space. Make sure your new furniture works well in the room and doesn’t overcrowd it. If the furniture is too large in proportion to the size of the room, everything will feel cramped. If it’s too small, the room will feel hollow and empty. Choose everything in tandem so that every item works well with the other to create a correctly scaled space

Not considering your lifestyle: If you have children or pets, you need to select furniture that fits your lifestyle. Choose upholstered pieces that are easy to clean and maintain if you have a lot of foot traffic and a large family. Having beautiful furniture in your new home is important, but it won’t do any good if it isn’t functional too. Look at each item and think about how it will fit your lifestyle before you purchase.

Stool with a cat image
Stool with a cat image

Being unrealistic about maintenance: All furniture undergoes regular wear and tear, but some materials are easier to maintain than others. Always make sure that your new furniture can be cleaned easily and that it’s not too difficult to repair if something ever gets broken. Search for furniture that’s easy to care for, so you’re not spending all of your time worrying about maintaining it or keeping it clean. Stock up on products to help you maintain it, like wood furniture polishes and waxes, leather conditioners, and a quality vacuum cleaner to get rid of crumbs between sofa cushions.

Buying everything at once: Buying furniture is exciting, so it’s easy to feel like you need to buy everything at once. Furnishing an entire room or even your entire home all at one time could lead to buyer’s remorse later. Focus on the most important pieces first, like the bed for your bedroom, the dining table for your dining room, and the sofa for your living room. You can always add new items to go with it later once you determine which styles, sizes, and designs will work best in each room and for your specific lifestyle.

Getting into an “impulse buy”: Don’t get lured into furniture trends and make an impulse purchase that you’ll regret later. Take your time and research furniture, looking carefully at things like customer reviews and examples of furniture in different homes. When you take your time buying furniture, you’ll be much happier with the outcome.

Prioritizing style over comfort: A beautiful home filled with stylish furniture is important, but your comfort is more important. Don’t sacrifice your comfort just to give your home a stylish look. If your new furniture is uncomfortable, you’ve essentially wasted your hard-earned money. Try to find pieces that meet somewhere in the middle, blending beautiful design with supportive and comfortable features.

Sacrificing quality for price: Saving money on furniture is always a good thing, but you shouldn’t skimp on quality. Look for great deals on furniture that will still provide you with a quality piece you’ll use for years to come. Remember that new furniture at an extremely low price usually means that it’s made of low-quality materials, and it might not hold up to a lot of wear and tear.

Overfilling the room: If you buy too many furniture pieces, it can make the rooms in your home feel cramped and overcrowded. Adding too much furniture will end up making your home feel cluttered, which can lead to higher stress levels. Try to stick with the basics first, then add accent pieces as needed.

How to save money when buying furniture

Saving money on furniture is easy when you keep these helpful tips in mind.

Plant pot full of money and a plant growing pot
Plant pot full of money and a plant growing pot

Shop Online: Shopping online is one of the easiest, most effective ways to save money on everything from furniture to décor and more. Look for websites that offer free shipping to save even more. Before you click the “purchase” button, make sure you read the customer reviews thoroughly to ensure that you’re getting a good deal and a quality item.

Garage Sale: Scour local garage sales to find decent quality furniture. In many cases, homeowners simply need to downsize, or they don’t want to take perfectly good furniture with them for a move. You can always negotiate with the seller to bring the price down even lower, too.

Buying antique furniture: Not all antique furniture costs an arm and a leg. Shop at some local consignment stores to score a good deal on beautiful antiques. The perk of buying antique furniture is that it’s typically made of durable materials, and it’s built to last, so you’re getting more out of your investment.

Repurpose and recycle: You don’t have to buy every single thing brand-new for your home. In fact, some of your furniture can easily be repurposed or recycled. An older coffee table can look new again with a fresh coat of chalk paint. Go through the items you already own to see how many of them can be repurposed or reused in other rooms or for different reasons.

Refurbish: Refurbished furniture can look just as beautiful and last just as long as new furniture. Switch out hardware, add a fresh coat of paint or finish, or reinforce furniture to make it stronger. Simple changes to existing furniture can make it look brand-new and give it a new purpose without breaking your budget.

Upcycle: Upcycling furniture is similar to refurbishing, and it involves adding your own personal touch to each piece. You can make any piece of furniture look brand-new with some simple changes like painting it, adding new hardware, or taking it apart and rebuilding it to turn it into something new.

DIY: If you’re handy with a hammer and nails, don’t be afraid to try your hand at some DIY furniture. Building your own furniture creates feelings of pride and a sense of satisfaction. It’s also an excellent way to save money on new items like tables or chairs.

Get sales alerts: Sign up for sales alerts from some of your favorite furniture stores. Many retailers offer deep discounts at various times of the year, which means you could save a lot of cash if you’re patient.

Time your shopping: Many local furniture salespeople have quotas and work on commission, which means they might be willing to offer you a deal at certain times of the month. Ask if they can provide you with a deal or throw in free delivery to help you save a bit of extra money.

How to care for and maintain your furniture

Lady sat on sofa, exhausted from hoovering image
Lady sat on sofa, exhausted from hoovering image

With so many furniture styles and options to choose from, it’s important to maintain and care for each item to keep it in good condition. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to furniture maintenance.

Do’s

  • Remove dirt, dust, and debris from wood furniture, often using a soft, damp cloth or paper towel.
  • Take care of wood furniture by polishing it regularly and using a gentle, silicone-free furniture cleaning product.
  • Repair scratches as soon as possible, using a furniture touch-up pen that matches the finish.
  • Keep furniture out of direct sunlight, especially leather and wood, which can become discolored and dry out over time.
  • Only use cleaning products made for your furniture’s specific material to avoid damage.
  • Wipe spills immediately whenever liquid comes in contact with your furniture.
  • Rotate or flip seat cushions every few months to keep them comfortable and looking new.

Don’ts

  • Do not use an all-purpose cleaner, bleach, or abrasive cleaning products on your furniture.
  • Don’t put off dusting your furniture. Airborne particles can build up on wood, leaving a layer of dust and grime that may scratch the finish.
  • Never add a tablecloth to your tables until they’re completely dry.
  • Do not arrange your furniture near radiators, heat or air vents, and air conditioning units. Extreme temperature changes can easily damage furniture.
  • Don’t sit extremely hot or cold beverages or food directly on top of your furniture – use a coaster or protective cover like a tablecloth.
  • Avoid placing your furniture close to the fireplace or wood-burning stoves.

If you just got married, just became independent, just moved to college, or are just ready to start buying furniture for your new place, be sure to keep these helpful tips in mind. Remember to measure the rooms in your home as well as the dimensions of your new furniture to find a perfect fit. Choose furniture that fits your lifestyle, and shop garage sales and websites to help you find the best deal so you’ll have fabulous furniture the whole family will enjoy for years to come.

 

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Global Warming – an idiot’s guide

Beautiful Nature - mountains behind lake at sunset

At Ironfire we aim to make our industrial sustainable furniture ecologically friendly. It’s a challenge and I often struggle to know how to calculate our carbon footprint and our climate change impact. In fact now that I come to think about it, do I fully comprehend what are the definitions of global warming and the real climate change facts? Why it is such a looming disaster? Of course, like most people, I know the headline reasons. I also believe that so many eminent scientists can’t be wrong.

Most climate change explanations though head off into complex jargon that goes right over my head. So I thought that I would try and understand a bit more. At the same time, I would try and uncover documented facts and make them more accessible. I’m hoping for better understanding to help set the priorities at Ironfire.

I’ve found finding clearly expressed science time consuming but more straightforward than expected. Thinking, “there must be others like me” I am going to try and lay out my findings in a simple format. I’m not looking to patronise anyone and if you mutter ” we all know that” – Don’t waste your time – move on quickly!

I have put as many verifiable links as possible into the statements I discovered. I’ve numbered paragraphs for ease of reading and paraphrased to make it easier to read. My commentary is not bullet proof, just conclusions that I’ve arrived at trying to simplify wordy reports!

Greenhouse gas emissions & climate change – the size of the problem.

Giorgio Trovato Unsplash 690x788 1
Giorgio Trovato @ Unsplash

If you are partial to scary statistics try these facts about global warming. Man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 equalled 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. 72% was CO2 from coal burning and industry. 19% was Methane ( from livestock in most part), 6% was nitrous oxide, and 3% was fluorine gases. A further 4 billion tonnes of carbon emissions come from natural sources. The average contribution each human on the planet makes is 4.8 tonnes per year. The “Net zero” target (it’s hoped) will limit global warming to a manageable 1.5°C increase. To achieve that we need to reduce these Carbon emissions by half in the next decade. Moreover, we then need to hit those Net Zero emissions by 2050. This link provides a clear overview of what we need to achieve. https://www.wri.org/insights/net-zero-ghg-emissions-questions-answered

The main causes of industrial greenhouse gas emissions are as follows. Electricity & heat (25%), agriculture & forestry (24%), industry (21%), and transportation (14%).

Deforestation – climate change facts.

Image showing deforestation across pine trees
Roya Anne Miller @ Unsplash

It’s also estimated that deforestation causes 10% of global warming. The main reasons for deforestation are increasing use of land for beef and palm oil (27%). Wood and lumber products (26%). Short term agricultural cultivation (24%), and wildfires (23%).

To complete the picture, here are the figures for consumer emissions in 2010. Food (30%), washing/heating/lighting (26%), personal transport & freight (20%) and buildings (15%).

What greenhouse gases are

Ella Ivanescu Unsplash 690 Wide

1) The earth absorbs energy from the sun into our atmosphere. In turn it radiates infrared radiation back to outer space. These two effects balance out in nature to maintain our climate. This natural greenhouse effect means the earth’s temperature is about 30 degrees C.

The link here is about the best graphical explanation I’ve come across.

2) Natural greenhouse gas emissions enable life on earth to exist. They keep warmth necessary to sustain life in the atmosphere. Global warming is caused by extra, excess carbon chemicals remaining in the atmosphere. These carbon molecules absorb infrared rays. Excess heat can’t then radiate to outer space and so further warms up the earth’s atmosphere.

3) So global warming results if anything disturbs earth’s natural equilibrium. Some people call the balanced greenhouse effect Gaia – the spirit of earth!

4) Trace gas pollutants from carbon emissions can last for years and even centuries in the atmosphere. They trap heat and as discussed, cause the planet, by absorption, to get hotter, causing cliate change. That’s why it’s known as the greenhouse gas effect.

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming-101 https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat07/0710011214_ED48749_VOC_Incineration_-_CC_Report_v3.pdf

5) The trace gases that contribute most to climate change are water vapour and carbon dioxide. https://ukair.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat07/0710011214_ED48749_VOC_Incineration_-_CC_Report_v3.pdf

6) Water vapour makes up 60% of global warming. That’s far more than the carbon emissions we are putting into the atmosphere. That’s because water vapour in the air exists in direct relation to the temperature. So, the more you increase a temperature, the more water evaporates. This becomes vapour, and vice versa. So when something causes a temperature increase, such as CO2, more water evaporates. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas so extra vapor makes the temperature rise even further. https://www.skepticalscience.com/water-vapor-greenhouse-gas.htm

7) To decrease global warming we need to reduce man made pollutants. Some of these gases are potent greenhouse contributors to climate change. They have been adding to the greenhouse effect from the time we started burning vast amounts of coal. This, as discussed, is increasing the amount of water vapour held in the atmosphere. For a simple demo of the acceleration of global warming, read this.

8) Hundreds of different trace gases have been measured in the atmosphere. It is believed that thousands more have yet to be measured. Many of these are volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Volatile means a compound may exist in the liquid or solid phase but easily evaporates. Organic means that the compound contains carbon.

What are VOCs -Volatile Organic compounds? Should we be concerned about them?

Voc Infographic 1

9) VOCs as trace gases often exist in tiny parts per million in the atmosphere. Yet they are important as many are long-lived in the atmosphere. Other important greenhouse gases are Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, Methane and Water vapour. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo300/node/607

10) There are varying definitions of VOCs around the world. The GWP (global warming potential) index is pretty easy to understand. It ranks VOCs as follows. “the GWP of a VOC measures its climate change impact compared to CO2. It also includes how long the trace gas remains in the atmosphere once emitted”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential

11) Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that have a low boiling point. If you’re interested in the science here we go. This low boil temperature is because they have a high vapour pressure. That causes a lot of molecules to evaporate from the liquid (or solid form of the compound) into the air around them. This effect is known as volatility. Formaldehyde for example evaporates from paints and coatings because it has a boiling point of only –19 °C.

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/technical-overview-volatile-organic-compounds

12) VOCs are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also released from many consumer products. Cigarettes, solvents, paints & thinners, adhesives, dry cleaning fluids and glue & wood preservatives. Cleaners & disinfectants, air fresheners, building materials & furnishings, copiers & printers and pesticides are also examples. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/volatile-organic-compounds-vocs

Steel, the extraction of iron ore and getting it to the furnace are resource heavy. Most VOCs emitted are however burnt off by high temperature in this process. Lots of VOCs therefore get emitted in the initial process of recycling scrap steel though. This is due to the processes involved in removing coatings and impurities. I suppose it all goes to emphasise that there isn’t such a thing as a free lunch. https://www.ubs.com/microsites/nobel-perspectives/en/latest-economic-questions/2020/solution-to-climate-change.html?campID=SEM-BRAND&s_kwcid=AL!602!3!445675510732!b!!g!!%2Bways%20%2Bto%20%2Bstop%20%2Bglobal%20%2Bwarming&ef_id=Cj0KCQjw6575BRCQARIsAMp-ksNNcquXbZFqqsVUQtIzMS1c1oi5OElYYCa8AMicyPBp77kOrAb0ojcaAmNiEALw_wcB:G:s&s_kwcid=AL!602!3!445675510732!b!!g!!%2Bways%20%2Bto%20%2Bstop%20%2Bglobal%20%2Bwarming!10436011345!1038

13) The earth emits about 1150 Teragrams of carbon VOCs every year. These occur naturally. By comparison, humans release 142 Teragrams as CO2 every year by breathing! When VOC’s combine with Nitrous Oxides in the air, they form Smog. This makes sense as urban areas have higher levels of VOC than open country.

14) VOCs include both human-made and natural chemical compounds. Most scents or odours are of VOCs. These compounds help communication between plants and form messages from plants to animals. Many natural VOCs are pretty benign, and humans have evolved to coexist with them. Vegetation is a major emitter of a VOC called Isoprene. Each year, 600 million metric tons of Isoprene enter the air. More than half of this comes from broad leaf trees. Small shrubs and bushes release much of the rest.

Without many of these VOCs, the world would be very different. Limonene, produces the citrusy odour of orange and lemon peels. A large percentage of essential oils are from these plants. Styrene, used to produce polystyrene, occurs in everything from coffee beans to peanuts. https://foobot.io/guides/natural-sources-of-volatile-organic-compounds.php

15) Some VOCs are dangerous to humans and cause environmental damage. Manmade VOCs are called Anthropogenic and are regulated by law, specially for indoors, where concentrations are highest. Harmful VOCs are not high in toxins but can cause long term health problems. Because individual amounts are low symptoms can develop over a longer period. This makes research into VOCs and their effects difficult. People who suffer from respiratory complaints can be susceptible to VOCs indoors.

Short-term exposure – effects from VOCs may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Also, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders and memory problems are sometimes experienced.

Long-term exposure – VOC damage may cause nausea, fatigue, dizziness and impair co-ordination. There’s also the risk of Cancer and damage to one’s liver, kidney and central nervous system.

https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/volatile-organic-compounds-vocs

When you paint rooms, lay new carpet or install furniture try to ensure lots of ventilation.

So that’s my quick short trip around global warming facts. What are my conclusions?

Picture of the world in our hands
Photo: Bill Oxford @ Unsplash

It’s interesting to see the amount of Carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere by us, is tiny! Particularly when compared with those occurring naturally. That gave me insight into why this is a slow, cumulative effect. It also gives me confidence that the greenhouse effect can be overcome.

We humans seem to be very slow to respond to a problem and then only in an incremental fashion. The current corona pandemic shows early action is the most successful. But most governments avoid offending powerful special interest groups. That leads to fudge and indecision. The same principle applies to global warming. Why would all of us oil guzzling, carnivorous, foreign holiday addicts line up for change? Even with all of the climate change facts at our fingertips we first worlders are just too comfortable.

We do seem to be lumbering towards turning the oil tanker around though! Usually the best solution to a problem is to make something financially attractive. We are seeing the decay of fossil fuel use in favour of electricity. This is increasingly made using “clean” technology. There are backwards steps of course on the journey. For example, I would much rather see the cost of our H2 rail project spent on renewable energy schemes. Imagine what £100 Billion could achieve to support the transition to renewable energy!

So – how much Carbon do we need to reduce by to achieve net zero?

girl holding globe in woods demonstrating net zero
Photo by thomas scott on Unsplash

We need to put 38 billion tonnes less CO2 per year into the atmosphere to wipe out all global warming. The world average is 4.8 tonnes per person worldwide, but first world residents create up to 16 tonnes each. That compares to 0.1 tonnes for residents in Mali and Niger.

So, the world is trying to limit temperature growth to 1.5C. Carbon output is still growing however, so that’s unlikely and we already are slipping towards 2C.

It’s difficult to predict how much more pollutant we can add to the atmosphere and keep to 1.5°C. A good estimate to keep a good chance of meeting that is – 400 to 500 Billion tonnes. This is known as our Carbon budget. It says that to hit Net Zero by 2050 we need to reduce our carbon footprint by a further 60%. The longer we take to do this the more we will have to give up!

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/02/SR15_Chapter2_Low_Res.pdf

What can we contribute to reducing global warming?

Simple things that we are starting to do are as follows and do make a difference of tons of personal CO2 production.

Changing light bulbs to a low energy bulb. Saving – 150 lbs per bulb.

Drive less. Saving – 1lb of CO2 for every mile you don’t drive!

Recycle more. saving – 2,400 lbs of CO2 per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check your tyres. Every gallon of fuel saved keeps 20 lbs of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Take shorter, cooler showers. Wash clothes at a lower temperature and ensure a full load. Saving – More than 500 lbs of CO2 annually.

Avoid packaging. Saving – 1,200 lbs of CO2 if you reduce your rubbish by 10%.

Adjust your thermostat. Saving – 1,000 lbs from 1 degree reduction in winter, more in summer

Plant a tree. Saving – A single tree will absorb one tonne of CO2 over its lifetime.

Turn off electronic devices when you’re not using them. Saving – thousands of lbs of CO2 a year.

Eat a more plant based diet.To get the same protein from beef as peas, emissions are nearly 90 times higher.

You can find out more about this issue here.

There are 2204 lbs to a UK Tonne. So, have a quick review to calculate what savings you might be able to make?

If you do want to calculate your own carbon footprint, here is the link to a popular and free site. If you want to see lots of statistics about global warming go to – https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions#future-emission-scenarios

Slow progress? Some reasons to be cheerful.

Poster saying - There is no Planet B
Image: Marcus Spiske@Unsplash

Don’t beat yourself up too much. UK greenhouse gas emmissions peaked in The UK’s CO2 emissions peaked in the year 1973 and have declined by around 38% since 1990, faster than any other major developed country. lot of savings are going to have to come from big reductions in shipping items around the world. Also moving away from fossil fuels and aviation will need to play a part. Redesign in industrial processes and power generation will also need to be introduced swiftly. There is also hope that carbon capture technology will advance to fill shortfalls.

More good news is the tropical deforestation fact that cutting can be halted. In many places it already is being reduced. A variety of approaches have shown promising results. These include corporate deforestation-free commitments to the REDD+ initiative and the Soy Moratorium. Progress requires a sustained commitment by governments, businesses, consumers, and non-governmental organizations. Their goal – the ending—and as possible, reversal—of tropical deforestation.

How do we apply all of this into Ironfire Industrial furniture?

collage of Ironfire industrial style furniture
See the whole range of indoors/outdoors furniture
www.iron-fire.co.uk/

Hopefully the material above makes it easier to grasp the effect our products have on global warming? The world seems to be full of people saying that they are doing a great job. Often that sounds more an advertising strategy than trying to make something in a better way. So, does Ironfire stand up to examination as sustainable furniture?

It was key, to me, to learn that reprocessing old steel creates more VOCs than new. I am pretty sure of course that fact doesn’t hold if you include ore extraction. But it does suggest that there aren’t any straightforward solutions, more, a lot of grey areas.

First off, in a globalised consumer market, no business can survive making utilitarian products. Neither can they use materials irrespective of cost. Making things that you have to be rich to afford is not, in my view, much of a contribution to a sustainable future. The same goes for hand making craft items. Great, but again is not a path to make a difference to global warming. Second, should we be balancing sustainability against ecological materials? By this I mean, is it better to make something once and well, than make it disposable. The question that quickly follows that is… Is it preferable to use a material that emits twice as many VOCs but lasts four times longer? The answer is, of course, to do neither but the point is that there is often a trade off. That means we have to be practical and choose the lesser of two evils?

Gin Table @ Lisas
Basic ironfire gin station – available with wheels, storage & branding.

So, Ironfire’s challenge is to make industrial furniture with (as close as possible) to a net zero global warming effect. At the same time, it needs to be affordable, practical and attractive. We are very keen to show that our aims are not an affectation but the normal way that business should be.

Our belief is that we should concentrate on making Ironfire last as long as possible. That means making it strong and robust but also simple to repair, to refresh and to renew. It also means protecting it against the elements too. You can see a description of the 7 different ways we do things to achieve these aims here.

Simply – if we can make a thing last twice as long then we’ve already halved our environmental impact.

White Coffee table in front of fire
Ironfire Coffee table 1400 x 1400mm

Making things is not just about what materials you use, it’s about the whole business. Here’s our specific ideas.

We design and make everything we sell. We don’t ship in cheap, trendy furniture from Asia. The CO2 impact of shipping miles is huge. We try to ensure that our steel is UK produced. It’s always galvanised, which is a VOC free process, ensuring long life. We then powder coat, another VOC free process. Some things we sub contract from reputable partners we have worked with for years. Everything, however is produced in the South West of England.

Wood is generally seen as carbon neutral. We use only quick growing UK pine. This is renewable Douglas Fir from a timber mill within 30 miles. We then air dry it and coat it with long lasting, VOC free waxes.

We use British glass and metal fixings treated with rust protection. There are only three things we can’t UK source. One of these is unique waterproof material from 500 miles away in Holland. The second, small Hydrophobic valves made to our design and posted from China. Third our wood treatment we produce from Belgian bases travelling 275 miles to us.

We try to deliver everything we make and plan effective delivery routes. We only supply direct to our customer. Cutting out the retailer saves our customers money. It also allows wider customer choice and a personal service. It also means that we can avoid disposable packaging which is a big fact of global warming.

Ironfire doesn’t want to be politically correct for the sake of it. We want to make practical ecological choices about complicated issues. Well sustainable furniture anyway! For example, we currently powder coat metal and can pass on that industry’s claim that the process is VOC free. The truth is the process involves a lot of heat during process and harsh chemicals in the cleaning. At the same time is powder coating the best finish for us? We are looking at alternatives which are longer lasting and more pleasing to the customer. A strong coating means using two pack finishes and we can’t find anything that is water based…yet. That means a level of VOCs but believe the benefit of improved product to end user justifies that. We must offset the heat involved in powder coating against a low level of VOCs emitted in a cold spray process.

About the author: Andrew Knight lives near Frome in Somerset. He has been running his business Ri Manufacturing for 25 years. Ironfire is a new challenge. Read about us here. He’s spent his career solving problems and turning them into products. There’s been enough success and failure to ensure he retains his enthusiasm and a sense of humour! Many thanks to Kiran P and to Shannon B for their patient editing of this article.

All comments welcome, please send to: andrew@iron-fire.co.uk

Other Ironfire blogs that relate to this subject:

https://www.iron-fire.co.uk/blog/sustainable-furniture-designhttps://www.iron-fire.co.uk/blog/repair-renew-re-use

https://www.iron-fire.co.uk/blog/teak-garden-furniture

Finally, further reference material (for those I haven’t quite bored to death!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_monoxide https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide#In_Earth’s_atmosphere

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limonene

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/technical-overview-volatile-organic-compounds#2

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1352231099004653

Lifestyle Concepts: 10 From Around The World You Should Know About!

Dining Tables For Your Home

10 Lifestyle Concepts From Around The World You Should Know About!

Ironfire believes that your home and style reflect who you are and what you stand for. There are loads of interesting and popular lifestyle concepts around. Our thinking about how we should design, make and deliver our furniture echoes many of these ideas. So, we thought it would be fun to contrast them with Ironfire. We didn’t set out to follow anyone’s trends and prefer to think that we’re only doing the obvious. But you never know, we might even end up on the cool side of the fence for the first time in our lives!

Different lifestyles in the world

1 – HYGGE from Denmark:

Berkley coffee table - lifestyle concepts blog
Even though Game of Thrones has finally finished, winter is always on the way.
That means it’s time to add a little more sustainable Hygge into your life.
What’s Hygge you ask?
It’s a Danish idea describing the cosy contentment and well-being you get from life’s simple things.
It’s pronounced “Hoo-Gah,” and it’s that warm feeling you get whilst drinking hot chocolate on a snowy day.
In fact, you’ve probably already experienced Hygge without even knowing it!
It’s a national obsession with all things cosy and why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world.
This level of happiness is what Ironfire always aims to bring to all our customers. Other countries have versions of Hygge lifestyle concepts. But you don’t have to travel – Ironfire delivers Hygge right to your living room!
We design Ironfire Industrial themed furniture for strength and long life,
but it’s just as much about creating relaxing environments!
You should always feel supported when eating but able to then lean back and relax in comfort.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in your living room, office or your garden.
You should choose furniture that makes you happy to put your feet up and dream a bit.
Don’t you deserve that snug, ultra-comfortable home environment we all dream of?

 

2 – SISU from Finland:

Pronounced “See-Sue,” this is all about stamina, guts, and perseverance.
It means getting through hardship and making it to the end. Sisu focuses on the present rather than long term goals. It’s meant to inspire you to have the guts to do anything, but you need to be ethical about it at the same time.
For example, say you want to run a high stakes Poker den?
Ironfire can provide the comfy benches to keep you playing for hours and some great ambient lighting.
But don’t ever cheat during the game! Otherwise, you won’t fulfil the integrity of Sisu.
It’s all about sticking to what’s right, especially when it’s difficult.

 

3 – LAGOM from Sweden:

Dining Table Base in Bluebells - Lifestyle blog
It’s pronounced as “Lah-GOM” and translates to “Not too much and not too little.”
Lagom is about moderation and living a contented life with the right amount of possessions.
It’s better to live a sustainable life and clear-out unnecessary items to create more space at home.
Celine Dion has 10,000 pairs of shoes stored in a Las Vegas warehouse instead of clogging up her house.
So, unless you want your home to look like Celine’s shoe warehouse, it’s wise to live Lagom, simple and sustainable Embrace the Swedish culture of a healthy work/life balance and purge what you don’t need.
Ironfire furniture’s clean lines and solid design help free yourself and declutter!
That means you only use minimal and necessary furniture items, to design your perfect home.

 

4 – WABI SABI from Japan:

It’s pronounced as “Wah-Bee-Sah-Bee.”
It’s one of the most ancient Japanese lifestyle concepts seeking beauty in the imperfect, and incomplete.
It cherishes imperfections, and so a ceramic bowl with a crack won’t get tossed away.
Wabi Sabi teaches you to find contentment with what you already have and not hold out for more.
So, if you ever feel like sending a product back for a refund, think Wabi Sabi before you head off to the post office!
Ironfire shares a Wabi Sabi passion for celebrating the perfect imperfection of natural materials !

 

5 – LYKKE from Denmark:

Red Dining Table -Lykke
You pronounce Lykke – “Loo-Kah” and it means happiness.
As the Danes are so happy everyone wants to adopt their lifestyle concepts.
To feel the happiness of Lykke, you need space to be able to think clearly.
The Danes believe that a cluttered room is also a cluttered mind.
So, always remember to put those clothes back into a drawer instead of leaving them out on the floor.
Color psychology is also very important in achieving Lykke.
Pink generates warmth, blue means freedom, and green will make your home look natural.
Be careful with red though. It can either remind you of love, or that terrifying elevator scene from The Shining!

 

6 – IKIGAI from Japan:

It’s pronounced as “Eee-Key-Guy” which means “Reason for being.”
This Japanese tradition is about finding your purpose in life.
It’s quite the opposite of the sedentary cosiness which you get from Hygge.
You need to think about what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for. So, if you like our industrial style designs us please spend all your spare cash on Ironfire furniture.
As we get older most of us stop being curious and fall into a boring routine.
Stay young by designing a home that truly represents everything that inspires and challenges you!
Discovering your own Ikigai will contribute to a long, happy life and motivate you to leap out of bed every morning.

 

7 – GEZELLIG from The Netherlands:

Ironfire oak dining table -gezellig
“Hey-Sell-ick” is the unexpected way to pronounce this.
This is all about friendship and companionship.
Like Hygge, this concept aims for warmth and contentment, but more via a fulfilled and active social life.
You’re always sharing that cosiness with people you love (or at least can tolerate), to spend plenty of time with. Trying to entertain friends who complain about your music is not Gezellig.
So make sure you save the best seats for those who really share your Spotify guilty pleasures.

 

8 – FRILUFTSLIV from Norway:

Yes, this one was a real mouthful for us too. It’s pronounced as “Free-Loofts-Liv” or “Open air living.”
It’s all about the pure joy of being outdoors and embracing nature and beautiful scenery, with friends or alone.
You can experience this by walking, cycling, swimming or camping.
You could though just put a Bench in your garden and spend some relaxing time with a friend.
Or, why not sit alone on that Bench, channel your inner Jane Austen and compose a literary masterpiece.
It’s important to break away from staring at digital screens and get some natural sunlight and fresh air.
It’s even more enjoyable with the mesmerizing flames from an Ironfire outdoor firepit.

 

9 – PANTSDRUNK from Finland:

pantsdrunk graphic - lifestyle concepts blog

This hilarious title obscures a truth – find quality time just for yourself.
To Finns, it means getting drunk alone at home, stripped down to your briefs and having no intention of going out. Unless you’re McCauley Culkin and home alone every night, it’s empowering to drink and spend time alone.
Instead of using alcohol as a social tool, you’re relaxing in a different way.
That means you’re getting down to the real you because nobody else is there to judge.
Russell Howard and Greg Davies had a hilarious evening bonding trying the practice out. Watch a cliphere
It’s a unique kind of Zen. Some say there’s nothing better than chilling out and sipping hooch in peace and quiet.
It might surprise you how much you learn about yourself by letting go when you’re alone.
At home, your guard isn’t up and you can allow yourself to be a free spirit
Luckily too, Ironfire chairs have plump cushions to keep your bum warm – since you’re only wearing pants!
Drink like it’s nobody’s business, dance like no one’s watching, but… don’t forget to close the curtains.

 

10 – IRONFIRE from good old Wiltshire?

Is it so cheeky to include ourselves in such august company? Of course it is!
We’re really chuffed though to see how many positive aspects of these lifestyle concepts are reflected in Ironfire.
Adaptable, sleek furniture that’s not disposable and made from renewable materials. That’s what Ironfire’s all about. Added to that we are honest and hate hype. Read all about us here
Our independent outlook and determination to provide a better service chimes with many of the values above too.
Oh! And we are well used to drinking in our pants – of course!

Repair Renew Re-use

Repair Re-use and Recycle

Repair, Renew Re-use

Annually, in the UK, we throw away over 1.4 million tones of waste electrical and electronic equipment. Each household spends on average £800 a year on electrical items for their homes, and it is the older versions of these that break, are thrown out and create the waste issue. So what are you supposed to do when your fridge or washing machine breaks down? It can be costly to get it repaired, as well as not having any guarantee that the repair will solve the problem for an adequate amount of time. White goods just don’t seem to last anymore, unlike the twin-tub that lasted my Nan for about 80 years (if you believe her). The average life of a washing machine is now under 7 years (more than 10% in a London junkyard were reported as being under 5 years old). Irreparable within only a few years before having to buy a new one – no good for our pockets or our environment and certainly not sustainable design!

Here at Ironfire we’ve been championing sustainable made to last furniture products products while maintaining affordability and the easy replacement of parts when and if required. And if we can do it, there’s surely no reason why others can’t Repair Renew Re-use

Spain, in 2013, brought in a Royal Decree which stated that a certain percentage of electrical and IT products must be recycled and re-used (a term that until recently was indistinguishable from recycled but now means repurposed and repaired rather than broken down and the individual parts recycled). This year, their aim is that 3% of large household appliances and 4% of IT equipment should be re-used, and their research and work into this has found that 25% of equipment that is thrown away is in fact repairable and suitable for re-use. That’s a lot of waste saved, as well as household budgets!

We need better and more sustainable design

Why isn’t more being done about companies and their insistence about unsustainable products?

Their products are cheaper to buy but do not last for long and therefore have to be replaced frequently. A similar problem is planned obsolescence – the practice of producing products that have a limited lifespan until they are no longer in trend, repairable or useless within a certain time period. Mobile phones were a perfect example of this, are getting better but still don’t meet the Repair, renew Re-use brief.

Soon though, it looks like more will be done thanks to the European environment ministers. The BBC are reporting today that finally the EU will be forcing manufacturers into producing goods that will not only last longer but also be easier to repair. Currently the situation with repairing electrical equipment is that parts and instructions are restricted, which limits the repairs to the manufacturers which can be costly and slow – if at all. This will be changed, meaning that local tradesmen will be able to repair equipment – not only saving the consumer money but also investing money in the local economy.

The BBC reports that “because of the CO2 emitted in the manufacturing process, a long-lasting washing machine will generate over two decades, 1.1 tonnes less CO2 than a short-lived model”. So even by purchasing a new machine that claims to be more environmentally efficient, you may be doing a better service by repairing your old machine – as well as saving your money!

Backing all of this up on a ground level, we have the Restart project. A “people-powered project”, they “aim to fix our relationship with electronics”. They run regular Restart Parties where people are taught to repair their broken electronics as well as going into schools and organizations. They say: “The Restart Project was born in 2013 out of our frustration with the throwaway, consumerist model of electronics that we’ve been sold, and the growing mountain of e-waste that it’s leaving behind. By bringing people together to share skills and gain the confidence to open up their stuff, we give people a hands-on way of making a difference, as well as a way to talk about the wider issue and what products we want.”

Now they are being listened to, and their campaign is being taken seriously in the UK and the EU, this can only be a good move for both the consumer and the environment, not to mention the communities that this is bringing together.

Ironfire want to help promote Sustainable design for made to last furniture as their contribution.

So, if you want a piece of furniture that will prove a worthy investment that will last for years, from a company who will provide you with new replacement parts for if it breaks or looks tired further down the line….(It’s worth looking at some of the tweets to Restart from people who have sent in photos of their ovens and toasters that are still going strong after fifty plus years!). Let us know your thoughts on this, as well as any companies you have come across who maintain the repair, re-use ethos, or who just simply make products that last for years!

Interior Bloggers That We Love

Interior Bloggers

We’re always looking for interior Blogger inspiration at IronFire.

both for styling shoots of our own products but also we’re taking an active interest in the interiors of our own homes. I can waste hours away flicking through Pinterest and Instagram for ideas but sometimes you find you need something to read alongside the beautiful images. Discovering the world of interior design bloggers – was something of an eye-opener for me, possibly because of my age I have missed out on that whole blogger/vlogger thing and find that the culture of influencers has bypassed me too. To have discovered that there is such a large network of interior bloggers who take the time out to write, photograph and post all about their lives and their homes leaves me wondering how they find the time to do anything else apart from putting the interior design blog together whilst ensuring that the area in their home they’re are taking photos of is tidy!

Not only for inspiration and ideas, interior bloggers have also given me another way to waste my evenings – browsing their sites. If you are looking for a good reason to ignore the washing up, boyfriend or football,

Here are our favourite Interior Bloggers from a selection of hundreds.

Let us know if you agree or there are any you think that I have missed that I need to check out!

Swoon Worthy

Kimberly who runs Swoon Worthy describes herself as an ‘unashamed maximalist” and describes her style as “Eclectic Boho Glam”. This makes itself very clear from the content of the blog with luxe golds and animal prints featuring throughout. The flow of the homepage especially is really enchanting and completely different from that of many interior bloggers who stick to the same theme, fonts and colours so this blog really is quite refreshing in that respect. Loads of advice is given, including how to achieve certain looks on smaller budgets. The transparency on this blog is also great – while there are affiliate links provided for shops and products, it is made clear that they are sponsored links and the items shown in these still fit in with the whole theme of the site. Honest, different and interesting – for us, 3 very important things!

HomeGirl London

For this blog, again, the initial attraction lay in the bold homepage layout and blocky fonts which make it stand out with confidence, and by no means squander in the mire of other blogs. Standing out for me are the “Shop Snoop” features in which she actually visits physical stores in London rather than just linking to products online. This makes Homegirl London more of a real person rather than just a face behind a screen in some way – even though there is no proper formal introduction as appears to be standard for bloggers. The ironic thing here being that there is a distinct lack of selfies or “blogger gazing into the distance” images which again is really refreshing, making the blog more interesting and informative rather than relying on how much she loves her cats. (Disclaimer: I am not insinuating that she does not love her cats; I’m not even aware if she owns any but I’m sure if she does then they are very well looked after). “Trends” and “Finds” are all included here along with places to shop and eat in London, all giving this blog a real air of authenticity, originality and rawness which we love.

My WareHouse Home

Industrial style interiors have always been at the forefront of our designs and products, and if this is the style for you then My Warehouse Home could be your perfect partner. Packed full of images of exposed brick walls, loft apartments and styling that will make you want to start stripping the plaster on the walls of your uninspiring semi away, this blog (as well as their website and magazine which we also recommend) is slightly dark but very fabulous. Don’t come here if you are looking for pastel pink walls that are not set off against rough timber or metalwork. This is the film star of the interior blogs if you like – one you gaze at with an open mouth and envious eyes but know you possibly won’t ever get close enough to touch with the envy inducing high ceilings in the amazing homes included. The warehouse home touches that you can give to your home featured in here however, can be the equivalent of that Johnny Depp poster on your wall. With features such as “Meet the Designer”, “Real Homes” and “Five of the Best”, there’s enough information here to keep you going for days. It’s a no-frills approach which could not fit the brief any better. A clear brand and voice throughout this blog and site makes this, for us, an absolute go-to.

Smart Style Interiors

Primarily an interior designer, in this blog Phoebe shares ideas and encouragement on how to develop your home for the better. The language is refreshing and enthusiastic and from reading one blog alone you are almost out the door with your Farrow and Ball paint chart to tart up your walls with bright colours that you have previously hidden from. Well written and with great images, this blog really feels like you are getting value for your reading time and it’s so nice to read a blog that isn’t full of sponsored links from people trying to convince you of how great their new ironing board is (#ad). This makes it genuine and you end up really liking Phoebe and her advice and ideas from which you get the sense that she just wants to help you brighten your home and not just sell you things that she claims to use in her own…60/30/10 rule anyone??

If these aren’t enough to keep you going throughout the next week or so of football games, you can, of course, always go through our back catalogue…..

Mothering Sunday Release Servants and Child Labour

Shou Sugi Ban
Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent and the day from which we release our servants and child labour from their mundane tasks to let them visit their mothering church while picking wild flowers for their own mother on the way there….ahhh we remember the 1700’s well and fondly before a time of taking half an hour to pick the right card (Mum takes offence if the words inside aren’t just right), having to book a table for a Sunday lunch well before the end of January to save yourself cooking (I’m a mother too you know!) and having an inner turmoil over whether flowers are a bit too run of the mill for a gift. Mothers are special for the majority of people (to my children at the moment it’s more embarrassing than special but we’re supposed to be, right?) and without argument need some kind of day to be recognised, as a break from the endless drudgery of night feeds, school runs, taxi runs and child minding duties depending on what stage of childhood your little ones are at. For the Next Star Mums competition, the celebration is for Mums who are special for various reasons that break away from the run of the mill mum-reliability. One of the competition nominees, for example, is Lisa Wells, a local mum from Frome who is raising money relentlessly while fighting cancer to ensure her daughters can be looked after once she has died. (More info on Lisa here). The competition has however come under vicious scrutiny for the lack of diversity across its judging panel which consists of white, slim, middle class women (I wasn’t asked on a pure chubbiness factor). I think though that the arguments surrounding the judging panel, while relevant, have actually overlooked the main factor of the competition. Rather than awarding “Mum of the Year” accolades to celebrities such as one of last years winners, reality TV star Amy Childs, these awards are looking at “real” mums who don’t have a sunny holiday every 2 months, a personal chef, waxer, shopper….I could go on. These are REAL mums who don’t ask for accolades, just simply get on with it – and for these nominees, it is in the face of difficulties. For the celebrity mums, the money they have will alleviate many of the pressures of every day life that most of us worry about, yet the pressures that they feel themselves will be of a different angle in which they can be publicly criticised for the way that they live their lives. So why does anyone feel the need to pit women against each other, when everyone is trying their best to do their best for the children, whether tiny or grown up, in their care? Celebrity, unknown, rich or poor, all Mothers should be celebrated on the same level – which is why we think that all of the mothers in the Next Star Mum awards should be equal winners. And not just them. All of us. Don’t wait for your children to buy you gifts to thank you for doing what you do as a matter of course. Treat yourself – whether flowers, chocolates, a massage or an industrial style coffee table (sorry!). And make the day about the wild flowers that your children have picked as a symbol of appreciation for everything that you do.

The Home Bar for the Antisocial

Less and less people are visiting pubs and bars in the evenings now (data source: me, I moonlight as a barmaid) due to the rising costs of alcohol and possibly the current weather situation (snow. I didn’t want to mention it but it’s relevant right now). Having friends round for food and drink is one of my favourite things to do, keeping social events in-house means a cheaper evening as well as not having to worry about getting home, for me anyway! However, a sticky coffee table or worktop is never a good look, so impressing guests with a well put-together mini-bar as seen on Madmen and anyone else who has kept their house 1950’s style has to be the way forward. It doesn’t have to be an expensive minesweep of the alcohol aisle in your supermarket though – so here are our tips on how to impress your guests before they have drunk too many of your homemade cocktails!  
  • Alcohol. Don’t waste money on random spirits that taste of the 1990’s and are going to end up being swigged out of the bottle come 2am. Stick to the basics of good quality Vodka (Cosmopolitans), Gin (Martinis), Rum (dark, white or spiced, or all 3!) and Tequila (Margarita). From these you have the basis for a LOT of cocktails, plus anyone who drinks shorts or shots will likely be drinking one of these. From here, you can build up your collection in the future based on which cocktails you want to serve, and which of your friends are holding onto their teenage tastebuds! (Taboo and lemonade anyone!)
 
  • Mixers. Standard selection – fat cola, thin cola, lemonade and juices! But don’t forget to stock good quality tonic water for the ever-popular G&Ts (Fentimans won this taste test), and soda. If you want to really impress, you can get an old style soda syphon which is also handy for squirting at any overly loud guests!
 
  • Garnishes. Often missed but can add that extra special touch to a drink! Obviously fresh lemon and lime slices, but different brands of gin will work well with different garnishes, so if you have a Hendricks drinker for example, make sure you have cucumber for their drink. Salt is required for the rims of cocktail glasses and tequila slammers; olives for a martini; ice as no-one likes a warm drink, and if you’re serving Babycham then you need maraschino cherries on a stick!
 
  • Glasses. Highballs, martini, rocks…these are probably the main basis for your drinkers, and the aesthetics of a drink are always improved if they’re served in something a bit nicer than a chipped Father Christmas mug!
 
  • Equipment. Nice cocktail shakers, strainers and ice-buckets can be found in lots of online shops and save you stirring your drink with teaspoons….Also worth investing in a nice cocktail book for ideas and inspiration, although there are also lots of apps you can download to help you with how much to add to what. If you do decide to have straws, try to get eco-friendly ones, such as these from eco-strawz.
 
  • Storage. From the information above, you can see that you can add as much or as little as you want to your home bar, which obviously then will help you decide how large or small to go with your storage of it all. Which is where we come in! (I know, you were waiting for the IronFire link to this blog post!). Our industrial style console tables come in 21 sizes so are suitable for any space whether you are intending to stock only 2 gins, or a full range to rival any gin bar. And if you want to go full pelt, with wines, lagers, the lot, have a look at our racking. Newly developed, we can make multiple configurations for a commercial bar space (this isn’t a recommendation for you to start selling your cocktails to your neighbours – I’m pretty sure you need a licence for this) or a larger home bar.
 
  • Nuts. No bar is complete without bowls of nuts, crisps or similar to soak up the alcohol slightly! I know this may be a bit of a wasted effort, but at least they provide a small amount of sustenance for the barperson!
  Never again will your drinks evenings be full of flat cola and cocktails that fail to impress, enjoy, and don’t forget my invite!