Enforced time at home has led to a DIY explosion around the country. Home-improvement stores were crammed the weekend before lockdown restrictions started, and paint brands are reporting a huge increase in demand as, while self-isolating, we feel compelled to deal with the tatty paintwork and grubby grout we can no longer ignore.
If you’re poised to start tackling some DIY jobs in your own home, it’s worth choosing your task wisely, and being aware of your own limitations. New research from Victorian Plumbing looked into the most stressful DIY tasks, and topping the list was plastering the ceiling, followed by hanging wallpaper and unblocking drains – all probably best avoided while you can’t call on a professional to come and fix mistakes. But there are plenty of more achievable and hugely rewarding decorating fixes and hacks that can make a big change to your interior, and are enjoyable to do.
If you’ve got time on your hands…
Try a woodwork refresh
“I can’t be the only one with a can or five of water-based eggshell paint in the cellar,” says interiors blogger Bianca Hall, whose blog Frenchforpineapple.com is full of decor ideas. If you do too, or if you can order online, consider using this time to freshen up your skirting boards, dado or picture rails and cornices. “Freshly painted woodwork really does smarten up a space,” she adds.
“Make sure you do your prep so you get a good professional finish. Fill cracks where necessary first with an appropriate wood filler, sand when dry, then give the whole surface a quick sand to create a key, so the paint adheres properly. Wash down with sugar soap and a damp sponge, allow to dry, then you’re ready to paint. I always use a water-based eggshell paint for interior woodwork. If you’re going over old water-based eggshell, there’s no need to prime, but if you’re going from dark to light, or just want to do it by the book, use a good primer first, like Zinsser 123. Prime, then go in with two coats of colour, and voila.”
Plan a whole new look
“It’s entirely possible that the longer I sit and stare at the same walls the more zany plans for rearranging the space I will come up with,” says interiors writer Kate Watson-Smyth, whose new book, 101 Interior Design Answers (Pavilion Books, £19.99) couldn’t be more timely. She predicts that soft, calming shades will be in demand right now as we aim to create soothing spaces at home.
“That said, why not add a touch of vibrant colour on the woodwork or ceilings? Soft pink walls with forest green skirting boards, or pale green walls with ochre woodwork and ceilings. Decorating like that will give a calm feeling to the space but the bright details will remind you that there is life outside to be had after this.”
Try some upholstery
If you can buy some fabric online – or if, perhaps, you have already – try your hand at some basic re-covering. “I reckon I could do a pretty good job of changing the material and making an old chair look like new with a staple gun and some glue,” says Watson-Smyth. If a chair seems a bit much, try re-covering a worn headboard – a more forgiving option as no one will see the back of it. A blanket or throw can be repurposed in this way too, if you can’t get hold of fabric.
Smarten up your tiles
It might be a while before you can get a tiler in, but if tired-looking tiles are getting you down, try painting them instead. Take some time to clean and scour them beforehand, and to remove any limescale or grout from the surface of the tiles for an even finish. Then simply paint over the tiles and the grout. Dulux and Johnstone’s both produce tile paint in a limited range of colours, or try Frenchic’s self-sealing Al Fresco outdoor paint range, which comes in 21 colours and is low in VOCs.
If you’re looking for a quick fix…
Use colour-blocking to create a feature wall
Bianca Hall created this effective look (above) in her own dining room by painting a pink square behind a grid of nine prints. The square is exactly 10cm wider than the print grid, which has the effect of unifying them and giving them the feel of one large artwork. “It really draws the eye in, and is also a brilliant way to introduce some colour without committing to painting the whole room,” she says.
Hall advises masking off the shape with decorator’s tape (Frog Tape or Prodec) and running a credit card along the tape to make sure it’s properly adhered. “A good trick is to paint over the inner edge of the tape with the original wall colour if you have it available, to create a seal,” she says. “Wait for it to dry, then paint two coats of your colour-block colour and carefully remove the tape before the paint fully dries.”
Revamp a radiator
Painting a radiator is a job that is fairly quick to do but can make a big decorative difference. This works best with eggshell for a flat finish, if you want it to blend in, or satin or gloss for a shiny effect that will contrast with matt walls. Make sure the radiator is turned off, wash it down with warm water and detergent and allow it to dry fully.
Start with the side edges, then move on to the face and work in small sections, painting the tops and bottoms of the mouldings and blending in the middle. Then finish with the top and bottom edges and blend in.
Add splashes of colour and pattern
“If you are wary of bright colours, then always start small and use it somewhere where you don’t spend a huge amount of time,” says Farrow & Ball’s colour consultant Joa Studholme. “The use of a bold colour on the interior of a kitchen cupboard can’t fail to make you smile and brighten your day, and if you have any leftover wallpaper it always adds an extra chic twist to the inside of a cupboard.”
Another tip of Studholme’s is to use a moody paint colour on your staircase, to create a dark backbone that runs through your house. That’s a big job, but she suggests making it easier by painting just the spindles, or, if you have wooden stairs, a runner down the middle.