Design Consultant Abigail Hall shares her ideas for simple home projects, using local suppliers and tradespeople, that will ease the self-isolation monotony
There’s never been a more important time to create a home that makes you feel happy. In these unprecedented times I urge you to support your local suppliers, craftspeople and artisans whose businesses may be suffering. These are a few projects I’ll be undertaking, perhaps they will inspire something in your home too…
Grouting is one of the easiest DIY jobs and can make a bathroom or kitchen look as good as new. There are no end of online tutorials to talk you through the process although, if this is your first foray, start on something small such as a splash back. First, choose your grout colour; Mapei have a huge range which you can browse online. You may also need a grout scrape (to cut out old grout), a putty knife (to apply new grout), a grout float (to spread the grout), grout sealant (to prevent moisture working its way into the grout and under the tiles) and mastic (to seal joints). Your local hardware store can advise on quantities and tools and you should be able to buy everything you need over the phone.
We’ve all been so distracted by what’s going on that we might not have noticed that Spring has sprung. The positive impact that plants have on our wellbeing is indisputable and if you don’t have the luxury of a garden or patio, bringing the outside in is a vital mood-booster. The RHS website is a great resource to browse plants and find advice on their upkeep, watering and feeding regimes. While your local independent plant shop and garden centre will be able to supply everything you need to create a mini oasis, even if you only have a window sill. Supplies can often be delivered to your kerb or doorstep to minimise interaction.
DIY paint project
Do you have a room with a distinctive theme or colour? A chic way of drawing the eye to the entrance of this room is to paint the door trim in a complementary accent colour. You can do this with a primer, some acrylic paint and a paintbrush. Acrylic paints are a great way to get strong pigment without a high price tag and you can order them from your local art shop. I’ve recently done this with a Windsor and Newton acrylic paint. First, I primed the timber door with wood primer (this stops the paint being absorbed into the timber and helps to prevent the paint from sticking to the trim). I then applied three coats of acrylic, which took about five minutes each application. I don’t trust my painting skills, so I put masking tape down each side of the trim, then had the great satisfaction of peeling it off to reveal the perfect edge.
(LEFT) PARQUET FLOORING IN RURAL OAK BY AMTICO; (RIGHT) PAINTED DOOR TRIM
Prepare for new flooring
If you’re noticing areas of flooring which are worn or lifting, or perhaps you have a stain or simply want a refresh, why not make a start on your flooring project. Once you have an idea of the material and style you’d like – there is no shortage of inspiration online – call your local flooring company and enquire if they supply anything similar. It’s always worth having a conversation; I have found absolute gems of vinyl flooring which have transformed kitchens, which weren’t listed on their website but were hidden away in a stock room. Carpet, timber and vinyl samples can be sent to you at home so you can check colours and patterns, stand on them and see how they feel before deciding. Send your floor measurements to your supplier and they will work out how much you need and advise on underlay and trim. While we can’t have it fitted immediately, at least the hard work is done.
Fix those hinges
Are those stiff door hinges and sticky curtain tracks driving you mad? Your answer could be trusty old WD-40 – your local independent hardware store can post this to you. WD-40 is a water-repelling lubricant which comes with a nozzle and a small tube for precise applications. When applying to door hinges, spray it little by little to avoid getting the lubricant on anything else; it can be wiped off gloss paint but will quickly soak into unfinished timber or painted plaster walls, so be careful. If you have a set of curtains on tracks (these are usually made from white plastic with individual plastic runners) and find that they stick when you open and close them, apply some WD-40 to a kitchen towel and run it along the length of the track. Again, be careful that it doesn’t touch the curtains, pelmet or blinds. Open and close the curtains a few times, et voila, you should find them far easier to move.
Plan your reupholstery project
All fabric furniture suffers wear and tear, especially when it takes a regular battering from children and pets. Reupholstering is the best and most sustainable way of giving a piece you love and which you know fits the space, a new lease of life. And while you may not be able to complete your project, you can get everything ready to go. Search online for fabric inspiration and when you find a print you like, search out your local stockist. They should then be able to arrange a sample to be sent to your house. Don’t forget to double check that the fabric is designed for the purpose and check that the colour and texture works in the space by looking at them in situ in different lights at different times of day. Send your upholsterer photos, measurements and the fabric you would like to use and they will be able to advise on the quantity needed for your project. All of this can be planned and costed from the comfort of your soon-to-be-refurbished sofa.
Pick your pots
Have you found yourself absorbed in The Good Life yet? Personally, I am more Margo Leadbetter than Barbara Good, but if you are hankering after some home-grown goodness, now is a great time to start. There is so much planting advice online, so I am going to focus on the pots. I recommend a dedicated area for your vegetables, so you can be sure that the soil is sound and you don’t accidently eat a decorative plant. I don’t believe that vegetable planters should be different from your current garden / terrace aesthetic; if you love colourful ceramic, plant your tomatoes in that, if you prefer simple terracotta, your lettuces will love this too. Your local garden centre can advise on the correct sized pot for the root system of your chosen vegetable. And don’t forget pot feet to ensure you are getting the correct drainage. It is so much easier to add feet to pots when they are still empty and light, rather than when they are full of soil and weigh a tonne.
From curtains to textured cushions, duvets and pillows; lots of interior fabrics require specialist cleaning and most local independent drycleaners offer this. They may also be able to collect and deliver. There’s no better time for a proper Spring clean.
Call your handyman
While we should avoid people coming in to our houses right now, we can still have work done to our outside space. As the days are getting longer and the weather is dryer, now is a great time to get to grips with jet washing driveways and patios, painting fences or sheds and addressing flaking paint on window frames. While many of us are frantically juggling work and homeschooling, you may need extra help mowing the lawn, tidying flower beds, or fixing a gate post and, if you have the means, your local handyman is likely to be grateful for the work in the current climate. If you know someone already, please reach out to them. Otherwise you can usually find recommendations on local Facebook groups, forums or websites such as Task Rabbit or NextDoor.
Build an insect hotel
Not only are insects a fundamental part of our outdoor biodiversity, they are natural predators for the aphids and other critters which eat our decorative plants. Building an insect hotel for your outdoor space will also keep the children occupied for an afternoon. It’s a win, win! There are lots of simple designs and step-by-step guides online and your local timber merchant should be able to supply and deliver all kinds of timber, including off cuts. They may even be able to supply saw dust and wood chippings which make the perfect cosy hotel filling to keep bugs in the lap of luxury.
Share your joy and successes with these projects with your friends, family and on social media using #thestayingincrowd. Encourage others to take positive steps in their homes and use local businesses and tradespeople to keep our design economy going.
Designer, speaker and author Abigail Hall is a disrupter, challenging the way building fit out and interior design has been done over recent decades. Abi works in two worlds; in construction, where the technical specification and price are the driving factors and in design, where the aesthetic finish is everything. The reality of a great product is ‘function first and aesthetic after’ and Abi’s years of experience commissioning, designing and fitting out properties across the globe has given her a sharp eye for quality, function and form. Visit www.abigailhall.design where you can find access to her podcast, Every Day Design, a link to her book and more on her design philosophy.