Home interiors: Be brave and do it yourself

Don't be intimidated, says Kate Watson-Smyth. All you need is a bit of expert advice
Click to follow

Just because selling up has become a dream and money is short doesn't mean we can't take pride in where we live now. Maybe you can't afford a new kitchen, but there are little things you can do to brighten up your living space and give it a new lease of life. Sometimes it's not ideas we're short of, but know-how. And don't you resent having to call a handy man for simple jobs you ought to be able to do yourself? It's time to work these things out for ourselves – with help from the experts.

First, let's look at what help is out there. Videojug.com has several short films showing everything from how to put up shelves on plasterboard, to tiling a wall or removing a radiator. YouTube has similar videos. Helpwithdiy.com has instructions on everyday jobs, such as installing a washing machine and hanging wallpaper, that can save money.

Now it's on to the experts – who have masses of ideas about how to do up your home on a shoestring.

Abigail Ahern

Abigail Ahern is a designer and stylist whose shop showcases original one-off finds as well as work by young designers and established names. Her book, A Girl's Guide to Decorating, is out in June, offering design advice and explaining all the major decorating techniques. She suggests the following tips:

Door handles

If you've got 15 minutes, upgrade boring old door handles. Often overlooked, handles make a huge difference to the overall design of your pad, turning monotonous doors into something eye catching.

Upgrade your stairs

Wants stairs with flair? Try nailing an assortment of old rugs, easily picked up at charity shops and flea markets, to your stairs to make for a global feel, with each step enhanced by a different swatch of rug. This not only injects funkiness to boring old stairs but gives them a luxurious, eclectic and boutique hotel kind of feel.

Cut your rugs to 75 per cent of the width of your stairs (if they are old and frayed turn over the edges). Starting at the top of the stairs place your rug approximately 100mm over the landing floor and staple to the wood at 50mm intervals. Press the rug down over the first riser and tread, and secure along both edges at approximately every 100mm, stapling to both tread and riser.

Revamping rooms

Add character to featureless rooms with a modern take on traditional-style wall panels. Not only will your new walls look like they have been around for ages, but the panels – essentially frames of moulding applied to the walls – are easy to construct. After measuring the walls and determining the number of panels you want, and where you want your panels to be, order pre-cut mitred pieces (ends cut at 45-degree angles) of moulding (two vertical, two horizontal for each panel). Dot with adhesive and using a spirit level press the panel to the wall (the first piece should be the vertical one closest to the corner). Depending on the condition of your walls, you may need to nail or screw the lengths of moulding to make the panels robust. Repeat the process for the remaining three sides of the panel. Sand, and paint as per your wall colour in a sexy defining hue.

Naomi Cleaver

Naomi Cleaver is an interior designer and television presenter whose work encompasses both design and architecture. She recommends:

Painting furniture

When you're painting a table or chair, knock a small nail into the bottom of each of the legs. With the furniture resting on these nails you will be able to paint the legs all the way down to the bottom without them sticking to the newspaper or dustsheet you have laid underneath to protect the floor.

A personal touch

I'm a little phobic when it comes to power tools, but I feel safe with scissors and I love découpage. Collect a whole load of printed images – magazines are an obvious sources but think about secondhand books and newspapers as well as old maps, posters and even discarded packaging. Cut them out and stick them to walls, ceilings and, most successfully I feel, to furniture. This can revivify any living space, not only with colour and texture but also with a peculiarly personal sort of surrealism. When your design is finished, add a coat of varnish. Remember you can continue to add images to change the look and varnish as you go along.

Graham Powell

Graham Powell runs an art gallery in north London ( www.grahamfineart.com; 020-8341 2526) and offers this help to anyone who update their pictures :

Hanging pictures

You need a tape measure, spirit level, pencil and preferably two pairs of hands. For heavy pictures you will need a drill, Rawlplugs and a screwdriver.

Choose a theme – either by artist, medium, or colour – and lay the pictures flat on the floor to give you an idea of how they could look on the wall.

Measure the whole space, find the centre and work outwards from there. Use two hooks per picture with 10-40cm between each one. This will ensure that the picture stays level when hung. If you are hanging a row, the middle of the picture should be roughly at head height when you stand in front of it.

If you can't afford new work, why not re-mount frame your old pictures? Or move pictures into different rooms. Failing that, sell them and use the money for new works!