Homespun wisdom: How to redo every room in the house without breaking the bank
Think you can't afford to give your home the update it needs? Think again, says Selina Lake.
Affordable, cheerful, comfortable and eminently achievable, "Homespun Style" is also a colourful, artfully wonky DIY look that taps into the current national mood. Representing a backlash against the frenzied consumerism that bridged the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, it is an aesthetic that sticks two fingers up at any straggling, expensively designed vestiges of sleek, white Noughties minimalism, and the idea that one ought to keep up with the neighbours.
It is also the title of a new book by the stylist Selina Lake, and her aesthetic provides excellent inspiration for anyone who can't afford to buy, move or redecorate and, thanks to pay freezes kand giant utility bills, are spending more and more budget nights at home, unable to switch off from noticing décor that's ripe for a refresh.
Building on a booming trend for upcycling and eclecticism in interiors, Lake's look clashes vintage textiles and patterns – on anything from hand-made cushion covers to a patchwork of wallpaper scraps; it uses garlands of colourful paper cupcake cases to brighten bare walls, or pages cut from illustrated books, unframed and stuck on the wall with decorative tape; furniture in need of re-upholstering, or just a change, is simply draped with a bright crocheted blanket. While much of it is in-your-face feminine, the book also features clean rooms with tongue-and-grooved white walls and more restrained splashes of colour and a utilitarian take on the hand-made look. Either way, the effect is joyfully imperfect – and liberating.
"With the economy as it is, the 'make do and mend' thing has really taken off," says Lake. "People are trying to save by turning back to yesteryear and revamping their homes by upcycling, recycling and adapting stuff they have."
The low cost is one attraction – but the look also champions individuality, rather than the high street. "It's about creating your own personal space and reflecting your personality," says Lake. "There's lots of mismatching and there aren't really any rules. Use what you already have and see what you can do with it."
If it all sounds intimidatingly craft-y, take heart in the fact that Lake herself only got a sewing machine last year and is still relearning skills she hadn't practised since school. Besides, you don't even need to sew your own cushion covers or bedspreads if that's not your thing.
For example, in her own home, Lake has turned scraps of fabric into décor and made bunting by knotting colourful old hankies together. The Victorian kitchen table on the cover of her book is another example of how simply the idea can be put into practice: the peeling tabletop has been updated with a flowery oilcloth staple-gunned on to it (try cathkidston.co.uk or vivalafrida.co.uk tablecloths). There's also a beautiful patterned lampshade made out of papier-mâché.
If even this sort of DIY-lite sounds like too much hard work, "It doesn't matter," says Lake. "There are so many people hand-making things and so many places to buy the stuff they're making these days." Her favourite destinations are online and include etsy.com, a global marketplace for hand-made everything, en.dawanda.com (a German site that promotes new design talent at affordable prices) and folksy.com, which specialises in modern British craft.
"There are also – if you want to gain a new skill – so many craft classes," she adds. "And sewing cafés are great if you just want to drop in for an afternoon and learn how to make something simple using their machines."
Being a flea-market fanatic helps, too. And interesting fabrics can be found in the bedding sections of charity shops ("I've used loads of vintage pillowcases," she says). And fancymoon.co.uk is "brilliant for really interesting new but vintage style designs – and you can also get longer lengths if you want to make curtains or something bigger".
But even if you don't have the patience or time for such excursions, high-street buys can be transformed to create a homespun effect. The haberdashery departments are helpful – Lake recommends the one in Liberty if you are near London – and multicoloured pompoms crop up throughout the book, tacked around the edges of cushions, to the bottoms of curtains or glued with fabric glue as fringing on lampshades.
Display is another key element. When choosing cupboards (preferably pre-loved), go for glass-fronted. Or simply remove the doors from the ones you have and paint the inside a strong colour if it is wooden. Open shelves, too, can become decorative features, piled with colourful collections, rather than tidying everything out of sight.
Flexibility – as in seeing lots of things in your home as moveable or transferable – is another element. That might be turning those kitchen cupboards you've grown out of into a sitting-room display cabinet. More basically, it could be that you prop framed pictures against walls so they can be shifted about easily to refresh a space, or create an ever-evolving "moodboard". The beauty of "homespun" is that it's stuff you can just decide to add to your interior with minimal effort, and without going spending lots of cash (if any at all). And the Joneses next door definitely won't have anything like it.
'Homespun Style' by Selina Lake is published on 8 March at £19.99
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