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Brush up on your DIY

A spot of DIY can be good for your head, heart and home. Nathalie Marquez Courtney turns to Ireland's queens of upcycling for tips

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Now’s the time to inject some cheery colour into your home — doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

Now’s the time to inject some cheery colour into your home — doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

Now’s the time to inject some cheery colour into your home — doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

Now’s the time to inject some cheery colour into your home — doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

Now is the time to inject some cheery colour into your home - doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

Now is the time to inject some cheery colour into your home - doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

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Now’s the time to inject some cheery colour into your home — doors and small furniture pieces are ideal beginner projects, says Instagrammer Joanne Condon

When lockdown first hit, I had the very best of intentions to declutter, DIY and upcycle my way through the crisis. But that was before I realised how long just emptying and refilling the dishwasher 12 times a day would take (seriously - has it gotten smaller?). And then came the excuse that hardware shops were closed.

Now that we are making our first tentative steps back to some kind of normality, my cloud of lethargy is starting to lift, the sun is continuing to shine (at times) and the prospect of a few DIY jobs no longer fills me with dread.

Who better to motivate and inspire me to pick up a brush than Joanne Condon? An award-winning Instagrammer (@joannecondon), the Tipperary-based upcycled furniture artist reckons this is the perfect time to get DIY-ing. "You can never enjoy the process when you're rushing it," she says. "And then if something goes wrong, you end up being stuck with it. But with a bit of time, you can prep properly and enjoy it so much more.

"Painting can be so therapeutic, it's one of those things you can get totally lost in," Joanne enthuses. "I know a lot of people say, 'Oh, I couldn't do it, I don't like painting', but so often it's because they were stuck for time or used bad tools."

Joanne, who runs online courses and shares her colourful paint projects with more than 19,000 Instagram followers, likes to listen to podcasts or audiobooks while she works. "It's one of the few tasks you can actually zone out during, and listen to something with," she says, "We're going to be in our homes more often than not now, so you need to have a bit of peace of mind in your home and you need to be happy in your surroundings." Painting can give you both.

It helps to start small - you'll get the rush of completing a project, plus learn from your mistakes on a fixable scale. "If you feel a bit fearful or daunted, go up to your garage or attic and just get something that you can experiment and play around with," advises Joanne. "Once you start on something it sparks the next project, it's a snowball effect."

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Keep it handy, €11.49: The Zibra Palm Pro paintbrush is small and lightweight, perfect for furniture and getting into tricky spots; thepainthub.ie

Keep it handy, €11.49: The Zibra Palm Pro paintbrush is small and lightweight, perfect for furniture and getting into tricky spots; thepainthub.ie

It’s all bright, from €8: A versatile and durable paint designed to withstand regular washing, the Helmi 10 from specialist Finnish paint brand Helmi is perfect for making over furniture; thepainthub.ie

It’s all bright, from €8: A versatile and durable paint designed to withstand regular washing, the Helmi 10 from specialist Finnish paint brand Helmi is perfect for making over furniture; thepainthub.ie

I can’t believe it’s not tile, €23.95: This large ‘tile-inspired’ floor stencil will liven up a dull floor; NicoletteTabram on etsy.com

I can’t believe it’s not tile, €23.95: This large ‘tile-inspired’ floor stencil will liven up a dull floor; NicoletteTabram on etsy.com

Can you handle it, €9: Upgrade the handles on your upcycled drawers for the ultimate finishing touch; prettypegs.com

Can you handle it, €9: Upgrade the handles on your upcycled drawers for the ultimate finishing touch; prettypegs.com

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Keep it handy, €11.49: The Zibra Palm Pro paintbrush is small and lightweight, perfect for furniture and getting into tricky spots; thepainthub.ie

Katrina Carroll, who runs the hugely popular Instagram account @vintageirishkat, agrees. "Take your time and keep it as simple as possible. Don't go for anything too extravagant - the aim is to try and build up your confidence and help you realise that you can actually be quite good at this."

For a quick and instant boost, kitchen chairs, doors and cabinets are great beginner projects that can quickly brighten things up. What's a DIY blogger's number one tip? Don't feel you have to play it safe with colour. "Your personality comes out through your interiors so never be afraid of colour," advises Joanne.

"Go with what you like. Sometimes you can ask someone for their opinion on a colour and it can put you off, but if you can visualise it and you love it, go for it."

"Paint is something you can't really go wrong with it," says Katrina, adding with a laugh: "Because if you do go wrong, you can always paint over it!"

If you're haunted by memories of picking brush bristles out of walls or cleaning paint splurges from your floor, it's time to upgrade your equipment. Decent tools also effect how enjoyable - or not - you find the whole endeavour. You really need just a handful of tools; a good brush and roller, a tray, sugar soap and a sander.

Joanne also has a top tip to help with clean up: "I always put tinfoil in my paint trays before I use them so that I can just remove it when I'm done and the tray is perfect," she says. "It makes moving on to the next paint job much easier too."

Another often overlooked tool is the humble stencil; it has come a long way and stencilling kits are now widely available online in a range of cool, contemporary designs with easy-to-follow guides "So many people spend crazy money on tiles but you can easily get that tile effect if you use the right paints," says Katrina. "If you prep and prime properly, it will last you years."

The beauty of painting is that it so often leads to further improvements. Whether recently whitewashed walls motivate you to give the rugs a good clean or upcycling a chest of drawers inspires you to order cute new handles, painting can kick off a virtuous cycle of further upgrades around the home.

"If you're going to paint, say, a chest of drawers, then that's the perfect time to declutter any pieces of furniture that you have and clear them out completely before you start," says Joanne.

"I go around the house I make a list of all those small jobs that go with painting projects - maybe chipping off paint or giving something a good deep clean - and I love just ticking them off as I go. There's nothing more satisfying than that."

 

Upcycling 101: The basic tools

Brush: A bad brush will give a bad finish, no doubt about it. Spend here. It's especially important to get a comfortable brush for fiddly jobs such as window frames.

Brush comb: These only cost a few euro but hugely extend the life of a paintbrush.

Sanding paper or a sanding block: Go for a medium sanding block so as not to scratch your furniture. If you can afford it, invest in a ceramic block, which lasts longer.

Sugar soap: Essential for lifting all the dirt and grime off your walls before you get painting. There are a lot of different brands at different price points so experiment to find the one that's right for you.

Primer: Never skip the primer stage when painting bare wood. "If you miss the priming stage, you're in trouble," says Joanne.

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