Lockdown has seen the level of interest in interior design and DIYrenovations soar during the past year, as people look for ways to keep themselves occupied at home. We’ve spent more time in our houses than ever before – prompting many to transform their living spaces without professional help.
But if you’re looking to really transform a space, be that your bedroom, kitchen or bathroom, then perhaps it’s time for a spot of DIY.
While it can be difficult to take the first step, Rachel Bell, known as Rach and Her Home on Instagram, says to “trust the process” and be prepared that it “might take more time than you wanted it to”. “Doing things yourself means conducting research, drawing out plans, double and triple-checking measurements and, of course, sparing the time to get it done. All of this takes longer when you’re on a budget and don’t have tradesmen to hand,” she says.
As for Nadine of Rona Renovation, she suggests that “if you know anyone who has renovated, ask them all the questions”. She also heralds YouTube as an essential resource – but be sure not to touch the plumbing or electrics unless you’re a professional.
In order to help you achieve your own DIY dreams, we spoke to some of our favourite influencers who have been sharing their projects and experiences on Instagram. Having asked them their tips and tricks, as well as the tools and items they constantly reach for when completing a task, we’ve been able to compile a comprehensive beginner’s guide.
From learning how to create faux terrazzo tiles, to the multi-purpose tool that you absolutely need, it’s time to transform your space from a house to a home.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Luke Arthur Wells
Designer, stylist and content creator Luke Arthur Wells has the home of his dreams, with its modern and sleek interiors. Wells’s Instagram provides tips on everything from creating a DIY headboard to a feature plant wall. It was the latter we were intrigued to find out how he created, and thankfully he’s shared his process with us.
Owing to the increased popularity of vertical “living walls”, more brands have come out with kits to make them easy to install, says Wells. The one he used was from Wonderwall (from £35.99), which can be used both indoors and in the garden. It only requires a drill and screwdriver to install. if you’re searching for a drill, we’d suggest the Bosch advanced impact 18 (Amazon, £147.82), which took the top spot in our guide to the best cordless drills and drivers thanks to it being loaded with innovative features.
Wells says that the tough part comes when choosing which plants to use. He suggests considering what greenery will thrive not only in the location, but also in close proximity to each other, as the plants will compete for sunlight.
He notes that tropical monstera (Canopy Plants, from £20) and ferns (In-Tray Plants, £8) have always thrived in his living wall, but for more advice on which plants are best suited for different areas of your home, read our expert guide to bringing the outdoors in.
As for the tools Wells reaches for to make his DIY projects easier, he calls this Evolution sliding mitre saw (B&Q, £160) one of his favourite tools, since it’s useful for lots of projects that require precise cutting.
Wells has used it for “skirting boards, plaster coving and flooring, as well as for all kinds of my own DIY ideas for the home – such as a slatted wall with a hidden door – and even for framing DIY art”. If you’re looking for something a little bit more compact but still versatile, Wells recommends this Erbauer EMT300-QC electric multi-tool (ScrewFix, £59.99) and notes that it’s “a great investment piece with endless applications”.
Home interiors expert and content creator Michaela Shoebridge is the queen of DIY hacks. If you don’t follow her on Instagram already, we urge you to do so: she posts step-by-steps of all her transformations, from upcycling furniture to creating wall panelling. But it was her recent faux terrazzo floor that caught our eye.
Having disliked the tiles in her home, she discovered this “amazing hack” and has since transformed both her hallway and kitchen. The method, she says is both “cost-effective and hard-wearing, perfect for a temporary solution”. All you need to do is make sure your tiles are clean and grease-free and apply a minimum of two coats of this GoodHome durable cancun satin multi-surface paint (B&Q, £34).
The paint is self-priming which makes it even easier, so all you have to do is apply using a foam roller (B&Q, £12.92) and use a brush to go over any grout, says Shoebridge. Allow a couple of hours for it to dry and then apply the second coat, working in sections.
While the paint is still wet, start sprinkling paint chips on top so they become embedded. She uses these Rust-Oleum mocha blend decorative color chips (eBay, £12.37), which are currently only available to ship from the US. But the Rust-Oleum tan blend decorative chips (homeloft, £33) can be bought from within the UK, if you’d rather.
“Once the full area is done, let it dry overnight,” she says, before applying sealer (Amazon, £11.69), of which she recommends a minimum of two to three coats until the paint chips are “fully covered”. “Be aware that the floor will be slightly textured but absolutely fine to mop, hoover and walk on,” says Shoebridge.
Aside from paint, which she swears by for transforming a space, Shoebridge’s other must-have tool is a staple gun, for quick re-upholstering. She uses the Stanley heavy-duty staple gun (ScrewFix, £25.99).
She also recommends having a wood sander on hand – she likes this Mac Allister corded detail sander (B&Q, £20), which, according to the brand, is compact and easy to use.
Rach and her Home
With no previous DIY experience, Rachel Bell (known as Rach and her Home on Instagram) is in the process of renovating her 1950s semi-detached home affordably. From floor sanding to DIY panelling, and without the budget for tradespeople, she’s taken inspiration from fellow Instagrammers and YouTube tutorials.
She recommends getting yourself “a bargain toolkit with the essentials like a screwdriver, tape measure, spirit gauge and hammer” from Amazon. This H-Spec 53 piece tool set (Amazon, £30.99) contains all the equipment you’ll need to get started.
“All of these tools will be crucial for any projects you decide to do,” says Bell. The case itself is compact, with all the tools locking firmly into place. You’ll be able to complete everything from assembling flat-packed furniture to tapping in or pulling nails.
Bell also suggests a decent ladder. This will be crucial whether you are stripping wallpaper, painting, or measuring the height of walls, and will be useful for years to come. For a heavy-duty buy, we’d suggest this Werner six tread fibreglass step ladder (B&Q, £75).
Featuring slip-resistant steps, this model has a top height of 1.67m, making it ideal for getting to those hard-to-reach areas.
Nadine and her partner Julius bought their Victorian house in south London the same week that Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown. Since then the pair have documented their renovation journey on their Instagram, Rona Renovation.
Posting everything from DIY skirting boards to guides to finding affordable radiators on eBay, it’s an essential account to follow if you’re embarking on your own renovation journey, or if you’re interested in interiors.
As for her recommendation, “this is probably such a bizarre answer” she says, “but invest in a good wet and dry vacuum, especially if you are living in your renovation”. The one she suggests is this Performance Power K-402/12 corded wet and dry vacuum (B&Q, £30).
“A good clean and tidy at the end of every day is an essential part of keeping your sanity and navigating living in dirt and dust,” she notes. “We borrowed our builder’s vacuum for months, but when he finished up and took all his tools with him, I went straight to a hardware merchant and bought one, because we used it twice daily.”
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