Block judge and interior designer, Darren Palmer.
Block judge and interior designer, Darren Palmer. Martin Philbey

Find your DIY-mojo with these top tips

ARE you an accomplished do-it-yourself guru, a weekend dabbler or perhaps somewhere in between?

Can you wield a paint brush with the precision of a samurai swordsman, transform a garage sale find into a prized antique and identify the next trend long before it saturates the market place?

Or, like me, do you spend more time leafing through those beautifully put-together interiors magazines wishing, rather than actually doing? Do you stare longingly at those tester pots at the paint shop, wanting to take the plunge but not bold enough to take the first step? Have you been talking for years about sprucing up your living room or bedroom or kitchen but are yet to change anything, not even that fraying, stained, brown velvet cushion?

Whatever your DIY capabilities and design aspirations, odds are that it won't be long - yes, even you perennial naysayers and procrastinators - before you have a project to call your own.

Research shows us that Australians have embraced the home renovations trend with zeal, far beyond expectations in fact, with our enthusiasm showing no signs of waning.

"People are certainly talking about renovation and decoration projects a lot more, the last three years in particular have gone absolutely crazy," says Shaynna Blaze, design guru and respected judge on Channel 9 show The Block. "People are really engaging with it and we have access to so many beautiful products, so much information and help it seems silly not to give it a go.

"There was a big slump in real estate for a while and people hunkered down and concentrated on adding value to their homes. I think this belt tightening coincided with the rise in reality television renovation shows which inspired people to tackle more. Now of course the market is better and people are selling more but they are tending to use that money to take on bigger renovation projects."

Aside from a sense of satisfaction and purpose, renovation and decorating projects can also be the better value-for- money proposition, adds fellow Block judge and interior designer, Darren Palmer.

"There is constant interest in renovation and many benefits of doing so in contrast to moving," says Darren. "The Block definitely inspires renovators with interesting ideas and makes the whole process attainable and achievable for sure.

"Another reason renovation is so enticing is stamp duty, the cost of which can be in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Given you can improve a home significantly with the same amount of money, the process of renovating does seem like a good use of funds to get value for your money."

But where do you start? While some people relish the idea of a project and don't mind the dust and disarray that can come with it, for others, even just rolling a paintbrush across their walls is a daunting task. And do you opt for trendy choices as you seek to make a splash or do you redecorate for comfort?

"A lot of the shows on TV are about preparing your house to sell it, so working towards a trend and something that appeals to a broad market," says Shaynna.

"When you are doing your own home to live in it should be about you, it should be about comfort, how you live, the colours that you love.

"It means that not everyone is going to love it when they walk into the room but you are not doing it for everybody else. We get caught up in that mentality of not being able to do that which is why in my new book (Design with colour and style) I have done a lot of colour references and how to work with your own home in a different way so it doesn't look perfect all the time but is about you."

If you do want to incorporate trends into your projects, says Shaynna, do so in small doses.

"Don't buy a couch for a trend, don't buy a massive expensive rug that is on trend because it will date," she cautions. "Change the things that are easily affordable, so if you don't have them in 12 months then it won't matter.

"Have fun with the trend that is happening now but don't make them your key looks and colours."

If you are a dogged follower of trends, or even just a casual reader of interior magazines, you will know that like fashionable clothing, they come and go in the blink of an eye.

The must-haves of 12 months ago are so yesterday baby. Say goodbye to contrived interior looks, rustic collections bought from large chain stores and faux finishes. Veer away from dry stone walls, feature walls and pendant lights over the kitchen bench and steer clear of copied iconic designer chairs, overusing copper fixtures and chevron prints. Well, for 2015 at least.

This year, interior design is about a fusion of styles, the old and the new, stylish and comfortable to create interesting, unique living spaces.


"Rose gold, copper, pink and salmon are all currently trending pared with a colour I never thought I'd like, terracotta, not to mention salmon and blush - all beautiful if they're used in contemporary ways," says Darren.

"Colour is in our interiors more than it has been in years too. It seems that the '50s had colour being used in bathroom ware which most people grew tired of over the years and replaced with glossy white, only to have pastel colours come back into style in basins.

"It's not a case of waiting a few decades until it comes back in style though, as good style that's influenced by the past is reinterpreted and re-delivered in fresh and new ways."

For colour inspiration look to dawn and dusk. Soft muted pinks, smoky greys, creamy whites, gentle pastels and metal hues are all getting the nod. Feature walls may be out but zone painting schemes are in, with the adventurous also opting for patterned and textured wallpaper.

At the other end of the spectrum, bold colours are also getting a mention - deep purples and yellows, rich blues and darker pinks. Blue seems to be the new black, think indigos and deep navy, as well as the more popular shades.

"Painting is so simple, it is something a child can do," says Shaynna. "If you want it for the long-term though, you have to look at your preparation and that is what paint stores are so good for, getting something that is going to look good once it's up, getting the right rollers, right brushes etc. If you get those things right it is very easy.

"It can be daunting the first time which is why Taubmans have tapped into paint parties. If you have someone with you, it makes it easier and shares the workload, have fun with it and learn together."

Furniture and fittings

"Experimentation and customisation will be big this year," says Darren "I think people crave a connection with artisan, handmade, rustic things, hence the craft and apothecary movements that are popular currently.

"Modern Scandi is probably appealing for the same reason, with its feeling of hand-turned timber and natural elements like copper and marble being married into traditional mid-century Scandi stuff."

Mixing Scandinavian with French-designed furniture or light industrial functional but well-made pieces also works well. Soften the lines by adding softer, rounded and organic shapes. There is a big push for natural materials like stone, metal, glass and wood and mixing them to create a contemporary authentic feel.

Brass, bronze and gold fixtures, handles and knobs will replace copper and stainless steel while there will be more metal, too, on the bases of sofas, beds, chairs and lighting fixtures.

Finishes and textures

It's back to nature again, with a mix of comfortable and luxurious textures and the emphasis on natural materials like leather, wool and linens to create a casual earthy look. Think soft knitted throws, cow hide chairs or rugs and sheepskin.

Fabrics, too, are about texture and comfort, mirroring the velvet, raw looking weaves and binding, quilting and needlework being seen in winter clothing fashions. Layer worn leathers and velvets with cottons, raw woods and mixed metals, with one bold floral piece.

Matte finishes, with a raw edgy quality, in kitchens and bathrooms will be the preferred look as will marbles and natural stones and sustainably sourced materials.

Bringing the outside in is also important this year, with integrated plant holders in furniture or trellis designs in room dividers, in a combination of rustic and retro styles.

Whichever choices you opt for, says Shaynna, make sure you are having fun in the process and that when you finish you have a room that is a reflection of you. "The things the contestants achieve on The Block is amazing," says Shaynna, "but it is a television show and those guys have a team of professionals behind them. There is no way you can achieve that in the real world in a week. Be realistic and have fun."

Throw a paint party

PAINTING a room is one of the easiest ways to make an effective change in your home but finding the motivation to get started and stick to the task isn't as easy. In fact, a survey by leading paint company Taubmans found 65% of people would be motivated to finally get started on their painting projects if they had more time and could also convince their mates to lend a hand.

"While painting can be seen as a daunting task to some, it is actually one of the easiest, most affordable and, most importantly, fun ways to update a room in your home - I should know, I've been involved in the painting of over 150 homes in my lifetime," says Taubmans colour creative director and brand ambassador, Shaynna Blaze.

"Coating your room with a beautiful new hue is not only a great way to make a change to your space, it's also the perfect excuse to get together with your friends and get the job that you've been putting off, done and dusted for good."

Usher in the paint party.

The idea is simple. Get a few friends around to help you paint your home, have a meal and a few drinks to celebrate when you are done and firm up a time for you to go around to theirs and return the favour.

Taubmans has even put together a 'Paint Party Planning 101' how-to guide (, offering advice on everything from how to pick your paint and prepare the room, to fancy dress and entertainment suggestions.

Darren's take on the top three mistakes renovators make:

Not setting a brief to start with - The brief is what all designers work from but most homeowners keep only the roughest, vague idea of what they want to achieve. Setting a concise brief that outlines what you want to achieve and all the constraints and desires of your particular project up-front means you have the best shot at keeping your project on track and ending up where you planned.

Not doing the math on what to spend and where - While this may be the really boring stuff, without working out what you should spend without over capitalising and knowing what the improvements are going to cost you're flying blind. A bit of due diligence and maths can tell you all the answers you need and what will be of benefit to you and your project.

Not setting a timeline - How long is a piece of string? If you set a project up with no deadline, you could be improving for years.

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