If you're part of our growing #sorealhomes Instagram community (if not, check it out @real_homes, it's fab), you'll know interior decor Instagrammer Lisa Dawson well. If not, let us introduce you to this doyenne of interior makeovers in her new, monthly column. Lisa's speciality? Mixing modern and vintage finds to create a home that's affordable and packed with character. Here's how she does it – in her own words.
Pssst! Look out for Lisa's home in Real Homes magazine's October issue, on sale from 30th August 2018.
'...the Handy Andy of Pinner and a man who could fit a triple wardrobe with vanity alcove and mirror lighting before you could say 6cm MDF plywood. When not carrying out his day job in the Senior Civil Service, he would plumb bathrooms, lay patios, cable electrics and install kitchens. So you’ll fully appreciate that when I met my husband, Joe, the benchmark was pretty high. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that I’d married a man who barely recognised a rawl plug, and whose understanding of a spirit level was a large gin and tonic.'
'Over the years, Joe has tried hard to up his home improvement skill levels. But not even the Which? How To Do DIY book and a top-of-the-range Stanley Mobile tool kit can disguise the fact that he’d rather chop off his own head than get the drill out. I once left it to my mum to help him put a TV on the wall as the stress was too much and I feared divorce. I returned to find they’d used the wrong drill bit and were stuffing bits of kitchen roll into what looked like sink holes in the wall.
'Subsequently, I’ve embarked on many a DIY job myself over the years. I’ll try pretty much anything before I make the decision to find a man who can (ie, not my husband). A few years ago, I ventured into wallpapering. Our downstairs toilet was adorned with a burgundy rose textured monstrosity which made my eyes bleed. One morning, I decided that enough was enough.'
'It took me 10 minutes to banish the flock, half an hour to pop out for wallpaper and three hours to put it up. The only thing that stopped it being an award-winning decorating performance was the fact that I forgot to buy a wallpaper brush and had to use a shoe duster. A minor setback.'
'Occasionally, my gung-ho approach can lead me into unknown territory. Our sitting room came with a cream carpet – totally unsuitable for a family of five whose children are prone to eating chocolate Hobnobs and a Lhasa Apso dog who is prone to stealing and regurgitating them. In exasperation, I used a screwdriver to peel up the corner and discovered the original floorboards from 1759. I decided that the only thing to do was to bring the boards back to their original beauty by sanding them. Two days, 200 sanding sheets, a ruined manicure and a pair of broken Havaianas later, I was done. It wasn’t the greatest job in the world, but I’d done it alone and within a budget. Winning.'
So what are my top tips to make your home improvement attempts more DIY than SOS?
- Trust your instincts. I have a fear of hidden electrics after seeing my dad electrocute himself by drilling near a light switch. Unless you are totally confident, step away from the drill.
- Know your limits. My hallway has a 30ft ceiling drop. Rather than risk injury working on ladders precariously positioned across banisters, I hired a decorator who knew what he was doing. And who had appropriate insurance.
- Be a can-do person. So much of DIY is just trial and error. Who cares if you get it wrong? You can fill a hole, you can repaint a room. Try before you call in the tradesmen. My next challenge? I’m stripping the dining room wallpaper and tiling our home bar, a job I haven’t tried before, but I’m looking forward to proving I can. And what’ll Joe be doing? He’ll be standing behind it, cheering me on with a large gin and tonic. ‘