Remember those dense how-to manuals of the past? The text-heavy ones that were about as enjoyable as perusing a telephone directory?
Well, the sassy and visually appealing new household repairs guide penned by a Cork woman is the opposite of all that. Since Gaff Goddess: Simple Tips and Tricks to Help You Run Your Home hit the shelves last month, Laura de Barra has become a DIY (or, as she styles it herself, She-IY) sensation and her earthy, down-to-earth edicts have won her legions of fans.
Of course, by the time she penned the book, Laura’s no-nonsense, visual approach had already made her an Instagram hit and won her a cult following and her guide is inspiring men and women of all ages to take control of their homes.
So why is this straight-talking DIY expert the go-to for solutions to those problems all householders encounter? The answer is surprisingly clear. “I’m not going to speak to people as if they are thick,” she told the Irish Examiner.
First posting her ingenious yet simple home hacks on Instagram two years ago, Laura’s developed the book is a labour of love — originally planning to make such advice available to her friends. “It’s a manual in a YouTube kind of format. It’s in language I like with lots of illustrations,” Laura said.
Penguin approached her and the rest is history. “I like to think the tone is that of a ‘big sister’,” said the Douglas native.
Having studied fashion in Edinburgh, Laura moved to London seven years ago. She was a fashion designer for high street shops but the increasing prevalence of fast fashion proved to be a turn-off.
Her boss offered her a position overseeing a property portfolio, which evolved into property managing and buying. Basically, Laura is responsible for everything from solving tenants’ household problems to sorting out repairs and styling interiors.
A tenant herself, she says the rental sector can be forgotten about in the home improvement movement — yet “people who rent are often in need of practical advice on how to fix appliances”, she points out.
Manuals and YouTube tutorials helped turn Laura into an in-demand handywoman and she is evangelical about sharing her skills.
At the centre of Laura’s book is the notion of She-IY, a term she uses to describe her version of DIY and which she says applies to men as well as women. “I was in Tipperary recently and saw a guy my mum’s age reading the book and smiling as he was reading it, I was like, ‘yes!’,” she said.
As a property manager, Laura is adept at solving tenants’ problems and she also became something of a guru for her friends as they moved into new homes, whether rental or otherwise.
The content was “all in my head” so Laura took a few months to write what she describes as “a bible for shit that’s going to happen”. “I was so passionate about the message in it,” she said.
As for the concept of gender stereotyping when it comes to DIY, Laura says men, as well as women, can get “a hard time” when they find they can’t tackle a particular repair job. “This is a tips and tricks guide but I didn’t want it to be full of ‘pink’ and take a ‘guide for dummies’ tone,” she said.
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On Feb 6th, my first book, Gaff Goddess, (packed with my illustrations,) published by @penguinbooksireland, will be hitting the shelves 📚 she’s a DIY bible for EVERYONE. Renter, subletter, long time owner, first time buyer, male, female, young and old. Forget the stereotypes, the #SHEiy revolution is here henny preorder at @eason_ireland @dubraybooks to be in with a chance of winning two fabulous prizes 💄💄💄
Laura has succeeded. The hilarious step-by-step publication will prepare you to handle the most common household emergencies with style. “I aim to help people with everything from dripping taps to hanging a frame, how best to look after your white goods, how to treat moths, mould, and everything in between,” said Laura.
It also offers invaluable design ideas to improve the living spaces in your home. “Basically, this book is for everyone who has ever wanted to tackle a bit of She-IY without really knowing how,” said Laura.
As well as her book, Laura’s Instagram account @lauradebarra is a mine of clever She-IY ideas, and her passion for her work will encourage even the most hesitant tenants or homeowners to discover they really can do it for themselves.
Gaff Goddess by Laura de Barra is published by Transworld Ireland