While we adjust to these new times, we can spruce up our interiors with a little effort that offers maximum value, says Carol O’Callaghan
What a coincidence that our incarceration should coincide with the traditional time for spring cleaning and getting our nests in order.
At the moment, there’s a great deal of chatter online about recipes, especially using dried goods inventively, but once you’ve exhausted your supplies, or are simply exhausted from cooking, springtime sprucing up is a natural next step.
A woman who knows a thing or two about the topic is Rachel Hobbs, interior architect and designer, who originally comes from Dublin but is now a resident of Cork.
After completely renovating her own home, which is an old farmhouse in Ballincollig, for herself, her husband and three little children, she says the process has made her a better designer, developing a particular sense of how to cater for families with young children.
So, at a time when lots of families are cooped up together and tackling projects can be tricky with little ones underfoot, Rachel has tips for simple but effective approaches to the three most used spaces in the home.
First up is the living room. “Start by assessing your room and what you use it for,” Rachel says. “Could you use it better? Ask, do I need everything here? If there are things that haven’t been used for a few years take them out, then look at what’s left. It gives you a better mindset and feels lighter physically.” She also encourages some lateral thinking and creativity. Think about multi-use and if there’s a way of storing things like a box with jigsaws and board games. The top can be like a table for colouring. Repositioning furniture will allow better conversations.
“Have layers of lighting in the evening so the main lighting doesn’t have to be on all the time,” she adds.
Rachel also knows the value of cushions to brighten up tired furniture and create a new look, with specific advice about how to use them like a pro.
“Think about scale and materials,” she says. “Mix a plain block of colour with one pattern and one with texture. Put them either end of the sofa. It will look cohesive and cosy.”
After that, she has an idea we might not have thought about, and that’s to reinvent how we use our pictures and photographs. “Start by taking all your pictures down,” she says. “Now you have a blank wall. Think about what you’d really like to put up there. Start at a point and work your way out, keeping the same space between them. It doesn’t matter if the frames don’t match.”
For something even easier to achieve without requiring picture hooks and a hammer, Rachel tackles shelving which might be overdue a decluttering session.
“Display things in threes on a shelf,” she advises. “Choose, for example, a picture frame, a tall vase and a small object, and place them in a triangle rather than a straight line.” But if that’s not enough to keep us going until at least April 19, Rachel suggests tackling the kitchen which probably has even more traffic through it now than normal.
“Clear your counters even if it means putting up extra shelving,” she says. “Use baskets so they look organised. Paint tiles or put on stickers. It could make a massive difference. Change unit door handles. You can shop online for those things but pay attention to handle holes on the doors so your new ones match. Bring greenery in or even fake plants. The kitchen will automatically feel fresher and healthier.”
At a time when bathrooms are working overtime, Rachel advises that we can still make them beautiful and orderly: “Clear as much as possible. Bring in baskets and organise your bits. Think about hanging a piece of art — maybe a gold frame from your sitting room for a touch of plush. Candles create a little sanctuary. But don’t get overwhelmed making changes. Take it one room, one wall at a time and enjoy it.”