Carol O’Callaghan recommends picking up a few bits and pieces to make the most of the downtime between the bigger, more demanding repair and renew projects that raise their heads at this time of year.
It’s the season of DIY, repairs, renovations, and painting, but I’ve a funny feeling that if we get a nice day here and there, we’re not going to want to spend it labouring on indoor projects, unless absolutely necessary.
If you’re anything like me, though, you might want to make some simple changes at a time when all of us home-bods give the nest a good cleaning and organising at the very least — a job that can be carried out regardless of the weather, and probably best left for one of those wet days, of which there are sure to be many more ahead.
With that done, what about a small spend on a few lovely little bits and pieces to liven up the homestead?
You’d be surprised at what can be snapped up for less than €25, so, even if the weather isn’t on our side, at least we can have the pleasure of playing house.
China versus plastic
Summer is the one time of year when it’s acceptable, if not advisable, to have some plastic wares for eating out of doors.
But for the host who has poo-poo’d them in the past, there’s a selection from M&S called Spring Bloom which looks like vintage china but, turn out to be sturdy melamine.
It also has dishwasher-friendly credentials to delight any washer-upper who has previously had to tenderly sponge down the real thing by hand (plates and bowls from €4.75).
If you prefer delph, so your purchase is usable all year round, a very tasty range is the Casablanca from Interiosity, with various black patterns against a white background which will bring a subtle lift to all-white wares you have lurking in the cupboard (from €8.50).
The value of all-white bathrooms is appreciated and implemented as a rule of thumb right now, forming the perfect blank canvas to which colour can be added and subtracted without stressing your purse.
Shower curtains and towels have a transformative effect.
Penny’s offering is on-trend ethnic, featuring North African influences with its Road to Morocco collection.
Minimalists, look away now as colourful paisley print appears on the shower curtain (€6), bath towels (€10), and a pop-up laundry bin (€4).
If you’re optimistic about picnicking on anything other than soggy ground this year, there are also cushions, cooler bags and picnic blankets in the range. Your €25 can go a long way here.
Soft and cushy
Introducing some bright textiles will cheer everything up like a dose of home interiors vitamin D. Ikea’s 2016 spring and summer look includes cushion covers in bright colours and detailed patterns (from €2.50).
Don’t bother removing the existing cover on your cushion — just place the new one on top if it fits.
It will give your cushion more structure, especially if the pad is synthetic and overly soft to start.
It’s the time of year for blue and white, but when it’s combined with sea shells, and wood that has the weather-worn look, it speaks a little too strongly of beach houses.
For an approach that draws on Scandinavian chic for an all-year-round look, just think white walls, with a little red or green detailing in textiles, with lots of natural light, some house plants and simple floral arrangements (House Tapestry cushion €12, Chevron rug €10, Glass lantern €12, wall canvas €7, from Heatons).
Enamel is my cookware material of choice for its heat conductivity and light weight, but I also like those little mugs — synonymous with railway engine drivers — for picnics and outdoor imbibing.
Another function for them, which I’ve implemented at home, is using one as a toothbrush holder, which occurred after a porcelain holder fell into the sink and into smithereens.
A scurry round the back of a kitchen cupboard to find a temporary measure yielded a long disused white enamel mug with blue trim. It’s still in use as it works perfectly, is unbreakable and easy to clean.
Mini-Moderns has a lovely selection which draws on 1970s colours, including an orange version with a white print (€13 at The Old Mill Stores, Leap and Clonakilty).
It would match perfectly with the Penny’s shower curtain and your €25 budget.
Hot ‘n’ Cold
Have you ever had one of those moments when you see something covetable on a television programme and would love to know where you can get one?
Fans of Donal Skehan’s Cook, Eat, Burn programme on RTÉ might have seen him scooting up the side Carrauntoohill recently, with his Super Power Chilli staying snug in a very stylish vessel.
It’s called the thermos pot and it’s a stainless steel vacuum flask that keeps food or drink hot or cold for up to five hours.
It also has a magnetised spoon that attaches to the side so you’re not foraging for it in the bottom of your pack-pack in the rain and fog while halfway up a mountain.
A little spend on a stand-out item can help liven up a tired kitchen, while providing a practical function.
Exotic birds suggest warm summers on the Matthew Williamson round platter, which can be used to carry drinks outside or to make a serving of sandwiches look special (€15 at Debenhams).
A handy item to have when there’s a power cut is a stove top kettle. This version comes in an on-trend copper finish (€19.99 at Argos).
Placemats will bring a new look to your tabletop, especially if you want to dispense with a cloth (four Rockpool mats €24 at Laura Ashley).
This set of three tins can hold tea, coffee and sugar or little utensils that can easily be lost in a drawer (€2 at Tiger).
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