Big-to-Small Home Projects to Tackle in the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant more hours being housebound. So perhaps it’s time you tackled some home improvement projects to optimise your living space. Read on for some ideas on where to start.
Ireland has tightened its coronavirus restrictions meaning more of us are clocking up hours at home. But this gives us an ideal time to tackle those DIY projects we’ve been putting off and create the perfect pad in which to live, work, recharge, and relax during these trying times.
To give you some ideas of where to start, we’ve compiled a list of the more practical upgrades to implement this pandemic.
These range from small changes to help you maximise your space to those bigger get-out-your-tool-kit tasks you’ve been subtly ignoring all summer.
BIG JOB: Repainting a Room
A fresh coat of paint instantly updates and transforms any room. If this is a job you’re going to take on make sure to have all the right tools and prep your walls first.
Also remember to remove all furniture from the room. If some pieces are too heavy to heave, place them in the centre and cover carefully.
Pro painters typically start by painting the wall trim (i.e. any wall or window mouldings, skirting boards, etc). The reason for this is it’s faster and less of a mess in the long run. Only once the trim has dried, should you get all Van Gogh on the rest of the room.
Paint entire walls at a time too. This helps eliminate uneven layers and ugly stripes. Keep your roller wet with paint as you do this and move it up and down the full height of the wall.
Choosing Paint Colours
Take your time choosing colours before you paint a room. And keep in mind the activities that regularly occur in the space in question.
Neutral colours are usually best and can work to let your décor pop. But remember that even neutrals come in warm and colder hues.
Warm neutrals have yellow, red and orange undertones and will make your space feel comfy, cosy, and generally cheerful. These colours work well in sitting rooms, kitchens, and study or office spaces where you need a little bit of stimulation.
Cooler neutrals are toned with blues, greys and greens, and can work well to maintain a sense of calm in any space. They work best in areas with a more restful vibe such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and reading nooks.
A small space that you want to boost with a sense of light and airiness can also benefit from a paint job using cooler neutral colours.
If you intend to use a bold colour on an accent wall make sure that it is not too overwhelming – you need to be able to live with the colours you choose!
Also consider your light sources—both natural and artificial – as these will affect how the colours on your wall look at different times throughout the day.
Tools you’ll need: Sponge and water to clean your walls of any stains or marks, and a putty knife to fill in any small holes before you start painting. Paint, paint brushes, paint roller and extension pole, paint brushes, masking/painter tape, old clothes to paint in.
Time it will take: An average-sized, 12-foot x 12-foot room will take approximately 5-7 hours to paint.
BIG JOB: Repurpose & Paint Old Furniture:
If painting your walls is not on the cards right now you could always apply a lick of paint to old furniture instead. Not only will doing so brighten up your home but it will also allow you to repurpose old pieces for new uses.
Let’s face it, many of our homes are currently moonlighting as our places of work. We’re either hijacking the kitchen table as a virtual conference room or switching the sofa to office mode. Not only does this encourage more mess but it doesn’t go down too well with other household members attempting to do the same.
But if you have an old or under-used bookcase, dressing table, or console table, with some sandpaper, fresh paint and a few hours of applied elbow grease you can transform it into the perfect work space. Here’s how to do it:
Step-by-Step to repainting Old Furniture
- To repaint old furniture, the first thing you need to do is sand-down the piece. If you’re smoothing wood or removing paint, use coarse 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to get the job done effectively.
The higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper. So take note of the surface you’re working on and don’t use an overly-abrasive buff.
- Once you've sanded, be sure to wipe down the surface with a professional tack cloth or a lint-free cotton rag. This will remove all residue. Following that, prime the piece and let it dry.
- Use a small foam-roller to paint as this will curtail dripping. That said, if you do have any drips you can re-sand between coats.
When repainting, it’s good to apply at least two or three coats but make sure you leave each coat to dry for at least five hours before slapping on the next one.
- Again, when everything is dry, wipe down with a tack cloth to remove even the smallest speck of dust.
- Use a new mini hand-roller to lightly apply a protective gloss finish – and voilà! – you have a good-as-new piece of furniture to brighten up your home or to stop family fights over who gets to use the sofa as a work space!
Tools you’ll need: Sandpaper, tack cloth, mini foam-roller, paint primer, and protective gloss finish.
Time it will take: At least two-days taking into account drying time between paint coats applications.
MEDIUM JOB: Maximize Space for Different “Activities”:
Even if you don’t live in a small space, it can suddenly start to feel smaller if you’re spending a longer amount of time there. One way to stop yourself from going stir-crazy is to allocate different zones in rooms for different activities.
You can roll up your sleeves and put in partition walls, sliding doors or even create separation between a kitchen and living space with an island counter. Or you can achieve it simply by moving round the furniture and reworking a room’s lighting.
Make Use of Focal Points
One of the easiest ways to create different areas in a room is to take advantage of focal points.
Grouping sofas or armchairs around a fireplace, an accent wall, or a strategically placed painting or over-sized clock can create a chill-out space for you and other householders.
In the same room, a small chaise or seating area by a window can utilise natural light to make a separate reading nook.
Light a Room with 3 Basic Types of Lighting
If the main shared area of your home is serving multiple purposes, make sure you have the lighting features to match.
- Ambient lighting is used to brighten a room in its entirety and generally comes from ceiling fixtures or wall mounts as well as floor and table lamps.
- Task lighting is used to illuminate various activities that you might be carrying out in a given space such as reading or desk-work. Portable lamps, pendant lighting or under-cabinet lights all tick the box here.
- Finally, accent lighting is used to focus light on a specific area or object and is perfect for providing visual separation in a room. Wall-mounted fixtures such as sconces are a good example of accent lights as are table and floor lamps.
Embrace Multipurpose Kids’ Bedrooms
If you have children at home, utilise their bedrooms for playing, chilling, studying, and sleeping. Not only does this help create additional zones in your home but it gives them – and you – some healthy time apart from each other.
Again, create different areas around focal points such as a toy chest or study desk. Hang wall shelves as extra storage for toys, books, and any bulky items and use bulletin and mesh boards for organising art work and other important papers.
Use a Bubble Plan
When figuring out how to use a specific space it’s always a good idea to create a bubble plan. This is a simple diagram that highlights the different activities taking place in a room as well as the relationship between these activities.
For instance, in a kitchen-cum-living area you may have different “bubbles” for where you cook, eat, and relax. Obviously, the cooking and eating area bubbles should be close to each other while the relaxation space can be broken down even further into TV and reading areas.
Tools you’ll need: Depending on whether you’re adding shelves, moving furniture or bringing in new light you’ll need everything from hammer and nails to grit and patience!
Time it will take: A bubble plan will take anything from 20 to 60 minutes. Following that, you should be able to maximise the space in a room within a couple of hours.
MEDIUM JOB: Upgrade Kitchen Lighting:
Outside of your living room, another place in your home where you may need to address lighting is the kitchen. For many householders, the lockdown changed this room from an area where you cooked and ate to a multi-purpose go-to space.
In homes with no bedroom desks or free surfaces in the living room, kitchen tables and countertops started doubling up as workstations for school-going kids and work-from-home adults.
If this is your new reality, make sure your current lighting is helping and not hindering the tasks now taking place here.
For example, bright overhead lighting might be adding to eye-strain, especially if you’re working long hours late at night. If you have utilitarian fixtures blaring brightness consider adding a fabric-wrapped drum shade to soften the illumination.
If you typically prop your laptop up on the countertop to work, under-cabinet lighting might offer the perfect office ambiance.
How to Add Under-Cabinet Lighting
Installing plug-in type fixtures can be easily done. Just make sure that you fix them towards the front edge of your cabinets so that the entire countertops – and your workspace – are illuminated and not just the back walls.
If the cabinets don’t already have them, add at least a 1-inch valance along their edges so that the fixtures are hidden and the light doesn’t shine directly into your eyes.
If your countertops are shiny, it’s a good idea to opt for frosted LED or CFL bulbs as this will reduce sharp reflections.
There are a few different types of under-cabinet lights you can choose from.
- Rope lights fasten to the tops of cabinets with plastic clips that you secure to the underside of the cupboards with small screws.
- Tape lights tend to have an adhesive backing that you press along the selected area.
- Puck lights, which are round LED lights, can be mounted with screws or adhesive tape. Self-adhesive, battery-powered puck lights are easy-peasy to install as they only need to be pressed into place. Just make sure you’ve measured the lighting layout so that all lights are the same distance from each other. That way, you’ll be confident of an even gleam across your countertops.
Under-cabinet lighting is also a practical money-saver if your kitchen is a main traffic thoroughfare as it limits the need to keep the area constantly illuminated.
Tools you’ll need: Choice of lighting and either small screws, screwdriver or adhesive as applicable.
Time it will take: 20-40 minutes.
MEDIUM JOB: Declutter and Reorganise Storage Space:
One of the best home projects you can tackle during the pandemic is to reorganise the storage space throughout your house or apartment. Yep, that means going all-out Marie Kondo on your cupboards, cabinets, wardrobes, and junk drawers.
Besides making more space, experts claim that decluttering and reorganising your home makes you feel more in control of your life – something that’s 100% welcome during these uncertain times.
But before you start whipping your storage spaces into shape put a plan together on how’ll you do it. Include the areas you’re going to tackle and set achievable completion dates for each. Then create a sorting system such as the three-box method, which involves utilising three boxes or bins for items you want to save, dump or store.
If you’re unsure of which box certain items should go into, ask yourself the below questions:
- Do you need this item?
- When was the last time you used it?
- Is this item really worth the space it's taking up in your home?
- Does it have deep emotional value or meaning?
- Could this item be useful/helpful to another person?
Once you have sorted out items into these three boxes, you’ll need to organise the stuff you’re saving and storing.
Fold or hang and store any clothing. Use coordinating hangers to limit visual clutter in your wardrobe and stack thick jumpers and sweatshirts instead of trying to stuff them all into drawers.
Use assorted storage boxes and containers for items you’re keeping in the bedroom, kitchen and on top of shelving. Opt for square containers where possible as these maximise space.
Also, keep like items with like so that you always know where a specific something is.
Tools you’ll need: Your plan, rubber gloves, old clothes to wear in case things get dirty, boxes/bags for sorting system, storage containers, hangers, and finally, strong coffee and oodles of time.
Time it will take: Hours to days depending on how many rooms you decide to reorganise.
SMALL JOB: Clean, clean, clean:
At this stage of the pandemic we know to keep all high-touch home surfaces clean. But beyond wiping down your countertops and dusting over the furniture, giving your home a real deep clean will benefit the air and your health.
For instance, the space behind and below radiators along with vent covers throughout the house accumulate dust over time. Cleaning them not only helps reduce allergens but also increases heating and air systems’ efficiency. Use a vacuum on those hard to reach places and wipe the other areas with a dry microfiber cloth.
Scrub down skirting boards as stains and dust also accumulate here. Disinfect door handles, light switches, bathroom fixtures and fittings, and bedside tables. And if you don’t want to use shop-bought disinfectants, opt for alcohol, vinegar or even tea tree oil instead.
Finish your home-cleanse by adding air purifying plants to various spots around your home. Not only will leafy lovelies such as Devil’s Ivy and Peace Lilies remove toxins from the air but they’ll add a touch of natural colour to your home too.
Tools you’ll need: Rubber gloves, old clothes to wear, disinfectants, vacuum, , microfiber clothes, any other cleaning utensils as needed.
Time it will take: Between 2-4 hours depending on how large your home is.
SMALL JOB: Eliminate Smells Around the Home:
Finally, every one’s home smells in some way but if you’re going to be staying indoors a lot you’ll want to make sure those scents are fresh, not funky.
The easiest way to eliminate odours is, of course, to open all windows for at least 15 minutes every morning. Not only can a blast of air boot bad smells to the curb, but experts suggest that allowing air to circulate around enclosed spaces can help disperse the airborne viral droplets that cause COVID-19 infection.
If your home air continues to smell stale, you could try applying a dab of vanilla onto your hallway light bulb as the heat from the bulb will disperse the scent through the air.
If there’s a stink coming from your fridge give it a thorough clean and then keep an open box of plain baking soda inside as that’s believed to neutralise nasty smells.
Baking soda is also the answer if there’s an unpleasant smell emanating from your washing machine. Add a ¼ cup along with a similar amount of water to the washing powder dispenser. Follow this with two cups of white vinegar into the empty drum and run through a full washing cycle.
This should eliminate the unwelcomed odour and keep your home smelling sweet throughout the pandemic and beyond.