9 Chic DIY Tips From Interiors Expert Kate Watson-Smyth

Stylish steps to a summer refresh from the Mad About the House blogger...

The lockdown has proved to be a time when many of us have taken stock of what we can do to give our home a stylish refresh. And, while we're tackling those jobs that have been on the to-do list for what seems like forever, it's the perfect time to get some expert DIY tips from a top interiors blogger.

According to new research from Barclays Mortgages, we have dedicated an average of four days each to home and garden DIY tasks in lockdown so far, with almost half of us (44 per cent) saying we’ll get our home revalued once restrictions lift to see how much these endeavours have increased the value of the property.

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Whether you're looking to raise the value of your property, or are simply in search of some ultra-chic design-led upgrades, Barclays Mortgages has teamed up with interiors blogger, author and expert Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) to share her top tips on the best tasks to tackle for an on-point freshen up at home, from matching your woodwork to your walls to creating a personalised gallery wall.

See 9 expert DIY tips from Kate Watson-Smyth below:


Not for nothing is the ceiling often called the fifth wall. When you have spent so much time agonising over colours for the walls why spoil it by sticking white on the ceiling? You don’t wear a white top with everything in your wardrobe so take time to think about which colour would really compliment the walls. This might be the same in a small room to make it look bigger, perhaps a pale version of the same wall shade or even a soft contrast – a very pale pink with green, blue or chocolate walls. Although you can paint ceilings in matt emulsion, try using an eggshell or even a gloss with a sheen to bounce the light around.

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The Georgians always matched wood and walls so it’s not a new idea, although after years of white woodwork it now looks modern again. This will create a calming effect as lots of white lines distracts the eye and draws attention to the edges of the room. This technique can make the walls look taller and, therefore, the ceiling higher – but make sure you use eggshell or gloss paint to stick to the wood.

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Most of the best expert DIY tips involve paint as it’s a really affordable way to make a difference. If you have a table that you bought at a junk shop or car boot sale then you can create something bespoke and individual with a tin of chalk paint. Or you could simply paint the legs of your kitchen table for an easy, refreshed look.

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Window dressings are often expensive as so many of us have windows that aren’t standard sizes. If you have a blind that you no longer like, or that doesn’t go with the décor, try taking it apart and re-using the mechanisms so that all you have to do is re-make the material part.

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Sewing cushions is fairly straightforward as it’s all straight lines. You can also have the back and front in different fabric so it’s as if you have twice as many cushions. If you don’t have a fabric remnant that is large enough, try sewing a few together to create a colour block or patchwork effect. If you aren’t confident sewing a zip (you need a special foot on the sewing machine for that) then make an envelope cover like a pillow case or a couple of large buttons. Again, you can buttonhole by hand if you don’t have the right attachment on your sewing machine.

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You can buy lampshade kits but if you have a simple drum shade that, again, you would like to refresh, then you can simply glue some different material over the top and attach with pegs while it dries. Bear in mind it might not give out as much light as before so choose a light fabric. But it will still give direct light from the top and bottom rather than a gentle ambient and diffused glow.

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How many of us have thousands of pictures on our phones that just sit there taking up space? Why not use the current time to download and print a few and create a gallery wall in your home? A staircase is a great place to start as you don’t have to worry about straight lines. You can either match all the frames and have different sizes or choose a variety of black, wood and gold or coloured frames and create an organic pattern on your wall. Try laying them out on the floor first to get a feel for the overall look.

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Refreshing handles is one of the easiest expert DIY tips, and can be a simple but effective way to update your kitchen cupboards or a chest of drawers. The easy way is to choose handles that are the same size as the existing ones so you can replace like for like. If you want something different then you will need to be prepared to fill the old holes, sand them down and paint over before drilling new holes for your new handles.

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This is a really good way to add a bit of interest without going overboard. Carefully stick frog tape to the edges of the door on both sides and paint the edge in a bold colour so that you only see it when the door is open. You can match the colour of the room the door opens into or add a bright totally contrasting shade for fun.

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Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.