Make the most of your weekend, and the longer daylight hours, to get down and dirty. Believe it or not DIY can lift your spirits especially if you save some money or stay within your budget, and some jobs, on the fringes of DIY proper, are dead simple.
Success rests on knowing what to buy and where to give your home (and garden) an uplift. And if we have all resolved not to increase the carbon footprint then it's the fun DIY that you should be doing, that's to say things you can do in a weekend.
Dramatically changing their image are those huge erstwhile grim shops-cum-sheds flogging the hard stuff — tools, board, pipes, nails and so on. They are noticeably softening up, adding some light-hearted dash to their old DIY staples. So now you will find pretty curtains, cushions and lighting, all at good prices.
Leading the way is B&Q's latest "eco" store at New Malden, crammed with well-displayed furnishings plus "One Planet Home" green/energy-saving products (Shannon Commercial Centre, Beverley Way, New Malden, Surrey; 020 8336 3500; www.diy.com). Or order from home for next-day delivery from B&Q at www.nextday.diy.com. You can also "reserve and collect" from your local store.
- © Simon McBride
But Homebase at 195 Warwick Road, W14 (020 7602 5125; www.homebase.co.uk) is still the most central of the big stores.
'Success rests on knowing what to buy and where to give your home an uplift'
It's simple to change your curtains now that no-sew, ready-mades are so stylish. Prices at John Lewis start at £19 for a pair in unlined natural cotton with a tab top (0845 604 9049; www.johnlewis.com).
Montgomery designs smart curtains, with concessions at Debenhams and House of Fraser (0808 202 6213; www.montgomery.co.uk).
A new wave of sensational stickers come with edgy artwork, such as huge trees, branches of cherry blossom, drifting leaves, cityscapes and much more. They can be put up easily — simply peel off the backing, and, well, stick 'em up. arrange the stickers to hug a window, along a skirting, around a door, in an alcove, over furniture.
Find good ones at Supernice, 106 Columbia Road, E2 (020 7613 3890; www.supernice.co.uk). Also investigate Stickyups (www.stickyups.com); Made In Design (www. madeindesign.co.uk); and Rockett St George (www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk).
Stencils take a little more skill. Find out how to do it here. The trick is to overlap motifs and grade colours. Get huge poetic summer flowers, including foxgloves, fennel and dandelion, from The Stencil Library (www.stencil-library.com), or at Ray Munn's wonderful paint shop, 861- 863 Fulham Road, SW6 (020 7736 9876). Artist Henny Donovan also has large delicate designs on her website (020 8340 0259; www.hennydonovanmotif.co.uk).
Wallpapers also now go up a treat, with pretty "paste the wall" designs. Find instructions here.
Hot news is Annie Sloan's unique insulating House Warming paint. The secret is its minuscule glass spheres that trap air and reflect heat. It comes in a chalky finish in four subtle whites, priced at £59 for four litres, which covers roughly 32 square metres. For more information and a colour chart, call 01865 768666, or visit www.anniesloan.com.
Elsewhere, Dulux does a hardy paint for vulnerable walls. And its light-reflecting one with "Lumitec" technology is good for dark London rooms (www.dulux.co.uk).
Crown does a super suede-like finish, plus shimmering metallics. Call Paint Talk on 0870 240 1127, or visit www.crownpaint.co.uk.
Any finish (including floor paint) can be matched from any colour sample at Change That Room, 478 Chiswick High Road, W4 (020 8994 9993). It has the full Farrow & Ball range in stock.
© www.simonbrownphotography, taken from Thrifty Chic (Cico Books)
The International brand does clever tricks with special paints to cover tatty tiles, shabby melamine kitchen units, vinyl/laminate/concrete floors, dingy fridges and more.
Lead the way to glamour
Painting wooden floors or stairs is a cheap and effective way to liven up your home. If the surface is plain wood, prepare it with a light rubdown with fine-grade sandpaper and then paint with a good quality base coat, such as international floor paint, or a hard-wearing interior egg shell or gloss.
If you are artistic, the level of design can be as sophisticated as you like; use source books, from Italian palazzos to painting handbooks for inspiration. For those of us who are less artistic, simple stripes as shown above are an effective way to add charm and style. Use masking tape for straight edges. Finally protect your labour of love with a coat of varnish.
For floors that are in poor condition a coat of glossy black, or off-white paint can work marvels, but remember that both these finishes show the dust.