There are little imps who grow up and move away from home and cannot do anything. They cannot hold a hammer, they cannot pound in a nail, even improperly. At the hardware store, they just run against the big glass entrance door.
I know because I was such a child.
My parents did not let me do anything because nothing I did was good enough. Therefore, I did not learn anything about tools and repair. To make matters worse, my room at home was tiny. If I added even a tea light, you could not open the door. So, what happened? Right! Maximum creativity ran head-on into minimal specialist knowledge. I finally got to the point in life where I wanted to create something. I had to create something. Something that I liked, something that I wanted to create without compromise, and something that conformed to my own weird ideas of the space I wanted to live in. My imagination saw a living room like a cabin in the forest, a hallway akin to the jungles in Jumanji, and a kitchen resembling a 50’s diner.
And that is exactly the kind of crazy shit I am doing now. A huge teepee in my living room, a wooden cottage in my bedroom, an industrial ambience in my bathroom. I do almost everything myself—and by myself. Yes, I am talking about the same loser who could not even hammer a nail into a piece of wood before. How did this happen, why it can also happen to you, and how you can do all of this? Now. Here.
Home remodeling is easy. At least if your taste runs toward “Ikea Lego Box,” and then you still have enough pennies left over to hire a complete set of construction workers. Under the threat of death by dust devils, these intrepid workers would be happy to re-chisel your bathroom for only $20,000.
Before the outcry, you need to know that even I do have some of Ikea’s Billy-shelves and there are things you really ought to get a professional to do for you. Electricity is like that for me. In my physics classes, I used to blow up the experiments on the circuit boards. They resembled tiny nuclear explosions.
But there are a lot of things you can do or create for yourself. Especially if your tastes run to a more unusual interior.
There are five things that help to inspire:
Since we now have a rough idea of where we are getting ideas from and that the whole thing will take time, possibly a lot of time, I will now discuss the classic human trauma: “I have never done that, I cannot do that, I will never be able do that."
Folks. Listen up. First principle: if you have never done it before, how do you know you cannot do it? Second principle: Of course, things can go wrong, but mistakes are learning tools that make you better. No reason to kill yourself with your hammer.
I did not even think about being a Do-It-Yourselfer until I was 27, when my life was being turned upside down in many ways, and I bought a Tiny Home. A used one. Kind of like buying a VW built in the 80’s. A bit of a rust bucket, lots of rattles, but it still runs. Back then I felt like a penguin standing if front of a hot stove trying to cook pudding. Whew, my own digs. Arrrgh, but what next?
I set a goal. I was going to renovate the entire place myself. I did not want to be that little imp running into the hardware store window. I wanted to create something unique and completely me, right now, in this new little home. Finally.
And that was the time and place when and where I learned DIY home improvement. Like the time I had to repaint the entire living room because I confused “matte” and “shiny.” Or when the heavy mirror in the cloakroom came crashing down because someone did not secure it well enough. Or when I noticed after three hours that the cordless screwdriver, I was using had a “reverse” switch. But DIY essentially stands for: work sweat, slave. At home. In your home. At the place you want to enjoy living. Could there be any better reason for you to finally get up and get started?
By the way, here are my first steps in my Tiny Home: The Tiny Home Improvement: Paint in my Hair and Curses in the Hood.
The Tiny Home has been sold. Now I live with my 97-year-old grandpa in a home he built himself for multigenerational use. I have my own flat. And it feels now like I finally have found a real home in Germany. So, I decided to start again.
Iadmit that I have a thing about American stuff. Like my boyfriend. Joke. I was not talking about my better half from the USA, but rather my style of decorating. You may have other things in mind, but I love themed rooms. White walls with off-the-shelf posters are not my thing at all. I want to come into a room and feel something. Warmth, wanderlust, nature, music, vintage…something.
Just think about where you were the last time you felt you belonged, a place that gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Was it in a particular country? At a concert? In the middle of the woods, in a fancy hipster café? Why not set up a room in your home to in some way recreate that place or feeling based on that theme. Once you have an idea of the feeling you want to recreate, just enter a few keywords into your favorite search engine, or Amazon, or Pinterest, or Instagram. But be careful doing this because you may not get to bed before midnight and instead have a virtual shopping cart that is bursting at the seams.
Why not think beyond classic design catalogs and magazines? For example, I am a total Navaho/Southwest USA geek. That is why I looked up ways to make a teepee for myself. For adults, not a teeny one for kids. As a reading corner, or just for dreaming, or grumbling. Did you ask if I could sew fabric by hand? Well, after stabbing myself in the finger three times and re-cutting five seams again, the answer is: Yes!
I also have a passion for American log cabins. So, I am currently covering part of my bedroom with something called a “log cabin profile” giving the impression that my walls are made of round wooden logs. My first step was to do a search for “How do you make a wooden wall?” on YouTube. About the time the guy in the video started rambling on about lath substructures, nail dowels, and board claws, I just wanted to delete the entire internet! But instead, I got a piece of paper, started to write down a list of materials and then watched the video over and over until I felt like, “Wow! I can do that!” And now, wonder of wonders, I can do that! The first wooden planks have been mounted and they are straight!
There was one last annoyance in my apartment: the bathroom was covered in gray-green tiles which I would love to have sent to the old TV show, American Bandstand, or just torched. But the TV show has been off the air since before I was born, and ceramic tiles do not burn very well.And I did not want to rip the tiles off the walls: immense dirt, immense waste, immense cost.
Luckily, my business partner is remodeling her home as well and introduced me to epoxy paint. I had never heard of it before. Nor had I used it. I borrowed some lab goggles from my grandpa, read a post on a DIY blog and simply started.
When I finished, I had paint under my fingernails for three days (don’t ask) and the place still smells like a tanker accident on a shoal off the coast of Florida, but the bathroom now looks like it belongs in 2021.
This kind of transformation is called Upcycling. That is when you take old shite and magically transform it into something that looks new. Only “upcycling” sounds much cooler, of course. I also upcycled an old lamp by using acrylic paint to add some antlers to the lampshade that I will put in my bedroom log cabin.
Now is a great time to make our homes beautiful, even exceptionally beautiful! There is an incredible amount of inspiration on the internet and in magazines, we can watch DIY videos, ask questions in forums, and chat with the store via an app. Even in lockdown, as we have in Germany at the present, we can shop with “click and collect.” And there are an incredible number of online retailers that will ship goods, from big giants like Amazon, to platforms for artists, and even very individual stuff that you find on Etsy. And we also live in a time when women know where the hammer hangs, and how to use it. Even if she grew up completely construction clueless and must teach herself everything.
Hey, if you do not get started now, it is only because you are looking for an excuse.
Here in the small gallery below, you will find some finished projects. A chandelier made of second-hand lampshades collected from all over the world, small wooden treasure chests to use as “shelves” for my shell collection, a door covered with wallpaper that looks like books on a bookshelf (and yes, I painted the Totoro myself) and the new neon signs in my Rock'n’Roll kitchen.