Easy DIY ideas to transform your home on a budget
25 April 2021 | Celia Topping
Do the words “do it yourself” fill you with dread? Memories of half-finished projects, or toe-curlingly embarrassing fails? It doesn't have to be like that!
Spring is here, and many of us are getting down with some spring cleaning vibes, in readiness for a summer full of friends and family in our homes and gardens once more. After over a year of coronavirus-related lockdowns, now’s the time to spruce up and get visitor-ready. So why not treat your home to a makeover?
Upcycling, using eco-friendly kit and bringing the outside inside are all great green ways to transform your home without damaging the planet.
Laying a patio, or tiling a bathroom may be beyond most of our abilities – but there are tonnes of quick n’ easy projects that can give a tired room that wow factor. Here are 5 of our favourite green ideas:
1. Plant a terrarium
Plants in jars. What’s not to like? For the horticulturally-challenged among us, these miniature glass jungles are mercifully low maintenance – and they make great gifts. And one of the easiest to make uses succulents and cacti – which are almost impossible to kill!
Plants and trees of all kinds are good for us and the planet, no matter if they’re outside or inside. They’re great for air quality, create habitats for wildlife and can even reduce your stress levels1. Who doesn’t love a healthy plant in their living space?
Ready? Here goes:
What you need
- A terrarium – succulents need a lot of circulating air, so buy one with a very wide neck. A glass bowl also works, or find a specially designed terrarium with a hole cut in the side.
- A variety of mini succulents/cacti.
- A hand trowel.
- Gravel and/or pebbles.
- Compost suitable for cacti and succulents.
- Moss and decorations of choice.
- A small watering can.
How to make it
- Lay the gravel – drainage is key in terrariums, as unlike with ordinary plant pots, there’s no hole for excess water to escape. So start with 2 to 3 inches of gravel/pebbles at the bottom of your terrarium, depending on its size.
- Add the soil – you’ll need to find specialist cactus compost at the garden centre. It’s fast draining, so the roots won’t get waterlogged.
- Water the soil – the soil needs to be a little moist before you plant. Don’t go mad with the watering can, though! Too much water can cause the roots to rot.
- Plant your cacti – now the fun part! Make sure not to overcrowd your terrarium, and space the plants out evenly. Cover the roots completely with soil. You can add a bit more if needed, and then press down firmly.
- Decorate – get creative with bits of moss, pebbles and anything else you can find to decorate your mini garden.
2. Turn a wine rack into towel storage
There aren’t many DIY jobs quicker than this one! And what’s great about this upcycling project is it’s a fab example of the 3 R’s of sustainable living – Reduces waste, Recycles unwanted stuff and Repurposes what would otherwise be thrown away. Believe it or not, wine racks double very well as towel holders. Just pop it on top of your cupboard/shelves, roll your towels up and in they go. If you have a wooden rack, you can paint it to match your bathroom decor.
3. Get arty with stencilling
Fancy getting a bit Banksy with your DIY? The super-cool artist’s favourite method of creating artwork has become a bit of a trend of late. And the good news is, stencilling is relatively easy and quick. If you don’t want to use a shop-bought kit, you can even create your own patterns without too much hassle.
Stencilling is much cheaper than wallpaper – and you can go wild with whatever designs you prefer. It’s also a bit more eco-friendly than wallpapering your entire room, as the stencils can be used again and again. Follow our step-by-step guide, and start stenciling your walls, doors and floors, for a totally unique look:
What you need
- Stencil – there are so many to choose from, but you could also cut your own from stencilling paper or card
- Paint – use eco-friendly acrylic paint for a good result
- Low tack stencil tape – you can reuse it as you move the stencil around
- Mini 4 inch roller or stencil paintbrush
- Paint tray – even if you’re using a paint brush, a tray helps get rid of excess paint
- A rag or cloth – use this to thin down the paint on your brush/roller
How to stencil
Covering a whole wall with a geometric pattern may be a bit ambitious for your first go! Better to try a standalone stencil first, to get some practice.
- Choose your stencil, or cut our your own from stencil paper
- Use the tape/spraymount to stick your stencil to the wall
- Pour your paint into the paint tray
- Cover your roller/brush with paint – but be warned, you don’t need a lot of paint. Take off any excess with paper towels.
- Gently paint over the stencil attached to the wall
- Pull off the stencil when finished and leave the paint to dry
And why stop with your walls? Stencilling looks great on cupboards and drawers, too. Customise your furniture exactly how you want it.
4. Switch a door knob
You don’t have to do something major to make an impact. Something as simple as swapping a boring old door knob for a funky flea market find can really make a difference. Using recycled/upcycled vintage loot will give your home a more unique look than a mass-produced shop-bought one. Here’s how:
What you need
- Measuring tape
- Phillips head screwdriver
- New doorknob
How to make that change
- Measure – check your old door knob’s size to be sure your new one will fit. It might help to take the old knob to the shop, to make sure. Also remember that if your door’s painted and the new knob has a smaller base, you may need to touch up the paint on the door.
- Remove the old knob – most door knobs have 2 screws. If so, just unscrew them and gently pull the 2 knobs on either side of the door apart. The backplate will come off in one piece with the knob. If there are no visible screws, there should be a groove underneath the knob – press this with something narrow like a pen or tweezers. This should remove the knob, and reveal a screw which you can then unscrew. Pull the knobs apart, and the metal peg that attaches them should come out too.
- Remove the faceplate – this is the piece of metal on the edge of the door with the latch/bolt sticking through. Unscrew it. Once this is off, you should be able to gently pull the latch through the hole.
- Put in the latch – slot the new latch into place.
- Place the outer facing knob – work out which is the outer facing knob. It usually has the peg attached, which goes through the door latch to the other knob. Push this through the door and hold in place.
- Line up the interior knob – make sure you can press both knobs so that they’re flush with the door, and are able to turn. While holding them in place, screw the back plate in until it's tight. Test that you can turn the knobs from both sides.
- Install the new faceplate – the last step is to screw in the new faceplate on the edge of the door. And there you have it! A stylish new door knob to give your home decor a lift.
5. Colour code your keys
Ok, so it might not be strictly home improvement DIY – but as you need keys to get into your home, we’re keeping this handy tip in the list!
We’ve all been there – standing outside while it’s pouring with rain, fumbling around with half a dozen keys, not knowing which one is right. (Why is it always the last one?) But instead of using those plastic or rubber key covers, you could slap on a bit of eco-friendly nail varnish to colour code the top part of your keys – and you’ll be through the front door in a jiffy. Simple, and sustainable.
How can OVO help you live greener?
Meet OVO Greenlight! We’re excited to launch our new tool which helps you understand your carbon emissions, and learn how to start reducing them.
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that OVO Greenlight is free to use for all OVO members, new and old. Win!
And not only that – as always, we offer 100% renewable electricity2 as standard. And a tree planted every year in your name3. Get a quote now, to see how you could save money while going green.
Sources and references:
2. 100% of the renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. What's more, 20% of the electricity we sell is purchased direct from UK renewable generators
3. Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.