Meg Ma­son’s trade­mark take on DIY dra­mas

Our Agony Aunt Meg Ma­son dishes out some­what ques­tion­able style and dec­o­rat­ing ad­vice to would- be DIY ren­o­va­tors

Inside Out (Australia) - - Contents -

My hus­band and I re­cently lost our busi­ness and we’ve been forced to sell our lovely home and move into a rented one-bed­room flat. I’m hop­ing it’s just un­til we get back on our feet but in the mean­time, how do I make it feel a bit less bleak with ab­so­lutely zero bud­get? My friends have of­fered to help where they can. Kir­rilly, ad­dress with­held

You have, to bor­row from lit­er­a­ture, fallen upon hard times.You are, to bor­row from my­self, cur­rently be­tween money. And when you’re down on your up­pers, there’s noth­ing that re­in­forces the gloom like wak­ing up and putting your bare feet down on a thread­bare ny­lon car­pet for the first time in a once-charmed life.

Many won’t, Kir­rilly, but I feel for you. I do. Al­though I pre­fer not to dwell on it, in­vest­ing too heav­ily in fig tree fu­tures dur­ing the 2015 fid­dle-leaf boom left me very badly off, once ma­ture pot­ted olive trees flooded the mar­ket.

So, it’s from ex­pe­ri­ence that I pre­sume all your cher­ished in­te­rior fur­nish­ings have gone the way of the pawn shop, which is to say, eBay. And if your lap­top’s now in the win­dow of Cash Con­vert­ers, you’ll have dis­cov­ered there’s no as­sault on the spirit like feed­ing coin af­ter coin into the shared com­put­ers at the li­brary be­cause it takes so long to list each an­tique Louis XIV ar­moire and ro­tate all those bloody pho­tos.

It’s so Dick­en­sian, dear­est. But there are cer­tainly ways to freshen up a drab pied-a-terre with­out break­ing your non-ex­is­tent bud­get. The first is to give it a blis­ter­ing clean with the most pleas­antly scented prod­ucts you can req­ui­si­tion from one of those sym­pa­thetic friends. Of course they’d say yes if you asked to bor­row one or two of their Dip­tyque can­dles, which are only gath­er­ing dust in their guest lav, so I wouldn’t waste time ask­ing. If you can get your hands on it, the eu­ca­lyp­tus is es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive against the whiff of fis­cal hard­ship.

Then, ask your land­lord if you could do him the won­der­ful favour of rip­ping up his acrylic plush and sand­ing the floors, a per­fect oc­cu­pa­tion for your hus­band, who’s pre­sum­ably at a loose end just now. A few dol­lars’ worth of sand­pa­per will keep him busy for at least a week, and I feel cer­tain that while he’s down on his knees, fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally, he’ll be in­spired with a can’t-fail busi­ness idea. I’ve al­ways liked the idea of adding a con­ser­va­tory to the rear of my home so I can sit and ad­mire the gar­den, es­pe­cially in win­ter. But they don’t seem as com­mon as they once did and I’m won­der­ing if there’s a rea­son why?

Mar­garet, Or­ange, NSW

Sadly there is, Mar­garet, and it’s this: un­less you live in deep­est ru­ral Sus­sex, an en­tire room made of glass isn’t the best con­cept. In Aus­tralia, the ‘win­ter’ you men­tion lasts around a fort­night and the rest of the year, sit­ting in a cane chair un­der the beat­ing sun is apt to in­duce dizzi­ness, mi­graine, cross­word blind­ness and a scalded tongue due to the fact that your pot of lap­sang sou­chong, sit­ting un­der un­fil­tered rays, will never ac­tu­ally cool.

And un­less you’re par­tic­u­larly dar­ing with long lad­ders, it only takes one pass­ing myna bird to be­foul an un­reach­able pane and you’re stuck look­ing at an un­pleas­ant smear of bak­ing guano un­til the next heavy rain­fall. Would you con­sider in­stead, adding a lovely al­cove to the kitchen with French doors or a shaded win­dow seat, so that your quiet con­tem­pla­tive morn­ings don’t leave you with heat­stroke and a farmer’s tan?

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