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
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?