Inside Out (Australia)

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 purchased a 1990s-era townhouse which has an elaborate, Eastern-style garden courtyard. It’s not really my taste, and the interiors are also a bit rough around the edges. There is so much I’d like to do, from repainting to replacing the light fixtures. As we’re on a budget, I can’t do everything at once. Should I focus on the interiors or tackle the outdoor areas first? Cath, Golden Grove, SA

Have you noticed, Cath, how difficult it is these days to go more than three-quarters of an hour without

being told to “live in the moment” by a well-meaning soul in moisture-wicking leggings? As overused, semi-spiritual

bromides go, it’s one I hold no truck with - unless the moment falls after 5pm and has an ice-cold martini in it - and I can see you’re very much of the same school.

There’s no living in the moment for us, is there, darling? No lolling around being all present and grateful for the blessings of The Now. Instead, there is only straining ahead and positively visualisin­g The Next.

In the instance of a new home, we wouldn’t be found lingering on the doorstep for some interminab­le 60-second period while the husband snaps a series of record shots of us smiling contentedl­y while turning the key in the lock for the first time. We are charging in with a roll of sticky dots and marking everything that’s To Go. Those net curtains… coming down. Bedroom carpet… out. Disproport­ionately enormous concrete Buddha… sadly, not staying.

But then, as you say, comes the soul-sapping task of working out an order of approach. What’s needed here, Cath, is a system of triage. From the full and final list of issues, there will be the minor irritants – your scuffed skirting boards, your wonky floorboard­s and sticky hinges – and then the really serious stuff, including the aforementi­oned garden-centre ashram.

As commonsens­e as it may seem to start with the quick and inexpensiv­e indoor tweaks and move on to the mid-size fixes as budget allows, my wisdom says do the opposite. Even though addressing a concrete deity could eat up all of your first-round finance – especially if it turns out to be plumbed in and set on a timer for a nightly water-and-light display – nothing drags your consciousn­ess back to the present like the feeling of being watched by a weatherpro­of guru while you sit outside trying to meditate on your next house, with a nice martini in hand.

I’ve just broken up with my long-term boyfriend – but until we manage to sell the apartment that we bought together, neither of us can afford to move out. We’re trying to stay on amicable terms, but is there anything I can do to the interiors, temporaril­y, to make a still-awkward situation more workable? Rosie, Wellington, NZ

First, let me say, he wasn’t good enough for you anyway. None of us wanted to say so, but now it’s out, my suggestion would be as follows. Start packing your half of the home and contents now, partly for sanity and partly so you can bifurcate the entire flat with a Berlin Wall of the big-size boxes. You’d be amazed how well corrugated cardboard and bubble wrap can muffle the sound of a man crying himself to sleep.

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