By Caroline Thorpe
Rethink your space
Lockdown is frustrating for those itching to use the time to renovate their home but unable to get to a DIY store. All is not lost, suggests Jane Frederick, president of the American Institute of Architects.
“It is almost impossible to start home improvement projects without any supplies but you can assess how you use the spaces,” she says. “While you’re stuck inside, document your daily routine and consider how the activity can be enhanced.
“Does your reading chair need to be moved by the window for great, natural light? Can you set up an eating space outdoors to enjoy the beautiful spring weather? Do you need to carve out a small space for some time alone for exercising, yoga or meditating? This may be more of a challenge in small spaces but don’t underestimate the impact of minor adjustments — or plants.”
The natural light pouring through the vast windows of this three-bedroom Stockholm apartment, for sale through Christie’s International Real Estate for SKr25m ($2.5m), offers a focal point to reconfigure the space.
Roll up your sleeves
Hiring professionals to enhance your home is out of the question for most, with many countries currently banning all but essential construction and maintenance. However Simon Gerrard, managing director of Martyn Gerrard estate agents in the UK, says even impractical householders can make improvements.
“While it is unlikely that you might have endless pots of paint to hand to give the whole house a makeover, even if you have some left over from previous renovations it can be transformative to touch up walls, skirting boards and doors that might be scuffed or worn,” he says.
Financial Times contributing editor Lucy Kellaway is taking delight from DIY during lockdown. She says that as her house leaks like a sieve, there is no danger of running out of things to do.
If you fancy a home with the work done already, this five-bedroom penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park in New York’s Manhattan has an immaculate interior. Sotheby’s International Realty is marketing it for $39.75m.
Paris designer India Mahdavi says our current confinement presents an opportunity to rearrange artwork. Start with a camera. “Take photos of the rooms you wish to restyle — it is easier to see what is right or wrong on a photograph,” says Mahdavi.
Then get to work rehanging your art. Mahdavi suggests transforming a long corridor or hallway into a portrait gallery, introducing “offbeat combinations” such as hanging paintings on wallpaper, or off centre, and grouping frames “if you can stick to a unified format”. “Anchor pictures by placing them no more than 20 to 30cm above a piece of furniture,” she adds.
The large rooms and high ceilings at Seton Castle in East Lothian provide a great canvas for arranging artwork. Savills is asking for offers of more than £8m.
“I have a friend who cuts her grass with a pair of scissors for no other reason than it means she is connecting with the garden,” says Australian landscape gardener Phillip Johnson. “Obviously it is only a small patch of grass but she loves sitting on it.”
Johnson’s point is that now is the time to enjoy whatever green space is available to you. “[If you have children] teach them how to create a veggie or herb garden, if you have some seeds, germinate them on the windowsill, creating a little greenhouse with sticks and clingfilm,” he suggests.
Those with outside space should not be daunted by maintaining it, he suggests. “Keep it as simple as getting outside and weeding; garden maintenance can be very therapeutic — getting outside and connecting with nature energises the soul,” he says.
Even a small outside space, such as the terrace garden at this five-bedroom apartment in central Amsterdam, can offer solace. The property is on the market with Knight Frank for €3.2m.
Have a clear out
In normal times, decluttering is an eminently postponable task. Now, though, we have more time to tackle those unwanted possessions. Juliet Landau-Pope, a UK productivity coach and virtual organiser, suggests a step-by-step approach.
“Don’t try to tackle it all at once,” she says. “Instead, break it down into projects that you can accomplish in, say, 15 to 20 minutes. One pile of papers on the floor, one stack of books on a bedside table, one kitchen cabinet.”
The usual recipients of our unwanted goods — charity shops, recycling centres and community reuse projects — are closed. “What you can do is bag up anything you no longer want or need, label it carefully, and store it out of the way until lockdown lifts,” says Landau-Pope.
If you need storage space, this five-bedroom home on Australia’s Gold Coast has ample provision, with a double garage and two buggy garages. It is available through Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty for AUS$2.39m ($1.56m).