Norma Owens has DIYed in both her houses in Dublin and rural Co Galway and does not shy away from saying that she has made mistakes, purchased things she didn’t like, painted a room fire engine red although she prefers neutral colours and regretted it after 12 hours.
It is this honesty that stands out from the chat I have with Norma on her DIY journey.
“A lot of this comes with experience,” she says.
Experience is what Norma has and that is why her advice is so valuable, all the while keeping in mind that it is okay to DIY and make mistakes, because that’s how we learn. It would be worse if we never tried at all.
A bit about Norma
Norma grew up in north Galway, in a village just outside Tuam.
“When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to be a city girl for a while, but realised very quickly that I was definitely a country girl at heart and needed to get back to the countryside.”
After living in Dublin for a while, she moved back to Galway, this time east Galway, and now lives rurally with her husband.
“When we moved in, it was what they called a ‘builders finish’ - we had concrete floors, the plumbing and everything was there, but there was literally nothing else. We lived like we were camping indoors.”
Hence, Norma’s DIY journey began and she has now DIYed every room in her house. However, for Norma, it is still “a work in progress”.
What is home?
Making four walls a place you want to call home can be challenging, because what does home really mean? Norma has some good advice on how to figure this out.
“I think one of the big breakthroughs for me was when I learned to think about how I want my home to feel, rather than how I want it to look. That really changes how you approach everything.
“Just think of a few words of how you want your home to feel. I like it to be calm, comfortable, cosy and relaxed. Other people love really bright colours, because they maybe prefer their home to be exciting, invigorating or cheerful,” she says.
Being honest about how you truly want to feel in your home and not about how other people’s homes look or what current interior trends are will give you a house that feels more ‘you’.
“If you start with how you want your home to feel, I think you can't go wrong,” says Norma.
Another hurdle in the beginning of a DIY home improvement journey is picking the first project to tackle.
Norma advises: “What is the thing that you most want to do, because that's what you're going to be motivated to do.
"Particularly where there's a learning curve, it can be overwhelming if you're trying to learn something new and you really don't like what you're doing as well. That's really, really difficult. But if you want to learn it and you're enjoying it, then it's going to come a lot easier to you.”
Also, it is the small steps that will give you the confidence to tackle bigger DIY projects. The first DIY project Norma ever did was tiling a splashback. At the time, she was trying to find something to start her DIYing journey and they really needed a splashback.
“I didn't start by tiling an entire room, I started with just a little splashback behind the washbasin in my en suite bathroom; that was the thing that nobody else was going to see.
"If I messed it up, it wasn't going to be the worst in the world, but best-case scenario it was going to protect the wall from the splashes and it did that. I achieved it and it worked.
“The next time, I did an entire shower enclosure and that worked. Then I started getting more confident and I was able to do entire rooms and worked on the kitchen in our last house.
“Do what you want to do, number one, and then take it in bite-sized chunks,” she advises.
Choosing and changing
DIY can be a budget-friendly way to do home interiors, if you want it to be. However, as with anything, making bad purchases when DIYing can wear out a budget pretty fast.
Where once we had a limited choice, now it is almost the opposite: we are often spoiled for choice.
Norma suggests: “Take your time, don't just rush into something and buy the first thing you see that you like, let it sit with you for a while. See if you still like it in a month’s time. Then I think you're less likely to make poor choices and poor purchases.”
Norma says it is also a matter of picking and choosing. You might buy one main feature piece that will ‘make’ the room and then cut back on the price of other objects you also want or need in the room.
Over time, your taste might change and you might therefore be inclined to change your interiors. Norma says this has happened to her a couple of times. She has advice on this matter as well.
“I tried to do the more permanent things in a way that will suit many styles. I try not to go for bold colours or strong tastes or styles in the basics.
"It’s very easy to paint the walls, change the wallpaper, change the curtains, if you're not ripping up floors or tiles. Keeping it very classic and neutral in the permanent things is the way to go.”
Norma has a blog on her DIY interiors journey with helpful guides, tips and tricks at The House That Will or follow her on Instagram @thehousethatwill.