Beautiful in green?
Why hire professionals to redecorate the house when you can do it yourself, asks Salonaz Sami
I have always been a fan of the whole DIY thing, or do- it-yourself. As a child, sewing was a great hobby, along with exploring what different things were made of. Those were the good old times, when I used to turn everything I could lay my hands on -- one of my mother's dresses, one of my little sister's toys, or even a school uniform of mine -- into a fashionable new creation.
As I grew up, I took up crafts, using whatever I thought was inspiring, or green in colour. Green has always been my favourite colour, especially darker shades like olive-green, and so it was only to be expected when the time came for me to get married that I would think of green as one of the main colours for a new bedroom.
But you don't always get what you want in life. Ali, my future husband, and I decided to let go of the hassle of hiring professional painters and do the job ourselves. We did some you-tubing and e-investigation, and after a lot of researching and googling we were ready to start.
When you are decorating a bedroom, don't decide on the wall colours first. Instead, first find a bed-cover, sheet, or pillow case you really like and use it as a centrepiece to create a colour palette. You can usually get any wall colour you want, whereas finding the right quilt, fabric, chandelier or carpet can be tricky. After finding a centrepiece, the idea is to choose the main colour used on the walls, secondary colour used for the window shades and door, and accent colour used for the room's accessories and lighting.
We looked for days for our centrepiece, before finally finding it at Al-Khatoun. It was a beautiful satin bed-cover in purple, olive-green, light-orange and desert-beige. As soon as we saw it, it sealed the deal. Al-Khatoun, located in the Al-Hussein area of Cairo, is a great underground spot for unique curtains, bed-covers and huge wall-hangings. And if you are into crafts and calligraphy, it is the place for you. What is so great about Al-Khatoun is that if they don't have what you want, they will make it for you.
Another great low-profile place for exceptional curtains, pillow cases, wooden antiques and all the khyamia products you can think of is Umm Al-Donia, a not-so-big gallery located in Talaat Harb Street. Al-Khatoun and Umm Al-Donia have two things in common: very reasonable prices and ever- so-friendly staff.
So, with the quilt's colours carved in our heads, we headed to a store to pick the wall paint. And as I was thinking how beautiful green would look on the main wall, my fiancé dropped a bombshell. "What about purple," he asked, as we were looking at the colour card. "I like purple," I said with a thoughtful look. And the image in my head suddenly changed. We decided to get the desert-yellow first and do some thinking about the purple.
We used the Eid vacation to start working on our bedroom project by spackling and sanding the walls. Before doing anything else, you need to empty the room completely and clean everything, including windows, walls and even the ceiling with soap and water. As far as I was concerned, spackling only involved removing old nails from the walls and filling their places with spackle paste or polyfilla. But little did I know. It turned out that this was not quite it. The process is much more complicated, if still doable.
First, fill in visible holes with spackle, using two spackle knives. Then, let it dry for a day, and then sandpaper to spread equal amounts of spackle over the walls so that all the surfaces are smooth and no dents or slits are visible. The next step is to remove the door, windows, chandelier and all electric plug covers. If you have a large piece of furniture that you cannot get out of the room, move it to the centre and make sure it is well covered and protected.
When decorating a room, work your way down. Start by painting the ceiling, then the walls, and not the other way around. After two days' work we were ready to start painting. Although it is common to paint the ceiling a different colour from the walls, and both mostly white, we opted for a change and decided to use the same desert-yellow we were going to use on the walls.
According to feng shui, the ancient Chinese tradition of using the placement of items to create a positive flow of energy, or chi, which my fiancé and I were very interested in, yellow and purple are both great colours for the bedroom, given its location in the house's bagua, or feng shui map of how energy moves within the space.
As I was attaching an extension pole to a roller to start the ceiling-painting process, the image of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, when she decides to paint her kitchen egg- shell yellow to keep busy and forget about Mr Big, jumped into my head. In that episode, the whole process of painting seems effortless, whereas in real life, as I was discovering, it was not.
Using the roller with the extension pole was extremely difficult because it was surprisingly heavier than we thought. But we did it. Actually, Ali did it, after both my arms had gone numb from the roller's weight when I tried to help. When the ceiling was finished, it was time to start on the walls.
If you are using more than one colour in a room, as we were, make sure you cover all corners and edges with tape first before you apply any paint. You also need to cover the window and door frames, so that they remain clean. We finished the ceiling in a day and left it to dry for 12 hours before applying a second coat of paint. Then we started working on the walls, which also took a day and 12 hours to dry.
The whole process was very smooth thanks to the brand of paints we were using. From the first coat onwards, all the spackle and slip-ups, and there were plenty of those, simply vanished into thin air, as if they didn't exist. I am by no means an expert, but I think good wall paint can be compared to good nail polish. It should be thick, yet smooth, and it should dry quickly.
On an impulse, we used another brand for the purple colour because the nearby branch of the paints we used was on Eid vacation, and we just couldn't wait. This turned out to be our biggest mistake, making us understand the need to use the best kind of paint the budget can afford. Trust me: the few extra pounds are worth it. It took us four days to finish one wall because the paint was so poor and clogged up that we had to give it four coats before it looked even. And again, Ali should take credit for that wall. I was so disappointed by the first coat that I refused to work on it.
When we were finally done, the room looked transformed and brand new. We were both so proud that we had done it ourselves that we decided to do the rest of the house ourselves as well. We knew exactly where every piece of furniture was supposed to be, thanks to a free virtual room decorator that allows you to lay out your furniture anyway you want and according to your room measurements.
We went for a simple, low-platform bed, which I made headboards for myself in a couple of hours. Because we had plenty of space, we were able to create a work space and two seating areas, all in one room. We found a lot of headboard ideas online and chose the one we liked best.
If we can do it, you certainly can too. The important thing is to do research and watch a lot of how-to videos first before taking any steps. And don't panic if, God forbid, something untoward happens, like a paint-spill. Take it easy: everything is fixable.
What you'll need:
A five-gallon bucket
Three-inch flat brush
Spackle paste or polyfilla
A bucket to clean brushes in
Small angled brush for trimming corners