Chattel prod

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am

In general, Hongkongers shy away from DIY. As discovered by B&Q and Spotlight - both of which closed last year after brief debuts - spending the weekend trawling through hardware and craft shops is not really our thing.

But in this period of renewed frugality, are we more likely to tackle the household jobs we once would have paid someone else to do?

Designer Clifton Leung thinks so - and he says the Lunar New Year break is the ideal time to begin those do-it-yourself home-improvement projects.

Although Leung is not suggesting anyone should start knocking down walls or refitting their bathrooms, he says there are lots of simple cosmetic add-ons we can easily do to enhance our homes.

'Designers see the bigger picture - they give you the space, but it's up to you how you use it,' says Leung, of Clifton Leung Design Workshop.

Leung has a number of DIY 'tips for better living'. Most, he says, can be done by amateurs and on a limited budget.

With the Year of the Tiger approaching, it's the ideal time to accessorise in red. Red cushions, for example, will mark a bright end to winter and an auspicious start to the new year. Buying some house plants such as stands of bamboo will be bring good fung shui and also provide an attractive screen around the things you need but don't want to see, such as air conditioning units.

There are also new things you can do with tried-and-true favourites, such as taking an antique Chinese screen out of its frame, and 'floating' the panels onto a glass wall or window. Leung also suggests going through your photo files, then enlarging and framing favourites to hang as artworks. Mirrors create the illusion of expanded space, and they can be accessorised with designer graphics or decorative stickers you can design on your computer.

If your bonus is generous, buy a single, beautiful designer piece such as a Philippe Starck chair. It doesn't have to match the rest, but on its own will make a statement. Play with heights, says Leung. If replacing your dining table, consider a small bar-height table instead, with just a couple of bar stools. If you have a spare corner, add a tatami mat for lower seating. This creates a cosy space for conversation, reading or drinking tea, and adds yet another design perspective. Think about different wall finishes. You might highlight one wall in a vibrant colour, or add textured wallpaper. More ambitious DIY-ers can create a trendy feature wall by gluing on stacks of tiles made of granite or stone.

Nothing changes a look quicker than new paint and that's a job even a novice home improver can handle. To be on trend, choose environmentally friendly paint, which is billed as the rising star of renovation.

ICI Dulux Lifemaster paint, for example, is devoid of the volatile organic compounds that contribute to indoor air pollution. It is also odour-free and is in tune with global safety and environmental protection standards. (The major paint brands' websites are a mine of information for DIY painting projects. Some, including Nippon Paint and ICI Dulux, even have a nifty paint calculator so you can work out how much paint you need. Can't find a colour you like? Visit Nippon Colour Creations' showrooms and they'll computer-match to the colour of your choice. All professional painters agree that the finished look is dependent on good surface preparation, so take the time to fix any wall imperfections before you start. If fungus is evident, it should be treated with an antifungal solution to terminate the growth of organisms embedded in the concrete.

Wallpaper is back in fashion, and it's no longer a nightmare for DIY installers thanks to new products that can be applied directly from the roll. Graham & Brown is one supplier offering new, fast-hang 'paste-the-wall' designs with a special backing that needs no soaking. Brewers also has trendy paste-the-wall designs, and handy hints on its website. Both British-based firms offer online sales.

If you are intent on picking up a drill and nail bag during the upcoming holiday, the Black & Decker website will show you everything you need to know - from everyday repairs to actual building projects - including instructional videos. But if all that seems too hard, you can always call a professional handyman.

Mark Fraser of CD&I Hong Kong understands people's reluctance to tackle DIY tasks. He says improving your home in Hong Kong brings 'a whole set of challenges' - including high humidity, language problems for non-Cantonese speakers and difficulty in finding suitable shops and suppliers.

Besides, Fraser adds, unlike in many Western countries, we don't have tool sheds. That's why he's built a business doing those pesky tasks we don't want to. But he is prepared to share, so if you have an urge to regrout your bathroom tiles, fix a wobbly cupboard door or solve a dampness problem, you'll find out how to, and where to buy the tools and materials, at manwithdrill.com.

Clifton Leung will share his DIY tips at the launch of his book, Interior Design Lifestyle - from Minimalism to Maximisation, on Saturday at 3pm, Metrobooks, Elements mall, Kowloon.