Owner of Tiny €10K home shares her lockdown DIY tips

The Cork woman who moved into a mobile home and stylishly revamped it -  to save for a mortgage during the housing crisis - is back with some great ideas on how to keep ourselves busy with some DIY tips during this difficult time
Owner of Tiny €10K home shares her lockdown DIY tips
Deirdre O'Sullivan's €10K 'Tiny Home' in Blarney, County Cork - a mobile home which she completely renovated. People have been wowed by the amazing transformation of the mobile home.

PAINT and DIY shops in Cork are reporting record sales during the Covid-19 lockdown with lots of people putting their new found time to good use.

Among them is Deirdre O’Sullivan of the well-known business Style 25, which specialises in hand-painted kitchens and furniture, who, after temporarily shutting up shop, has carried out some seriously impressive DIY jobs.

Deirdre O'Sullivan, of Style 25, who specialises in hand-painted kitchens and furniture, outside her 'Tiny Home' in Cork, which cost her €10K. She moved into the mobile home during the housing crisis, to save for a mortgage.
Deirdre O'Sullivan, of Style 25, who specialises in hand-painted kitchens and furniture, outside her 'Tiny Home' in Cork, which cost her €10K. She moved into the mobile home during the housing crisis, to save for a mortgage.

Late last year, Deirdre moved into a mobile home on her parents’ land near Blarney in a bid to save for a deposit. We featured her renovation job in WoW! at the time and her exquisitely decorated ‘tiny home’ struck a chord with our readers, making it one of our most read stories of the year!

The wall plaques that Deirdre made from a tree she took out of a river.
The wall plaques that Deirdre made from a tree she took out of a river.

One of the first projects she did since the Covid-19 restrictions hit was to make two wall plaques from a tree she took out of a river.

“These were cut and dried first by the stove for a few weeks, sanded back, then using a small multi tool I carved inscriptions into them in Ogham writing; finally they were varnished and hung on the wall. I had never done something like this before, it was very simple and a fab little DIY project.

“I have also spent lots of time painting, like everyone else. The paint on the windows of my home was peeling so they were sanded back and redone. I painted a garden bench for my dad, which would have continued to rot away without some TLC.

The pots outside Deirdre's Tiny Home before revamp.
The pots outside Deirdre's Tiny Home before revamp.

“I spent a day pottering around planting bulbs in old plastic pots I had found and added a bit of paint to those too. Since I can’t buy ceramic pots for the time being, that has cheered them up for now.”

The pots with a new lick of paint.
The pots with a new lick of paint.

As Deirdre’s home is quite small, she’s always thinking of ideas to save on space, thus prompting another project: “All of my spices where taking up too much cupboard space in the kitchen and I had been meaning to buy a spice rack for ages, but with so much time on my hands I said I would try to make one first. I used what I had, some leftover flooring and electrical wire, and once painted it worked out really well — and more importantly does the job."

The DIY spice rack.
The DIY spice rack.

“I also decided to do something about my grubby blinds and painted them an ombre effect, which worked out better than I expected. I wet them first with a spray bottle and painted on emulsion."

The 'grubby' old blind. before the revamp.
The 'grubby' old blind. before the revamp.

They were fabric blinds so the diluted paint was absorbed well, I wouldn’t recommend this technique on any other surface, it was just an experiment that happened to work out!

The blind now, after Deirdre dyed it.
The blind now, after Deirdre dyed it.

“I also found the frame of an old bench belonging to my grandparents behind the shed and managed to remake it with pallet wood as that was all I had to hand. I’m chuffed to bits with how that turned out as it has sentimental value and it is lovely to see it being used again.”

On the whole, Deirdre says she’s found this time to be really productive: “I’m quite content tipping away at small projects I may never have gotten around to doing. All that is helped massively by the good weather too. I am very fortunate that I have customers lined up on the other side of this and very low overheads so I know my business will kick start again after this. That sense of security has allowed me to really make the most of this time off and enjoy it. I can’t express how grateful I am for that.”

Deirdre said that the feedback she got since she shared the story of her tiny home has been incredible.

“I have gotten so many messages of support, people saying that they have been inspired and that it has also given them hope.

“The interior is done now and I am really happy with it. My next project is the exterior, I am hoping to disguise the big tow bar at the end by turning it into an outdoor dining area and I also want to create a camp fire area in preparation for the celebrations when the lockdown is over.”


Here’s her top advice for painting novices

Take your time!

Make sure you have all of the right tools and materials for the job. I would recommend going to a specialist paint store where they can give you the correct guidance for the job at hand. For walls, make sure you fill and sand any cracks, mask off areas and put down dust sheets to protect the floor. If you are painting over a dark colour, use a primer first.

For furniture/wood, I would ALWAYS say sand first, even though good primers nowadays usually say there is no need. Sanding creates a key for the primer to adhere to and guarantees a much more durable, long lasting finish.

Don’t give yourself a time-frame to get something done. I have been painting furniture for over seven years almost every day and things can still take longer then expected. Go into it with the attitude “it will be done when it’s done”, the project tends to be more enjoyable.

How to paint laminate

Give the surface a light sand, not too hard or you will scratch it. With plastics and laminates it is even more important to create a key for the primer to adhere to as these surfaces aren’t porous like wood. For almost every job I do I use a primer called BIN by Zinseer. This is a shellac primer and takes some time to get used to using as it dries very quickly and is hard to work with. If it is a big job like a kitchen or furniture used frequently and you have the time to practice first, I would recommend this primer. Otherwise, there are other great water-based primers on the market that will do the job and are much easier to work with. A specialist in store will guide you on the right primer for the job. If the primer doesn’t adhere to the furniture, the paint you put on top won’t last either. I pretty much always use water-based satinwood paints to finish. I would recommend either Fleetwood or Colourtrend paints. Keep it Irish.

Start small

Pretty much anything can be painted nowadays with the array of primers available for every surface. I would encourage everyone to give it a go, you can always start over again. But for bigger projects I would advise leaving to the experts as kitchens can end up looking tatty and chipped in just a matter of weeks without the skills and know-how, so start small first.

Tool kit essentials

My must-have tool would have to be a drill with all the trimmings (drill bits). You don’t need to be any way ‘handy’ to own a drill and you can pick a small one up for about €30 in any DIY store.

The other tools I couldn’t do without would be a measuring tape, hammer, jigsaw, level, and sanders (of all shapes and sizes). If you are looking for a sander I would recommend an orbital sander for most jobs. You would be surprised how far those six tools will take you.

We previously featured this Cork woman’s incredible ‘Tiny Home’ in Blarney. Today she tells us about some of the DIY jobs she has been doing during lockdown

I also found the frame of an old bench belonging to my grandparents behind the shed and managed to remake it... it is lovely to see it being used.

I have gotten so many messages of support, people saying that they have been inspired and that it has also given them hope. The interior is done now and I am really happy with it.

How Deirdre's wardrobes look now.
How Deirdre's wardrobes look now.

Deirdre's favourite project

ONE of my favourite DIY jobs to date is my bedroom wardrobes. I couldn’t afford a whole wall of new wardrobes and I certainly couldn’t live with them the way they were either, so knowing there are plenty of people out there that can relate to this, here’s how to transform your built-in wardrobes by just changing the doors… 1. Remove the existing doors from the hinges, leaving the hinges on the wardrobe frame.

2. Measure each wardrobe door and head off to B&Q (or another DIY store that provides a cutting service) who have furniture panels they can cut to your size requirements. That’s your doors cut already!

While there you will also need to pick up some iron on edging to cover where the new doors have been cut (the raw edges) and you will also need to purchase a fostner drill bit to drill new holes for your hinges. Also, if don’t already have the paint and primers needed to paint the wardrobe, you might as well pick them up now too.

3. To make life easier for myself and avoid measuring (which I rarely have the patience for) I used the old wardrobe doors as a template for where to drill new holes for the hinges.

To do this, lie the new door down flat with the old door on top, hinge holes facing up. Either tape them together or get someone to hold them to prevent them from moving.

The wardrobes before the revamp.
The wardrobes before the revamp.

Use a small drill bit to drill through the centre of the hinge hole, through the top door and into the new door just enough to mark it. Take your time here and try not to go through the bottom door. You just want to create a little guide hole. If you do go all the way through it’s no big deal, that’s what filler is for.

4. Repeat the above with all the doors and you will be left with little guide holes telling you exactly where to drill your new hinge holes.

5. With your fostner drill bit centred on your guide holes, start drilling out the holes on your new doors making sure not to go too deep with the drill bit. Usually the depth of the drill bit itself is as far as you need to go.

Take your time as you don’t want to go through the door... that’s a hole you don’t want to be filling! Make sure the doors chosen are thicker than the depth of the fostner drill bit.

6. Repeat the above with all the doors and that is the hardest part of the job done.

7. Before painting, iron on the edging to the raw cut edges on the doors, this should only take a few minutes.

Sand, prime and paint the wardrobe frame and doors before fitting the doors back on.

8. Once everything is painted, fit the new doors back onto the existing hinges.

Measure and drill holes for some new handles or knobs and there you go!

Voila, a new modern wardrobe for a fraction of the price.

Here you can read our original interview with Deirdre where she shows us the inside of her 'Tiny Home':

https://www.echolive.ie/wow/Spiraling-rents-inspired-this-Cork-woman-to-find-a-10K-home-cb7df28d-5dcb-44c9-b59f-90a32eea14dc-ds

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