In a lockdown that is likely to last for months, everyone has had to turn inward and be at home. The challenges of working from home for those lucky enough to still have jobs means that we are being confronted with all those DIY projects we didn’t finish, the poor functioning or shabby decor of rooms we’ve neglected, not to mention the clutter we’ve accumulated in our busy lives.
While the streaming services offer great escapism, especially in these times of stress, they may also provide inspiration and practical ideas for home improvement. Even if you’re restricted in what you can change or repair, especially for the bigger jobs, this time of enforced familiarity with your living space is a great opportunity for planning. So, if you’re couching with the popcorn, pick up a notebook and pen and get inspired.
Netflix is probably the front runner for current design shows. An example is Stay Here, which is about turning properties into profitable home stays. The makeovers are brim full of ideas to maximise and elevate the spaces into somewhere you would pay money to stay in. Interior decorator Genevieve Gorder comes up with the improvement ideas and while a carriage house or houseboat reno are too specific for most of us, problem solving a poky kitchen as in the episode set in Paso Robles wine country has great ideas for what can be achieved. Peter Lorimer handles the real estate side of things, giving the viewer clearer ideas for raising the value of your space, especially if you do want to sell or rent later.
Tiny House Nation, also on Netflix, is an American series that builds small compact homes. While most of us won’t end up in a one room split level space, the creative engineering and clever ideas for space saving could inspire new ideas in all sorts of living arrangements. An episode about the firefighter and his wife who lost their home in the California bushfires has a resonance for Australian viewers.
Restoration Australia is more about the viewing experience of watching large scale renovations of historic and heritage homes in Australia, but Interior Design Masters offers more practical ideas. It’s a British show where new designers compete to win the prize of a large hotel contract, so most of the challenges are in commercial spaces, but there are a couple of projects that inspire fresh ideas for residences. For example, an episode featuring a sad looking vacation cottage, or one focusing on updating college rooms. We get to see designers problem solving, and considered design concepts that could trigger a more creative approach for your own spaces.
You’ll want to steer clear of The Apartment unless your taste runs to Big Brother/Survivor style reality shows. This Singaporean reality series (which is also the longest running reality competition television show in Asia) sees contestants design and decorate a room each week. The contestants are lesser known actors and models, presumably ‘resting’ between gigs, who ramp up the tension and bitchiness while three judges, helmed by a slick Jamie Durie, apply the criticism. Basically, the starlets shop and move furniture. And squabble, a lot.
Amazing Interiors doesn’t offer practical help either, unless you’re a wealthy eccentric. This series is pure voyeurism as we are guided around fantasy spaces like a basement car park turned into a vast entertainment area worthy of a Bond villain’s mansion.
For more relatable shows, you can unearth some older series on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. Among the most practical are Brand New House on a Budget where designer Linda Barker has 5000 pounds and one week to transform the space. These cluttered, half DIY finished houses are probably closer to what many of us are familiar with.
Samantha Pynn hosts Pure Design, another more relatable challenge where one problem room gets fixed up. Makeovers for an attic loft, master bedroom or kitchen are some of the targets in the 2008 series. This one room approach may be the most feasible while socially isolating.
Great Taste No Money is a 2017 Canadian series where Steven Fermoyle demonstrates clever, creative problem solving like updating a living room layout or a child’s bedroom.
Renos and decorating apart, the most immediately practical strategy to improve your living space while in lockdown is back at Netflix and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The thoughtful, minimalist approach of the ‘konmari method’, where you connect with your possessions and spaces in order to choose what to keep and what to clear, is perfect therapy for a time of uncertainty, when we need to take charge of our domestic lives and resources. Marie reminds us about having gratitude for treasured possessions, not a bad approach when we are all likely to be cutting back to essentials.
For a similar theme, put your feet up after a cleaning spree and watch the Netflix documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus go on their book tour across the United States to speak with like-minded people from all walks of life. The Minimalists encourage less compulsory consumption, so that you have space to fill your life with the people, experiences, and things that you really love.