Ongoing incarceration with the whole family can benefit all if you get everyone involved in home décor projects, writes Carol O’Callaghan

The interior life, which is bliss if you enjoy nothing more than playing house, is the only one we have during the coronavirus lockdown.

I am in my element. The house has been thoroughly spring-cleaned — carbolic soap is my new friend — and every cobweb has been inhaled with gusto by my new Henry hoover.

Even if you can’t join in my enthusiasm for the great indoors, we can all admit to being grateful the virus didn’t hit in November. In spring,we can open windows and let in fresh air, be inspired by nature awaking as we stride out for our two-kilometre walk, and come home with a fresh eye to reassess our surroundings.

It was during the new way of meeting for coffee — video chat — that interior designer Sinead Cassidy took the sting out of this incarceration for people struggling and longing for a browse around the shops.

“We might be confined to barracks, but we’ll never get to know our homes better,” she said. “Even though it’s a hard time for many people, the good news is that you don’t need a large bank balance to make changes. Take it in stages. Start by decluttering and cull what you don’t want. You can order stylish boxes online for storage,” Sinead said.


Sinead has a no-spend solution for anyone living in an open-plan house.

“Look at the different zones. Are they still working for you? Repurpose what you have. Move things around: cushions, lamps, rugs, anything that’s moveable,” she said.

As it happens, Sinead’s alter ego is a colour consultant for Fleetwood, so if you want to tackle a decorating project and order paint online, she has tips, including how to get the family involved.

“You don’t have to commit to doing a whole room,” Sinead said.


Seize this chance to play house and  get everyone involved in projects

“Using test pots and tape allows you to make patterns on a wall. It’s colourful and fun and a great way to get the family involved, and makes a happy space for a kid.

“Any intricate paint pattern must be drawn out on paper first. Measure the height and width of the wall and work out how wide you want your panels of colour. Use a spirit level and masking tape. Remember the saying: cut once, measure twice,” Sinead said.

For something even easier, which doesn’t require measuring and a great deal of planning, she said: “Think what you can get the kids excited about and get them involved in decisions. You might not be ready to chuck their old wardrobe yet. Just wash it with sugar soap, prime it, and paint. Buy some new handles online.

“When I visit a client, I’ll look at how the room is being used. Is it for study, play, and storage, as well as sleep? Depending on the age of the child, we’ll look at colours they like. I might end up just adding a pop of colour in the room, so it doesn’t overwhelm. Sometimes, the room will need to transition, if they are getting to their teens in a year or two,” Sinead said.

“Later, small changes can be made without a total revamp,” she said

If they’re sharing a room, one can get a say on the wall colour, the other on the linens. Give them each a designated space to have their own bits on display.

For the rest of the house, Sinead sees now as an opportunity to move away from doing things the same old way and playing it safe, which she describes as being a bit like reverting to the same bottle of wine.

“We know what we like: it’s handy, it works, and it doesn’t disappoint. Sometimes, we adopt the same criteria to decorating our homes, so let’s look for another dimension and we’ll be proud that we tried.”


  • Paint your front door and add new hardware
  • Revamp a cupboard or wardrobe
  • Tackle a feature wall in a hall
  • Make-over a guest or downstairs bathroom
  • Paint skirtings or architraves the same colour as the walls, but in a room rather than the hall, as it might be tricky to deal with lots of doors