When we talk about design inspiration, we don’t often look to Australia. After all, isn’t it just a sunnier England and therefore exactly the same in every single way? No, is the simple answer. It’s a big place. Nearly 3 million miles² to be precise, which to put into context is roughly 32 times the size of the UK!! It’s also home to cities like Melbourne, which has been ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the most liveable city for the last seven years; just don’t mention it to a Sydneysider though - they get quite upset! But whilst Melbourne is a cosmopolitan metropolis and the home of everything new and ‘hip’ in Australia, it’s not from here that we can draw our inspiration. New and ‘hip’ is nice, but it’s not very unique, and we prefer uniqueness here at Tap Warehouse.
Drive an hour or so outside of any of the big cities and it’ll be like you’re in a completely different world. Here you’ll find world famous vineyards and farms that are the size of small countries; farms that are completely off the grid - no mains water, no mains electricity - everything they use is from nature, whether solar power or rain water. Things are made to last; when something’s no longer good enough for one purpose, it’s modified and used for something else. Nothing ever goes to waste, and it’s from these people that we can learn a lot to make our own homes better.
It’s All About Nature
Australia and nature are two words that go together like shrimp and barbie. Even the city dwellers are at one with nature, whether it’s going for an evening stroll though one of the many parks, or going for a dip in the sea after work. When it comes to their homes, nature plays a big part there as well. We’re not talking about all the spiders and snakes that live under your bed; that’s a myth (in the cities at least)! Most Australian homes are very open-plan with big windows allowing as much sunlight in as possible, which makes their homes feel airy, spacious and relaxing.
Whilst it’s probably not conceivable for you to start knocking down walls and installing big windows in your own home, there are a few things that you can do to make your home look and feel more Australian:
Utilise light and neutral colours - It’s amazing how using lighter colours can improve the ‘feel’ of a room, although it shouldn’t be that amazing really because it’s simple science. After all, lighter colours are lighter because they allow more light to reflect off them. If more light is reflecting off them, it’ll make your room instantly lighter, and a lighter room feels more calming and more airy. You’ll find very few houses in Australia with anything but light colours inside.
De-clutter - Nothing makes a home feel small like clutter does. Even if you think it’s out of the way - like on top of a wardrobe - if you can see it, it’s going to be making the room feel smaller. When you’re re-painting, take the opportunity to have a proper sort out. Anything you don’t need, hide away. This could be under the bed, in a garage, or if you don’t need it at all, throw/give it away or use it for something else, which we’ll talk about later.
Become Alan Titchmarsh - Metaphorically, not physically. Plants are used in homes all over the world to create a calming influence, but it’s something that we don’t do much here in the UK. If you want something that will provide some nice greenery but isn’t hard to care for, then Aloe Vera plants are perfect. Yucca plants are also very good, and again, require little knowledge and maintenance. For the more green fingered or adventurous, Bonsai plants are perfect, but the choice really is yours. Say this quietly, but they don’t even need to be real. A few tips to bear in mind though: you don’t want a plant that is too fragrant or one that is going to die if you go on holiday for a week and can’t water it. Also, we’ve talked previously about keeping your house clutter-free, so you don’t want to be turning your home into the local botanical gardens, but a few plants placed in the right places (especially your bathroom and kitchen) will transform your home.
The Wood Effect
We’ve talked about bringing nature into your home through the use of light and plants, but that’s not the only way that nature can enhance your home. Wood - nature’s most useful resource. It can give us fire; it can give us shelter; it can be used to build transport; it can also give your home an Australian feel. For those living on farms in the middle of the bush, they can’t very well make the journey to the local furniture store, so wood is used wherever it can be. Many of us will already have wood in our homes, whether it’s a wooden bannister on your stairs or a wooden table, but how many times is that would then painted over and the natural look completely lost? Bring it back we say. You can do this by stripping the paint off and then using a coat or two of varnish. Alternatively, seek out new wooden furniture. For your bathroom, we have a range of light wooden and dark wooden bathroom furniture which, together with a few pot plants and a light coloured paint job can transform your bathroom into an authentic Outback dunny in no time - although without the spiders and with proper plumbing!
There’s less that you can do in the kitchen, but even the little touches can make a big difference. Consider swapping your glass chopping board for a wooden chopping board. If you need placemats and coasters for your table, again, wooden or cork ones can create a big effect for an affordable price.
Self-Sufficient Can be for Everyone
Australian country folk are a resourceful bunch. I suppose if you lived somewhere where the nearest shop was a few hundred miles away, you’d probably want to make as few trips there as possible. Now, we’re not expecting you to suddenly forgo the shops completely and become 100% self-sufficient. We don’t have space in this country for everyone to have their own livestock and field of crops, but there are things that we can do to become more self-sufficient like our Antipodean cousins.
If there’s one thing that we should be better at than Australians, it’s using rainwater. We get enough of it after all! But how many of us actually collect and reuse rainwater? Granted, the chances of having a few 50,000 litre tanks to store all the water that falls on your house are slim, but even if you only have a ‘small’ 100 litre tank in your back garden, that’s a lot of water that can be collected. So what can you use rainwater for? It can be used for anything from drinking (if filtered first), to composting, to bathing, to washing your pets, washing your car, or you can even store it and use it for watering your plants in the garden or in your house in the summer when they get less rainfall.
Compost is relatively cheap to buy, but it’s even cheaper to make. Composting bins can be bought very cheaply, or made from scrap wood if you’re a dab hand at DIY, and any of your food scraps, garden waste as well as your collected rainwater can go in there to be turned into fresh, ready-to-use compost for your garden.
We’ve already talked about plants a few times, but we’ll mention them again. This time they’re not going to be used for aesthetic purposes, but to feed you. There’s nothing more satisfying than buying a pot and some seeds, and watching them grow into something edible with the help of your homemade compost. Cress is amongst the easiest salads to grow and can be grown inside all year round. Outdoor fruits and veg can be more seasonal, but that just makes them more rewarding to eat when the time comes. We might not have the climate of our Australian cousins, but we can still grow a wide variety of fruit and veg.
Using solar power is one of the most self-sufficient things that we can do, but again, living in the UK means that sunlight is often a rarity. There is also the cost of installing solar panels to take into account. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t use it in some way. Consider using a solar powered phone charger which can sit in the sun all day and then charge your phone at night or in the evening. If you’re having a garden party, solar powered lights are an environmentally friendly way to ensure that your guests can see what they’re doing.
Join the Upcycling Trend
According to Wikipedia, upcycling is the “process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.” Almost anything can be used for upcycling. Why not use an empty yogurt pot to grow your cress? Or that old wardrobe that is too small? That could be used to build your new compost bin.
There are dozens of websites out there with tips and ideas for upcycling to help unleash your inner Australian farmer, among the best of which are Pinterest and Upcycle That. Upcycling is not only good for the environment, but is great for adding quirky and unique features that money can’t buy to your home.
So, there we have it, a brief look at how to freshen up your home and not spend a lot of money whilst doing it. We mock Australians a lot, but there is a lot we can learn from them about how to design and decorate a home, and also how to make use of all the resources available to us. We’d love to hear your top tips for brightening up your home. Do you have a secret recipe to make the best compost? What do you do with the rainwater that you collect? What’s the best thing that you’ve upcycled? Let us know in the comments below and share with the rest of the Tap Warehouse community.