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Get busy: Expert advice to create your happy home


Get busy: Expert advice to create your happy home

The year 2021 has been dubbed the year of renovation, and by all accounts, 2022 is also shaping up to be strong for the industry. The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Aussies spent $2.9 billion on home alterations in the September quarter – a 19.7 per cent increase on the previous year’s reporting. According to a report from industry body hipages, a kitchen, bathroom or living room renovation can start from $10,000 and increase quickly depending on the scale of the project. However, home projects don’t necessarily have to cost a lot. There are plenty of smaller DIY tasks that will brighten up your home. With the Easter long weekend ahead of us, there’s no time like the present to get to work. Compiled by Candice Holznagel.

Cherie Barber

Renovation queen Cherie Barber is once again sharing her advice with My Weekly Preview readers. As the founder of Renovating for Profit, Ms Barber is a familiar face on television shows such as Channel Nine’s Space Invaders, Today Extra and popular lifestyle program The Living Room on Network Ten.

Ms Barber has renovated more than 150 properties valued at more than $75 million and trained more than 20,000 students through her renovation school.

This week, Ms Barber shares advice on how to create a healthy and happy home with a few simple updates.

“When you start to think about the concept of a happy and healthy home, what doesn’t spring to mind is the modern world we live in today,” Ms Barber says.

“It’s hard to imagine life before mobile phones, laptops, iPads and all the other modern devices we enjoy today. But the difficulty is tearing ourselves away from these very things, when in all truthfulness, we probably should be quietly curled up on the lounge with a good book and a cuppa.

“It’s like we almost have to force ourselves to take time out from the digital world we live in.

“With this infiltration of digital technology in our lives every single day, homeowners and renters have been very quick to hop on the fast-growing trend to create home environments that cocoon us from this manufactured, artificial world to one that reconnects us with the natural world. More than ever, we want to bring peace and Zen into our homes and lives generally.”

Reconnecting with nature

Ms Barber says there are plenty of simple ways to connect to nature in the home environment.

“Designers have really cottoned on to this. By choosing colours, textures, materials and even smells that remind us of nature, and by creating homes filled with sunlight, natural ventilation, green plants and leafy views, we can get as close as possible to the natural world outside.”

The biophilic design concept is a growing movement that centres on connecting humans to nature through architectural and style elements to improve wellbeing.

Project: Why not consider installing a vertical garden, plant an edible garden or buy a DIY water feature and install it in your garden.


Planting an edible garden? Broccoli, lettuce, spinach, spring onion, rosemary, thyme and coriander are all great varieties to plant during southeast Queensland’s autumn months.

Style file

Furnishings, textiles and decor accents are key to creating a comfortable and happy home. Choose pieces that bring a smile to your face, and that you connect with through colour and texture.

For a DIY project, Ms Barber says creating a feature of contrasting textures is the tick to nailing an organic, natural home environment.

“In one of my projects, I used old, recycled timber planks as feature walls in the living area and bedrooms. They were rustic looking with the old paint and nail holes still on them.”

Colour splash

Colour is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to transform your home. “It’s actually a proven science that colour has a powerful impact on our mental state and emotions,” Ms Barber says.

Project: Consider the use of colour in your paint, furnishings and accessories. Take some time to research the psychology behind colours and style based on this. Blues and greens are considered calming. These can be perfect for creating serene, nature-based colour schemes that naturally relax us. So grab a brush and get to work creating a new feature wall. If you’re looking for some colour inspo for your home, just put ‘nature-based colour palettes’ into Pinterest and you’ll find a zillion calming colour schemes.


Mix and match different textures to create visual interest. Wicker baskets, seagrass mats, rattan furniture, and linen bedding are natural textural elements that look great when combined with colour, or glossy green indoor plants.

Wonder walls

Wallpaper can be an effective way to introduce texture into your home.

“Not all wallpapers are decorative and meant to be a stand-out feature,” Ms Barber says.

“Many of the ones you can buy now are purely just for their textural effect. For example, you can get seagrass wallpapers which are a lot less interesting to look at visually, but they add another layer of texture to any room that can help your home feel like it’s more connected to nature.”

Project: We recommend buying wallpaper from a local retailer. This way you can view the quality and material and know exactly what you are buying.

  1. Clean the wall and smooth over any bumps or cracks, and then prime it.
  2. In the middle of the wall hold up your first piece with the help of a plumb line, level or laser level. Remember, walls and ceilings can be uneven, so don’t rely on them.
  3. Apply paste to the wall and place the paper. Leave about 10 centimetres at the top and the bottom.
  4. Apply the next strip, aligning the pattern, but don’t overlap.
  5. Once you’re happy with the position of the strips, trim the top and bottom with a sharp knife.


Cassandra Fenaughty

My Weekly Preview writer and Sunshine Coast-based landscape architect Cassandra Fenaughty says make the most of the Easter break to refresh your home. Ms Fenaughty, who has more than 20 years’ industry experience and owns a renovation and landscaping concept design business, has recently completed her fourth home renovation project.

Here are her 10 top tips for kicking off a renovation – no matter how big or small.

  1. Think ahead – write a list of the things you need and the things you want (yes, they are very different). Also work out your design and construction budget.
  2. Seek advice – work with a designer or builder to prioritise your works in a sensible construction order, and try to work out what will fit in your budget before you start.
  3. Contingencies – unexpected surprises and cost increases will come up, so allow a minimum 10 per cent contingency for these things in your budget (20 per cent may be wiser in the current building climate).
  4. Book – Lock in your designers and tradies in advance, as many professionals are already booked out well into the second half of this year.
  5. Take a moment – rest before you start. Even if you are outsourcing your whole renovation, there are still lots of questions and co-ordinating you will need to do. Your living situation may also change during the works. Renovating can be stressful; take a mini-break and enjoy it before your renovation starts
  6. Second opinions – during the design phase, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion from a professional. Fresh eyes can bring fresh ideas.
  7. Shop around – always get a minimum of three quotes for your works and shop around for good deals on materials and fixtures. A little work on your behalf can save thousands.
  8. Be patient – we live in a world of want it and get it now. This isn’t how design and construction work happens. Be patient and let your team ensure the job is done thoroughly and properly.
  9. Be flexible – it’s important to accept at the start of the project that there may be changes along the way, so work with your designers and trades to work out how to get the best possible outcome within the constraints of your existing home and your budget.
  10. Enjoy – renovating can be stressful at times, but watching your home be transformed is one of the most satisfying things you can embark upon. Make sure you take the time during and after the renovation to stop and smile, and enjoy your home.

For more from Ms Fenaughty, visit

Did you know?

Australians spent more than $37.5 billion on home renovations in 2020.

Source: Housing Industry Association


Candice's passion for journalism led her to the Sunshine Coast 12 years ago where she has worked across multiple media and communication platforms. An avid traveller (she lists Paris, Venice and Vietnam as her faves), this mum of one loves meeting with people from all walks of life and finds inspiration within their stories. Candice joined the team in 2014 and is MWP's editor.

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