I have to admit I’ve put off writing this. I’m only now writing it because I’ve been sufficiently pestered by colleagues into taking part. It’s not that I don’t want to take part, it’s just I’m one of those PR people who is pretty uncomfortable stepping into the spotlight, rather than shouting instructions from the side lines. Another hesitation was wondering how clever it would be to share my love of Steven Seagal movies – fortunately I have a back-up that’s perhaps a little less embarrassing…
When I was about ten years old my grandma started taking me to her art classes. She’s a talented artist and it was suggested that I may have inherited some of her creative flare. While I’m still not bad with a paint brush or pencil – I’ve had some great times at life classes (yep, that is painting nudes) – I’ve always felt more at home with a different type of paint brush in hand. One dipped in Dulux or slapped in wallpaper paste.
My mum bought a beautiful, but particularly unloved, Victorian coach house when I was young. It’s been a labour of love to restore it to its former glory, but my mum did it. She’s the type of woman who can turn her hand to anything – knocking down walls, re-plastering, lifting floorboards, the lot – and she’s got a real eye for design. And it’s fair to say her love of DIY has rubbed off onto me. From 12 or 13 I could wallpaper, was pretty handy with a paint roller and could, with a bit of help and a spirit level, re-tile.
My grandad, a joiner by trade, taught me when I was a teenager the main wood joints, let me loose on his workbench and tools and I learnt how to re-glaze a wooden window – the latter mostly because my brother was always firing footballs through the garden windows. He also passed on a little bit of plumbing knowledge so I could rip out a bathroom or kitchen without causing a massive flood. Something which I’ve done a few times…ripping out bathrooms, not caused floods that is.
You may have guessed that I’ve never been the most girly of girls. I’ve always liked getting my hands dirty and creating things.
I think as a child I was a bit of a pain too, whenever any DIY was happening I would hover around trying to see what was happening and if I could have a go too. In fact, that’s how I learned to plaster on a pair of stilts that my grandad made for me – which is quite impressive, although I doubt I’d be able to do that now without face-planting into the wall!
Although I ended up in PR – rather than a trade – my first job in the industry did have a connection to DIY as I worked for a construction specialist communications agency as an account executive which happened to have Dulux on the books.
My time with this agency was brilliant. Not only did they invest in starting my PR career – and I’ll always be grateful to them for taking a risk by employing me straight out of university with no PR experience – they also enabled me to work closely with some fantastic brands, but also some of the UK’s top interior designers, architectural firms, contractors and product development teams. What’s more they trained me in lots of different things – more plumbing, underfloor heating and professional paint application.
Since then I’ve helped – often hinder – redevelop a couple of properties. The bigger the job, the more mess and ripping, stripping and smashing the better.
The dream is to build my own home one day. Until then, I’ll settle for a nosey around others on Grand Designs.