Learn home improvement: 12 workshops to spruce up your house

Brush up your design and DIY skills this autumn by joining one of the many classes available

Want to give your home a lift but lack the know how? It’s time to go back to school and join one of the dizzying range of classes where you can learn everything from DIY know-how to paint effects prowess.

The back to school ad campaigns may be driving you nuts, you may be dreading the return of traffic congestion and hyper scheduled home life but there are some reasons to be cheerful. Life returns to a rhythm of sorts and the new term presents an opportunity for home lovers to go back to school themselves. By signing up to a series of classes you can learn new skills that you can implement in your abode and the education may even set you down a new career path.

But you had better sign up soon. These courses book out faster than you can say mid-term break.

Sign up for a DIY course

Are you still waiting for someone else to remedy the small but niggling jobs around the house that need doing? Stop procrastinating and seize this opportunity to upskill on DIY basics. Learn how to put up a shelf with confidences, how to hang artworks so that they stay put and don't wreck the walls, how to regrout tired tiling and end the drip, drip, drip of leaky taps. Cabinteely Community College is running a 10-week programme that offers a practical and hands-on course that covers elementary woodwork, plumbing and tiling. Classes commence Wednesday, September 19th, 7.30pm to 9.45pm and runs for 10 weeks. It costs €130 and includes materials. Pack some arnica in case you accidentally give your thumb a knock.


Draw up your own floor plans

If you are thinking about redesigning your home or building an extension and want to be able to show the builder exactly what you like to do then sign up to The Interior Design Academy of Ireland, based at 54 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, an institution that offers class-based or home study courses starting with a certificate course that chief executive Mark Cummins says is perfect for those looking to increase their own knowledge for their own use. On this you learn to survey a room, draw to scale, and draw plans and elevations that you could show to builders to better illustrate what it is you want to do using the correct symbols for all services. It means you will also be better able to read anyone else's plans. This three-month course costs €500.

Brush up on your paint skills with Annie Sloan

Paint is one of the most affordable ways to change the look of your interior and Twenty Six in Nenagh, Co Tipperary has set up four-hour Saturday workshops that will whet your appetite for home improvement. Topics covered will include DIY photo frames and notice boards, upcycling, embroidery for beginners and even DIY Christmas ornaments, starting with an Annie Sloan workshop covering all chalk paint techniques and decoupage on Saturday, September 15th. Running from 10am to 2pm it costs €60 per person. To really see what is possible you should sign up to the paint effects demonstration by Jonathon Marc Mendes, one of paint company Annie Sloan's painters in residence. He will show you how to create the effects verdigris, marbling, ombré and industrial rust on furniture. This runs from 10am to 4.30pm on September 29th and costs E75 per person.

jonathonmarcmendes.com and twentysix.ie

Marble, stone, and, whisper it, ragrolling

After years of worshiping at the church of plain walls paint effects are making a return with everything from simple 1990s rag rolling to highfalutin frescoes. Shane Ralph runs the paint effects side of his eponymous decorative painting business from a studio at his home in Clonsaugh, Dublin 17. From here the specialist whose work can be seen at Hillsborough Castle and who is a fellow of the Faculty of Decorative Arts and a member of the Irish Georgian Society, will welcome you into the gilded world of marble, stone and wood grain effects. The classes will also let you dip your paintbrush into trompe l'oeil, an effect that tricks your eye into believing something flat is three-dimensional. His courses are offered on a week long, Monday to Friday basis or on a three-day weekend option, running from Friday to Sunday inclusive and cost respectively from between €800 and €1100 and from €350. He also offers one-to-one tutorage but this is more geared towards professionals and attracts a lot of set designers. Paints are provided but you do need to invest in a set of professional-grade brushes.

Serve up your own tableware

What better way to set the table for breakfast that with home-made bowls and mugs, made by you. Santry-based Brookwood Pottery offers one-off classes as well as month-long courses in the art of throwing pots. The next four-week course starts on Thursday, September 6th, runs from 7pm to 9pm, for four weeks, and costs €195.

If you can’t commit to that sort of time the studio also runs hour-long throwing classes every Thursday morning, which costs €25, and a relaxing bowl, mug and figurine-painting of prefired pieces every Friday morning. These cost €19 per hour. Serious clayheads can sign up to a monthly membership that lets you use the studio for up to 15-hours per week and gives you access to all the equipment and glazes. This costs €195 per month and you can sign up to as many months as you like.

Create a scented candle of your own

When it comes to scented candles there is a dizzying array of off-the-shelf fragrances to choose from ranging from complex French perfume brands to a plethora of Irish-made options. Michael Morris of The Bearded Candlemakers grew up in Belfast but summereed in Easkey, Co Sligo where the scents of the wild atlantic way and his time spent hiking, surfing and kayaking opened him to new olfactory experiences. He has also been trained in the complex art of perfume-making in Grasse and brings this knowledge to his candle-making courses which he runs either from his studio in Downpatrick, about an hour from Belfast, or in the Bullitt Hotel in central Belfast where he accommodates larger groups. He can accommodate up to three people in a group in Downpatrick and where the four and a half-hour course for the three will cost about €184. Training for a group of up to 10 costs €497 and this class is held in Belfast. Each person learns how to create a scent from scratch using base, heart and top notes, he explains, and leaves with a soy candle of their very own scent. Brides and grooms often sign up to confect a scent for their big day.

Fire up your own vases

At Arran Street East, in Dublin 7, the Smithfield-based studio also offers pottery classes. Its three-day throwing workshop runs from 9.30am to 5pm daily and the expectation is that you will make two vessels, usually mugs or vases. These are then fired and will be ready for collection in about six to eight weeks. You can also have them shipped to your home. The next workshop runs from Tuesday, September 18th to Thursday, September, 20th, inclusive but the same class can also be done as a five-day, mornings only workshop, with the next dates running from Monday, September 10th to Friday, September 14th, inclusive, and from Monday, October 29th to Friday, November 2nd, inclusive. Either option costs €275 and details are listed and can be paid for online.

The furniture fix

By day Paul Walsh runs antiques and vintage shop McGonigle Walsh in Blackrock, Cork and by night he helms an eight-week furniture restoration course run twice annually at St John's College, Sawmill Street in Cork city. Sign up and become immersed in the fragrant world of cabinet making, French polishing and reupholstery. He suggests bringing an item of furniture that is small enough to fit into your car or van and that you can physically carry to and from class as there isn't a facility to store the items in the school. Once you start the restoration process he also recommends transporting the item wrapped in blankets to prevent marking any of the good work you've learned to do. The two-month long module costs €100 and runs from 7pm to 9.30pm on Thursdays starting October 4th.

Clocking in

Got a grandfather clock that is old and given up on timekeeping? Old Chairs, run by Nigel Barnes and Pepie O'Sullivan, is based at Clooneenagh House, outside Creagh, about a 15-minute drive from Kilrush, and offers antique restoration classes, chair making sessions and clock repair workshops at their county property. Barnes, an engineer and horologist, who with Austin Jordan co-wrote the book, Maintaining Longcase Clocks: An Owner's Guide to Maintenance, Restoration and Conservation, published in 2013. The next weekend clock course runs September 1st and 2nd, and costs €195 but you will also have to factor in overnight accommodation. O'Sullivan also schools in traditional upholstery and the pair teach another class on how to make country style chairs. The next course for the latter runs on the weekend of September 8th and 9th and costs €195 per person.

Create fabric designs

Designer Liz Nilsson is offering several classes at her Print Block studio on Dublin's Cork Street. One taking place on Saturday, September 15th from 10am to 4pm offers an introduction as to how to use print and texture on household textiles. This costs €95 but if you really fancy making something substantial for the home; say a pair of curtains or the fabric to upholster some chairs, then you may be better off signing up to her six-week course, which starts on Wednesday, September 8th from 6pm to 9pm. This covers the basics skills and techniques of printing onto fabric, teaching you about repetition and surface design, how to cut rubber blocks for block-printing and how to cut paper stencils for screen printing. You can also use the skills learnt to up-cycle cushions, napkins, table clothes, curtains and old duvet covers. This course costs €240 per person.

Run up some curtains

Joanne O’Neill’s Sew Great business started out as a dry cleaning and curtain making service for professional interior designers but when the recession hit 10 years ago she diversified, investing in a fleet of domestic Singer sewing machines and set up sewing classes for beginners. She also runs some introductory classes to more intermediatory-level skills such as curtain making for those who already have machine sewing skills. For €75 you can sign up to a five-hour immersion in curtain-making basics; where you will learn the methodology, how to measure windows correctly and how to calculate fabric quantities. In that time you also learn how to hand pleat a French pleat, how to hand-sew, how to join a lining and how to hand sew edges to fabric. You will also make one curtain width and leave with course notes to set you up to complete your project at home. In the past the firm has tried offering intermediate-level six-week long courses buy couldn’t get the commitment, O’Neill explains but would consider holding more if the numbers interested were there.

Sew up a plant holder

House plants are this season's hottest accessory and there is a plethora of planter options available from any decent homewares store. But a hand-made fabric planter could become a talking point accessory for your home. Hand-printed textile outfit 29 Bride Street, run by friends Liz Walsh and Monika Gleeson, is offering a three-hour sewing session that will show you how to make one of its fabric buckets, a structured idea that uses Irish linen printed in one of the girls signature motifs; Hundreds and Thousands or Block. You are shown how to give the fabric structure by building a base and interlining its 'walls'. The class, which takes place upstairs at The Constant Knitter, on Dublin's Francis Street on Saturday, September 29th, costs from €55 to €75, depending on which size planter you would like to make. If you're not green fingered you can use the bucket cum planter to house jewellery, keys or kids toys or face cloths. The small size form will fit a basil-size pot.