Raise a hand if you have ever been mesmerized by a DIY home transformation. Whether it's on YouTube, Netflix, Pinterest or Instagram, you've surely witnessed ordinary people creating elegant, fun and inspiring redecoration projects, and most often than not, with solely some masking tape and paint or a new set of handles.
Tacihan Yongacı was one of those people back in 2014. But since then, she has turned her Instagram and YouTube accounts into such a collaborative, educational and inviting platform that she has come to be known as Turkey's "recycling coach."
Yongacı's Instagram "Dekotrend," which now boasts over 840,000 followers, had initially begun as an inconspicuous page that aimed to help home shoppers, renovators and decorators in-the-closet by offering advice on design, furniture and living. How much to pay, what and where to buy were some of the questions Yongacı tried to answer while she curated a daily selection of the latest news on interior design trends and home decor stores' unmissable offers. She was sharing her tips and tricks to turn homes into more inviting, unique and cozy spaces.
Then in 2015, Yongacı decided to take her own advice and get DIY-ing in her own living space. As you do when attempting DIYs, she went down the rabbit hole of Pinterest and came across a novel idea involving some masking tape. So she got to it.
Little did she know that that project would dawn the start of a new era. Shortly after sharing her results, her following grew rapidly, attracting as much as 1,000 followers a day. As her direct message inbox overflowed with questions and envious messages, her audience of 10,000 quickly ballooned to about 50,000.
A teacher of physics who loves her job, Yongacı decided to do what she does best: explaining and educating. As teachers do, she explained to every single person who messaged her about how she did it, step by step – from what materials she used and where she got them from to how she assembled things.
The overwhelmingly warm response spurred her to try out another renovation project, this time in her bedroom. With big wall stencils scarce in those days, she decided to create her own.
She also dabbled in a bit of decorative wall paneling – the kind you’d see in Georgian, Edwardian or Elizabethan homes. She had transformed her bedroom into something fit for royalty, with a few wooden sticks and some paint.
It wasn't long before she was sent PR gifts of dozens of paints, stencils galore – it was an interior designer’s dream. After there was nowhere left in her home to redecorate, she asked friends and neighbors if they needed a hand. The rest was history.
Apart from giving advice and sharing explanatory videos of her projects for nothing in return, Yongacı also holds workshops, free of charge. Her biggest fans? Psychologists and psychiatrists.
"They tell me that they prescribe their patients, especially the depressed, to take up a new hobby," she says. Most often than not, it is redecoration and DIY.
"Renewing things is food for the soul, it renews the soul. When humans dedicate themselves to a hobby, they forget about their negative thoughts and create something beautiful in the process. It reinforces self-belief, they tell me."
"'I can do something worthwhile, meaningful or beautiful', 'I can create,' 'I am not a failure,' these patients start to think. It provides great motivation and is a great way to alleviate depression," she adds.
The power of such a hobby even brought a couple back from the brink of divorce, recalls Yongacı.
"This couple, who had only been married for about a year or so, was adamant on a divorce. The movers had come, and they had separated off their stuff. A box of paints, a table and few other bits were left. The husband asked the wife what she would do with the paints. The wife said she will paint the table. He argues that the table won’t turn out great. The woman insists that it will. She starts painting anyway. Then her husband, seeing the table slowly being transformed, asks for a brush to help her out."
This little activity got them talking again, actually listening to each other and communicating.
"They were ready to split up, but this simple project helped them bond, and they stayed up all night painting and talking. Sometimes all we need is shared interests, a shared hobby to find common ground. I'm still in touch with them. They now have a baby and are very happy," she says.
But when it comes to enthusiasm about decorating there is a clear divide. If we are talking about men vs. women in the DIY world, the formers are almost always the ones to protest against such projects, with some insinuating that the women won’t be able to successfully complete the task without messing up, says Yongacı, in light of her experiences with couples.
"'You can't do it' or 'it will turn out ugly' are the messages these husbands and boyfriends give to their partners, which pushes the women to prove them wrong. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the women create something beautiful and men end up swallowing their words," says Yongacı.
At the end of the day, when visitors are over, the men are showing every single guest their newest creation, proudly exclaiming that their wives did it on their own, she adds, chuckling.
Business of followers
Growing a following is as important as keeping your audience’s attention, stresses Yongacı.
“I continue to create informative and educational videos on home decoration, transformation projects and DIYs, which gives people a reason to come back for more.”
She is truthful and sincere, and it shows. Authenticity and trust are key nowadays in a world where most social presences are fake or staged.
“My favorite place is the comment section. I do try to answer all queries and give advice, but where I fall short, I have others come to the rescue.”
Tongacı says it wasn’t her that was growing the account after a while, it was the platform itself she had created – her followers, a community of shared experiences; supportive, positive and inspirational.
“When I could not be of much help, another follower would step in to share their own advice. Everyone was supporting each other and it was lovely to see it grow and flourish into something so meaningful.”
Learning has applied both ways.
“One of the greatest tips I learned from my followers was how to get the sticky residue left behind by stickers or posters off the walls. An oil removing kitchen cleaning spray said one of my followers, and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve got to date.”
Fighting a losing war
When it comes to painting furniture, you must know what surface will tolerate what type of paint. Not every paint will stick to every surface. The correct technique is also important.
“For example, you can’t really paint a bathtub. Any pieces of furniture or appliances that get wet on a daily basis aren’t really fit to be painted as the paint will either wash away or it won’t look uniform, let alone properly adhere.”
Fabric dyeing is another tricky project to undertake.
“When it comes to individual chairs, you can dye the fabric of the seat cushion cover but I would never recommend dying an entire sofa as the dye does make the fabric a bit stiffer.”
"You can’t dye satin or velvet, but you can dye tulle (curtains). That’s what I always tell my clients, that they need to do their research first before they spend their hard-earned cash. After all, all the time, resources and effort that go into a DIY project will just go to waste, if it's not durable."
What works when redecorating?
Multiple but thin layers.
“You can’t be one and done with one thick layer of paint. You also need to use the correct type of paint and varnish.”
Choose water-based products.
“I always recommend water-based products that won’t constitute a danger to human health, especially not like the old-fashioned ones that required to be mixed with thinners and solvents. You could even get poisoned if not in a well-ventilated room."
ECOLOGICAL SIDE OF THINGS
Quelling consumerist greed
Her efforts to get people to renew their old furniture instead of buying something new every time has helped reduce waste as well.
“Let’s put it this way. You have a piece of furniture you no longer love, or perhaps, it looks a bit boring or dated. By redecorating it, whether that’s by painting it a different color or changing the handles, you can give it a new lease on life.”
If you’ve stepped foot into a home decor shop recently, you will have noticed the price tags. Especially if you want to buy brand new, you need to allocate a big budget for new furniture, so in essence, her work is also helping families' budgets.
“You may have a table with a tabletop that is scratched but a new table costs an arm and a leg. Or you may think it is time to buy a new dining table and chair set. Even if you can afford it, you’re left to deal with a new dilemma: where and how do you dispose of the old ones? Selling them is a hassle and you can’t just leave it by the bins on the curb.”
Turks need to embrace upcycling
When it comes to recycling and reusing, Turks are lagging behind, especially compared with Europe, says Yongacı. You'll often see Europeans and Americans undertaking their own home renewal projects and looking for ways to be sustainable but not many Turks.
"You won't see Europeans buying a new fridge until the previous one has absolutely stopped working. As much as we Turks like to think of ourselves as frugal and good with our money, we are certainly not when it comes to buying or renewing white appliances or home furniture."
Yongacı says we also need to start appreciating our own work and not worship mass-produced furniture just because they have a brand name on it.
“We buy the most expensive furniture out there and lock them away in a room, out of the reach of our children. We treat them like prized possessions. But when we do some DIYs we aren’t half as careful with what we have created. We let our children play with them, we put hot drinks on them without coasters.”
“Instead, we should be cherishing them and realize that what we have created is one and only, our very own, unique. It is a designer’s item and you are the designer.” She says people need to stop simplifying and undermining their own hard work and give it the value it deserves.
"Effort is much more valuable than money."