Learning at Dad’s knee means many things for many people. Maybe you can finesse a bow tie or grill a perfectly seared steak. But for some, Dad’s sage wisdom has come in the form of repair, home design, and garden knowledge that’s proved invaluable over the years.
Maybe your father taught you all about how to deal with overgrown azaleas in the backyard, snaking a clogged sink, or repurposing old cans to use in a DIY project. But whatever clever home improvement advice you’ve soaked up through the years, we all know we’re much better off thanks to dear old Dad.
To help celebrate Father’s Day, we’ve polled interior designers, home organizers, and garden professionals for their best-loved bits of know-how gleaned from their pops.
Dad says: ‘Finish what you started’
We all know what it’s like to bite off more than we can chew around the house, but there’s nothing worse than a house full of work that’s half-done.
“My father’s advice was not to start multiple projects at once unless you knew you had the time to commit to finishing them,” says Marty Basher, designer and organizational specialist with Modular Closets.
Dad says: ‘Experiment in the garden’
Growing the same ol’ lettuces and green beans is fine, but trying new veggies or fruit is when the fun starts.
Susan Brandt, the green thumb behind Blooming Secrets, had a dad who encouraged planting adventures.
“We always put in tomatoes and cucumbers, but one year we grew watermelons,” she says.
In the end, only one melon was ripe enough to pick, and when it was sliced open, it was full of pits—and little else.
“We were all so excited to cut it, and we still laugh about it today,” she says, adding that the effort was totally worth it.
Dad says: ‘Attract pollinators’
Sowing the right flora in a vegetable garden can affect the health of the environment.
Brandt says her horticulture-savvy father taught her to plant cosmos and zinnias around vegetable beds because they attract bees and improve pollination.
“These flowers also encourage other beneficial insects such as ladybugs and wasps,” she says.
Dad says: ‘Know when to go pro’
Have misaligned pendant lights or bulbs that won’t stop blinking? It’s time to call in a pro.
Amy Bly of Great Impressions Home Staging says her dad taught her that not every home improvement job should be tackled yourself.
“He considered himself handy, but he’d also get agitated trying to fix things and it would take him much longer than hiring someone,” she says.
Dad says: ‘Reuse and recycle’
Why buy something new when you can repurpose and save money?
Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP says her dad would impart thrifty gardening wisdom from his childhood days on a farm. One tip: Grow potatoes by cutting up one you already have and using the eyes to start new plants.
Another tip: “He would poke holes in the lid of an old coffee can to sprinkle fertilizer over the perennial beds,” she says.
Dad says: ‘Take care of the grass’
If you skimp on anything around the house, make sure it’s not lawn care. As your dad might have told you, there’s nothing quite like having a beautiful expanse in your backyard.
“My father was very diligent about resowing grass seed every year—and he loved lush, green lawns so much he would even do this at any house we rented for vacation without being asked,” Bly says.
Dad says: ‘Reassess your tools’
Basher says his dad was fastidious about his tools—even giving them a once-over every six months.
“His advice to me was to trash those that are broken or fix them (if it’s feasible), and then assess your upcoming projects so you can invest in the gear you’ll need,” he says.
Dad says: ‘Design details matter’
Basher also recalls his father conveying the importance of paying attention to detail in your home’s rooms, focusing on the ones that can make the biggest difference.
“Molding is a perfect example of this,” he says. “Adding crown molding to the ceilings in every room makes your home appear larger and more upscale—and putting in molding at the baseboards can give your space a sense of elegance.”
Dad says: ‘Learn new skills’
Don’t know how to prune a forsythia or put up wallpaper in a tight spot? Basher’s father always told him to look to friends, family, and neighbors.
“I was taught not to be afraid of learning a new skill in order to accomplish a DIY home improvement project, and that the people around you can be great and willing teachers,” he says.
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