Cape Town - Tired of the drab decor that greets you when you get home, or just in search of new ideas to complement pieces you have? Then the handcrafted benches, clocks and energy-efficient and smart gadgets at the Cape Homemakers Expo are but a few ways to give your home a fresh look.

These and other home improvement products and the latest lifestyle trends are available at the four-day expo which begins at the Cape Town International Convention Centre om August 23 and runds to August 26.

The Future of Design segment will focus on “upcycled” design – a greener way of finding a new use for items you want to discard.

Designers include Ashley Stemmett of Tuis/Home, Cameron Barnes, Glen Napier of Newly Defined and Gerhard Schoonraad, who have created furniture and other pieces from the most unlikely materials.

Barnes has designed the Cooper Bench, inspired by the craftsmanship in wine barrels.

“Using steel and wood, bent and shaped by hand, this bench aims to showcase the beauty of these otherwise discarded materials,” says Barnes.

Napier has found it does not take lots of money to create unique pieces. “When you have no budget, not a cent to contribute, it’s amazing how creativity can creep out from under the workbench – a true test.”

All it took was an old unfinished school woodwork project, a box of old light fittings and a favour from electroplaters to create his banker’s light.

Some of the art on display will do more than just decorate a wall. The expo has commissioned the ClockArt project, in aid of The Big Issue initiative. A variety of artists, including students from the Design Time: School of Design, have created wall clocks to be auctioned at the expo.

TinTown’s clock, designed by Magdel van der Walt, is named Time on our Hands. She used laser-cut, powder-coated metal and says the scenes on the fingertips create a fairytale world of innocence and harmony. The design is based on The Hand of Fatima – an amulet to protect against evil – which will guard this lovely world and keep it safe for ever after, says Van der Walt.

Some of the clocks are more tongue-in-cheek. Michelle Barfoot has created a large white hammer “because any time is a good time to get hammered”.

Even Queen Elizabeth makes an appearance, on a clock inspired by her Diamond Jubilee.

Those not looking to own a new clock will have time to catch up on other things. Homemakers Expo branch manager Sandy Edwards says that with spring on the way, there are several exciting new interior trends.

New colours, fun textures and new technology will give your home a vibrant summer vibe.

Colour blocking continues to be a trend that if done correctly can be hugely effective. Edwards suggests a feature piece in a vibrant colour to add a focal point to any room, while plush and chunky textiles are still popular.

She says strong geometric patterns can create a feeling of structure in a room, and pastel shades are back in vogue.

The main focus is combining comfort and creativity, with simplicity in a more prominent role.

Stemmett says the easiest way to update any space with a fresh look is with a coat of paint.

Light fittings can also change the look, and laminate flooring is easy to fit yourself – “like building a puzzle”.

Wallpaper has also made a comeback. But Stemmett suggests it be limited to a feature wall.

The trend, especially for people who live in small spaces, is to keep everything simple, clean and streamlined.

For home entertainment, Audiovision will host a sound emporium, with products including voice- and hand gesture-controlled television sets, and energy-efficient televisions.

Tickets to the expo are R60 for adults, R40 for pensioners and free for under-12s. See - Cape Argus

Upcycling tips at the Homemakers Expo, by Theresa Smith

I’m in the process of buying a house and now that the deal is all but through, I’m thinking of calling her Kimberley – as in the big hole swallowing my money.

I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for when I saw the words “needs some fixing”, but clearly my ambition was bigger than my pocket. The second I start thinking of fixing one thing, the next sticky problem emerges.

Luckily this year’s Cape Homemakers Expo seems to be going big on DIY. Then again, they always do, it’s just that this is the first time I am paying attention.

Upcycling is this year’s buzz word. Everyone is thinking of ways to turn existing items into something better. The expo includes a painting technique demonstration to show you how to turn everyday household items into something special, while the Home magazine DIY editor will be using reclaimed materials to create functional items in another workshop session. A useful trick when you’re on a tight budget.

There is an entire lesson on how to turn ordinary items like wooden pallets or test tubes into decor and I may just toddle along to this one. And while I don’t have a mouldering laboratory in the attic, the stack of Bashew crates in the corner could do with some upcycling, as seen at Tamboers Winkel off Kloof Street where they’ve done a beautiful job with the crates along one wall.

Or you can learn how to spice up old furniture by turning it into something else – like reconstructing drawers from an old cupboard with recyclable materials for a different look.

The buzzword in decor may be colour blocking, but the new product that the PR people are pushing seems to be vinyl for the floor. We are not talking linoleum, but faux wood colours and finishes. It is said to look like wood, but is warm and glossy, without the maintenance hassles.

The ClearBars stand has also piqued my interest. Its product is clear strips that serve as burglar bars, but I’m wondering how that’s supposed to work?

The household and cookware stands seem to dominate the expo’s floorplan – and while it’s all stuff you could find under normal circumstances, I am tempted to visit the AMC stand to find out about fixing my mom’s old pots. I really do need to do something about the handles.

Solar is another buzzword and there are several stands featuring solar powered contraptions of some kind or another.

There’s also a miniature greenhouse to be seen... but gardening is going to have to wait until I fix the windows, rip up those avocado pear green bathroom tiles and do something about that nasty carpet.