When you’re furnishing your home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying items from the local furniture barn or the ol’ standby (and subject of our ongoing love-hate relationship), Ikea.
But who really wants their home to look so basic when you can stock your house with pieces possessing pizzazz? One-of-a-kind furniture can set your home apart and show off your distinct design vision—with the added bonus of making it look more expensive.
Don’t have the cash for that designer look? No problem. You just have to do a little upcycling.
Instead of dumping an old stool, table, or chest of drawers into a landfill, you can repurpose those pieces and give them new life. Upcycled items help green the Earth as well as save some green in your wallet. And don’t worry—DIY isn’t as hard as it sounds.
With a few tools, some paint, and lots of gumption, you’ll have a new piece of furniture in no time. Here are six quick and easy projects you can tackle right now.
1. Design a headboard from an old door
You’ll save a bundle of cash by skipping that custom upholstered headboard and installing this DIY version instead. Two reclaimed barn doors bracketed to the wall—or just a few planks (bought for several dollars each)—lined up and nailed in can add rustic charm in about 15 minutes.
So what do you do if the old wood smells a bit funky?
“You can usually remove the offending odor by placing baking soda sachets or rolled-up newspaper on the piece you plan to use for about a week,” suggests Jamie Novak, DIY expert and the author of “Keep This Toss That.” And if the smell still won’t fade, a few hours of sunshine should do the trick.
2. Turn a crock into a bedside table
Carol Marcotte, an interior designer with Form & Function in Raleigh, NC, helped a client with the nifty DIY project above.
“The homeowner already owned this great crock that she wanted to salvage—and she had a few pieces of beautiful hardwood left over from her floor renovation,” she explains.
To make it at your house in about 30 minutes, cut wood in a circle or square shape. Nail small pieces of scrap wood to one side of your circle in the same (but smaller) shape to fit inside the rim of the crock (you’re creating a kind of stopper for the crock to hold the top in place). Paint or refinish the tabletop, if you like. Antique crocks can be found on eBay or at yard sales for around $50 to $75 if you don’t already have one in your basement.
3. Craft a bench from a bed frame
This bed frame-as-bench project from Just Jill comes together in about an hour and a half.
To start, take an old footboard and slice it into two equal parts (you might wind up with a little left over from the middle). Once you have your two pieces of footboard, simply attach a piece to each side of the headboard with screws or brackets to form the bench’s arms.
Use planks from the old bed frame (or some two-by-fours you have on hand) to connect across the front, linking the two arms and offering the familiar rectangle shape you’re after.
To hold the seat in place, nail a few wood scraps to the inside of the bench (you’re essentially creating a frame).
For the last piece, carefully measure and cut a wooden plank (or planks) for the seat. Nail the plank down to the rest of the bench. This is where you’ll be sitting—so make sure it’s secure and all your nails are flush with the wood. Paint, stain, or distress as desired.
4. Make crib springs into a bulletin board
Of course you can’t put your sweet tot in an old crib you picked up at a tag sale or flea market (those things might have been recalled or damaged and therefore unsafe to use).
But you can definitely take the spring portion of this castoff and create a fabulous wall organizer, just like Jeanette, the brainy DIYer behind Snazzy Little Things. An old crib might sell for as little as $30 and can be transformed in under 30 minutes.
Use bolt or wire cutters to remove the spring frame from the bottom of the crib (or unscrew it, if possible), sand down any sharp bits that stick out, and then attach it to the wall with sturdy hooks. Clip on permission slips, recipes, and fun photos!
5. Display pictures in a window-paned cabinet
Marina Colella, an interior designer at Decorating Den in Westchester County, NY, loves to make DIY magic with old cabinet doors.
“One of my favorite projects was taking a lovely lead-pane door off a hutch, painting it, and then hanging it up as wall art,” she recalls.
Or you could take on the project (above) that Mary Jane, founder of PhotogMommie.com, put together in about an hour. Check out garage sales to find an old door (this might run you about $20). Measure the panes and then print photos to fit (or cut them to size). Mary Jane recommends painter’s or masking tape to hold the pictures in place. Mount this new design to the wall with four large screws.
6. Convert a baker’s rack into a linen closet
Not much of a DIYer? The easiest project on this list is to find a baker’s rack (less than $75 at estate sales) and spend 45 minutes sanding off rust and coating it with spray paint. Once it’s been rehabbed, you can trick it out to suit the room.
For example, if you’re short on storage for bathroom essentials, arrange baskets to hold towels, washcloths, and toilet paper. Or use Novak’s idea: She turned a baker’s rack into a mudroom/entryway organizer.
“Use S hooks ($9 for a pack of 20) to hang up your purse, umbrella, and the dog’s leash,” she says. Add a small bowl to hold car and house keys and a tray for the mail. Boots and shoes can be lined up on a rubber mat on the lowest shelf. Brilliant!
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