DIY Pros Share Their Favorite Money-Saving Design Hacks
I’ve always been a little nervous to take on DIYs. I love a good decorating or paint job, but in my mind, home DIYs mean building something from scratch. And as someone who needs help even assembling IKEA furniture, taking on a project like that seemed daunting — not to mention expensive.
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But after browsing dozens of DIY blogs, I realized that many of these crafty projects are actually quite simple and inexpensive. Plus, it’s so satisfying knowing you created something beautiful in your home with your own hands. I wanted to hear from the experts about how to DIY on a budget, so I tapped five DIY pros for their favorite money-saving hacks.
Dupe your dream piece with a thrift store makeover.
If there’s a certain piece you’ve been eyeing that’s out of your price range, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on it. In fact, Rachel Smith of The Crafted Life actually recommends checking stores that are out of your budget for inspiration. “Once you have your dream piece in mind, head to your thrift store to source an item similar that you can make over!” Smith says. “It may take a while to find something similar to what you want, so don’t give up after one visit. There’s always a way.”
She also recommends browsing Facebook Marketplace, another treasure trove for second-hand items. Smith found an old hutch there for free that she updated by painting the wood green, adding a floral pattern to the interior, and switching out the hardware with flower knobs. The result? A happy, sophisticated statement piece to display her dishes.
This thrifting trick is also one that DIYer Amy Weir loves. “I found a thrifted chair for under $10, sanded it down, gave it a fresh coat of paint and a new fabric cushion, and it feels new and chic in our living room.”
Get a metallic look with Rub ‘n Buff.
Want stylish gold accents? All it takes is some $10 paint. “I spray-paint everything and anything from hardware, vases, and even lighting. One of my favorite tricks is to spray-paint inexpensive sconces and make them look ‘aged’ with Rub ‘n Buff,” says interior stylist Lisa Kanegae. “I purchased an $85 sconce online and spray-painted it black. After that, you apply Rub ‘n Buff on top and it gives a nice brass patina finish.”
Rub ‘n Buff is a go-to for house flipper and DIYer Jenna LeBlanc, too. “This stuff is magic in a tube. You can change the color of just about anything with these pigmented, metallic waxes,” she says. “I love turning cheap thrifted picture frames [and lighting] into vintage gold.”
LeBlanc even tested out each shade and outlined the steps, making it that much easier for you to pick your favorite and get started.
Create custom art.
It takes time and resources to curate a great art collection. So Sourya Venumbaka of Sové Home gets crafty. “Framing art can be expensive, so I like to look for interesting frames when I’m thrifting,” she says. “I either switch out the art in the frame with an art print I bought or paint over it to create my own custom art.”
“You can find free open-source art on museum websites,” she adds. “I usually only do this if the art is a print and try not to paint over someone’s original art. The cost of this is the price of the frame, plus art supplies which I already have on hand, so anywhere from $5 to $20.”
Use removable wallpaper on your walls…
Removable paper can make a room look totally new, and it’s great for delineating spaces. “For my daughter’s room, I wanted to create a focal point and decided to apply peel-and-stick wallpaper behind her bed,” says Kanegae. “While regular wallpaper can be extremely expensive, peel-and-stick is a more affordable option, especially if you apply it yourself.”
….and on your furniture, too.
Removable wallpaper isn’t just for walls. “If you have appliances or cabinets you don’t like, but don’t have the budget to replace, you can give them a temporary makeover instead!” says Smith. She took on the task herself with something that doesn’t usually get a lot of DIY love: the fridge. Her tips for an immaculate finish? Use an X-ACTO knife to trim the paper and a spatula to force out the air bubbles.
Weir uses the same hack in her home, too. “Using a dresser from Target that we already had, I applied removable wallpaper to the drawer fronts. It took less than an hour and gave the piece a completely new feel.”
Tile up your table.
If your table is in need of a refresh, give it some texture with a material usually reserved for bathrooms and backsplashes. “You can make over your existing furniture or thrifted furniture with supplies from a store like Habitat for Humanity that sells donated tiles and other supplies,” says Venumbaka. “I upcycled a $2 table with $10 worth of tiles and some grout ($5) from the hardware store.”
You can choose to go monochrome, two-toned, or even create your own pattern with the tiles like Venumbaka did. By using leftover or recycled materials, it’s a bonus that this beautiful idea is sustainable, too.
Just add trim.
“Molding is my go-to when I want to transform any flat surface — walls, doors, even furniture,” says LeBlanc. “Picture frame molding is the simplest and quickest way to add architectural interest to walls, and it completely changes the look of flat panel doors.”
Plus, her trick requires minimal tools, as she uses liquid nails instead of a nail gun. Essentially acting as glue, LeBlanc applies a thin bead of the adhesive onto the molding, presses it in place, and then tapes it to the wall or door to ensure it doesn’t slip. Once dry, paint over it to create a cohesive look, and voila! Your flat surface just got an ornate upgrade.
This piece is part of Money Month, where we’re covering everything from side hustles to down payments to a beginner’s guide to investing. Head over here to read more!