Money Month

These 5 DIY Projects Prove You Can Turn Dollar Store Supplies into Stunning Home Decor

published Oct 5, 2021
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Credit: Jessica Sharmin/Stocksy

October is Money Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about saving money to buy a home, hacks to help you stick to your budget, and more all month. Head over here to see them all!

Decorating your home can be expensive. Even when you’re trying in earnest to stick to a budget, it’s easy to creep past that number with furniture, lighting, pillows, rugs, storage, and more. One way to save? DIYing, which can help you get the look of high-end accessories without the price tag.

For Money Month, I challenged some intrepid DIYers to create decor for their home on a budget of $25. But because I love a good twist, I couldn’t just leave the challenge there. I asked each DIYer to buy the majority of their supplies from their local dollar or 99-cent store; they were also required to roll a die before going to determine an aisle at that store that they had to pick a supply from. Would it be the candy aisle? The beauty aisle? They wouldn’t know until they arrived, but they’d have to figure out how to make something from that aisle work in their DIY.

Fortunately, this batch of DIYers is a talented bunch. They include Brad and Tim (@craftgrooms), Meg Baker (@baker.blooms), Dominique Gebru (@dommdotcom), Josalyn Coleman (@heytheretoots), and Sydney Lorence (@diysquid). Each of them was presented with a different dollar store item they had to figure out how to use, and each of them crafted something both beautiful and useful.

Read on to see what they were challenged with and how they pulled off their DIYs — or if you want to jump ahead to see, click one of the project names below:

Credit: Craft Grooms

Picture Frames Get a Vintage-Style Redo

Brad and Tim, the Craft Grooms, are no strangers to low-budget DIYs. In fact, they’ve hit the dollar store to make their own past projects, including an adorably spooky eyeball wreath for Halloween and a rustic sunburst mirror. And the pair already had a plan in mind for their project: an antiqued mirror to decorate the bare space above their bathroom’s toilet.

But Brad and Tim were nervous when they rolled a six and showed up to their dollar store to find that that aisle was full of groceries. “That really threw a wrench in our plan, but then we found the vinegar and it fit perfectly into the mercury glass/antique mirror strategy for making the spots in the mirror,” they say.

To create their mirror, Brad and Tim picked up nine plain 4-inch-by-4-inch picture frames ($9), plus some popsicle sticks ($1). Their plan was to use vinegar ($1), a spray bottle ($1), and silver spray paint ($7) to give the frames an antiqued mirror look.

Brad and Tim started by removing the glass from their frames, then arranged the frames in a diamond pattern before hot gluing them together. “Our original thought was to do something larger and rectangular with the frames, but as we were putting it together, we decided to stagger the frames into a diamond shape to add more interest,” they say.

Their initial idea for reinforcing the mirror — plywood — would have put them over budget, so they used popsicle sticks to add some stability.

Brad and Tim filled the spray bottle with water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio and used the mixture to mist the glass pieces they’d removed from the frames. While the glass was still wet, they sprayed silver spray paint over top; then, they blotted the frames with a paper towel to create a mottled, antiqued effect. Once that was dry, Brad and Tim painted over the silver with black chalkboard paint ($1) to up the contrast.

Credit: Craft Grooms

After all the painted glass was fully dry, Brad and Tim put the glass back into the frames and hung their new vintage glam creation. “We love how the gold and black fits in with the decor of our bathroom and how the diamond shape gave this a little bit of an Art Deco twist which adds even more flair to the room,” they say.

Total cost: $20

Credit: Meg Baker

A Quirky, Stylish Dog Accessory (and More)

Meg Baker (@baker.blooms) has a home full of DIY projects that range from a dramatic black bedroom to a fun and funky staircase landing. One other thing her home is full of: plants. “I always need homes for my plant babies,” she says. That plan fit pretty well when she rolled a four, leading her to the pet aisle where she picked up four dog bowls ($4).

Meg also snapped up eight foam wreath forms ($8) from the dollar store, as well as a package of wood blocks for crafting ($1). She knew she’d need paint for her project, too, but already had a few sample pots of paint as well as a chalky finish spray paint in white.

Meg started by giving her wreath forms a white base using spray paint. Once that was dry, she hot glued them on top of one another to create several stacks. “I changed my mind on the formation and had to pry some of the rings apart after gluing,” Meg says. (If you’re wanting to take on the same project, make sure you’re decided on the stack formations before gluing to avoid the same fate, she advises.)

Next, Meg painted the stacks with her different sample pots of paint; she added flour to one to give it a textured look like terracotta.

Credit: Meg Baker

For some of the stacks, Meg used her wood blocks — attached with hot glue — to create a gap in the middle, or to elevate the rings off the table beneath. The only thing left to do after that? Add the dog bowls to the center.

One of the bowls, which Meg ended up spray painting gold, is housed in a terracotta-and-white stacked base to serve as a catchall at the front door. It’s placed right next to the white-and-wood stacked planter, which is the perfect size to hold a sweet peperomia.

But one of the dog bowls fulfilled its real purpose: Meg placed it in her gold stacked rings, which stand on wood block feet, to hold water at the perfect height for her pups. “I love the white planter a lot! It looks really cool in my entry,” Meg says. (Most importantly, “the dogs love their new water bowl,” she adds.)

“The best part about this challenge was having to incorporate an item that I wouldn’t have chosen naturally,” Meg adds. “It made me really have to put my creativity to the test.”

Total cost: $13

A Trendy-Looking End Table with a Surprising Base

Dominique Gebru (@dommdotcom) has used her DIY skills and know-how to give her home fancy-looking custom touches like a built-in arch and floor-to-ceiling bookcases. She knew to make something that felt high-end from dollar store supplies, she’d need to keep an eye out for interesting silhouettes.

Dominique rolled a six, which plopped her straight in the toy aisle at her local Five Below. “I was a bit nervous about finding something usable,” she says. “Once I saw the dart board, I knew the shape was a real win.”

Dominique supplemented the dart board ($5) with three foam rollers from Five Below ($15). Then, she stopped at the hardware store to get the last thing she needed: joint compound ($9). The joint compound put her slightly over budget, but the splurge was worth it.

Dominique started by gluing the foam rollers together so that they formed a pyramid (she used Liquid Nails that she already had). Then, after removing the hanging hardware from the dart board, she glued it on one end to serve as the tabletop. Heavy books helped the assembly dry in place.

“After I glued together the dollar store components, I realized that the dart board was way out of proportion — not at all thick enough!” Dominique says. She decided to cut cardboard to the size and shape of the dart board to pad it out. “Because I was using joint compound, I knew that cardboard would end up hardening and maintaining good structure,” she says.

Next, Dominique completely covered the table in her joint compound using a taping knife. “The more texture, the better!” she says of this step. Finally, when dry, she painted it with a paint-and-baking-powder mix for a textured finish.

Now, the unique side table looks so good it would be hard to guess it’s made of three foam rollers and a dart board.

“I love that this is a useful, practical item!” Dominique says. “As a small space dweller, the pieces in my space have to earn their square footage.”

Total cost: $29

Simple, Sculptural Plant Accessories

Josalyn Coleman (@heytheretoots) has been hard at work renovating her entire home, with projects ranging from a paneled TV wall to her entire (beautiful) kitchen. This project is obviously a lot smaller than both of those, but Josalyn wanted to make sure it was still practical. “I knew I wanted to create something simple and something that I needed for our home,” she says. “I didn’t want to make something and never use it, you know?”

Josalyn saw a couple planters online that she loved, but the prices were far too high to justify. So armed with inspiration, she rolled her die (five!) and hit her dollar store’s bath aisle.

“At first I was thinking, ugh I should just buy some toilet paper and TP my neighbors house and call it a project,” Josalyn says, “but luckily for them, I saw the plungers and immediately had an idea to use the wooden handles in my project.”

In addition to two plungers, Josalyn picked up three foam wreath forms ($3), two bottles of Mod Podge ($2, but Josalyn only needed one), a set of stove burner covers ($1), a bag of foam brushes ($1), and spray adhesive ($2). She also reached for black and white spray paint and toothpicks, both of which she already had.

Josalyn’s first project was super easy: She sealed the foam rings with Mod Podge, then stacked them on top of one another using toothpicks to secure. (She’d tried the spray adhesive first, with no luck.)

Finally, Josalyn spray painted the whole thing white — instant planter! Placing it around any of her grow pots makes them look immediately elevated. “The planter was so ridiculously easy to make,” Josalyn says. “I just want to make a whole bunch more and try out different colors and heights.”

For her other plant DIY, Josalyn wanted to make a little stand that would hold a potted plant. Here, she reached for her plungers. After measuring the handles, she cut each one into 4-inch sections using a saw. Then, Josalyn spray painted the wood pieces and her burner cover black before gluing her legs to the bottom of the cover.

Josalyn’s cute little plant perch looks great on its own, but would really shine in a grouping of plants of different sizes and heights. In the future, Josalyn says, she’d make one little change: “For the plant stand I would make the legs a bit shorter, so that it’s even sturdier to handle the weight of much larger plants.”

But over all, she says, “Both the planter and plant stand were so simple to make. And you would never guess that these items were made from a plunger, burner cover and foam.”

Total cost: $8

Boho-Style Plant Stands

Like some of the other DIYers, Sydney Lorence (@diysquid) didn’t know exactly what she’d be creating until she hit the dollar store to see what was in her fated aisle (aisle two). But in her time working on her gorgeous full bathroom renovation and cozy breakfast nook, she’d saved photos of some favorite high-end products she was eyeing for her home.

When Sydney saw that aisle two had a small laundry basket — and for just $3! — she grabbed one and based her whole DIY on it.

Inspired by the basket, she decided to make boho-style plant stands. Sydney also picked up six plungers ($6) and a wreath form ($1) from the dollar store, and stopped at a craft store for wood circles ($8). She also used small wood dowels, macrame cord, and spray paint (all left over from another project).

For her first planter, made from wood dowels, Sydney started by gluing dowels to the edge of one of the wooden circle, going all the way around. Then, for extra support, she glued another circle inside the dowels about halfway up. Next, she wove her macrame cord through the dowels to cover the exposed edges of her wooden circles.

From there, Sydney unscrewed the handles from the plungers, cut off the threaded part, and glued three legs around the planter so that they are placed evenly. She used a brad nailer to give the pieces extra security.

For her second planter, Sydney spray painted the basket a mauve color — then decided she hated it. She cut off the top portion of the basket, with the handle, before spray painting it a khaki color.

Sydney glued the basket to the third wood circle before attaching three legs with glue and then a brad nailer. Finally, she added macrame cord to the rough top edge of the basket, as well as the bottom portion where the basket and circle meet.

Sydney’s new wood planters are the perfect addition to her new bathroom. “I love them both so much,” she says. “I think you cannot tell at all that they’re made from dollar store supplies and dare I say, even look like they could be sold at a store like Anthropologie.”

Total cost: $15 (she didn’t end up using the wreath form)

The takeaway? If you’re willing to think outside the box, you can bring serious style to your home for not a lot of money. And who knows — a little DIY could have you thinking about your home in a whole new way. “It’s been a while since I worked on a DIY like this, but my goodness, it’s so satisfying!” Dominique says of the project. “If anyone else out there is feeling in a creative rut, small DIY projects have the power to give you a renewed outlook.”