Money Month

Before and After: A $350 Dining Room Redo Features a Smart IKEA Hack and Other Custom DIYs

published Mar 10, 2022
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Before photo with wooden walls
Credit: Alexis Moore

One of the best ways to squeeze in a large group for dining is with banquette seating. Apartment Therapy has featured many great home redos that add banquettes or benches off the kitchen, like this tiny cottage kitchen that got a major expansion, or this beautiful black and white kitchen with a banquette behind the stairs.

You can add DIYer Alexis Nicole’s (@alexisnicolemakes) banquette to the list, too.

Alexis transformed what was once a corner of her living room into a dining area. “The previous owners had the large room set up as a living room and had a small round table in the kitchen,” she explains. “The dining room wasn’t actually a dining room at all.”

Credit: Alexis Moore

The corner “was pretty drab,” Alexis says. It had popcorn ceilings, wood paneling, and stained carpeting. She wanted to give the space an aesthetic overhaul as well as a functional one.

“We needed an actual space to eat — for our family, but also for hosting friends,” Alexis says. Using about $350 and DIY skills, she made it happen. (She didn’t include the cost of flooring and drywall/paint into the budget since they did much of that themselves to the entire home.)

Credit: Alexis Moore

For her low-budget redo, Alexis used two IKEA KALLAX units (about $60 each) to create L-shaped seating (and storage!) in the corner. “I’ve seen several IKEA hacks turning the bookcase on its side for storage baskets to sit behind your legs, but we wanted the storage to be entirely within the bench. So I opted to turn the bookcases on their backs so the storage is on top, and then I added some trim to the sides and topped with wood to act as a lid,” she says.

She’s pleased with the bench but says she suggests two or more coats of poly seal to anyone doing a similar project. “My toddler sits there regularly,” she says. “Spills, crayons, dirty feet — it gets the brunt of it.”

Credit: Alexis Moore

Alexis also saved money on her revamp by sourcing the other furniture from Facebook Marketplace. She found the light fixture, one of her favorite new elements, for $20 on the platform; its original price was $190. The table, originally from World Market, was about $100 via Facebook Marketplace. The chairs were about $10 each, and Alexis de-glossed them and spray painted them black so they better matched.

Alexis’s curtains are also a DIY project. “I took drop cloth and drew out a windowpane plaid pattern using a 1×4-inch piece of wood and a black marker,” she says. “I used HeatnBond to hem and hang them from white tension rods. Probably the most affordable window treatment you can find — maybe behind mini blinds!” The drop cloth was about $9, and the tension rods were $5 each.

Alexis is proud that she accomplished the totally new look with such a small budget. For others looking to pull off something similar, she has a few tips: “Have your vision and budget, and search and search until you find what you want,” she says. “Get thrifty. Search Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, and don’t be afraid to wait a few weeks or months to get what you want. Or buy something temporary and resell it once you get what you want!”

Credit: Alexis Moore

This patience and thriftiness certainly paid off for Alexis. “I love the whole mood,” she says. I love the space we have to host, the coziness of the built-in and the light and warmth of it all… We had 10 people around our dining room table just last week.”

To see more of Alexis’s innovative home solutions, check out her bedroom redo and her kitchen redo.

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!