These 4 Designer-Approved DIY Projects Will Transform Your Space

reupholstered living room furniture

Design: Melanie Gowen Design / Photo: Michael Lucas Photography

Despite having access to tons of trade resources and amazing retailers, professional designers oftentimes enjoy taking on a good, old-fashioned DIY project. Whether you're a DIY newbie or are looking to add some new projects to your repertoire, you'll want to add the below to your list. They're easy enough that you can take on one (or several) this coming weekend.

Furniture Reupholstery

Reupholstery is often associated with the high-end design world. However, it can be quite achievable on your own if you follow a few simple steps. Drew Michael Scott of Lone Fox greatly enjoys being able to transform preloved furniture pieces by covering them with new fabric that speaks to his personal design aesthetic.

"I have found so many unique thrifted furniture pieces that just need a little cleaning and unique fabric to let them truly shine," he comments. The next time you're at the thrift store or scoping out a yard sale, search for items that have the potential to shine with a bit of upholstery. Scott suggests working with benches, chairs, and stools.

Scott notes that upholstery projects don't necessarily require the help of a professional, which is beneficial, as going that route can often cost a pretty penny. He explains that in many cases, it's easy to remove an existing cushion or upholstered section of a piece at home before recovering it. "Sometimes I will take the fabric off, or I'll just upholster it right over the top of the piece and attach it back to the base," says Scott.

Determining what type of fabric to choose can be difficult when there are so many choices on the market featuring a range of patterns, textures, and more. When selecting fabrics to work with, Scott likes to think big picture. "Typically when I find myself reupholstering a piece, it acts more focal in the space," he shares. "The fabric I select can tie all the other elements of the space together."

Note that you may wish to alter a chair or bench's legs, too, to ensure that a piece's base complements its new fabric or appears a bit more current. "We spray painted an old wrought iron bench and added a freshly upholstered cushion," Melanie Gowen of Melanie Gowen Design says of the space shown here. Gowen is also a proponent of painting chair legs to better complement a space. It will make everything look more cohesive with one another (nobody wants to look at a sharp contrast).

upholstered and painted bench

Design: Melanie Gowen Design / Photo: Michael Lucas Photography

Custom Curtain Panels

If you're intimidated by the idea of upgrading your window coverings because you fear the process will involve an extensive amount of time and money, fear not, Scott is here to prove you wrong. "Creating custom curtain panels can be extremely expensive, but it truly just requires some measuring and four straight seams on a sewing machine," he says.

To kick things off, head to the craft store to select a material to work with, then you'll want to head home and get to work sewing. "Find a fabric you love and simply sew a pocket at the top by folding over three inches and adding a seam," instructs Scott. However, he notes that curtain rings are even more simple to achieve. "Keep your fabric the width it came and cut it to the length of curtain you desire," he says. "Sew all edges with a 1/4 inch seam and clip as desired onto the curtain rod." Scott explains that finding unique and inexpensive curtains can be tricky which is why he often finds himself creating his own that fits his preference.

Built-In Bookshelves

Whether you have an extensive collection of novels or just are looking for a chic way to display trinkets in your home, you may be wishing your living room or family room featured a gorgeous built-in bookcase or two. Well, you're in luck: There's no need to hold out hope until you move homes one day down the line. It's actually quite easy to DIY beautiful built-ins on a budget, Scott says. "Through the world of IKEA hacks and DIY projects on social media, IKEA's Billy system has been used as the base of so many built-in units," he says.

Best of all, the piece comes in so many different sizes and orientations, so you can customize your shelves to best suit your needs. Looking to take things to the next level? "You can frame the front of these bookcases to create a more crafted look and repaint for a designer look," says Scott. "Built-ins always add that custom look to your space and it's extremely achievable through DIY."

Painted Furniture

Keep an eye out for a dresser or desk with excellent bones the next time you hit the thrift store or garage sale. It may be looking a little lackluster now but has the potential to truly shine. Jessica Dorling of Dorling Design Studio likes to revamp wooden furniture pieces with a pop of paint. "When you find a vintage piece like a side table that has great lines but maybe so-so wood that you don't love—clean it, sand it, prime it, and then add at least two to three coats of a beautiful gloss paint," she instructs.

Dorling recommends tinting your primer with the help of someone at the hardware store in order to minimize the number of paint coats needed and make your project a bit simpler. Chalk paint is also a popular pick among DIYers—Caroline Kopp of Caroline Kopp Interior Design often uses Chalked Ultra-Matte spray paint for such projects. "I had a piece of outdoor furniture in an ugly orange color, but I went over it with a charcoal chalk spray paint," she says. "Anyone can do this: Take a frame, a piece of furniture, or metal candle sticks, and you get this instantly sophisticated matte finish, without any prep beyond tarping your grass."

painted nightstand

Erin Williamson Design