Budget-Friendly DIY Projects

Create an Elegant Vignette
Invest your time and energy -- not money -- to create a beautiful home. These project ideas and info will get you started.

Budget Art

Turn ordinary items into gilded art. Arrange gold seal stickers intended for envelopes and official documents in rows on solid-colored paper to create easy modern art. Or group house numbers -- both old and new -- inside a picture frame.

Vinyl roller shades are a cheap window treatment, but aren't so stylish. This easy DIY roller shade project transforms the not-so-great into something special with just fabric, trim, and a few basic supplies.

DIY Roller Shade

While roller shades are cheap, they tend to be not so pretty. But spending a few more bucks on fabric and using this DIY technique can make them stand-out, stylish window treatments.

Clipboard Organizer

Bring on order with these clipboard organizers. Use painter's tape to mask any areas you don't want covered in paint. The tape can also serve as a guide to paint straight lines. Brush the clipboard with chalkboard paint and let dry. Rub chalk on chalkboard-painted surface to prime it. Wipe off chalk with damp cloth; wipe dry. Peel off the tape and repeat steps to add another color in unpainted spaces. Embellish with stencils, stickers, or other fun accents.

Burlap Runner

Dress up your table with dip-dyed burlap. Buy enough light-colored burlap yardage from the fabrics store so it hangs 1-2 feet off the ends of your table. Cut it lengthwise so it's several inches narrower than the width of your table. We used RIT fabric dye in fuschia to dye one-third of the runner at each end. To create a slight ombre effect, we repeated the dye bath on one-sixth of the runner on each end to darken the color. Finish the runner by fringing the edges, if desired.

Put your personalized stamp on a plain pillow with this easy monogramming technique starring paint.

Personalize a Pillow

Add your monogram to a basic pillow in 30 minutes and with just a few supplies.

Paint Swirled Vase

Update an ordinary vase with paint. Pour a small amount of enamel ceramic/glass paint into the bottom of a glass vase. Hold the vase in your hands and tip it in different directions so the paint rolls around inside, creating a wave of color. Leave some of the vase clear for interest.

Ruffled Pillows

Use old t-shirts to update a plain pillow. You can also use jersey fabric. Either material is perfect for this project because they don't unravel, so you won't have to finish the edges. Cut fabric 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide. Use your fingers to scrunch the fabric into ruffles as you stitch down the middle with a sewing machine.

Create your own art canvas and embellish it with vintage jewelry for a one-of-a-kind piece for your walls.

Jewelry Art

Display flea market baubles as affordable art. Watch and learn how.

Cork Coasters

Prevent water rings and add a style all at the same time with DIY cork coasters. Cut 4x4-inch squares from thin cork. Cut a simple herringbone pattern from stencil acetate. Press the stencil onto a cork square and apply acrylic paint.

A wine cork trivet makes a pretty addition to your table. Here's how to make one.

Cork Trivet

Put old wine corks to use and create a colorful trivet.

Lace Mobile

Create a whimsical mobile with lace and embroidery hoops. Stretch lace fabric in wood embroidery hoops. Trim excess lace. For a clean-lined look, drill two holes on either side of the embroidery hoop fastener and screw the two pieces of the hoop together, then pry off the original hardware. Hang from white cording and position at alternating levels.

String Art

All you need to create this funky string art is string, nails, and a board. Map out your design and hammer the nails into the board (don't pound the nails in completely). Wrap string around the nailheads for the design. If you're spelling a word, print out the letters and cut them out. Arrange the letters on the board and hammer a nail into each corner of the letters. Wrap string around the outlines of the letters first, then fill in the letters with woven designs.

Glitter and Gold

Illuminate your home with gold mercury glass-look candle holders. Spray a light mist of water into a glass holder. Working inside the glass only, spray a light layer of metallic gold paint over the water beads, leaving the glass slightly translucent. Let dry, then add a layer of gold glitter spray. When the candle burns, the glitter twinkles inside and the outside looks like matte gold mercury glass.

Order in the House

Make labels from hardware store wood shims and institute order. Cut a few shims to the desired size by either scoring with a crafts knife and snapping, or trimming with a rotary cutter. Sand each corner to round, and drill a hole in the middle of the thick end, about 1/2 inch from the edge. Use a small foam brush to paint the front and back of each tag with chalkboard paint. Let dry and write or stencil on labels with white charcoal pencil or chalk. Tie onto a bin or basket with a length of baker's twine.

Stairway Art

Give a ho-hum staircase a lift by dressing up the risers with decals. Try a design or pattern that extends the width of the risers, or go whimsical with number decals.

And Cute to Boot

Put your best foot forward with a unique flower vase. Arrange your flowers in a regular vase (make sure it will fit inside the boot first). Then simply tuck the vase inside the boot -- the more colorful, the better!

Gilded Jars

Rescue glass jars bound for the recycling bin for this upcycled project. Clean out the jars, poke a hole in the top of the lid, and screw a cabinet knob through the hole. We paired gold knobs with gold lids, but you can also paint the lids to match your hardware.

Birch Perch

Create shelves with panache using birch logs as supports. Trim sturdy branches to equal lengths, keeping the cuts straight. Paint two 24-inch-long 1x6 boards in the desired color. Attach one board to the bottom of the branches using wood screws, and attach the second board to the top of the branches, again, with wood screws. Hang the shelves using picture-hanging hooks driven into wall studs.

Shiny Starburst

Stir up a DIY mirror using a common project must-have: stir sticks. Use a handsaw to cut stir sticks to desired lengths, then spray-paint them (we used metallic gold paint). Cut a circle from newspaper to match the size of your mirror. Use the newspaper pattern as a guide for edge alignment of the sticks. Adhere the longest sticks at "north-south-east-west" compass points using strong crafts glue. Fill in the remaining spokes, leaving room for the wall hanger.

Welcome Mat

Make a colorful statement at your front door with a DIY doormat. Cut 1x2 medium-density fiberboard (MDF) into fifteen 24-inch-long pieces. Spray-paint the pieces with exterior spray paint, let dry. Cut coordinating fabric strips to size, and affix to the slats with spray adhesive. Once dry, apply three coats of clear exterior varnish. To assemble, drill holes through each plank 1 inch from each end and at the center. Thread a small nut onto one end of each of the three threaded rods; insert the rods through the holes in one MDF plank. Slide a larger nut onto each rod. Continue alternating planks and nuts. Secure the slats with a nut threaded onto the end of each rod.

Custom Window Shades

Give a plain roller shade ($15) color and punch with a painted pattern. Using a ruler and T-square. Mask off straight stripes with blue painter's tape. Apply latex paints in your desired colors using a foam roller. Let paint set, peel off the tape, and let the paint dry completely.

DIY Tip: Keep paint from bleeding into your stripes by sealing the tape tightly to the roller shade: Run over it with a straight edge, and roll the paint roller away from the tape, not toward it.

Light Effects

Give a mod twist to a wrought-iron chandelier with a string of wooden balls. Select several different-size balls from the woodworking aisle at the crafts store. Screw small metal eye hooks into opposite ends of each ball. Link the eye hooks to chain the balls together, then drape from the chandelier.

DIY Tip: Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to grasp and twist the tiny eye hooks.

Artful Chairs

Put your touch on off-the-shelf furniture by transferring any favorite image -- a photograph, a bit of a painting, or even a fabric pattern -- to the plain surface. Scan the image into the computer and print it on transfer paper, which you can buy online and from office supply and crafts stores (about $20 for a package of ten 8x10-inch sheets). Follow the package instructions to transfer the image. These bentwood chairs have the perfect smooth surface for such a project.

DIY Tip: Be sure to purchase the right kind of transfer paper for your particular ink-jet or laser printer.

Super Bowl

For virtually no cost at all, you can mold an attractive centerpiece. Employ the simple technique of paper-mache, which involves dipping strips of paper into a solution of equal parts white glue and water. Turn over a mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Tear strips of paper: book pages, magazines, sheet music, wrapping paper, or wallpaper will work. Here, the artistic look comes from copies of blueprints placed facedown with a layer of patterned scrapbook paper laid right side up. Apply at least three layers of paper to develop a sturdy vessel; let dry. Remove plastic wrap and bowl, and, if necessary, smooth any rough edges with fine-grit sandpaper.

Table Trimming

Embellish an accent table with decorative trim made from old-fashioned wooden clothespins. Arrange them around the table edge, using a dab of wood glue and a pneumatic pin nailer to attach them (these cost about $100 to buy and $20 to rent for a half day). When dry, spray the table with primer and paint.

DIY Tip: For a level line of clothespins, slide a scrap of 1/2-inch-thick board around the tabletop, lining up the clothespins with the top of the board as you work.

Tea Cozy

Dress your windows quickly and smartly with tea towels turned into cafe curtains. Simply clip drapery rings to the top edges of the towels, and thread the rings onto a curtain rod. You'll want the curtains to hang down to the windowsill, so mount the rod accordingly. If you have a double-hung window, position the rod so the top edge of the curtain lines up with the sash.  

DIY Tip: If necessary, trim the towels to length and hem using a sewing machine -- or iron on fusible webbing for a no-sew option.

Frosty Glasses

Boost the sophistication of a set of clear glass vases by adding subtle stripes. To get the etched look without messing with caustic etching cream, mask off stripes of different widths using painter's tape, then spray with paint that mimics the look of frosted glass.

DIY Tip: The more coats of frosted-glass paint you apply, the more opaque and noticeable the stripes. We applied two coats to our vases.

Mood Light

Create a chic, midcentury pendant fixture using just string and a balloon. Purchase a 35-inch balloon from a party goods store, and blow it up to about 30 inches. Brush it with a thick coat of fabric stiffener, which you can find at fabrics and crafts stores. Wrap the balloon with white crochet string, brushing on more stiffener as you work to ensure a thick coating. Let dry for 24 hours, then pop the balloon.

DIY Steps: Illuminate the shade using an inexpensive light kit for hanging lanterns. First, tie a knot in the cord about 7 inches from the bulb. Thread the plug end through a slit in the center of a plastic butter-tub lid. Using kitchen shears, cut a hole in the top of the globe slightly smaller in diameter than the butter-tub lid. Insert the bulb and lid in the globe. Hang the cord from a hook in the ceiling. Use a low-watt lightbulb. 

On the Block

Raid the scrap bins at the local lumberyard or home center to salvage free material for these handy coasters. Cut one 4x4 wood board into different sizes using a handsaw and a miter block to ensure straight cuts. Sand the edges and corners smooth, and apply a coat of natural wood stain and sealer (starting at $15 for a quart) to show off the grain.

DIY Tip: Stick felt pads or cabinet bumpers in each corner on the bottom.

Sitting Pretty

Customize an off-the-shelf pillow with a design of your own making. For this chevron pattern, cut the zigzag out of cardboard, and use it as a guide to trace on the yellow pillow with a white fabric marker. Then fill in the outline with white fabric paint.

Original Art

Stick your way to bold and colorful artwork that will brighten your walls. Purchase or reuse a large picture frame, and cut a piece of foam-core board to fit inside. Wrap different colors and widths of tape, including duct, electrical, and painter's tape around the board, leaving spaces to create white stripes. Frame the foam-core board and hang.   

DIY Tip: Electrical tape shrinks, so cut the pieces longer than you need.

Make Arrangements

Think beyond a flat arrangement of wall art to create an arresting 3-D display. Start by hanging a slender shelf or demilune table. Then paint a color block or decorative outline, such as this ribbon design, on the wall above it to give it sizable presence. Hang a small mirror to reflect an array of pretty collectibles or a vase of fresh flowers.

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