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DIY Home Furnishings

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Found objects can be upcycled into home furnishings, construction materials, and more. Jeff Wilson’s home (and perpetual remodeling project) showcases some of his best finds.

Hopefully, many of you have been keeping an eye on {Re}habitat with Rachael Ranney on the Go Green channel. She’s got a knack for making something out of what seems to be nothing, and the results she gets are top-notch.

DIY Home Furnishings Image courtesy of Sherri James

Now, I’ve got a few years on Rachael, and I don’t have quite the eye for style that she has, but I thought I’d share a few of the “DIY-on-the-cheap” projects that my wife and I have cobbled together over the years. This kind of approach can save you money, and the projects will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment and inspire stories that will stick with the projects for a very long time. You can’t swing a cat in this house without knocking into something that has a DIY story attached.

DIY Home Furnishings

Take this table. Back in our salad days, my wife and I were living in a cabin in the country outside of Nashville, Tennessee. One fine day, an ice storm rolled in that spelled the end for about 100 pine trees in and around the 200 acres where we were staying. Pretty soon, the folks who owned the land (we were just squatters at the time) came in and cut the logs, leaving the stumps and smaller logs lying around in piles. We asked if we could use some of the scraps, and we were given the OK. At the same time, my wife reminded me of a promise I’d made several weeks earlier while we were creek-hiking down Big Turnbull Creek – a large, flat piece of shale, perfect for a small table, was lodged in a sandbank, and I had told her, “If it’s still here after the next storm, I’ll come get it.”

Unfortunately for me (and my back), it was still there. To make good on my promise I had to lug the stone a half-mile through the woods, in a half-drag, half-scoot way, since it was far too heavy to carry. Then I took a chainsaw to the taproot and tried to level it the best I could. I gave the stump a quick rubdown with linseed oil before I laid the stone atop it. Kapow! There’s your table. (Note: the little sandstone sitting on the table came from another hike, in a desert canyon in the Southwest. We call it the “brain stone” ... a story for another time).

DIY Home Furnishings

We also used logs from the pines felled by the ice storm to build a log bed. However, found materials are only one way to create a frugal, unique, and story-producing project. While searching for an inexpensive way to get the “river stone” backsplash look without buying the $99-per-lineal-foot commercially produced stuff, my wife stumbled upon small bags of river stone at a craft store for $1 each. Using those, she applied the stone to a piece of tile backer board with tile mastic, and then I installed the completed backsplash boards in our kitchen. Once installed, I grouted the whole mess with an inexpensive grout. Earlier in the kitchen renovation, I had dropped a 2 x 4 on the new sink handles, busting them up pretty badly, so I grabbed a couple of the largest river stones from my wife’s pile and, using two-part epoxy adhesive, attached them to the broken stubs on the handles. This made the sink handles match the backsplash (pretty cool – and cheap!).

DIY Home Furnishings DIY Home Furnishings

The floor in the kitchen was another “necessity is the mother of invention” project. We had removed the old, damaged linoleum to find that the subfloor was tongue-in-groove yellow pine. The wood was a bit damaged, but it seemed a shame to tear it out and toss it, so we opted to outline a checkerboard pattern and use two different colored stains to “paint on” a faux-tile floor. The stain allowed some of the wood grain to show through but covered up some of the blemishes on the old floor. We finished it off with a few coats of water-based polyurethane for an unusual solution.

DIY Home Furnishings

In my wife’s art business, Blue Moon Bottles, she creates many unique items from wine bottles. In addition to the beautiful tumblers, candle lanterns, and vases, she also makes hanging pendant lighting and even furniture. As a natural extension of this, we’ve carried the wine bottle theme into the house, creating interior windows that let light pass through various colored bottles and into the living spaces. The effect is stunning, and we’re upcycling a material that would have either been thrown away or recycled.

Everywhere you look, you’ll find opportunities for frugal, creative, unique solutions to your home décor problems. If you keep your eyes (and mind) open, you’ll create some DIY-on-the-cheap stories of your own in no time.

Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson, author of The Greened House Effect and host of Buildipedia's Everyday DIY series, many HGTV and diy network shows and 25-year veteran of the construction industry, lives with his wife and two daughters in a perpetually half-renovated home in a small college town in Ohio. You can see Jeff’s most recent project, the Deep Energy Retrofit of his 1940’s Cape Cod style home at


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