Are you looking to spruce up your home a little, whether it’s with a new feature or a piece of furniture? Why not try your hand at doing it yourself? There are so many benefits to home DIY and upcycling existing pieces which you already own or have sourced second hand. For one, it is a budget-friendly alternative to buying new which we all welcome in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation. Secondly, turning something that already exists but is unused into a much-loved item while saving it from the landfill is undoubtedly better for the environment. Not to mention the sense of pride and accomplishment you’re bound to feel every time you look at your unique piece of design.
So, if we’ve convinced you (or you were already on board) then the next step might be to get some inspiration, direction and tips from some experienced DIYers. Which is why we’ve compiled this list introducing you to ten excellent content creators that know their way round a tool box and can turn a thrifted find into a design-led piece of furniture. They demonstrate that improving your abode doesn’t need to break the bank and you can have fun while doing it.
Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, Nicky Behshad is probably best known for her circular coffee table made from a second-hand table top and spherical legs crafted out of Ikea salad bowls. The reel featuring the making of this piece has garnered nearly 900k likes on Instagram is how I came across her page in the first place. But when the mechanical engineer by day started her account to share the renovations of her newly bought apartment with friends and family, she never imagined it would grow into such a large community passionate about interior design and DIY as much as she is.
Drawing on her Swedish background, Nicky favours a minimalist Scandinavian style with a neutral, muted colour palette paired with natural materials like wood, linen and marble. On occasion though, she creates the effect of the luxe-looking materials such as marble, which tends to be very expensive, but in a savvy way with the likes of medium-density fibreboards (MDF), as she’s done with her dining table. To match Nicky’s savvy DIY-ing, take her advice and save materials from previous projects if you have the space (as you never know when they might come in handy) and visit a second-hand store where you’re likely to find a good base for your next endeavour at a low cost along with tons of inspiration.
“Let your personality shine through in your creations,” is what Annika Hinds recommends when approaching a DIY project. It seems she certainly took her own advice to heart as her DIY and upcycled projects filling her home are always playful, colourful and eclectic. Based in Portland, Oregon, Annika turned to DIY as her creative outlet when faced with spending more time at home during the pandemic. Wanting to inspire others to do the same and add a personal touch to their space in a fun way like she has been doing, Annika started to share her often renter-friendly ideas on social media platforms, namely Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. On TikTok, she has surpassed 1.5 million at this point.
Always with her adorable cat Fig in tow, who she’s DIY-ed more than one hack for, Annika’s projects range from easy and approachable, like stick-on vinyl decorations of light switches to cloud-shaped shelves originally created for Fig’s climbing, and bigger builds like her day bed. Her original drippy shelves – which are exactly what they sound like, wooden shelves with a melting-like design – were so popular that the maker even started selling them on Etsy.
After contractors gave Jenn Liu a home renovation quote that wasn’t affordable for her, she delved into the breadth of knowledge that resides on the internet to learn how to do things herself. Several YouTube videos later, there are few things left that Jenn can’t do, from crafting built-in bookshelves and flipping Ikea dressers to building coffee tables. “Once you figure out the basic DIY skills of cutting wood, using the nail gun, using a drill and driver, then the sky’s the limit. You will be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to,” says Jenn. That applies not only to her, but to everyone that gets rid of the fear of beginning their DIY journey.
Based in North California’s Bay Area, the creator’s style is defined by natural wood and muted, earthy tones with a minimal, contemporary aesthetic. Like many others on this list, Jenn too started her Instagram account to share her renovation process with friends and family but slowly started noticing her audience growing. This has led her to make her posts more detailed, descriptive tutorials and also start a YouTube channel of her own to be able to share what she’s learnt with others that are on a similar journey.
Located in the city of Grenoble in the southeast of France at the foot of the Alps, the scenic mountainous landscape is a contrasting backdrop to Chris Neyap’s modern DIY projects. Steered largely by the changing seasons, Chris at times feels colourful and creates the likes of his artistic wall installation consisting of various contrasting shapes arranged into a rectangle attached to the wall. Other times, a longing for softer colours and shapes, comfort and cosiness leads him to make something like an organic-shaped, curved-top coffee table or circular living room pouffe.
Setting up his Instagram account to educate and start conversations around interior design with a plan to eventually launch his own online store, the interior decorator ended up taking a different route in the face of the pandemic as he fell deeper and deeper in love with creating content around his DIY projects. And he’s never looked back. And what’s his one pro tip for anyone starting out? “DIY projects aren’t always a success. But the important thing is to learn and do better next time. I can say from experience that it’s often the little flaws that create a unique object,”says Chris.
Maisie Violet Rees
Maisie Violet Rees is an interior designer and stylist, as well as a self-proclaimed maximalist. Specialising in upcycling hacks and DIY on a budget, Maisie’s style is always brimming with vibrant colours, bold pattern like leopard print and tropical motifs and perhaps most importantly, a sense of joy and fun. All of which have earned her a nomination for the UK Interior Awards in 2019 for the Most Creative Interior. Starting out with creating window displays and pop-up spaces for luxury brands, Maisie soon took to applying those skills to smaller-scale personal projects and documenting her creative work on Instagram.
With her own renter-friendly, often inexpensive transformations, Maisie inspires her audience to put their own spin on their home without having to put in too much work and too much money spent, just as she does. Whether it’s recreating the popular Fornasetti decorative plates with her self-created collage sheets (which are free for everyone to download on her website) and simple white plates from a charity shop or crafting her take on trending squiggle mirror that’s popping up all over social media.
Six years ago, Cecilia Rosvall’s Instagram account @designbycilla was born to allow its founder to express her creativity. She wanted to share DIY tips to inspire others to create in different ways and show women that they can also use power tools. Some of her most popular content proved to be her kids’ bedroom and playroom. So much so that by popular demand, in 2020 Cecilia launched a design agency bearing the same name as her Instagram account focused on creating inspiring and beautiful bedrooms and playrooms for children all around the world.
Based in Sweden, north of Stockholm, Cecilia lives by the sea with her husband and two kids. Her aesthetic is based around a modern Scandinavian style specialising in tone-on-tone finishing where furniture is painted the same colour as the walls which creates an elevated built-in look. Favouring softer, pastel colours, another signature element of the designer’s work is playing with dimensions and creating 3D effects as storage boxes are treated to a Lego look and jigsaw puzzle pieces come out of cupboards. But if there was one piece of advice Cecilia could impart onto anyone, especially a DIY beginner, it would be to focus on colour – repainting furniture, walls and ceilings in fun ways and colours you love will transform your home on a budget.
Birmingham-based Francesca Stone started her blog Fall for DIY in 2013 sharing tips and techniques she was learning every day in her job as a bead shop manager. But her love for creating and crafting has always been a part of her, even leading the creator to study textile design at university. 10 years later, she still crafts and shares her home DIY tips and stories both on her blog and Instagram account, which has become her full-time job, giving her a creative outlet with the added benefits that DIY comes with – practicality and saving money.
Living in a small and unusual terraced house, the content creator is inspired by Pinterest-perfect homes and uses her DIY skills and upcycling to make them work on a smaller scale in her own space, led by her passion for materials, texture and shape. In other words, she strives to make modern design trends more accessible, both for herself and her readers and followers. Whether it’s her show-stopping panelled wooden radiator cover or a side table made from a charity shop-bought lazy Susan and cardboard tubes with an expensive designer look. Francesca’s biggest tip when tackling DIY projects, no matter how simple, is to measure twice and cut once because it is so easy to get a measurement wrong. But at the same time, be prepared to make mistakes and don’t get discouraged by them. Even a seasoned DIY-er like Francesca has drilled a hole through a water pipe once trying to hang a mirror.
Now with her upcoming book publishing this August simply titled Festive, you can be inspired by Francesca’s simple Christmas recipes, crafts and styling tips to create a beautiful and memorable festive season without spending a lot of money.
Angelique van den Reek
Lieks Home is run by interior design and home DIY enthusiast and blogger Angelique van den Reek, named after the affectionate nickname her closest refer to her as. Sharing a beautiful home with her husband and two kids in the Netherlands, Angelique likes to mix expensive and cheap with her mostly smaller scale DIYs that makes them all the more approachable and easier to replicate. She often uses inexpensive, easy-to-find items like wooden toy blocks or mismatched bud vases with a tray and transforms them to something like a cool and quirky set of candlestick holders or an original monochrome flower display. Other times, the Dutch native gives everyday tools an upgrade like she’s done with the handles of some marshmallow sticks, adorning them with marbled-effect colourful clay.
The flower-obsessed Angelique’s style is notable for its fearlessness and great use of colours. As she points out on her blog, she once had a yellow wall in her living room despite the fact she isn’t particularly keen on the colour. She just enjoys the challenge. Which explains why DIY is such a passion of hers.
Nina Verdier and Rhys Clark
When Nina Verdier and Rhys Clark both lost their jobs in early 2020 due to the pandemic, they never would have thought that three years later, they would be running a furniture upcycling business. What started with renovating Rhys’ parents laundry room during lockdown to have something to do, turned into a newly discovered passion. They were having so much fun that they turned to unused furniture in the shed, making it unrecognisably beautiful that their family couldn’t believe they were the same pieces and the couple never looked back.
Today, their home is filled with upcycled furniture, including their son’s nursery featuring a very special dresser painted in white and adorned with weaved jute and cotton knobs that the pair worked on together. They create these magical moments for their customers and their pre-loved furniture under the name Butch & Bulldog, inspired by the nicknames Rhys’ parents gave the two while renovating their laundry room. Their Instagram account of the same name was initially created to share their projects just with friends and family but their audience has grown exponentially since, all attracted to the Australian-based duo’s contemporary, coastal style defined by a bright and airy feel, natural materials and colours underpinned by white. But what can the now-professionals advise for the upcycling newbies? “Plan ahead, be patient, invest in good quality products, don’t be scared to ask questions, enjoy the process.”
Lena Carola Werner, going by LC for short, was first attracted to upcycling and DIY for the low expense factor. But she soon found that upcycling or simply buying second hand results in not only cheaper alternatives but also higher quality pieces, as furniture was made better and sturdier back in the day. Based in northern Germany, LC’s upcycling and DIY journey started when she left her tiny flat behind and moved into a bigger space where she felt she could experiment and make things happen. She decided to document her projects with Instagram reel time lapses and her audience has since grown to over 160k followers.
First known for a quirky, colourful aesthetic, the Instagrammer’s style couldn’t be more different these days. After carefully educating herself about design, art and their history, LC ended up favouring a more natural colour palette and materials, including lots of exposed wood, paired with silver-toned accessories and chunky silhouettes. Paint stripping rather than painting things anew has become one of her recent favourite go-to techniques to give any piece a new lease of life. As she did with a chest of drawers before pairing it with shell-shaped napkin rings as new handles. But whether you paint or paint strip, change a lamp shade or source a second-hand frame for your art, LC hopes to inspire others to just go for it, get creative and have fun. In fact, she is so enamoured with pre-loved furniture and homewares that she just opened a vintage pop-up store in Hamburg this month with some of her best finds named Pony Vintage, which is worth checking out if you’re in the area.