7 High-Impact, Low-Lift DIY Home Projects You Can Complete in a Single Weekend

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on August 17, 2021

In addition to baking sourdough bread and tie-dying every white garment in sight, tackling a home project was basically a quarantine rite of passage. From backyard patio refreshes and home office makeovers to painting DIYs and beyond, lockdown really did give us a collective chance to sharpen our DIY skills for the long haul. 

But as any seasoned YouTube contractor knows, not all DIY home decor ideas are created equal. Some end up requiring far more time, energy, and money than expected, while others straight-up pale in comparison to the inspiration photo you found on Pinterest. 

In the interest of saving you time and effort, we’re spotlighting a few of our favorite high-impact, low-lift DIY projects that you can accomplish in a single weekend. From a chic DIY plaster lamp to a hardware-free bookcase, there’s a little something for every skill level and design aesthetic. 

Ahead, find eight designer-approved DIY home decor ideas that are well worth your time and effort.

1. DIY Fireplace Mantle

Love fireplaces but not the smoke, maintenance, and mess? Or is your living room simply lacking one? Pick up a freestanding piece mantle for an elevated DIY fireplace scene. There are some really great affordable options online in a variety of styles, whether you’re into the carved, ornate Parisian Modern vibe, or a simple, Scandinavian-inspired wood frame. Best of all, this DIY couldn’t be easier -— all you have to do is mount the mantle on the wall. Add a fireplace grate and a few wooden logs for an authentic touch, and voila! You’ll be amazed how this detail can completely transform a space and create (faux) architectural drama.

 

diy fireplace mantle

2. Plaster an Old Lamp (or Anything Else)

Think twice before you donate an old lamp or decorative vase that no longer fits your design aesthetic. A little DIY plaster can modernize an outdated finish or simplify a color palette while lending a fresh, organic feel to your old favorites. Take the above lamp reimagined by our VP of Creative and Design Shelby Girard, for example. Using plaster wrap cloths and a neutral paint color, she gave a once-beloved brass lamp a second lease on life in her bedroom. You can do the same with any bowl, frame, vase, light fixture, lamp, or knick knack that’s in need of a refresh — just follow the steps below: 

  • Cut the plaster wrap cloth into strips.
  • Dip a single strip into a bowl of water.
  • Run your fingers over the strip to remove excess water.
  • Smooth the strip carefully over your object.
  • Continue to place strips of plaster wrap cloth until you’ve covered the form with at least two layers.
  • Allow the plaster to dry overnight.
  • Finish with a coat of paint in a neutral hue, like an ivory or beige. 
diy plaster lamp

3. Create a Cinder Block Bookcase

Bookcases are just as versatile as they are practical — they serve as an aesthetically-pleasing home for artwork, greenery, and decorative artifacts as well as your favorite tomes. But a brand-new shelving unit doesn’t always come cheap. To save money and flex your DIY skills, build your own bookcase using cinder blocks and wood planks. Simply stack the pieces to create shelves, and adjust the height to suit your unique space. We suggest stacking books both horizontally and vertically to fill the shelves and add visual interest. Pro tip: If the book covers are too vibrant and you’re looking for a more homogeneous color palette, turn the spines to the back wall and let the tonal pages shine!

diy shelves

4. Personalize Your Artwork

The right piece of art can add a personal touch to a room and tie the whole design together. But sourcing art can get expensive, especially if you’re going the custom route. If you enjoy painting or drawing and want to stay on-budget, consider letting your inner artist shine with a homemade masterpiece. Not only will you feel a connection to this piece for the long haul, you’ll get a chance to indulge in some art therapy at home. Once again, our VP Design, Shelby, shows us how it’s done with the hand painted abstract piece on the left in the image above. What can’t she do?

Here are a few simple techniques that anyone can master: go abstract by painting brush strokes over a stretched canvas, draw straight lines or patterns for a more graphic style, experiment with watercolor paints, or integrate beautiful photography from a magazine. Simply frame and voila!

diy artwork for home

5. Turn Books Into a Moment

Decorating with books is nothing new, but displaying them open-faced lends an unexpected touch to any shelf or vignette. Simply bookmark your favorite chapter, poem, or photograph and put the pages on display, similar to a piece of wall art. Be sure to include a range of heights, background colors, and themes to create a balanced visual. To really let the pages shine, take notes from Havenly designer Autumn Williams’ chic style and consider modern acrylic shelving!

diy bookshelf ideas

6. Build Your Own Built-Ins

To optimize a small space (or even add more storage and organization to a larger area), consider installing your own built-ins. We know that built-ins can look and feel intimidating, but they’re easier and more cost-effective than you think — especially with a little help from Ikea. For a minimal frame that maximizes precious square footage, you can’t beat Ikea’s cult-classic Billy Bookcases. At just 11 inches deep, they’re uniquely narrow, making them a great choice for small spaces. To take them from “basic showroom” to “classic and custom,” add trim to the top of the bookcases and fill in the pre-drilled holes on the sides. You can even add extension units on top to take your bookcases all the way up to the ceiling for a true “built in” aesthetic. Once you’ve nailed down your configuration, paint the entire arrangement with a sprayer for a clean finish (in the above example, Havenly designer Vivian Torres went with Super White by Benjamin Moore).

diy built-in bookcases

7. Carve Out a Breakfast Nook

Just because you have a small kitchen or dining space doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort and style. Just take the above DIY breakfast banquette, for example. The L-shaped nook not only maximizes seating around the small bistro table, it also offers space-saving storage. To get the look, use three horizontal wall cabinets from Ikea’s Sektion collection to create the base. Fill in the remaining corner gaps with MDF, and add a coat of paint and brass handles for a more elevated, custom aesthetic. Lastly, style up your nook! We suggest adding a custom upholstered cushion to the top of the banquette and layering in a mix of pillows and throws to create a cozy gathering space.

diy breakfast nook

Words by Kelsey Clark