You Should Never Splurge On These 17 Easy Home Updates — Here’s Why

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on June 2, 2023

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. 

But in the interest of saving money in what is now a precarious economy, we’re spotlighting a few of our favorite high-impact, low-lift DIY home projects that you can accomplish in a single weekend. From a chic plaster lamp to a “hardwired” wall sconces sans electrician, there’s a little something for every skill level and design aesthetic. 

Ahead, find 17 designer-vetted and executed DIY home decor ideas that will save you some serious cash.

1. Create your own fireplace mantle

DIY home decor ideas | diy fireplace mantle

Love fireplaces but not the smoke, maintenance, and mess? Or is your living room simply lacking one? Pick up a freestanding vintage mantle for an elevated DIY fireplace scene that will save you upwards of $1,000.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. See the full DIY here.

2. Play with plaster

DIY home decor ideas | diy plaster lamp

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 A little DIY plaster can modernize an outdated finish or simplify a color palette while lending a fresh, organic feel to your old favorites (and save you a few hundred dollars). 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. 

3. Create a cinder block bookcase

DIY home decor ideas | diy shelves

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 anywhere from $300 to $2,500+ 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!

4. Creat your own artwork

DIY home decor ideas

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. Our go-to hack? Finding a beautiful vintage-inspired print from Etsy or Vintage Supply Co, printing it on fine art paper for as little as $15, and framing it in a vintage frame from a local thrift store. Or, you can do a digital download and just get it printed and framed via Framebridge for a few hundred dollars. All in all, this easy hack can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. See our step-by-step DIY here

Alternatively, 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. 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!

5. Decorate with your book collection

diy home decor ideas | diy bookshelf ideas

While decorating with books is nothing new, repurposing your favorite reads instead of buying new decor can save you hundreds of dollars. For a fresh twist, consider displaying them open-faced — 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!

6. Craft your own built-ins

diy home decor ideas | diy built-in bookcases

To optimize a small space (or even add more storage and organization to a larger area) while saving thousands of dollars, 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).

7. Carve out a breakfast nook

diy home decor ideas | diy 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 while cutting costs, 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.

8. Skip shopping & paint for a new look

DIY home decor ideas

You don’t need to invest in new furniture and decor to give your home a fresh look and feel. Paint is significantly cheaper and just as impactful! Rather than stick to walls only, use a high-contrast color to highlight an architectural feature you love, like a staircase, banister, or fireplace. This affordable and easy DIY home decor idea will instantly add drama, visual interest, and charm to any space. (See our full list of features to paint other than your walls for more inspo.)

9. "Hardwire" your own wall sconces

DIY home decor ideas

Hardwiring wall sconces requires hiring a professional electrician, which can get expensive and time-consuming fast. Instead, consider this genius DIY from Havenly designer Brady Burke: mount shaded wall sconces per the instructions, and swap the light bulb for a $20 Amazon puck light. Check out the full step-by-step DIY here and peep the TikTok below for the spark notes version.


A real lightbulb moment. #sconce #sconcehack #sconces #diy #diyhack #decorhack #interiordesigner #interiordesign #interiordesignhack #homedecorhack #homedecor #decortiktok

♬ original sound – EX7STENCE™

10. Try a little DIY pottery



You can easily add character and texture to a standard five-dollar glass vase with a little crafting magic. To save anywhere from $25 to $300 dollars, craft your own artisan pottery with this genius (and fun!) DIY. Yes, it involves actual soil from your garden and some craft store plaster, but the end result looks surprisingly high-end.

11. Have fun with peel & stick

DIY home decor ideas

Not only is peel-and-stick wallpaper often cheaper than traditional rolls, it’s ten times easier to apply yourself (rather than hiring it out). Add character and personality to a space while saving up to $1,000 by going the DIY peel-and-stick wallpaper route. In addition to the obvious (walls), consider wrapping your ceilings, staircase risers, or bookcase interior in a favorite print for an instant pop of color. (Find more creative wallpaper ideas here.)

12. Skip demo and try a DIY mural



Whether you’re renting or updating your forever home, skipping expensive renovations in favor of creative home hacks will always save you serious money. Instead of demo’ing her builder-grade fireplace and redesigning the entire look from top to bottom, Havenly lead designer Melissa Wagner opted for a gallon of teal paint and roughly three hours of her time instead. See her full creative, money-saving hack here.

13. DIY a statement headboard

DIY home decor ideas

Behold another genius DIY from Melissa! The Havenly designer DIYed the above wall-to-wall statement headboard in her main bedroom using wood panels, batting, navy upholstery, and a nail gun. The end result fills up the large, blank wall while saving a few hundred to a thousand dollars — and she completed it in three days. See the full DIY breakdown here.

14. Create a WFH nook

DIY home decor ideas

If you’ve been working from your couch or kitchen island since 2020, consider putting some time into a proper WFH nook. While a dedicated room is obviously ideal, you can get creative with small space-friendly drop-down desks, closet offices, or multi-use spaces to save considerable money.

To keep things budget-friendly, scour Facebook Marketplace or vintage stores for a rustic desk, bring in an upholstered chair from your dining room during work hours, and add a task lamp or candle (or both). Bonus: this DIY home decor idea will help you cultivate a healthy work-life balance.

15. Decorate with greenery

DIY home decor ideas

Never underestimate the power of a quick trip to your local plant shop or nursery. Bringing in large statement plants (like a Majesty Palm or Bird of Paradise), a hanging Pothos or two, and fresh blooms is a quick and affordable way to (literally) breathe new life into your space. Plus, your new plant friends double as a fun and rewarding hobby.

16. DIY a wifi router cover

Okay, this one doesn’t necessarily save you tons of money, but it’s just so genius and aesthetically-pleasing we can’t help but share. Rather than running unsightly cords across your living room or giving your wifi-router prime real estate in your TV stand, craft your own hollow DIY pedestal. The museum-inspired look doubles as a piece of beautiful decor and hides cables, cords, and the like without a trace. See the step-by-step guide below:


The most genius DIY hack we’ve ever seen. #diy #hidewires #diyproject #diywithblock #interiordesign #interiordesignproject #interiordesignhack #designerhack #designerdiy #diyhomedecor #homedecordiy #homehack #homedecorhack #wifirouter

♬ original sound – thehavenly

17. Try your hand at limewash walls

Limewash has been trending for years now, but getting your walls professionally done can cost you thousands of dollars. Instead, take notes from Havenly’s social media manager Carlie Rice and do it yourself with a spray bottle, two contrasting paint colors, and lint-free cloths. She managed to nail the texture-rich look in a matter of hours — see the full break down here!

Want expert advice on your actual home, straight from an interior designer? Start with our style quiz to work with a design pro one-on-one.

Words by Kelsey Clark