Saturday, September 8, 2012

HOME DESIGN: DIY versions of designer furniture

Anyone with a home has spent time envisioning the furniture that will someday go inside. You spend time flipping through countless catalogues, scrolling through pages and pages of design blogs, even strolling through furniture stores.

But sometimes you can't find what you want at the right price. You can, however, make it yourself.
Building your own furniture might seem intimidating, but many do-it-yourself fans claim that when you break it down, these projects can be relatively simple.
It all starts with a plan.

Because the plan is key and drafting your own plan is more complex, many first-time furniture builders might feel more comfortable turning to professionals. Luckily, you can commission furniture plans from a carpenter for more extensive projects, buy some online, check out a building book or find a DIY expert that's crafted furniture before to help you out. The experts at a home supplies store can even pre-cut wood for you and help walk you through simpler projects, like building a shelf.
(Photo: Bill Vuehlke, (Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects)Or you can turn to the queen of do-it-yourself furniture plans, Ana White, an Alaskan mom whose more than 650 plans are available for free. Just type "build your own furniture" into Google and her plans will pop up.
White was inspired by Pottery Barn, but the furniture giant doesn't ship to White's remote home in Alaska. So she made her own. Many of her plans are direct copies of designer furniture, and you can see the stunning finished projects all over her blog.
"If you have the confidence, that's where it all starts," White said. "Having a DIY spirit and having a desire to do it."
For Spike Carlsen, a carpenter and author of "Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects," the furniture you see in magazines really is not difficult to do on your own.
"If you study things and just plan one step ahead it's amazing what people can build," he said.
His leaning ladder bookcase project copies a design frequently seen by major furniture chains, only it doesn't cost $350. The bookcase is made of standard-size lumber and uses just three tools: a jigsaw, a hammer and a drill. His project's total cost is just $30.
For less than $100, you can build Ana White's version of a farmhouse table seen at Anthropologie, which retails for $2,000. Wood and screws are all you need to complete this
project. Because the modern farmhouse table is supposed to look rustic, you can even leave a natural finish on the wood and it will still look exactly like the original design.
Or if you like a style, like the popular apothecary dressers, but don't need dressers, you can spin them into a something you do need, like a TV stand. The key to making this project shine is finish, as it is with many projects, White said.
Designer furniture is often made of high-quality wood that has been finished to perfection. Take a photo of the project you're trying to copy to your local home center and ask them how they can help you achieve the finish you're looking for.
If you're really having trouble wrapping your mind around the idea of building your own furniture or you're worried about finishing, start simple. Go to a yard sale and buy some old furniture to refinish. That will help you gain some confidence and knowledge on finishes before you start working on your own furniture.
Try a wipe on polyurethane and a high gloss to maintain the wood's natural look. Otherwise try a rich stain to add match the color you're seeing in the magazine. You could also paint the wood, especially if you're using a cheaper wood, and sand the edges to give it a more vintage look.
"People are often too hard on themselves," she said. "It isn't about this project being absolutely perfect. It's about the end result. You are, for a small fraction of retail price, improving your home and storage functionality. It's about the big picture."

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