Do-It-Yourself Living Room Projects

With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can take on these minor living room updates.

Designer Attic Apartment

In this living room makeover a 1970's sectional was dressed-up with new throw pillows. The previously black fireplace got a new sheen thanks to copper spray paint, and a simple shade pendant was added to the center light fixture. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

There are jobs best left to professionals – electric wiring, plumbing and window replacement. But when it comes to minor updates such as painting, sewing and hardware replacement, the best person for the job just may be you. Taking on some of the smaller jobs in your living room renovation can help you save money and put your personal stamp on things. And if you make a mistake with any of these DIY projects, it can be fixed easily – or chalked up to experience without compromising the overall renovation. So, are you ready? Go ahead; roll up your sleeves.

PaintingThe hardest part of painting a room is prepping the wall surfaces properly. But if your living room is newly rebuilt and the walls are fresh and smooth, why not give the color application a go? Be super-careful when taping off moldings and ceilings that will be covered in a second color, and use a brush (not a roller) for small or intricate spots; the precision of edges and crispness of corners is what distinguishes a professional-looking job from one that screams "first-timer!"

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Photo courtesy of Mary Douglas

Refinishing

Have an old coffee table or end table that's a lovely shape but covered in nicks and tea-cup rings? Consider refinishing it yourself. Choose a simple wood stain, or – for a more casual look – you can even use colored paint. But if it's your first time with a refinishing brush, limit yourself to a piece you won't mind sacrificing if the project doesn't go as planned. And if your table is valuable – or a sentimental favorite – let a professional handle it.

Sewing

Sofa upholstery and complicated window treatments require professional-level sewing finesse. But if you are a seamstress, go ahead and try your hand at throw pillows or basic rod-pocket window panels. Sewing pillows yourself is a great way to use scraps of fabric you find at flea markets or in craft-store bargain bins, and turning inexpensive fabric into drapes yourself can save you lots of money. Just remember that a solid material will be easier to work with for drapes than a pattern will, because you don't have to worry about lining up flowers from one panel to the next or keeping your stripes exactly plumb.

Replacing Fixtures

Actual electrical wiring should be done by an expert. But if you just need to swap out one pendant light for another, or if you want to install a ceiling fan where there's now only a light fixture, consider doing it yourself – or ask a friend with relevant experience. For safety, do plenty of research, and make sure you know what you're doing. Don't forget to turn off the circuit breaker before you start fiddling with wires. And if you just read that and have no idea what it means, leave the wiring to somebody who does.

Be Your Own A/V Squad

Most TVs and music systems can be installed by amateurs. Read the manuals carefully, make sure you have basic wiring and technical knowledge, and before you mount speakers on the walls, make sure that you are positioning them for the best sound experience for all the different ways you might want to enjoy them – both sitting on the couch and, if it’s a consideration, standing up and mingling at parties.

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