Sometimes you find a great home decor item at a great price, but something is a bit off. Maybe it’s the color…maybe the fabric…maybe it is lacking that special something. Well, if the price is right you might want to consider buying the item and tweaking it until it is just right.

Several readers that took the What’s Your DIY or Buy Personality quiz, were proud to be labeled DIY Shortcutters! We don’t all have time to do long or complicated DIY projects. At the same time, we can’t find items directly off the shelf that meet our decor needs. So, when we need a creative fix and are short on time, we turn to customizing off the shelf items…the DIY shortcut (shown in relation to other types of DIY on the DIY or Buy continuum). It’s a little buy and a little DIY.

I do a lot of tweaking. With a favorite color combo of teal and lime, not many home retailers cater to my decor needs. I routinely buy things to give them a makeover to better fit with my style and color palette.

The trick to tweaking is knowing what you can change and what you cannot change. For example, if you see a great lamp with an ugly shade, you can change the shade pretty easily. When discussing flea market furniture shopping, Emily from Secrets of a Stylist always says to look at the lines or the shape of a piece. You can change the color. You can change the fabric. But, you cannot easily change the shape, lines, or size of something.

Love the shape more than the color.  If you are wondering if something is good, picture it in a different color.  If you still like it then its probably worth the splurge.  Remember, the finish, color or fabric can always change but the shape really can’t. So if the shape is amazing but the color is bad, then calm down, it can all be changed, but if the shape is just ‘ok’ but the color is good then don’t spend a ton.  - Emily Henderson

What Makes a Good Buy for Tweaking?

I have a few personal guidelines I follow if I am planning to buy something to tweak. To make the buy, several of these have to be true.

  • Low Price – I have a bit of heartburn over tweaking a full-priced off the shelf item.  It is a lot easier to swallow a little DIY work for an item that is on sale, clearance, or affordable at an outlet, consignment, or thrift store.  My most recent tweaking adventure was a Sharpie makeover for half-priced porcelain knobs.
  • Spray Paint-able - Changing the color of an object can be a simple tweak.  If you don’t like the color, decide if the item could be spray painted.  Good candidates would be objects made of metal, plastic, ceramic, or wood.  A great example is my $12 fugly owl that got a spray paint makeover.  With the right technique glass can also be changed, like my DIY mercury glass hurricanes.
  • Recoverable – The ease of changing fabric on an upholstered piece can vary greatly.  Some furniture is easy to slip cover, where some furniture may need professional upholstery.  If you are looking for a quick project, stick with items that can be slip-covered or have simple upholstery (straight lines and no details, like welting or nailheads).  I consider my Ikea dining room chairs a buy that I tweaked, because I was easily able to make slipcovers from tablecloths for them.
  • Just Needs Bling – Sometimes a piece is great, but it is just missing a little sparkle or whimsy.  Consider buying if you could easily add some bling.  An extreme example of this would be the Ikea light I made into a linear crystal chandelier.   On a smaller scale, in my master bedroom I added whimsy by literally “putting a bird on it“.
  • Un{emotionally}attached – How would you feel if you ruined the item during tweaking?  If it cost a lot, it is one-of-a-kind, or an heirloom, you might want to think twice.  Before considering buying to tweak, consider if the buy is still worth it if the tweak does not turn out.  You cannot return something you modified.

All you DIY Shortcutters, tell me what is your favorite “buy to tweak” project?

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5 Responses to Buy to Tweak

  1. Danielle says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a lamp/table/chair and thought “I wonder it I could spray paint that.” In fact, I just spent the past weekend painting a coffee table, picture frame, stool, and magazine rack. Tremclad is my hero.

  2. Lisa says:

    I spent this summer spray painting picture frames-some old and some new to complete two gallery walls. I need to be better at finding deals because I tend to buy things full price if I need them in the moment and don’t want to wait. I did get a good deal at Hobby Lobby on a mirror (1/2 off) that I sprayed silver (it was gold) to match my decor. I’m always forgetting to bring those 40% off coupons that everyone offers so I end up paying full price.

    • Jackie says:

      Lisa, if you have a smart phone, most stores have the coupons online now. They can either scan the barcode on your phone or enter the number. I always forget paper coupons and find myself looking for a coupon on my phone while I wait to chek out.

  3. Gwen says:

    Hmmm…I tend to buy it to fix it my way on the little things in my home. The big stuff? I tend to buy it how I like it since its an investment. However my bedroom furniture is all done over by me so I guess I am a bit braver than I first thought!

  4. I Love to “Tweak” things as you call it. It is so easy to do. Great post!

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