The Art Of MIY: Make It Yourself

With the disposable income dwindling fast and the prospects of being able to afford a bigger house looking remote, the time has come to fall on your own resources to do up your house. It’s not all about putting up shelves and tangling with the plumbing though. Sometimes a little bit of MIY, or making it yourself, can go a long way towards creating a more individual and homely touch.

Now that our homes are no longer to be regarded as money-making investments but as places where we actually live – some of us had forgotten that in recent years – it’s worth remembering that your home should be a sort of biography of who you are. In other words, it should reflect the personalities of the people that live there. This idea is gathering pace as we turn away from neutral colours that will entice prospective buyers, towards more daring shades that reflect who we are and what we like. You don’t have to play it safe any more. After all, you can easily paint over a mistake with a different colour, a wall of paper can be changed in a day and there are plenty of places to buy cheap material so you can make new cushion covers.

Fortunately the current trends of patchwork and strong colours all lend themselves well to this trend and there are plenty of websites where you can pick up instructions on making cushions and curtains – both of which, let’s face it, involve sewing only in straight lines. It’s also fashionable to be eco and a collection of stuff that you have built up over the years – slightly mismatched and preloved – is the height of chic at the moment. Visit for a look at their Miri Sofa for £359 for inspiration.

Emily Peacock makes great tapestry design kits that are, as she says for 21st century home decor, so you can banish all thoughts of that staid needlepoint flower arrangement that your Grandmother was toiling over. She made this tapestry in collaboration with Rob Ryan, whose work is screamingly fashionable at the moment. Here is it made into a cushion. Visit It’s £70.

Or you might like to have a go at her Hug and Kiss sets which cost £54.99 for a small one up to £130 for a large pair. Remember it’s just the tapestry, you’ll need to turn it into a cushion: 

And once you’ve mastered the art of sewing by hand it’s a small step to making your own applique cushions with your own choice of words or patterns on them. After all if Tracey Emin can do it . . .

The advantage of this is that the matchy matchy look is completely over. These days it’s about contrasting prints in toning colours, which means you can raid the remnants bin at John Lewis and create your own, completely individual set of cushions for not much money.

Moving on from sewing to knitting and visit for a look at Paola Navone’s Sweet collection. Her giant knitted cushions (sweet 40) encapsulate this look and might give you some ideas of your own.

Or, you can buy one of these from and the good news is that there’s a sale starting on 15 March 2012 where they will be reduced from £125 to £69.

But this is supposed to be about making it not buying it, so you could also visit  or There are masses of places to pick up cheap sewing machines (try Argos for starters) but remember, if you are a beginner you don’t need to spend money on a fancy one that will do embroidery and different stitches. Stick to something basic that goes forwards, backwards and zigzags and that will do.

And once you start thinking like this the ideas will start to flow. You can buy a cheap set of plates from Ikea and paint your own decorations on them. Emma Bridgewater made a fortune from doing that. You can buy ceramic paint from craft shops.

On the subject of painting, why not buy a set of old chairs, or new ones from Ikea, and customise them, by painting them all different, but toning colours. Remember to bang a nail into the bottom of each leg and you can get right down to the bottom without painting the floor as well. A row of fitted wardrobes can be glammed up by painting each door in a different shades from a colour chart – you might even get away with paying just for the tester pots as well as making an interesting effect.

from via Pinterest

55 Max, the online gallery has just launched a bespoke arm, which will create a photo-montage of your favourite images and put them onto rugs, cushions, wallpapers and tables. Visit

Another good tip for personalising your space is decoupage. This involves cutting out pictures, sticking them onto a table or chair and varnishing them. Mocked by many as hideously old-fashioned, it just depends on the pictures you use – Banksy style graffiti on a kitchen table would look great and give a new lease of life to an old, or characterless, table. The artist Leslie Oschmann has taken this idea to a new level by covering flea-market chairs and tables with sections of original oil paintings which she seals with clear lacquer. Visit for inspiration. Of course, you can just use images from newspapers and magazines in the absence of any oil paintings to cut up. For £525 you can buy a kitchen chair covered in newspaper decoupage by design company Bombus from And for that price you do get to choose which newspaper you want it covered in. 


If you’ve really got the sticking bug then another really effective trick is to wallpaper the front of each step on your staircase. The designer Abigail Ahern suggests sewing lots of kilims (or for the more financially challenged among us – cheap Ikea rugs) together to create an individual stair runner. Attach with a staple gun and glue.

These stairs have been covered in an Orla Keily print.

So there you have it. Plenty of affordable ideas for turning your house into a home. What’s stopping you?





Tags : bespokehome decorknitmake it yourselfpaintsewstairs
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.