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For one-of-a-kind finds on a budget, do-it-yourself decor offers the best of both worlds. Whether you get creative in the comfort of your own home or sign up for local workshops, these hands-on projects personalize your environment.  

Peggy Wilke books the popular DIY workshops for the Ideal Bite Community Kitchen in Farmington Hills. At the casual restaurant, camaraderie and creativity converge with instructors that provide lessons and supplies for a variety of decorative items to enhance your home.

Wilke participates whenever possible, like the DaniJo Hawkins Pottery workshop for succulent planters where instructor Danielle Hawkins brought the clay and the tools along with color and texture options. Afterward, she takes the creations with her for firing and glazing before returning them. While everyone works at their own level, a more experienced person in the group added a Yoda head to the top of her pot.

“I take them step by step,” says Hawkins whose pottery workshops support the latest quote that claims clay is the new yoga. “They’re all very loud and talkative at first and about halfway into it, they just go silent. It’s a very meditative experience.”

Most of the workshops cost between $20 and $40 and feature customizable pieces for the home like the wood signs from Life Expressions Décor. Wilke made a fun one that says: I love you more than yesterday – yesterday you got on my nerves. 

The fused glass workshops from Kiss My Glass continue to be a big hit with projects that include nightlights, magnets and sun catchers. Among the more lighthearted objects are the polymer clay figures from Clever Creations by Amy like dragon eggs and disgruntled turkeys for Thanksgiving.

That Art Girl offers a casual coloring party where attendees can learn about blending and shading. “You can turn your phones off and relax,” says Wilke who displays the creations she and her daughter have made alongside furniture she has refurbished in her home.

At Ideal Bite, which was meant to be a community gathering place, the creative workshops typically last about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Some require a brief break like the Lunar Thirteen candle making when participants have time to grab a bite to eat and engage in conversation while waiting for their candles to set.

These DIY workshops have added benefits. “It’s a fun experience and you have an opportunity to meet people,” says Wilke. “You don’t have to find a big group to do a home party. You can just go alone or bring a friend.”

 Creation stations

At Board & Brush in Sylvan Lake, the creative studio offers workshops for making decorative signs, flower boxes, clocks, trays and coat racks. As owner Dee Sloan explains, the do-it-yourself trend remains for good reason. “It’s empowering to create something with your own two hands that maybe you thought you weren’t capable of doing and then you’re successful,” she says.

The workshops are designed to guide everyone through the steps from start to finish. “People have been very proud of their achievements and they crave connection,” adds Sloan. “This gives them the opportunity to spend three hours creating with friends and family. They set their phones down and they’re talking, connecting and creating.”

At area Painting with a Twist locations, fun is part of the creative process. Katherine LeBlanc, chief marketing officer says, “People are allowing their décor to be more personalized than polished these days. A painting from Painting with a Twist doesn’t just match the colors in the room, it’s a reminder of the experience they had painting it while letting loose with friends! And for novice painters, it’s a reminder they can stretch outside of their box and create something amazing!”

In the making

For Jill Washburn, a Fox 2 News forecaster who also hosts and produces the popular weekly segment, "Jill of All Trades," her parents planted the seed for her DIY approach to home decor and more. “You have a different connection to something when you made it, rehabbed it, scrounged it…” she says. “These pieces have a story behind them.”

Her advice to anyone feeling DIY shy is to start small. “Every project you do builds your confidence,” says Washburn. From a T-shirt pillow she made to curtains crafted from canvas drop cloth, she’s willing to give it a try.

During one of her weekly segments, she revived a pine headboard that was free with another purchase. “The finish was damaged and it had tall spires that were wobbly,” says Washburn who replaced them with wood finials before spray painting the piece black. “Then, I took a silver Sharpie marker and outlined all the details, which made them really pop. It takes two seconds and it’s permanent after about a minute, so there’s a little forgiveness time if you want to remove it.”

Affordable finds are ideal for these endeavors. “When you get something for free or for 10 or 20 bucks you can experiment a little. It’s a great project to start with when you have something you don’t have a huge investment in,” she says.

Washburn also gets creative when restoring pieces like a damaged dresser from the Pottery Barn Outlet that would later lose a corner due to an unfortunate dog chewing incident. “I realized all I needed to do was cast a mold of the good corner on the other side of the dresser,” she says. “I used Play-Doh because I like to use stuff moms would have around the house and then I used the casting and some filler to rebuild the ‘amputated’ corner before touching up the paint.” 

At some point, she plans to experiment with white wax on dark furniture. “I can research online and ask for advice, but when I film a segment, I don’t fully know how it will go,” says Washburn whose videos can be viewed on fox2detroit.com. “To me, that’s part of the appeal.”

Whether she’s painting wooden sailboats to coordinate with her “cool cottage” décor or embarking on a more complex project, her inspirational motto remains the same: “I just want to see if I can do it.”

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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