Deep down everyone wants to create. The smallest kids want to create a mess. Men have a particular need to create something tangible, often big, like skyscrapers, because they have so much catching up to do compared to women.
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Women give men a wilting look, put one hand on their curved hip and say, “I can make a baby. Top that. You can’t even make an eyeball.”
But to create a home project from scratch, both genders usually need a running start in the right direction. They can get that from “DIY Ideas: Projects and Tips for Every Room,” a Better Homes & Gardens publication out this week (Wiley & Sons, $24.99).
In fairness, the book opens with this cautionary note: “Due to differing conditions, tools and individual skills (italics mine), (the publisher) assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries suffered, or losses incurred as a result of following the information published in this book.”
In other words, if your handiwork looks as if it were crafted in a poorly lit parking lot by bar patrons after last call, don’t blame them. But to its credit, the photo-filled book and its hundreds of budget-minded ideas — from small crafty projects to ambitious room makeovers — give anyone who has the slightest amount of creative courage a tasteful roadmap.
That’s a public service, for sure. But beyond the clever, good-looking projects, what I really wanted to know was who was behind it all. So I pulled back the curtain and talked with the book’s editor.
After three minutes on the phone with Bethany Kohoutek, also the editor of Do It Yourself Magazine, we were finishing each other’s sentences like old friends. A kindred soul, Kohoutek and I view the world of home design through a similar lens, probably one of vintage milk glass from a yard sale. You’ll see what I mean by our interview:
Marni: How is DIY different today from say five or 10 years ago?
Bethany: We are lucky to live in a time when we don’t need to hire interior designers. We can draw on the abundance of design resources available through Pintrest, HGTV and home magazines. We can build things ourselves, refurbish items from the thrift store, repurpose with style, spend less, and feel good about that.
M: I love how all the photos in your book tie together with shared color: blues, oranges, pinks and yellows. It’s so pretty.
B: Thank you for noticing! We worked hard on that because I like a book that flows.
M: The colors hold the book together the way a palette should hold a home together.
B: And our readers are smart enough to look at a bright yellow bathroom and say, “Oh, I could totally pull that off in gray.”
M: What are your favorite projects in the book?
B: The outdoor projects that involve concrete blew me away. You can make these really cool objects that look like you paid a lot for them at Restoration Hardware for only about $2 or $3 each.
M: I’m looking at them now. Planters made from plastic fluted Jell-O molds? I’ll be honest, I flipped right past those because concrete is intimidating. I’m thinking I need a big cement truck churning in the front yard.
B: No, you can mix just a little in a five-gallon bucket. I now have these concrete planters all over my yard.
M: What other projects inspired you?
B: The multipurpose rooms like the one we did that can be an office, den and guest room in one. This is great example of how to pull off a room to serve several purposes.
M: I’m impressed by all the ways you multipurpose an IKEA bookcase.
B: Did you see the ones turned sideways to make a dining room sideboard?
M: How about the ones cut up to form the base of a kitchen island?
B: For a mudroom, we just removed a few book shelves and added some coat hooks.
M: The storage ideas alone are worth the book’s price, but my favorite part is the section on painted furniture. We need to do that more.
B: It makes you look at furniture in a whole new way.
M: At the shape of a piece, not the finish, which is often a wretched brown.
B: People have to get over their love of wood and not be afraid to paint it.
M: Not all wood is beautiful.
B: Amen, sister! But there are still those people out there in love with their 1980s oak.
M: What did you learn from editing this book, something even you never knew?
B: How much customization is possible. There is not a porch or a window or a headboard or a door that can’t be done in a way to make you love it more, and make it more an extension of you.
M: Which brings me to the scary part: Not everyone has your good taste or sure hand. Turn people loose with all the ideas in here, and we might have to issue some restraining orders. How can we get people to DIY responsibly?
B: Palette, palette, palette. Never underestimate the power of a tight one. Unified color will glue even the most disparate elements together.
M: Including the 250-pages of this book.
B: Or a home.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.