What Made a Healthcare Professional Fall In Love With DIY
Medina Grillo of ‘Grillo Designs’ shares her top upcycling tips.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:54 AM
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Grillo Designs received the Pinner’s Choice Award in the 2017 Domino Design Blog Awards.
Medina Grillo of UK design blog Grillo Designs believes that even if you rent your living space, it should still feel like your sanctuary. “I rent my home, but it’s somewhere you live, and you should be happy where you live,” she says. “I think you should always be working on making your house your home.”
With that goal in mind, Grillo started a Facebook page in 2013 to share her designs and DIY projects. The response was so great, it led to the blog Grillo has been working on for about two years now.
“I have no formal training in design. I actually work in health care, and it’s such a stressful job that the blog became something to help cope with the stress,” explains Grillo. “But I’ve always been very artistic, and I like building and putting things together.”
One of Grillo’s main inspirations has been upcycling, which she describes as “finding things that aren’t very high-end, but making them look that way.” For instance, she recently made a lampshade out of jute, and revamped her vintage dresser to give it more of a mid-century edge.
“I find inspiration from going to a store and liking something, but being unable to afford it,” she says. “I do research and find patterns, and I just try to put things together. I try not to follow common trends, but really develop my own style.”
Now in her second rental home, Grillo admits that she’s really found her niche. “My style is more Scandi, modern, and rustic,” she says. And it helps that she has a supportive family: Her husband and son frequently help on her DIY projects, and she’s started making them more of a weekend event for the entire family. “My son probably thinks this is what normal families do every weekend, but I’m sure they don’t!” she laughs.
In fact, Grillo’s interest in upcycling her home started because she got sick of asking her husband to make things for her. “Honestly, he’s quite a good builder, but I got tired of asking him for help. So I tried to learn, and he taught me a bit as well,” she says. “But my advice is: Watch a video. Start really small, and then you can build your confidence along the way.”
For Grillo, these basic instructions are what set her blog apart from the rest. “I really want to show my readers that nothing is over complicated, and that everything can be done easily, as long as you follow all my steps,” she says. “I also have no professional experience, but I really want to show that you really can’t get overwhelmed if you start from step one.”
And the feedback has been amazing as well: Of Grillo’s readership, most of her international visitors come from the US, and she believes it’s because her DIY ideas appeal more to people in the States. “I think DIY is more prominent in the US,” she muses. “I love my readers, and when they send me images of my projects that they’ve tried for themselves, that makes me so happy. It’s really uplifting.”
If you’re struggling with DIY or upcycling and have no idea where to start, Grillo has some great tips. “I think for renters, the most important thing is to know about your leasing agreement, and the things you can and can’t do,” she says. “Try things you can remove, like compact paper, if you can’t paint or drill walls. I like to look for those products that don’t leave a mark. In my old home, I was able to wallpaper my floor and remove that after I left—I always look for things that aren’t permanent.”
She also frequently does her research, spending tons of time looking online to find the perfect bargain furniture. “I use the UK equivalent of Craigslist, lots of eBay,” she says. “I love HomeSense, because I can find something similar to what I want, and then do it up in my style. Also, don’t discount T.J. Maxx!”
Grillo believes that DIYing her home helps her find exactly what she wants without spending too much money, and it gives her a fun kind of challenge.
“When you have less money in general, it forces you to be more creative because you have to think outside of the box,” she explains. “Whereas it’s easy to go into a shop and buy something you like if you have the money. If you don’t, you have to think, ‘Okay, how can I make this work, or make it better suited to my style.’ That’s where the creativity comes from, because you’re constantly thinking about how to design it, and it really helps you think outside the box.”
And for Grillo, that’s the most rewarding part.