5 Exceptions to the Rule That It Costs Less to DIY
The pros do the math.
Published Dec 23, 2019 1:00 AM
Ask any pro DIY-er why they do what they do, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than designing something on your own terms. They’ll also tell you that it pays to take out the middleman. “Ideally, a great DIY is one that is cheaper and better than what you can buy at the store,” explains Brittany Jepsen of The House That Lars Built. “We pride ourselves on making clever projects that haven’t been thought of before.” All that said, not every craft is worth going the extra mile—er, dollar. In a few (rare) cases, a seemingly simple DIY can end up costing more than the real deal.
We turned to five pros who have made a career out of creativity to find out the one DIY they would have been better off buying ready-made. Disclaimer: No one here has any regrets. If you still want to take on one of the projects below, more power to you! Instead, think of this as a fair warning to all the rookies out there. Spare your wallet, your schedule, and your glue gun, and purchase these items from the store.
“Rope projects can be surprisingly expensive,” shares Geneva Vanderzeil of A Pair and a Spare. The Australia native recalls two especially challenging creations: a macramé chandelier and a woven deck chair. Vanderzeil makes the whole thing look pretty effortless in her tutorial, but the blogger admits each of these pieces took a ton of rope to construct. “If you can’t find an inexpensive source, it can get very costly,” she continues. “They also take a very long time to complete!”
A Bed Frame
Erin Kestenbaum’s story is all too familiar. While at a West Elm outlet, the Connecticut-based photographer stumbled across her dream headboard at a discounted price. The only catch? The rest of the bed frame was missing. Kenstenbaum and her husband ended up buying the piece with the intention of building a matching base, but the additional cost of purchasing fabric, batting, legs, and wood to construct it sent them over their $150 budget for materials. “At the end of the day, we probably would have been hard-pressed to find a similar bed new for less than the $450 we spent on ours, but we certainly could have found something more special and vintage for quite a bit less,” she says.
Jepsen measures cost not just in terms of dollars spent, but the time she dedicates to a single DIY. Take this gorgeous beaded chandelier, which was inspired by one she and her team at The House That Lars Built spotted at a retailer for $800. They were able to dig up affordable beads for just $170 total to re-create the piece. The downside: It took a few days to create each of the individual strings and secure it to the hoops. Fortunately, you can now score a similar beaded chandelier from Pottery Barn Teen for a little bit less than what Jepsen paid for her homemade one.
Francesca Stone of Fall for DIY loved the idea of making her own baskets, but after dropping $40 on strips of cane and some serious weaving, she was left with three very expensive (albeit charming) catchalls. “You can buy baskets just like this for less than $10,” she admits. “Although I learned something new, I probably wouldn’t make them again.” The lesson: If all you’re looking for is simple, functional storage, consider snagging a set of bins at your local Target. But if you’re in it purely for the fun (and bragging rights), we salute you.
A Pom-Pom Blanket
When Molly Madfis, the brains behind DIY blog Almost Makes Perfect, decided to add a few adorable pom-poms to a quilt, the project seemed pretty harmless. But there’s a drawback to embellishing textiles: The quality won’t always be up to par. “It turned out pretty cute, but making each pom-pom, while mildly rewarding, took me hours and hours,” she says. “It’s safe to say, based on the pom-poms falling off within months, I probably should have just spent the money on a finished one.”
This story was originally published on July 18, 2018. It has been updated with new information.