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Made At Home
Made At Home

How craft stores can leverage the DIY home decor trend

Move over, Martha Stewart. Do-it-yourself home decor isn't just for homemaking moms anymore. Maxwell Ryan, who founded Apartment Therapy, the New York City design service and blog by the same name, says DIY is catching on with younger crowds for different reasons.

Designing since 2001, Ryan watched the recession galvanize the home decor industry — and not just by forcing consumers to stretch their budgets and make do instead of buying new. "The driving force behind the popularity of DIY isn’t just a budget thing; it's an emotional issue," says Ryan.

"There was a sense of disenchantment and distrust around the way business had been conducted. The younger generation was drawn toward things that were authentic and personal, not mass market or cookie cutter, and there's nothing more authentic, personal and trustworthy than doing it yourself."

Inspired by Pinterest how-tos and equipped with increasingly affordable supplies, consumers are tackling their own home decorating projects to personalize their living space. By catering to DIY decorators, craft stores can edge into the home furnishings market, a $79 billion industry according to a December 2014 report by IBIS World.

DIY makeover

Kerrie Kelly, an interior designer and author based in Sacramento, explains that rustic, repurposed decor is in demand with her clients. Many of them, wanting a "luxe for less" look, turn to DIY solutions rather than buying new furnishings.

"Back in the late 90s, we'd have people open up Architectural Digest and say, 'I want my house to look like this,'" Kelly says. "As we've gone through an economy shift, we have people looking at home decor on Pinterest, saying, 'I already have all these things; how can I use them, update them and refresh them?' Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can add that pop and not cost a lot."

One way to easily upgrade home décor is to apply a few coats of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan, says Kim Metheny, co-owner of Metheny Weir Painted Finishes in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.

Named for its velvety, ultra-matt finish, Chalk Paint comes in 29 intermixed colors influenced by 18th century European design. The decorative paint rarely requires preparation of the surface, such as priming or sanding, and the final application of a wax coat adds protection and a rich patina.

Metheny's clients have eagerly adopted Chalk Paint for DIY projects such as painting furniture, accessories, kitchen or bathroom cabinets and floors. The paint is versatile enough for use in indoor or outdoor applications.

"We have an extremely wealthy clientele, but they'll do these projects themselves because it's so much fun," Metheny says. "People can give themselves a kitchen makeover just by painting the cabinets. Chalk Paint can even be used on the hardware."

Chalk Paint also enables DIYers to add patterns and texture to projects, another painting trend. Ryan recently photographed a floor that was painted with stenciled patterns in lieu of more expensive tile. He also sees patterned paint rollers — a vintage precursor to wallpaper — making a comeback.

In addition to paint, fabric can be add new life to old furnishings. But DIYers may need more guidance in this department from crafting stores, Ryan says. "People get a little bit scared when they have to decide how much is going to come off a bolt of fabric," says Ryan.

Although it requires skill, reupholstery is gaining in DIY popularity. That calls for more specialized tools — hammers, tacks, needles, etc. — and industrial sewing machines, which may fit into or expand a craft store's product mix.

Basics of decorating

Even the most basic craft supplies can help refresh home decor. Besides adding a splash of color, DIY projects often require cutting, fastening, hanging and displaying. Ryan is always prepared with X-ACTO knives and several varieties of tape, from handy blue painter’s tape to decorative options such as washi tape that are attractive enough to stand on their own as part of a finished project.

Gallery walls are another approachable way for DIYers to change the look of a room with minimal work and supplies. A variety of matted frames, hangers, shelves and ledges let Kelly customize appealing displays that clients can easily rearrange.

Ryan suggests that craft stores do workshops or demonstration videos to guide customers through decor projects. Quotes are the DIY rage, so he made a how-to video creating a simple painting of a phrase in which he stuck mailbox letters on plywood to spell out a line from a Beatles' song. After spray painting around them, he peeled off the letters to reveal the line, which adorns the Apartment Therapy office.

While many essential DIY decor supplies are already in stock in your craft store, remember that DIYers need help pulling projects together. Instead of just selling products, or even conveniently merchandising them together, offer extra guidance to make your store a decor resource.

"Crafting is all about activity; the tools are just the empowerment to do the project," Ryan says. "What you really want to be connected to is the process. The smartest thing for craft stores to do is to promote the instruction, not the tool, because that's the sort of the knowledge people really need. People can get intimidated by a project, so the more you can put all the elements together with instructions, the happier they're going to be."

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