Why I Ditched Pottery Barn for DIY Furniture I Can Make in My Backyard

A man restores furniture in his garage.
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When I bought my first house last year, I accidentally threw a hammer at my father-in-law’s head (true story). A year before, I sawed my toolbox in half as it was propping up a piece of wood I was cutting (it now opens in two ways).

Yet, by some miracle, I’ve been able to save almost $5,000 by building my own furniture.

Like a custom sofa table and desk: $1500 at Pottery Barn, but only $187 in my backyard.

Or our new dining room table: $73 in materials, instead of $1650 at Ballard Designs.

And it’s not just me… my friends are doing the same thing.

Russ built his own outdoor furniture for $113. Travis made a side table that looks straight out of West Elm for $95. David built a vintage toy-box for his daughter’s room that cost $46. John got so good at these projects, he started a side business making furniture for other people.

In addition to helping us all save a little cash, making your own furniture is fun. Here’s how to do it:

Find Your DIY Furniture Inspiration

I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest, but when it do, it’s hard to look away. Pinterest is an incredible resource for DIY furniture designs and projects. I started by searching for “buffet table,” “farm table” and “sofa table,” and quickly found that adding the words “DIY” or “Instructions” produced better results.

Along the way, I stumbled across some awesome DIY sites. I first saw my farmhouse-style dining room table on Shanty 2 Chic, which led me to Ana White, where I also got the sofa table plans from.

DIY sofa table
Chris Ronzio

Now that I understand the basics, I’ve started taking pictures of things that I want to replicate. I have plans to build a pergola that was on display in Pottery Barn, and a bar that I saw in a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. Why buy what you can build?

Get Supplies and Tools

To start building your own furniture, you really only need a few basic tools. First, get a decent power drill. Although the battery-powered drills are better to have around the house, having a corded drill saves a lot of wasted mid-day battery-charging time when you’re making furniture.

Next, invest in a Kreg Jig kit. These little things are ingenious, and someone is making a lot of money off this idea! They help to drill small holes where your screws sit inside the wood, making the entire project look incredibly professional. This kit is totally worth the $20 cost.

A miter saw makes cutting wood a lot faster, and an electric sander saves your triceps a lot of agony. My friends and I started by sharing all of these tools, but Home Depot and Lowe’s also rent them out quite cheaply.

For a cheap wood stain, just mix steel wool and vinegar (use more wool for a darker stain) as a way to instantly make new wood look aged and weathered. I’d recommend a little experimentation on a piece of scrap wood to test the color before staining your entire project.

Once you have the basic tools, you’re ready to go!

Plan a Day of Building Your Own Furniture

For my first crack at building my own furniture, a friend and I made identical tables in his backyard. We bought two sets of everything and became efficient about helping each other with measurements and making cuts.

Note: It’s not a good idea to do this outdoors in Arizona in July, when it’s 120 degrees.

Heat exhaustion aside, spending a Saturday making furniture with a friend made it feel fun. And if you’re planning to make money selling your furniture to others, having a few more hands to help increases your productivity.

DIY side table
Chris Ronzio

How to Make Money From DIY Furniture

I always thought it was crazy that houses cost so much money when they’re basically made of wood that you can find in the forest. Of course, I appreciate construction more now, but there is tremendous value to capture between the hard costs of the supplies and the price that people are willing to pay for trendy, DIY goods.

The easiest way to start making money? Try selling your furniture on Instagram. When I posted my sofa table, I couldn’t believe how many people came out of the woodwork (pun intended) to ask me “how much?

Remember to take lots of pictures when start sharing and selling your creations with the world. People love seeing the behind-the-scenes shots!

If you’re really getting serious, try setting up your own website with Squarespace,  Wix or my favorite, Strikingly. These services help you spend less time building building a website and more time building furniture. Since he started selling his homemade furniture, my friend John has earned more than $30,000 making everything from coffee tables and coasters to bookshelves and doors.

Your Turn: Have you tried building your own furniture?

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Chris Ronzio helps business owners organize chaos and get things done so they have more time to do what they love. As a high school student, he founded a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. Visit his site for more time-saving tips!