You've stared at the bare spot above the couch for one too many years. Until you find art you can commit to―or in place of it―try a quick, inexpensive, attractive, and changeable-with-your-mood alternative: a framed piece of fabric.
You'll need a staple gun, a stretched canvas (sold in art-supply stores), and some fabric, preferably heavy linen or cotton in a pattern without straight lines. Cut out a piece of the fabric that is four to six inches longer and wider than the frame.
Place the material pattern-side down on your work surface, and center the canvas facedown on top of it. Then staple the cloth to the back of the frame. Start by placing one staple in the center of the left side of the frame. Pull the fabric tight, then do the same on the right side. Continue stapling on opposite sides, keeping the fabric taut as you work out from the center toward the edges of the frame. Repeat on the top and bottom sides, and make neat hospital corners when you reach the edges.
2 of 5Mark Lund
Prepare Walls for Kids' Art
You long to be that cool mom who’s laid-back enough to let the kids freely decorate their rooms, but you imagine a wall Swiss-cheesed with nail holes and hanging hooks. Now you can give them free rein over their decor by covering a wall with magnetic primer, which contains nontoxic iron particles. You’ll need at least two base coats under the paint of your choice. The resulting surface will hold magnets, which in turn can hold artwork, Derek Jeter posters, and that Got Milk? ad collection. (For best holding power, use broad, flat, or ultra-strong magnets.) Now when your kids change their pictures of the flavor of the month, it won’t become the labor of the month.
Rust-Oleum Magnetic, $23.50 for 1 quart, rustoleum.com for store locations.
Krylon magnetic spray paint (good for smaller areas), $11.50 for 13 ounces, dickblick.com.
3 of 5France Ruffenach
Instant Hallway Makeover
Transform a high-traffic area, like an entranceway, by painting a runner. It's a creative, low-cost alternative to carpeting or refinishing your beat-up wood (or painted wood) floor.
Map out the runner with blue tape, such as Scotch Safe Release one-inch-wide blue masking tape (about $6 at hardware stores), to create a strip with a seven- to nine-inch border on each side. If the floorboards run lengthwise, use the seams as your guide.
If your floor has a polyurethane finish, sand the designated area and wipe away the residue with a damp microfiber cloth.
Apply two coats of acrylic-latex paint, such as Ace Royal Touch Satin Latex Wall & Trim Paint from Ace Hardware (about $26 for a gallon, acehardware.com for store locations), within the tape border. Let dry 24 to 48 hours.
Apply one to two coats of acrylic polyurethane, such as Varathane (about $35 a gallon at hardware stores), as a sealant. Let dry overnight.
4 of 5Monica Buck
Display Hand Towels in a Window Box
You worked for hours helping Mom plant pachysandra way back when, but that doesn‚t help you now, as you try to nurture a briefly blooming geranium display in an outdoor window box. It‚s time to throw in the towel―literally. A standard window box (try a simple one from windowbox.com), installed inside, just below the sill, proves fertile ground for storing a colorful array of hand towels and washcloths. Stick to one shade or mix it up and you‚ll have your own version of a window garden. Even Mom may reap the benefits.
5 of 5Ellen Silverman
Give Your Sofa a New Look
Your favorite sofa is having a midlife crisis: It's not worth reupholstering, but it's not ready for the junkyard, either. A premade slipcover is just the thing to see it through. Sure Fit's cotton-duck slipcover ($60, surefit.com) will look good on any couch, with a fit that keeps the cover taut and in place.
Tips for a Tight Fit
Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to work the fabric deep into the couch's crevices.
If the arms of a chair or sofa are too narrow, beef them up with foam quilting or comforter batting (available at most fabric stores).
To keep a slipcover from sliding out of place on a leather couch, lay nonslip carpet padding on the seat cushions.