Brownstone Boys: Our Top 5 Ideas for DIY Projects While We #StayHome

It felt great organzing our bathroom vanity

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 67th installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

Stay home but stay busy! There are several DIY projects we have had on our list, and we’re using this extra time at home to make them happen. Need inspiration for a project of your own? Here’s our top five DIY project ideas you can work on while you #stayhome.

Some projects might require materials you don’t have. You can order anything you need from the safety and comfort of your couch. Some projects don’t require any materials at all. They just require the motivation to get up and get them started.

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Our basement will keep us occupied for however long quarantine is required

Get your Marie Kondo on and purge. Decluttering can be one of the most therapeutic things you can do with your time. Not only will you have the satisfaction of shedding unwanted items and completing a project, you’ll feel great about your lighter lifestyle. This is very easy to accomplish without needing any additional materials, but you can take it a step further and order a new closet system, drawer organizers or shelves for your basement. Just pick your space(s) and decide if it just needs some TLC or something more.

One of the biggest organizing projects we need to tackle is our basement. It’s still in renovation disarray. At one point, about 75 percent of our stuff was down there. Once we were done with the bigger reno project, we only selectively moved up the stuff we wanted. The rest stayed. It’s time to decide what we want to keep, organize it, and throw the rest out. We’re adding shelves, cabinets and, eventually, a laundry area.

Spend some time browsing Etsy sellers from all over the country and world from your couch. Find a vintage painting or mid-century dining chairs. Many people who sell online also have brick and mortar small businesses that are probably suffering right now so they would appreciate the business. You can even filter by location and shop locally. For us there are so many shops based in Brooklyn to support.

No extra funds right now, no problem. Maybe you have some interesting things in storage you can repurpose. Paint an old wooden chair, side table, or picture frame a new color. Maybe it’s just time to rearrange some furniture. If you have a few bucks you don’t mind spending just one very inexpensive item might be inspiration to rethink a space.

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Our new plant is already growing. We finally have time to take care of our houseplants

New Life
On your next trip to the grocery store or bodega grab a succulent, an aloe plant, or some fresh flowers. Brighten up your space and introduce some life with some new plant babies.

If you have outdoor space (lucky!) don’t forget that we are days away from April! You might need it this spring more than ever. While you’re at the grocery, pick up some veggie and herb seeds (we love growing tomatoes, herbs like rosemary and thyme, and hot peppers). If you have pots or planters get them set up and ready. If not, it’s a very simple thing to order online. You can even order a bag of potting soil. Gardening, even if you only have a couple of pots in a window, can be very calming. Plus with all of the cooking we’ll be doing at home for the foreseeable future it will be nice to have some fresh herbs.

Our biggest DIY project is our backyard. We’ve already removed a lot of hardscaping and cement and now we are building a patio before we start planting. It required redistributing a lot of soil. It’s been a welcome project to distract us from endlessly watching the news. We’ve spent entire days back there soaking up the sun and feeling very accomplished about what we’re doing. We had the concrete hauled away and picked up the compost we needed right before things shut down. Now we’re ordering some other things we need online: landscape edging, ground grid, leveling sand, grass seed and pea gravel. The grass seed is an eco turf that is good for pets and drought tolerant (aka when we forget to water it). That will keep us busy for a while until we need plants.

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We are making great progress on our backyard makeover

Plan Ahead
Maybe you have something bigger in mind. You might be ready to update the kitchen and bathrooms. Or maybe you want to add a deck. You might even be getting ready for a full gut renovation. Planning takes a lot of time. Get your thoughts together. Use an app like Magicplan or Key Plan to visualize your floor plan. Remember that it takes two to three months to get through the architectural/approval stage. Architects, designers and project managers are working from home and you can do virtual meetings.

Order samples. You can put together your entire design and create a sample bin. This will greatly reduce the stress of making so many design decisions during the renovation. Cabinetry, tile, stone wood flooring companies and others can all send samples so that you can spend this time making decisions.

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Finally getting around to decorating the inside of the niche at the top of the stairs

Build Something
If you’re handy or want to try to be, there are some simple pieces you can put together yourself. We’re fans of Donald Judd inspired furniture and have been meaning to start a project of our own. It’s a simple minimalist design. You just need some 1-inch boards or plywood, a saw to cut, screws, a drill, and a bright colored paint. You’ll have an original and personalized piece that anyone can tackle with an open mind and willingness to learn.

Our building projects are simple as well. If you’ve followed along you might remember the niche feature we built at the top of our stairs. It’s been unfinished for months as we decided what we wanted to do with it. We finally settled on something and we’re excited to make it happen. There are two parts to the project. We’re working with an amazing pattern and textile designer who is going to make us a custom wallpaper based on our virtual consultation. It’s a small area so it’s an affordable solution that will be bright and bold. The inside of our niche will be lined on all sides with our custom wallpaper, and on top of that we’ll cut, stain, and install wood bookshelves.

In our backyard, we’re building a raised flower bed which will basically be a wooden box. Pretty easy! But it will have a big impact on our backyard design.

Let us know what fun projects you’re working on. Send us pictures, tag #brownstoneboys and we’ll post on Instagram.

[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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