Local crafters are honing their artistic (and trash-picking) skills to renovate rooms and create dazzling décor. Some essential advice from the pros? Choose one thing at a time to focus on, enjoy the hard work and don't be too proud to dive into your neighbor's garbage bin.
Known for his outlandishly dressed drag performances with the Dumpsta Players, Lance Pawling (pictured above as Alaya Richmin) has been transferring his costume-design knowledge to home décor. Magnificent embroidered and fringed lamp shades are his specialties, as well as kitschy doll-head tissue-box covers and bicycle-part wind chimes. Pawling's medium is found and discarded items, and he has a whole room full of treasures for when inspiration hits. "I never know for sure where I'm going to end up ... anywhere from a teacup chandelier or an X-ray lamp shade to a Last Supper collage in playing cards." Pawling, who says he truly enjoys "rummaging through neighborhood trash heaps in the rain at 1 a.m.," offers this advice to aspiring DIYers: "Comfort with your abilities comes with time, patience and tenacity. If you want to see the beauty the world offers, take time to observe." Lancepawling.com, homeskooledgallery.com.
Jayme Guokas began his foray into house renovations five years ago when he bought his first home, an 1870s row in East Kensington. A "big advocate of home ownership and the DIY ethic," he quit his day job and is now the man behind a thriving custom-renovation business. Using salvaged materials and upcycling whenever possible, Guokas blends the old and the new to create modern, functional rooms while retaining the space's original integrity. He specializes in kitchens and bathrooms and is sought-after for his work with concrete countertops. "Concrete is a great material," he says, "because of its creative potential ... bike gears, shells, glass pieces and other tokens can be blended in to add an aesthetically unique, personalized touch." 267-242-6050, craftworkhome.com.
Joanna Babarakos can transform an ordinary room into one that's catalog-worthy in no time. The Texas native and residential interior designer at studio:christensen loves Philadelphia because of its history. "In Texas," she says, "everything is new. Here, I get to reimagine the space in the context of what it once was." She brings a minimalist palette enhanced by pops of color to her work, as well as a belief that "you can get what you want, but you have to want to work for it." For example, when one client lusted after an expensive Moooi lamp, Babarakos re-created it using a yoga ball and cotton string, for a fraction of the price. "It was messy and time-consuming, but really satisfying." 333 S. 20th St., 267-386-6036, studiochristensen.com.
Poppy Cottage Studio
June McIlhenny is a Jill of all trades — she's a quilter, singer and floral designer who makes a living painting and restoring furniture pieces. Several years spent in the Adirondack Mountains taught her the value of making things by hand. After moving back to Philly she started Poppy Cottage, where she sells "furniture with personality." McIlhenny loves scouring garage sales and flea markets for material, which she turns into gorgeous, unique pieces in French-country, shabby-chic and vintage-classic styles. Doing creative projects around the house can be therapeutic, she says: "You can get away from the world for that half-hour and come away with something to be proud of. Even if it is as simple as a light-switch plate or a doorknob, go for it!" poppycottage.etsy.com.
Sage advice for a happy home: Alton Brown said "all salt is sea salt." Nevertheless, get to a gourmet shop and notice salt's many colors, sizes and flavors.Make yourself neat, sparkly, encouraging posters, like you did when you were 11. You might want to take them down when company comes over, though.Even if you don't believe in being "adorkable," channel your inner Jess from New Girl by tying ribbons on absolutely everything.Go to a thrift shop and pretend you're on the prop team for Mad Men. Give a lot of thought to aprons and rotary phones.Google image search the phrase "secret passageway." Decide this: Which book on your secret doorway bookcase would be the switch that opens the door? —Jane Cassaday