Designer Michael Garvey, known for his sophisticated interiors, happens to be a scrappy DIY genius at home. His cozy Brooklyn digs are a showcase of clever solutions that bring a ridiculous amount of elegance for the buck. Real Simple popped in for a peek—and for the secrets to Garvey’s 7 most inventive upgrades.
Draw on the Furniture
With a Sharpie and a nonslip metal ruler, Garvey added custom graphics to throw pillows (take out the inserts first) and the arms of his $400 sofa. The silver trim on the lampshade is actually metallic tape, which Garvey also used on the bottom edge of the tabletop in his dining room.
See the molding on the walls at right? It was glued on, nailed in place, and painted to look as if it’s been there for a hundred years. “Just go to Lowe’s and ask for trimboard. It comes already primed and ready for application,” says Garvey, who is also a master of Ikea hacks. He added those old-timey V-grooved doors to the Ikea Expedit (formerly open-shelved) cabinet.
Glam Up Open Storage
Take the door off a freestanding cabinet, paint the inside a rich neutral, and add a pretty picture. Garvey used T-pins to hang a computer-art relic from his childhood home. It’s a backdrop for a small (as in, not jam-packed) collection of clear objects. “I usually categorize by material,” he says, “storing everything white together or everything clear glass. Then if you have a random object that means something to you, it has a home but can be part of something more.”
Max Out an Alcove
Double your decor by butting a tiny table up against a giant mirror. Go big with flowers or branches for a focal point when the space is not in use. Garvey collaged these stools with gaffer’s tape (which has a clothlike texture). “Don’t try to make the stools look alike,” he advises. “The more mismatched and random your tape patterns are, the better.” His tabletop here? Covered in layers of duct tape. “It creates a really rich finish, and it’s just an everyday material. To me it looks like burnished leather.” Use long strips of tape to divide the surface into quadrants, then fill in each section with short pieces pointed every which way. “If you mess up, just add more.” When you’re done, “iron” the edges of the tape with the back of a spoon. This tactile table is covered in duct tape!
Create a Gilded Chamber
Is your bedroom the size of a closet? Garvey’s is, so he flanked the bed with tall Ikea cabinets, which provide storage. Then he drilled holes in the side of each for the wires of his homemade sconces. Mottled metallic wallpaper bounces the light around. It’s Wuthering Heights meets Studio 54!
Double the Curtains
In the 120-square-foot dining room, two layers of Ikea linen panels (natural-toned on the glass side, chocolate showing) equal one well-draped drape—luxe and weighty. Garvey used a thick wooden dowel (from Home Depot) in place of a rod, first staining it ebony. Get the full effect with brass rings, brass brackets, and brass endcaps.
Trompe L’oeil Plain Surfaces
Garvey’s hallway (not pictured) has depth, thanks to his handsome hand-drawn grid, inspired by Swedish subway tile. Garvey mapped out his plan with painter’s tape, then used a ruler to keep things in line when he applied his paint pen. This white bathroom cabinet gets its stripes from (even more) gaffer’s tape.