How one couple fashioned a cheap home makeover


In the Kitchen

Emily Knotts had never thought of herself as the DIY type. Previously, she'd simply whip out her credit card to buy furniture. However, after moving in with her husband, Michael, into his bachelor pad lakehouse, she wanted to fix everything all at once. "I felt like I either had to change my taste or win the lottery," she reckoned.

Kitchen update, $31: The grand total for this kitchen reno includes a $28 gallon of white paint and a $3 tube of wood putty—used to fill holes after the couple removed their upper cabinet doors.

Painted Floor

Because Emily and Michael couldn't afford to put down planks or even veneer to replace the carpet, they ripped it out, then covered the plywood subflooring with pale-gray porch paint. The result—a crisp, low-maintenance look that will last until the Knottses spring for hardwood—revealed that Emily had a knack for visualizing improvements. And that Michael, a property developer, enjoyed turning her visions into reality.

Floor, $29.44/gallon: Behr's porch and floor paint in Shaded Hammock spiffed up the plain plywood subflooring. Huck, a yellow Lab, clearly approves. (

Dining Room

Next, they tackled Emily's desire for a farmhouse table in the dining area. She'd admired a $3,000 Restoration Hardware version so often, the catalog would naturally fall open to the dog-eared page. Her husband yearned to buy it for her, but went one better. Using a free truckload of reclaimed lumber, he built her one.

Cruising countless tag sales in search of seating worthy of Michael’s masterpiece, Emily finally spotted six taxicab-yellow chairs for $25 apiece—seeing beyond the garish color to their genteel silhouettes. Once clad in pale-gray chalk paint, the set gained a matte elegance.

Dining table, $11: Michael only bought screws and glue to construct this table. He found free building plans online at, and scored the lumber from a landowner, just by asking.

Lighting, $7: After Emily unearthed this pendant at the South Carolina consignment store Sweet Repeats, her husband sanded off its black paint and hung the lamp from sisal rope. (

Shelving, $100: By waiting until the end of the International Collectibles and Antiques Show, Emily landed this vintage baker's rack for much less than its original $300 price. (

Chairs, $150/six: A yard sale supplied this set of chairs; an additional $34.95 (for a quart of Annie Sloan paint in Paris Gray) gave them polish. ( for stores)

Living Room

Curtains, $9/yard: Emily sewed the living room curtains herself, using sheer cotton from Grayline Linen. (

Sofa, $250: The 1920s cane sofa came from Craigslist.

Upholstery, $24: A pair of $12 hardware-store drop cloths made reupholstering this piece relatively inexpensive. "I love the look of linen upholstery, but not the price—drop cloths make a brilliant substitution," Emily says. (

Ladder, $5: Emily's go-to vintage source, Cline's Country Antiques near Charlotte, harbored this ladder. (

Chair, $20: A Goodwill find, this wingback got a makeover for an extra $12, courtesy of another canvas drop cloth.

Lighting, $24: A $4 socket plus a $20 garden lantern equals a pendant lamp with organic appeal. (Socket; Similar bamboo lantern, $89.99;

Wardrobe, $100: This $60 wardrobe from Cline's, fronted with two $20 custom-cut Lowe's mirrors, hides the Knottses' TV. (

Carpet, $150: Emily bought this sea-grass rug at Hall's Flooring in Charlotte. (

Wooden crate, $3: Another Cline's discovery, this fruit crate holds antique glass fishing floats.

Reading Nook

Wall art, $30: Emily won this 1909 pull-down map on eBay.

Chair, $60: This secondhand chair and footstool from Goodwill currently go for $349.99 total at Ikea, new.

Shelving, $4: A pair of $2 brackets convert free driftwood into a floating shelf. "Sea glass, spring branches, and driftwood bring beauty into your home—for free," Emily advises. (

Accessories & Collections

Jars, $5: That's the most Emily pays to add to her Ball jar collection.

Throw pillow, $24.99: Emily nabbed this pillow on clearance at Restoration Hardware, which stocks a similar option for $49. (


Salvage, $10: Two $5 discarded windows from Cline's take the place of traditional artwork in the foyer. "I love seeing the beauty in unloved things," Emily explains, "like these salvaged windows." (Cline's,

Table: $0:
This 1930s console—a friend's moving day castoff—corrals keys, mail, boots, and more.

DIY Lampshade

Shade: $15.79: This Target shade speaks volumes about Emily, who découpaged it with dictionary pages. (


Stair numbers, $2.97 each: Brass house numbers, wearing leftover aqua paint, bring wit to the stair risers. (

Salvaged Office Doors

Last winter, when snow netted Emily an unexpected day off, she set her sights on using a pair of yard-sale doors to fashion a sliding barn-style entrance to the home office. She balked upon discovering that "the track alone cost a couple of hundred dollars," so she substituted casters and plumbing pipes for the expensive kit.

Office doors, $78: Fifty-eight dollars' worth of hardware—including casters and plumbing pipes—transformed two salvaged $10 doors into a barn-style entry. (hardware;

Home Office

Artwork, $14.99 each: Simple Target frames turn blueprints of the Knottses' home into art. (

Table, $250: A free door and $250 in iron pipes comprise this desk. (pipes;

Master Bedroom

Nightstand, $50: The Knottses acquired this chest for a song, because its top was missing; a $10 slab of reclaimed oak solved that problem.

Wall Cubes

Planters, $39.99/set: These wall-mounted herb boxes from Farmhouse Wares encourage table-side snipping. (

DIY Shelving

Shelving, $80: Michael shelled out less than $100 to devise this plywood shelving unit, now outfitted with $19.99 baskets from Target. (Plywood; Baskets;

On Lake Wylie

Outdoor chair, $160: Our Country Living for Kmart chair boasts a front-row view of Emily and Michael Knotts's yacht, First Sight. (