Courtesy: Emily Shaw
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It’s hard to imagine someone with as much creativity as Emily Shaw. Known as @EmilyRayna on TikTok and Instagram, she’s become famous for her budget-friendly, colorful, and easy-to-replicate DIY projects that leave you thinking, “How the heck did she come up with that!?”
But for Emily, DIY isn’t a hobby she fell into simply as a way to amass followers on social media (she has 6M on TikTok, by the way). “DIY projects have been part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she tells DrewandJonathan.com. “Turning it into a career path was a natural progression that I never saw coming!”
In fact, she’s always considered herself an artist, even when she was young, and says finding clever solutions to everyday problems is pretty much in her DNA. “DIY projects became a staple in my life due to necessity,” she says. “I grew up as a very resourceful person due to my upbringing and I’ve never shied away from trying new projects.”
And that includes everything, ranging from no-tools-needed headboard ideas to redecorating her parents’ home on a dime. We know you want to know more about Emily, so keep reading to get the details!
What was the first project you took on and how did it turn out?
I couldn’t even tell you what my very first DIY project was because I grew up in the age of YouTube—I created things left and right like pencil cups out of toilet paper rolls, and I crocheted Barbie clothes when I was kid.
The first major DIY that I shared on social media was renovating my parent’s house for them. They were away for a month staying with family, so I transformed their house while trying not to spend any money by selling items and thrifting new pieces. Even most of the paint was found secondhand. I believe the project turned out great, it gave me a platform that I never anticipated, and it helped my parents be able to finally sell their home and live the life they’ve wanted!
Where did you learn your technical skills? Any tips or advice for people who are just starting out and aren’t used to working with tools?
I got my bachelors degree in Interior Architecture from Endicott College in Massachusetts, which taught me all about design and gave me a lot of insight into materiality. When it comes to DIY and creating things on my own, I’ve used that material knowledge mixed with online tutorials to develop my craftsmanship skills over time.
Advice that I would give to beginners in DIY is to focus on one tool at a time and become comfortable with it. The confidence that you gain from learning one tool will help you make the jump to another one and feel comfortable in your abilities. I always personally recommend that beginners have a drill because it comes in handy for so many projects. If they’re wanting to dive into woodworking, I started off with a jigsaw and it’s still my favorite tool because it’s so versatile and doesn’t require a lot of equipment.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration in really weird places—it’s never the same story twice. Most of my ideas come from problem solving for specific spatial needs. Aesthetically, I’m very inspired by commercial buildings because of my education. I’ve always had a passion for designing public spaces because you can create grand art and experiences for the masses. Now that I focus mostly on residential spaces, I try to incorporate those same ideas to create unique homes. When I am renovating for others, I always study the individual and make the space entirely for them and forget about any external aesthetic influences.
What are your favorite projects for beginners?
My favorite beginner DIY is making super affordable and easy headboards out of placemats! No tools are required and it can really transform a space.
Another good beginner-friendly DIY I love is custom hardware. You can turn just about anything into hardware if you have a dowel or if you buy some knob bases and create your own design on the front. Here is one of my favorites!
This holiday tree collar is also a great DIY project for beginners. It’s super customizable and it starts to get beginners familiar with woodworking techniques and logic before actually using wood.
What are your three best tips for people who want to make home upgrades on a budget?
My first tip is to sell an item you already have and then thrift with the cash you make from it. For my parents’ renovation, I barely spent any money and that was because I would sell items we didn’t need on Facebook Marketplace, even if it was only for a couple dollars, and the money I made off of those items was what I would allow myself to use to thrift new items. Having notifications on for Facebook Marketplace made this process relatively seamless!
My next tip is to think about how you could repurpose an item in another way before you get rid of it, even if it’s in a completely different room serving a different purpose. Sometimes if you give something a good coat of paint and bring it to life in a new way you can save time, money, and effort while creating a custom piece that works for your needs.
My third tip: I always love to see if there are places that have carpet remnants or excess hotel supply near me. You can get cuts of carpet and hotel-quality furniture for your home for insanely low prices because they’re surplus (and you’ll have fun exploring)!
What’s a tool or purchase you can’t live without?
Honestly, it sounds funny, but a self-cleaning litter box has been a game changer. If anyone has a cat, the investment is more than worth it in my opinion! I also recently thrifted a beautiful mid-century desk and I’ve been loving it every day because of all the storage it has (and because it is so beautiful!)
You’re known for finding affordable ways to make elevated design happen. But, in your opinion, what’s something that’s worth splurging on?
I think main furniture pieces in a room, like a sofa, are items that you’d want to be durable and able to withstand damages over the years because they’re not something you’ll want to replace often. However, there are always workarounds with thrifting and Facebook Marketplace to get high-quality pieces without having to spend a ton of money.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to give to someone starting a new home project?
Focus on yourself and what you want! There is a lot of influence on social media and Pinterest, and it can be hard to differentiate other people’s ideals from your own. I think working on your own space should come from a place of learning about yourself, your needs for functionality and aesthetic, and creating something that works best for you. At the end of the day, homes are our shelter and nobody else has to live there but you, so your opinion matters most.
Lastly, you’re stuck on a desert island—what’s one tool/item you’re bringing to help you build your home there?
I would bring a hand saw (due to the lack of electricity) and because I could use it to cut down any materials I’d need to build my house! I could also use it to cut shapes out of materials I find that mimic dovetail joints and create a home with a somewhat sound structure.