DIY Your Space with Home-Design Guru MaCenna Lee

From pendant lights made out of slide projectors to handmade patio furniture, Lee knows what’s up. In collaboration with Walmart.

Whether you’re the type of person who looks at an empty room and immediately envisions it with furniture, curtains, and art on the walls, or you’re a little more decor-challenged, we all need a little inspiration. That’s where MaCenna Lee comes in, whose robust Instagram and YouTube feeds are chock-full of projects that feel possible to do at home, from DIY art projects to thrift-shopped finds transformed into something new.

No matter what Lee touches, it turns to gold. And though you can most often find her at a secondhand shop or a flea market, she’s also updated her space recently with some eye-catching pieces from Walmart's Bohemian Dreams Summer Edit—all while staying true to her signature aesthetic.

One of the things we love the most about Lee is her ability to bring beauty into her home for less. Though her creations are eye-catching and creative, they feel attainable not just because she makes it easy but because the materials she uses are inexpensive. Lee tells us she’s excited about Walmart’s Summer Edit products because shopping for them is similar to shopping at a thrift shop—you’re amazed at what you can find for less.

We caught up with Lee to find out how she got into thrifting, where she likes to shop in Los Angeles, and the first project she wants to tackle after quarantine ends.

We’re so inspired by your eye—for example, your post about making a pendant light out of a Kodak Carousel slide projector and coasters out of an old memo pad really blew us away. Where do you get your ideas for transformations?

The ideas really come from just browsing the aisles in a thrift store. It takes an hour or more sometimes, as I literally look at and pick up each and every piece that catches my eye. I turn it over, turn it on its side, and think of another decor item that it could possibly be turned into with a few updates.

The Kodak Carousel pendant lights are by far my favorite thrift flip I have ever made! I have them styled in my master bedroom with warm Edison bulbs that make the room feel warm, inviting, and cozy. I’ve always loved DIY-ing a good pendant light from an unexpected item—a tomato garden stand, fishing net, and baskets, to name a few others I’ve done. I also like to make a list of decor items that I need or I’m hoping to make soon and then look for pieces at the thrift store that could become those decor pieces.

A lot of people hear “thrift shop” and think “no, thanks” or feel overwhelmed. How has that changed for you over the years?

A few years ago that was ME! Being in the fashion industry in Los Angeles, thrift shopping for clothing has been something my friends have enjoyed for many years, but I could never get into it. I thought “no, thanks” because my old perspective on thrift store items was—it’s trash, stuff that someone didn’t even want, and I don’t know where it’s been or how [I would] ever clean it enough to bring into my home.

Ever heard the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? (Or woman’s!) This is so true when it comes to thrift shopping. What I love most about thrift shopping is you can often find special, unique, sometimes vintage pieces that you can’t find at a retail store at a great price.

What are your top tips for people who haven’t really thrifted to get into thrift shopping for home goods? What should they keep an eye out for?

“My top tips if you’re just getting into thrift shopping home decor would be—browse a thrift store with an open mind, and don’t expect to find something great every time. If you don’t find something on one visit, don’t write off thrift shopping as not for you or think that your thrift store never has anything good.

“They get new donations daily, so you never know what you’ll find on a different day. I make a thrift-shopping day out of it, where I go to all the thrift stores in my area and usually will find at least one or two things I love—if not more. Also, many thrift stores have special deal days where items are discounted, so I would also recommend shopping on those days as well.

“Pieces I always keep an eye out for are: unique pottery, baskets without handles for storage, wooden furniture that can be refinished, and hardcover books in colors that match my decor. I also have a video on my Guide to Thrifting on my YouTube channel.”

How did you get into thrift shopping and DIY-ing home goods and accessories? What was your first big project?

“About five years ago, my boyfriend, Romeo, was getting into thrift shopping for vintage clothing for his online clothing business, and he kept asking me to go with him, but I often said no. Then one day I went and strayed from the clothing section to look around the home-decor aisles.

“I found a beautiful lamp for a dollar and a hardcover book, The Art of Macramé, published in 1972, for 50 cents, and I was hooked. I started going with him to thrift stores all over Los Angeles a few times a week. Then I started to find pieces of furniture that I could upcycle, unique decor pieces to style bookcases with, and even gently used ceramics for the kitchen. My first big upcycling project was a dresser I found for 30 dollars for my friend’s bedroom makeover.”

How would you describe your own personal style?

“My personal style is a mix of several decor styles, but most heavily influenced by Nordic and Scandinavian design elements and the concept of Hygge, where it’s more the way a home feels over the specific items that encompass it. Then I mix in warm-industrial style elements, like richer wood tones, and Bohemian style elements like macramé decor, textures, and special items I’ve collected while traveling.”

[Editor’s Note: While you’re refining your own personal style, you can find eclectic style elements like Lee’s from Walmart’s Bohemian Dreams Summer Edit.]

What’s the first thing you’ll do once you can go thrifting again? What are the projects you want to tackle, and what do you hope to find first? 

“I cannot wait to thrift shop again. I’ve missed it so much, as I feel so inspired browsing the aisles of a thrift store. I really want to find some vintage-style gold frames to make a gallery wall in my living room or kitchen. I also want to find a skinny buffet cabinet I can upcycle and turn into a pantry for my breakfast nook.”

What are your favorite thrift stores and flea markets in L.A.?

“My favorite thrift stores around Los Angeles are St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store close to downtown for furniture; Share Ourselves in Glendale and Goodwill on La Brea for various decor pieces; Rose Bowl Flea Market for everything; and Salvation Army Boutique in Santa Monica for special pieces.

What’s your all-time best secondhand find?

“My favorite secondhand find was an arched rattan bookcase I found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market for 70 dollars. I have it styled in my DIY studio to store yarn, books, and fabric.”

Your home looks so cozy and warm and very organized. Do you have any DIY organization tips you can share?

“Making sure all of my DIY supplies, kitchen cabinets, and closet stay organized is so important to help keep our home looking tidy, but also for my sanity and finding things. Since I’ve gotten more into power tools recently, I’ve collected quite the collection of paints, nails, tools, et cetera, that desperately needed some organization.

“I built a tall, open cabinet in a small corner of my laundry room to store everything and easily find things for my next project. Especially with more open storage, I start by organizing like things together, and when all else fails, organize by color, and it will instantly look a little more put together.”

We love your post about finally learning how to use power tools and embracing them to make furniture. Any words of wisdom to share with those of us who are still very intimidated by the idea of working with power tools?

“I avoided learning how to use any power tool aside from a small drill for a really long time because I was very intimidated by sawing wood (the dangerous aspect of it). I found as I did more and more DIY projects and tackled things around my house, I was very limited on what I was able to accomplish because I didn’t have or know how to use more advanced tools. Finally, one day I decided I was going to try and build something—anything.

“I found a plan online for a DIY wooden vanity I could tweak to match my style, and I headed to the store to buy a circular saw. The first cut was scary, but then I realized the fear was all in my head because I had never even tried to use a power tool before. Of course, you have to be careful and protect yourself while using the tools, but wow, it was easier than I expected, and it opened me up to DIY-ing so many custom pieces for my home. My biggest advice is to just go for it—and also tie your hair back and wear glasses!”

What’s your favorite Walmart purchase? How does it work well with your design aesthetic and the pieces you already have?

“Oh gosh, do I have to just pick one? All the beautiful textured pillows are my favorite! All neutral in color with loads of texture makes for the perfect throw pillow for my living room and breakfast nook.

“Walmart’s home-decor collection has a natural Bohemian vibe, from statement pieces and planters to small decor pieces, to style on shelves. They mix in so well with my thrifted finds and neutral color palette in my home.”

Every time we browse Lee’s social media feeds, we find ourselves inspired to transform another part of our homes. Regardless of your design goals, Lee’s aspirational home and the spaces she styles make us feel like we can join in the DIY fun ourselves.

Whether you’re a fan of thrift shops or you’re more of an online shopper, Lee’s sure to get you motivated to change things up around your own home—all while saving staying well within your budget. We’ll be waiting with bated breath for her next post—and in the meantime, we’re shopping Walmart’s equally affordable Bohemian Dreams Summer Edit to bring a little dreaminess to our homes.

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