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Making do with the doyenne of DIY

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DIY Mom Rebekah Higgs bevelled and sanded a second-hand table top, fashioned legs from some oak dowels, and made herself a dining room table for just over $90 in materials. Photo: Rebekah Higgs

DIY Mom Rebekah Higgs bevelled and sanded a second-hand table top, fashioned legs from some oak dowels, and made herself a dining room table for just over $90 in materials. Photo: Rebekah Higgs

DIY Mom Rebekah Higgs has a few words for East Coast Living readers who get a chill thinking about taking on home projects this winter: Do it anyway

If you’re like me, offered the notion of building a barn-style sliding door with old wood and a second-hand steel runner, you’d say: Why would I do that? But if you’re like Rebekah Higgs of HGTV, Forbes, Chatelaine and Centura magazines fame, you’d say: Why wouldn’t I? 

“It’s a great way to stay creative this winter and to really make your home unique and individual,” Halifax-based Higgs says. “It just makes sense to use any and all leftover wood and reno materials around your home, or build furniture yourself.”

What’s more, she says, with supply chain shortages continuing into 2022, and the cost of construction materials and labour continuing to rise, it’s a great time to start building your DIY repertoire. “I encourage people to try. It will be worth it in the end.”

Certainly, Higgs has walked that particular talk. The Nova Scotian singer-songwriter spent time in Toronto before she realized she was becoming just another face in an already crowded industry. “Once I had
a baby, I didn’t want to be sleeping on floors, and traveling anymore,” she says. “I wanted to change careers.”

And vantages. “So, when my daughter was one, I moved back to Halifax because the quality of life was better. I always loved to decorate and do creative things on a budget. So, I came up with DIY Mom and I ran with it.”

That was 2014, and since then she’s been happily running her own show from her home (which she’s been renovating) in the Rockingham area of the city. She’s currently wrapping the fifth season of DIY Mom
for Bell TV on Demand. Her message to viewers is cheerfully clear. “It’s actually a lot easier than it looks,” she says.

Take that sliding door, for example. 

“I had a barn-door hardware kit sitting around from my previous home renovation and decided the entrance to my mudroom would be the perfect place to hang one,” she says. “As I didn’t want my mid-century-modern home to have a traditional or farm house style door, I decided to build my own. Using oak, I cut equal strips on a table saw and secured them with a finishing nail gun to a piece of plywood. When laying out the wood for my tambour (slatted) pattern, I used scrap as a spacer.”

Higgs also put together a glass wall. 

“I wanted to create a separate office and music room space in my bungalow without affecting the flow of light in my home,” she says. “I was inspired by gallery images I saw on Pinterest to design and build my own glass wall. I reached out to East Coast Specialty Hardwood to partner with me on milling the white oak wood and then had the glass cut locally to the dimensions needed between each wood frame. Here’s a tip: if you get the glass cut without a polished edge, it’s much cheaper.”

There’s also her kitchen-island panel. 

“I repeated the same tambour effect of the barn door on the back panel under the kitchen island,” she says. “But this time I used leftover material from my renovation and painted all the scraps a lovely shade of green. You can have so much fun playing around with patterns and colour. The possibilities are endless. A battery-operated finishing nail gun makes quick and easy work of this kind of project.”

Once mastered, how big a leap from there is a dining room table? 

“Now that my mid-century-modern bungalow was complete, I needed the perfect place to sit under my gorgeous Eurofase chandelier,” Higgs says. “With furniture prices on the rise and stock low, unavailable or delayed, I decided to take it upon myself to DIY one. I searched Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace and found a solid wood oval-shaped table for $90. I sanded it down to the natural maple colour, removed the old bevelled edge and, using a router, gave it a reverse-angled edge. I then built ribbed, racetrack legs using half-round oak dowels and my trusty nail gun. The overall effect is perfect with my open-concept.”

Higgs says a barn door and back island panel are even better winter projects (the more ambitious might also want to try a portion wall and dining table before spring), when you add a DIY holiday touch to the results. 

“You’ll have your friends wondering where you picked up the beautiful holiday décor,” she says. “I incorporate a mixture of faux and real evergreens in my wreaths, fireplace garlands and staircase rails.”

If you still think DIY sounds too costly and complicated, Higgs says, think again. “I’ve actually reused every piece of wood in my house. I even reused old two-by-fours because I didn’t want to waste anything,” Plus, she adds with a laugh: “I haven’t drawn out a single thing.”

In the end, the trick is not letting the fear of failure stop you from starting. “I think some people are intimidated by putting holes in their walls,” she says. “You have to be willing to try. I often fail on camera and I let people watch. I think it’s part of the charm of my show.

And maybe of life?

As it happens, I do have a barn-style door kit in my basement just begging to be built. But before I start, I might ask my wife to visit the grandchildren in Dartmouth for an afternoon. Rebekah Higgs may be a star, but I’m not ready for my close-up just yet.

East Coast Living