Do-it-yourself ethos extends to home furnishings

We spend a lot of time picking home accents to show our individual style, and yet a living room, kitchen or bedroom can still end up feeling like a catalog.

The popularity of do-it-yourself projects is now extending to home furnishings that shake that mass-produced feeling. Now you can make a mural, design your own cushions or create your own piece of functional art — all without a crafty bone in your body.

New York-based Freddy&Ma recently introduced plates that consumers can design on the company's Web site, and a line of customizable pillows that can be made in hundreds of prints with the click of a mouse.

Laura Kramer's chalkboard vases for LBK Studio allow anyone to create a personal design or special message.

"It was a reaction to the mass-produced, outsourced furnishings that I think create a cold environment," Kramer said.

Rust-Oleum has taken the chalkboard concept to larger surfaces with its Specialty Chalkboard Tint Base, a type of paint that turns surfaces into a chalkboard, while Whirlpool Corp. introduced another idea: a fridge that acts as a white board with a dry-erase finish.

Or if you prefer a kit, Chicago-based retailer Chiasso offers accessories that can be mixed and matched at home, such as the Blocks Clock that comes with a silver clock and 12 colored blocks for adhering on the wall one-by-one.

Customizable home furnishings are not for everyone, says Freddy&Ma's Anthony Pigliacampo, but "there are a lot of people, like us, who aspire to have their living space be unique, different and inspiring."

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