Instant decorating upgrades with old linens

These 10 projects are fuss-free, add stylish touches to your home, and keep your favorite old linens out of the rag bin a little while longer

Recycle Pillow Shams into Place Mats

David PrinceDavid PrinceThe mod stripes were, perhaps, visual overload as an entire bedroom scheme. Repurpose the smaller shams from this forgotten set -- while peppering your home with manageable pieces of op art -- by using them as place mats.

What You Need: Boudoir-size pillow shams (usually 12 by 16 inches). (Related: How to Create the Ideal Bed)

What You Do: Nothing -- the simplest project ever. Boudoir shams will cover much of the table when used this way, so you can skip a tablecloth.

Also Works With: Napkins and dish towels. For a French-bistro effect, use a king-size sham draped across the table, with place settings at opposite ends of the sham.

Recycle a Tablecloth into a Seat Cover

The tablecloth's floral pattern is not quite bold enough to mask the wine stains, testaments to happy times spent around the dinner table. But you can preserve the memories by using the unblemished parts of the cloth to reupholster the pop-up seats of dining-room or occasional chairs. If there isn't enough fabric for all your chairs, re-cover only the armchairs at the ends of the table. (See Real Simple's Tips for Setting a Pretty Table.)

Note: Before beginning, make sure that the seat pops out with the removal of a few screws. If the upholstery is attached to the chair frame and not to the underside of the pop-up seat, this project is not for you.

What You Need: A tablecloth, scissors, a screwdriver, a staple gun, and 1/4-inch staples.

What You Do:

  1. Remove the seat cushion and place it upside down on the wrong side of the tablecloth (be sure to position it so that stained sections of the cloth won't show on the finished seat).
  2. Cut around the seat, leaving a three-inch border on all sides.
  3. Fold the fabric over, as if wrapping a present, and attach it to the seat with staples placed one inch apart.
  4. Pop the seat back into the chair.

Also Works With: Linen sheets, tea towels, fabric remnants, even a favorite (now lipstick-stained) scarf.

Upholster a Headboard with an Old Quilt

Instead of spending a fortune on an upholstered headboard, use a loved but tired quilt to turn a bare-bones bed on casters into a focal point.

What You Need: A quilt, a piece of 3/4-inch plywood four feet tall and as wide as your bed (twin, 39 inches; full, 54; queen, 60; king, 76), two 2-by-3-by-40-inch pieces of wood, scissors, a staple gun, 1/4-inch staples, a drill, and four two-inch screws.

What You Do:

  1. Spread the quilt right-side down on the floor, first noting damaged areas you don't want to show later. Place the plywood on top, avoiding those areas. Cut the fabric, leaving a four-inch border around the panel.
  2. Attach the fabric to the plywood with staples about three inches apart. Do one side, then (pulling the fabric taut) the opposite side, then the remaining sides.
  3. For each two-by-three, on the wide side drill two 1/2-inch-deep holes, 4 and 10 inches, respectively, from one end.
  4. Position the two-by-threes about six inches in from each short edge of the plywood and extending about 24 inches beyond the bottom of the headboard. Secure the pieces with the screws in the drilled holes.
  5. Prop the headboard against the wall and push the bed against it.

Also Works With: Matelasse coverlets and thick blankets.

More from Real Simple:
Decorate on the Cheap with Everyday Items
Transform Your Linen Closet
Decorating How-Tos