This DIY savvy couple upgraded their dining room for just £600 – with incredible results

And it only took them three days to complete the transformation!

Keen DIYers Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin revamped their dining room in just three days – and on a £600 budget – to give it a stylish new look.

Related: Green kitchen ideas – redecorate with a colour that’s both sophisticated and fresh

The clever pair built bench seating and a table from scratch, as well as upcycling wall units and reupholstering their dining chairs.

As they share four children and six grandchildren, the couple were in desperate need of more seating. 'Our first thought was to add bench seating along the wall,' Lesley told 'We could then reposition the four dining room chairs we already had around the other sides.'

Dining room makeover


dining room with wooden dining set

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin)

'We also needed a bit more storage in the room, which evolved into the idea of putting display cabinets on either side of the bench to complete the look,' she adds.

Lesley started the process by ordering two wall cabinets from Ikea, but the plan came to a halt when she came across some second-hand finds. 'The very same day, I saw some similar pre-loved ones for sale locally, so I cancelled the Ikea order and went to pick them up,' she says.

'We ended up buying a set of three beech glass-fronted cabinets from the seller for £100, which was a real bargain, and I painted them with a Frenchic paint to give them a striking appearance.

wooden bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin)

After carefully removing a radiator and patching up the wall, Paul began to build the bench seat. 'He didn’t draw up a plan, as such,' says Lesley. 'He just asked me what I wanted, explained the image he had in his head, and got started.'

Paul used smooth dressed timber for the bench frame, which he bought from a timber merchant, and used a special trick to give the benchtop a natural look… He sanded down the wood and burnt it with a blowtorch to help bring out the grain, repeating the process two to three times before treating it with two to three coats of hard-wearing Osmo Polyx Oil.

Then, to mirror the style of the couple's kitchen cabinetry and tie the two spaces together, he made MDF panelling for the lower half of the bench and the wall.

dining room with dining table and wooden bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin)

Whipping up a new table may not sound like an easy job, but Paul makes it look simple. This impressive piece of furniture was made from a large piece of oak he’d bought a few years ago for £10!

He shaped the edges to make it look like a live edge table and treated it in the same way he did the bench, so it matches perfectly. Then, new cross-frame legs were added, with their design freeing up some space under the table for the extra seating.


dining room with dining set

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin)

Get the look: Gentlemen’s Club Trim Paint,£13.95 for 500ml, Frenchic

Deciding that their existing dining chairs didn't work with the look of the new room, Lesley decided to have a go at upholstering them. 'I bought a second-hand sewing machine for £30 and some textured navy and yellow Orla Kiely fabric for £100,' she says. 'Then I took one of the chairs apart, unpicked the fabric and used that as a pattern for cutting out the covers for all four chairs.'

Once she’d cut and sewed them, Lesley fitted them over the chair frames and stapled them into place. 'I also painted the legs to match the interior of the display cabinets,' she adds, 'it worked out so much cheaper than buying a new set of chairs!'

Get the look: Blackjack Paint, £9.95 for 250ml, Frenchic

New and improved

dining room with dining set

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lesley Swales and Paul Parkin)

For the finishing touches, Lesley picked out some new cushions from TK Maxx and Matalan, and framed some artworks by Sara Lovari that the couple had bought in Cortona, Italy.

Related: Be inspired by this homeowner's £50 bedroom wall panelling

'We’re really happy with how the dining room turned out,' Lesley says. 'It all came together perfectly and it’s exactly the vision we had for the space.'

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at