Do you ever get tired of shopping the same sources as everyone else, finding the same pieces and ending up with a similar look as Sally Jo down the street? If you don't have many good vintage sources nearby, you can always fall back on customizing those store-bought pieces. The obvious options are reupholstery (which can be cost-prohibitive but a complete transformation) and painting - which can take case goods (shelving, armoires, cabinets) from plain to posh. But there are other options.
Above is a cute little desk from World Market, which runs $145. It would be adorable painted a bright color, or even left white but with the knob swapped out for something fun. But for a more elegant look, I'd use grasscloth wallpaper to cover the inset side panels and drawer front. You'd only need scrap pieces to do it. Change out the knob for a pretty glass one, and you'd have a totally unique look.
So my suggestion for the day is to think one step beyond the basic paint or reupholstery. What would add a little extra to your diy? You could end up with a completely custom piece at a retail price.