Stenciling Sans Stencil…. Part 3: The Big Reveal

I’m dooooooooooooooooone. Can I get a woot?! I have to say, even though this project took much MUCH longer than I thought, and was much harder than I thought it would be, it was absolutely and totally worth it. I think that breaking it up into multiple days was really the key to not hating it (too much) while doing it. And it has made a huge impact. I’m in love. So let’s get to it. The before:



Drumroll please………… Ta da!



I love it!! Okay so, I did it in about the most tedious way possible, but in the end it was totally worth the time. I still think I’d opt for the stencil next time around, but I don’t regret the time I spent on this at all. Let’s look at some more wall porn, shall we? Nekkid wall….



I would love to craigslist the couch and get one really oversized chair with ottoman to go in this area, but since I’m doing the area on a (serious) budget I want to get the chair from craigslist as well. So far I haven’t seen anything I love, so I just continue to stalk it regularly. Also, I need to get something larger for this wall. I just wanted to get SOMETHING up there, and this was the biggest thing I had laying around. I’m not sure what would look quite right here, suggestions?



One more… because this kind of repeated pattern makes my brain happy…



Imperfect, but perfect. And a tremendous upgrade, particularly considering I only spent $1.91 to get it done! A very satisfying project, although I must say I’ll probably lay off the paint for a while after my office stripes and then this. I’m getting my sewing machine fixed this weekend, so I may start my quilt soon!


Stenciling Sans Stencil… Part 2: Progress report and a Cautionary Tale

Last time, I shared my plans to draw and paint a design onto our loft wall. Let’s take another look at the “before.” Yawn.


I decided on the circles pattern for the wall. It wasn’t exactly a landslide in the poll, but when I realized that I was pulling for circles to win I realized I should just go with my gut and do that one. Here was the inspiration photo, which is from a blog where the woman used a stencil from Royal Designs to paint her wall.



The reason I didn’t just buy the stencil was because… well.. I’m cheap. It was $45 and I would have had to buy adhesive to keep it on the wall, plus some new painting materials to stencil it effectively. Probably a $60 proposition, which I just didn’t want to spend on a little 8×8 wall. Especially because come on, I can do it for free! It’s circles! Just cut out a circle, trace it a bunch of times, and paint them in– easy peasy.

Whyyyyyyy am I stupid? I’ve discussed it before, but I just have a never-ending over-optimism when it comes to overestimating my talents and underestimating the work involved in the DIY I dream up.

So here is what I did. I cut out a circle and a half circle out of cardboard. I just eyeballed how big it seemed like it should be and went with 9.5 inches.

photo 1-3

And then I started in the top corner closest to the stairs, lined the circle up against the top and side of the wall, and started tracing. And tracing. And tracing. It took about 2.5 hours to trace the whole design on with pencils.

photo 2-3

And then I made the smartest choice I made through this entire project— I started painting it in the bottom corner the farthest from the stairs. There is definitely a HUGE learning curve in keeping a steady hand and finding a technique that works, and to be honest painting the circles was a LOT harder than I thought it would be. And very slow going. At the end of my first 1.5 hour painting session, I had this done.

photo 1-2

And then I wanted to cry. But I did not! I persevered and figured out an easier way to make the circles. It worked best if I dipped my 1/4 inch paint brush in the paint and got a good amount on there (but not enough to drip), and then made dots of paint along 1/4 of the circle, and then went back over them to smooth them out along the outline. This worked because the paint brush was so small that if I tried to just paint the circle in a long stroke there was too much paint to start and not enough after just a few inches. Which led to my having to use very little amount of paint about 10 times per circle. Which took forever and made for shaky circles. These are the first few. Rough.

photo 3

Using the new technique is still far from perfect, there are brush strokes and a not-totally-steady hand, but the result is much better.

photo 2

I’m about 6 hours into the painting portion (8.5 hours into the project in total) and I’m about 2/3 done painting the wall. All told, assuming no more major issues, this project will take me about 12 hours. For an 8×8 wall. Ouch. And let’s be honest here, my circles are far from perfect even with my better technique. I do think as more and more gets done you really don’t see the flaws at all unless you look for them, and I’m hoping when you look up close you’ll just find them to be “charming,” but they are far less clean than they’d be if I’d just bought the stencil.

So I guess the moral of my cautionary tale is: Sometimes it is worth it to spend the money.

In the end, I’m going to be glad I did this project (no more wide photos of the wall until it is totally done because I think the full effect is amazzzing). But I wish I had just bought the stencil. I might have saved $60, but using the stencil probably would have only taken me 2-3 hours as opposed to the 12 I’ll end up spending– and time has value. I was thinking about doing a design in the nook of our guest bedroom and I will DEFINITELY be buying a stencil because I don’t think I can go through this again! Which isn’t to say, I suppose, that hand painting your design is a bad choice for everyone. But I think the following lists will lay it out pretty clearly.

Buy the stencil if:

  • You are doing more than one wall
  • It is in your budget to buy the stencil
  • You want your design to look perfect
  • You want the process to be as easy, fast, and painless as possible
  • You are not particularly artistically inclined/don’t have a steady hand

Free-hand it if:

  • You have no budget and it is free-hand or nothing at all
  • You have a lot of patience
  • You have a lot of time
  • You have a steady hand
  • You find imperfection to be charming

Or hey… do whatever you want. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Stenciling sans stencil…. Part 1

When we moved into our home, I loved the little loft area at the top of the stairs. We had an extra couch (from the living room in my old place) that we put up there, and it just seemed like such a cozy area to curl up next to the window and read a book. When we had our house painted the summer before last, I even had the painters do an accent wall here (which ties into the one in the great room just to the left of this photo), thinking I would do some great wall treatment/focal point here.


The issue is, we never use this space. Like ever. Like, a few weeks ago I got a phone call while I was walking down that hallway and answered it, and then sat down on the couch to talk and realized it is probably the first time I’ve sat on that couch in three years. Which is probably why I’ve utterly neglected decorating it. It is never-used and you can’t see it from downstairs unless you’re on the far end of the great room and just happen to look up that way… so it is sort of “out of sight out of mind.”

Except that it isn’t really out of sight for our guests. We have guests with some regularity (mostly family but also a few friends), I’d say on an approximately monthly basis. And this is the view when you walk up the stairs. Bor-ing.



I have since cleaned up that book case so it doesn’t look like so much of a fire hazard (“funny” story about that I may decide to tell later…), but that big navy wall of nothingness, it irks.

Which is why I’ve decided to tackle the wall now. I’m on a roll with home projects and I might as well get ‘er done while I have the enthusiasm for it. Originally, I really wanted to stencil the wall. I see adds for various wall stencil companies all the time, and they have some GORGEOUS stencils, but I just don’t want to spend $50 on a stencil for a wall that small. So I think I want a stenciled wall look, sans stencil.

I’ve narrowed it down to two designs, and this is where you come in. My original thought was to do a Moroccan tile look like my beloved faux frosted glass back door. I think I would follow this tutorial for a similar look, although I’d make the tiles smaller and probably fill in the space between the lines rather than doing double-lined tiles.



But then I was wondering if I ought to do something different. I think the Moroccan tiles on two different floors would relate to each other and look good, but maybe I should do something a little more unexpected.  I found this stenciled wall and loved it.


That photo is actually of a real stencil, so no tutorial… but it looks easy enough to pull off. Find something round, trace x 1000, paint. I just keep going back and forth, so I would like some opinions. I even figured out how to put up a poll– a first for me! So, please vote! And if you have some explanation for your vote I’d love to hear it in the comments below.



Organize-a-thon Project #4 + Pinterest Inspiration

Tonight while folding laundry, I was struck by a sudden and urgent project impulse. I’d been somewhat casually trying to think of my next organizational project for Amanda‘s challenge, and I just wasn’t coming up with anything I really felt like tackling. Which isn’t to say I don’t have areas that still need to be organized… just none that bugged me enough to remedy right now. But as I was folding, I looked over and had the same thought I have just about every day. Ugh.


I really dislike clutter in functional areas. And my nightstand always looks like hell. Add my cell phone and a book, generally, by the time I go to bed it is really hard to reach anything without knocking something else over. Obviously I can tidy it up a little, but it still never really looks nice and clean like I’d prefer. A big part of the problem is my jewelry. Earrings are sort of my thing, and I wear them big. Which means the little earring holder built into my jewelry box? Not functional for most of my earrings.


So, they all ended up here. Piled, tangled, leaving me unable to close the lid (making it look messy) and also making me grab basically the same pair or two every single day because I didn’t feel like digging for pairs or untangling things.


Another issue is my necklaces. I have a really nice necklace tree a friend got for me years ago and it has improved my necklace organization to the extent that they are now able to hang and get less tangled. However most of my necklaces are sort of long or heavy, and I knock this thing over on an at-least-monthly basis. Which means it is sort of bent now (making it even more likely to tip over) and also just a little frustrating in such a small space.


And suddenly it struck me. A hanging jewelry organizer! When I was first on pinterest, one of my very first pins was this awesome hanging earring organizer.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 10.53.16 PM


I remember pricing it out at the time, but I didn’t have a frame I thought would work and those metal panels at Lowes were a little spendy. But now? I had the PERFECT frame I was just waiting to find a purpose for (my thrift store challenge frame that I got for 3.99), and I had leftover white burlap scraps from making a simple burlap runner for Thanksgiving. And thus, an organizational/pinterest project was born. I gathered my materials.


My frame, burlap, scissors, duct tape, and a couple little hooks I had hanging out in my tool bag. I also added to the pile after I took this photo a hammer and some command strips (because I wanted this to be hung really solidly from both sides so it wouldn’t have to be evenly weighted).


First, I pried out the two staples holding the plywood-stretched velvet painting into the frame. I just used the scissors as a little leverage to get them out, and they were really easy to remove.


Then I cut my burlap to be just a few inches bigger than the stretched painting.


Next, I flipped the painting over so that the plywood frame was against the burlap, and stretched the burlap over all four sides and taped it. I did it this way so that there would be some open space behind the burlap to give the earrings room to poke through. I taped it on because my staple gun is on the fritz, and also with burlap duct tape might be the better bet anyways as it is such a loose weave. I placed the burlap-wrapped plywood back into the frame, and had to use the hammer to tap it into place because it was bulkier than when I took it out due to the burlap and duct tape.


I duct taped the seams, just to be extra secure, even though the plywood was fit snuggly into the frame. Then I flipped it over and laid out my hooks, just spacing them by eye. I screwed them into the bottom of the frame by hand.


Using command strips on either side, I hung the frame using a level to make sure that it was straight. At this point, I was almost exactly 30 minutes into the project, even with stopping to take photos of every step!


Another 10 minutes of organizing later and…… oooOOOOooooOOOO. Love it!


I was able to fit all of my dangly earrings (which is almost all of my earrings) with room to spare, plus I used the hooks below for my hoops, a few thin bracelets, and my necklaces.


A place for everything and everything in its place… It is a little ridiculous how happy this little 40 minutes free (unless you count the frame, then 3.99) project makes me.


And a wide shot… notice how much less cluttered my night stand looks now that the jewelry box can be closed, the necklace tree is removed, and it is just a bit straightened up? ❤

Don’t mind the blanket on the floor, that is Stew’s dog bed! (And the penguin is a humidifier. Oh yea, I’m classy). I’m definitely declaring this randomly-inspired project a success! Has anyone else built something similar? I feel like I see versions of this all over pinterest but I don’t think I’ve actually seen someone build one that I “know.”