Sunday, June 11, 2017

How to Create Wood Horse Wall Art

I've added another horse to my walls. It's just taken a long time for him to get there since this project has been cooking along in the back of my head for several years while other projects took priority.

I was initially inspired to embark on a project like this by all the architectural-salvage-as-art and vintage signs that you see everywhere, as well as by frequent visits to Lowe's when we were adding crown moulding and baseboards to the house. After spending countless hours standing in the moulding aisle and staring at the wide selection of crown mouldings, window casings, chair railings, etc. it dawned on me that I could create my own architectural-salvage style wall art. I just needed a piece of art or a graphic for the focal point.

About the same time that I was wandering around in Home Depot and Lowe's most weekends, obsessing about crown moulding, I found this wonderful little horse at a local antique mall. After that, everything clicked...

A couple of crown mouldings and chair railings + a piece of plywood + the horse + some paint= highly personalized and unique wall art. At a fraction of what you would pay in a store or online (have you seen this wonderful vintage style blacksmith sign by Ethan Allen? When it was still available, it sold for $262. This was also another source of inspiration for me).

So, with all is how I brought to life the child of my latest brainwave.


First off, supplies:

  • Wooden horse wall plaque 
  • Decorative mouldings in varying widths and patterns to create a series of frames 
  • 3/4 inch plywood sheet for the base 
  • Acrylic paints for details on the horse 
  • Annie Sloan chalk paint in Pure White, Paris Gray, Duck Egg, Graphite, Emperor's Silk, and Cream 
  • Minwax stain in Classic Gray 
  • Wood glue 
  • Painters tape 
  • Decorative stencil and stencil brushes 
  • Computer/printer for word transfer 
  • Wax paper for word transfer 
  • Heavy-duty hanging hardware for drywall 
Also, we used a table saw (you can also use a hand saw) to cut the the moulding pieces. I say 'we', because, fortunately for me, my wonderful husband helped out with this step, including cutting the crown moulding for the outer frame, which is tricky because it is not a flat piece.

First Step: Paint the Horse

I'm sure this guy decorated some little boy's western-themed bedroom in his previous life, but I wanted something more Frenchified (but on the rustic side of French, nothing too fine and fancy). I also wanted something reminiscent of the circus, but in a vintage way.

I used these clip art images from The Graphics Fairy as my inspiration for transforming the horse from Old West to Fanciful Circus.

I used both chalk paint for the overall color and acrylic paint for the saddle, bridle, and the strip of wood below the horse.

Because I want to incorporate more touches of black throughout the living room (hasn't happened yet), I used touches of soft black (Graphite chalk paint) throughout this piece, starting with the mane and tail on the horse. Pure White mixed with a touch of Paris Gray for the body; Paris Gray for the saddle. I used a stencil to add some simple decoration to the saddle.

Second Step: Prepare the Plywood Base

I marked the location of each frame on the plywood base using a pencil and painters tape. I painted the plywood with Cream (really, more of an ivory yellow) chalk paint, Pure White chalk paint, and a thin strip of Emperor's Silk chalk paint on the outer edge, and added some additional fleur-de-lis details in the outer corners (acrylic paint).

I completed all the painting and detailing (including the word transfer, see below) on the plywood before gluing down the frames (and the horse) so that I didn't have to work around the glued pieces. Also lightly distressed the painted plywood with a fine grit sandpaper to give it an aged, worn appearance. 

Third Step: Paint the Frames and Glue Them In Place

I chose three moulding pieces in varying widths to create a series of frames, including a small crown moulding for the outside frame. I used pieces with fairly simple decorative details-- I didn't want anything too lavish or overpowering-- remember, 'Rustic French'.

I found it easiest to build the frames before gluing them down. This consisted of:

  • Cutting the end of each piece at a 45 degree angle (as I note above, my husband took care of this step). 

  • Staining and painting the mouldings of each frame: Classic Gray stain for the outer/crown moulding frame, Duck Egg chalk paint for the next floral frame, and Graphite chalk paint for the inner scalloped frame. 

  • Gluing the 4 pieces of each moulding type together at the corners to create the final three frames. 
For the stain on the outer crown moulding frame, I wiped it on and let it sit for only a few minutes before wiping it off, since I did not want a dark stain.

I piled a lot of big, heavy books on top of each frame once they were glued in place to ensure full contact between the frame and the plywood sheet and to prevent any warping.

Fourth Step: Word Transfer

To reinforce the Frenchiness of the whole thing, I added the word 'cheval' under the horse using the wax paper transfer process explained here. This also added to this piece the graphic element that I really love in old, vintage and reproduction signs.

I practiced the actual transfer process several times using scrap wood, and once I transferred the word to my piece, I had to darken it using black acrylic paint and a fine paint brush. As you can see from the practice pieces below, the end result of the transfer process is pretty light and faded (I felt like the final image on my piece needed to be darker and bolder).

Note for the practice pieces below: I experimented on my computer with different values of gray and black font colors. A lighter gray font color yielded the very light, faded image seen below, while 100% black resulted in the darker image, which was still pretty faded and distressed looking.

Final Step: Hang It Up

The last step was, of course, to hang it on the wall. Once again my very handy husband helped me out (this thing is really heavy). We used two d-ring style hangers on the back and drywall fasteners to hang it securely on the wall.

This project was really a companion project to the dresser transformation; I really wanted a strong focal point at the far end of the living room, and the large, dimensional presence of this horse wall art piece combined with the oversized dresser/console achieves that.

I keep throwing around the word 'French' in this post, in part, because when I think of architectural salvage I often think of trumeaus. Trumeau has two definitions: (1) a column supporting a tympanum of a doorway at its center, or (2) a mirror having a painted or carved panel above or below the glass in the same frame (and usually a lot of other carved and ornate frivolity in some of the more elaborate pieces). Essentially, both both are architectural and decorative elements that originated in France; one supports doorways and arches, the other decorates walls. Obviously the piece I created here is more in line with the second definition (very loosely, I know). 


So, is it a trumeau, a sign, a picture? A little of the last two, I would say, with a slight nod to the carved detail of a trumeau thrown in for good measure.

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch

Bouquet of Talent at Life on Lakeshore Drive

Lou Lou Girls Fabulous Party at Lou Lou Girls

I've been featured at...

Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Before-After: Dresser Transformation

I don't know what to call it.  A console? A buffet?   A sideboard? In its former life, before I transformed it, it was a large dresser.  I guess it still is, but with a new look and purpose.

Its been about a year since I dragged this big beast home.  I nearly broke my back trying to get it into the house.  Literally.  As I tried to lift it, I heard an ominous cracking sound in my lower back.  Oh, no, bad idea, I thought.  Here come more visits to the orthopedic doctor (who will barley spend 2 minutes with me), and then on to the physical therapist....

Anyway, I managed to drag it and push it into our front hall with the help of those wonderful little furniture moving disks and pads (those things with either plastic or felted surfaces for easily moving big, heavy furniture around on carpeting and hard-surface floors).  

And then I collapsed on the couch with a heating pad and some ibuprofen, leaving Big Beast for another day. 

I'd been half-heartedly looking for something to put at the far end of our living room for the past few years.  My ideal find would be a sort of console or buffet with lots of character and drawers.  Some old piece with high potential as a fixer-upper. However, thanks to the Cabin Project (click here for more on that), this particular project resided somewhere near the bottom of my list of priorities for a long time.

Before Beast, I had a small side table (really, it's a small desk) at this location as a sort of placeholder until something better came along.  It was too small and dinky for the space, and had hardly any storage, but it at least provided some kind of focal point at the end of this room. 

Christmas decorations figure prominently at this end of the living room  every December since our Christmas tree always goes in the corner at this end of the living room.  A bigger piece of furniture would only mean more Yuletide joy at this end of the room.

About a year and a half ago I finally got tired of Small Desk's underwhelming performance in the living room and got serious about finding a suitably large buffet or console with a lot of storage. I did all the things everyone does when looking for a furniture project: I scoured local antique malls and consignment shops, visited many garage sales, and spent hours scrolling through Craigslist. Hours and hours.  You have to spend a lot of time sifting through some pretty ugly and uninspiring stuff before finding anything worthwhile on Craigslist. Patience and doggedness is key.

After several months of tedious searching, I finally found something that ticked all the boxes.
  • Right size (length x height x width)
  • Right amount of detail without being over-the-top fancy or formal
  • Lots of storage, including drawers that opened easily
  • Quality workmanship
  • Close to my home
  • Right price     

The dark, shiny finish didn't bother me at all, since I planned to transform it with paint.  This guy also had the big, chunky presence I felt was necessary to anchor the far end of our rather long and narrow living room.  And I just loved the feet; they had the right amount of curvy flourishes without being too feminine.  

It is certainly well made-- remember my cracking back? Heavy furniture is well made furniture, they say. Plus all the drawers have dove-tail joints, another sign of quality craftsmanship.

The transformation consisted of:
  • Sanding
  • Staining the top
  • Painting the sides and drawers
  • Spray painting the drawer hardware
  • 'Aging' the entire piece (read more sanding)

Materials and tools that I used:
  • Annie Sloan Pure White chalk paint and clear wax
  • Minwax Dark Walnut wood stain
  • Rust-Oleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint
  • Palm sander
  • Coarse, medium, and fine grit sandpaper (80, 180, and 280 grit)
  • Lots of elbow grease

I started off by sanding, sanding, and yet more sanding with both a palm sander and by hand to dull down and scuff up that very shiny, dark cherry finish.  All those nooks and crannies, the fluted corner, and the feet look wonderful when painted but are a huge pain to sand, since all those finicky little details must be sanded by hand. 

The top was extra shiny; in fact, when I first saw it, I thought it had a glass top. I didn't remove all of the stain from the sides and drawers, just enough to prepare the surface to take the paint, but I removed it completely from the top, since I planned on staining the top.

Staining the top with Minwax Dark Walnut.  I wanted to keep Big Beast on the rustic side of things and decided a natural wood finish on the top would offset all that white paint very nicely.

Dark Walnut was too dark and new looking, however, so I got out the sander and roughed it up to give it a distressed, aged look.  While I used a very coarse, 80 grit sandpaper to remove the original stain, I used a medium, 120 grit sandpaper to knock back the Dark Walnut for a distressed appearance. 

I finished it with a fine grit (220) sandpaper to give it a satiny-smooth surface and used a matte polyurethane to give it some protection, with no shine. 

Much better, yes?  This is more in line with the chippy, aged result I was after.

I painted it with Annie Sloan Pure White chalk paint.  I know the product info says that you don't need to do any prep prior to painting, but as I found out with this Ikea bookcase upcycle project, this isn't exactly true.  With slick, high gloss finishes, you really do need to rough it up a bit if you want the paint to stick (thus I sanded this thing until my hands were ready to fall off, as noted above).

I also removed all the hardware and spray painted each piece with Rust-oleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint.  Instant vintage character; no more brash, brassy finish.  This is a great way to re-use the drawer pulls that come with an old piece of furniture.  If you like the basic hardware, but don't care for the for the finish, just spray with metallic spray paint in the color and finish of your choice.

Last step: aging and 'rusticating' the piece with yet more sanding.  I knocked off some of the paint from the edges of the drawers and other strategic areas by hand and with the sander; I used medium and fine grit sandpaper for this step. 

A little bit of sanding highlights the edges and decorative details very nicely, especially important for furniture that is painted white.  

Did I mention it has great storage?  More roomy drawers hide behind those doors.

Early spring...with some lovely faux tulips.

Key take-aways here:
  • Get someone to help move large pieces of furniture
  • Some sanding will be necessary if the original finish is high gloss (even with chalk paint)
  • Spray painting original hardware is a great way to save some money (if you like the drawer pulls that came with the piece)


Near future posts will include another long-standing project: the horse wall-art piece...

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Inspire Me Monday at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Bouquet of Talent at Life on Lakeshore Drive
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
Five Star Frou-Frou at a Tray of Bliss

I've been featured at...

Best of the Weekend at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Passed the Final Inspection!

Over the past several months I've been mulling over how to start blogging again after having completely fallen off the blogging wagon last summer.

So... I'll just start by saying that we passed our final inspection!  Last September.  However, our joy at finally reaching this huge milestone was completely overshadowed by the fact that both my husband and I each lost someone dear to us last year. 

Last year was a horrible year filled with illness in both our families, loss, my own health DDC and everything else went dark last fall when my mom passed away...

One of the last times I spoke with my mom was when I gave her a virtual tour of the cabin via my phone a few days before the final inspection.

I had so hoped to show her the finished  (even furnished) cabin in person.   

In a way, this post is just another virtual tour for my mom, because I know that somewhere she is looking on, laughing and commiserating with me over all the things, big and little, that my husband and I sweated bullets over, agonized over, cried over, fought over...All those little unique, custom ideas that we (mostly me) thought were so fabulous that gave my husband fits during installation.  The bathroom vanity sink that kept (and still does) leaking...the uncooperative sheets of corrugated metal destined for the shower...the galvanized metal tub-as-kitchen sink ...building the custom tile shower pan...converting the gas stove to propane...

So, mom, here it is...we still have a few little details to take care of, and some not so little (the deck) as well.  But we finally made it to the finish line.  I sure wish you were here to see it in person...


I took all these photos with my phone, so the quality isn't the greatest.  I was too exhausted at the time to drag out my camera, the tripod, etc. and make the effort to get nice photos.

Both my husband and I aren't talking about it, but we both know that the leaking bathroom sink has to be fixed.  But fix it we will, because I love the way this looks. 

I suspect that the base is too thick for the hardware and that we should have installed the vessel sink directly onto the original table top, or removed the original top and installed the new one (and put the sink on that).  I think my husband took this apart and re-assembled it a couple times, at least, in an effort to fix the leak.  In the end he stuffed a bunch of paper towels underneath and prayed the inspector wouldn't catch it.

By some miracle, the inspector didn't look at the sink at all and missed the fact that it leaks.

Installing the corrugated metal sheets as shower walls was definitely a seat-of-our-pants enterprise.  I found lots of examples of showers finished with corrugated metal on the Internet (mostly Pinterest) but neither my husband or I could ever find any posts or videos that explained how to do it.

I'm happy with the way it looks (it will look even better once I get a shower curtain up), but I'm a little nervous about keeping it clean...

I'm pretty thrilled with our mini pantry. My husband scoffed at the idea of having so much storage, but I've seen how he shops at the grocery store, so I know better... Plus, in our California home, we presently have every small kitchen appliance known to mankind, and I have no reason to expect things to be different at the cabin.

The bi-fold doors are perfect for this small, constrained space.

Still need a few finishing touches in the kitchen: cabinet hardware, more open shelves at the far end, perhaps some kind of rustic corbel under the counter overhang by the door. But it is a fully functioning kitchen (-ette) at this point.

I was so worried that the inspector would ding us for not finishing this corner between the pantry and the closet.  He didn't even look at it. Something else that still needs to be done however.

We installed the kitchen sink and its base first (making sure it was centered under the window) and then placed the cabinets and counter top afterward.  Installing the kitchen faucet and butcher block counter around the tub/sink was harder than we ever dreamt.   But my husband figured it out. And so far, it doesn't leak.

There is R2-D2 (a.k.a. the big shop vacuum) lurking in the background, slyly waiting for the next opportunity to break more toes (I kicked it in a fit of irritation over paint colors a few years ago). 

I love the light and the views in this room.

Yes, I know the switch plates are notched into the door casings.  Thanks to an initial design boo-boo, we lost a few inches all around when we had to switch from 2x4 framing to 2x6 framing during construction to accommodate insulation that had the code-compliant R-factor. That meant that the extra wide door casings that I had originally included in the design now overlapped the switch plates.  And we didn't catch this until after the electrician had roughed in the electrical. The other solution would have been to use narrow, dinky door and window casings.  

I hate narrow, dinky casings.  I had specifically designed the cabin to have beefy, rustic looking casings that would nicely offset all that white-painted tongue-and-groove panelling.  

So we have switch plates notched into the door casings.  I'm calling it quirky.

So, there it is.  Finally a livable cabin.  Next on the list is the few finishing touches, the deck (click here for my ideas on that), and, most importantly, furnishing it (click here and here for a look at some of the things that I plan on using in the cabin). 

Here is a sneak peek of two other projects that languished for a long time before I finally finished them.  More on this to come...


This post is dedicated to my mom, because, I owe, among many other things, my decorating style, my love of old vintage things and antiques with character, and my approach to creating a home to her and the home I grew up in.  

In loving memory.

I need also to thank my wonderful husband.  He did all the finish work inside himself and did an amazing job.

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Bouquet of Talent at Life on Lakeshore Drive
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
The Inspiration Board Creative Party at Carolyn's Homework
Five Star Frou-Frou at a Tray of Bliss

I was featured at...

Amaze Me Monday #213 at Dwellings
Wow US Wednesdays #325 at Savvy Southern Style
Sweet Inspiration #56 at The Boondocks Blog