Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes

A big thank you to Mother Nature for beautifying my window boxes with the first snow of the season here in Central Illinois today!

I must also thank my sister, Dee. She knows I can’t turn down cast offs like some lanterns she gave me that were damaged when a tree fell on their house during a storm this past summer. I don’t think she throws much away without asking her hoarder sister first. And just to clarify, I prefer to call it recycling. And recycling her lanterns made for a beautiful winter window box.

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

My “window” boxes are technically planter boxes, since I didn’t have the nerve to mount boxes to my bricks. Here’s one naked right after I made it.

  Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

To decorate them for winter, I thought the most convenient way would be to leave the pots inside the boxes,  cover the tops of the planters with a couple of boards and then mount my Christmas items on top of the boards. You can see in the four corners there are the recessed boards that form the legs.

  Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Those are what I rested my boards on to form a “table” for my goodies. Plywood would have been easier, but I didn’t have any on hand. Sorry there are no pictures. It was way too cold out there to be lolly-gagging around taking photos.

After I set the boards in place, I screwed the lanterns onto the boards and then drilled holes where necessary to insert stems of greenery. I also used screws to attach garland and berries and such. We’ll see what’s left after the winter winds take their toll!

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

These were very cheaply done, since everything in the planters was either recycled, free or purchased at garage sales. This doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. Thrift shops would be another great place to find greens and ornaments for window boxes. I’m guessing I paid no more than $10 or $15 to decorate both of these.

Since my landscaping is new and very small, these planters will be the only form of curb appeal I’ll have in the wintertime for a few years, so they’re pretty necessary.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Yes, Merry Christmas!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

DIY Window Box Substitute–No Mounting Required

If you’ve always wanted beautiful window boxes but were afraid of the installation, planter boxes are a DIY-friendly alternative. They’re easy to build, and can be decorated seasonally with non-plant items if you live in a planting zone that doesn’t allow for live plants in the winter. You don’t have to leave them stark and empty in the off-season!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I moved into this house this past winter, and it was in desperate need of some curb appeal. I had all of the half-dead, overgrown trees and bushes removed, and decided to start from scratch. How sad and lonely she looks. Window boxes will cheer this house (and me) right on up!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Unfortunately, I did have a problem with my window box idea. The actual construction of the window boxes wasn’t an issue, but my fear of drilling into my bricks to install them certainly was. And to be honest,  I wouldn’t have been all that excited to drill into vinyl siding, wood siding or any other siding for that matter. Thinking about mounting a window box securely enough to handle the weight of the wood, the dirt and the plants made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

So I decided that instead of window boxes, I would make free-standing planter boxes. And when I say free-standing, I mean “$free$”-standing.  I recently had a screened porch added to my house (click here to view) and wrestled some of the wood scraps away from my builder. Wood scraps = free planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I decided to build the planter boxes so that pots that my son, Ross, gave me a few years ago would fit inside of them. You don’t necessarily have to have pots inside of planter boxes, and if I hadn’t had these already, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to buy some. I would have just lined the boxes with a weed fabric so that dirt wouldn’t seep out of the cracks, and filled them with dirt. These pots have seen better days, but I love them, and they were perfect for putting inside the planters.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I wanted to use treated 4 x 4’s for the legs, but I only had four that were long enough, and I needed eight. I did, however, have some treated 2 x 4’s left from the porch that I decided to double up and use instead. I knew if I ran a bead of caulk where the two boards met, and then painted them out, they would look just like the 4 x 4’s. My goal here was to not buy anything in order to make these planter boxes, so I had to be creative.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The actual sides of the boxes were built using leftover shiplap that was also left over from the screened porch. It was already primed and painted, but I still had to give it another quick coat after I finished assembling the boxes.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I don’t know how long this shiplap will last out in the weather since it’s pine. The primer and exterior paint should protect it for a while, but if it rots after a few years, I can replace it. I’m also hoping that by using pots inside of the boxes, the shiplap will last a little longer since there won’t be wet dirt resting up against it.

Here are my first two sections I put together after measuring how tall and wide I wanted the planters to be. You can see that the section on the right is made up of the sandwiched 2 x 4’s, so I used that section for the back side of the planter.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here I’ve added a second piece of shiplap.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since I was too lazy to go to the basement to get my super-duper saw horses that my son, Brandon, got me for Christmas, I just used my cute little Honda Fit (Love that car!) to steady my two sides while I screwed in the end pieces. And yes, I was careful not to scratch the car.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

In this photo, you can see that I cut the legs a couple of inches shorter than the finished height because I wanted to be able to rest pieces of wood on top of them. I wanted to be able to decorate these boxes for fall and Christmas using non-plant items like pumpkins, ornaments, birdhouses and such. Wood laid across the tops of the legs would give me a hidden platform to set items on.  The pots with the dirt will only be used in the spring and summer for live plants.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I took 2 x 8’s (because that’s what I had on hand–a curb score) and notched out spaces with a jig saw in order to accommodate the legs, and toe-nailed them in from underneath. I chose to leave a space down the center so the water from the drainage holes in my pots would run through onto the ground rather than sit on the wood. If I decide at some point to fill the planters with dirt without the pots, I’ll add another board to complete the bottom.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And it fits! My plan for when my square pots go to pot heaven some day, is to buy pre-potted arrangements and just set the pots inside the planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The planters looked a little blah-zay to me so I decided to jazz them up a bit. I had these scraps that were already cut at a 45 degree angle on one end. The 45 inspired me to cut another 45 on the other end, and I tacked them on the front of the boxes to add a little interest. In addition to the 45 degree angle adding some interest, it also helps the rain run off rather than sit on top of the boards.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Can you tell it was getting dark outside? Well, it was, so I did the painting the the next day. I primed the raw wood first, then I painted the primed wood, then painted the whole thing one more time.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I caulked around the decorative pieces and some other areas that I didn’t want water to get into. Some of the 4 x 4 legs had splits in them, so I caulked those, as well as the cracks where I joined the 2 x 4’s for the back legs. Then, a fresh coat of paint. It always amazes me what a fresh coat of paint can do.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I looked through my stash of goodies, and found some white, decorative iron pieces I’d bought a few years ago at Hobby Lobby, and added them to the fronts after rubbing some watered down gray paint on them. And wha-la! Here are my 100% free window box planters!

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

See what a difference these make for my once sad little house! Before–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And here they are all decorated for fall. I put these together after I realized mums were not happy living in my planter boxes due to lack of sunlight. I had my heart set on mums, but these will do just fine!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And yes, I painted my shutters and gave them some jewelry. Now, for your viewing pleasure, another set of before and after photos!

Before–
 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s the second planter box. Even the fall pretties I used to decorate with were budget-friendly. I grew the pumpkins myself, the hydrangea were given to me by a friend, and everything else you see in the planter boxes was from my stash or from garage sales.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I like the planters better than window boxes because I can move them to the back yard and fill them with flowers or veggies if I want to. I was also able to make them bigger than most window boxes would have been–a window box this large would have been very heavy. If I get tired of them (fat chance), I can remove them and there’s no damage to the house underneath. And God forbid, if I ever move again, I can take them with me!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil

When I agreed to make one of those super-cool flags out of an old pallet for my friend, Sam, I knew I was going to need a stencil in the shape of a star. I also knew the chances of me finding one the perfect size and shape for my project were pretty much zero. So I got creative and made one myself for free. Here’s how.

The first step is to go to Google Images or another search engine, and find a shape of whatever you’re looking for. I decided for the flag pallet I wanted a classic, simple star shape. I found one I liked, and then copied and pasted it to an open page so I could edit it.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I played with the cropping until I got the star the size I wanted, and printed it. Or not. I was highly disappointed when I went to my printer, only to discover it spit out a blank piece of paper. But where there’a a will, there’s a way.

Since I was too impatient to start my search for another star on another site, I decided to trace the image right off my computer screen by covering the star with a post-it note. The outline showed through the paper beautifully.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then I ever-so-gently traced the star with an ink pen. You could also use a pencil, but I would caution against a felt-tip pen or sharpie since the ink could bleed through onto your computer screen. Now that would be very bad.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I went into my recycle bin, and found some light-weight cardboard. (Gotta love Pop Tarts.) A soft-drink carton or cereal box would work too.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I then cut around the star with a sharp craft knife, being sure to press hard enough to cut all the way through the cardboard underneath. Be sure to protect your table so you don’t cut into it. That would be bad too.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then you remove the cut-out from your cardboard.

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And there’s the stencil! (This picture is of the back side of the Pop Tart box.)

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Make a Simple Custom Stencil / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This is a great way to create a custom stencil that’s specific to your project. The internet has many shapes that can be copied. And since stenciling requires a relatively dry brush, the cardboard will last a very long time. I’ve had stencils I’ve made for past projects that were literally used hundreds of times. Happy stenciling!

(If you would like to see how you can make your own flag pallet, click here.)

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

It happened again. I was minding my own business on my way home from running errands with my dog, Buster, and there it was. A baby changing table was on the curb, practically jumping up and down saying, “Take me home! Rescue me from landfill hell!” How could I refuse such a plea?

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’d been searching for quite some time for something I could use for a coffee table in my family room. You might be wondering why I didn’t just go out and buy one like most normal people. Reason number one—I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself normal, and reason number two—my family room is too “cozy” for a full-sized coffee table.

I’d been trying to get creative on this one. I was thinking a neat piano bench or maybe a sofa table cut down to size would better suit my space. But my curbside Guardian Angel, put me in the right place at the right time, and a baby changing table it is!

I loved the idea of a coffee table for this particular piece because it had a drawer and a lower shelf for storage. Those of you who are fellow small-space dwellers, know how important storage of any kind is, and I rarely snatch anything that doesn’t have storage in it, on it, or under it.

This was an easy transformation. I just cut the legs off with my $5.00 garage sale jig saw, and that’s all there was to it as far as structural alterations.

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Of course, I fully intend to use the remaining pieces at some point.

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I painted my new old coffee table black with my favorite premixed black paint from Sherwin Williams. It’s an interior/exterior paint that adheres to pretty much anything.

 Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

We had our first warm day on the weekend I planned this project, so I was able to paint outside.

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The holes where the screws were inserted didn’t have plugs in them, so I searched my plug stash and happened to have the exact size I needed. The plugs look infinitely better than the holes did.

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I looked through my drawer of miscellaneous hardware that I’d collected from various garage sales and old furniture projects, and my heart skipped a beat. I found these cute little danglies that were the perfect drawer pulls for my new coffee table. I decided to paint a small section of the hardware black to tie it in better with the table. Here’s a photo of one of the danglies before I painted it, and another one after painting.

 Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here are my before and afters. You just gotta love free stuff!

 Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Baby Changing Table Turned Coffee Table / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’m considering covering a cushion with some fabric to put on the top so that my new treasure could also be used as an ottoman. If and when I do, I’ll post a new photo. But for now, I’m loving it the way it is.

To see photos of other curbside finds I’ve refurbished, click here.

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids

Every human on the planet should have a kitchen with designated storage for pot lids. I am not amused by a game of kitchen Jenga every time I need a lid. Unfortunately, the only place for me to store my lids is in a heap on top of my skillets, and it makes me grumpy when I need the pan on the very bottom.

But I’m happy to report that I’m done with all that. I have the world’s tiniest kitchen, as was recently confirmed by the man who delivered my new fridge. You know it’s small when the fridge man says so, but I love my kitchen. Even in my cozy cooking space, I managed to find a couple of clever ways to store lids more efficiently. If I can find room, you certainly can too.

My storage solution started with this old hymnal rack that I purchased many years ago. It had been stored in a closet for quite some time, but I’d always loved it, and just couldn’t bring myself to part with it. If you don’t happen to have a spare hymnal rack lying around, don’t despair–I’ll show you how to make one in this post.

This rack was too long for the end of my cabinet, so I removed the screws and a couple of nails, disassembled it, cut the wood pieces to the correct length and re-assembled it. I love distressed pieces, so I painted it to match my cabinets (See previous post “Yes You Can Paint Your Oak Kitchen Cabinets“), distressed it, added a couple of hooks and installed it on my end cabinet.

That took care of three of my lids and my often-used colander and steamer. I loved the idea so much that I decided to make my own rack, patterned after the original one. I decided I could mount it inside my cabinet door where my pots are stored. Genius.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Out to the garage I went for scraps. I found these in my stash, so this rack was 100% free for me to make. And even better, I didn’t have to make a trip out in the frigid, God-forsaken, bone chilling tundra of Central Illinois. It’s been a rough winter, folks.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I started with the side support pieces, marking where I needed to chisel out a spot for my bottom piece that the lids would sit on. It probably wouldn’t be necessary to chisel a groove in the side pieces if you don’t have access to a chisel or a router, but I did it because the original hymnal rack was constructed that way, and I know it offers a little more support. And more importantly, I’ve been anxiously waiting for a project where I can use my new chisels!

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Please allow me to show off my set of chisels that I scored at an estate sale. I’m loving the leather pouch they came in. Most people would want to show off a new house or car. Not me. I wanna show off my pouch full of chisels.

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I cut slits on my pieces with my band saw to make it easier to chisel out the centers.

  Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Now I chisel! (Insert Tim Allen’s gorilla noise here.)

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s a side view of the piece I’m using for the sides. It’s similar in shape to the original, but this design made more sense for the inside of a cupboard door.

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I slid the bottom piece into the side pieces, nailed it in on both ends, and then cut and screwed in the front pieces, making sure the lid handles didn’t interfere with their placement. The bottom piece that the lids will rest on was a scrap piece of lattice.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The two front pieces that hold the lids in, were salvaged from one of those accordion-type clothes drying racks that I broke when I ran over it with my car. It was an unfortunate accident, but I saved all the non-pulverized pieces and have used several of them. My kids think I’m a hoarder. I think I’m smart.

 photo IMG_4301.jpg

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I realize this is not very attractive at the moment, but once I fill in gaps and imperfections with spackle, prime, paint, and install, it becomes one stylin’, state of the art, organizational masterpiece.

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I made sure I used screws short enough that I couldn’t pop them through the cabinet door, which would be highly disappointing, and that I was screwing through the thicker frame of the cabinet. I also made sure that the side pieces of the rack weren’t going to interfere with the door closing. I added an “L” bracket under the bottom piece for extra support.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I bought these screws at a garage sale, and these are the best screws I’ve ever used. Even I don’t have to pre-drill larger pieces of wood using these. I did, however, pre-drill the holes on this project since the wood was so thin and the cabinets are oak, both of which have a tendency to split.

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here are my before and afters. This is a little slice of lid-storage heaven!

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Creating Kitchen Storage for Pot Lids / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I did these projects in an evening, and the most time-consuming part was waiting for the paint to dry. The two racks combined have given me storage for five lids which makes a huge difference in my emotional well-being. I now only have two remaining lids that stack neatly inside my skillets. No more kitchen Jenga at my house!

For other kitchen storage ideas, visit my posts, “How to Build a Simple Kitchen Cabinet for Open Display” and “Organize My Kitchen Pantry With What?!” and “DIY Rolling Pantry Tucks Into Space by Fridge“.

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

How to Age a Wicker Basket

If you’re a basket lover, you’ve probably lost that lovin’ feeling for some of your baskets. You know the ones. Those baskets you stuck on a shelf in the basement or tucked away in a closet a few years back. Even baskets can become dated–most often because of the color. Aging a basket with inexpensive craft paints is an easy way to revive your waning basket relationship.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I found this basket at a local thrift shop, and loved it because of the unique galvanized bottom. Our local Mission Mart uses its proceeds to help the homeless in our community–all the more reason to shop there! Here’s what the $3.00 basket looked like originally.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

You’ll need three different colors of paint–dark brown, gray and tan, as well as an inexpensive chip brush or stenciling brush.

I began by painting the basket sparingly with an Americana paint color called Raw Umber, which is a very dark brown. I wasn’t concerned with getting in all the nooks and crannies.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I coated the basket with a color called April Showers by Accent, a light to medium gray, still not worrying too much about getting into every crack.

 How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Believe it or not, I didn’t have the paint the color I wanted for the third coat in all this mess.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Fortunately, I have many wall paint samples, and found one I liked called Hopsack from Sherwin Williams. It’s a darker tan color as you can see by the photo. Exact colors aren’t really an issue here, so I say use whatever you have on hand. I made an attempt to get into all the cracks on this final coat of paint.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Now the fun begins! Since I re-coated with minimal drying time in between coats (just dry to the touch), I took a slightly damp rag, and rubbed until all four of the different colors showed through–the original rust color, dark brown, gray and tan. The more colors that show through, the more depth and interest your basket will have.

 How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonILg

Finally, to really age the basket and make it look worn and loved, I took the Raw Umber paint that I used on the first coat, and dry brushed over the entire basket. This project didn’t take any time at all. And here are my before and afters. Ooo, la, la! I love the distressed look.

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Age a Wicker Basket / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The good news here is that if you don’t like how your basket turns out, you can just keep painting, adding new colors and rubbing and dry brushing until you get the look you like. I’m hoping people in my area who were planning to sell baskets at their garage sales this summer won’t see this post!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This personalized serving tray was my most recent undertaking to satisfy my urge to do something creative. It was the result of a combination of three separate events. Event number one was that my son and his fiancée were married last month. Number two, I rescued this cute little serving tray off a curb, stuck it in my garage and wondered what the heck I was going to do with it. Number three, it’s Christmas. A right-brain-epiphany inspired me to create this adorable tray for a Christmas gift for my son and new daughter-in-law.

Here’s what the original “treasure” looked like when I found it. I call this a treasure because that’s exactly what this was to me, which is a great lead-in to my plea to ask that you to donate your items rather than toss them in the garbage. There are many curb shoppers out there, but there aren’t enough of us to save all of your items from the landfill. Every community has places such as the Habitat Restore, Goodwill and the Salvation Army that would be grateful to have your unwanted items.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since I wanted to paint the tray, and my OCD couldn’t handle the heavy grain and other imperfections in the wood, I coated the tray sparingly with Durabond. If you don’t have OCD, or you have a smooth surface to paint on, you could eliminate this step.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After it dried, I sanded off most of the Durabond, leaving the dents, dings and heavy grain filled.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I primed the tray, allowing a couple of hours for it to dry before applying my paint. Here’s the primer I used.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s a helpful tip. Whizz covers can be stored inside cans of paint so there’s no need to wash them out, or throw them away and get a new one every time the primer is used. They float on top of the paint so you don’t have to fish around for them.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I painted the tray with two coats of latex paint that I had on hand. The color I used here is “Duck White” from Sherwin Williams. I’m proud and elated to report that it took all the self-control I could muster, but I managed to allow four hours of drying time between coats before moving on to the next step. (Very important!)

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Finally, the real fun begins! I went to a website called dafont.com, and got sucked into looking at hundreds of lovely fonts–literally hundreds of fonts. Most women like to look at jewelry, clothing or shoes. Not this chick; I get a rush out of fonts. I was in font heaven. I downloaded several, and then agonized over which two would be the big winners for my project.

I kept in mind that I was going to need to be able to paint the lettering after I traced it, so I shied away from the more intricate fonts. I’m well aware of my limitations with an artist’s brush when it comes to delicate swirls and lines that require actual talent. It sometimes seems the bristles on my liner brush have a mind of their own. The winning font I used for “EVANS” was called David, the “Brandon & Rachael” font was called HansHand, and I used both in a bold setting. I printed out the names with my printer, and then used a projector to put the lettering onto the tray.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s a picture of the projected image, all ready for me to trace.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I set up the projector on one counter top, and then set the tray on the counter top across from it. This set up wasn’t the best for tracing. Contortionism was the name of the game here. I had to trace the letters while curled up under the upper cabinet with my keister sticking out, my elbows hitting the counter top and my wrist cocked at 90 degrees while maneuvering a pencil. I also couldn’t press too hard with the pencil or the tray would flip backwards because I was dealing with a protruding back splash. Don’t try this at home.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The pencil lines don’t have to be perfectly straight (thank goodness) since they can be tweaked with paint later. Mine looked as if I got caught tracing during the great San Francisco earthquake. It’s important to use a pencil because ink or marker will bleed through the paint. I tried to keep the pencil lines slightly inside of the projected letters, since I knew the letters would “grow” a little when I doubled back to perfect my lines.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I broke out the artist brushes. For the “EVANS” lettering I used a gorgeous blue/gray color from Sherwin Williams called Gray Clouds that I used to paint my main living area.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’m guessing you noticed my not-so-perfect paint lines in the last photo. Never fear! I used my favorite liner brush to straighten them out. I also made sure to cover all my pencil lines, because even the tiniest lines that don’t get painted over will be magnified when varnished.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

What a difference the right brush makes! Before…

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And after using my liner brush. Much better now.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

So now the “EVANS” is complete. I let this dry completely before I move on.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I traced “Brandon & Rachael” over the top of the already painted “EVANS”. And yes, these lines look like I hit a 7.5 on the Richter scale too, but you’ll never know it when you see the finished project.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since these letters are smaller, I used a liner brush to paint them.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then it was the time to tweak. I had some letters that weren’t shaped quite right, but I got out all three paint colors, and reshaped and touched up wherever the letters didn’t look the way I wanted them to.

After all the lettering was completed, I felt like the tray was a little blah-zay, so I decided to paint a small, black stripe under the lettering. I highly recommend “frog” tape for striping because it blows blue painter’s tape out of the water for creating a nice, crisp line. I thought frog tape was a bunch of hype until I used it when I painted stripes around a gymnasium at a local fitness center. It was during that project that frog tape stole my heart. Here’s how I taped off my line.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I then took a credit card, and gently but firmly pushed the edge of the tape down where I was going to paint. (This is a step that non-OCD individuals might deem unnecessary, but I couldn’t bring myself to skip this step.)

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I didn’t press the rest of the tape to my project. I left it flapping. The more tape that’s pressed onto the surface of your project, the more chance you have of pulling paint off with the tape. This is another reason why I was sure to allow plenty of drying time in between coats. When I removed the tape, I pulled it off back against itself, not towards me. And I pulled very slooooooooooowly. Here’s a picture with the stripe added.

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next came the hard part. Waiting. Not my favorite thing. Since I used black paint in my lettering, I waited two days before trying to varnish over it. Black paint has a tendency to smear when varnished over, and to avoid that problem, I took a 3/4 inch flat wash artist brush, and ever-so-lightly with as few strokes as possible, put a thin layer of varnish over all the black lettering and my black stripe. I let it dry for a few hours.

 photo IMG_4205.jpg

Here’s the brush I used.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then I was ready to varnish the entire tray. The instructions on the can of varnish I purchased recommended three coats, so that’s exactly what I did. As a rule, I don’t like to varnish my projects, but since this is a serving tray that might be exposed to spills, I decided it would be a good idea. Also, projects that are going to be handled, should probably be varnished to protect them from dirty fingerprints. Varnish is more washable than standard latex wall paint.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

If you’re looking for a project that can be done in a day, keep looking. This project isn’t difficult, but it does need several periods of drying time. If you don’t wait, you could end up with thick, gloppy letters with heavy brush strokes as you add new wet layers on top of the old still-soft layers. Not to mention if you use tape on your impatient paint job, you may suffer unspeakable frustration when you peel off your tape and chunks of paint come off with it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

This project makes a nice gift for anyone, not just newlyweds. Adding children’s names would be a neat idea too (if you know the targeted family is done spawning). Not only was this a fun gift to make, but since this tray was a curb find, and I already had all my paint supplies, it was 100% free. Free is good–especially around the holidays!

Here are the before and after photos.

 DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

DIY Personalized Serving Tray / HomeStagingBloomintonIL

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.