DIY

DIY: Jewelry Tree

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

I love branches, especially as accents and I once saw a designer spray paint gigantic branches in a hot coral color, and place them in an urn on top of a piano in a very grand living room, it was stunning.  While this look is a bit over the top for some, I have always wanted to spray paint branches to make them sculptural.  So I was pruning my wild oak tree last weekend.  It should be no surprise that I decided to use one of the Charlie Brown branches to make a jewelry holder.

Here’s a peek:

 

 

I was inspired by these versions available online by Urban Outfitters.

I really am a Pollyanna.  I like to hang sparkly things in front of windows and watch the light reflect throughout the room.  So I decided to make my own version of a jewelry tree with a few supplies I had in my garage.

Step One:  Find the right branch.  Nothing too flimsy, nothing too heavy.  Find a branch that has both interest and balance.  You have to be Goldilocks and find one that’s just right.  Pluck off all the leaves and allow it to dry out for a few days.

Here’s my wild oak branch Before:

Step Two:  Build your base.  I asked my mister to create a base by cutting some scrap alder wood.

Step Three:  Screw the wood together on the bottom, then drill a hole into the top of the base with a drill bit.   Use spackle or wood filler to fill in any seams or gaps in your wood.

Step Four:  Fill your hole with wood glue, stick your branch in the hole, and let it dry for 24 hours.  Give your base a light sanding.  If want a rustic quality, then consider painting only the base.  But if you want color, then give your branches a coat of primer.

Primer helps to seal the wood.  Allow it to dry.  Use whatever spray paint you wish to give your jewelry tree the color you desire.  One tip:  Get up really close to the branches when you spray so that it almost drips.  Don’t spray from far away – it’s pointless and you’ll waste a lot of paint.

To give my base more staying power, I anchored it to an old square mirror with some silicone rubber sealant.  Lighter earrings hang on the more delicate branches, while the bigger branches support your heavier necklaces or bracelets.  It’s a bit of a balancing game, but it’s fun nonetheless.

 

I love its sculptural qualities, its wintery whiteness, and its organic genesis.  And I also love the fact that it cost me nothing.  Now I hope you’ll be looking at tree branches in your yard or neighborhood with new interest.

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The Staircase Reveal: Part Two

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I am overwhelmed at the positive response to yesterday’s post about the staircase remodel.  Thank you so much for your kind words. 

As you can recall from the ‘After’ picture, I not only redid the railing, but for additional drama, I added a wallpaper treatment to the very blank and boring wall. 

staircase after

Originally, I was going to play it traditional, and add plain white panels to the wall, with molding on top.  But I decided to kick it up a style notch, and add wallpaper panels instead.  It was more dramatic, and less expensive. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Staircase Reveal: Part One

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Whew!  After 30+ hours of intense labor, it is done.  Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fans, we are proud to announce the rebirth of our foyer.

Where to begin?  First, I must explain the problem.  The staircase was natural blonde oak.  Dated and dreadful.  NOT the first impression I ever wanted to give my guests.  What was a girl to do?  Replacing it with European style iron railing was the cost of an automobile.  Fixing it seemed too daunting.  Then I saw Rhoda at Southern Hospitality blog stained her entire oak staircase a lovely dark shade, from top to bottom, and it planted a big seed in my inquisitive brain.  If Rhoda could do it, surely I could too.

That same week I was watching one of my favorite classics ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor.  If you can take your eyes off either of them, which is almost impossible since they’re both practically perfect physical specimens, you notice that they frequently descend the incredibly beautiful staircase of Big Daddy’s plantation home.  When I saw it’s espresso dark railing, white balusters and base, it was true love.  I had to have it.  So yet another seed was planted.  After Rhoda, Paul and Liz, I was completely inspired.  Off to the home improvement store I went, daring myself to do the impossible: transform the oak monstrosity into something sophisticated and stylish.

That said, let’s begin.  Here is the before and after:

 

Update: the wallpaper was later changed to full white picture frame wainscotting after we added wood steps a year later - full reveal here

 

How We Went From Ordinary Oak to an Espresso Finish:

Step One:  After all the prep work, taping off the balusters and laying down carpet protection, I stripped the existing varnish off the staircase with Klean-Strip.  It was nasty, smelly full-of-chemicals stuff.  I had to ask Mr. CG to keep the kids away for an entire day.  I wore a mask, and the fumes gave me a bad headache.  And I still had to sand afterwards.  (See this follow up post on why I now use Citrustrip instead).

Step Two:  Sand, sand, sand, then sand again.  I spent about 4 hours just sanding until my fingers cramped and refused another stroke.

Step Three:  I cleaned off the sanding residue with wet wipes, then stained the upper hand rail with Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut.  This is a wonderful product which I had used before to redo the highboy dresser in the entry.  It’s not Minwax’s fault that I wasn’t satisfied.  It’s just the nature of oak.  It’s such a grainy wood.  When the stain was applied to the oak, it gave me too much of a stripe-like effect.  Darker was much better, but the product only took me half way to the look I desired.

Step Four:  I did something unconventional – I glazed the wood with two coats of semi-opaque Burnt Umber acrylic craft paint.  Yes, you heard me right.  Craft paint.  I know purist wood refinishers are absolutely appalled, but I’m telling you, the semi-opaque craft paint filled in the gaps and gave me just the espresso finish I wanted.  See the difference after one coat?

Yessir.  These were the three products that gave me the look I desired.  Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut, Burnt Umber semi opaque craft paint, and Minwax Wipe On Poly.

They gave me this finish:

Hello gorgeous !

Using the glazing effect with the semi-opaque watered down craft paint (about 1 drop of water to 1 tsp of paint) helped to preserve the visible grain of the wood.

Step Five:  With the help of a dear friend, and professional painter, we primed the bottom of the stairs with oil based primer, then finished it with two coats of ‘Swiss Coffee’ oil based white paint for durability.  Thanks Mike !

Here’s another peek at the staircase up close before and after it was stained and glazed:

 

Step Six:  To the upper railing only, I applied one coat of Minwax Wipe On Polyurethane.  This took maybe 20 minutes total.  Pour a few drops on a sponge, wipe on, and you’re done.  It was dry overnight, apply two coats!

Before:

After:

 

 I hope you’re all encouraged to take action, and transform your oak into something classic and wonderful.  Yes you can!

For the full story on how we ripped out the carpet and installed hardwood, look here.

Update March 2012: The staircase railing has held up all these years even with two kids and their friends up and down those stairs, it works!

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