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DIY Shabby Chic Decorative Wall Hanging

Updated on May 9, 2017

Shabby Chic Wall Shelf

This 'country cottage shabby chic' style room was the perfect place to display this great shelf.
This 'country cottage shabby chic' style room was the perfect place to display this great shelf. | Source

Do it yourself home decorating

If you love the look of old, imperfect décor in styles such as shabby chic, country cottage, beach cottage, country rustic, country western, old world or French provincial, you can pay a fortune for furniture that has been given an "aged" look.

Why not just do it yourself? You can recycle a lot of your old furniture and home décor items, or raid garage sales and thrift shops, and make some really unique pieces to feature in your home.

The inspiration for this piece-- a discarded bunk bed ladder. With a little dressing up (or dressing down, depending on how you look at it), this ladder made a spectacular little wall curio shelf.

Find a Ladder

This bunk bed ladder was perfect, but you can use any kind of ladder you find; this one was small so we hung it horizontally, but you can make a vertical shelf too.
This bunk bed ladder was perfect, but you can use any kind of ladder you find; this one was small so we hung it horizontally, but you can make a vertical shelf too. | Source

Sand before painting

prep your ladder
prep your ladder

Sand the ladder

Before even starting, clean up the ladder-- chances are it hasn't been cleaned lately (or much) in it's life. Even if you're starting with a brand new ladder, clean it to get off any factory dust and debris.

Sand the ladder to prep it for painting. This is particularly important if the ladder is 'shiny' because that means it's been finished with some kind of glossy coating or wax. You need to get that shine off so it accepts paint more readily and you won't have problems with peeling.

Painting prep

Get that surface dull
Get that surface dull | Source

Shabby chic paint style

Normally, it's wise to prime before painting-- but not in this case. We don't want a perfect coat. We want it good and rustic.


You will need three brushes for this technique. The smallest should be used for the blue patches. Another brush should be used for the white patches. Soak these for an hour or so, then blot them dry. They will absorb less paint that way and you'll get a smoother coat from the start.

The third brush should be kept dry, you'll be using it for a dry brush blending technique.

Use either acrylic or latex paint for this job-- house paint, or craft paint. Whatever you have on hand. It's a small ladder so I'm using acrylic craft paint.

You'll need two 'puddles' of white paint to work with. Tint one of them by dribbling a couple of drops of blue. Mix well-- you want the color to be a pale baby blue (note, you can use green or pink if you prefer).

If the paint starts getting too dark, just add more white until you strike the perfect balance.

Paint it half and half, randomly

Shabby Chic Painting

  • Start with one color paint and brush it onto about half the surface at random. Leave big gaps-- again, randomly. If this is a large project, work on a section at a time. You will need to start the dry-brush technique on the paint while it's still wet.
  • Next, fill in the empty areas with the other paint color using a second brush. It's okay if they overlap some. Just don't cross the brushes, or you'll make them one, solid, whitish-blue color. You want to keep them distinct at this point.
  • Now, take your dry brush. Sweep it very lightly and quickly back and forth over the two colors. This will get them to begin blending in the areas where they meet.
  • This technique should be done with a very light touch; you can continue to do it as long as you need, but it's better to go lightly and slowly than to over-blend it.
  • Don't blend so much that it becomes one color-- you'll want the two distinct colors. If the dry brush picks up a lot of paint and is blending too much, wipe it good on a rag then continue.

By the time it's finished you'll have this great pastel-white two-tone patch effect.




Dry brush blending

Source

Dry brush effect

This is what you're going for
This is what you're going for | Source

The finished shabby chic paint job

Source

Do you like objects that look worn or aged?

Are any of the rustic/shabby styles for you?

See results

Aging with sandpaper

You could leave it as is, and it will look great just like that. Or, you can start aging it.

It's easy to make fresh paint look weathered-- just sand it. Imagine what parts of the ladder would have gotten worn down the most-- the part where people stepped on it, the place where people would run their hands up and down as they climbed. Sand more heavily in these areas.

Leave some areas unsanded for contrast.

Home made sealer/glaze

Make a glaze out of these products from your craft cabinet.
Make a glaze out of these products from your craft cabinet. | Source

Discolor and Seal it with Acrylic and PVA glue

Wipe the ladder clean of all sand and debris.

You can use the more traditional tinted glaze, but clear-drying PVA craft glue and acrylic paint make a great looking translucent glaze. I used a metallic copper paint for more of a patina look.

The color doesn't change in the glue; the glue won't make it lighter. But it does get more translucent, rather than looking so opaque. Mix a few drops at a time into the glue until you get the desired darkness.

Remember- it's better to try it a little at a time. You can always darken it later and add more, but if you make the discoloration too dark from the start it will be hard to remove without resanding, or perhaps repainting.


Acrylic glue staining

Note how subtle the difference is for a very natural aging look.
Note how subtle the difference is for a very natural aging look. | Source

Patina finishing coat

I'm very happy with the natural-looking results. To top it off, the glue dries clear and acts as a sealer for the paint job.
I'm very happy with the natural-looking results. To top it off, the glue dries clear and acts as a sealer for the paint job. | Source

Hanging and Decorating

As a finishing touch, I drove a few nails into the side of the ladder that would be facing outward so we could hang decorations on them for more variation.

You can use whatever you like to hang your ladder-- I used small L-brackets screwed into the wall. You can use a chain with a hook, or long nails or screws if your wall is sturdy enough.

What do you put on your shelf? Well that depends on your decorating tastes. This was decorated as a family picture shelf. Someone made these awesome letter tags out of scrapbooking materials from me to hang on there.

Yay for scrapbooking supplies

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A finished DIY shelf!

I added some candles, dollar store picture frames and other things from around the room, and viola! It is finished, and looking great.


The best thing about this technique is you can use it for anything-- a dresser, a nightstand, a chair, a door-- go crazy making anything in your house looking time worn and well loved, and you'll have a very cozy home no matter what your budget.

Ladder shelf

Try it! Let me know how it turns out!
Try it! Let me know how it turns out! | Source

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