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Store Found Art—A foray into the world of DIY home decor

Updated on March 13, 2013
Plates as decorative as they are functional.
Plates as decorative as they are functional. | Source

In the days before specialty services and mass-produced home décor, “DIY” was far more common. These days, DIY projects are more a point of pride than they are a simple part of life. And I understand this perfectly—three years ago, if I so much as popped a button off a favorite blouse, I’d take it to a tailor or throw it out. Now, having learned my way around the needle (though not the sewing machine), I can do it myself. And when it comes to home décor, I’ve found that the DIY mentality does wonders. Most of us can’t afford expensive home decorators, and DIY home décor is one way to be creative while keeping costs down.

One way to do this is to look for inexpensive, used household items like table linen online. They are often in better condition than the items you’ll find at thrift stores, and you are far more likely to find matching items from larger retail stores. But wherever you decide to buy the discount table linen and glass dinnerware you’ll need to decorate your home in true DIY fashion.

The Plate Wall Hanging

A lot of my older relatives hang antique plates on their walls—plates that feature regional art, antique plates, artistic plates, and decorative charger plates. While these items may seem somewhat pedestrian, ceramics and glassware represent a unique form of art. They developed only after years of trial-and-error, and you’ll find that each culture decorates their dinnerware differently. As a result, you’ll find that ceramic and glass dinnerware can stand alone as a decorative item.

As the photo above illustrates, though, some of the most stunning plate displays contain multitudes—or at least ten. I recommend working within the same color family and using a few plates that are patterned or printed to add visual interest.

You can generally find wall mounts for glass charger plates in craft stores, framing shops, or home improvement stores, or make your own. If your plates are heavy, you will most likely need to pound a nail into your walls. If not, you can try adhesive hooks, which won’t leave a mark on your wall. Weigh your dinner plates individually to determine the best option. Be sure to read the directions carefully to make sure you leave these hooks on for the right amount of time before adding plates. You’ll also need colored paper, graphing paper, scissors, and tape for this project.

Once you have your supplies and have figured out how many decorative charger plates you want to use, take out the measuring tape. Measure the wall and measure each individual plate. Determine the scale on the graphing paper, then cut a number of round discs (or whatever shape applies) out of colored paper to represent the glass dinnerware. Sketch any furniture and existing wall hangings on the paper. Start arranging the symbolic glass chargers as you see fit. When you are satisfied with the pattern, tape each “glass charger plate” into place. Lay the real plates out on the floor according to the paper arrangement to ensure the textures and patterns achieved the desired look.

Examine how the charger plate frames hang from the nails or adhesive hooks before you start on your wall. In some cases, you’ll need to move the hangers up or down a few inches to ensure the plates lay where you want them to. Check the scale drawing for placement and begin placing the nails or hooks, working from the top down.

If necessary, allow the adhesive to set. Hang up the plates and admire your handiwork. Adjust as needed.

The Slipcover Project

Sofas and loveseats can be quite expensive, and far more difficult to update than tables. Cloth upholstery can be changed, of course, but this is a pricey service. Instead of paying the professionals to reupholster your couches or padded dining chairs, you can sew your own slipcovers from discounted table linen. Because it needs to stand up to multiple uses, table linen is often quite durable. This makes it a better option than by-the-yard fabric, which is often thin and flimsy, or simply inappropriate for home décor.

When selecting inexpensive tablecloths for this craft project, my recommendation is to go bright if possible. More and more furniture companies are churning out brightly colored furniture, some featuring floral, abstract, or geometric patterns. While neutral colors are always “in,” this is a fun project deserving of fun colors. You can always find “greige” furniture; if you’re going DIY, you might as well make it distinctive.

Depending on the furniture for which you wish to make a slipcover (if it’s a dining chair, you might just want to go with a cheap, pre-sewn chair cover), you’ll need to find a pattern. Craft stores might be a good bet, or look to one of the many online sewing communities for suggestions. Be sure to check the dimensions of your furniture. Buy any additional supplies you might need, like elastic, colorful thread, or fabric scissors.

Patterns will differ, but I’ve found several useful directions on remodeling blogs. Only attempt this project if you can understand basic sewing terminology, can sew a straight seam, work work darts into the pattern. You may also need to add details, so be aware of which attachments your sewing machine has and how to use them. If this is the case, then just select your tablecloths and sew them into attractive furniture slipcovers.

Cloth Panel Organizer

As long as you’re looking at tablecloths, you might want to look into a much simpler sewing project—the cloth panel organizer. You’ve likely seen less-than-attractive versions of these before, namely in shoe organizers or art supply organizers. However, I’m a big fan of making functional objects as attractive and distinctive as possible. With this in mind, I encourage you to do your own take on this project.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Josef Albers, so I like to play with color and composition . . . but for the sake of this project, I like to keep it down to a basic grid. I’ve found that table linen and specialty napkins are perfect for this purpose. I often order napkins in different sizes to emulate Albers’s squares, and look for table linen that forms a color triad—gray, white and black, or green, teal, and blue.

Depending on how thick and durable the linen is, I sometimes add a layer of felt or other backing agents to ensure it doesn’t tear. Most of the time, I sew a smaller napkin onto a larger one for added visual interest—sometimes centered, sometimes slightly off to one side. If you like, you can add backing to the napkins as well. I’ll then arrange the napkins in a grid and pin them in place, making sure to measure frequently to make sure I have the spacing right.

Since I like to hang these organizers, I usually insert a bamboo or wooden (depending on the final weight) rod at the top and bottom of a rectangular table linen to maintain the structure, sort of like what you would see in a kakemono hanging scroll. I attach cords to the top rod and hang it.

Another option is to leave a channel at the top to insert a shower curtain rod or something of that nature. This is a good option if you are hanging the cloth pocket organizer in a doorway. Use it to store keys, video games, batteries, spices, and other necessities.


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