Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ballard Design Hack

One of the things I have the darndest time with, is what to hang on the walls. I know, it shouldn't be that hard, but the truth is I am notoriously fickle with my art displays.  I like to change things up a lot. Add to that a husband who cringes over every hole I have to put in the wall in order to hang something up and, well, lets just say a lot of walls stay bare.  This year when I got my Ballard Designs catalog I saw this really fun artwork that I thought would look great above the bed.  Trouble was, these alphabet block letter prints were $169 each, meaning spelling out the word love would have cost $676.  hahahahaha. no.  Just. no.  I would have to own these until I die and then bequeath them to my children in order to feel justified in spending that much. Just couldn't do it. 
So I hacked it, and I think they turned out pretty darn sweet. And what did they cost in the end? 
$36 Yes my friends, I saved $640 and I can change them out with a clear conscience when I get tired of them. Winning!So here is the side by side. On the left, Ballard Designs, on the right, mine.
Close enough.

Here's how I made mine.
First, at the craft store I purchased four 18" x 18" stretched canvases for 1/2 off.  They cost $7.50 each.  You can use bigger canvases or smaller. Whatever size works for you. You might even want to measure the space you will put them in and decide on size from there.  The space between my windows is 100 inches and I left an inch between each canvas when I hung them.
Then I covered the canvases with this, wood look paper. (not an affiliate link)
It comes in a 4 foot by 12 foot roll so it is big enough to cover just about any canvas size you might want to use it for. I have quite a bit left over.  I got mine free with swagbucks, but it costs just over $8 so still very affordable.
Lay your canvas on the paper and cut it wide enough to wrap all the way to the back of the frame. I added about 1 1/2 inches to each side.  I used a straight edge to cut it straight and then, since it is 4 ft wide I was able to cut the strip in half and cover two canvases.
 I flipped the paper up, found a dark part of the wood grain that was pretty straight and marked on the back of the paper where the wood pattern was. This helped me line up my canvas with the pattern on the front of the paper.
 I just put an arrow on the edge, and another directly across from it. I was able to line up the edges so the pattern was straight on the front of the canvas.
 I tried using mod podge to attach the paper to the canvas. Big mistake. Mod podge makes wrinkles in the paper and I wanted a nice smooth front.  Use rubber cement instead.  It doesn't wrinkle and it has several application methods depending on what you want the paper to do. For example, for a nice permanent bond cover the paper with a thin coat of rubber cement. Don't use the brush it comes with, it puts it on too thickly, just drizzle a little all over the paper and then quickly use a foam brush to smooth it out all the way to the edges. Let the rubber cement dry, it only takes a few minutes
 While your paper is drying, add a thin coat to the front of your canvas and let it dry too.
When both the canvas and paper are dry, lay your canvas face down on the paper, eyeball the marks you made on the edge to get it straight, and then press down and smooth the canvas onto the paper.
Flip it over and make sure the paper is pressed down everywhere.
 Add rubber cement to the edges and back of the canvas.
 I cut a slit to the edge of the canvas, then another slit about the thickness of the side of the canvas.  The strip that you see below, will be folded up along the side of the canvas and keep any white from showing where the edges of the paper wrap around.
 You will fold up one side, in this case the side with the arrow on it, then wrap the extra strip around the next side.
 It will look like this. See how the extra strip will cover the corner and make a neat finish?
 Then just smooth the next side up over the strip.
 And this is what you have.
Next I wanted to add the red trim. I tried painting it on, it wasn't as easy as I anticipated and worst of all, the wet paint made the paper wrinkle!
I fixed that by cutting a strip of adhesive vinyl, (3 sheets on sale cost about $6), wide enough to cover an inch on the front of the canvas and wrap around all the way to the back, so the side of the canvas would also be covered.  I did this to two opposite sides and then finished the sides that were left. This gave me a uniform finish on the corners.
 To make sure the vinyl gave me an even edge I used a pencil to mark a line 1" from the edge all around the outside of the canvas. Even if you don't get the edge of the vinyl lined up perfectly, the pencil won't show, it blended right in with the other grey lines in the wood pattern.
 Line up your vinyl, smooth it down and wrap it to the back.  I used my Silhouette cutter to cut the largest letters I could out of  cardstock and attached them with rubber cement. I also made sure they were centered and measured the space at the top and bottom of the letter to make sure they would be level and even when I hung the pictures.  You're done!
 I used a level to make sure my nails were straight across and then I used a few command strip adhesive strips, without hooks, to make sure the canvases stayed straight.

We both love how this project turned out!
As with any first time project I learned first hand that there are some pros and cons and different ways to get these results.
Canvas Pros:
1. I like the fact that I don't have heavy, glass filled frames hanging above my head at night. These were light enough to hang with command hooks so if you have a nail phobic husband it's all good.
2. The cost is minimal. I wasn't able to find 18" narrow frames to approximate the look of the Ballard Designs artwork. I didn't look all that hard so you might be able to find them, and for a reasonable amount of money.  It would simplify the whole process to use frames, since you wouldn't have to deal with adhering the paper to the canvas, just cut and frame. Also, I am pretty sure that if you wanted smaller letters you can get 12" square frames pretty easily.  I wanted the larger size.
3. When using rubber cement there are different application methods that either give you a permanent bond or a removable bond.  For the letters themselves, I used the removable bond method, so in theory, I could change the letters to spell something else! I thought of spelling JOY for Christmas, but with only a few weeks of the season left I decided on something a little more all season. But imagine how cute this would be with a wreath instead of the "O" in either of those words! SO  many fun ways to use this!
1. If I could find the larger frames for a comparable price I would have used them. As I said above, they would simplify the process greatly.
I added the tartan flannel pillow cases and a few decorations, and I love how this room turned out. When Christmas is over it will still look cute:>) 
How is your Christmas going?  What is your favorite project of the season? Baking? Decorating? Sitting by the fire?  


  1. You smart creative girl!! I love those completely and totally!

  2. Kudos to your ideas and talent! How impressive and economic. You remind me that there's always a way if we think about it. I've been making candy!

  3. Kathy, I love, love, love this. You have been on my instagram feed forever but this is the first time I have found your blog. I love it and am your newest follower.

    Hugs from Oklahoma,

    Cottage Making Mommy

  4. Merry Christmas Kathy! Those look great! I just love it when we can find a less expensive way to make a cool project, rather than buying it. It often turns out better than the original, too. And if you ever need frames for another project, try http://www.pictureframes.com/. I've used them forever - they have a huge selection

  5. I think yours look much nicer. Well done!

  6. OMGOSH, Kathy! I LOVE It----you did a terrific job! I have a Ballard knock-off on my blog today, too...a bedroom. Great minds think alike. LOVE all you saved! xo Diana

  7. You are so...smart, Kathy! I thought that was real wood, for sure.
    Honestly, I like your whole bedroom better than the Ballard's display room.
    It is so bright and warm and comfy looking!
    Thanks for the tutorial too...

  8. I love this project, but I must be the only idiot, that doesn't see where you said how you did the lettering? I guess, I'll read the post again for the third time.

    1. Nope, I failed to mention that I used my Silhouette cutter to cut the letters out of card stock and attached them with rubber cement. Sorry about that, I'll add that to the instructions now!

  9. I love it, ideas from Pottery Barn are the best, cause who can afford their prices? The LOVE sign looks so good in your bedroom! I also love the plaid pillows too.. I didn't' see the link for the wood looking paper, I think I might want to buy some!

  10. I love your LOVE! You amaze me....you see a photo of something you would like to have and you figure out how to make it. I would have just let out a huge *sigh* and only dreamed about the letters.

  11. Kathy!! I love this. At first I thought it was real wood. They turned out wonderful.

  12. I love it. You did an awesome job and I like it better than the Ballard Designs one

  13. I live your overall room much, much better than Ballards -- the colors, the furniture, the sign, that gorgeous dresser. Wonderful job!

  14. Excellent!! you did a fabulous job....an the price compared to Ballards is amazing....Havw a wonderful Christmas with your family....Oh, what do I like to do this time of year...shop!!

  15. I enjoyed reading about this project and think the finished product is wonderful! I might have to give this a try!

  16. I am impressed! This was a great hack...that wood totally had me fooled...apparently, it still does! Great look. Well done!

  17. I LOVE what you've done to make your room special! Your tutorial is helpful - even for other projects done on canvas pieces. You always inspire me. I love the touch of tartan. It all is wonderful and such fun. My Christmas season has been busy and my decorating very simple. It's done and a couple of 'big' commitment are behind me so I can slow my pace a bit and enjoy family and the season.

  18. This is so super cute! I love that you used paper for the wood look instead of trying to plank real wood -sooo smart! Also love that it's light. I always worry when people hang heavy things over the the headboard :) Great project!

  19. They look fabulous...you are so talented, Kathy....I love these...

  20. You are so smart and so creative AND thrifty! I love these and yours look just as good as BD!!! Your bedroom is a sweet as can be, too.

    Happy New Year!!


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