Wednesday, January 1, 2014

DIY Birch Wall Art (for under $10!)

I completed this project a couple months ago and am finally getting around to blogging it.  We took a big step and put both kids in the same bedroom, making the other room a dedicated playroom.  I am having trouble picking a decorating theme but whatever it ends up being, I really want the walls covered in white birch trees.  There are wallpapers you can buy that give the same effect, but they are really expensive, and I don't want to commit to something permanent we might be tired of in a few years.  

After thinking long and hard about how I wanted to go about this project, I chose the cheapest possible materials first.  I figured if this didn't look right, at least I wasn't out much money.  Luckily, it worked out better than I could have imagined and I'm confident that anyone can do it.


The only things you need are a roll of white Contact paper (about $6) and a Sharpie "Magnum" marker (about $4).  I found both at Target.  


Measure from floor to ceiling (or top of baseboards to ceiling) and roll out that length of Contact paper.

Then grab the giant Sharpie and make your vertical lines however wide you want your trees.  I made it so I'd get six trees on one piece of paper.  I purposely did not use a straightedge because I wanted the lines to be imperfect like a real tree.  Next, add the lines/smudges/squiggles that give the appearance of birch bark.  This is the part when I felt like the project wasn't going to turn out very well, because it didn't look anything like trees.  If you try this, just be brave and keep going no matter how bad you think it looks at first.

Cut down the middle of each vertical line so that each "tree" has a black border.

Peel off the backing and stick it to the wall.  Magically, it really does look like a tree.   

Go ahead and stick on the rest of the trees. If they are not perfectly spaced or even perfectly vertical, go with it!  Remember, it's supposed to look like a real grove of birch trees.

You can leave the tree trunks bare like this, and they'll look great.  Or you can add some small branches.

For the branches, cut a short strip of Contact paper (about 10 inches long?)

Draw vertical lines with the Sharpie, just as before, but make them slightly angled.

Scribble/dot/smudge all over the paper, no matter how sloppy you think it looks.   

Cut apart the branches, down the middle of each vertical line.

For a variety of branch sizes, make another strip of paper (about 4 inches?) and do the same.

Now you should have two sizes of branches ready to stick to the trees.

Before you stick the branches on, make an angled cut to the part that will be attached to the tree.

Attach the branches at different heights, with the widest end on the tree.  Try not to pay attention to symmetry or repetition.  This is the hardest part for someone who really, really likes things to "even up."

I chose to keep all my branches no more than three feet from the ceiling. 

The finished effect should be something like this.  The trees are surprisingly realistic because of their imperfections, meaning people who "can't" draw or cut straight have a really good shot at pulling this off.  

**Bonus Project: a 3-D tree with holes**

I wanted a 3-D element to the forest in the kids' room, and a place where they could stash small toys so I made one corner tree out of sturdy cardboard tubes The Mister brought home from his office. 

If you wish, chisel some holes in the bottom tube.  I stabbed with an old scissors when the kids weren't looking--I didn't want them getting ideas.  

I had tubes of different sizes, so I used the widest one on the bottom and some smaller ones on top.  You need enough tubes that will reach the ceiling when put end to end.  Duct tape tubes together well enough that they don't bend.  This is not a tree for climbing, so it doesn't need to be able to support weight of a child hanging off it.  

If you want, add some branches.  I used crumpled cardboard and lots of duct tape.  

Start wrapping the tube from the bottom with contact paper.  This doesn't have to be perfect.  I kept trying to make it smooth and finally gave up, but it actually looks more realistic when it's wrinkled.  

Cut out holes as you go to match up with the holes in the cardboard.

Where I had joined tubes of different widths, I made a huge mess with the Contact paper.  This turned out to be okay in the end, so just keep going and don't worry as long as everything is sticking well.

Getting paper around the little branches is tricky.  

It helps to cut a "U" shape first, and then wrap around the branch.

I started out using paper that already had the black lines on it, but later decided to wait until the tree was wrapped to mark it up because the ink took a few minutes to dry and my hands were getting black ink on them.  

Stand the tree up where you want it.  Ours is free-standing at the moment, but we are going to add some kind of hooks or screws in back to fasten it to the wall.

This is what it looks like when it's done.

It blends in well with the flat trees, but has the added fun factor of being able to shove little toys into the hole and watch them fall to the bottom.  

I didn't realize until I took the below picture with Punky's wardrobe standing open, that this could be the start of a Winter in Narnia-themed room.  That wasn't my intention, but I'm thinking the trees could be the backdrop for a lot of fantasy scenes.  

I'm not sure what's next for the kids' bedroom, but I'm happy with how it's looking so far.  

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