Alternative Art

Selecting the final art pieces and accessories is one of the most important parts of the decorating process. These choices are what personalize one's home and add beauty, warmth, and excitement. Unfortunately, the selection of most art and accessories (except for any inspiration pieces one may have found early in the design process) usually comes at the end of a project, where budgetary restrictions are really becoming an issue. Thus, this is the time to start thinking outside of the box...in this case a shadow box. A client received these four corner blocks as a lagniappe (a louisiana term that means a little something extra) when she purchased some reclaimed cypress boards for a framing project. We had no immediate use for them, but they had so much interest (and were free), that I convinced her to hold on to them for future use. Then, one day when I was looking at the naked, narrow wall in the foyer between two doors--I had a vision...the corner blocks mounted in linen backed shadow boxes and mounted in a column. This is a technique that could be used for any architectural fragment---just adjust the size of the shadow box. Keep in mind, however, that for these to be a budget friendly project, you need to select a pre-made shadow box--custom ones are available in any size, but are very expensive.

The blocks before:
Even though they were cut from old beams, the center detailing was new, raw, and did not match the exterior wood. There were also pen lines left from the sawing. So, first step, sanding with a coarse steel wool. Steel wool works better on this kind of project than sand paper, because it is malleable and can adapt to small, curved grooves. It is also less harsh on soft woods.
Next step, glazing in order to match the raw center to the exterior patina and to bring out details. I used acrylic craft paint in burnt umber diluted with water to "stain" the center, and then highlighted the grooves with Modern Masters English Brown. I like to use a very dark brown instead of black, because it brings out the same defintion without the harshness. When used on wood projects, it has a more natural feel:

This photo shows the difference glazing made. Notice how much older and more interesting the blocks in the background appear: To seal, polish, finish, and further antique the blocks, after they dried from the glazing, I applied several coats of brown wax with ultra fine steel wool, buffing between coats with more steel wool. And yes, all that sanding matters. Skipping the sanding step between coats of paint, wax, and polyurethane is one reason that amatuer projects look so homemade.

And finally, mounted in a premade shadow box. To mount, I made a small hole in the center back of the shadow box, and screwed a wood screw through that hole into a predrilled hole in the center back of the wood block:

And a couple of shots of the shadow boxes in place:


Cote de Texas said...

Wow! these look ab fab! really really great. good job.

thank you too for your comment today - much appreciated, to say the least!

Cote de Texas said...

Bingo! Madeline Stuart made the first house beautiful. both designers have the same pictures on their web site - Stuart should sue her. buckingham took what was a good design and messed it up to fit in a new house. it doesn't work. notice the difference in the mantle. I think I'm not going to do another one - though I should - it would be too ugly and mean. leave well enough alone. no?

Maria Killam said...

So creative!! Thanks for sharing the process with us! I just can't get over what great idea that was?

Great post!

GrannySmithGreen said...

What a great idea. So glad you commented on my blog so that I could visit yours! Great bedside table makeover too!

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT! Very creative.