DIY: Easy Art Panels

25 Feb

“‘I’m awfully sorry,’ said Bilbo, ‘but I have come without my hat, and I have left my pocket-handkerchief behind, and I haven’t got any money. I didn’t get your note until after 10:45 to be precise.’

‘Don’t be precise,’ Dwalin said, ‘and don’t worry! You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchief, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end. ‘”

The Hobbit, chapter 2

I adore this exchange at the beginning of Bilbo’s quest in The Hobbit. I feel we all have excuses at the beginning of a journey for why we shouldn’t be going on one in the first place and it seems helpful to remember, “don’t be precise.” I decided to take this advice last week and use the things I had to solve some problems around the house. They may not be my first preferences for solutions, but I’m very proud of them.

I love to decorate but in my new home I’m challenged by a few things: 1. Budget. Clearly enough, our money is tight. 2. Our very small and awkwardly shaped spaces. Our house is an old 1915 cottage which, while not lacking in character, is absent a lot of functionality. For example, our dining room is our biggest space because at one time, it was the kitchen and eating area. 3. The rental company that bought this home did an extremely poor job of updating it. The drywall is unevenly hung, floors were not refinished, a lot of things have just been covered up so we have to be careful of not causing any further structural damage.

This brings me to item number one on my list of things to beautify in our home.

Unsightly wall plate!

"Cover me, cover me!"

This unsightly wall plate has plagued me for months and I thought it high time that I came up with a solution. I needed something wouldn’t lay flat against the wall because, as you can see, it’s raised. I thought a piece of canvas artwork would work nicely but since it’s hard to find art in a style I prefer just lying around (or one that’s in my price range), I had to come up with a way to make my own art. I put my thinking cap on and came up with a cheap answer: fabric-covered canvas.

The results worked PERFECTLY for my space and didn’t break the bank, coming in at around $11 each.

See what I mean?

I love the way they balance my (embarrassing) entertainment center. Here are some tips if you’d like to do something similar:


Decide what effect you’d like to see. Look at your space and imagine what could bring it into balance. You don’t want to overcrowd a small space with giant panels. Perhaps you have things you’d like to cover up too. I can’t give you too much advice about this but play with it, make sketches, take pictures. Whatever you like to do.

Think of how many panels you’d need: To do this, remember that the panels will need to be in healthy proportion to your area. You don’t have to be extremely accurate but when you go shopping, try to imagine as sharply as you can how that size would look repeated on your wall. Eyeball it or come up with measurements, whatever’s your preference.

Come up with a covering: I chose fabric because it’s easy to remove and change out. I also love adding textiles to art. I think it’s a softer experience. In my case, I chose a fabric that not only went with the wall color but was also a proportional size to the canvas and the wall. When I’m sitting on my couch, facing the pattern, it’s large and vibrant enough that my eyes are drawn to it and I can see all the details. This part is important. If you’re sitting closer to the panels, you may need to reconsider and maybe go for a smaller pattern. Also if the wall area is smaller or you have many panels, your idea of the ideal size of the print may be different too. I used two 18×24 canvasses that I got from Michael’s for $12. I used less than a yard of fabric that I ordered from etsy, costing $8.
Also, there’s more you can do here than just using fabric. You could frame gift wrap or patterned paper that you fancy or maybe book jackets for a library. The point of this is to use whatever is available to you.

Here is what to do if you’re using fabric:

Lay the canvas on top of your fabric to decide where to cut: Leave one or two inches of fabric around the edges, depending on how deep it is.

Iron it out before covering the canvas: This part is actually a little more annoying than it sounds. Your ironing board is probably not perfectly flat like the canvas. Therefore, it hides some bumps that will only appear when you lay it out. Just keep at it.

Begin stapling it with a staple gun on one side: I’m sure there are other ways to secure the fabric if you don’t have access to a staple gun. If you have clamps, you could try gluing it. Afraid I’m not much help beyond that suggestion, though.

Continue around to the other sides, stretching it tight as you go along: When you come to a corner, make a little pocket fold almost like you would when wrapping a gift. It should look something like this.


When you’re finished, nail your clip or hanger to it: You can find hanging kits at Wal-mart or Lowe’s. They’re cheap and will definitely come in handy in the future if you don’t already have one. Also, if you’re like me and you’re a little slow on how to use tools: if you’re using the little tiny nails to put a clip in place, use pliers to hold them up instead of your fingers. Yes, this does require a hammer.


Use a level to hang them: I have a spiffy laser level that I used for this job. Just make sure you line up the tops and the bottoms with each other if you want them in a straight line.


Think my dad would be proud.

See? Nothing to it!

Now I need your help. I bought two vases from TJ Maxx to help bring that sense of balance to the floor beside my TV stand. Problem is, I’m not sure that I like them and I think the problem might be that they’re too bottom-heavy and it gives that area a sinking feeling. What do you think?

"Do these vases make me look fat?"

Oh, and I should add that the contents of the vases should be ignored. Our Michael’s has the worst selection of fake foliage I’ve ever seen. That problem is to be addressed later but try to imagine that I would put much taller stalks of something in them.


One Response to “DIY: Easy Art Panels”


  1. Bookcase Blues « The Intrepid Nerd - March 18, 2011

    […] I haven’t been able to find a wrapping paper that I like so I may use the extra fabric from my DIY art panels. […]

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