Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Ballard-Inspired Wood Plaques

I {heart} Ballard Designs catalog... and if I could actually afford their things, I'd probably decorate every single room with their styles.

Alas, I cannot... well, and still manage to feed my kids.

So, when I find something I REALLY like, I either wait for it to hit the outlet page, buy only the things under $30 (like my rubber doormat or small door rugs), or duplicate it myself.  

(Or just pout a little till the pain subsides.)

So, when I saw this....

I loved the idea of it.  Granted, they were the right size (about 8" square) and looked really cute... but I couldn't get over how much it looked like framed scrapbook paper.  I mean no disrespect toward the artist... they are beautiful.  But some scrapbook paper can look pretty doggone cool, too.

We recently (finally!) painted our kitchen walls.  Yes, I took a huge leap of faith and painted them "Water Chestnut".  Um, that means they went from white to cream.  :)  Here you can see that wildly daring color above the window.
Like my new Cricut words over the window?  We are big-time tea lovers here!  By the way, that red valance will be going soon.  Looking for more subtle colors.

Anyway, the walls were finally done, and we liked the simplicity of the Water Chesnut, but I needed to splash some color in the room.  Muted color, but color indeed.

So, I decided to make my own plaques... with my own choice of colors (and refused to pay $169 for the Ballard ones).

I bought a 6' length of 1"x8" pine board at Home Depot, and my dad cut it into squares (I think they were about 7.75" square when finished).  That gave me 9 squares.  

 Then I painted the squares' edges with some paint I had on hand.  I think it was the color of our family room.  :)  I painted a little on the face of each too, since I didn't expect the paper to be the exact size of each square.

Here, my daughter is beginning to Mod Podge the squares.  We coated each square with a thin, but complete coat of Mod Podge (not too thick).

Then we applied the cut paper we chose.  I was aiming for some simple patterns, but in the greens, rusts, and neutrals that we have throughout our main floor.

After they were all covered and dried (overnight), we applied one more coat of Mod Podge to the top.  I'm not great with this.  Somehow a few still ended up puckering and bubbling.  Ugh.  No worries... I worked with it.

Then I pulled out my "Distress Ink" ink pad and rubbed it along the edges and corners.  Then I lightly smoothed it over the surface of each square.  Guess what that did?  It highlighted those weird bubbles and puckers.  The cool thing is that instead of bringing attention to the puckered paper and showing "Here... look, she screwed up and made bubbles", the brown ink hid those bubbles under the distressing looks.

Here's a typical side-view.

Here are all of the plaques. (See in a few the brown lines?  Those are the ink-covered bubbles.)

I needed a way to hang them up... and didn't have any picture hardware on hand.  So, I turned to my daughter's huge jar of pop-tops.  

I nailed each one on by allowing about 1/16" on the side and top and nailing at the solid piece.

Here they are hanging on my kitchen wall.... now for a neat way to decorate that new table over the dog crate....

Up close....

And a side view.  Love the distressed look.

Super easy, and a great way to incorporate your favorite colors into a wall display.  I think I paid less than $16 for all of this (one-tenth of the Ballard price).  $12 for the wood (I got select pine, to make sure it was very straight.)  I had Mod Podge on hand, and the scrapbook paper was less than 50 cents apiece.


  1. I love these! You did a beautiful job. I wanted to do something much like these for our home. I pinned several ideas and just have to make time.

  2. That is just amazing! I know the prints are the POINT of this post, but I also love the idea of using the pop can pulls for hanging! Brilliant!

    I really want to try mod podge, but I'm scared!

  3. I have seen these in the Ballard catalog and even have the wood cut. Thank you for re-inspiring me to get this project done. Your art looks great!

  4. great project...just found your site - very impressed! - looking forward to seeing what's next!
    Cheryl from Ontario

  5. I am going to try this using an old map as the paper. I think it will be neat to recreate the map on the 9 squares. I'll let you know how it turns out!

  6. Just came over from Knock Off Decor and love this idea! I have some canvas prints similar to these but will have to try the wood block version.

  7. I'm here from Knock Off Decor too, and I'm totally doing this. It would be perfect in my Dining room over a small dresser. Thank You!

  8. Looks wonderful!

  9. What a fabulous DIY! Love it!

  10. Better than the original!!

  11. Honestly I didn't care for the Ballard version at all - I LOVE yours!! Good job :)

  12. Where do you get the destressed ink?

    1. Distressed Ink is just an ink pad you can find near the scrapbooking section of most craft stores. It comes in a few shades, I believe.

    2. This shows the Vintage Photo, which I believe is the color I use.

  13. Yours look much better than the inspiration. LOL

    Basically the same thing the manufacturer does. I use to work for a company that supplied wall decor to big decor stores. For a piece like this they usually get all 9 pieces on one sheet (for like 6 bucks by the way), chop them into individual squares and mount them on foam board then apply a texture medium to the top before it is tossed into a frame. I like your unframed version better! :)

  14. I feel your pain with the Ballard catalog. I love what you did. I will definitely try this. Following you.

  15. Love these! I just ordered the Ballard product but was starting to second guess my decision, thinking they looked chintzy for the high price when I found your site!!! This is perfect and I can't wait to try it!!! Thank you thank you thank you! =)


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