DIY: Large Dining Room Artwork

The artwork in our house is somewhat eclectic and ranges from professional to DIY. J and I are in the final stages of completing a mini house renovation (that is, a small renovation of our house not a renovation of a small house, although our house isn’t huge or anything). I’ll be sharing some projects from that work in the weeks to come, but right now we’re focused on the finishing touches like trim, artwork, and generally filling blank wall space. One of my favorite ways to fill a large wall with a statement piece is to build a wooden frame and stretch a fabric of our choice across it. The frames are easy to make, inexpensive, and the fabric can be changed out as tastes and decor changes. The only hitch in this smoothly functioning plan is finding the right fabric in the right dimensions.

In my last house, I used a cotton shower curtain to cover a particularly large frame (the house had an open floor plan, so the amount of blank wall space was massive). The 62″x67″ frame made its way to the new house and found a perfect spot in the dining room. While the size is perfect for the room, the pattern on the fabric wasn’t. I’ve hunted for months for the right fabric that was also large enough to fit the frame. After coming up empty on many shopping trips and late night online searches, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create the piece myself. I wanted something that brought color to the room, tied with the colors we had already chosen for the floor, rug, and walls, but was soft and abstract. Thus, I set out to create an affordable focal piece. Luckily, I was able to recycle the original frame, which saved me some time and money. I was able to purchase a white king sized sheet at Arc Thrift for $1.50. After washing it, I measured and cut it to fit the frame. Once measured and cut, I stretched it across the frame and stapled the fabric down Incidentally, this sounds much easier than it actually is – my short arms provided quite the comical situation as I tried to stretch and staple at the same time. Once the fabric was stretched and properly attached, it was time to paint.



In lieu of traditional paint, I decided to paint with fabric dye. I was going for a somewhat soft, gradient effect, so I took red, yellow, orange, and gray Rit dye and diluted each color a few times to create various shades of each color.


Once the dye was mixed and ready to go, I tested each color on a piece of extra sheet to get an idea of what the colors would look like and how much they might spread once on the fabric.


It’s important to note that the dye will stain bare skin, so some kind of gloves are a must. I did this project on our patio and you’ll notice that I dripped some of the dye onto the concrete. While I don’t recommend indiscriminately flinging dye over your work surface, the dye did come out of the cement after a few rains. I would definitely be careful about doing this project on any indoor surface or flooring. If you are doing this inside, I strongly suggest thoroughly tarping or plasticing the area before opening or mixing any dye. When buying the supplies, I decided to buy a different paint brush for every color and once I started I was glad I did.


This was the original finished product (I say original because I made some changes after it was hung, but more on that in a minute). I painted while it was in a standing position, and if I were going to do this project again, I would apply color while the frame was lying down. You’ll see from this picture that some of the colors ran, which was a function of working on it while it was upright. It was ok because I was after a decidedly unfinished, imprecise look; however, those who are looking for more crispness and precision, take note.


While my general standards of perfection never let me think a project has turned out particularly well, I liked it well enough to hang. After having the piece hanging in our dining room for a few weeks, I decided that I liked the way the back of sheet turned out better than the front. It may not come through in pictures, but the colors bled through in such a way that they are lighter and the lines softer than on the front of the sheet (of course, I couldn’t have noticed this before I hung it). So off the wall it came. I removed the staples, flipped the sheet over to the back and stapled it to the frame back side out. There’s nothing quite like having my 4’2″ short  armed frame stretch and hang something twice. The way the piece looks now is more along the lines of what I had in mind when I conceived of this project. All is well that ends well. And for less than $20 (not counting the cost of the wood and brackets for the original frame), we have a new dining room piece that both J and I like.

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