Restyling 101: Stenciling!

So, the best name I’ve come up with for this technique is ‘reverse stenciling’.  Maybe there already exists a proper name…I have no idea.  The premise is simple, possibilities are endless and anyone (truly, anyone) can do it.  In a nutshell, the technique involves adding a sticker decal (hand cut or not) of any shape or size to a piece of furniture, painting over, and removing to reveal the original surface beneath in the shape of the decal.  Unlike solid painting where it is easy to “start over” with a new coat if you mess up, to redo a piece with this technique would require stripping the paint and possibly even re-staining.  For this reason, I think it’s totally worth sharing what I’ve learned so you can avoid going down that long and painful road.

1. Decals

First and foremost, no rolls of contact paper!  Ugh.  That stuff is difficult to work with since it’s always curling up.  On top of that, it’s also super sticky and leaves a gross residue behind that’s very difficult to remove completely.  Instead, go for blank vinyl sticker sheets like this.  If you’re going for a graphic letter/number design, you can just purchase the preprinted decals.  Most craft stores carry them in a few different fonts & sizes.

If your design is larger than the vinyl sheets available and you’re forced to go the contact paper route, try reducing the adhesiveness by first sticking it to your jeans or some other fabric.  Also, have some q-tips and Goo Gone at the ready.

2.  Woodgrain VS All Paint

I love finding furniture with great overall woodgrain but a few ugly patches.  This is a perfect (and easy) way to cover up the bad while retaining the best of a piece.  When going this route, I usually adhere the decal before lightly sanding the piece all over.  I skip the primer and go straight for the paint, too, because I don’t like to see white edges bleeding through when I peel the decal away.

If going the “paint on paint” route (two layers of different colors), just be sure to let the first coat/undercoat dry overnight before adding your decals AND use the ’stick to the jeans first’ method described above.  Sometimes I get ahead of myself and try to knock it all out in one day…and, yeah, I always regret it as the decals pull up bits of the first coat.  Patience, grasshopper.

3.  Color combos

You can, and should, go crazy and do whatever you damn well please when it comes to colors & hardware.  However, if you want a fail-proof combo, I suggest woodgrain image/black paint/antique, brass hardware.  You really can’t go wrong with those three elements.

4. Designs

Cut out whatever image you’d like, use pre-cut letters & numbers or get creative with other sticker shapes.  This peach bubble trunk was made using garage sale dot stickers from Office Depot and it’s one of my absolute favorites.

5. General Painting Tips

Foam cabinet roller, Behr, Benjamin Moore or Pratt & Lambert paint, lots of thin coats, finish with a water-based polyurethane and you’re golden!