Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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AR Workshop

I like to be crafty and I like the idea of DIY but I am also a slight perfectionist (though not nearly as bad as I used to be). I also have trouble decorating. I have trouble visualizing decor and making decisions. So all around some issues! Luckily for me there are lovely little shops and activities that can solve many of these problems.

I’ve tried the sip and paint places and painting is definitely not my gift. I’ve done a couple and have never painted anything I would actually hang on the wall. Then last year my friend discovered AR Workshop. There are a number of them around Atlanta (and around the country) and we have now been to two different locations. They have mostly wood projects – signs, frames, display boxes, clocks, trays. You pick your date and project (some can be customized) ahead of time to reserve your spot then just show up! At the locations here you can also bring your own wine.

This is also not the cheapest activity you will do but think about it. You end up with a piece of decor that you made (or at least put together and painted) that you can actually use in your house. I love it!

Last year the shop in Lawrenceville had a Christmas in July sale so we made Christmas decor. I made a plank sign that I did actually hang on the wall, though I wish I had done a couple things differently. This time we hit up the Smyrna location since it was a little closer for two of us. Since we are moving to our new house soon and we got married last year, I wanted to do something cute with our last name.

When you get there, everything is set up for you! Your wood pieces, the stencil of your design, and any materials might need. You’ll have a pro or two (depending on how many people are doing projects) who will walk you through every step. Everyone mostly has the same steps, depending on how fancy you want to get. You’ll pick out whatever stain, method, and/or paint you need, and they have lots of examples to looks at as well expert advice to offer.

The first step is always sanding the wood, getting rid of rough edges. Then you stain any wood that needs staining. Mine was the frame that needed staining. You can also use different methods of staining to give it different looks, but since mine is just the frame I kept it to a simple dark stain.

The next step for mine was painting the main board. You could also stain this if you wanted to. I picked a nice gray since that is a main color in our new house.

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Next, you take your stencil and tape all over the cut-out space with little pieces of tape. Then you peel off the backing from the blue stencil and stick it to your wood. Then you peel off all the little pieces of tape. I’m going to be honest – I have no idea why you do these steps. I didn’t ask, I just did as I was told. I’m sure there’s some science around it and if I sat and thought about it for a minute I could probably figure it out. But I don’t really care how it works, just that it does!

Once your stencil is placed and tape-free, you paint! You dab the paint into the stencil (as opposed to painting strokes). This keeps the paint from getting under the stencil.

Then you peel off the stencil and voila! You have a lovely painted wood project! You may need to do some touch ups, which the expert can you do. And not pictured is the putting it all together. In my case it was using a nail gun to put the frame on. I know, I know – how could I not get photographic evidence of the nail gun. It’s obviously the coolest part. Next time.

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I loved my project and will definitely go back, even it’s once a year when there is a specific project I have in mind or holiday I want something for. I highly recommend getting a group together and checking it out. Find one near you!

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Chalk Paint Projects

Pay attention because this is the most DIY you will ever get out of me. I bought a condo about a month ago and have some great pieces of furniture but wanted to update some of it. My brother and sister-in-law recently tried out Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – they loved it and it looked great so I decided to try it out. No sanding, no priming – sounds good to me! They had some leftover Duck Egg Blue color (it doesn’t take much of this to paint anything) which is the color I wanted for my desk anyway, so my mom tested it first on my wine rack when I was out of town one weekend. Easy!

So we plowed on forward. I apologize for the lack of great pictures for the desk – I forgot until we had taken it apart already. But we took it apart, painted it all (2 coats), then waxed it all with the clear wax, and bought new hardware! The wax acts as a sealer though I may go back and use a different sealer on the top since my hot computer sits on top of it. I LOVE how it turned out though.

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Tip #1: we painted inside and I have a dog – somehow little dog hairs kept getting into the paint and wax – so beware. We did my second piece at my parent’s house in the garage and did not have any issues with stuff getting into the paint or wax.

Tip #2: we used a old t-shirt to apply the wax instead of the official Annie Sloan wax brush.

Tip #3: we waited overnight to wax on top of the paint

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Next up: dining room table. I bought this table many years ago off Craigslist. It didn’t fit in my previous apartment, so it’s been in my parent’s basement – hence the no ‘before’ picture of it together – but here are all the pieces.

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After much debate and help from a wonderful woman at Chalk It Up, I decided to go with two colors: Coco for the top and Country Grey for the legs, with dark wax for the detail (getting adventurous). Then she recommended a different sealer for the top since it’s something that will be used a lot.

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Now none of this would have happened without my mother’s help. She’s a little more DIY-ly inclined than I am. So we took a good part of a weekend and got to work – 2 coats of paint on each piece, letting the paint dry overnight, then my mom clear waxed the legs and we decided to just leave those as they were (no dark wax).

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Next we had to figure out a technique for the dark wax. You want to clear wax first, so we did that and let it sit for a couple hours. Then trial and error ensued. The idea is for the dark wax to fill in the detail, then you clear wax away the excess. What worked for us: my mom used a small paint brush (like large art brush size) to put the dark wax on the detail edge, then I came behind with the clear wax and old t-shirt to remove the excess. It actually worked pretty well and I was really happy with how it turned out!

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Lastly we sealed the top with General Finishes topcoat (pictured above) using a foam brush (3 coats). Lots of coats of things overall which is why it was no quick project. Then we got it to my condo and put it together. I LOVE it! We may still paint the legs of my chairs but that’s a project for another weekend. Any other chalk paint experiences out there? Any additional tips? Any questions that I may or may not be able to answer?

Tip #4: it will depend on the project and what look you want, but we used a large art brush to apply the dark wax, then still a t-shirt with the clear wax

Tip #5: don’t use wax on a surface that will be used a lot for different purposes (i.e. hot dishes, sweating glasses, potential spills, etc).

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