a handmade sign spruce up

At Aiden’s school recently, we decided to help out and do a little work around the grounds. I’m a big believer that no matter what your educational choice for your child, whether homeschool, private school, public school, magnet school, charter school, experimental anti school… (it’s exhausting, isn’t it?) what you put into it, is what you get out of it.

So we try to volunteer as much as we can. It’s just what we do. I think it may be a full time career on it’s own by the time all three are in elementary school… but digression ;} It’s really actually fulfilling to help out… and even more fulfilling when you get to use some of your abilities for a good cause.


Jamin took his legion of minions (our youth ministry teens) and they were so great to help around the grounds. Sprucing up a few things, like this simple flower bed at one of  the ends. A little bit goes a long way. In the meantime, I was working on ideas and plans for a little bit of this (here’s a quick shot of the before that Jamin snapped with his phone.)



This hallway was in need of a little love (per our awesome principal’s request). I think that even the smallest changes (in some of the most difficult areas-this was a bit of a challenge because it’s a busy building, ya know?) can really cozy up and brighten a space.

So we took a few old church pews and refinished them to a much nicer color and topped them off with our tea stain technique. (Here you see Benjamin Moore’s Eagle Rock topped with Minwax’s English Chestnut.)

I also made these signs.

margaret_meadThey measure at a little over 5 feet in height by 3 feet wide… so they were no small thing to tackle. But I’m a dork and enjoy doing things like this. These were two quotes – two very poignant ones – the principal loved (and I do, too).



We also added a little spiff to the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms.


Because I think we could all use a little spiff in our bathrooms. ;}


Aiden’s school is an international school – thus the different language you see here. They incorporate these regularly.

I’ve talked about how we make our handmade signs here before, but I thought I’d share again today. These are a great, simple, cheap way to bring a little love to any area and as you can see, it instantly warms a hallway.

We measured our space, and had our MDF cut to size. After we gave each one a coat of white (yes, it was my beloved Chantilly Lace) we used a projector to trace the quote we wanted. You could also transfer something with tracing paper, or cutting out the graphic (if not elaborate) to trace onto your board… there’s options. But this is always easy to use, and gives us more control.


After the words were traced, I moved the boards to our island and used a straight edge to create the border that you see, by measuring equally around each one.


I then painted in each letter…


And the border…


And I moved on to the stripes.

tapeI just followed the border all the way around, and measured it out with painter’s tape. Any width will do, because eventually the board will end, as will your tape. It’s easy to stress over this part. I say just go for it. If it’s not even, reverse your stripes on the alternate end, or fake it. You don’t have to be methodical about it, and that’s what I love about this process. Keeping it simple, I used the width of one piece of tape to measure out the spaces between each one. It’s like you’re playing leap frog with your tape, pulling it up, and placing it on the next one as you go. And when you’re finished, you have spaces for your stripes.

how_to_paint_stripesFill it in, and when it’s nearly dry (look at the sheen for a few wet spots that are left) and begin wiping it away.


This is the short side of the stripes, and if you’re fast you can tape off each section, and paint all the way around. By the time you’re finished painting, you can go back and wipe each section. When you’re finito, pull each piece of tape up and wait for it to dry.

Using my fingers, I then went over each striped area with more white, just lightly to create a combination of distressed, and mottled.

When THAT was dry, I used a coat of stain over each one, keeping it heavier on the edges, and wiping it on and off as I went. (Think circular motions like the karate kid.) Refresh your rags often so that you don’t leave too many unwanted smudges behind. Just a helpful hint: I prefer glossy paint especially when attempting this the first time. The glossy finish is much more forgiving with the stain than a matte one and wiping it away.

stripes_yipesThese particular signs were matte, and my arms were sore when I was finished. ;}


Tada! Just a simple way to bring a little style to even the most unexpected of places.


Here’s a few more of our handmade signs with past projects:

I'm_too_sexy_for_my_laundryI’m too sexy for my laundry 


Custom signage for your home


A handmade nursery sign + Scarlett’s nursery tour


How to make a vintage chevron sign


Mills fab 5 sign 

For more info on how to paint those stripes, be sure to check out our (dorky) video, here!

If you try any of these, let us know! We’d love to see… and save/start rounding up some of those projects for our reader’s gallery… coming soon!

PSSST… you can find even more in our book, here!

Have an inspired day, everyone!

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Responses to a handmade sign spruce up

  1. amber says:

    Wow! You are awesome. The makeover in the hallway looks great. And I so appreciate the tutorial. Your signs are beautiful.

  2. Anna says:

    I adore this. You are one creative lady! The versatility behind this one technique is really something to admire. :)

  3. What a nice transformation for the school! Cold to Cozy.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Very nice signs ,and great quotes for a school! I would love to make this kind of sign,but I don’t have the patience.

  5. These are amazing, Ashley and what a blessing to the school and community. Well done, :)
    xo Heidi

  6. Amazing!!!! Great job… They turned out soo good! How cool to have that in school. Such great reminders, presented in such a lovely way! ~Bre

  7. Erin Rizzo says:

    Love this idea. May I ask what font you used? I’m thinking about making some signs, but I have the least steady hand. I was thinking of using paint pens, or just plain sharpies. Have you ever used either of them?


  8. sarah says:

    looks great!