Monday, September 30, 2013

Geometric Birch Tree Tutorial

If I had to define my style it would be an endless list that I can only sum up as "eclectic". Two general things I love are organic and modern.  In other words I love a natural feel without having everything to swirly and soft, I like clean lines and texture.  This is why when I wanted Birch trees on the nursery wall I had a hard time deciding how to do it so it wouldn't look too childish.  Did I project it onto the wall and paint it out?  Oh wait, I don't have a projector... Did I pay 200 plus dollars for vinyl?  Did I eye ball it and try to go more realistic and soft then I wanted? Yeah, it was rough.

After deliberations between my artistic and realist side I came up with this process using painters tape!  It gave me a very angular, geometric cluster of birch trees and I loved it.   Loved it so much I decided to do it in a more prominent place in our house: the vaulted stairwell!

As I've said before, we bought a newer, builder grade home.  That doesn't mean that it doesn't have some architectural features that I love.  One of the things that struck me when we looked at the home was the stairwell that greets you on your right when you first enter.  It used to be super ugly:

But I saw it's potential.  Behind the light fixture that was too small and um...dated (ugly) and the sad, saggy tension rod holding an ugly curtain (not pictured), was a beauty waiting to be unvailed.  I loved the open feeling with the bright, white spindles, high ceiling and natural light coming in.

Wanting to play up it's awesome features I decided that a couple tall trees at the landing would be perfect. Here's how I did it:

Deciding first how tall I wanted the trees and about what diameter, I laid out my painters tape.  Yeah that simple.  The great thing about tape is that you can move it, start over and it doesn't matter.  One thing to remember is that trees are not straight, especially birch trees so keep your tape going at subtle angles and make them change directions every couple of feet so it doesn't lean all the way to one side when your done.  Try to end close to straight up from where you began but don't have a straight tree the entire way up.  Get it?   Good:)

Then you need to add in your lines and knots.  Take your tape in three inch cuts and tear it in smaller strips.  Let the tape tell you what shape and length it wants to be then put it at various parts of the tree.  A tip is to put clusters of lines where you change the angle of the tree to make it look more natural and make sure its distributed pretty evenly between both sides of the tree.  Add some in the middle as well.  For your knots tear out a shape much like an isosceles trapezoid and put it at a place you want to draw the eye.

After you are done, take a step back and observe your work, looks pretty crazy?  Good.

Then, using a foam roller (I like to use foam because it gives it a more flat texture, bringing it out form the wall) paint your trees, completely covering all your detail pieces.  Give it at least two coats so it has definition and presence (we aren't 90's sponge painting this;).

When the paint is still semi-tacky carefully remove your tape.  Come in with a small, angled brush for any tiny branches you would like or to clean up any mishaps and your done!

It's that easy and can be done with any shape of tree you would like, I like mine to have some girth and funkiness to them but you may like more streamline, the beauty of this is that it's easy to adjust for your individual taste!  So have fun with it!

Now for finishing up my stairwell:

The stairwell has some of the only white walls left in the house, mainly because I wanted to make a gallery wall and white makes art pop.   My art is photography so I wanted to show off my work and my little girls all in one swipe.

The trees are the color from the living room which is a warm, soft grey color.  I love how it almost looks like a shadow, especially in the evenings.

The light fixture I chose because it brings in that eclectic look that I love and incorporated a lot of my design from the rest of the house which is a casual vintage feeling.    Putting that light fixture up was a feat!  It is about 18 feet off the ground and between the stairs and the ground so getting a ladder up there was difficult.  We had to get an extender that was able to go out 17 feet.  Then we leaned it against the stairs.  I changed the light fixture while my husband held the ladder for extra support (you know, so I didn't fall to my death, nbd).  Then I changed my first ever light handed....17 feet off the ground, it was crazy but that's how much I hated that old fixture!

Some day I would love to stain the wood on the banisters a dark walnut but that is a couple of years away when we change over and update all of our trim and doors to white so it all flows nicely.  But for now it is done!  And I love it!


  1. Looks fantastic! I especially love the pictures up the stairs :) We had that same problem with the light fixture in our stairwell... pretty precarious getting up there!