before & after: justine’s backsplash + carrie’s lamp vases

I know that once an idea enters your mind, it’s impossible to get rid of it. After all, I’ve seen Inception . . . twice. So be prepared for a pretty awesome idea to enter your consciousness: chevron chalkboard backsplash. Justine has planted the seed of DIY genius and it’s going to haunt you, trust me. In all seriousness, I love how this turned out. If I was on the fence about chalkboard paint before, that’s no longer the case. The best part of Justine’s design is the visual combination of hand-drawn irregularities and the repetition of a continuous pattern. Justine is studying graphic design at Columbus College of Art and Design, and her love of pattern obviously shows here. While most chalkboard iterations have involved prose, to-do lists or notes — all of which I love, by the way — this is one of the first uses I’ve seen of a wallpaper or tile-like pattern being re-created in chalk. It’s one of those imperfect designs that manages to yield more beauty than a totally regimented project. As Justine points out, the medium provides amazing flexibility. If you get water on the design, not a problem. Simply redraw it, or scrap it and make a new one. You can read more about this backsplash and Justine’s other home redesign projects on her website, The Elefanta. Great work, Justine! — Kate

Have a before & after you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

When I see these types of light fixtures, I usually cringe because I’m reminded of  similar ones that hung outside my parents’ old house in Maine. In the summer, the lamp bases would fill with so many dead bug bodies that you couldn’t see up to the bulb, and the sound of incessant buzzing echoes in my ears to this day. Ugh. But I’m actually glad I have that memory; it makes this transformation from jewelry designer Carrie Saxl all the more amazing, and now when I see these fixtures in salvage shops I can conjure up this beautiful “after” image instead. Carrie’s husband was replacing the old fixtures and had the creative vision to use them as vases. Carrie decided to give them a makeover with a few coats of spray lacquer and some painters tape. I would never have come up with this color combination, but it’s perfect! The colors are beautifully reminiscent of an older era, and they provide the perfect complement to the vintage fixtures’ diamond cut design. I must also add that Carrie’s tape and paint job looks impeccable, which is no small feat when dealing with such curved, irregular shapes. Great makeover, Carrie!

  1. Shelley says:

    love the backsplash! Those vases are brilliant! I would never have thought to do that, adn the colors are beautiful!

  2. Kaitlyn says:

    those light fixtures are BRILLIANT!! i want to run out and do that right now! (i have those same, buggie memories!)

  3. Rose says:

    absolutely beautiful!

  4. leslie says:

    Those vases are terrific! And even better – they don’t LOOK diy. They look expensive!

  5. dana says:

    great ideas!

  6. Amanda says:

    I have that exact same shade sitting in my basement! Can’t wait to try this! :)

  7. I absolutely love the idea of the chalkboard paint pattern. You are right, I now feel haunted.

  8. The vases are amazing. I see those lamp shades at the thrift store all the time and would never have thought of using them like that – the group looks so pretty – some people have such good ideas don’t they?

  9. Circa1972 says:

    The lighting fixture vases are pure genius. The steady hand and smooth finish with that laquer is an enviable skill. Gorgeous.

  10. Sing says:

    Chalkboard paint is fab and I’ll never grow tired of it. Added to anything makes it instantly cooler and fresher.

  11. Lucie says:

    Rad, this kitchen rocks. Just redid mine in a fairly classic style (seeing how I don’t think we’re going to be able to afford to do it again for 25 years!) and am now feeling slightly underwhelmed in comparison to this graphic redo…

  12. kara says:

    what kind of flowers are those in the vase? they grow everywhere around here and I have been dying to find out the name.

  13. Peaches says:

    Those vases are super. Will need to remember that one!

  14. Mish says:

    LOVE those vases! Brillian!

  15. Lauren says:

    Awesome kitchen before & after! I am loving chalkboard paint!

    And the light fixture vases…incredible! Love it all!

  16. The lamp vases are so very clever. They look like a million bucks after.

  17. carrie says:

    Thanks so much everyone! I had lots of fun making the vases and I’m tempted to find more vintage fixtures to experiment with. Kara, I think the flowers are some kind of lily, maybe tiger lilies? We live in Napa and they’ve been appearing randomly in our backyard.

  18. Emme says:

    I don’t think I would use chalkboards in an area that I am preparing food. Chalk dust gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to completely get rid of, and I wouldn’t want that anywhere near my food or ingredients.

    The design is cool, but the concept just seems impractical IMHO.

  19. annemarie says:

    Prefer the before kitchen. Too dark afterwards.

    Those vases are tres cool.

  20. Laurie Jones says:

    Ok I’m so in love with both of these ideas! That chalkboard idea is killer!! Who cares about chalk dust I say, it’s not like it’s getting changed everyday once the pattern is on! Love when people think outside the box!!

  21. hrhkat says:

    I just painted the inside of a couple of glass vases black for a black “milk glass” effect…they look great and a tad halloween creepy…I did it on the interior so the glass would give a shine. I started with regular paint and poured a bit inside and swirled it around….bad idea..the paint was running to the bottom. Then I cleaned it out, and I carefully lightly spray painted it in a few thin coats and it turned out amazing it dried very fast!…I put candles in them. If your going to paint glass in wide areas, use spray paint!…

  22. beck says:

    i agree with emme. it’s definitely unique but, i hate chalk dust getting on my clothes & hands, i can’t imagine it getting on my food/drinks/cabinets/sink/stove etc.

  23. Christina says:

    Wow, those vases are AWESOME!
    I want to do that :)

  24. Wow, the lamp vases are a really inspired idea. Fantastic.

  25. Kateri says:

    wow, what a good idea! well done!

  26. Merry says:

    wow-the blue and gold are spot on for flowers–nice job!

  27. elsye karlin says:

    Great idea to turn the lighting fixtures into vases. I bought an old “bowl-like” lighting fixture (jadeite green faceted glass) for my recreated 1950s kitchen. When it didn’t work as a light I turned it into a terrific fruit bowl!

  28. Jessica says:

    I LOVE it! I’m planning on painting my refrigerator w/ black chalkboard paint this weekend!

  29. Justine says:

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone! I really enjoy my backsplash and I’ve actually had it for a couple months and rest assure to anyone who’s interested in doing it themselves, I’ve had no problems with chalk getting in or near my food.It’s pretty stuck on there and I change the design often. :) ENJOY!

  30. Molly says:

    I am lucky enough to be Justine’s roommate and I have to say, she is incredible. Our house is gorgeous thanks to her :) Go to her websites to see more of what she can do!!!!

  31. Amanda says:

    I love the idea of a chalkboard backsplash! I hate my ugly 80s tile backsplash with a passion, and would love to try this technique. But how would that work with the tile? Does anyone have any thoughts? Or any other ideas on how I could disguise it?

  32. claire says:

    Wow! The light bulb vases are genius!!

  33. Karen says:

    I love the chalkboard paint, and I have a question… Is the portion of the wall above the cabinets up to the ceiling painted white still?

  34. Justine says:

    @Molly, thanks MollyPolly, nice to have such an appreciative roommate.

    @Amanda, there are special paints design to go over tile, you might want to look into those, what kind of tile? (ie. square, subway etc?) feel free to send me pics to my email ( and I may be able to offer some ideas?

    @Karen the wall above the cabinets is painted the same color as my walls which is now a light blue to accent my red accessories.

  35. Great use of chalkboard paint. The chevron is killer!

  36. Kate S. says:

    This is a great post – both “afters” are so creative and inspiring.

    Three questions about re-purposing light fixtures:

    1) Do you need to use some sort of primer to make sure the color stays on the glass?

    2) If re-purposing into a vase, what kind of paint/ color can you use that doesn’t get damaged/ eroded by water?

    3) If re-purposing into candle holders (alla hrhkat and putting color on inside) what color/ materials can use use that aren’t flammable or going to be damaged by the heat?

  37. Lisa says:

    The light fixtures into vases transformation is amazing.
    By the way, I think I read or heard that the new LED lights don’t attract bugs.

  38. SusanO says:

    @Kara – those flowers are Amaryllis belladonna. They’re called Naked Ladies because they shoot up straight out of the ground with little to no foliage, poor things! But they have a wonderful scent that some people describe as chocolatey, and others swear is bubblegum. Definitely one of my favourites in arrangements and in landscapes.

  39. Susan says:

    I could not love those vases any more. The colors are PERFECT. I am so impressed with your talent. Kudos for the brilliant idea and clever repurposing.

  40. Brooke says:

    Oh my gosh… those light fixture vases are to die for! wow. That was very unexpected. I love surprises. xo

  41. Abbie says:

    What kid of “containers” did you use to hang off the towel rack! That is such a fun idea!!

  42. Tanya says:

    I love chalkboard paint so much. I really need more of it in my house.

  43. carrie says:

    Thanks Susan, I’m glad to know what the flowers are after thinking they were lilies all this time!

    Kate- The light fixtures I used were already painted on the exterior with the white paint that you see in the before pictures. For the color I chose spray paint made for exterior multi-surface (i.e. plastic, metal etc.) which is made to stand up to water and the elements and to stick to glossy surfaces. I did a final coat with a clear spray lacquer for an added layer of protection and shine.
    To make sure that the paint really adheres to the glass you could probably brush on a primer made for painting ceramic tile or Gripper paint from home depot which sticks to nearly everything.
    I hope that is helpful!

  44. Justine says:

    @Abbie, the containers are the Ikea Asker Containers ( I use them to hold two herbs and the middle container has a hole in the bottom so I use that one to house my sponge to keep it off the sink.

  45. Feistberger says:

    Those lamp globes are incredible! These vases would be perfect for a small hydroculture plant. I’ll have to start pulling globes out of the trash when I see them…

  46. Abbie says:

    great! thanks I am excited I am going to use your idea in my house! where would I find the hooks like you used to hang them with?

  47. Kate S. says:

    Thank you Carrie – that is very helpful!

  48. Karin Grow says:

    I think this is my favorite section on Design Sponge. I’m addicted to before after projects.

    Question? Is it hard to keep your sink water from splashing and ruining your chalk drawing? I know there’s no way my husband would be able to keep from splattering it up while doing dishes.

  49. Justine says:

    @Karin, at times the water splashes up but because of the grainy-nature of the chalk, it’s hardly visible. :)


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