Before & After: Playing with Stencils

Artist Amy Rice is no stranger to a great makeover. In addition to sharing a colorful chair makeover a few years ago, she recently published a book, Playing with Stencils, that is full of great tips and techniques for making over just about any object. Today Amy is sharing two makeover peeks from her book: a faux-wood inlay chair project (below) and a wooden chest makeover that uses old love letters (after the jump).

Amy found the chair above in her studio building’s “free table” area. She removed the hardware that once held the desk’s top component and sanded the rust off the metal base. Then she sanded it down and used freezer paper, a sharp utility knife and three colors of rub-in wood stain to create a faux wood inlay. For more photos of this project and a romantic wooden chest makeover, check out the full story after the jump. Thanks, Amy! xo, grace

Love Letter Trunk

I bought the trunk at an estate sale. I think it was an old icebox/cooler that someone had added casters to at some point. I used my collection of antique letters as the “paint” in the stencil. Again, details, instructions and photos are in the book.


Both makeovers are awesome but the trunk makes me speechless. The flowers remind me of cherry blossoms. You did a great job.


Beautiful stencil work! The chair almost looks like inlaid wood, what a great idea!

fran pelzman liscio

I find this kind of creativity and belief in the renewal of old discards inspiring and also moving. These two pieces went from overlooked castoffs to truly beautiful pieces for the home, thanks to some loving attention from someone who clearly delights in the idea of infinite possibility.

Tom F.

You did an amazing work with both pieces! I really love that Japanese-style cherry blossoms on the trunk. The design itself is classic and it matches with the rusty hinges.

debora crichton

looks great! i LOVE stencils. just did a birthday party last weekend where girls stenciled jean jackets. they were the hit of the achool the next day. we always use them in my Project Runway classes.


Love this. However, it is disappointing and feels a bit like a bait and switch: “For more photos of this project and a romantic wooden chest makeover, check out the full story after the jump.” What full story? Where are the more photos? Sorry, but I won’t be buying the book because I have no idea if you can communicate how to recreate these beautiful projects.

Grace Bonney


by “the full story” i mean the rest of this post, ie: the extra photos and second makeover (ie: the dresser makeover). (did you click “read more” to see those?)

amy can’t give full project steps here because they’re from her book, which these projects are a preview of. you can follow the link to her book for more info on that, but for our purposes, this was to showcase images of the before/after.



wow, these both look absolutely amazing. totally interested in checking out this book as i generally have the assumption that stencils would look amateur and/or frumpy if i tried them, but these final products are stellar. wanting them both so badly :)


Looks great! Definately going to try this. Not sure if my art skills are up to Amy’s…

deon marais

i use stencils in a more 3d way. the stencil must be a certain thickness and the instead of filling it with paint i use plaster of paris. it dries almost instantly on the wall. the paint on the wall sucks almost all moisture out of the plaster and makes it stick. the only drawback is that you have to clean the stencil after every 2 or 3 uses. it creates instant tecsture and can be painted or one could paint the wall one colour and keep the plaster white. quite striking.