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.

  1. wow, both pieces turned out absolutely fantastic!!

  2. These look amazing! I especially love the chair; it’s so “happy” to me. Creativity and elbow grease can go a long way, and these are two perfect examples. Thanks for sharing!

  3. liz says:

    really beautiful. love the flowers!

  4. Sarity says:

    oh, the chair makes me happy. And the love letter technique is adorable.

  5. Jill says:

    Gorgeous! I need this book. Off to Amazon… :)

  6. Irina says:

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

  7. Amanda says:

    Such inspiring transformations- I want to steal that chair!

  8. Amanda says:

    the stenciling on the chair is so super pretty.

  9. Kim says:

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

  10. Gwen says:

    Wow, I am truly impressed…! Awesome work xxx

  11. 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.

  12. Tom F. says:

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. Marie says:

    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.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      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.


  15. Love it- we are playing with this concept at the moment too. Just completed a dining room table. A great way to update a piece.

  16. 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 :)

  17. Sorcha says:

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

  18. amy rice says:

    Thank you everyone for the nice and encouraging comments! xo, amy

  19. deon marais says:

    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.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.