Monday, December 6

pottery barn knock-off airplane

So as I've mentioned, my family recently moved into a new (to us) house. It's a lot bigger than our last house, which has meant that we only have about 40% of the stuff we need to fill it. This has been both awesome and not awesome.

It's awesome because I get to fill all the empty spaces with new things, and not awesome because the last thing I need to do at Christmas time in a new, more expensive house is spend money filling all those empty spaces.

I have had to be creative. I have had to be bold. Above all else, I have had to be cheap.

Destructions after the jump!

In our last house, the one room that never got any attention was the master bedroom. It was crap the day we moved in and it was crap the day we moved out. I vowed when we moved that Spencer and I would have a nice bedroom. And we do. Mostly. Except for the huge empty spaces.

I've been on the lookout for an interesting way to fill the space on the wall above our bed recently. We have vaulted ceilings, which makes these blank walls seem super blank. It needed something, and I found something. At Pottery Barn. For $300 plus $30 shipping. Dig it:Cool, yeah? I knew the minute I saw it that this is what our room needed. But I wasn't gonna spend $330 on it. Not a chance. So I decided to knock it off. Now, I'm no airplane buff, so I didn't care what kind of plane this is. My husband, however, is a bit of a WWII buff, so I figured he'd have a favorite old plane. I asked him to name an awesome plane, and he immediately answered, "The P-51 Mustang. Why?" I gave a brief but vague explanation and went to the internets in search of a Mustang. I found a nice schematic in black and white: This was important for my purposes, since I planned to use my projector to trace the image and a stark black and white image is the easiest to use.Now, these projectors ain't the cheapest things, but if you get %40 off coupons for Michael's in your newspaper every week like I do, it's actually very inexpensive, especially for how versatile it can be. Then I went to Walmart (I hate that place) and got some blank canvases. Mine were 18x 24, and they came in a two-pack for about $7.50. I got two of those. I was originally going to use all four of the canvases, like the PB version, but I really didn't want to split up the nose of the plane, since it was the most visually interesting part and would be the focal point. So I used three instead.
I printed the picture out, folded it into thirds and projected it onto one panel at a time, beginning with the middle panel, since I would use it to anchor the wings. I traced it with a regular old pen.
I had to be careful that my projector didn't move positions as I did the different canvases, since that would effect the size of the image, and I was sure that the wings were correctly positioned to be the proper distance from the bottom. It's important to make sure that the wings don't angle up or down in relation to the body of the plane, too. This all sounds really complicated and touchy, but it's not, really. When that was done, I went over the pen marks using a black acrylic marker pen.Now, this is fine for getting the plane onto the canvases, but it looked very stark. So I got out my trusty Minwax Wood Sheen in Colonial Walnut(I swear I'm not paid to advertise this product, but darned if I don't use the stuff ALL THE TIME. I love it). I thinned the Minwax with a little water and applied it to the canvases with a sponge brush and let it dry.
About an hour later I decided it was too light and not distressed enough. I also thought it needed some text. I stenciled P-51 onto it with the black paint marker and then Mustang with the white paint marker. I also freehanded some of the airplane's specs here and there. When that dried, I brushed on another coat of Minwax. While the Minwax was still wet I dabbed and scrubbed different parts of the canvases with paper napkins to distress it a little. And that's all there was to it. It only took two hours or so, and that includes drying time. If I had it to do over again, I'd have skipped the extra text and stopped at P-51, but whatever. I still like it and it really gives the wall what it needed.Another great thing about this project is that I can reuse these canvases when I change the room. A few coats of white gesso, and the canvases will be good as new.
So I paid $15 for the canvases (though I only used three), and everything else I had on hand. Big impact, low cost.
I didn't let that fourth canvas go to waste either. Tomorrow I'll post that project. Hint: it took 20 minutes.

This project was featured on New York!


  1. Just think, when you are a famous artist someday someone will scrape off the gesso from your latest project and find this airplane - hee hee. :) I love this project!

  2. Haha! You're too kind. Please tell me that's your real name. It's like you're a secret agent!

  3. Very cool... I've always loved that piece of art from PB... great knock-off!

  4. You've got talent.

  5. Awesome project. Love your sense of humor, too. I'll be featuring your project this week.

  6. Feature me? FEATURE me?? Feature MEEE!?!?!?


  7. I've been looking for a design to go over my long couch in the den. I think this is a great idea!

  8. this was a great project to do for my husband's birthday present! He loved the PB one and this was an easy/cheap alternative! thank you!

  9. I'd LOVE to copy your project for my son's newly decorated room (military theme) and wonder about using a different color wash? His room is army green and navy with punches of red. What could I use instead of Minwax? Any ideas? Thanks, Susan

  10. I absolutely love this! My other half designs and flys model airplanes and his day job is flying UAVs. So I am thinking of doing this as a gift for him! Airplanes are our life! I grew up around them and now someday our kids will. You have a wonderful blog and everything I have seen is just awesome! GREAT IDEAS!
    We would love for you to come to our blog and link up on Tuesdays. Crafty Lassie Tuesday
    Thanks so much!
    Heather & Rose

  11. I'm so happy that I found your blog! My husband and I just redecorated our office and I was lusting after the PB airplane art but didn't want to pay the $$$ for it. I'm going to do this for my husband but instead of the p-51 do a F4U Corsair. Thanks for the great idea and tips, wish me luck! :)


Thanks for commenting!! I really do read them all and I greatly appreciate the feedback.