Garden Bench Makeover

Sometimes I get these creative urges and I just have to run with them.  When I am able to be creative and have that freedom I am really in my element.  Sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn’t, but that is just part of the process.  There are also times that I will have to step back and wait to see if further inspiration will come to me to finish the project.  You have to know when to give up though.  Some things are just not meant to be which is unfortunate because they started off with good intentions, but now they are an unfinished waste of space.  Perhaps one day they will get a new lease on life.

When we moved into our home it came equipped with a smattering of odd items here and there ranging from an old snowmobile hiding by the shed, to human teeth stashed away in the basement (but that is a tale for another time).  The garage came equipped with the standard issue garden bench that most people seem to own, or have owned at some point or another.


The bench was being used as a dumping ground for the longest time until one day it began to speak up and whisper to me, giving me snippets of little ideas of what it would like to be done with it.  The idea to refinish the bench began to bloom in my mind but with no real clear picture.  The thought of taking the bench apart, sanding down the wood and staining it seemed a bit much for something that had clearly seen better days.  After giving the whole bench a good wash with the garden hose, blasting out those cob webs and random clumps of dirt, the bench had an unmistakable scent of wet dog.  The idea of painting the bench with a sort of flower scene seemed the most logical and fitting idea and probably would have been a rather fun project as well; however, I wouldn’t put THAT much stock in my floral painting skills.  In this case it would have been fine seeing as it would have been seen at a distance, but the majority of the painstaking hand work would have been covered.  I had known all along I had no intention of using the bench for seating purposes, but rather to hold planters, specifically the long thin planter boxes with cascading bunches of flowers spilling over the end.  I think the hand painting would have gone forward were it not for Pinterest and it’s devil ideas.

I came across a series of pictures of refinished pieces of wood with an antiqued wallpaper finish.  The possibilities offered a wide variety of tastes and the rough look of the wood mixed with the soft floral wallpaper contrasted nicely.  This look also fit with the old antique chair that I got for free from a couple houses down.


The idea of the Pinterest project was not to use actual wallpaper, but instead a technique using paper napkins and Mod Podge (apparently a rather common and old way of crafting).  I have never used Mod Podge before but in my mind it was just a bottle of overpriced glue.  Believe it or not, the most difficult thing about the project was trying to find the paper napkins.  There were various suggestions of places to check, the simplest being Amazon for the convenience of shopping and swift delivery, but the price of the intended project deterred me from that route.  During my online perusal I came across a theme of different paper products in different sizes available at Party City that just so happen to be on sale.  I had thought that the floral pattern may have been too overwhelming so the plan was to use the floral on every second slat of wood, and use the solid matching color alternating.  What seemed like such a simple task brought me to a towering wall of Party City with such an array of paper napkins scattered throughout the store.  There were so many amazing possibilities, but not what I had envisioned or not what would look good for this particular project.  And so began my hour plus struggle of standing in front of a wall of paper napkins, snatching, grabbing and mashing together to find what I wanted.  In the end, I decided to grab and go, not completely satisfied with my purchase.  I was able to find the floral pattern, but nothing for the alternating slats.

I stopped at Michaels to pick up the Mod Podge, this bottle coming in at $18.  You would never have seen me buying this on any other day had it not been for the 40% off coupon.  While there I decided that a nice dolphin grey paint would compliment the colors for the alternating slats and naturally, no such color was available (unless you wanted over priced chalk paint, because everyone needs chalk paint in every hue under the sun).  That is where the trusty dollar store comes in, but even they let me down with only offering silver and not grey.  The first world problems of a poor struggling artist.


I decided to grab both sizes of napkins, the smaller pair because of the scroll writing of the word “Love”.  This turned out to be a waste of time as once the Mod Podge was applied you could not see the writing anyway and when covering a surface area, the bigger the better.

The instructions were to peel the coloured layer away from the white ply sheets which was easy enough.  After brushing on the Mod Podge, gently lay the napkin over the wood and smooth it out.  Some pieces were more co-operative than others, but the Pinterest I had read advised that a few wrinkles here and there were of no concern as they would add character as well as be sanded off anyway.  To achieve that antique look you had to sand overtop of the napkin once it had dried, the poster advising not to use the Mod Podge over top of the napkin as it would make it more difficult when sanding and not give the desired effect.  I chose not to go with the sanding route for two reasons.  One being that if sanded it would be much more subdued and not give the desired effect and would probably have looked no different from the original product.  Secondly,  that just seemed like way too much work.

Using just a regular tube of silver acrylic paint from the dollar store I brushed over the old metal legs bringing out a lot of the details in the metal that never stood out before.  Naturally it wasn’t until I was 3/4 done when I noticed it would have looked really cool to leave the inner crevases black with the silver accent, but by then it was too late.  Instead I added a brushing of gold to accent the metal which gave it a rather interesting look when seen in the right light.  The original plan was to use a chrome gold finish, but I imagine Jamie would have killed me, and it probably would not have looked as nice with the other colors of the yard.


Originally I had painted every second slat silver, but along with the silver legs it was far too much silver, so since  I did not get my golden legs, I added a touch of gold to the slats.  Despite this, I was not pleased and I could not put my finger on what was bothering me.  I stared at the bench a few times here and there and in different light, but ended up walking away and let it sit in the garage, alone, to think about what it had done to displease me.


Without any pretence or ideas I found myself in the garage again and covering each alternate slat with more of the floral pattern.  Here is the step where I decided to use the smaller napkins, only to find out that the writing could not be seen very well and they covered a much smaller surface area.

The actual process does not take very long.  You lay the napkin around the wood to measure, either applying the glue and the napkin and cutting away the excess, or pre-cutting before you glue.  You do not have to be precise in cutting the strips as I found I would simply brush over the napkin with the glue and it would smooth away the edges leaving no visible jagged edges.  I chose to use the glue on both the wood and the surface.  Applying the glue to the wood was a necessity, but applying the glue overtop created a sort of protective coat which will help against the elements as well as sometimes bringing out the floral pattern and the colors.  As you can see on certain pieces, the napkin and the glue soaked right through and leached the color away adding imperfections, but I am much more pleased with this end result.


I was worried that it would be too overpowering but happened to work out perfectly.  After all that work was said and done though, you will probably think I am crazy for bothering with it in the first place, as noted before, the intention was to place pots on top of it anyway.

The pots are just simple plastic ones from the Dollar Store in a nice grey with a bit of a shimmer.  The plants I got a deal on with a buy one get two sale.  They were not quite as I imagined them to be as I had envisioned a sprawling bulk of green leaves and an explosion of flowers.  Instead we start with spindly green stems and a bit of experimenting.  Slanting the pots forward seemed like the logical thing to do at the time; however, I have since tilted them upright, still having the desired effect but actually making the bench seat look more full and not have to worry about the plants drying out as much and all the soil washing away while watering.


I hope that it fills out and creates a nice effect with the different colors of flowers.  In the mean time we will just have to wait and see.  For now it is on to the next project!  I hope you enjoyed my little rambling story and that you were able to get a little inspiration to get out there and start creating a few things for yourself!


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