Last spring/summer, I was on a mission to give our front porch a facelift. It is a beautiful outdoor space, but I had never taken anytime to make it anything more than a place to sit. The overhaul involved several DIY projects and repurposing items we already had. I was really pleased with how it turned and we spent lots of time truly enjoying the new porch decor over the summer months. However, when fall rolled around, I quickly realized that the design was much more suitable for summer and that I would need to somehow “winterize” the look.
Over the past few months, I haven’t had much time for projects, but I did spend several hours gathering ideas and materials. Last weekend, I finally took the time and pulled many of them together to create a new look for winter and Christmas. I didn’t want it too be too Christmassy because I really didn’t want to have to rethink the space when the holidays are over. I think I managed to create a look that has a hint of Christmas, but with a few minor changes, it can transition into a look that will last the entire winter.
To achieve the look, I incorporated some of the pieces that I had used in my summer porch design such as the milk can and the Welcome sign. I may make a Christmas sign at some point, but for now this will work.
I had originally made this rustic tree branch tree for my front porch, but in the end, loved it so much that I decided to place it in the living room because our main tree is always set-up in the dining room where there is more room. We have a wood burning fireplace in the living room and having a smaller tree in this space will be perfect. (It is yet to be moved as we won’t be getting our live Christmas tree until next weekend!)
I love the look of pallet Christmas trees and decided to pick some up through Kijiji. Although there are many places that offer them for free, I ended up purchased two for $30. That might seem silly but they were already stained a dark brown colour and there were no spaces between the planks, so there were plenty of planks to work with.
- The first thing I needed to do was dismantle the pallets. This is never a fun job, but I opted for what I deem to be the simplest solution. Use a sawzall!
2. Once the pallets were taken apart, I began to cut, build and assemble. I followed this tutorial from Funky Junk Interiors. I absolutely love the tree she created with old fencing, but I didn’t have the time or energy to recreate the look. The tutorial is super easy to follow and the only change I made was making the bottom plank on my largest tree larger so that the finished tree would be taller. I was on a bit of a roll and ended up making two larger trees for my front porch as well as three smaller ones…and I still have wood left.
3. Once my trees were built, I opted to finish off the look by adding some white using the “dry brush” technique. (Dry brushing is really just what it implies…you add a very sparse amount of paint using a very dry brush and apply it with very light strokes. This may also mean removing some of the paint you put on brush before actually applying it to the surface of your project. I will often use a scrap piece of cardboard to brush off the excess paint before applying it to my project.) Because the pallets were already stained a dark brown, white was the perfect finishing touch. It was well worth the $30 for all the extra planks I got as well as the time saved not having to stain and dry before applying the dry brushed white coat.
Other Elements in the Design:
- I absolutely love the look of birch and had purchased some birch scrap wood a few weeks back knowing I wanted to somehow incorporate it into my finished project. I decided to use the milk can I already had as a “vase” for the birch. I wrapped the branches in twine, added a simple embellishment and a few sprigs of white “ting” to finish off the arrangement.
- As mentioned before, I knew that I didn’t want the decor to be too Christmassy, so I aimed at more of a winter look. I found this old rotting sleigh on Kijiji for $30. I scraped and sanded it to removed most of the peeling paint and then gave it two coats of exterior white paint. Once thoroughly dry, I sanded it back to distress it slightly. I also gave the metal gliders a coat of black spray paint in my spray tent. I love the way it turned out. All I added to the sleigh was a plaid blanket that I picked up for a few bucks at a thrift store.
- The front door holds the rag wreath that I made a few years ago. I still love the white shabby chic look.
- On the opposite side of the front door, I placed a small artificial tree. I decorated it very simply with white lights, pinecones and tufts of white artificial snow. I purposely chose not to use ornaments as I figured the simple wintery look would allow me to leave the display up through the winter. ( I guess I could also use ornaments and then replace them with pinecones/snow after Christmas!?…Maybe next year!)
- I picked up this beautiful antique speckled pot at an antique sale this fall. I love it and it is the perfect container for the collection of dollar store snowballs!
- I used scrap wood to create these simple wooden presents that can be removed after Christmas. Once again, I applied white paint using the dry brush technique and then added burlap and twine for a simple rustic look.
- The finishing touches: To finish off my winter/Christmas vignette, I added a few garage sale finds…..a vintage suitcase, an antique sewing machine drawer filled with pinecones and a very weathered chair (not bad for a $1). I also used a grapevine wreath I had in my basement, a galvanize pitcher and lantern from my summer decor and an antique type writer with the beginnings of a “letter to Santa”. (I will remove the typewriter after Christmas.)
I love the way it all came together in the end. Sometimes it is hard to envision what the finished design will look like. I had so many ideas and items I wanted to incorporate, but really had to wait until I set it up to see what would work and where.
I’m already planning a fall porch design for next year….a back to school theme. I already have something on my “To Do List” for next summer! Yikes!!
So excited to finally share this project! Being a teacher, this has been an incredibly challenging year….especially in Kindergarten where our program is based on hands-on learning, social skill development and play. For the first few months, I was running on empty and just couldn’t muster up the energy or motivation to do any projects or blogging. Unfortunately, both are also a huge component of my personal wellness, so I knew it was essential to carve out some time and get creative!
I came across a picture a few months ago and it wasn’t even “pinable” (not sure if that is a word), but I wasn’t able to “Pin” the picture to my Christmas Board on Pinterest. I ended up taking a “snip-it” and didn’t even think about getting the website, so I have no idea where I even found it (and thus I’m not sharing the original because I can’t even find it now)….I just kind of happened upon it. The bottom line is I can’t take credit for this idea…it’s a copycat at best! Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with the style of this tree and was determined to make my own. Because I couldn’t find the source when I went to make it, I had to use the picture as a guide and make my own plan of execution. I’m so happy with how it turned out!
Rustic Christmas Tree:
- air nailer (I can’t imagine tackling this project without one.)
- Grape Vine or Virginia Creeper
- Decorations (white lights, pinecones, star, wooden snowflakes, gold ornaments)l
- Hot glue gun/glue
Gather branches. Mine ranged in size from about 3/4 inch in diameter to approximately 1 1/2 inches. I had no idea how many to collect, but all I can say is I used lots. I didn’t actually count, but I am going to guess 60 pieces. I looked for straighter pieces, but quickly realized that is virtually impossible and the bends and curves add extra character to the tree. I brought home larger branches and then cut them down to workable lengths. (All of the wood I collected was yard waste that I gathered from back lanes during fall yard clean-up.) My branches came from a variety of trees and I think the differences in the colours and textures of the various barks add interest.
I started by building a square base with four of the branches. I cut them to approximately 12″ in length and then nailed the ends together to form the square. I also wrapped the corners with some wire to ensure they were secure. A strong foundation is key!
Build the frame. I then used 4 longer branches to establish the desired height of the tree. (My tree is just shy of 5 feet tall with a finished diameter of about 22″.) I used the air nailer and wire to attach and secure one branch inside each of the corners of my square base. I brought the tops together to form a “teepee” like shape and secured them together as well.
Once I had the frame built and firmly secured, I began to attach the smaller branches. I cut about 20 pieces varying in length from about 10″ to 14″. As I began to build I realized that in some spots, longer or shorter pieces seemed to work better. DO NOT cut them all to the same length. I found that after the first batch, I would only cut about 6 at a time and often looked at the branch shape to see where I might use it and what length would make sense to secure it properly. Although some of the branches were placed at very slight angles, a majority were angled but oriented much closer to vertical than horizontal. You really have to eyeball it and place your pieces together strategically, almost like a puzzle. WARNING….an air nailer certainly makes this job easier because you don’t have a hard backing/surface to hammer against….the downside is that it can be dangerous. I can testify to this as I air nailed through my index finger…OUCH!! Don’t do that. I was so excited that I got a little sloppy with my safety and wham. Hardly bled, but the pain and throbbing was almost unbearable. Proceed with caution. Even with the injury, this project was well worth it!
Once you have all your pieces in place, stand back and eyeball each side to make sure there aren’t any gaps that need filling. When your tree has passed the test….take your vine (I used Virginia Creeper because I have lots of it in my backyard) and wrap it around the branches. Use wire to secure it in place.
The tree itself is now finished and the fun begins….start decorating! Obviously, you can decorate it however you want, but my only advice is LESS is MORE! I opted for some fairy lights, some very soft gold ornaments (I used 4) that I bought in a set at the dollar store, wooden snowflake ornaments (again I bought these at the dollar store), pinecones and a star for the top. I bought an awesome set of felt stars from the dollar store and used one for the top.
When I began this project, the intent was to make it a focal point in my “Winter/Christmas” front porch design. I’m hoping to pull that together this weekend, but in all honesty, I love this tree so much that I’m not sure if it will end up outside or not. Most years we have set our tree up in the corner of our dining room because it’s always large and the dining room accommodates it best. Our living room is on the smaller side and with so many elements that can’t be moved (French doors, fireplace, wall mounted TV and radiator) options are limited. It just doesn’t work well! A part of me thinks this would look amazing tucked in a corner of the living room instead of on the porch. I’ll have to see how the porch comes together before I decide, but for now it is a place holder for our real tree that we’ll buy after the first of December!