Once upon a time, I was searching for just the right photo frame for our family. I wanted it to be unique. I wanted it to have character. I wanted it to have a wood component and I wanted it to hold a large photo. I scoured Pinterest and finally decided to make one myself. This was one of my first projects using power tools with minimal help from my husband…
But that was then and this is now! I’ve come a long way since then, baby! Mr. Home Matters taught me all I needed to know to feel confident to keep flexing my power tool muscles and now I don’t think twice about it…now we just have to work on changing a tire, changing the oil and stuff I also should know but it’s not nearly as fun as BUILDING SOMETHING WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS. I mean that, my friends, is satisfaction right there!
We recently sent out our August box to our Boxed Up subscription members and these are a couple of variations we showed them in the corresponding demonstration videos.
You see, this project was inspired by this frame I made for our family photo in our living room.
Our frame is 27.5×36 inches and holds a 16×20 frame but for this tutorial project I am making it slightly smaller because I’d like to add it to my online shop once I’ve finished.
Supplies Needed (this list does contain affiliate links which means I will get a small kickback at no additional cost to you for certain items purchased through links I provide):
- 4- 1×6 inch pine boards (keep in mind that 6-inch boards are actually 5.5 inches wide) cut to 30 inches long. This means your background will be 22 inches wide by 30 inches long. You could purchase 2 six-foot boards and you’ll have 12-inches leftover from each board (save them for small signs!)
- 3- 1×4 inch pine boards cut to 21.5 inches long
- One unfinished wooden 11×14 photo frame with a flat surface on the back (I got this one at Hobby Lobby – it has a nice flat surface on the back)
- 8 pairs of command picture strips
- 2 metal hooks
- Wood glue
- Stain or paint as desired based upon tutorial
- Brad Nailer/air compressor
- 1 ¼ inch brad nails
- Link to separate tutorial for the floral addition to the frame is included towards the end of this post
Let’s get to it!
Measure and cut four 30-inch long boards from your 1×6 pine boards, if not already done. I use my Dewalt Miter Saw (My husband got this for me for Christmas last year and I love it so much!).
Cut two 21.5 inch long boards from your 1×4 pine boards, if not already done.
Sand the ends of your boards (I use an orbital sander but you could do this by hand) using 80 grit sandpaper. You can just sand the flat edges or you could really smooth out the corners and give them a more rounded feel as opposed to sharp edges.
Next, decide what you want to do with your planks as far as coloring. You may want to stain them all the same. You may want to paint them all. You may want to stain them all a dark stain, let it dry and then paint over with a white paint. Once that’s dry, you could sand the edges and surfaces causing the dark stain to come through for a distressed look. In my original piece that is larger, I used five planks to make it wider. Since there were an odd number of boards, I alternated between stain and a white washed look (tutorial to come on how I achieve this white wash!).
Since this background has an even number of boards, I think I will stick with all one background color. But here’s something I thought might be an interesting idea – you could do an ombre effect with paint colors! You could use four varying paint colors going from lightest to darkest on the four planks. Pinterest has tons of ideas for painting with an ombre effect!
For my background, I decided I wanted to stain the planks with Minwax Dark Walnut stain because I’m planning to do the distressed process on the unfinished frame for contrast. To apply the stain, I first put on gloves, then used a shop cloth, dipped it into the stain and wiped it on. Then I wiped off the excess.
Don’t forget to make sure the ends are well saturated to be fully covered with stain, too.
I mentioned in the supply list that I purchased this frame from Hobby Lobby. I chose it because not only was it unfinished and only the frame, it had a flat back so that attaching it later would be super easy (make sure to purchase it when it’s on sale OR when you have a 40% off coupon)!
For my frame to have the distressed look I am going for, I am going to stain it in the Dark Walnut as well so that I can later (once dry) paint white on top and sand it so that the dark coloring shows through.
Lay out your four now-stained or painted 6-inch boards in a way that they look best to you, where there are the least gaps and you like the look of any knots and character marks.
Once you like the layout of your boards, flip each one over lengthwise (for instance, pick up each board by grabbing the right-side short end and flipping it over so that it is now backwards and that right side is on the left now. Do that for all four boards. Now your boards are the way you want them but you are looking at the back. Line up the ends of your boards to be as even as possible. (Note: I like to also stain the backs of my pieces for a more finished look.)
Take on one of the 21 ½ inch long skinnier boards and add some wood glue on one side. Lay the board along the left edges of your four boards, leaving about ½ inch from the edge, glue-side down. Make sure that your four boards stay lined up at the edge and make sure they say together with no gaps. You may have to have someone else hold the boards together in place or you could stand like I do with my feet on either side while I use my brad nailer to get one nail into each board just to keep that side in place. I used 1 ¼ inch nails.
Repeat with on the other side. Once you have both backer boards tacked on each side, go back and add more nails in a random pattern down the length of each backer board. Just keep in mind that you will need to add your metal hooks later. I like to add mine right around where the first board meets the second so I avoid putting nails in that area so that the screw for the metal hook does not interfere.
Once you’ve got both side boards on, measure out the middle of the 6-inch board at the top and bottom board and draw a line down from top to bottom. This will give you a place to align the third 4-inch backer support board. Repeat the process you did with the side boards – add glue to one side, lay that piece glue-side down and then nail it on. You don’t have to worry about any metal hooks on this board. It is merely for extra support.
Voila! You now have your finished base! It’s time to add the photo frame! But first, make sure you have finished your frame in the stain or painted look that you want. As I mentioned before, I decided to do mine in a distressed white. So, since I already added the dark walnut stain when I did the back pieces, it is now dry enough to add two layers (wait for the first layer to dry before painting the second layer) of white. I used regular latex paint but you could use chalk or chalk-type paint as well. Once the paint is dry, you can sand using an electric sander or by hand to achieve the look you want.
Before you add this frame to the background, it will be much easier to add your metal hooks for hanging than to wait and have to work with that attached to the front. Turn the background over. For me, this part is not super scientific – I typically like to “eyeball” the hooks by using the gap between the top/first and second boards. I line up the top of the metal hook with the gap and add the screws.
Boom! Hooks… CHECK! Moving on….
Give your background at least a day to fully dry, especially if it is stained. If you don’t, you run the risk of the command picture strips in the next step not sticking.
Okay, now for this part, you can use the eyeball method or you can use the official measuring method. If you’re the eyeball-ing type, then lay out your frame where you think it looks good and make sure it looks like there is the same distance above and below, to the left and to the right. You could start with this and then use a tape measure to adjust as needed.
Now, press 8 sets of command strips together, peel off the back of one side and press them on to the back, two on each edge of your frame like so.
Add your desired photo (you will want to tack in place with some small pieces of tape).
Now, peel off the paper of the command strips to expose the stickiness.
The photo I chose popped up in my Facebook feed from five years ago (and TWENTY pounds lighter) and it’s one of my favorites so I enlarged it for this project. Flip the frame over and press the frame into place, using your pre-marked measurements as a guide. Press down hard (you might hear the command strips “lock” in place).
A word of caution here… if you go to take your photo frame back off right away, you may find that they pull off of the backboard (most likely because the stain or background paint used may not have been fully dry). If this happens, add a very thin, small amount of hot glue and press back on. Give it adequate drying time and then hopefully it will not happen anymore!
Now, for this project I am not planning to add the linen floral like on my original but if that is something that interests you, you can watch this video on Facebook to see the process I used on a lamp shade. You would use the same process on the frame, gluing on the linen “flowers” only on the flat surface of the frame.
Other options would be to make or purchase pre-made flowers (you could use burlap, paper, or fabric flowers) and hot glue them on. I tried that look here on one of our Boxed Up sample projects from August – just laying the flowers out so that you can get a visual of it.
I will say that the one thing that bothers me about the frame I did in my living room is that I took a piece of glass from a broken frame we were throwing away at the time and inserted it. Now every time I try to get a photo, there is a reflection. So, honestly, I’m happy without the glass there on this new version!
Here’s one last look at the three different versions I have created…
The “Original”, the “Tutorial”, and the “Boxed Up” versions…