First of all, thank you so very much for all the lovely comments and compliments on our bedroom makeover. I read and relished every single one---even the one from the person who said it looked like a jail cell! Yes, even that one!---and it filled me with a particularly bubbly sort of glee that you were as delighted with the revamp as we were. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your enthusiasm. I'd invite you all over for a celebratory drink, but aside from the logistical difficulties---plus the offchance that one of you is actually a mass murderer---it would probably be rather awkward for you to have to ask for the time off work so you could fly across the country to clink glasses of champagne in the bedroom of an Internet person you've never met. I mean, right?
Probably my very favorite part of the room is the big graphic sign Sean and I made to hang over the bed, which is something I've been wanting to try for about a year now but only just got around to doing this weekend. Full and total credit for this ingenious idea should go to the incredibly talented Candi Mandi, because it was her Flickr photo I saw last September that made me think "Hey! This is amazing! I want do this!" I asked her a couple of questions on Flickr about how she did it and then stored that information in my head for eleven more months until last weekend when I decided to put the whole thing into practice.
Armed only with a fairly basic idea of what to do, I did run into a few small issues, but honestly, this thing ain't rocket science and I soon figured out what I was doing wrong and how to correct it. So in the event that you want to make your own similar sign, what follows is a detailed---probably overly detailed---set of instructions for how Sean and I made ours. Feel free to ask me any questions if something is unclear.
1. So first of all, you want to choose a quote. Candi Mandi used a line from a Beatles song and I, as I explained in a previous post, used a line I've always liked from the poem Desiderata. You have to be careful here, because it's got to be something you're not going to get sick of looking at every day. Other quotes I considered were "God only knows what I'd be without you"---we danced to the Beach Boys' God Only Knows at our wedding, played by my dad and brother on their guitars---and "So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs Wagner pies / And walked off to look for America," which is a line from my very, very, very favorite song in the world ("America" by Simon and Garfunkel. Yes, I know I am a middle-aged person in a thirty-year-old's body. Aren't I supposed to like Lady Gaga or something?)
I decided that the former could be a little bit cheesy---plus, if we were having a fight, I might scrawl on it with lipstick "I'D PROBABLY BE A PERSON WHO NEVER HAD TO PICK UP YOUR SOCKS FROM UNDER THE COFFEE TABLE AGAIN" and that could be awkward to remove the next day---and the latter perhaps a little weird and esoteric and oddly focused on pie. So in the end, I went with the Desiderata. But the world is really your oyster here.
2. Next, assemble your supplies. You will need: a large piece of plywood from the hardware store (ours cost about $30 and we had it cut down to 64 x 40, after measuring the space above our bed), some primer, some paint (we used one can of black spraypaint and a little leftover regular white paint), some screws and a drill (for screwing it into the wall), and some vinyl letters. Let me save you some time right now and tell you that I went to three different stores looking for these vinyl letters and the very best kind I found were the Headline brand in Office Max. They were $3.50 a packet (much cheaper than similar brands in Michaels and Office Depot) and they did the trick just fine. I chose 6-inch letters, which seemed to be a good fit for the size of my sign.
3. So about those vinyl letters: It might sound stupid but you need to be a thousand percent sure that you're buying enough of each. Once you've decided on your phrase, write it out on a piece of paper and count out how many of each letter you're going to need to spell it. (Then count again. Turns out I needed 5 Us for mine, though I'd only counted 4.) You'll see on the outside of each packet how many of each letter is included inside; to spell my entire phrase, I ended up needing four packets of letters. Since you're going to be painting over them and pulling them off, it matters not what color they are (as you will see in a minute, I had to buy black, white, and red.)
4. Now decide what color you want your letters to be. I wanted my letters to be white, so I primed the piece of plywood first---this is very important, so don't skip it; you want your paint to stick to the wood---and then rolled over it with one coat of Valspar Ultra White.
5. While that's drying, cut out your letters. Your vinyl letters will come laid out on sheets. It's a pain to do this, but if you can cut out each letter as close to the edge as you can, it'll make it a whole lot easier to position them on the plywood when you're laying out your sign to see how it looks best.
6. Now figure out how you're going to lay out your text. If you're crappy at math like me, this might end up being the hardest part. We ended up surmising that we had a 40-inch high piece of plywood and 6-inch high letters, meaning we could do five rows of text with an inch between each line and three inches at the bottom and the top. You would not believe how much tearing of hair it took to get us to that conclusion.
Once you've figured that out, for god's sake, mark it on your piece of plywood and then draw the actual lines across the wood so you've got a guide when you're sticking them down. I used a black pen for this, which was a terrible idea, because if you're anything like me, you'll mess it up at some point. (Use a pencil. I beg of you, use a pencil.)
7. Lay out your letters so you have a visual of how it's going to look. Sean convinced me that we should justify everything to the left, and I'm so glad he did, although you can always center your text instead if you like. Either way, lay out the letters now and make sure you know which words you're going to put on which line. You really, really, really don't want to find out at the last minute that it doesn't all fit.
8. Now stick on your letters! This is the fun part. It's also excrutiatingly terrifying. I did this so slowly and meticulously, that I ended up getting a cramp in my tongue from sticking it out in concentration.
9. Paint your sign the color you want it to be. We chose black and we went with a spraypaint because we figured it would dry fastest. We only needed one coat. We did it outside and I let Sean do the honors because once he actually got arrested for spraypainting the side of a Duchess restaurant when he was 16, so I figured he knew his stuff.
10. Wait for it to dry. This is hard. We ended up waiting overnight, but only because we got lazy and it got dark. You'd probably be okay with five or six hours.
11. Peel your vinyl letters off! This is by far the most exciting step, because you finally get to see the results of all your hard work. If you've done a good job of painting, the letters beneath should be crisp and clear and sharp. If not, you can try touching them up a little bit once you've pulled off the vinyl.
12. Hang your masterpiece. We found the easiest way to do this was to drill a hole in each corner, put a screw into it, and screw it into the wall. Then again, we own this house now so we can ruin it all we want; if you're a cautious renter, you might want to look into hanging it with picture wire instead.
And there you go! You just made an enormous graphic sign and you're probably the only person in the world who has one exactly like it. Any questions? Fire away! And if you are thinking of making one, I'd love to hear what quote or phrase you're planning to use.