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“Home State” Scrap-Wood Art

Once you walk in the front door of our house, our living room is off to one side with tall vaulted ceilings.  I really love the spaciousness of the ceilings but from the very beginning, I have been really stumped with how I was going to fill that main wall.  For several months, I had two little shelves with frames on them and a big round mirror.  (Remember when I made Custom Couch Legs?  There’s a peek of the old decor in that post…but they still didn’t have pictures in them.)  But, I always cringed when I walked in there.  The pictures were too small and I don’t know…..I just didn’t love the whole set up.  It was like the wall swallowed up those itty bitty frames.  That’s when I finally realized that I needed really big things in that space.  But I didn’t just want a big piece of art from the local home decor store.  I wanted something a little different. 


I have seen these “home state” pieces of art around and have always thought it would be a cute addition to a mantel or a shelf…….but kinda laughed while wondering whose state would “win”, if I ever decided to make one.  Then, I began thinking about the places Steve and I have lived and how all of those places and the people we knew at each, really have helped shape who we are…..both individually and as a family.  Each of those places have been “home” in some way, even though not all of them were for very long.  (And if I sit here and type about them long enough, I’ll probably get a little mushy and start looking up flights to visit old friends and favorite landmarks.  So……I’ll stop.  Because remember, I’m pregnant?  And I’m always seconds away from full on sobbing.)  So yes, each of those places are pretty dear to us……so I figured we needed ALL of them. 


Hmmmm……but where to put all those states??  Oh yeah, I have a really big and empty living room wall that needs some really big — but simple art.  So, that’s what I did.




 It kinda helps pull everything together and really helps fill that big ol’ wall.


  And now……this living room is mostly done.  The window trim—check.  Floors installed—check.  Baseboards—check.  Tufted Ottoman—check. (ooooh, that’s another fun project, I’ll share another day!)  Oh wait, we’re just missing a chair to the right of the couch.  We just haven’t decided on what to get.  And that leather chair to the left of the couch isn’t staying…..I just pulled it up from the basement, until we decide on some chairs for this room. Bur whatever, it’s MOSTLY done in here. :)


**And did you spy some of the banister stained?  It used to be orange-y oak, remember??  Yeah…..this section is done.  The rest of the project stalled while doing other things.  But once it’s done, I’ll share more.**



And okay, just for fun…’s a before/after picture.  Because it’s always amazing what a little paint can do.  (Haha….and a few other things!)  But this was right when we moved in, a little over a year ago.  (Wow, I kinda forgot how it looked until just now, when I dug up this photo.)




Okay, back to the art on the wall. 


Nice weathered looking slats of wood, that pop off the wall slightly.  Oh, and no, this isn’t wood from old pallets.  I “weathered” them myself (more on that below) and made all 6 states for about $25.  Pretty cheap art, right??





Geography time.  Can you name all of those states on our wall?


Oh shoot, is that one in the upper right hand corner throwing you off?  It’s okay…..because it’s not a state.  Ha.  It’s actually the upper region of Chile, where my husband lived as a church missionary for 2 years.  That piece of art stumps everyone.  :) 


Other states: Arizona (where I grew up), New York (where I was a spanish-speaking missionary in Poughkeepsie, Yonkers, and Manhattan), Idaho (where Steve grew up, where I went to college, where we met/married, and where Elli and Connor were born), Georgia (where we lived for 2 years while Steve went to grad school and where Chloe was born), and Colorado (where we live now).




I have to say, the older I get (I know, I’m not that old yet…..but I’m getting up there at 33), the more I enjoy things around me that have some meaning.  When I stare at these outlines of places we have lived, my memories transport me to really great things that have happened in my (and our) life.  And that makes me really happy.




Oh, and in case you think I took down our family photos and tossed them, just because they didn’t fit the “look” of the living room…..haha, I didn’t.  I hung them up in the formal dining room.  Family photos saved—whew!!




They look much better on this wall, with a lower ceiling.




Love this little family of mine.  So happy our home is coming together, piece by piece.





And I’m extra happy I can check this room off of the “must-do-before-baby-arrives” list.  Well, except the whole chair thing…..but that can wait.  (Are any of you moms out there as neurotic as I am at the end of your pregnancies?  I have an actual “before-baby-arrives” list hanging up on the wall in our office and Steve knows if he really wants to help me out with something, he checks something off the list.  I also find really weird surges of late night energy to get things checked off the list too, even as large and uncomfortable and swollen I am.  Because, once baby arrives, all I want to do is sit/hold/smooch/cuddle our little wee one.  So, for the love, I need more checked off my list!! ;) )




Okay, time to head to the store and buy some wood. 


When I looked for wood, I knew I didn’t need anything super nice.  In fact, I knew I wanted something a little rough, uneven, and even jagged.  I found some cedar fence slats for $1.46 each……and they were perfect.  So, I’ll share the dimensions of those, in case you look for and find something similar.  But really, anything would work.


So, here’s what I needed for ONE state, which measure 21 inches wide and about 25 inches tall.



  • 3 – 6 foot long Fence Slats 3 1/2 x 1/2 inches  (I needed barely over 2 pieces for each state.  So, if you’re making multiples like I did, do a little math so you’re not buying too much.)
  • wood pieces for the back: 1 1/2 x 3/4 inches in size (or you could use the scraps from the fence slats)
  • nail gun (or hammer)
  • 1 inch nails
  • walnut wood stain (I had some on hand……but even a walnut color acrylic paint would work.)
  • black acrylic paint


Now remember, your particular dimensions may vary a bit but I cut 7 pieces from my fence slats, that were 21 inches long each.  I placed them all together, side by side.  Then I cut two of the 1 1/2 x 3/4 inch pieces of wood, about 22 inches long each, and placed them along the two ends of the rows of slats, on the BACK side.  Then, I nailed those pieces of wood right into the slats of wood.  (Here’s a picture of the wood on its side vertically.)



Then I turned over my wood piece and decided to rough it up a bit more.  Here are a few tools that I used.



And with the screw, I laid it on its side and hammered along the grooves as I slowed rolled it across the wood.



I also chiseled off the ends a bit, to make them look a little more uneven.



And you know, my wood was already pretty rough, so I didn’t really need to do much to it.  Just little things here and there.  But if your wood is a little smoother, you may want to scratch it up a bit more.


Next, the color of the wood.  I decided that I wanted a warmer tone with some grey in it.  I didn’t want it super brown but also didn’t want a super grey color either (because the color on my walls is a grey color).  So, I warmed up the wood first with some walnut colored stain…..but I watered it down so that it wasn’t super dark and also didn’t seep too much into the wood.  I still wanted to be able to sand and get down to the original wood later on.  (Also, I only used stain because I had it on hand from the Wood Plank Headboard tutorial.  You could also use brown acrylic craft paint and it would work just fine too, I’m sure.)



Once the stain was dry, I sanded it down a bit, removing some of the stain but also revealing some of the wood so that the black paint could seep into the plain wood too (in the next step).  After sanding, I wiped down with a set cloth to remove all of the dust.



Then, I watered down some black acrylic paint and applied that onto the wood.  I watered down the paint for the same reasons as the stain.  I just didn’t want it going on too thick.



After that dried, I sanded that too.  I really roughed up those edges and even sanded back down to the original wood in some spots.  I really liked the variation of all the tones.  And see how it’s not so brown anymore?  It definitely is more grey-ish with the black paint on top.  And looks older.  Perfect.



Next, I found images of each of the states where we have lived and then drew them onto taped-together pieces of printer paper.  (I just free handed them until they looked right……so no, they’re not exactly perfect.  However, you may be able to find somewhere online to enlarge and print out, if you’re not in love with sketching out shapes.)



Then, I traced each state onto my wood with pencil and then painted within the lines with some of our semi-gloss baseboard paint that I have an abundance of. :)



Oh, and I just screwed two eyelet screws onto the back of each of the wood pieces and attached some wire, so we could hang each state on the wall.



And that’s it.  So happy to have something that represents our past, our early marriage years, and our current home.




Let me know if you give it a try. 

And good luck!




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Featured Sponsor:


Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Mindy says:

    Where did you get your big area rug??

  2. steph mckinley says:

    love this idea… im going to do one big michigan :)
    also – i noticed in the project pics you painted your stair railings…. do you have info on what you used/how you did it?? this is something ive wanted to do forever!!

  3. Anna says:

    I’m working on this project as a present for my housemates and had a question about hanging them. For the sake of cost, I had to buy 1×3 wood for the slats, and used 3/8×1 inch wood for the backing. The result is pretty heavy, which may also be a result of me using pine rather than cedar (also due to cost). Do I need to use an anchor for hanging? Also, any suggestions for how to hang when my two pieces on the back are horizontal rather than vertical, and aren’t at all the same height for each one?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Check out the second to last picture in the post :)

  4. Amy says:

    Hi Ashley…I’m following your tutorial to make some of these but having trouble installing the eye hook screws….how did you do it?

    1. Ashley says:

      Hey Amy, I’m pretty sure my husband just screwed them right in. But that would be hard if you had a tougher wood. You can try drilling some pilot holes into the wood first (that are smaller than the screw) and then screw them in to that. Hope that helps!


  5. Stephen says:

    Love this idea! And, love your couch, where is it from?

    1. Ashley says:

      I know this was an old question but I’m just seeing it now. The couch is from Ikea!


  6. Nicole says:

    I seriously love this Ashley! Your house is coming together so beautifully!

  7. Jamie says:

    Love this! And as I was staring with big heart shaped eyes at your project I realized I really love the wall color behind the project! I searched your site but can’t find the shade/brand, can you share?

    1. Ashley says:

      It’s called Miner’s Dust by Dunn Edwards :)

  8. Rachelle says:

    Hi Ashley, thanks for the fun project idea! I went to get supplies and could only find oil based paints. I’m new in the craft world, so please bare with me if this is a silly question- Can I add water to the oil based paints to get the desired effect still, or will that not work? Again, sorry if I sound foolish… :)

  9. Jill says:

    I have an oak banister and railing that I want to re-do, so I need a tutorial soon! I love your home and all your projects. Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Kerri Roszel says:

    I love the wall art! But, I really love the whole room! We are scraping popcorn ceilings and re-doing our living room this summer and I really love the gray walls and dark floor. It just looks great. Anyway, I have been following your blog for a few years and I was wondering if you made that giant coffee table /ottoman in your living room. I love it so much and need something large for my own living room. I looked back through the archives but didn’t see it. If you have instructions for it, I would love to re=create it for myself. Thanks! Love your blog!!!

  11. jeri johnston says:

    Ashley….you clever girl. That is so fun! I could of guessed all of the states including Chile even without the hints:) your Idaho peeps miss you! After the baby is born and still a nice sleey traveller why dont you hop in the van and come on over? Love to you all!

  12. Danita Courtney says:

    This is such a great and personal idea for that large space! Awesome job! Thanks for sharing! I would love to do something a bit smaller for my kids to remind them of where they came from and where they are now! Maybe on one big board? Love the project! Thanks again!!! :-)

  13. Irena says:

    You have a beautiful home.. Love it. You are so talented. god bless

  14. Tauna W. says:

    Looks great! But really, how do you do white in your dining room with little kids? I’ve been agonizing for a while now as to what route to go with our dining room chairs that desperately need to be recovered. Yours look great. Both rooms are beautiful.

  15. cucicucicoo says:

    Very cute! I was wondering about the State that isn’t actually a state! You guys have such a colorful past! Love it! :) Lisa

  16. Spring McDonald says:

    absolutely love this!!! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  17. Jessica says:

    Your house! GAH! Can you please just come over and decorate my house for me? Mmmmmkay?

  18. Anonymous says:

    it looks great, but I love the old armchair, please keep it, it looks good in that room

  19. warang says:

    It great idea and lovely home (^_^)

  20. Sandy Ross says:

    I knew I had seen printable state maps online. I just googled printable state maps and got several sites that would be perfect for getting the right shape for this project, including counties. Not sure I have a place to do this, but hope the info he’s someone.

  21. Elnisi says:

    this is a great idea!! I was an army wife [ret] and we lived in so many places, but I had an idea with just one state
    you could do city maps,as well as county.
    I now live in OKLAHOMA, after my hubby died, I had to move near my sons, I recently made a quilt for a friends
    baby, the label was the shape of OK, it was an unexpected surprize, once you have the shape of a state you
    could do it on anything, I also have put the shape on tee tops, with a bead where the city we live in is located.
    you know this would also make a good idea for note cards, christmas cards ~oh the ideas are flowing
    thanks ashley.

  22. Colette says:

    I love,love love this! I have only lived in one state, but I know what you mean about having art that means something and not just picking something up at the store. I have lived several places within the state and could do a piece for each of those cities!

    1. Ashley says:

      Thanks Colette!

      And I was just typing to another commenter above that maybe you could do one piece of art as an outline of your state and then do several other pieces that are outlines of the counties you have lived in. (There are outlines of counties online….because I wouldn’t know my county shape.) That would be just as cool looking……and a great conversation starter. :)

  23. Lacey says:

    Love this idea! I’m so glad you explained the region of Chile, though. I was staring at that for so long disappointed in my geography skills!

    1. Ashley says:

      Hahaha……sorry that I almost made you click over to google maps. :)

      And thanks Lacey!

  24. Lynette says:

    That is super awesome! I’ve only lived in one state, so I could do one with the one state and stars by all the cities, but you see that a lot. I love the spin you put on it, and how it helped fill all the space. And yes, I am going crazy with wanting to get all the little projects done before baby comes. I think it’s mainly because for 6+ months after (okay usually 1.5 years) I don’t have time to redecorate anything. And when you’re stuck inside nursing a baby all day, you kinda look around at the walls a lot! :) I haven’t made a list yet, but I probably ought to. :)

    1. Ashley says:

      Maybe you could do one as an outline of your state and then do other pieces that are outlines of the counties you have lived in. (There are outlines of counties online….because I wouldn’t know my county shape.) That would be really cute too. And a great conversation starter. :)

      And ha, I’m in great company! You totally get me when I say the same things just don’t get done. And yeah, 1.5 years is pretty accurate! :)

  25. Roxy says:

    I. Love. It. Our family shares a handful of states we call home as well, this is a perfect project for us, too! I’m a huge fan of yours – everything you sew, create, make is beautiful. Thanks for all of your posts, every single one of them!

    1. Ashley says:

      Awww, thanks so much Roxy! Really, that totally made me smile! :)

  26. Andrea says:

    I love this idea! We moved a few weeks ago and I have this huge empty framed out space above the fireplace that needs something special. Since we’ve lived in two countries and 5 states, this is perfect! I’m definitely going to give it a try.

    1. Ashley says:

      This would be perfect above your fireplace! And with different countries thrown in there, it definitely adds to the conversation when people come over. :)

  27. Torrie says:

    This is a perfect project for me, I too can’t claim just one state as home. I love this!

    1. Ashley says:

      You’re like us then……a nice collage of places we call home! Glad you like it! :)

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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