Turorial-Get a Custom Birch Tree Wall Without the Expensive Decals

Welcome! Today's post is the second in a very special series. A nursery designed for my sister and her new little bundle of joy. If you missed the first post, be sure and check it out by clicking here. Not only will you find some of the most adorable chubby cheeks, you can also see the design plan/inspiration board for the room. But; for today, we are focusing on the birch tree wall that was created on the cheap! 

*Disclaimer-Photo quality is not at its best in this post, but I really wanted to share this with you guys, so I'm posting any way. Please do me two favors...

  1. Don't judge 

  2. Come back and see the final room reveal with nice crisp photos

Before diving into the specifics on how we pulled this off, I want to quickly stress the importance of deciding on which wall you are going to paint your trees. *If you are one of the many, savvy gals who are receiving the TFD Style newsletter, be sure and check your inbox, because I'll be sending out an email with some tricks for getting just the right nursery floor plan, and how that effects which wall you choose to paint. If you are not yet getting my emails full of insider tips and tricks, you can easily remedy that problem, and get in on the action by entering your email address below:

Ok, so now that we have the planning phase covered, lets get busy shall we? 

For this project, you will need:

  • Tape Measure
  • Painters Tape (any width will work, but I used 2")
  • Sharp Craft Knife
  • Paint (I used some leftover grey that I used in my home)
  • Paint Roller
  • Paint Tray
  • Shur-Line Paint Edger (optional, but not really- if you want a nice clean line without the time and headache of cutting in with a brush, you'll want this)
  • Drop Cloth (again, optional, but if you are like me, you are messy and it's really not)

*In this room, I was lucky enough to already have the white walls in place. If you don't (and you want your trees to be white), you may want to give your wall a fresh coat of white paint before starting in on the trees.

For Step 1, you are going to want to measure and mark the center of your wall. This will give you a reference point, and help you space the trees correctly. Be sure and mark this with an arrow so that you don't confuse it for a tree when you start marking the trunks. You'll also want to mark any furniture that will be sitting in front of the wall (in this case, the crib). I just set the tape measure to the length of the crib, matched it up on the center line of the wall, and let it sit on the floor so that I could imagine the crib in it's place while I decided where I wanted my trees to be.

Design Tip: when decorating, use odd numbers

Step 2. In keeping with the laws of design, I knew I needed to have an odd number of trees (typically 3). However, in this case, three trees weren't going to fill the wall, so I bumped it up to five. I also knew that I didn't want them evenly spaced, because let's face it, that's just not how trees grow in nature. I also knew that I wanted them to highlight the crib, not compete with it, so I wouldn't center any trunks with the crib. Once I had all of this decided, I took some painters tape and roughly marked where the base of the tree trunks would be. 

Step 3. Once you have the trunks of your trees marked at the baseboard, it's time to start constructing your rough tree shapes. I started at the left and worked my way across the wall. To ensure that my trees weren't super crooked, I would measure the distance from the wall to the base of the tree, and then move up a few feet, measure over that same distance (from the wall), and make a light mark for a guide. You'll also want to add branches. Think of how trees actually grow, with their branches coming out of the trunk, reaching upward, and getting thinner as they come to a point. Remember that you can always make a branch thinner by cutting away the tape, so don't be afraid to use lots of it.

Step 4. Here comes the fun part! For this step you are going to want to work from the top of the wall, down. Using a super sharp craft knife, gently cut through the tape to form the trees. Again, thinking about how real trees look, they are never perfectly smooth or straight, and yours shouldn't be either. I would just loosely hold my knife and let it wobble in my hand as I pulled it in a downward motion. This is what is going to set them apart from the vinyl ones that you buy, peel and stick. Just be extremely careful not to push too hard as you cut...you don't want to score the drywall-just the tape! Once you have cut out all of the trees and limbs, you can go back in and ad little squiggly, horizontal lines to give the trees an even more authentic look. When all of your cuts have been made, and the excess tape has been removed, go back over all of the edges of the tape and press down firmly to ensure that you have a good stick. This will help the paint from sneaking under the tape and making a mess of all of your precise cutting.

Step 5. Paint the wall. I first cut it in using my handy-dandy Shur-Line Painting Edger. If you don't have one of these in your life, you are missing out! No, I'm not being dramatic. I love this thing like a fat kid loves cake! Gone are the days of trying to keep a steady hand, spending waaaay too much time cutting in all of the walls, and going back in with a tiny corner of a wet rag and gently wiping away a stray line of paint, all the while accidentally smudging the wall and having to start all over again. Nope! With this gizmo, you simply blot it in the paint, scrape the excess off on the wall of the paint pan, press it against the wall and let the little rollers guide you straight along the edge! Perfect edging, every time, and in a jiff! My life has been forever changed. Once you have those perfect edges in place, go in with your roller and paint the wall. Just be cautious as you go over the tape, you don't want to get it too soggy with paint, or peel it up with your roller. Slow and steady wins the race-just ask the tortoise. 

Step 6. Now is the hard part-let it (mostly) dry. I know, I know, this part is painful! You have worked so hard, and you know that the next step is going to bring such a dramatic change. But you must wait. Let the paint dry. And, when it is almost fully dry (a little tacky to the touch), you can start to peel it off. Again, you'll want to go slow, and work backward from your application...Top down and right to left this time. As you pull the tape, keep it taut so that the paint on it doesn't touch and mess up your pretty white trees. I made a big ball of tape with it as I pulled it off to keep it from making a huge mess.

Bonus. Want to kick things up a notch and really personalize your work of art? Go back in with a thin paint brush and paint the initials of the parents and baby-to-be in a little heart to mimic a carving in the trunk! In this case, Darcie + Jeff = Lola!

One last tip before you go:

Get in the habit of painting barefoot (if you are painting somewhere you don't want to track paint-if it's new construction, you should probably skip this tip)! Paint drips. I don't care how good you are, paint drips. If you step in said paint with bare feet, you can feel it and wipe it off before venturing out onto the beautiful carpet or hardwood floors in the adjoining room. But, if you are wearing shoes, you can't feel the paint on your feet and when you go strutting out of the room, you track paint all over the place. So, next time you go to roll out a fresh coat of paint, loose the shoes.

Have any painting tips you'd like to share? Don't be shy, tell us about it in the comments!