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A garland of ginkgo leaves

June 28, 2014

As you’ve seen at the bottom of my posts, we’ve adopted the ginkgo leaf as our house’s symbol. I think it began when we planted a baby ginkgo tree in our Japanese garden five years ago. The little bugger was a stick only three feet tall 2009. Now, it’s over 12 feet tall.

bough of green ginkgo leaves

Since then, we’ve accumulated a number of ginkgo-themed items, like this vase from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin.

yellow ginkgo vase

And these candy dishes, souvenirs from a visit to Bend, Oregon.

ginkgo leaf candy dishes

And our bathroom night light.

ginkgo leaf night light

I even have a ginkgo print shirt and two pairs of ginkgo leaf earrings. So, we were excited to find an Arts and Crafts ginkgo stencil pattern in the gift shop when we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park home and studio in 2012.

Now that we were making over our spare room, I had the perfect place to use it. The honey-gold walls needed a little sumpin-sumpin. In my mind I saw a crown of bronze metallic ginkgo leaves circling the room. Sometimes it’s difficult to translate my visions into materials that are available in real life. But this time, Lowe’s had the perfect shade of metallic bronze in their paint samples.

The paint gal shuffled off to mix a quart. When we returned five minutes later, she informed us that they no longer carry that paint. “Then why do you have the samples in your display?” I asked. “The vendor hasn’t removed them,” she shrugged. ARGGHH!!!

With my vision in jeopardy, I turned to the internet. Who makes metallic paint? Sherwin Williams to the rescue! They have metallic paint in all colors of the rainbow. I selected a bronzy shade called “Coconut Husk,” a gold metallic base with a brownish tint.

quart of Sherwin-Williams 'Coconut Husk'

I had never stenciled before, but it seemed like a pretty straightforward process. I was only using one color … what could go wrong? After our floor refinishing fiasco, I’m happy to report: Nothing!

Here’s what I used: the stencil, paint, a natural sponge, blue painter’s tape, and light duty spray adhesive. Plus, a pencil, a paint tray, and a step ladder.

stenciling supplies

First, I measured each section of wall, found the center point, and determined how many stencil repeats would fit. Then, working from the center point toward each end of the run, I held the stencil against the wall and made tiny pencil marks in its registration holes. Next, I took it outside and sprayed the back with a light coat of spray adhesive, and added a strip of blue tape to the bottom edge.

The stencil was easy to align vertically because I simply abutted its top edge to the picture rail, using the tape to hold it in place. I carefully pressed the entire stencil onto the wall, making sure all the delicate pointy ends were firmly adhered. Then I dipped a corner of the sponge in the paint—not too much—and daub, daub, daubed until the exposed wall was uniformly covered.

stencil adhered to wall

closer view of stencil application

Kitten Break!

When I was stenciling near the windows, I saw our three feral kitten friends tiptoeing by under the hedge. I rushed to meet them on the front porch to take their pictures. Here are the Morse triplets: Dot, Dash, and Ditto, now nearly a year old.

three tabby kittens

They’re still basically wild, but they interact with us a lot, hanging out with us when we work in the gardens, and showing up every evening for happy hour treats on the back porch. Lately I have been able to pet Ditto while she eats Fancy Feast from my hand, and Dot and I play a game where I walk my fingers toward her and she gently bops my hand. What little sweethearts!

Break’s Over

Removing the stencil was easy—I simply pulled gently from one corner. I painted three or four repeats, and then washed the stencil in the kitchen sink to remove built-up paint.

washing stencil in sink

Respray, retape, move the ladder, repeat. It took a lot of daubing over a couple of days, but at last I was done and I could step back and survey my work. I couldn’t have been more pleased. The effect was exactly as I’d imagined: The ginkgo garland took the room right back to 1913!

finished stencil

another wall with finished stencil

We love how the light picks up the subtle sheen of the stenciling, and how the border softens the transition from the picture railing to the wall. Now, all we have left to do are install the new window coverings (on order), buy more bookcases and a new ceiling fixture, have the room rewired, and finish the closet. Hmm … we’re not as done as I thought we’d be! Will we ever finish anything??

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9 Comments
  1. D’Arcy,
    What an amazing border, it’s really the perfect touch for the space and I love that it ties in with your home’s selected symbol. I’ve always love ginko leaves, they remind me of a blown up version of a maidenhair fern. I’m impressed with your work…I’m pretty sure I would have had a least one misstep.
    That is great news about the cats. I wondered if they would eventually come to trust and it sounds like they have.
    Karen

    • Haha! I never said mine was perfect! I misjudged the repeat spacing on a small section of wall, but I decided it wasn’t very noticeable. Don’t tell anyone!! 🙂

  2. Beautiful! I love your ginko leaf gravatar and think it adds a fantastic touch to the room. 🙂

  3. Pretty! The metallic tone takes it up a notch. I appreciate the kitty break, it made me laugh!

  4. Cats are very distracting!!! The border is just lovely xox OPJ

  5. It turned out amazing!

  6. It is gorgeous, and I love the ginko leaf collection. It is nice to have an update on the three little kittens. They are adorable. Crème sends greetings.

  7. “Sometimes it’s difficult to translate my visions into materials that are available in real life.” – HA HA HA!!! I love that!!! so true. Love the stencil! Looks amazing. And loved the kitten break 🙂

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