Thursday, January 5, 2012

Well Hello Pretty Ladies

For a year, my roommates and I sat in our living room with nothing hanging above our pretty big sectional besides a tiny picture I found at Home Goods. And for a year, I wondered what the heck to put there.

I pinned a lot of ideas for artwork over the wall to Pinterest but just wasn’t quite sure what I liked. One thing I was sure of? We needed large artwork of some kind and I needed it cheap.

We came close to getting one option: a series of four vintage Mademoiselle cover prints from Z Gallerie. But at $50, it was out of my budget and I wasn’t even sure if four pictures would like good enough in this space.
While those prints were the right ones for us, I still found myself gravitating to vintage fashion prints. I love a pretty fashion print, and, like I mentioned with my Christmas tree, living with three girls is the perfect time to embrace something girly in our living room.

I especially liked this gallery wall that I saw on Pinterest:

Via Pretty Stuff (original source anyone?)
Then One day I saw this picture on Pinterest:

Via Layla Grace
When I clicked on the source blog I found that it was a gallery of vintage Barbie prints. And when I Googled “Vintage Barbie” (naturally), I found the Barbie calendar.

Ding! (That’s the sound of a light bulb turning on above my head).

This isn’t the first time I’ve used calendars for artwork. In college I took apart a calendar and put up all over my dorm room. When I did it then it looked ridiculous, but I always maintained, like many other bloggers, that calendars can be a great source of affordable artwork.

I picked up the 2012 Barbie Calendar at Bed Bath, and Beyond. I wasn’t sure how many of the prints I wanted to use – I was thinking 6 or 8 in large frames with big mats. I figured I would probably paint the frames because our living room is kind of lacking in the color department,.

It seems that framing section at Michael’s is perpetually on sale, so I figured I could get a pretty good deal on a group of their nicer frames. My first option was a group of six 12x16 frames. They were originally $30, marked down to $15. Which still sounded like a lot when I was thinking about buying six of them.

Not to mention, the price of mats big enough to fit in the frame put the total for each one over $20, making this project ring in to the tune of $150—a whole lot more than I was trying to spend.

My second option was a matted frame around the same size as option one for $12.99 each. When I did the math of six or eight of those babies, it was still pretty pricey.

Then I looked at the shelf above option two. There, I found a 10x13 frame matted to 8x10 for $5. I hadn’t really thought about displaying all twelve pictures, but at this price it was my cheapest option. So I took home 12 frames in white and oatmeal (since I was planning to paint them anyway).

First, I placed all 12 picture frames on the floor in two rows of six to see how large it would be.

It didn’t seem very big on the floor, but I wanted to see what it was like on the wall just to be sure. To do this, I used scrap paper and catalogs to make a template for each frame, and hung them on the wall with painter’s tape.

We call this photo "channeling our inner teenage boy".
Yes, those are pages of one of the 50 Victoria's Secret catalogs we receive every week. 
I decided I liked all 12 frames, so I proceeded with my plans to paint them.  I settled on a lavender spray paint with one or two frames painted a darker purple. First I took all the mats and glass out of the frames.

Then I placed the frames on a matt outside and painted the frames in shifts so that I could get around them easily. I decided to put a layer of primer on the frames because they weren’t real wood and I hope that the Primer would help the spray paint adhere.

Once I finished the frames, I moved on to cutting the Barbie prints out of the calendar.

First, I removed the staples from the centerfold of the calendar. Then, I cut each piece of paper down the fold with a craft knife. I had to keep reminding myself that the calendar pattern was on the back of half of the images in the calendar.

Many of the prints were actually bigger than 8x10 opening, so I broke out my high school yearbook knowledge and used the mat to crop each picture. I tried my best to include the feet as much as I could, but I ended up having to cut some of them off. I’m hoping that unlike a photo on a yearbook page, it looks a little bit artistic and not silly.

I cut the images slightly smaller than the whole mat so that I could tape them to the back of the mat exactly as I liked them.

Once everything was cropped and taped, I put the glass and mats and prints in the frames and began the very tedius hanging process. I tried to make life easier for myself and our walls by using 3M Command Strips to hang the frames. That way we would have fewer holes to patch when we moved out (we live in a rental) and it would be a lot easier to hang them precisely in a grid.

I started from the a top center picture and worked my way out until I hung 6 frames in a row. I used a combination method of a ruler and a level to mark where on the wall I needed to hang the frames.

Once I hung the top row, I moved on to the bottom, again making my way out from the center. Then I stepped back and looked at the whole thing and determined I needed to make some adjustments. Luckily the frames were easily to remove from the wall, so I eyeballed the adjustments until everything was straight.

Well...I wish it was perfectly straight. This is not a good project for extremely perfectionists because it seems almost impossible to get the entire grid to look right. But it’s good enough.

The first time around I had only painted one frame dark purple. Once everything was on the wall I decided it needed another dark accent, so I took a frame down, pulled the glass and print out of it, and re-sprayed it a darker color.

And voila! Vintage fashion print artwork gallery over our couch.

Some of the places that I found the Barbie calendar show it as art in a kid’s room, but I think it works here. In fact, most people have no idea that they’re Barbie prints when they see the arrangement. I know it’s super girly, but like I said before, when else will I be able to do something so girl in my living room?

I haven’t even told you my favorite part about this whole thing. The price!

Here’s the budget breakdown:
Barbie Calendar - $12
12 Frames x $5 each - $60
Primer Spray Paint – had already
Lavender Spray Paint x 2 - $7
Dark purple spray paint - $3.50
Artwork Total: $82.50

The Command Strips added about $20 to the budget, but they’ll save us money when we don’t have to patch holes before we move, and I would’ve had to pay for mounting hardware regardless of what art I bought. So for a little over $100, we have art above our couch.

$100 still always sounds like a lot of money to me, but I know that this is a great value for the price, especially considering that the price per framed print came in under $10 each. AND then there’s this fun piece of info.

The original Barbie inspiration piece? Well, I followed it to the source and found that the prints displayed on the wall sell for $100 EACH! And if I wanted to, I could’ve probably painted the frames a similar color to the high-end prints to make them like even more similar. There are definitely ways to dress these babies up even more.

So there you have it, a $1200 piece of artwork done for $100. Can I get a woohoo?

Has anyone else done something cool with calendars as art? I plan to keep using them and even recycle my 2011 letterpress calendar that hung on the wall in my cube at work. But that project requires more materials so it will have to wait until after No Shop January!

Speaking of No Shop January, today was a success! I was at work late and very tempted to pick up a pizza on the way home, but I resisted the temptation and cooked up chicken tacos when I got home.  Score one for me. 


  1. I love it! Colourful and fun, and perfect for a house full of women!

  2. That looks fantastic! I love it : )

  3. Oh Barbie and art work - can't be beat! I do love those illustration - just gorgeous!

  4. i saw this on pinterest too and already have the calendar to do the same thing! LOVE LOVE it! -Amy

  5. Just found your blog and I LOVE how those turned out! Thank you for sharing! I am your new follower!

    -Sarah from

  6. I swear we have the exact same couch! Yours looks 1000 times better then ours..ours has seen better days. Like 10 years ago. :)

  7. I just love your idea!
    Could you tell me if I can get the barbie calendar by internet?
    I live in Brasil.
    Best Luciana

    1. Hi Luciana! It looks like ships internationally. Try this link: You'll end up with the 2014 Wall calendar, but it is sure to have great prints in it too!

  8. I did the same thing with a botanical print calendar when we were first married and broke, painted the dollar store frames gold, so they looked really classy. Friends always admired them and were surprised at how cheaply I did it myself! Frugality really is the mother of invention! Great job!


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