Last month, HGTV.ca ran a two-part feature about a restaurant makeover for Saint John, New Brunswick’s Opera Bistro. The makeover was carried out by Punch Inside, the design firm for which I am Creative Director.
Opera Bistro’s new entrance, created for under $200!
Today, we unpack the new entrance area of Opera Bistro [pictured, above] and offer you DIY advice on how you create your own entrance way in a similar aesthetic. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a home or a business setting: entrances are always key. Their role is to be the welcoming space, the first chance to make an impression (and you remember what they say about second chances at making a first impression…). An entrance, then, should — indeed, must — make a statement. Here’s how you can easily make that statement for under $200!
All photos by Hemmings House, unless otherwise noted.
In the case of the pre-makeover Opera Bistro [pictured, left of "Materials" list; photo by Judith Mackin], the entrance badly needed an upgraded “WOW” factor. We knew that we needed to get this space reduced to the essentials (i.e., strip it right down to the walls) and start over, fresh.
When sourcing materials, be as creative as you are comfortable being. There are always plenty of places to save money without cutting corners, as you’ll see from this list.
• Longhorn “Tex” (Cardboard Safari, through TUCK Studio) — $31
• Yellow birch and white painted tree/branch — free!
• “In the Right Light” fixture (Rich, Brilliant, Willing for Artecnica, through TUCK Studio) — $125
• Frames — $5
• Music sheets — pennies!
• Basket — $5
• Paint (enough for your particular space, in your desired colour) — approx. $20
• Sheet of Masonite — approx. $10
STEP 1: Painted Accent Wall
Paint the entrance or accent wall in your desired colour, and with the recommended number of coats. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way towards making a space seem new — even if the space is question is just an accent wall. At Opera Bistro, Black Eggshell was used on the walls, along with Masonite for the birch panel.
STEP 2: The Texture Wall
Assemble a wall panel from birch strips — NOTE: An upcoming HGTV.ca blog will provide step-by-step instructions for DIY birch panels. Attach the panel to the wall with drywall screws. Add and element of surprise: Our visual surprise came from the complementary but distinctive cardboard mounted bull head (Longhorn "Tex").
Longhorn “Tex” (medium brown) from Cardboard Safari, $31, TUCK Studio; photo via CardboardSafari.com
STEP 3: Frame Found Objects
Add framed “found” objects — in this case, beautifully aged music sheets placed in simple frames and hung vertically in a group of three. NOTE: More ideas on framing found objects will be featured in an upcoming HGTV.ca blog.
Detail: inexpensive frames display old opera music sheets
STEP 4: Light Fixture
Install your “In the Right Light” fixture, or something very similar — the particular proportions and look of each of the objects included in this entrance way are carefully chosen, so if you’re improvising, try and stick to suggestions as closely as you can. p.s. Installing your own lighting is not a recommended DIY step — much better (and safer) to have an electrician do this for you.
“In the Right Light” fixture by Rich, Brilliant, Willing, $125, TUCK Studio; photo via ArtecnicaInc.com
STEP 5: Basket
A large, shallow basket can be sourced from a number of locations, e.g. a flea market. You may already have one lying around — since the heyday of Wicker Emporium and Pier One, who doesn’t? (The owner of Opera Bistro purchased this particular basket for $5 dollars.) Source birch or other sticks and branches from an adventure in the woods; stack them in the basket et voilà — a natural décor element. If you’re the practical type, use your basket for kids shoes, dog accessories, slippers, etc.
Basketful o’birch: Simple, fast, beautiful
STEP 6: Craft It Up!
Given that the Opera Bistro renovation involved the central motifs of opera and wood, we decided to combine the two whenever possible. Papier-mâché, which everyone’s done a time or two in their lives (and if not: it’s easy to make your own papier-mâché at home — and fun, too), is a great way to turn some already beautiful branches into an unpredictable, “musical” art piece.
Scraps of sheet music, papier-mâché‘d over found birch.
- Mix an acrylic gel medium with flour and water (all equal approximately parts)
- Rip paper (in this case, sheets of music) into strips of any length or width; dip strips entirely in mixture; remove strips from mixture and remove excess goop; gently apply strips to branches/trunks; once applied, smooth the strips (NOTE: You can apply the strips willy-nilly, or systematically for a desired pattern — it will look good no matter what you do)
- Allow extra time for the mâché to dry completely — drying time is dependent on number of strip layers and thickness of goo
STEP 7: Sculptural Branches
By simply applying a glossy paint, white (or, any colour you prefer), to a bark-stripped tree (or branches), you’ll find the transformation to be surprisingly sculptural. Best of all: It’s soooo easy and affordable!.
Detail: paint brings a sculptural look to a bark-stripped tree, or tree branch
- Make sure the wood is as smooth (free of loose material) as possible and dry (be patient, allow days if necessary — no point in putting paint on wet wood)
- Apply one coat of white (or, any colour you prefer) interior acrylic latex enamel semi-gloss paint; once dry, apply a second coat
All Done! Now, Wasn’t That Easy?
As you can see, it doesn’t take much money or time to really change a space and imbue it with that all-important “WOW” factor. What will you do with your entrance?
Next in Judith Mackin’s DIY makeover series: How to create your own birch fireplace or wall-surround panels