Feb 3, 2015

Dining Room Bistro Chalkboard

Today I have a new project in my dining room to share. 

But first, I'd like to say thank you to the blog friends and visitors who left such kind comments on last week's home tour over at Design Dreams By Anne. I was so moved and humbled by all the very nice things you said.

Thank you!

Have you ever noticed I rarely show photos of the wall beside our dining room table? This is because it's a difficult wall to decorate and usually is just a big blank boring wall. Our shotgun floor plan makes it so the only way to get from the front of our house to the back is to walk through the dining room between the table and the wall. That means I can't hang any artwork in that narrow space low enough that it might get bumped and knocked off the wall when we pass by. 

I also can't hang artwork on the wall higher up because the plaster there is so old and brittle we're afraid it will just crack and crumble right off the wall if we dare pound a nail or screw a screw into it. We decided there are about a hundred other things we'd rather do with our time and money than demolish our dining room walls to drywall them, so I'm left with a couple of options: lean artwork from the narrow ledge above the wainscot or line up small knick knacks there on the ledge (which looks somewhat awkward with the scale of our 10-1/2' high ceilings.) Since we repainted the walls in here last year, I've been trying to think of a solution that didn't require a big investment in new framed art. 

Last week I finally decided to make a big bistro/deli style menu chalkboard. (You know how I love chalkboards - I bet you aren't even surprised!) Call me crazy, but there's just something about bistro chalkboard menus I find so charming. They make me think of that sweet little East Hampton Barefoot Contessa shop where Diane Keaton and Jack Nickolson bumped into each other in my favorite movie, Something's Gotta Give. Charming!

So I designed a huge chalkboard that's strong enough so it won't bend and sag while leaning against the wall, but light enough to easily put up and take down from our dining room ledge when I want to write something new on it. I started at Home Depot where I had them cut a 33" x 57" rectangle of Masonite from a 4' x 8' sheet for me. (They'll make the cuts for free.) 

  I primed and painted the Masonite with three coats of chalk paint, sanding between each coat. (I find that chalk paint from the store holds up better to erasing with damp rags than my homemade chalk paint.)

For a frame I chose some fairly lightweight stock moulding that was still strong enough to keep the Masonite from flexing, and I mitered the corners myself at home. (I suggest practicing first since mitered corners can be tricky to cut, but you don't need a fancy power saw to miter corners; for years I used a little ten dollar plastic miter saw with a regular hand saw to make my own painting canvases and frames.) 

 While I was at Home Depot I picked up ten of these little $2 clamps that I don't know how I lived without until now. I just used wood glue and these clamps to glue the frame to the Masonite one side at a time. The glue made a tough as nails bond that didn't require additional nailing. I taped the chalkboard, then stained the frame to match my dining room table and sealed it with two coats of brush-on poly. 

Next came priming the board for chalk by covering it with chalk and wiping it all off. Then the fun part: writing my winter coffee menu!

I love how it looks with our new pewter chandelier, our dining room table with the same stain color, and our black windsor chairs. 

I have my eye on two taller topiaries like this one from Ballard Design for each side of the chalkboard, but they're pretty pricey so I'm going to investigate a DIY alternative.   

I think our new homemade bistro chalkboard adds some unique interest to our big blank wall and helps make our dining room feel cozy and fun. You might be seeing more of this dining room wall around here now!

Thanks so much for stopping in today to check out our newest chalkboard. I hope you have a wonderful week!  


  1. It looks great and I think it's a perfect solution :)

    I love that little shop in the movie too.

  2. That sure was the perfect solution. Beautiful frame!

  3. Love the chalkboard - it turned out beautifully! Would you please consider a post teaching us how to make mitered cut frames? Thanks!

  4. You did a great job, it looks gorgeous! I love it!


  5. It looks beautiful; how could it not in such a gorgeous space!

  6. I love the look of your oversized chalkboard, Laurel! It's perfect for that wall and what fun you'll have changing out the menu or artwork for the seasons! I think I need to invest in some of those clamps. Thanks for the tutorial!

  7. I love it and I think it looks perfect leaning.

  8. Your chalkboard looks great up there and I love the menu. Waiting to see what you come up with on those topiaries. They are so pretty but so expensive.

  9. I love it!! What a great job you did. I love the menu, and i love your writing. It looks perfect.


  10. You did a great job on that chalkboard, Laurel! Come make me one! : ) I love chalkboards, too. I just don't have enough walls here to hang them. I love your solution of leaning it. Your handwriting is so neat. Mine would be going up on an angle. LOL! I love topiaries, too. I have a couple from Ballards, but check Home Goods, sometimes they have similar for much less.

  11. That is one big beautiful chalkboard Laurel! I love the size and the rustic frame. So perfect for that spot! And I love seeing your dining room from another angle. The molding and trim everywhere is so beautiful and adds a ton of character. And that ceiling is a total wow! ... And Laurel, we really need to talk paint colors!

  12. It's the perfect addition! Great idea!

  13. Your chalkboard is great! Have you considered using Command hooks on the dining room wall?

  14. A wonderful addition Laurel! It looks right at home!

  15. It's perfect! Funny but I'm working on a large chalkboard for the breakfast nook. :) love yours.

  16. I love this Laurel and I really like that it is leaning instead of hanging.


  17. Laurel

    I love, love, love your chalkboard. It's perfect for the ledge. Thanks for sharing all the details with us. I'm not familiar with that molding. I'll have to check it out.


  18. You are absolutely right, charming! Love the movie, love the bistro chalkboard, love your blog. Please come share your blog posts over at the Home Matters Linky Party! We'd love to have you for a visit. The Door is OPEN. http://lifewithlorelai.com/2015/02/05/home-matters-linky-party-23/ :)

    Life With Lorelai

  19. Laurel, it's perfect! Love how large it is and it really has an elegant feel to it up on that ledge. I love chalkboards as well. Thought I would mention that I have seen similar topiaries at Home Goods and T.J. Maxx. Worth checking out. Missed your tour over at Anne's. Will go visit. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  20. Brilliant - and perfect in that space! Your house is beautiful. :-)

  21. I love your bistro sign and I am going to copy it. I am helping with the decorations for my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower. They are doing a Coffee theme so I am stenciling burlap bags to fill with coffee beans as gifts and I said I would make a chalkboard. My daughter will do the lettering and I think we'll sort of copy your idea. We will put the menu on the chalkboard.

    Thanks for the inspiration

  22. Your getting so good at writing on Chalkboard dear that this project and art work is perfect for you!!!!! Wonderful!


Thank you for your comments. I love reading your thoughts! If you would like an answer to a specific question, please email me via the link on my sidebar. Thank you!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.