When it comes to decorating a nursery, it’s easy to focus on the big statement-makers: Wallpaper, decals, or even a hand-painted mural are great for setting the tone, fast. But don’t overlook the small, sweet design details — like kid-friendly art or a modern weaving — that you’ll find your eyes traveling to again and again during all those middle-of-the-night feedings and lullabies before bed. This playful, Matisse-inspired take on a diorama is just the kind of DIY that will delight in baby’s room — and might even migrate beyond the nursery walls in years to come. The best part? You can customize it in any color combination you like.
Let’s get started.
You will need:
- 14-inch embroidery hoop (1 inch deep)
- 1/8-inch balsa wood sheets (totaling at least 2 to 3 square feet)
- Utility knife
- Emery board
- Acrylic paint (4 to 5 colors)
- Wooden coffee stirrers
- Hot-glue gun
- Cutting mat
- Gloss varnish (optional)
Step 1: Use a pencil to draw leaf shapes on the balsa wood. My leaves ranged in size from 3 to 5 inches tall. (Remember that the more complicated the shape, the trickier the turns you’ll have to make with your utility knife.)
Step 2: Working over a cutting mat, cut out the leaves with the utility knife. Don’t try to go all the way through the wood on the first cut. It’s better to score it with a shallow cut and then go back over each line 2 or 3 times to make it all the way through.
Step 3: Once the leaves are cut, use the emery board to sand down the edges.
Step 4: Paint each leaf and a coffee stirrer to match. (Since balsa wood is so porous and absorbent, it’s best not to use paint that is too watery, as it can warp the wood.) Set these aside to try.
Step 5: Trace the bottom fifth of the hoop onto a sheet of balsa wood and cut out a 2-inch tall wedge with a wavy top edge. Once cut, trace that shape and cut another identical piece.
Step 6: Paint the hoop and the two wedge pieces one color. Let dry.
Step 7: Hot glue the wedges to the front and back of the hoop’s bottom edge.
Step 8: Hot glue the matching painted coffee stirrers to the backs of the leaves.
Step 9: Trim coffee stirrers with scissors to create varying heights. Hot glue the sticks to the inside edges of the wedges, gluing some inside the front and some inside the back to create depth.
Optional: Spray with a gloss varnish to seal.