This DIY Wall Art Only Cost Me $45 to Make, but It Looks So Expensive
Whenever I enter the bedroom of my college apartment, I can’t help but notice the flaws. There are doorknob indentations, pockmarks, and evidence of janky attempts to plaster over years of wear — you know, the sort of blemishes you romanticize as relics of previous renters, but would really rather they not exist. Because of this, it’s become my mission to elevate the dingy walls of my college apartment, one project at a time.
I’ve mounted towering mirrors, antique paintings from my mother’s collection, and gilded art all over my walls in an attempt to transform my space from shabby to chic. For the most part, I’ve succeeded. However, there was still one area of my room I had yet to give a makeover: a recess in the wall that I envisioned as my own makeshift nook. I’d already placed a leather bench there, but it was still missing a final touch to make the area feel truly styled — until now.
While scrolling through TikTok, I stumbled upon Skylar Marshai’s viral DIY rope art video. The creator’s affordable and renter-friendly DIY 3D art installation out of a piece of rope landed as an algorithmic gift. It was exactly what I needed to add an artsy zhuzh to this nook; plus, it checked off my “no hefty toolbox required” rule for my at-home projects.
I tried to follow the steps in Marshai’s video as closely as possible, but of course had a bit of trial and error. Below, here’s my take on the project, as well as what I learned along the way.
- Natural manila rope, .75 inch by 25 feet
- Rit dye, 7 ounces, chocolate brown
- Aleene’s Fabric Stiffener & Draping Liquid, 2 8-ounce bottles
- Command strips, XL heavyweight
- 12-quart bucket
- A large pot (or multiple small pots)
- Dish soap
- 2 trash bags
- A paintbrush or a Popsicle stick (more on this below!)
1. Boil 3 gallons of water.
The cavernous pot I usually use to make a week’s worth of pasta had no issue holding this amount of water, but you can always use multiple smaller pots to get the job done.
2. Add water, dish soap, and Rit dye into a separate bucket.
The instructions on the Rit dye packaging suggested adding the product directly into the pot I was using, but I simply couldn’t overcome the thought of my beloved pasta pot being tinted a deep cacao color forever. Instead, I added the water (slowly and carefully, so I wouldn’t scald myself), one teaspoon of dish soap, and the entire bottle of Rit dye into the bucket, then stirred it up.
3. Submerge rope into dye mixture and let it sit for an hour.
Once the rope was in the bucket, some parts of it kind of floated to the top of the dye mixture, so I used the end of a broomstick to ensure all pieces remained submerged. (You could also use a yardstick, a piece of scrap wood from the hardware store, or any object with some weight that you wouldn’t mind if it got dye on it.) Although the Rit dye packaging suggested a soak time of 30 minutes, and Marshai opted to let hers soak overnight, I landed somewhere in the middle, soaking it for an hour before moving onto the next step.
4. Rinse the rope.
Here’s a step that wasn’t shown in Marshai’s video, so I made it up as I went, and oh boy, did I learn some things. When it was time to rinse the rope, I poured the dye mixture down the drain of my porcelain bathtub… and it shows. If you want to avoid staining your white appliances, I urge you to dispose of the liquid in a stainless steel sink instead — or, if you have access to a washing machine, you can toss the rope in there and run a wash cycle (just be sure to clean your machine after!). But that was not my journey — *sigh*. Once I drained the bucket, I rinsed the rope with warm water, then cold water until the water ran clear. I would deal with my poor, stained tub later.
5. Organize the rope into your desired shape.
I cut two trash bags at the seams and laid them out flat to use as my canvas, then plopped the rope down to form it into a shape I liked. It was easy to create the winding twists and loops of the maze-like shape I was going for because the now-wet rope was a lot more flexible than it was in its formerly rigid, pre-dye state.
6. Apply fabric stiffener and allow it to sit out overnight.
Once I had the rope in the exact shape I wanted, I covered the entire thing with fabric stiffener, using Popsicle sticks to spread the glue-like substance around. (And while the Popsicle sticks worked fine, I dreamed of the efficiency I would have had if I’d used a wide paintbrush — another mistake I made so that you don’t have to.) Once it was completely covered, I still had about a quarter of the container’s worth of stiffener, so I mixed in an equal amount of water to double the amount of liquid and thin it out — in order to more easily spread it and increase the surface area I could conquer — and then I covered the rope with all of the remaining mixture to ensure it would really stiffen.
7. Adhere your rope art to the wall.
With consideration for the next renter and my security deposit, I decided to forgo nails and instead used Command strips and thumbtacks to mount this piece. I used four Command strips on the perimeter of the piece and six thumbtacks in each of the winding loops. The rope weighed a whopping 15 pounds, so it definitely needed the extra reinforcement to achieve the gravity-defying look I was going for.
I’ve dabbled in the home improvement space before, but this project felt like a Herculean contribution compared to purchasing ready-to-mount wall decor like I have in the past. Even so, while I was intimidated by the thought of creating my own artwork, the project only took me two hours of active effort in total (with tons of intermittent TikTok scrolling). Aside from the emotional toll of realizing my bathtub is now in desperate need of a refinish, the hardest part of this whole project was anxiously waiting for my masterpiece to dry. It was worth it, though, because my nook is now harmonious with the rest of my room, and I’ve been officially inducted into the DIY fan club.