Versatile screens easy do-it-yourself project

You’ve often heard me run on about the versatility and practicality of a room screen. They are a brilliant decorating tool for any size space. A screen is a clever way to hide a busy work station or children’s play corner. In a bedroom or living area, a screen works as a portable divider that offers privacy where needed, and is easily folded up and moved aside.

Room screens can be found in fine furniture stores and some home stores, but they usually are quite costly. They are, however, not so difficult to make yourself, and you can customize the look and finish to complement any age, stage and style.

There is a wide range of materials from which to fashion your screen. The basic composition comprises two, three or four panels attached to each other with door hinges. Panels can be made of framed sheets of metal, plastic or even paper. Inexpensive narrow, hollow-core doors come ready to paint and hinge together. Shop country yard sales for old window frames or stained glass that you can insert into your screen design.

The screen shown here is a great weekend project I made for a young lady’s bedroom — an ideal solution to divide her sleeping area and homework space. I used medium density fiberboard, which cuts like butter, leaving a smooth edge that does not require a finishing trim. (The panels are heavy, and it’s a good idea to attach feet to the inside of the screen for balance.)

You follow the same techniques for painting a screen as you would a dresser or any piece of wood furniture. Begin with a clean, smooth surface and apply a coat of primer. Your design options are endless. I was inspired by a family holiday in the Caribbean for this screen, and chose a cream-yellow base coat, framed with burnt-orange glaze. A breezy palm tree made a pretty, hand-painted motif.

Here are some tips for painting a faux frame, and for those who are not comfortable painting freehand, here’s how to copy any image so that you look like a pro.

For the frame, mix equal parts latex paint and water-based glazing liquid. The glazing liquid will make the paint translucent, allowing the base color to shine through. This adds shading and depth. Measure and tape off a border around the screen, and a stripe across the center as shown in the photo. Always use low-tack painter’s tape so that you won’t disturb the base coat when you remove it.

To create a strie effect, apply the colored glaze to the border with a foam brush, moving in one direction — vertically down the sides, horizontally along the top and center. Next, drag a paintbrush through the wet glaze, producing fine lines. Remove the tape immediately, pulling carefully toward the wet glaze. To give the border more dimension, paint a thin shadow line along the inside top and one side of each border with light-brown paint.

Follow these easy steps for the motif. You will need transfer or carbon paper. Photocopy your chosen image at the size that looks best on the screen’s panel. Mark where the design is going to be. Tape the carbon paper over the position, then tape the photocopied image over the carbon paper. Trace the motif with a pencil, transferring the picture to the screen. Paint in the design using an artist’s brush. Mix artist’s acrylics with a bit of glaze so the paint will glide onto the surface of the panel.

Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at

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