Craft Projects

DIY Sarcastic Swedish Door Harp Rehab


I’m lucky to have a husband that shares my warped sense of humor. When we got our first apartment together we were very proud of ourselves for choosing a welcome mat for our front step that said “F*#% OFF” (only, you know, without the “*#%” part sensoring the message). And when we bought our first house, the doormat came with us. I’m sure our parents weren’t thrilled with our way of greeting visitors. Admittedly I even doubted our decision on a few occasions (especially when my grandparents dropped in for a visit) but every time we came home to that doormat we had a good laugh, which totally made it worth it!
Home sweet home.

Nowadays I’d never dream of a doormat like that. At least not with a first grader who reads and repeats everything he can get his eyes on. I still have a sense of humor though, so when I came across a faded, dirty broken Swedish door harp at a local thrift shop for $1, I knew I needed to refurbish it to say something other than the traditional “Välkommen [Welcome]”… without my kids impressing their friends with a fun new swear word.

So so soooo ugly… I mean “So much potential”!

The starting product was old, dirty and in really bad shape. Water marks. Old, faded paint. Broken hardware. So I started by removing as much of the hardware as possible (some of it was just stuck!) and sanding it down like crazy. Unfortunately the water exposure the door harp had suffered left the wood very porous and the crappy old paint had seeped deep into the front surfaxe. Considering I was sanding by hand, I made the executive decision to leave a faint shadow of the old paint and stain the entire thing with several layers to help seal it and hopefully mask it. Worse case scenario, I could always wipe a darker stain over the top later with a rag to “antique” it.

My stain of choice. Let’s get messy.

Why did I choose to use Minwax Polyshades in “Antique Walnut Satin”? Several reasons. First, it stains AND seals the wood… which aside from being convenient, also seamed like an excellent benefit for coating porous water-worn wood. Secondly, it’s extremely affordable since it’s the only brand available at our local Walmart in these conveniently cheap little $3 cans. Perfect if you just want to use it for a few small wood projects and aren’t planning to stain a deck. Lastly (and most importantly): I had plenty leftover from my Wood Peg Coat Wall Shelf project!
Recognize that wood? …Sorry. That didn’t sound right.

Staining took several layers. I was careful to let it dry completely between each layer before lightly sanding, wiping and staining again… and again… and again… and again…

The color gets darker and darker… and the ugly old “basket” fades into oblivion.

Once I was satisfied with the stain, I moved on to the decorative painting. In my usual style of, well, cheapness, I chose to use the yellow acrylic craft paint I still had leftover from doing the textured edges on the peg shelf. The word “Försvinn” is a rude way of saying “Go away” in Swedish… reminiscent of our beloved past doormat! And I had been seeing several dandelion motifs online and on TV lately so I was excited to give it a try. I’m pretty happy with the result.
Make a wish! …Then get the h*%@ out!

Once the decorative painting was complete (and dry) I slapped on a couple coats of clear polyurethane to protect the acrylic from scratching or fading. I clear-coated the entire door harp so it would be even and extra protected, being careful to follow the directions on the can for drying time and prep between layers.

The last step involved installing hardware… which I didn’t have. Eventually I plan to buy a legitimate door harp hardware kit online but in the mean time I used a combination of metal wires, fishing line and wood beads (all of which I already had on hand). Granted, it sounds like crap and the fishing lines tangle and twist around each other when they bounce so there’s no way I can actually hang the harp on the front door yet… but it sure looks pretty!


I have to keep it hung high enough that the littles don’t mess with it, but it looks pretty next to the front door. And (thanks to reusing leftover stain and paint) matches the nearby coat rack suspiciously well. I’ll just pretend I’m incredibly coordinated …instead of incredibly cheap. Because that’s just how I roll: interior design fashionista!

It was really hard writing that without laughing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a door harp to move up higher.

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