This project takes an old, wood-framed window and prints of watercolor bird paintings to create a unique work of art.
It’s a simple project you can make in afternoon. Keep it for yourself or give it as gift for friend.
For more projects made from old windows, also see 12+ Ideas for Repurposing Doors and Windows in the Garden.
How it All Began
This window art was created by Barb Rosen of Our Fairfield Home and Garden.
In recent years, Barb decided to learn how to paint with watercolour paints, and birds soon became a favourite practice subject at her weekly art classes. To add some extra whimsy, she opted to paint them on pages of old sheet music.
As Barb started sharing these paintings on her Facebook page—which takes some courage as a newbie trying out an unfamiliar art form—her fans were immediately enchanted with each new bird-of-the-week, and began asking if they were available for purchase. Fast forward a bit, and Barb now has prints available by mail-order in her online shop.
Because the creativity does not stop with the paint brush, Barb soon came up with this repurposed window frame idea for displaying the prints as a gift for a friend. There’s a few tips to know for making this project and we have provided the materials list and steps (below).
How to Choose the Right Window
There are plenty of old wood-framed windows out there in garages and second-hand shops, but the key is to pick one that will match the dimensions of the art work.
- If the choice of art is priority, get it first. Then search for a window with glass panes of the same size and quantity.
- If you are using Barb’s bird prints, we’ve listed some size considerations below.
- You could also use pages from old books or magazines. If so, choose copyright-free/public domain materials and have them colour-copied at a print shop on acid-free paper with fade protection for better durability. Older printed materials may fade, yellow, or stick to the glass.
- Be sure the window structure is strong and does not contain lead-based paint.
- Also check that the glass panes are securely in place.
I sometimes get old windows that need some reinforcing and the caulking re-done, which is fairly time-consuming and perhaps not worth it if you can find another one in better shape that’s ready to go.
Related: How to Make Giant Garden Art Alliums
Sources for Old Windows
When you just need one or two windows, you have a much better chance of getting the window free or cheap. Options include asking friends, yard sales, thrift shops, Restores, placing or responding to online ads, and curbside luck. If you want to know how I take sourcing stuff like this to an extreme (and very frugal but ethical level), see How to Get the Best Deal on Everything, which reveals all of my thrifty secrets.
How to Make Bird-Inspired Repurposed Window Art
- Old wood-frame window with 4 (or more) panes. Be sure you are not choosing a window with lead-based paint.
The window glass panes should be (ideally) 8 ½ in x 11 ¾ inches if you are using the bird prints recommended here.
The minimum window panes size could be 7 ½ x 10 ¾ inches.
Window panes larger than 8 ½ in x 11 ¾ inches will require picture frame mats.
- Painter’s tape
- White latex paint
- Paint brush
- 3M Sanding Sponge or electric sander
- Dust mask
- Cardboard (acid-free, if possible) to line the back of each window pane.
- Scissors, ruler, Exacto knife
- 4+ bird prints – you can buy them by mail-order here. You will need one for each window pane.
To get a 20% discount (limited time offer), enter the code EMPRESSOFDIRT at checkout.
- Glazier points or Gorilla Tape to secure the bird prints in place on the back of the window.
- Putty knife to press the glazier points into place.
- Hanging wire etc. (optional)
1. Clean the window frame and glass. Allow everything to dry thoroughly.
2. Tape off glass with painter’s tape.
3. Paint the wood white.
- For a distressed look, use your favorite distressed wood method.
4. Cut out cardboard backing pieces for each window pane.
- They should fit snugly.
- Keep in mind that each section may be a slightly different size, so measure them individually and mark where each piece belongs.
5. The cardboard pieces are backing pieces as well as your templates for cutting out the bird prints to fit each window section.
- Decide how you want to arrange them, and then cut out each print.
- Be sure you’re keeping them nicely aligned (horizontally and vertically).
- HINT: It looks best if each bird is facing inward, toward the middle of the window, not outward.
6. Attach the bird prints to the window.
- Place a print against the back of the glass, add the cardboard piece, and hold in place with glazier points.
- You can ease them into place with a putty knife. At the risk of sounding like your mother, be sure to press gently, and never put any pressure on the actual glass or it may break.
- Alternately, if you don’t mind how it looks on the back, Gorilla tape works nicely too. Or so the gorillas tell me.
7. Ta-da! That’s it. Add a hanging wire, if needed, and display your beautiful new piece.
If you make one, I’d love to see it. Share your pictures on the Empress of Dirt Facebook page.
If you want to see more of the prints, have a look at Barb’s shop here. And be sure to use the limited-time offer 20% off discount code EMPRESSOFDIRT at checkout.
To learn more about Barb and her creative works, you can find her here: