Budget project · Dining Room · DIY · Furniture Makeover · Home decor · Storage

Tramp Stamp Sideboard DIY


So I’ve been wanting a sideboard for my dining room for a while now. The extra storage would be very welcome. I really love this credenza from Dot and Bo. But $909? Really? It was impossible even before they abruptly closed their doors Friday. Michael just started laughing when I showed him….yea.


Then I found this set of upper kitchen cabinets at a garage sale for $5, and I thought why not DIY it with my “laughable” dream credenza as my inspiration? The extra benefit is that this size would fit my small dining room much better. Let’s get started. (This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.)


The first thing I needed to do was take off the hardware and doors and give everything a good scrubbing. I used a mixture of vinegar and water with a tiny bit of Dawn dish soap. There was a shelf liner laid out inside, but that pulled up easily, then a little Goo-Gone got rid of the residue. Now I had a nice blank canvas to work with.


  • Cabinet
  • 1/8″ MDF or Press board
  • Two 1″ x4″x8′
  • White chalk paint
  • Brass upholstery tacks
  • Wood glue
  • Tapered wood Legs
  • Angled leg Plates
  • Paper for decoupage
  • Mod Podge
  • Minwax Wood Stain- Espresso

I started with the doors, since on pieces like these the doors are the focal point. My inspiration piece above is based upon Tramp Art, an art movement found all over the world where small pieces of wood – usually up-cycled wood from items such as shipping crates or old cigar boxes – were whittled into layers of geometric shapes, having the outside edges of each layer notch- carved, usually using simple tools such as a pocket knife. It was popular in the years between the 1870s and 1940s, and everytime I see it I am awestruck. The amount of time and effort put into pieces like a mirror or dresser, the tiny details and intricacy created with a pocket knife is inspiring. My personal interpretation is a simpler version but still cemented in me the dedication Tramp Art artisans had to their craft.


So, first thing I did was to grab a roll of craft paper (or wrapping paper- whatever you have on hand) and cut out a rectangle measuring the exact size of one of the doors. Now, this math and measurements could get really complicated, but I found a very simple way to do it. My doors measures 14 inches by 30 inches on each side I found the exact middle (so at 7 inches on the top and bottom, and 15 inches on the sides) and marked it. Then I used a straightedge to connect the dots to form a diamond. Cut out the diamond shape and you now have a template for the largest diamond. Now, I want to have progressively smaller diamonds stacked on top of each other, and I want the increments for each successively smaller diamonds to be the same so that everything is even, and I found a simple way to do that.
I measured and cut out three more rectangles the same size as the door. I marked the middles of each sides but instead of connecting those middle marks and forming a diamond, I folded along those marks. So I folded the rectangle in half lengthwise and then again in half widthwise, quartering the rectangle. Now, if I cut my quarter from one corner at a diagonal to another I would end up with a large diamond, but I want progressively smaller diamonds. So, laying the quarters rectangle on the table in front of you measure 1 1/2″ around the longest folded edge, and 3/4″ inwards from the short folded edge. Connect your two marks with a diagonal line, cut along that diagonal, and unfold. Now we have our second smaller diamond. Do the same with the third rectangle, but this time double the measurements, measuring 3″ in on the long side and 1 1/2″  in on the short side. With the fourth diamond you would triple the measurements to 4 1/2″  and 2 1/4″. You can keep doing this as many times as you want, forming as many diamonds as needed. I ended up using 4. And if you want wider or thinner diamonds you can play with the measurements. This sounds a lot more complicated when I try to explain it with words, so I included a diagram that hopefully helps. For the corner pieces I simply took my diamond templates, folded each into quarters and use those quarters as templates for the corners.


I traced by paper templates on to 1/8″ MDF and cut out each piece with my jigsaw, two of each size of diamonds and 8 of each size of quarter diamonds for the corners. One sheet of 1/8 inch MDF was about $7-$8 at my local Lowe’s and it was more than enough.
Now comes the time-consuming part- cutting those little triangles along every edge. I played around with this for a bit, experimenting with finding the simplest, most expedient way of accomplishing this. 1/8″ MDF is thin enough to cut with an exacto knife, but it took a little bit to cut out the whole triangle, and it would have taken way too long that way. I tried cutting them with a jigsaw, but I personally didn’t have the control for all those tiny cuts lining up without driving myself crazy.

What I came up with was a mixture of the two. I used my jigsaw to make the tiny cuts in one direction going up the side and then would use an exacto knife to make the slices going the other way, forming the triangle. I found that just setting the tip of the exacto knife blade at the inside end of the cut and the length of the blade along the diagonal you want to cut, apply some pressure, and the little pieces would just pop right off. I got into a rhythm of cutting the first set of cuts for the whole diamond with the jigsaw, then moved on to the exacto knife, one diamond at a time. Still, this part does take a while. I spread it across the couple of days here and there, whenever I have the time. I also decided not to cut the triangles along the straight edge of the corner pieces. I originally was going to center each one progressively, just like the center diamonds but I found lining up the corners more aesthetically pleasing, but it’s up to you. Also, do not worry about making perfect triangles the exact same size the exact same distance apart. You will drive yourself crazy. Don’t forget, the original art form was hand whittled, it won’t be exact. The differences just add to the quirkiness.


After everything was cut out and ready to go, I laid out my doors and attached each layer of corners and diamond pieces with wood glue one at a time. My clamps wouldn’t reach the middle, so I got some rocks out from under my son’s bed (I’ve stopped asking why – I’ve learned that with raising boys, sometimes it’s better not to know!) and weighed each layer down, let it dry, then attached the next set of diamond and corner pieces. After every layer was glued on I filled in the top edge of the cabinet door with wood filler- you could also use caulk- so that you couldn’t see the separate layers, let that dry and sanded it smooth.
Next I turned my attention to the cabinet body. It was fine as it was and I could have simply painted it and that would be that, but I wanted to add legs and beef up the frame to make it look less like the set of upper cabinets it was in its previous life. With the doors so intricate though, I wanted to keep the cabinet itself fairly simple. I had picked up someone 1x4s  from the hardware store (very affordable size – $0.96 each at my local Lowe’s) and I simply measured each outside edge along the face and sides, cut each length of the 1×4 to fit, attaching them with wood screws.


Then I flipped the cabinet on its head. I really like the legs on mid-century furniture, especially angled legs. I found some tapered legs that I spray painted gold and bought some angled leg plates. These are super simple to use. Simply find where you want your legs placed, making sure the legs will angle outward, and screw the plates into position with the screws included with the plates. Then screw the legs into the plates. Simplicity itself (Modern Family anyone? Lol)

A word of warning here though – when placing your legs, make sure they aren’t pulled inwards away from the corners too far. This can throw off the balance of the whole cabinet. I made this mistake at first and when everything was done I went to open the door and the whole thing started to tip over! So I had to flip it back over and redo the legs, making the base a little wider this time. I flipped it back right side up and it was time to paint.
I used my own recipe for chalk paint using Sherwin-Williams Sterling White. My chalk paint recipe is 2 tablespoons Plaster of Paris mixed with 1 tablespoon water, then that mixture is stirred into one cup of the paint of your choice. I painted the doors and the cabinets with two coats of chalk paint and let everything dry.

Turning my attention back to the doors, I had found some adorable brass colored flower upholstery tacks I wanted to use. I set out each door and found something to lay out a pattern. (I used some dry Captain Crunch cereal my kid had been snacking on – don’t judge, it was right there staring at me. It was either use it or eat it!) I found a pattern, snapped a pic for reference and hammered each tack into place. It says to use an upholstery hammer with these tacks, but I used my regular hammer and a light touch and it worked great. And I call those doors done!


Back inside the cabinet I decided to decoupage some paper to the shelves I found this gorgeous tropical print paper that I thought would work perfect. So I cut each piece to fit, slathered the back and shelf with Mod Podge and applied the paper. I find it works best to smooth down from top to bottom, minimizing bubbles and wrinkles. After that Modge Podge has set a bit, I added another coat to the top of the paper. If any bubbles do start to form I poke a hole with a craft knife, smooth down the bubble, and add more Mod Podge to make sure it sticks.


After that I screwed the hinges back to the doors and attached them and I was pretty happy with the way it looked, but I felt it still needed a little something. I dug through my stash of pallet wood until I found a couple of rough boards that would fit, make sure there was no nails or staples in them, cut them all to an even size and stained them with Minwax Espresso Wood Stain. I left the wood rough with the old nail holes and dings and dents still in it, I felt it adds character to the top. Then I attached those with wood glue and finishing nails.






And that’s it. Finally my sideboard was done. My ode to tramp art was completed. I was really happy with it. It took a lot of work and some trial and error, but ultimately I am extremely pleased with how it came out. What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. What do you think of tramp art? I know this was a long post, and I appreciate you sticking with me while I figured it out. As always, have fun! Go nuts! Get messy! Amazing things can happen when you do!  XO -Caroline

P.S. I link to these fun parties!

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