7 Stunning Ways to Decorate with Typography

We'll spell it out for you: Decorating with letters and numbers gives everyday items instant personality.

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Small Print


These decoupaged dishes make for an inspired display on a table and are equally at home with vintage glass objects.

Here's how: Enlarge clip art to the size of a transparent glass plate and print design on thin paper, such as lightweight resume paper. Cut pattern to size and shape of the plate. Spread a thin, even coat of decoupage medium over the underside of the plate and apply the clip art so that the image shows through the bottom of the plate. Smooth out air bubbles with your fingers and make sure all edges are adhered. Set aside to dry. If your clip art isn't perfectly flush with the plate's edge, use a fine sanding block to smooth the edges or trim with sharp scissors. Once the paper is fully dry, paint two or three layers of acrylic paint onto the back of the plate to seal it. (We used a champagne-colored acrylic paint to complement the clip art.)

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Alphabet Soup


Here's how: Collect old or new pieces, such as signs, printers' blocks, game cards, typography art—anything featuring numbers or letters. Choose a variety of shapes and sizes and arrange on a shelf.

Tip: Flea markets and garage sales are good sources for typographic ephemera, but you can also try online stores such as paper-source.com, etsy.com, and buysignletters.com for new items.

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Letter Perfect


Here's how: For a large surface like this work space or a dining table, choose a big graphic pattern. Before you begin, read manufacturer's instructions and clean all areas where decals will be applied. Position decal and use adhesive tape to hold it in place. Peel off a small corner of the backing paper and continue to slowly remove while gently smoothing the decal onto the surface with hands or a brayer. When all the paper has been removed, press firmly to get rid of any rough spots. No top coat sealer needed.

Tip: Feel free to cut up a decal and rearrange the elements on a piece of furniture any way you like.

Andover desk, $299, ballarddesigns.com

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Winning Number


Here's how: Create a design using a favorite font (here, Modern No. 20). Reverse (or flip) your image before printing onto iron-on transfer paper. (It took three sheets to create the pattern for this bench.) Cut around the printed numbers as close to the edge as possible and arrange on fabric. Iron the numbers directly onto the fabric cushion following the manufacturer's directions.

Tip: If you have a bench with a pop-out cushion (like this one), you can select any fabric, choose a design, then re-cover the bench with your printed fabric.

Martina bench, $229, ballarddesigns.com

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Table Talk


Turn a small piece of furniture into a conversation piece by covering the top with a graphic element, like an old letter, postcard, or even an eye chart.

Here's how: Enlarge a piece of online clip art onto lightweight paper. You can print the pattern in pieces at home or have it enlarged onto one sheet at a copy shop. Use regular paper or try something textured, such as mulberry paper, shown here. Using a foam brush, coat the table surface with Mod Podge. Lay images in place, pressing out any air bubbles with your fingers or a brayer. Let dry completely. Seal the design with two to three top coats of decoupage medium or Mod Podge.

Tip: If you have a photo-editing program like Photoshop Elements, you can change the color and opacity of digital clip art and crop as needed.

Sawhorse end table, $179, ballarddesigns.com

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By the Book


Mark a memory or capture a highlight from a favorite book with a striking piece of personal art made with paint and canvas.

Here's how: Choose a line from a favorite movie or song, a verse from a children's book (here, a quote from Dr. Seuss), or street names from cities your family has visited. Using a water-based paint such as craft acrylic or latex paint, brush a base color onto an oversize canvas panel (ours is 24 x 36 inches) and dry. Spell out your words with vinyl letters on the canvas. We used 2- and 3-inch vinyl Helvetica letters from dickblick.com. Once you're happy with the arrangement, adhere the letters to your canvas and run your fingernail around the edges of the letters to make sure they're securely attached. Apply two coats of paint in a contrasting color right over the vinyl letters (ours was black). Once the canvas is fully dry, carefully remove the vinyl letters to reveal the undercoat beneath.

Tip: We used a creamy white paint for the undercoat and black on top. Try any color combination you like depending on the effect you want—red over blue, purple over orange, etc.

Chartpak letters, from $8, dickblick.com

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Word Play


Lend witty style to a hallway with a display of metal or plastic sign letters.

Here's how: Choose letters to form words that resonate with the spirit of the space. Hang on a wall or place letters on a shelf or molding where appropriate. Other ideas: READ on a bookshelf, SLEEP in a bedroom, or EAT in the kitchen.

Minnesota Helevetica plastic letters, from $8.70 each, buysignletters.com

Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.