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Picture Rail Pays Off, and I Hang My Plates for $116.39

By Jennifer

hang decorative plates on brick wall[This post is part of Our Kitchen Molding Makeover series.]

I’m not much a shopper, and I find shopping online downright agonizing.  That said, it is strangely gratifying to browse the antique and furniture sections of our local Craigslist.  To the experienced (or simply fanciful) reader, every entry tells a story: a new bride fulfilling her part of a furniture divestment treaty, or a college student desperately trying to unload a couch too heavy to be moved and too shabby to be sold.

Occasionally I do spot something that satisfies my stringent requirements for new objects: they must be inexpensive and well-made, and must serve a previously acknowledged need in our home.  I’d already decided to hang plates rather than artwork in the kitchen, largely because every time a framing shop quotes me a price for even a minor project, I become shifty-eyed and discover a need to “think about it.”

how to hang plates from picture rail molding

Enter a set of seven hand-painted Sèvres plates dating from the late 1800s.  The whole group was $45 — less than a single custom frame.

how to hang plates on wall

The seller lived in a remote part of town — that is to say, a part that was largely desert during my childhood and teen years, and now glories in several square miles of big-box retailers — but Ken quickly agreed that it would be worth the trip.

The plates were perfect.  Each one is subtly different, and they are in excellent condition.  They’re actually cheaper than a set of plates by Lou Rota that I’d recently bought at Anthropologie (the clerk probably still remembers how animated I became when I realized that for a mere $8 I could own a dessert plate featuring a photorealistic image of a chameleon).

jennifer and the decorative plates

Lou Rota decorative plates

The couple, too, proved to be charming.  Sally, who was actually selling the plates, explained how she loves to photograph old china.  Her husband told Ken the tragic history of a huge model ship that he’d acquired from the CEO of a failed tech startup.  They both described wildlife that they’d seen in the area.  The entire experience was characteristic of my Craigslist interactions — cool people selling nifty stuff.

Almost a month later, we finished the kitchen and I plunged into the joys and agonies of cobbling up a hanging system.  It took a few hours over three days and a good deal of tense, muttered obscenity, but the result is better than I’d hoped.

Materials I Used to Hang My Plates

cat under table wife at table

Domestic short-hair tabby = NFS

  1. Fancy plates: $45.00 from nice lady on Craigslist
  2. Picture rail hooks: $2.49 ea. (3 ea.) = $7.47 from House of Antique Hardware
  3. Picture hanging cord: $1.99/ft (12′) = $23.88 from House of Antique Hardware
  4. Copper or brass colored wire: $8.00/roll from our local Ace Hardware
  5. Tripar Plate hangers: $3.56 ea. (9 ea.) = $32.04 from our local Ace Hardware

Project Total Cost $116.39

pretty wife haning plates from picture rail molding

I began by eyeballing how high to hang the top plate.  Then I established what seemed like a logical length of cord between plates on a single string, and used the first bit to measure out the remaining pieces.

how to hang decorative plates on brick wall

My brief but passionate obsession with jewelry-making left me with several spools of wire of different colors and gauges.  I started with 18 gauge copper because I had it on hand, then switched to 22 gauge brass (which matches the hefty brass picture rail hooks).

antique picture hanging hook

I wrapped the cord tightly using flat-nosed pliers, then alternated crimping it to prevent the cord from slipping through, and pinching the wire loops horizontally to give them a more uniform, tidy appearance.  The higher gauge turned out to be much more forgiving to work with, since it’s less likely to get unattractively nicked and crimped.

how to hang plates on wall

As with any craft project, my loops got better as I went along, becoming downright tidy by the end of the day.  Luckily the sad specimen above was used between plates, and remains hidden from critical guests.

how to hang plates from picture rail molding

I disassembled the plate hangers so that I could string the loops onto them.  I had to devote a good deal of irritated focus to orienting the springs correctly when I strung them back onto the horrible, W-shaped hooks.  This drove me to the extreme outer limits of my tiny fund of patience.

how to hang plates on kitchen wall

The plates with the bugs on the back are Lou Rota designs.

Before I resorted to tears or violence, I managed to come up the arrangement below.

how to hang plates from picture rail molding

Two problems remained.  First, the two outer sets of plates seemed to be hanging just about an inch too low — probably because “eyeballing” is a lousy method for determining any proportion.  After a certain amount of hemming and hawing, I decided to redo two loops rather than experience mild regret every morning over breakfast.  Fine.  Also, as the picture above shows, the smaller plates wanted to tilt this way and that, probably because I hadn’t considered how to orient the loops as I made them.  Double-sided tape was just sticky enough to correct that tendency without destroying the paint beneath.

pretty wife in front of plates on picture rail molding

The author, project complete, restored to her usual calm cheer.

[This post is part of Our Kitchen Molding Makeover series.]

how to install picture rail moldingHow to Install PICTURE RAIL-108

This is our step by step tutorial on how we installed the picture rail molding on the brick wall and the rest of the kitchen.

 

 

 

2 Responses to Picture Rail Pays Off, and I Hang My Plates for $116.39

  1. Christina July 9, 2012 at 4:47 PM #

    LOVE everything about this post, including that dress in the picture with the Tabby cat. I’ll have to google NFS though. Where are the Faun plates? That moldong is creamy and dreamy… the blues are striking colors that just envelope you…

    And as always, a fantastic read…from “tears or violence” to calm cheer…a cross between Erma Bombeck and MacGyver (sp?)

  2. Ken July 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM #

    So glad you like the post and our blue kitchen!

    I love that dress too. I’m a very lucky man when you consider the pretty dresses Jennifer flits around the house in while I’m installing moldings. Even prettier than the moldings!

    BTW, NFS in this case means Not For Sale.

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