This Basically Free (!) Upgrade Makes a Thrifted Vase Look High-End

updated Jul 21, 2020
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Mud vase styled in the home of Erika Espiritu

Thrifting is, by nature, a little hit-or-miss. Sometimes you happen upon a brass vessel with the perfect patina, and other times you’re left shifting through discarded seasonal decor. On a recent trip to the Erika Espiritu happened upon a DIYer’s dream: a $5 vase she knew would make a great canvas for a stylish upgrade she had been wanting to try with—wait for it—dirt.

“The texture on the vase was amazing for this project, and the size was just perfect for that elegant and vintage look I wanted to go for,” says Espiritu of the dated pink vessel she found. “I love the look of a really large vase in a minimal space or in a corner of a room. I knew it would look stunning with some simple greenery in it.”

Espiritu was inspired by a project blogger Jess Hartman shared on Instagram, in which Hartman used mud and spray paint to transform an inexpensive lamp from Target into a statement piece with that perfectly rustic, artisanal look. Instagram influencer Jaci Daily has also shared similar DIYs in her feed, one piece with a dark background and another with a lighter colorway, so it’s fair to say that when it comes to stylish vessels, mud finishes are having a moment.

Espiritu headed to the hardware store to pick up a can of Rust-Oleum’s Painter’s Touch 2X spray paint in Matte Black, which will stick to most surfaces with minimal prep. She has a lot of white in her home, so the goal was for this piece to add contrast. After setting up a little workstation outside, Espiritu sprayed the vase with a couple coats of paint, applying it directly over the existing chipped paint job. 

Next, Espiritu sourced the only other supply needed for this DIY—some sandy dirt that she mixed with water to make mud. If you’re a city dweller, potting soil will work just as well. Once the spray paint was fully dry, Espiritu used her hands to rub a few thin layers of mud onto the freshly painted vase. “The more dirt you use the more it will ‘stain’ the vase,” she says. Then she let the mud-covered vessel sit in the sun for about 10 minutes before wiping off the excess dirt with a dry towel. “In the end, the vase should be completely smooth and no dirt should fall or come off of the vase,” she adds.

The end result looks like handmade art that could be age-old—something you might find at a luxe-rustic retailer for hundreds of dollars. Espiritu added a faux branch that she already owned, bringing her total costs for the project in at about $10 (you can see the final, styled-out vase in her home in the image at the top of the page). She says this was “an extremely fun and easy project,” which of course has me wondering not if I can do this DIY, but which piece I should test this rustic mud treatment on first. Get ready to start seeing these kinds of pieces everywhere.