by April Lisante
Afew years ago, I got bitten by the DIY bug big time. I’d always enjoyed arts and crafts, but an acute addiction to HGTV turned me into a crazy woman.
You can only watch so many “Fixer Upper” episodes in a row before you start to get antsy. Instead of shedding tears of joy for the new homeowners who had a big reveal with Chip and Joanna, I’d flip off the TV feeling bereft of a project. My mind started to wander in dangerous directions.
Just ask my husband, who now knows that gleam in my eye all too well.
“Honey, I was thinking, do we really need that wall between the kitchen and the living room?” Or, “What would you think of a whole wall covered in chalkboard paint for the kids chore chart?”
Luckily, I am not alone. With dozens of DIY magazines on the market and just as many television shows, it seems many of us have fallen prey to this creative calling.
So I was overjoyed to learn that right here in Chestnut Hill, a DIY mother and daughter duo took over the year-old AR Workshop this past spring at the top of the hill next to Osaka at 8607 Germantown Ave., offering three-hour classes to help create homemade works of art. The studio franchise, owned by Rikki-Quinn Renz and managed by her mom Jill Allem, is sponsored nationally by HGTV.
But as a foodie and food columnist, it was even more exciting for me to learn which DIY is the hottest seller at the shop: kitchen art.
Not painted portraits of eggplants and onions, but real, utilitarian, “Yes! I made that cool thing!” kitchen art.
Menu boards, cheese boards, cake pedestals and the most popular of all: the venerable Lazy Susan.
That’s right, the retro table-turner is back with a vengeance, a favorite make-and-take for Hillers looking to flex their creative muscles and decorate their kitchens at the same time.
“I’m not sure how it’s made a comeback but it hit big,” said Allem. “It’s a retro thing. Everything old is new. Every house I walked into in the 60s had one. Now, everyone comes in here and wants to make one.”
The Lazy Susans are surprisingly easy to make, as Allem demonstrated to me. During the three-hour workshop, guests transform two different sized rounds of sanded pine into masterpieces with paint, wood stain and stencils. After coating the smaller round with paint and attaching hardware that allows it to spin, the second larger round of wood is attached beneath and voila, a centerpiece for meals.
Surprisingly, locals are making not only 12 and 18-inch Lazy Susans, but even 24-inch sizes to fit the burgeoning popularity of wide-planked farm house tables.
“A lot of times, they will come in to make one because they are remodeling their kitchens and are looking to make some art for it,” Allem said.
If a Lazy Susan is a little too retro, and you are looking for a more modern kitchen project, many local foodies are creating vertical menu boards that feature stenciled days of the week alongside chalkboard blank spaces to list daily dinners.
Crafters have also gone gaga over AR Workshop’s special charcuterie class, which allows them to create a giant cheese board complete with metal hardware handles to ease carrying or hors d’oeuvres passing at parties. Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop co-owner Susan Weiss has made guest appearances to help DIY guests craft the ultimate cheese boards.
And if you’re a baker at heart, the most recent addition to the studio’s kitchen craft offerings is the wooden cake pedestal, which comes in two sizes and can be painted or stained.
For those who are just venturing into the world of DIY, it is a surefire way to build crafting confidence and create a one-of-a-kind kitchen piece. (And it’s a way to do the project in a fun studio without your significant other rolling his eyes at you.)
“In three hours, you walk into a pile of raw wood and just create it start to finish,” Allem said.
Next week, the workshop is letting locals get a jump on their Christmas lists with a Christmas in July two-day event. From 4 to 7 p.m. on July 2 and from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on July 25, registered crafters can enjoy Christmas tunes and cookies while making a kitchen gift for the holidays.
“It’s fun – we have cookies, prizes and games,” Allem said. “It’s a way to come get something done on your gift list.”
AR Workshop is located at 8607 Germantown Ave. For more information, call 215-544-1116 or visit ARWorkshop.com/ChestnutHill. April Lisante, former food editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, is a resident of Flourtown. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org