Channel your inner Joanna Gaines at Board & Brush


For me, Girls’ Night most often means dinner, maybe a movie at an art house theater for a touch of high-brow culture. If I’m feeling especially adventurous (or uncharacteristically artistic), it might go the way of paint-your-own pottery or a wine-and-painting class. But if you’re looking for a new activity to try with your best gal pals – you can only have so many ineptly painted canvasses in one house, after all – check out Board & Brush. This creative studio-meets-woodshop has five locations in the Chicago suburbs (and one more coming soon!), and is ideal for a birthday get-together, lowkey bachelorette party or just your unconventional GNO.


Board & Brush calls itself a DIY Sign Workshop, and if you’ve been to HomeGoods (or watched HGTV) any time in the past year, you probably know exactly what that means. Customers decorate their own wooden signs with a chosen phrase or insignia (options include family names and dates, sayings and verses, and even cute seasonal expressions), tackling the project from beginning to end.


I was surprised at just how involved we were in every step of the process when my sister and I visited the recently opened Downers Grove location. We started by distressing our wood with hammers and meat tenderizers – a great way to get out some pent-up aggression, as well! – then sanded it down before using power tools to assemble our palette. From there, we chose our favorite stain, followed by an optional dry brush of color, then selected the paint shade(s) for our stencil. After the paint dried, it was time for the finishing touches, including additional distressing and a final wax application to make it look just right. In the end, the three hours designated for the class was pretty accurate, which makes sense when you consider that what was literally a pile of boards ultimately became a lovely piece of home décor.


Board & Brush is not the place for spur-of-the-moment fun; be prepared for a little prep work ahead of time. First of all, you’ll need to reserve your spot – the studio’s seats fill up fast. And in order to have your personalized stencil and wood pieces ready to go when you arrive, you’ll have to select your design beforehand, too. The studio’s website offers the full range of design options, helpfully organized into different categories.


Like at other artistic studios, Board & Brush serves beverages you can add to your tab – choose from soda served in a branded koozie or a glass of red or white wine – and keep yourself hydrated and in a Girls’ Night frame of mind. But I can attest that once you’re hard at work, you probably won’t be giving much thought to your thirst – you’ll be too busy making sure your piece is picture perfect.


Best of all, even if you don’t consider yourself particularly gifted when it comes to creating art, I can assure you that it’s pretty difficult to screw up (no pun intended). The Board & Brush employees are helpful and knowledgeable, willing to step in on the trickier tasks or give advice when requested. In our class of two dozen or so, I didn’t spot a single disaster project; in fact, every one of my fellow DIYers seemed please with their creations. And as for me, I now have a lovely decorative piece in my apartment’s entryway. It serves as a welcome reminder of an out-of-the-box Girls’ Night – and a reminder that sisters (biological and otherwise) really are doing it for themselves.


If you go:


Board & Brush


Located in Downers Grove, Evanston, Park Ridge, New Lenox, Roscoe, Oswego and Gurnee (coming soon)


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