Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Picture Frame Terrarium - Mini Conservatory

About a year or so ago Target had this awesome little metal terrarium for about a week. That's how Target is, if you don't get it when you see it, it won't be there next time. I had planned on buying Mrs. Hughes one but didn't get to it in time. Since then I had been thinking on how to build one for her and one day it occurred to me that it would be much easier to make if I didn't have to cut glass or figure out a way on how to get the glass to fit and stay within the frame. Basically, I wanted a lazy man's terrarium.

It took me some thinking but I finally realized that picture frames would be perfect, if, there was a configuration of them that would work without having to alter their shape. I got messing with the numbers and realized that if I used an 11"x14" frame for the sides, that an 8 1/2"x11" document frame would work for the ends. Then I guessed that I could use 4, 5"x7" frames for the top. My only real concern was how to get them all to fit together and be a solid structure.

I took a trip to Goodwill but had trouble finding the 11"x14" frames or the document frames. But I did manage to find two 10"x13" frames, which meant I could use the more common 8"x10" frames for the sides. I searched and found 4, 5"x7" frames pretty easily. For this terrarium I used all wood frames with a similar style, but I would guess you could use all metal ones if you could find them.

Through some trial and error I figured out it was hard to nail the frames together with my nail gun due to the angle that was on the back of them. I wound up just kind of tacking them together with the nail gun and then I used clear silicon to adhere them. I made an L shape out of one of the big frames and one of the side frames, did the same thing again and then attached the two Ls together. Then I put a tonne of silicon on the small frames and leaned them to create the top, I used a square dowel at the peak to even everything out. The glass was removed on all frames to make putting it together easier.

Once the silicon dried I filled in all of the cracks and spaces between the frames with wood filler, I used a lot of wood filler. Especially between the roof and the walls. I then gave it several coats of white paint with a large brush and let it sit for a few days. The handles were attached before I painted, they are just dresser drawer handles. I painted over them as well. Once everything was dry I put the glass back in from the opening on the bottom. This took a little work and I was just lucky that the way everything went together didn't block where the panes went back in. I used silicon around the edge before putting the glass in, and then I used silicon on the other side of the glass as well. I used a caulk gun for all but the last large pane, my gun wouldn't fit in the box anymore so I had to just use my finger for the last one.

Once the paint dried I went over it with a coat of dark furniture wax. I rubbed most of that back off using Goo Gone until I got it to the color I wanted.

I plan on building a crown molding base for this, I just haven't gotten to it yet. Once I get them written out I will post full instructions for making this on

More soon! ~ The Upcycler


  1. Conservatories make a great addition to any home and garden, consider how your garden conservatory will be used so you can choose the design that will be the most conducive to your current needs as well as your needs for the future.

  2. Thanks! This project will be features in a MAJOR US magazine this Spring, look for a future post about it, I'm very excited.


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