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Co-owner Jen Chappell (at left) and employee Nici Davis do the preliminary woodworking for a children’s Halloween project. (photos by phil mumford)

Make your own home décor while escaping the daily grind

By Courtney Ormon | photos by Phil Mumford

It all began in 2010 when creative minds Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff started their online design company, Anders Ruff. The website offered DIY tips, party-planning guides, and an online shop of wood and canvas goods the two women made by hand. By 2016 Anders and Ruff had generated such a large online following that they were urged to open a workshop where they could share their knack for DIY projects with others.

Co-owner Jen Chappell works with children on a woodworking project. (photos by phil mumford)

Now, just one year later, AR Workshop has 30 locations in 17 different states. One of AR’s newest locations is in Lafayette, and is owned by husband and wife Mark and Jen Chappell. Jen grew up in the same part of Michigan as co-founder Maureen Anders, and they had mutual friends.

Jen had been in touch with Anders for years about opening a Colorado location, while still working as an automotive consultant. She spent the majority of her time traveling for work, missing out on her children’s soccer games and feeling a lack of a creative outlet. Jen called Mark on the way to the airport one day and told him, “If I don’t do this now, I never will.” Mark agreed with her, Jen called Anders, and AR Workshop Lafayette was launched.

Jen was thrilled to take the leap to offer an inventive outlet for herself and other people in need of a reprieve from the daily grind. “We live in this era of Etsy and Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines, where DIY projects are everywhere,” Jen says. “It is empowering to be able to walk out of the workshop with something that can be gifted or hung up in your own home—something to be proud of that you made with your own two hands.”

The Thrill of the Drill

The fresh smell of unfinished lumber lingers in the air as you walk into the rustic workshop. As inspiration for guests, the walls are adorned with Jen and Mark’s past projects. On one wall, a painted wooden Colorado flag hangs above a canvas of the Denver skyline. Along the windowsill are a jack-o’-lantern throw pillow and a wooden cookie tray for Santa.

AR Workshop (877-486-3266; www.arworkshop.com/boulder) is at 1361 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette 80026. It is open daily for afternoon and evening classes. Prices range from $40-70 for adult projects and from $35-40 for children’s projects.

“A lot of women have never even held a drill before—and honestly, it’s sort of thrilling,” says Jen. While Mark does most of the basic woodworking for the projects at AR, guests are given free rein of the workshop to push the creative boundaries as far as they would like. The highly organized workshop is loaded with power tools, stencils, paintbrushes and nontoxic paints and finishes for any guest to use.

“There really is no way to mess up the color combinations,” Jen says, pulling out two paints at random and holding them up to each other. “While there are dozens of colors to choose from, they all follow enough of a scheme that everything works together.” Jen serves as a creative guide for her guests, but she doesn’t interfere with their artistic vision. “One woman chose two colors that I didn’t think would match,” she recalls, “and it came out to be one of my favorite projects yet.”

An AR project helps set the tone for warm family gatherings. (photos by phil mumford)

While AR projects appear a little more involved than something you might make at a paint-and-sip studio, AR customers say that actually strengthens the final product. Janice Keazer of Erie explains, “If you’re not a great artist, you’re used to walking out of canvas-and-wine parties feeling disappointed with your painting, but this is something different—it’s something that you’re proud to display in your house.” Keazer and a group of her friends enjoyed a night of crafting, snacking and sipping at AR Workshop earlier this spring. Other groups have brought together family members, neighbors, bridesmaids, clubs and other organizations to craft wooden and canvas home décor and gifts.

When you open the AR Workshop webpage you can either choose to book a private workshop like Keazer and her friends, or you can sign up to come in individually. The calendar is loaded with holiday workshops, kids’ workshops and open free-choice workshops. Your project will take between two and three hours.

Prior to a group’s arrival, Jen and Mark and their staff ensure that all of the proper stencils and supplies are ready. “They give you the tools and steps to get there, but you create it,” Keazer says. “It’s entirely in the customer’s hands.”

Regardless of your artistic ability or your experience with tools, you can walk out of AR Workshop with a sense of gratification that carries on each time you admire your project in your home.


Courtney Ormon is a senior at CU Boulder finishing up her bachelor’s degree in communication and sociology. She considers herself lucky to explore Colorado while earning her degree.