How I turned an ugly little box into something more… well, attractive
I’m someone who frequents opportunity shops or Op Shops as we like to call them. Charity stores with second hand stuff that some kind person has donated so someone like me can come along and pick up an “opportunity”. Near me there are two Salvation Army stores, on the same street! There is a Red Cross shop and a Hospice shop all in a relatively small radius. Then further afield there is St Vincent de Paul, The Dove Shop and more Salvation Army stores (they’re everywhere!).
I usually do a weekly trip around these places, looking for things to decoupage, up-cycle, or just have in my home. But most often I’m looking for things to decoupage. I find boxes, trays, jars and candle holders among other things. I went mad on boxes for a while and worked on so many! Thankfully they proved popular as Christmas presents.
One little box I found was this rather tired looking little box. It was a bit grubby and not terribly attractive but I knew I could tidy it up and hopefully make it pretty.
So I purchased it and took it home. The first thing I did was give it a clean with some disinfectant.
The process to transform something like this is not difficult but it can be time consuming. Generally this is due to waiting for things to dry. Anyway, here’s what I did and if you would like to do something similar I will add a list of materials at the end. Hopefully, this will be a great ‘How to decoupage’ post!
Step one was to give the box a light sand on all surfaces inside and out.
Once I was satisfied the box was smooth I went ahead and painted the inside.
I did two coats of an acrylic black paint, waiting after each coat for the paint to dry. This always makes things look nice and tidy and clean again.
A little tip I can give you is to make sure the paint is REALLY dry at this stage before continuing. Otherwise when you close the box and start working on the outside you will find later the box will always stick when opening. If you’re going to on-sell your work this will put customers off.
The next step, I decided to paint the top red. I did this because once the top layers of paint were on I wanted to sand them back so the box looked distressed and the different colours would show through. I chose red because the image I wanted to use on the top had a little bit of red in it.
Now, if you are going to do this, don’t get fanatical about the base colour covering everything perfectly. It is just a base and will have a layer or two above it. You will only see a touch of this colour so no need to be a perfectionist!
Next I painted the whole box in a blue/grey colour which I mixed to go nicely with my selected image. Once again, I just used basic acrylic paints.
You can see in the photo that the old images on the box are still visible through the red paint. Like I said before there is no need to worry about this.
You’ll notice I used a sponge to paint the outside of the box rather than a brush. This is totally personal choice. I don’t like to see brush strokes so this prevents that happening.
Once the blue paint was dry the next step was to paint the top white. If you are doing decoupage on something, most of the papers you will use are translucent. So having a white base means the colours of the image on your paper will stand out really well. You don’t have to do this if you desire a different look, but I find decoupaging over a white or light coloured surface to work the best. Why use translucent paper? I hear you asking. Well the point of the translucent paper is that it is very thin. Which means when you finish your project you shouldn’t be able to detect any edge to your paper. It should look seamless as though it is painted on.
OK, so by this point I’ve painted the inside with two coats of paint and the outside with a coat of red on the top, two coats of blue, and now I’ve painted the top white! That’s rather a lot of drying time. But hey, it’s worth it. Next step is to give it a little sand to make it look a bit vintage. I especially worked on the top to bring the red and blue out. I paid extra attention to the edges.
Next is my favourite part. Adding the images. I selected a quaint little Christmasy image for the top, plus a paper napkin which I planned to use part of on the front side of the top of the box.
I like to tear the edges of my images. You can cut them with scissors, but I find tearing them gets you a smoother end product.
I choose Mod Podge Mat as my go to decoupage glue. You only need to paint on a thin layer to your surface. If you add too much you may get bubbling.
When you have your image in place over your glue, smooth the surface by layering some cling film over your work and smoothing it out with your fingers. This helps prevent you from tearing the picture.
Once I had my main image in place I tore out the part of the paper napkin I wanted to use. I chose a section I liked that had an address in French.
When using paper napkins for decoupage always remember to separate the layers. You only want to use the top layer of the napkin.
Once again, I tore out my image rather than cutting it. Once the images are glued down and smooth I add another layer of Mod Podge over the top to seal them in nicely.
I waited for all of that to dry then I added a little bit of interest by stencilling a pattern around the base.
And then once everything was dry I varnished both the inside and the outside of the box. I used British Paints varnish for this box but there are many on the market that will work just as well. Just make sure it is water based or your work will turn yellow!
I added a little embellishment to the front of the box, looks a little bit like a lock. And that was it! It’s finally finished and here is the finished result….
What do you think? Did this explain how to decoupage? Let me know in the comments.
List of items used:
Acrylic paint in various colours
Water based clear varnish