From plain to fancy | September 17, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - September 17, 2010

From plain to fancy

Decorative boxes are useful for storage and display

by Kit Davey

Want to keep clutter at bay and add personality to your home at the same time? Create your own decorative containers for storage and display.

You don't need to spend an arm and a leg buying new containers: Just recycle ones you already own. Almost any container can be converted into a useful and attractive storage device: sturdy gift boxes, cardboard file boxes, matchboxes, Q-tip boxes, hat boxes, recipe files, old jewelry boxes, cigar boxes, photo boxes, shoe boxes, spice jars, tea tins, fruit crates, etc.

If it has a lid and can hold something — re-use it!

You can use almost anything in your junk drawer to decorate your container: shells, ribbon, lace, old stamps, photos, pictures from magazines, postcards, broken jewelry, old maps, wallpaper scraps, twigs, fabric, moss, keys, foreign coins, buttons, potpourri, pressed leaves. Go on a treasure hunt for odds and ends that you can apply to your containers.

What can you store in your new box? Just about anything: jewelry, office supplies, vitamin pills, paperwork, TV remotes, art supplies, make-up or stationery. You can also give your boxes as gifts.

Here are a few projects you might enjoy:

** Do you have cardboard file boxes stacked up in your den? Make them much more attractive by decoupaging images from magazines onto the sides you can see. I cut out a snake and a dragonfly from a Nature Company shopping bag and applied it to a storage box. Leftover wallpaper or wrapping paper can add interest to any boring cardboard box.

** Matchboxes make perfect containers for straight pins or earring backs. Cut out a small piece of colorful paper (advertisements for Persian carpets, cut from interior-design magazines, are perfect for this) and glue it onto the box, avoiding the striking strip. Use a glue gun to add an old Chinese coin, a medallion or a button to the top of the box. Five or six of these homemade boxes sitting on a small tray look great. You can even keep the matches in them!

** Fruit crates with attractive labels can be used "as is" to hold a collection of flower pots out on your deck or patio. Or, paint a few crates to match your room's decor and store your record albums in them. Strong crates can be used to house kids' toys.

** Give a small, sturdy gift box a Victorian look. Collect a handful of straight twigs, a few bits of moss and several small acorns on your next country walk. Look through your family photos for a sepia-toned image, or use an antique store purchase. If you are afraid of damaging the image, take it to your local copy shop and have a color copy made. Glue the photo to the box lid and create a frame around the image with your twigs. Glue the twigs and a few bits of moss to the lid as well. Add a pair of acorns to one corner. Use your box to store pens, hair pins or a postcard collection.

** Dress up a shoe box with ribbon and a few buttons. Spray paint the box with gold paint. Glue a length of ribbon around the box lid — burgundy or forest green work well. Glue buttons onto the ribbon every inch or so. Store computer disks, handkerchiefs, an old set of silverware or receipts in your box.

** Recycle fabric scraps and make yourself a padded box. Select a strong, lidded box. Cut out a piece of quilt batting and glue to the box lid (you can also use pillow stuffing). Cut out a square of fabric, four to six inches larger than the box lid. Wrap the lid, Christmas-present style, using a glue gun to attach the fabric to the inside of lid. Glue sections of the same or complementary fabric to the panels on the bottom of the box. Stash old check registers, sewing supplies or travel soaps.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. E-mail her at, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at


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