Getting Crafty

Every so often I get included in a Twitter conversation that really seems to set people’s imaginations alight. Last week it was about getting creative. Maybe it’s because spring has definitely sprung and everyone is in the mood to do work around the house – or maybe it’s that handcrafts really are inspiring people to have a go themselves. The thing about making something yourself is that if you like what you’ve made, you’ve created something you can be proud of. And if it happens to be functional too, then you’re connecting with the network of craftspeople who through the ages have created and embellished objects for their homes that have enriched their surroundings.

winebox storage

Not only that, handcrafts are often skills that are handed down through the generations – if we don’t learn how to knit or sew or decorate furniture, these are skills that our own children could miss out on. And in a disposable society like ours, not knowing how to patch or mend something, leads to another item heading for landfill. So, a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had any use for some wooden wine boxes. Considering I have a shed full of furniture waiting to be made over, I should have said no! HA.

You will need:

Wooden wine boxes, fruit crates or even old drawers
fine grade sandpaper
emulsion paint
wallpaper scraps
wallpaper paste
decorators glaze
rawl plugs
screws to attach the boxes to the wall

With the sandpaper, give the box a good rub down to smooth out any roughness in the wood. You’ve not going for a perfect finish, rather something that won’t snag things, or graze your skin, if you should brush past it without thinking. Then with the emulsion paint you’ve chosen for the inside of the box, evenly coat the wood making sure to follow the direction of the grain. Because the wood is raw, it will absurd the paint quite quickly – I didn’t mind this as I wanted a vintage look. If you want the paint to be very even, wait for it to dry and give the whole inside another coat. Sand gently to knock back the wood slightly, adding an aged and gently distressed feel. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

painting the interior

Next cut out some motifs from a scrap of wallpaper. I gave them a narrow border and grouped them so that the box could be used as storage and still have the embellishment visible above. When you are happy with the placement, use wallpaper paste and stick them in place. Pay careful attention to the edges and take some time to make sure they are sticking properly – if necessary cover with a piece of cling film and put a weight like a book on top to aid the bonding.

When the glue is dry, coat the interior of the box with decorator’s glaze to seal the paint and wallpaper. Allow to dry.

decorator's glaze

decorator’s glaze

Now for the outside. With a contrast colour – or the same shade if you so wish – coat up the outside of the box. Take care with the branding of the box as this looks nice on the top – try not to work the colour into the indentations. Allow to dry and then with an emulsion paint similar in colour to the branding, pick out the lettering and logo with a narrow watercolour brush, allow to dry and then with the sandpaper, knock back the paintwork to give an aged feel to it. Wipe with a damp cloth.

Pick the colour you want for the edge of the box and then using a stamping roller or a small brush carefully coat the edge of the box. Check to make sure there are no dribbles or brush marks on the outer or inner ‘walls’. Wipe clean if necessary.

finishing touches

finishing touches

When the outside is totally dry coat with decorator’s glaze.

capturing different styles

capturing different styles

Drill holes in the back of the box large enough to fit over a screwhead and then position the box on the wall. Check that it is level, draw a pencil mark inside the drill holes onto the wall. Remove the box and drill the holes in these positions, fit with a rawl plug and screw. Your box will now hang in the position you’ve chosen.

You can create a whole wall of storage this way , or simply a bedside table. Whatever you choose, your handiwork will add character to your room. And even better the box was packing material before you gave it a new identity!

shelving cluster

shelving cluster

Visible Storage

The minute the new school year starts, I get in the mood for a good clean out. I don’t think I can call it a spring clean in September when it’s been feeling so autumnal, but maybe it has something to do with having the children around all summer – mess just seems to follow in their wake. All those shoes can go back into wardrobes again, all the books/dvd’s/games can be put back onto shelves, all those stray socks – can be binned!

But, seriously, there’s something very therapeutic about knowing your possessions have places to ‘live’ and then putting them there! Especially if it is somewhere you can see everyday as you walk around your home.

displaying favourite things

And this is where the decorating magazines miss the point – no disrespect – I absolutely love poring over them, the photographs are always fabulous and beautifully styled, but they are geared toward aspirations, not the every day. They forget that display space and storage doesn’t have to be custom build or site specific to be effective. It simply has to be in an appropriate place.

For example the piano above is rarely used and sits in this home’s front room. The patina of the wood has such a pleasing glow to it, that creating a display space from the lid enhances both the piano, the objects and finishes the room more sympathetically than a built in alcove unit would do.

What I’m getting at is all homes have furniture that doesn’t get used very often which could be given a secondary use to display or store your possessions decoratively. Look around, so long as it isn’t in danger of being knocked over by ‘passing traffic’, it can become storage – or to be more precise Display AS Storage, because when you think about the job being done, display is simply visible storage.

shelving to enhance a room

To illustrate what I mean, in this family home, the piano is used almost daily. They didn’t want anything placed on the lid that would hinder them opening it as needed. The bookshelves had been built simply to contain books, until they realised they had nowhere else for photographs and objects. So with a careful re-arrangement, the books have been placed to the ends of the shelves to allow the photographs and objects to be the central focus. The shelves now ‘display’ the items they house and enhance the red running through the scheme.

display space

In contrast, this home-owner (who, by the way also owns a piano!) has a collection of china that she specifically wanted to house in the rear reception room, so the shelving was built around the sizes of the objects to be placed there. The arrangement was chosen to show each piece to advantage and to enhance the deco feel of the interior.

In collaboration with her designer, the client edited her possessions according to the scheme she wanted – if she felt it no longer worked – out it went. This kind of approach makes every object a focal point and for the collector, not known for minimalist tendencies, allows their home to have a certain tranquility. Nothing outside this collection is housed in this space.

storage display in a studio space

Finally this studio space houses both business files and decorative objects. As the studio is a creative space, the functional nature of the storage hasn’t been allowed to dictate the arrangement of the objects housed. This may not be as practical as filling the shelves to their limits, but in terms of making any space inviting, if thought is given to how the storage is going to be used, it can still be decorative or even become a feature.

And that, you will find very pleasing!