Tired of having no space on my phone for photographs, I decided to try some on-line photo storage. This worked great, until I realised it was syncing with my phone exactly, so when I cheerfully deleted photos off my phone to free up space, thinking they would still exist online, I discovered they were also deleted. Sadly this included all the images of how I created the outside surface of these boxes, so you will have to make do with a description of what I did, and pictures of the next stage.

  The dark varnish I wanted to use to alter the outside from the bland, pale veneer, wouldn’t have adhered properly, and so to create this effect I ripped up old manilla envelopes and brown wrapping paper (Kraft paper) into small pieces and decoupaged them over the whole surface, using home made glue (50:50 PVA and water) Use a round brush and don’t be mean with the glue. Don’t worry too much about air bubbles in this case, because you’re going to sand it once it’s dry and, when sanded off, these add to the texture,

  You can use bigger pieces than I have, which will be quicker, and you can use more accurately cut out shapes to create an effect like parquet flooring. Once all glued down and thoroughly dry, give everything a sand with a fine grade paper, ‘wet and dry’ used dry works well.

Then give the box a varnish/lacquer. Use two coats at least, and of course if you use a clear varnish, the finished colour would be the same as the original paper. (If you want, you can use lots of shades of brown and cream tissue and let the colours of this shine through the clear varnish.) You could use an acrylic paint to tint a small pot of clear varnish too, if you can’t find the ideal colour, which means you can bulk buy clear varnish and then tint up small amount as an when. 

Any way – once varnished and sanded, this is the finished look to the outside. One thing you can do which I didn’t this time, is use a little gold paint rubbed back to add some metallic richness once the varnish is dry, on the right piece it looks great.

Now for the doors.

I bought some origami paper from Amazon, and made another of my classic mistakes in that I read the measurement in cms, and thought inches, so when it came it was smaller than I’d thought it was going to be.

  Never mind, I carried on with my plans and laid out some pieces first to test the pattern. I was trying to avoid a checker board effect, and mixed up the squares hopefully in a more random way, then I stuck them onto the first door.

Of course, they’re not going to fit perfectly onto the door, so for the last rows up and down, I had to decide what to do. This first time I stuck them down leaving an over hang, and thought I’d cut them back later. However, this wasn’t such a good idea, as it was a bit of a faff and took a lot of careful sanding to get neat, and so for the next door I will trim down these pieces first before sticking them in place.
If you want a brighter finished look, I would choose a clear varnish once the paper squares are dry, then you would maintain the bright colours you see here. But I wanted to continue with the aged effect, and so once the squares were dry and in place, I bit the bullet and painted them in two layers of the tinted varnish (dark oak) to make them darker and aged looking.

There was a scary moment when some of the papers reacted oddly with the varnish, but I just ignored it and waited to see how it looked under a second coat – sometimes it pays not to panic and let a project sit over night before reaching for the scraper!

You can see the squares where the reaction is more obvious, but it does add to the ‘hundred year old’ effect I’m trying to create, and so I decided to go with it!

And so with more time to dry and a light brush over with some steel wool, and here’s the finished door panel in situ. (Always wear gloves when doing this as you will get tiny tiny splinters of it in your fingers if not, and use a suitable vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust – can you tell this is the voice of experience speaking?)

I’m now really pleased at how this looks, and I think it does have the ancient feel I’m after. If you wanted a modern fresher look, remember you’d get it simply by choosing clear varnish, and it’s a great way of using that beautiful box of Japanese papers you bought yourself once and don’t know what to do with. Once you get the first one in place, you can lay them almost like thin tiles. Use them to line drawers for a flash of colour, and of course they make a great treatment for picture frames and boxes.

In the next post on this subject, I’ll be making up a chalk paint for the interior, having decided that I want to paint this to match the wall paint of the room, and finding the new door knobs to finish the box.