Hi ya’ll! Happy Friday! This week, it seemed like Friday might never get here. I’m so excited for this three day weekend even if the forecast is rain every day.
Memorial Day is one of my favorite holidays. My hometown always held a small parade that featured local American Legion and VFW chapters with all the members looking sharp in their military uniforms. My Grandpap, a World War II veteran, marched in it every year and I was always so proud. At the end, the entire town would follow the parade procession to the cemetery where they would hold a ceremony, play taps and have a 21 gun salute. The boy scouts would place American flags on the graves of all the veterans. It really was a great tribute to lives lost in the pursuit of freedom and democracy and a beautiful celebration of the American spirit.
Today’s makeover gets its inspiration from early America. As much as I love farmhouse style, I also have a spot in my heart reserved for country primitive décor. There’s just something about 18th and 19th century antiques that speaks to me. I’ve always thought if I could revisit any time period in America, it would be the late 1700s.
If I had to choose my favorite early American piece to use in my home décor, it would have to be pantry boxes.
Pantry boxes are exactly as their name implies- boxes used to store spices, herbs, sugar and grains in the pantry. (You can read all about the history, styles and features of pantry boxes here).
Authentic pantry boxes are expensive, some as high as $500 or more. That certainly does not make for budget friendly home décor so I decided to get creative and make my own.
Here’s how I did it.
First, I set my #FMF (aka Flea Market Focus- can you tell I made that up haha 😊) to round wooden boxes. For weeks I searched…weeks and weeks and weeks. Isn’t that always the way it goes when you’re looking for something specific then finally I found this little guy for $1.
A couple days later, I found two other oval ones at my local Goodwill for $4 total. Now that’s budget friendly décor. I think they are made of balsa wood, but I can’t be certain. I have yet to find where I can buy them online so if anyone stumbles upon them, let me know and I’ll be forever grateful. 😊 I did find these paper mache boxes on Amazon and I think they may work for painting. I plan on trying it soon, so I’ll let you know how if it goes.
I stained my wooden boxes first since I planned on painting and distressing them to give them some age.
For something where stain would be the final finish, I would pretreat the wood first with Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. It helps ensure even coverage and color of the stain. Since I wasn’t concerned with that on these boxes, I just wiped the dust off with a dry rag and applied the stain directly to the wood. I stained the outside of the lid and base as well as the inside edge of the lid (I had a cool idea for the inside of the base so no staining necessary 😉).
I used these Minwax Finishing Clothes in Walnut.
They are amazing! A. It’s not messy since the stain is already contained on a cloth (think baby wipes), B. There is barely any smell so you can do this inside and C. It dries in an hour. Holy timesaver! When I evaluate a DIY product, the amount of time it can save me is always high on the list. I’ve stained with your basic, run of the mill, liquid stain before and it’s messy, smelly and takes a lifetime to dry (I’m exaggerating of course, but anything that takes more than a day feels like a lifetime in the eyes of a busy mom 😉).
Tip: You do still have to wipe the excess stain off with a clean, dry rag just like you would with any other stain product. (If anyone wants me to put together a staining tutorial, let me know. I am no expert, but I can take some extra photos the next time I stain something to show you my process).
After the stain was dry, I ended up deciding not to paint them. I loved the unevenness of the stain and thought it played into the primitive look I was going for.
And now for the inside…
I lined the insides with fabric to add a unique surprise and a bit of color. First, I traced the lids and bases on a scrap piece of cardboard I had laying around. Foam board would also work really well.
Then I cut out my cardboard circles keeping my scissors on the inside of the line to account for the edge of the boxes. I dry fit each piece and trimmed as necessary to ensure it would fit inside the lid or base.
I cut pieces of gingham fabric just larger than the cardboard pieces.
Gingham fabric is classic in primitive décor. It’s a simply woven cotton fabric that is pre-dyed so that both the front and back are colored. It is also typically checkered in varying sized patterns and often has a tea stained look to more closely match traditional fabrics. I love it. This one is black and beige. I ordered it online a while ago but have also found gingham fabric at craft stores like Joann’s or Hobby Lobby.
I used my Ryobi glue gun to put a bead of hot glue around the edge of the cardboard circle in small sections and then folded the fabric onto it being sure to pull it taut as I worked around the circle (no photos of this step- mostly because I only had two hands, needed them both and had to work quickly so my glue wouldn’t dry).
After it was finished, I cut away the excess fabric with scissors so the cardboard insert would lay flatter when placed inside the boxes and lids.
Next, I cut lengths of fabric just longer than the circumference of the bases and just wider than the depth of the bases. I folded over the top edge about a quarter of an inch so that the frayed cut end wouldn’t show and then began gluing the fabric to the top rim of the base.
After I had glued fabric around the entire circumference of the base, I cut off the excess leaving about a quarter of an inch. I folded the excess under and then glued that in place.
I squeezed a few strips of hot glue onto the bottom of the lids and bases. Then pressed down the fabric covered cardboard inserts.
You’ll see that I did not fabric line the inside edge of the lids since that would have prevented them from fitting on the bases and closing completely.
So now, I have three look-alike rustic primitive pantry boxes that were a fraction of the cost of the real thing. Because I opted to leave them stained only, they’ll compliment the décor in any room. I chose to tie ribbon around them for some added color and styling, but that ribbon can be easily switched out to coordinate with the colors in any home.
Here’s a recap.
I need to find more balsa wood boxes! Maybe if I quit searching, they’ll just start popping up all over the place. That always happens to me. 😉
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. I’ll see you next week with the final reveal of this vanity and the $3 thrift store find that completed the look.