How to Makeover a Wooden Box with a Retro Design

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If you’re a fan of the retro look, then you’ll enjoy learning how to makeover a wooden box with a retro design. This DIY project is so easy since it mostly just requires painting.

My wood box is actually a vintage ice bucket and I found it at an antique store. While looking for unique items to makeover, (as usual) I thought to myself, “I can do something with that!”

You can find teak wood household items at Salvation Army, Goodwill, thrift stores, flea markets, antique stores, or even garage sales.

Up until now, my teak transformations consisted of a pedestal bowl makeover, a fall pumpkin candle stick upcycle, and another candle holder set were given a Valentine makeover. I have many more teak wood home decor items waiting in the wings for a makeover, also!

wooden box with a retro design
wooden box used to do a makeover with a retro design

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I have a retro themed gift that I’m working on and this wooden box seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a makeover in a retro style. The post for that themed gift idea will be shared with you closer to the Christmas holiday. I’ll keep you in suspense for now.

The inspiration for my retro makeover project came from Sadie Seasongoods. She shares amazing DIY upcycling projects on her blog.

It’s time for the “Do It Over” designer group of bloggers to share their creative makeover projects. At the end of my post, you’ll find the links to see what they’re sharing with all of our readers. Don’t miss out!

SUPPLIES NEEDED:

  • wooden box
    • thrifted or
    • unfinished
  • sandpaper
  • acrylic craft paint
  • chalk paint (optional)
  • paint brushes
  • artist liner brush
  • sponge brush
  • Mod Podge
supplies needed for the wooden box makeover with a retro design

HOW TO MAKEOVER A WOODEN BOX WITH A RETRO DESIGN

STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD SURFACE

Whether you’re using a box from a thrift store or purchase a new unfinished box, you’ll probably find that it needs a bit of sanding to remove anything that will show up under the paint.

You may have splinters that need extra sanding attention if you plan to purchase a new unfinished wooden box. There are different qualities of unfinished wood, so more sanding may be needed the cheaper you go.

STEP 2 – PAINT A BASE COAT ON THE WOOD

I always give thrifted wood items and new wood projects a base coat. Tan chalk paint was used as a base coat on this retro project.

Wood tends to soak up a lot of paint, especially unfinished wood, so using a base coat is always a good idea.

STEP 3 – PAINT THE MAIN COLOR

You can do a Google search on “50’s retro colors” to get an idea of what color you’d like to use. There are many shades of aqua and blues, so I used those as a reference when I chose my color.

There are other color schemes you can choose from, like yellow and red, blue and red, or yellow and green

I used FolkArt Multi-Surface Satin 2951 Patina as my main color. This color also comes in Matte and Chalk paint.

On top of the box, I used FolkArt Multi-Surface 2740CA Fire Coral for the accent knob, and I left the interior of the box the base coat tan color.

HOW TO ADD A RETRO DESIGN TO A WOODEN BOX

STEP 4 – ADD THE RETRO DESIGN

If you don’t have a Cricut or Silhouette cutting machine to make your retro design, don’t fret, you can transfer your word old school like I did. Instructions are included below.

I researched “free retro fonts” on Google to find a font that I liked and downloaded that font to my computer and made my design. You can use Microsoft word to make your word with the new font or Canva using their fonts.

You can search for “retro vinyl decals” on Etsy as another option for the design.

'candy' retro design to be applied to the wooden box makeover
'candy' retro design to be applied to the wooden box

USE THE OLD SCHOOL METHOD OF TRANSFERRING WORDS

  • print and cut your word out
  • use a pencil to rub graphite and cover the back of each word
  • place the word on the box, pencil side down
  • tape the word down
  • use a pencil or ink pen to trace the outline of each letter
  • your words are now transferred to your sign
retro design outlined on the wooden box ready to be painted

STEP 5 – PAINT THE DESIGNS

Use an artist liner brush to outline and fill in the letters with paint. I used Apple Barrel Matte 21490E Pavement.

You can make the retro accents by drawing lines with a pencil, then use the liner brush to paint. I used the end of my paint brush to dot the middle of the design and a ball point sewing pin to dot the ends of each line.

STEP 6 – APPLY A SEALER TO THE BOX

Add Mod Podge to seal and protect the acrylic paint and retro design from scratching. Mod Podge shows white when applied, but will dry clear.

I hope you got the inspiration you need to makeover a wooden box with a retro design. Happy thrifting!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO SEE THIS BOX CRAFT:

HOW TO PAINT AND DECORATE A PAPER MACHE BOX

"Pin for Later" graphic
completed diy wooden box makeover

VIEW 6 MORE “DO IT OVER” PROJECTS BELOW!

graphic for the 'do it over' design group

The Apple Street Cottage

Birdz of a Feather

Exquisitely Unremarkable

Little Vintage Cottage

Purple Hues & Me

Southern Sunflowers (that’s me)

Sum of Their Stories

Sharing my retro wooden box makeover at these fabulous blogs!

author of the southern sunflowers blog
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allyson

Allyson is the founder and content creator of Southern Sunflowers, which shares tutorials for DIY crafts and decor on a budget.

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8 thoughts on “How to Makeover a Wooden Box with a Retro Design”

  1. This is too cute! It reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen, I actually have her aqua canisters now. I cannot wait to give our kitchen a makeover, and use them in my own kitchen. This is a great idea!

  2. I’m a huge fan of retro (and old school techniques) and this look amazing Allyson! The colours and design are so bang on!

  3. That is so fun!! Of course, I just donated a few of those wooden boxes. Ugh. I may just have to back to the thrift store and buy them back!! Haha!!

  4. I love this retro makeover. My parents had a very similar ice box when I was growing up, it sat on the sideboard but I can’t ever remember it actually being used for ice! The colours you’ve used here are so lovely together, the little pop of contrast colour on the knob is perfect.

  5. I’ve seen ice buckets and even canisters similar to this one and never thought of a makeover like this, Allyson. I love the color and the retro font you used to give it a new life. Now I can’t wait to see your other projects that are waiting in the wings!

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