Friday, October 4, 2013

Check out my scar and a guest post: a child's dress up box

Hey all!

So apparently I'm the worlds biggest pansy, because the whole foot surgery thing really knocked me off my feet.

(Literally and figuratively. :))

But now I have a cool scar.

Check it.

Not gonna lie, I never thought I'd show a picture of my foot on this blog...and it probably won't happen again. Sorry if that disappoints anyone. ;)

(The dark spot around it is the last of the bruising.)

Anyway the surgery, combined with our lovely children simultaneously deciding to get sick and then not sleep through the night, have left Jake in I in a slightly zombie-fied state.

So I'm really grateful for Eva from Home Decor emailing me and asking if I would like her to guest post.

She's created a cute idea of turning an old suitcase into a dress-up box for your kiddos.

Read on to see her ideas and thank you again Eva!

I'll be back on Monday. :)


Hello 551 East Furniture Design Readers, I am Eva Stephen from Home D├ęcor and am glad to be here to share my tutorial for a dressing-up box for children’s rooms! Julia has been kind enough to invite me to share my insight with you lot! I really hope you like this and try it for your children, because they sure will love it!

Happy reading!



My niece loves dressing up; she has really taken after her aunt. She wanted to be a bride for the whole year after I got married. So fairy wings, princess dresses, pirate hats, cat costumes and tiaras can be found all over the house! They need to be stored somewhere, but don't all these fairy-tale costumes deserve something a little more special than the average plastic tidy box? Also, this project can be used for a boy’s room too, by selecting the appropriate cloth it may be used for storing space ships, pirate treasures and weapons!

I however have directed this for a girl’s room; I made her a beautiful dress up chest so she could feel like an actual princess dressing up her in chambers! Before our little adventure, you can see she was just stacking up her dress-up stuff on an old drawer cabinet from Shop4Furniture, which I plan on using to create a nice coat rack (that too of course with a fairy-tale theme!-nothing goes to waste when I work!)

Part-treasure chest, part-tidy box, part-somewhere-extra-to-sit, this old steamer trunk fits the bill perfectly.  This one was salvaged from a dark and dusty corner of my parent's attic, but you can pick them up cheaply online, or if you’re lucky you might come across a great thrift find!

 I love the beautiful details and rustic colors.

 You will need:

·         Cleaning cloths/ brushes

·         Strong craft glue + brush

·         Dubbin or leather treatment

·         Clear, matt varnish

·         Sharp craft knife

·         Approx. 3m lining fabric (this will vary according the size of your trunk)

·         Sharp scissors

·         Iron

·         Dressmakers' chalk

·         Staple gun

·         A lot more craft glue!

·         Felt pads (optional)

 1.      Clean

The first job is to determine what condition the trunk is in and decide how much of a renovation job you want to make of it.  For instance, do you want to give the metal clasps and fixings a polish with Brasso to restore their shine? (I've chosen not to here) Do you want to paint or varnish the exterior?

No doubt the leather will need some care, so clean that up and apply some conditioner or dubbin.

Give the exterior a good clean: a soft brush and a gentle scrub with a cloth and some warm, soapy water should be good enough to prepare the surface.

2. If painting, remove labels

If you fancy painting the trunk, instead of simply varnishing it like the one shown here, you'll need to remove any exterior labels and stickers at this point and apply a primer (like Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3) and a couple of coats of your desired shade.

As you can see, I couldn't quite bring myself to remove these little testimonies to the trunk's well-travelled past; for me, it seemed a shame to paint over the timeworn charm and character.

3. Varnish

 If you decide to go for the 'maintaining its full shabby charm' look, paste down any peeling labels and fraying fabric edges to create a good, flat surface on which to apply the varnish. It is a good idea to dab a layer of varnish over each label before applying the first full coat of varnish. This gives them a little bit of extra protection and ensures that the inks don't run when you brush across them using more vigorous strokes later.

I'm a big fan of Bonar Naturale clear varnish as it gives a really nice barely-there kind of finish. 3 coats are probably enough, but don't skimp because in a kids room - especially for an item like a dressing up chest - it is going to get a lot of wear. A resilient wipe-clean finish is going to be worth the effort of a few extra coats now!


4. Remove old lining

More often than not, the lining in these trunks is ripped, fraying, and showing signs of damp or mildew - generally a bit grubby and smelly! It's going to need replacing before you store all those lovely dressing-up clothes in the trunk.

To do this, you'll first need to carefully remove the brackets and tacks holding the lining in place. Put them in a safe place so you can replace them later. Using a sharp craft knife, carefully cut out and remove the lining.

5. Select a replacement lining fabric

This is going to depend on the look you've gone for on the trunk exterior. A brightly painted trunk might suit a lovely vibrant contrasting shade or cheerful pattern inside.


For this renovation, I've chosen a lovely muted-hues rose motif (Sudbury Rose by Linen Union, available from Tinsmiths). A thick furnishing fabric like this is ideal for ensuring that the glue you use later doesn't come through the fabric.


6. Cut fabric to size

Now comes the tricky part! You're going to need to mark out or make a pattern for the pieces.  And, most likely, they won't be regular shapes since the trunk will have warped and bowed over time. You can trace the shapes for the pattern on to paper first, then transfer to the fabric, once you're happy you've got it right. Or, if you're feeling brave, directly on to the fabric using dressmakers' chalk.

You will need 4 smaller rectangular end pieces plus two larger rectangles (1 for the top and 1 for the bottom).

Carefully cut pieces to size, allowing a generous border which will be folded under at each edge to hide the staples (it also gives you a bit of extra allowance for any measuring mistakes!). Fold and iron the hems.

7. Staple top and base pieces in place

For the long rectangles, place the fold of the hem along the front edge of the base of the trunk. Hold or pin in place. Flip the fabric over and, using your staple gun, staple the hem down all along the edge. Flip the fabric back over and smooth it down the wall of the trunk, across the bottom and up the back of the trunk, until you match the opposite hem to the edge at the back of the base.

Repeat the process, carefully stapling under the fabric to secure the hem of your piece to the edge of the trunk with no staples visible.

If you don't have a staple gun, you can use tacks instead. Push the tacks through the hem whilst the fabric is the wrong way out and hammer them in through the top layer of fabric, so they are not visible.

8. Attach end pieces

Use the same technique you used before to staple or tack the hem to the inside edge of the trunk under the fabric.  

Then glue these pieces straight into place, sticking the hem allowance on the other three edges flat so it follows the inside edge of the trunk and is glued on to the walls of the trunk.

Secure the hem with staples to the walls and base / top. It doesn't matter that you can see these staples, because they will soon be covered by the large rectangular panels.

9. Glue top and base pieces

The rough edges of the hem allowance for each end piece and the staples will now be covered with the large rectangles you've secured to the inside edge of the trunk at each end.  A good, strong craft glue will stick these down securely enough. Apply the glue under the fabric and press down firmly, making sure not to create any wrinkles!

10. Replace interior fixings

It's looking pretty good now... all that's left to do is carefully replace the brackets and any other fixings you took out and put to one side earlier.

It is a good idea to add some canvas straps to prevent the lid opening fully, especially if it's going into a kid's room. It limits the damage they can do a little! For this, cotton canvas webbing is ideal. Alternatively, sew some straps made from rectangles of your lining fabric. Again, the size for this will vary according to the size of your trunk.



11. Add felt stoppers

If the trunk will be used on a wooden or laminate floor, add some adhesive felt pads to the base to prevent scratches.

12. Remember the golden rule

You've laboured hard and it looks great. Go ahead and feel proud of yourself! Now say goodbye to it.

Of course, you want children to treasure your handiwork and look after their new dressing-up box, and most likely they will. But it is always worth remembering my mother-in-law's golden rule: don't give them anything you don't mind getting broken!

 Are your children Potter fans, they will love if you keep a Hogwart's style Halloween feast this year, read my Potter inspired Ideas and do share some of your own!

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  1. such a sweet dress up box! and good luck with your foot- i should show you my staple pics from last year. oh yeah, i documented that!

  2. Thank you for having me as a guest Julia. Hope you get well soon and feel better. This was such a pleasure.

  3. Thinking of changing the old home furniture? Then you need to see this Home furniture on sale . We have a new lot of home furniture just for you.


I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments! They bring a smile to my face!