DIY Faux vintage crate shadowbox shelf (styled 2 ways)

We had a tiny little taste of Spring weather this past week and it felt great! I was instantly filled with inspiration and wanted to put that inspiration to use. First I went shopping, and lucky for me that the stores are inspired too. The craft stores and markets are now fully stocked with all the hallmarks of Springtime...tulips and daffodils, the makings for Easter baskets and Spring wreaths, bags of Easter grass. All of this stuff got me thinking about putting together a Spring vignette in our kitchen. We're at the "focusing-on-the-smaller-details" stage of our kitchen re-do. We're ready to hang some little shelves that will hold some of our everyday kitchen objects, as well as our smaller collectibles. For shelving I adore the look of old crates, but they are always so expensive at antique shops or flea markets. And in my ebay searches I'll find old crates with prices ranging from $20 to $200 or more...and then with shipping factored in...jeez! So I figured that I could save myself some dough by buying new crates and with the magic of paint I could totally get close enough to the look I'm going for.

At Michael's when I picked up the supplies for my last shadowbox project I saw these cute little unfinished crates. They have a larger size as well, but these little ones were just so incredibly cute. They measure 11" x 10" x 5", and they are $6.99. They'd be great just simply spray painted in soft candy colors, or painted white, but I knew I could get the look of a vintage crate easy enough. Even though we have the skills that pay the bills when it comes to painting and faux finishing, I really wanted this to be an easy squeezey project, with no fancy supplies or expert techniques employed. I wanted to start, finish, style, and hang them in a single afternoon. And I did. All I used was craft paint, water, a paint brush, and a rag. No stinky sticky stain whatsoever.  

First, this is a messy wet project, so be sure to put down some newspaper or cardboard. For my basic wood color I chose a warm brown with reddish tones. I used "Dark Chocolate" by Americana. I painted the entire crate and let it dry. Actually this is when I went to the kitchen for pretzel crisps and hummus. Ya know, the snack industry really needs to start making commercials and ad campaigns that are aimed at crafters. On a day to day basis we find way more snack opportunities than the average sports spectator. 

Next, once the brown paint had dried, using black paint mixed with water, I brushed it all over the crate, letting it soak in. This is a wash, not straight black paint, so I could still see the brown paint through the black. I let the black wash dry a bit, but not all the way.

Now, using a tan color, (I used "Mushroom" by Folk Art) I just used my finger tips to rub some of the tan over some areas (you can of course use a brush if you'd prefer)...I just rubbed it onto accent spots, not the entire crate. Since the black wash was still wet, the tan blended with it and gave those areas a cloudy & aged appearance. This mimics those cloudy, aged spots you'd find on crates that have been sitting in old basements or barns.  

I then dipped a paintbrush in water and then into the black wash, and then brushed that over the areas where I had just rubbed the tan. When I'm brushing on the watered down wash I'm "distressing" the finish at the same time. By brushing back and forth with the wet brush it pulls up some of the paint and will almost bring it back down to raw wood in some spots. These spots will have a warm glow that you wouldn't be able to achieve with sand paper distressing. 

You can see what I mean here. Sand paper would give you fresh brand new wood, where here you see a warm glow. Do as much or as little as you like, and then let dry. I decided not to seal it with a clear coat since I wanted a rustic old feel. 

To hang the crate and turn it into a shelf I just added a self leveling sawtooth bracket to the back. You can find them at Michael's or Home Depot or Lowe's. They are our favorite, we use them on all of our diecuts and plaques. 
So this is what I had in mind when thinking of creating a Spring vignette. I wanted a very old timey general store/pharmacy feel. The old crate seemed like the perfect setting for a small collection of items that would've appeared on the seasonal shelf display in an old time general store. The shredded vintage book pages add to this aesthetic...almost as if the shred was the packing material that these little treasures came nestled in.

These are definitely some of the things that would be in my dream Easter basket. 

And here I styled the shelf for everyday! 

Our new kitchen decor is all about keeping it simple and practical. It's about letting the coffee beans that we grind every day also serve as a rustic, cozy, vignette

I hope you give some of these techniques a try. There are so many great raw wood pieces out there that can be made over...made rustic, old and vintagey...with just a few tones of acrylic paint.
And creating a Springtime inspired or everyday vignette is's all about keeping it simple and practical.

Ok, here's to a Springtime filled with lot's of artful DIY's!
xo, Jenny...& Aaron


  1. I love this idea! I love the way a simple change of contents can change the entire esthetic, from feminine to masculine, from sweet to whimsical to industrial. The best part of it is that I can do it in a single afternoon, since I'm so impatient when I do craft projects.

  2. I love your painting skills. Very nice project and thank you for the tutorial!! Looks darling.

  3. Love love love love loveeeeeeeeeeee!!! Pinning!!!!!

  4. what a great shelf!thanks for sharing :)

  5. This makes me want to hang out in the craft store for awhile. I'm inspired. I already ran to target and grabbed some loot from the dollar isle after i saw your instagram post.

  6. Everyday is an inspiration !) Thanks for sharing, Jenny - loved the colour scheme of your cute collection inside !))


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