DIY: Dexter Decoupage Breadbox

I am forever trying to make sure that the gifts I give to those I love are: 1. personal, 2. useful, and 3. cool as hell.  For this reason, the practice of purchasing and distributing mass Christmas presents vexes me like none other.  Instead, I spend months collecting (and hiding) bits and bobs from flea markets and thrift stores in the anticipation of sharing a singularly unique gift with someone I adore.

This year I was able to pull together a fun and unique kitchen accessory for my wonderful husband … a Dexter themed breadbox!  Before you laugh at the absurdity of a breadbox as a yule-tide gift for my loving man, be advised that this is perfect for him in two ways: 1. He LOVES all things Dexter; 2. The kitchen is his playground, the rest of the family merely borrows it from time-to-time.  As an aside, the kitchen is already decorated in a Dexter motiff (complete with crimson red walls and Dark Defender art).

The idea was born mid-September when I found a rather sad and totally plain particleboard breadbox while making the rounds at my fav. local thrift stores.  Painting wouldn’t really do much for this particular piece as the surface was uneven and porous (not to mention the particleboard was dented on a back corner).  I had wanted to try my hand at decoupage, so this seemed like a wonderful trial project.

Before I began this DIY project I remembered to take a picture. I started by paiting the roll down door of the breadbox before getting to the business of decoupaging Dexter collector cards onto all sides (inside and out). I was careful not to gunk up the roll-top door with cards or paint.

Jeremiah provided the perfect medium and theme when he mentioned he had a substantial pile of Dexter collector/trading cards just taking up space in our closet.  (OK … I said they were taking up space, but that isn’t really the important part is it?)  I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen, but I was going to give my husband a Dexter breadbox for Christmas if it killed me! (Pun intended)

Decoupaging laminated cards turned out to be more challenging than I had first anticipated (surprise, surprise).  I tried 3-4 different methods of applying the cards to the box with zero success.  In fact, I set the project (and all those crazy cards) on my ‘shelved ideas’ shelf and moved on to other endeavors… then November rolled on the scene saying, “Hey slacker. What about Christmas?”

Again I set about the task of adhering paper to wood in some attractive manner.  Admittedly, some cards were hurt in this process.  The trick turned out to be peeling the cards apart … fronts from backs … each and every one.  Yeah, that’s +/- 140 cards to anyone keeping track.

I began placing Dexter cards on the left side of the breadbox. I ran a base row of cards and layered additional cards in a scattered (seemingly random) order. I did make sure to alternate characters and scenes next to one another … hardly random at all.

I applied Modge Podge to a rough 12″ x 4″ working area on the breadbox and the (now) rough back of a split card.  I only used the cards’ front side since the backs’ content wasn’t varied.  I placed each prepasted card onto the prepared work area and smoothed lightly into place with my finger and applied a liberal coat of Modge Podge with a foam brush to the card’s surface.  I worked out any bubbles under the card at this time.

NOTE:  Work out bubbles diligently during this step to avoid sadness in your finished product’s quality.

By the time I got to the right side of the box I knew my cards might run out before the project was done. I did allow duplicate cards, but tried to not repeat any one card on the same side. I applied the cards to the round edge of the breadbox and cut them to crisply follow the curve of the front after they had dried securely.

I employed both random (overlapping/scattered) and patterned placement of the cards to create visual interest.  On the sides of the box I let the cards overlap instead of cutting them at the points of intersection.  The smooth surface of the end product was created by limiting my overlaps, and thinning cards where necessary.  I was mindful to not overlap more than two cards at any one point to keep the surface area as smooth as possible.  On the beveled edge of the box top I wet the back of the card and rubbed off additional paper until the card was pliable.  Increased pliability allowed the card to contour to the rounded shape without cracking or distorting the surface image.  Once I had covered the surface of each side I would let the cards dry before returning to trim excess edges and apply a second coat of Modge Podge.  In total, I coated the entire surface four (4) times before applying a gloss sealer coat.

On the back of the breadbox I ran the cards both horizontially and vertically. I used cut cards to trim the edges. Once placed, glued and dried, I trimmed excess edges with a razor before applying another coat of decoupage glue.

As you can tell, I chose to paint the rolling door of the breadbox … the red ties the box into the colors of our kitchen and makes it pop!

I had enough Dexter cards to decoupage the floor of the breadbox too! Here you can see the red paint continued on the inside walls, as well as get a good look at the cut edge trim pieces.

In the end, my hubsy was happy with his rad, new splash of Dexter inspired color, and I was tickled to see another reclaimed treasure come to life … all in time for Christmas morn’!

Final Product! Dexter collector cards are decoupaged to this breadbox in an overlapping design for a personal and unique gift. My favorite Dexter fan will love this!

Happy tinkering to all, and to all a good night.


Fireplace Alcove Facelift

All summer our wood stove, and the ramshackle alcove in which it resides, goes unnoticed and unattended.  Unfortunately, as soon as the wetter weather of October and November rolls around we realize we have a muddy, overrun mess on our hands.  Soggy boots dripping into the walkway; newspaper and kindling precariously stacked against the wall; and wadded, wet socks or gloves dotting it all like some sad, dirty garnish.

Besides the obvious visual grossness, we had operational issues to address. The wood stove put out too much heat on the main floor and bedrooms above, but the split-level adjoining daylight basement was bitterly cold without additional (costly) heating.

empty alcove before construction and paint

The punch list for a ‘new-and-improved’ fireside alcove included:

  • Remove & cap existing baseboard heater unit
  • Add through-wall fan to help heat basement
  • Add area to hang hats, wet clothes, and gloves
  • Add area to dry wet shoes and boots (all sizes)
  • Organize fire-starting kindling materials
  • Keep area for dog bed
  • Keep ash bucket and fireplace tools out of the way
  • Update paint and fix hole in drywall

I have meant to tackle the project of updating and organizing this mess for three winters … now that it’s done, I can’t believe we waited so long!  The project took approximately 10 hours to complete, spread over two days (to allow for drywall compound drying time) and was fairly simple.  Totally worth it!

First, (because neither Jeremiah nor I enjoy electrocution … and we couldn’t determine the exact electrical circuit to isolate) we turned the house’s electrical main ‘off’.  We then removed the baseboard heater unit that had been installed years earlier behind the wood stove.  Don’t ask me why a heater was installed behind a wood stove … I would probably have to blame the 1970’s.

I installed and mounted a plastic electrical box at the base of the wall, routed the electrical wire from the removed heater into the box, capped the electrical wires (adding electrical tape for good measure), and repaired the drywall surrounding the new electrical box with mesh tape and low-dust drywall compound.  It is NEVER a good idea to just bury capped live wires in the wall.  A dedicated electrical box and blank faceplate remind you that those wires exist and keeps the electrical current safely housed until it is needed again.

Meanwhile,  Jeremiah kept busy cutting holes in the wall behind the wood stove for the through-wall vent fan.  We knew we would be challenged in this project because of varied wall thickness in this part of the house. (Remember, it’s split-level to the basement.)  We cut the wall on the basement side first to ensure the finished face-plate position did not interfere with another heater vent close-by.  After fighting with some unruly surprise plywood while we made our way through the wall, we used the outside edge of a level to aid us in marking the outline of our cut hole on the backside (inside the wall) of the fireplace alcove wall.

We located the center point of the proposed second hole and drilled a pilot hole through to the main floor.  We returned upstairs, centered the connecting vent pipe over our pilot hole, and traced its outline.  Jeremiah used the pilot hole to easily start cutting the drywall away, revealing a beautiful straight shot through both levels of the wall … success!  By far, the most complicated part of the project.

The through-wall fan installed quickly.  We ran the electrical cord through our cut holes first, then slid the opposing ends of the vent ducting together easily.  We sealed the connection point of the two sides with metal tape (available at most hardware stores) to ensure minimal lost air and mounted the fan covers to the walls, securing the fan’s placement.  For aesthetics, I used cable staples to tack the power cord along the baseboard as it travels to its power source under the new bench.

alcove wall gets drywall repair, texture, and base faux finish

Where the baseboard heater was removed, and other areas significantly patched in the repair of the drywall, we needed to recreate and blend the wall’s texture. Don’t try to skip over the re-texturing step if you want your finished paint job to be of any quality!  I used fans to speed drying time of the drywall compound after repairs because I am woefully impatient.  I sanded the repaired areas smooth and reapplied a spotty (and slightly thinned down) coat of compound using a 2″ paint brush.  When the compound was barely dry to the touch I used a putty knife to ‘knock down’ the peaks, effectively flattening the texture to match the existing wall.

Here we arrive at my favorite part of any project … painting!

metallic glazes and acrylic house paints applied in layers to form faux finish

I love to challenge the color palate in our home to be complimentary yet non-traditional.  I maintain cohesion between rooms (which makes my senses happy) by sticking to the use of one off-white tone, throughout, as a base for all other color combinations.  This color theory was important to follow since I was working in the center of our main living/dining area … the very ‘heart’ of our home.

six colors applied in layers using splatter, brush, rag, and sponge techniques

The fireplace alcove is in the center of our dining room.  At one end, the dining room opens to a tranquil peacock blue library and on the other end, a gothic maroon kitchen.  I wanted to have hints of both colors in the dining room without weighing the room down in color … or causing vertigo.  A faux-finish was a just the ticket!  I layered four paint colors (a camel brown, deep jewel blue, burnt sienna red, and wet slate grey) between silver and copper metallic glazes … applied with dry-brush, splatter, sponge, and ragging techniques as needed to create the end effect.  The metallic glazes brought out a milky, iridescent shimmer in the paints that I hadn’t expected, but really enjoy.

scrap garden wood and repurposed cabinet doors create quirky yet functional storage

While the paint was drying I rummaged through my scrap wood pile to make the shelf and boot hanger come to life.  I was able to repurpose some lumber from a disassembled garden enclosure for the legs and shelf frame.  I love the look of the naturally aged wood.  The shelf top was serendipity’s gift of two perfectly sized cabinet doors from the old kitchen (hinges and all).  The quirky, lift-top action on such a low shelf makes the storage underneath much more accessible. I mounted the shelf to the wall with drywall anchors and L-brackets for added support.

wooden dowels and scrap trim make handy boot and glove drying area

A solid piece of discarded trim, a few well-placed holes and enough 6″ dowels to hold 10 pair of boots upside down was all this boot hanger required.  I feel it fair to mention that I glued the dowels in place once I liked the design (1″x3″x34″ lumber as back; 11 holes for pegs are spaced 3.25″ apart on the back; approx. 5″ of dowel is exposed for each of the pegs after dowels are tapped into back until flush).  I also used drywall anchors to secure the boot hanger to the wall.  I didn’t want any near-term drywall repairs in here!  I hung three hat and jacket hangers close to the top of the alcove (not shown in images) to dry those items without crowding.

organized and fresh … repurposed materials give new life to this fireplace alcove

It was no problem to neatly replace all of the original items without even the slightest hint of a mess.  The dogs are super excited they can snuggle up close to the fire too.  Now, winter jackets and wet accessories won’t be a bothersome eye-sore, and we have added heat in the basement.  Bring on the slush and snow!

What a great ‘before’ and ‘after’, right?!

I hope you like the images and process I have shown here.  Please share this article and check out other topics on the blog … I love feedback and shared experiences as well.

Thanks and happy tinkering!

Shaunna and Jeremiah