Before & After, DIY Tutorials, Storage & Organization, Thrifting, Upcycling, Trash Picking

How To: DIY Decorative Storage Box

Yesterday, when I shared my no-longer-naked nightstands, you got a peek at my fun new storage bins. They’re just perfect for storing some books and journals and stuff in our hand-built nightstands.

But peek inside them and you’ll see they’ve got a trashy little secret:  They’re made from the boxes that my bedroom wall lamps were packaged in, and covered with a fun  Starburst Orange organic cotton fabric from Monaluna.

When I chose not to have drawers in my nightstands (because they were my first building project), I decided to make my own budget-friendly, fabric-covered storage bins out of cardboard boxes.    But little did I know how insanely perfectly the project would come together.

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said the lamps were a two-for-one deal.  I’d spent weeks looking for the right sized cardboard boxes to fit my nightstand shelves. . . only to discover that the perfect boxes were sitting right there in my bedroom, holding lamps that needed to be installed on the walls.

Now, if you’re not to snobby to save money and do something useful with your trash, read on for the tutorial.

How To:  DIY a custom fabric-covered storage box

Supplies needed:

  • Cardboard box that is the right size for its intended space
  • Fabric (enough to cover the box – read through the tutorial to understand how much you need and how you’ll use it)
  • Box cutter or exacto knife (or a kitchen knife & a taste for adventure)
  • Modpodge (MP) or spray adhesive
  • Foam core board (available at most craft or art supply stores for about $3)

Approximate cost: $3 – $10, depending on what supplies you already have, and the size of the box.

Time needed: About 1 hour.

  1. Decide which side will be the top of your box.  Using the box cutter, carefully cut the top part of the box off, leaving the sides intact.
  2. Take the remaining box apart, carefully undoing the glue or staples that hold it together.  It should lay flat.  (Note:  Once you have used the flattened box as a template for the fabric, you are going to re-assemble it, but inside-out. )
  3. Lay the flattened box on your fabric.  Trace around the parts of it that will be exposed when the box is reassembled.  (Note:  See the box flaps that are sticking up in the photo below?  Those will be glued inside the other sides of the box, so I did not include them in the tracing.)
  4. Once you have traced the box onto the fabric, draw a second line one inch outside of the existing lines.  This second line shows where you’ll cut the fabric.  You’ll need this extra inch on every edge to wrap the fabric over the exposed edges of the boxes.
  5. Reassemble the box,  gluing it back together, but do it inside-out.  This way you have a clean, plain box and no printing will show through the fabric.
  6. Once the box is glued back together you can apply the fabric.   Brush a thin layer of MP onto the outside bottom of the box.  Place the fabric on the box and prevent wrinkles by smoothing and stretching the fabric as you go.   (To keep the fabric looking its best, do not apply MP over the outside of the fabric.)
  7. Next, determine which ends of the box are the front and back, and which are the sides.  Apply the fabric to the sides of the box first, wrapping the raw edges around the side corners.  But don’t  fold the top raw edges of the fabric over the top of the box yet.
  8. Apply the fabric to the front and back of the box, folding the fabric on each corner so that you get a clean, smooth seam like this:
  9. Finally, wrap the fabric over the top edges and adhere them to the inside of the box using MP.  (For this part I applied MP both under and over the fabric, to keep it well attached.  I also had to cut the fabric a bit at the corners to get just the right, smooth fit.)
  10. Now it’s time to make a box lid out of foam core board.
  11. Set your new storage box on the foam core board and trace around it (see red line below).  That will be the top of the lid.  Next, trace a second line (see blue line) about 2 inches outside of the first line.  The blue line is the cut line.
  12. Cut the foam core board along the blue line.  Then cut the corners out (see photo above).
  13. To fold the sides of the box lid, you’ll need to carefully score the board along the trace (red) line.  Don’t cut all the way through the board! I had to actually scrape off a bit of foam all along the red lines to get an easy fold.
  14. Use your glue gun to apply some glue to one scored “fold line” and then fold it in.  Quickly do the same to an adjacent side, then use some hot glue and a piece of clear tape to hold the corners together.  Repeat this process until all sides are folded in.
  15. When the lid is assembled and the glue is dry, you can apply the fabric.  Follow the same process you used to cut and apply fabric for the box.
  16. Here’s a close-up of how I folded the corners of my fabric as I wrapped it around the lid:
  17. When the MP has dried, you can put your box to use.  Congratulations, you’ve now transformed trash to treasure!

Now I can’t finish this post without giving major props to my favorite trash picker & upcycler, Sunny @ Life in Rehab.   She’s so good at upcycling that her kids now have a “large box set aside for Recycling Mom Can Make Crap Out Of.”   This lady can turn anything into something new, decorative, and useful.  Check out how she solved her computer clutter woes with a few recycled wine boxes.

Even if I had more money than Paris Hilton I think I’d still make my own storage bins.  Why not?  You get a custom-sized and color-coordinated storage solution while helping out the planet.  You can’t beat that!

New visitor?  Check out the beginning of this very handmade bedroom makeover, the curtains I sewed, the personalized wall art, and a sneak peek at some of the accessories.

Shared in the “It Pays to be Cheap” contest on 7/23/2012!

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  • Reply Sunny's Life in Rehab at 10:43 am

    GREAT tutorial! I would have never thought of foam core board for the lids; I’m sure that will ensure they’re very sturdy. The fabric is just juicy enough to add a nice pop without being too bright. Did I miss you doing the lamp shades somehow? I’d better go look. And I appreciate the major shout out as well. I’m getting such a trashy reputation around here…

  • Reply Jane at 10:51 am

    Hi Sunny! Yep, you’re one hell of a trashy lady. 🙂 I didn’t share the lampshades yet – i was torn as to which to share first, so I went with the more exciting of the two projects. 🙂

  • Reply Beautiful Habitat at 12:23 pm

    Super cute and great idea. Thanks for the step by step! I need exact instructions to embark on DIY projects!

  • Reply Mikalah at 3:07 pm

    Hey Jane, I love how those turned out! And I just have to say, nice choice of color! Your comment about my orange side table is even more believable now! =)

    Love how the room is coming together!

  • Reply Abby @ abby & her boys at 3:26 pm

    Nicely done! I’m just not craffty in any way. I wish I was! I love the shade on your light!

  • Reply Kara from Kara's Korner at 6:34 pm

    Awesome idea! What a crafty thought process…love it!

    Great job!

  • Reply Jen at 8:55 pm

    Oh my gosh! These are incredible and WHY haven’t I done this before?!!? I am in love with this idea and can’t wait to do it myself!


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    Neat idea. Thanks for sharing. Blowing my mind.

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  • Reply HardestyMom01 at 2:13 am

    Thanks lady! Love it! My family and I are going to be moving and I will have a lot of boxes once we unpack. With three children I always need storage boxes for something (homeschool material, fabric, etc….). I will definitely be bookmarking this one. Need to make a run to Wal-Mart to hit up the fabric table ($1.50 per yard) before we move. 😉

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    Great Idea – I was just searching the internet for decorative storage boxes and came across this – now I can pick my own colors and save some $$. Shoe boxes – especially for sneakers, would be great for office shelves.

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  • Reply Trina at 1:54 pm

    When I was a kid, we lived in a hundred year old house. My mom covered some boxes with fabric for storage and they looked really great. I was looking for information on how to adhere the fabric to the box. I found it here along with the great idea for the lid! Thanks.

    • Reply Jane at 5:03 am

      Trina, so glad you found it helpful! Spray adhesive would also work, but it can sometimes get all over so you’d want to lay a tarp down over your workspace first.

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  • Reply houston real estate companies at 3:15 am

    Genius! What you did is fabulous! I have lots of boxes in our basement but never really thought of this. Will absolutely give this a try. Hope it turns out as beautiful as yours! Thanks for the tutorial! Cheers!

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