How to Transfer Old Boxes Into Shelves

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Wooden Boxes
Paint or stain
Paint brush or roller
Decorative paper or fabric
Glue or adhesive spray
Hanging kit or screws
Hammer or drill

Do you have old wooden boxes stashed in the attic? Ever wonder what you could do with them? Try turning them into shadow box shelves.

When refinished and placed on a wall, old wooden crates make great shelves that can be used in a variety of ways. Don't have any wooden boxes? You can find them at salvage yards, antique stores, and yard sales. You can also buy them new at craft stores.

Uses for Shadow Box Shelves

There are so many fantastic ways you can utilize upcycled box storage shelves. If you're not one for thinking outside of the box, here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Charging Station

Turn your box shelf into a charging station for phones and other electronics. Drill a hole through the side or bottom of the box in order to run the wires to an outlet. You can even place a power strip in the back of larger boxes and run the power strip cord to an outlet.

Indoor Mailbox

Nail your box shelf to a wall by the front door and use it to sort incoming and outgoing mail, as well other miscellaneous items. You can also add hooks to the bottom of the box to hang your keys.

Dog Walking Prep Station

Need a place to stash a leash, throwaway bags, and treats? Use your new shelf for storing all your dog walking essentials. You can add hooks at the bottom to hang extra leashes, collars, and harnesses.

Herb Station

Store every day herbs in your kitchen with an herb shelf. This is a unique way to showcase your collection of herbs while keeping them close by to use for cooking.

Arts and Crafts Station

A collection of hanging boxes is a great way to store art and craft supplies like fabric, yarn, paint, and other essentials.

Display Shadow Boxes

Showcase your collection of unique items or treasures in your units. You could create a wedding box, infant box, trophy box, or vacation box. Alternatively, you could display knick knacks, silly photos, and plants. The ideas here are endless. Design your shadow box to match your home decor, and you'll end up with a beautiful and meaningful piece of wall art.

Step 1 – Gather Materials

The first thing you'll want to decide is whether you are painting or staining your box or leaving it as is. The second decision will be whether you are adding any decorative materials. Once you've made those decisions, you can start gathering your tools and materials to begin the project.

Step 2 – Prep

If you plan to paint your box, you'll need to prepare it. Start by lightly sanding with a medium grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface. Wipe the box clean with a damp cloth and let it dry.

If you plan to leave your box unpainted for a more rustic look, lightly clean it with a damp cloth and let it dry.

Step 2 – Prime

If you choose to paint your box, it's best to prime it with a high-quality primer. If the box is already painted, you may be able to skip this step. Follow the instructions on your primer can and wait the recommended amount of time before painting.

Step 3 – Paint or Stain

When the primer has cured, you can paint or stain your box. Spray paint yields a nice even finish on small boxes. Larger boxes can be painted with a brush or small paint roller. Take your time. Several light coats of paint will give better results than one or two heavy coats of paint will.

Tip: Consider painting the inside of the box a different color from the outside. This is a simple way to add a pop of color, which can be fun for a playroom or kids' rooms.

Step 4 – Decorate

If you chose not to paint your box because you prefer a more natural or rustic look, you can add paper or fabric to the inside of the box to create visual depth. You can also add paper or fabric to the inside of a painted or stained box as well. Consider whether you want to cover the back of the box only, or all of the inside surfaces.
Measure the inside walls of your box and cut your paper or fabric to size. Glue your pieces into place, making sure that the edges align. Spray glue works best for paper. All purpose glue works best with fabric. If using fabric, apply the glue sparingly.

Tip: You can also use contact paper or wallpaper. Contact paper, and some wallpapers, come with adhesive backings for easy application.

Optional Bonus Step – Add a Door

You can turn your shelf into a cabinet simply by adding a door. To do so, cut a piece of plywood to size and attach it to your box with cabinet hinges. Paint the door or cover it with paper or fabric. Don't forget to buy a knob for easy opening and closing. You'll end up with a mini cabinet that you can use for items you'd like to keep hidden. It's a perfect solution from small spaces, like bathrooms or laundry rooms.

Step 5 – Hang

When the paint and glue have dried, you can hang your box. Make sure you choose a location where you can hammer or drill into a wall stud. For small boxes, you can use a hanging kit. Larger boxes should be screwed directly into a wall stud.

Tip: You can lightly paint the screw heads to blend in with the box.