Vintage Jewelry Box Update

Anita K
by Anita K
9 Materials
4 Hours
I have always loved small jewelry boxes that look like miniature furniture. Inspired by items on Pinterest, I decided to update an old jewelry box that I had from when I was first married 30 years ago.

The piece was a bit worn, and definitely dated, but I wanted to give it new life. It may be an inexpensive jewelry box, but it has sentimental value to me.

I gently removed the drawer pulls, using pliers, and set them aside. Then, I sanded the entire piece, including the drawer fronts and door frame, with a sanding block.

I went through my specialty paper collection and chose a design that I thought would complement the piece in scale. My idea was to have each pair of birds face the drawer pulls. As with any project, the biggest decision was the paint color. I wanted to enhance the pattern without making the piece too precious - so I opted for a beautiful satin black paint, instead of blue or green.

I gently pried the door frame apart, and used a small screwdriver to remove the door from its hinges. The glue was quite dried, and the door came apart with gentle, manual prying. The drawer pulls and tiny screws and hinges for the door were removed with a pliers and set aside in a plastic Ziploc bag, so they did not get lost.

To remove the glossy finish so that paint could adhere to the wood, I sanded the entire piece with a fine grit sanding block. Then, I wiped down all the wood with damp paper towel and dried it off with a dry towel. The felt in the drawers was in great shape, so I vacuumed out any dust or lint. from the interior of the piece.

Note: The entire process is similar to painting or refinishing a large piece of furniture - clean, remove hardware, sand to prep for paint.

All of the wood was painted with two coats of black satin paint, using a sponge brush. For smaller/tight spaces, a fine tip paint brush was used. The paint dried quickly and provided just the right amount of luster to the piece.

For each of the five drawers, I made a template so that the design would align. I cut a piece for one drawer, then trimmed it.

I created a "template" by cutting piece of paper for one drawer front and trimming it. Then, I set it on top of the paper, lined up the print.......and outlined with a pencil. Then, cut each piece. I placed each piece on the drawer fronts, and trimmed them as needed, using a small pair of scissors. Small piece, smaller tools!

Using a paint brush, I applied glue to the front portion of the first drawer, then applied a cut piece of paper to each drawer front.

I felt for the drawer pull hole, and used a tiny screw driver, from an eyeglass repair kit, to puncture the hole. The glue from under the paper, and the paper that was punched through, hold the drawer pull in place nicely. I then repeated each step (glue, paper, punch, install pull) for each drawer.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to use a complementary blue/polka dot patterned paper on the door front, or the bird design. To make my decision, I cut a piece of paper to match the door, put the plexi-glass door glass in front of the bird pattern, and held it up to the piece.

Then, I tested the blue/polka dot paper.

I placed the bird pattern in front, and the blue paper back to back with it. Then, I slid the paper pieces and plexi-glass door front into the channel/groove of the door front. I used wood glue to glue the door frame together. Then, screwed the door hinges back onto the cabinet.

As luck would have it, I had a cute set of faux crystal Command Hook brand knobs to use for necklaces! Here is a photo of the cheerful blue-polka dot paper on the interior of the door. Note: Decorative ribbon could be cut to size, and sizing medium could be used to steam iron the ribbon onto the trim of the piece. I did that on the bottom of the ring section, to give a nice finished look to the interior.

Note: bracelets and earrings can be store in the drawers!

I always have fun with the process of creating - and I do not fret about patterns not perfectly aligning, etc. This piece was imperfect when it was made in the factory - and the update is also perfectly imperfect. Don't worry about perfection - if you are having fun with a project - that is what is important!

Here is the finished piece. I just love its new style! Just the right mix of whimsy and class for me! DIY is great therapy - try it!

** A finished box like this is typically sold on Pinterest for $60 or more! DIY and save a bundle!
Suggested materials:
  • ArtMinds Decor Soft Gloss Acrylic Paint in Onyx   (Michael's Crafts)
  • Small Paint Brush   (Michael's Crafts)
  • Sanding Block, Small Screwdriver   (Ace Hardware)
See all materials
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  • Cdgqyr Cdgqyr on Apr 25, 2020

    Hello Anita. You did such a great job on your charming jewelry box, and I found your description of the process to be very clear with just the right amount of detail. A friend recently gave me her 30+ year old jewelry box which is very similar to yours (the before version). I’m looking for ideas on how to repurpose this gift besides jewelry box, office supply box, or sewing box and fully utilize its unique features like the little drawers. Any ideas?

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  • Daphne Cody Hinds Daphne Cody Hinds on Jun 25, 2022

    I love your jewelry box! Thank you so much for sharing the process. I have been buying up these vintage jewelry boxes when I find them at the thrift store. I really want to give them all makeovers and I am planning on starting out on this smaller scale and work my way up to furniture to makeover and sell. Stunning! Thank you again for sharing! ❤️

    • Lora Taylor Hyatt Lora Taylor Hyatt on Feb 16, 2023

      Lol me too! Everytime I see one that is reasonable I buy it ! Going to sit down o e of these days and go design crazy ! Just finished an 8 drawer armoire!

  • Lora Taylor Hyatt Lora Taylor Hyatt on Feb 16, 2023

    Very pretty!