Phone Booth Upcycle

3 Materials
4 Hours

You’ve seen the teaser and the faux barn board project we did last week. Now we’re excited to share with you one more version of the phone booth!

Whenever we’re antiquing at the Aberfoyle Antique Market, I always have a wish list of things I’d like to find but the fun of the hunt is that you never end up with what you originally envisioned. There’s always something you stumble on that grabs you in a way that you never expected. That’s what happened when we found this phone enclosure.

Sometimes hubs and I don’t agree on items at the antique market, but we were both intrigued by the phone booth! The lightbulb went off on all the possibilities and we knew we just had to have it to work our upcycling magic on!


We made our own faux barn board shelves using pine. To achieve the texture, secure a wire wheel into an angle grinder. Don some gloves when handling (those bristles are nasty)!

Lock the piece of wood into the work bench. Turn on the grinder and move it from the centre of the wood to the edge of the piece and off the board in ONE DIRECTION ONLY. Do not reverse direction and move it back from the edge or the bristles might catch the edge and you’ll lose control of the grinder. Move only in the direction of the grain – along the length of the board (not across).

Below you can see the smooth original surface compared to the textured side. The grinder removes the softer wood leaving the harder wood behind lending a time-worn look to the piece. When you’re done one half, move around to the other side and again work from the centre of the wood to the outside edge.

Once the surface is done, clamp the piece vertically then do the edges in the same manner.

The next step is to distress the edges with a paint scraper. I call this ‘whack ‘n scrape’ for lack of a better term.

Whatever technique you use here, you really can’t go wrong. I like to gauge out big chunks along the edges. Once done, use a piece of fine sandpaper to knock back the obvious burrs. You want to make it look time-worn and weathered!

After all the distressing was done, the paint finish was up to me.

Mix the Milk Paint

For this project, I'm using Homestead House milk paint again in two different colours to create a barn board effect on the boards. Mix up a small batch of milk paint using Coal Black. Instead of the usual ratio – 1:1, dilute it with more water to make it more like a stain (about 3 parts water to 1 part milk paint powder). Head to our blog for more detail on the best technique to mix milk paint.

With the black paint mixed up, you’re ready to brush it on with a cheap brush:

Mix up another batch of white milk paint with the same 3:1 ratio of water to milk paint. This time I used a Limestone colour. It gets brushed on right over the still wet black paint.

The colour will instantly turn grey. You may be wondering at this point, ‘why not just mix the Coal Black and Limestone together to start’? Applying each colour in separate layers will build up greater depth. You’ll see more black in some areas and more grey in others which adds interest, as you can see below, whereas mixing the two together will give you a boring flat look.

Once the boards were dry, we measured out three evenly spaced holes and used a 3 5/8 hole saw to cut them.

Sand the rough edges around the holes before applying a topcoat. Use a satin finish formulated for outdoor use like Varathane Diamond Wood Finish, if it will be exposed to water (which ours will). It’s very low sheen, waterbased and dries crystal clear.

Once the shelves were dry, it was time to turn our attention back to the phone booth. We didn’t want to drill any holes into the original metal to mount the shelves so at first we tried tension rods. Tension rods didn’t seem sturdy enough to support the weight of the shelves so hubs came up with a brilliant idea. We're running out of space for step-by-step pictures, so head to our blog (link below this post) to see his solution! 

We levelled each shelf and this is what we ended up with:

We gathered a few more items, including some succulents, and turned our phone booth into a planter!

And now, the reveal:

You'll see more pictures of how our phone booth planter looks in an outdoor environment if you head to our blog :)

Next week we're going to show you how we painted our ‘Partners in Grime’ metal planter you see on the bottom shelf and terra cotta pots - all using red milk paint from Homestead House. Milk paint allowed us to achieved a barn board look on the shelves and a vibrant pop of colour in the accessories - which goes to show just how versatile milk paint is!

Be sure to check out the brief video above this post to see how it all comes together.

The phone booth used to be so iconic. There aren’t too many of them left in our neck of the woods anymore so I’m glad we were able to save a little piece of history! I think the last time I used a phone booth, local calls used to be 25 cents. It’s been ages: I wonder what you’d pay if you found one now?

For more inspiring ideas in and around the home follow us on Birdz of a Feather and social media:





Check out more details on this project and the other version of the phone booth (link below where you see our logo)!

Suggested materials:
  • Milk Paint   (Homestead House:
  • Wire Wheel   (Big box store)
  • Additional materials   (Complete list can be found on our website)
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  2 questions
  • Sheila Sheila on Jul 20, 2018

    How do people think of awesome things like this?!?! Amazing!

  • Brian C. Lockwood Brian C. Lockwood on Jul 20, 2018

    Why not simply buy some barn wood for the shelves instead of going to all of the trouble to make the shelves look like barn wood?

Join the conversation
4 of 51 comments
  • Cassie Cassie on Aug 21, 2019

    This is so CUTE I love this idea...

    I was thinking I would like to do this in the kitchen. I would hang the phone both on the wall and plant some herbs in it. It also looks like there is room underneath the top of the both. So you could hide some grow lights if needed for inside growing.

    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Aug 21, 2019

      Thanks Cassie! Yes! That's exactly what I would've done if I had room in our kitchen. It would be awesome for herbs and I agree about the grow lights; there's definitely room to add them :)

  • Merelyn sale Merelyn sale on Jul 29, 2020

    Clever idea if I had room for it.

    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Jul 29, 2020

      Thanks! It's not too big so I find it doesn't take up too much space. It can be mounted on a wall too :)