Bench Redo to Literary Toybox

When I was younger, I remember seeing my sister customize a boring old blanket box, into a beautiful storage box adorned with vintage-looking sheet music.
Many years later, that inspiration hit me whilst looking for the ‘perfect’ toy box.

This time, I put a twist on my sister’s idea and began the search for the right size and shaped toy box. I came across this one in Argos, which is currently retailing at £34.99 at the time of this post being published. I loved the fact that it can also be used as a small bench for little people to sit on whilst reading their favorite book.

Then it hit me… books! So we took my favorite childhood book (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,) and one of my husband’s favorite childhood books (The Hobbit,) and got hold of second-hand copies for a couple of pounds. I would never normally advocate this, but… I began to tear pages out of the book! I selected particularly exciting parts of the story or special images that I wanted to be seen on the toy box.

Then I tore them into smaller sections, trying to get different sizes and shapes to give a more random effect. I placed them on a clean baking tray, boiled the kettle, and made a small jug of VERY strong tea, using nothing but 4 tea bags in 1 pint of water.

Using a chunky paintbrush, I then ‘painted’ the individually torn strips of book sheets. Some, I put more of the tea on than others and as I did the project slowly over a few weeks, I had different strengths of tea, which gave a gorgeous effect.

You could make this easier and much quicker by staining each sheet before you rip it – it would still look beautiful, but you just wouldn’t get such a contrast of different shades. You could get around this by making a few different strengths of tea.

Once they had all dried, I began sticking each piece on just using PVA glue, starting with the edges and ‘wrapping’ the pieces around the corners to give a smooth finish.

I put ‘The Hobbit’ pages along the seating area and backrest part of the bench, and the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ pages on the very front. It took quite a long time (because of wanting to stain each individual ripped piece, rather than each whole sheet,) so I cheated a little for the next part…

I found the absolutely gorgeous vintage-style maps in Paperchase. I measured the sides of the toy box, cut them to size, and made a slit in the paper for where the handles were. They finished the toy box off beautifully at either end and gave a beautiful contrast of color against the sepia tones of the book pages.

My next step was to seal the paper, to protect it from little sticky fingers, and make the toy box stand the test of time. I found a tin of matt varnish, which I put 8 (yes… 8!) coats over the whole of the outside of the toy box. It gives a wonderful finish to the toy box but doesn’t reflect the light, meaning that the effect of the book pages isn’t detracted from.

You could also paint or decoupage the inside.
You could adapt this idea to use your child’s favorite picture book or paperback to customize furniture, cardboard 3D letters (like the ones from Hobbycraft,) or thin card, to slot it into a picture frame for your little ones’ bedroom! The possibilities are endless…

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