Simple wooden boxes can be a useful storage tool around the house or an element of your decor--or both. Wood makes a versatile canvas for your creative talents and for a variety of decorating styles. Since wooden boxes are relatively sturdy and non-toxic, they also work well in children's rooms. Kids may enjoy helping decorate their own boxes to store their toys or other small treasures.
Decoupage can be a tribute to vintage style or a funky modern design. Collect old magazines, cards, pictures and other paper materials with artwork you like. Dried leaves or pressed flowers also work. Cut out elements you like, then use a glue stick to attach them to the box. When you are happy with the design, paint over the entire box with thinned craft glue and allow it to dry completely before moving or touching the box.
Painting is an easy way to make boxes blend in with the rest of your decor. Or personalize them for a child's room. Use craft paint and fine-tipped paintbrushes to create a fine design on a small wooden box, or larger brushes and bold strokes for a large box. Use leftover house or furniture paint, but glossy enamel works best for resisting spills. Combine painting with decoupage for a more interesting look, or use stencils and stencil brushes to get more precise designs.
For a more rustic and natural look, etch a box with sunlight. Take a wooden box and a strong magnifying glass outside on a sunny day and focus the sunlight to a pinpoint on the surface of the box. This will char the wood without setting it on fire. Move the glass slowly to draw freehand designs, or temporarily adhere an aluminum-foil stencil on the surface of the wood. The foil will protect the wood underneath so only the uncovered parts will be charred.
Mosaic decorating techniques have been used to create great art since Ancient Rome, but you don't have to be a skilled artisan to create a mosaic box. Collect small colorful rocks, seed beads and bits of broken glass or plastic. Coat the top of the box with a thick layer of craft glue. Do this in sections if the box is large so one section will not dry before you get to it. Carefully place your mosaic pieces into the glue to form a picture or a random design. To make a specific picture, sketch a design into the surface of the box first with a pencil. After your mosaic is set, coat the entire surface with clear varnish or craft glue. Use several layers to ensure no sharp edges poke out.
Cover the surfaces of a large wooden box with a collage of leftover wrapping paper pieces, using decoupage techniques to create a reusable gift box for holidays or birthdays. This will cut down on paper waste at holiday times--and make it easier for you to wrap presents.
Rachel Conoley has been a newspaper copy editor and page designer since 1997. She has dual bachelor's degrees in classical culture and history from the University of Oklahoma. On the side, she has been making and selling tie-dye since 2007.