a french hat box.

Last year when I shared a booth at Junk Bonanza with my friend Lori, she purchased some absolutely gorgeous vintage hat boxes from Belgium from another vendor.  I absolutely loved them, but they were priced way out of my price range.  Since my typical price range for such things is probably around $12, I guess that isn’t saying much, but let’s just say they were quite a bit more than $12.

I don’t have pictures of the exact boxes that she purchased, but they were similar to this.

via pinterest
via pinterest

I’ve always had an idea in the back of my head to create my own similar hat box, but recently when some of my co-workers introduced me to transferring graphics using gel medium I realized that I really should give it a try.

So I pulled out a hatbox that I happened to have on hand.  Before I started, it looked like this.

hat box before

First I added a base coat of chalk paint in French Linen (a greige color), then I added two coats of white.  While that dried, I found a graphic that I liked from the Graphics Fairy and printed a reverse image of it on my regular old laserjet printer.


Once the paint was dry, I painted a coat of the gel medium onto the hatbox where I wanted the label to go, and then placed my printed image face down on top of that.  I smoothed out any bubbles and made sure it was nice and flat.  Then I left it to dry for a couple of hours.

Once it was good and dry, I used a wet cloth to wet the paper.  Then I gently rubbed the paper off, leaving the image behind.  I had to use a lot of caution because I was working on top of chalk paint.  As you may know, chalk paint can be distressed (or wiped off) using a damp cloth, so I had to work cautiously to make sure I wasn’t rubbing off any paint.  I did find that the gel medium protected the paint fairly well, but if I rubbed outside the area with the gel medium I did remove some paint.

Once all of the paper was removed, I added a coat of wax to the entire box.

And voila!

faux french hat box

You can see that I had a little trouble with the upper right corner.  I think I didn’t have as thick a layer of gel medium in that spot.  I’m OK with that though, because I think it helps the box look aged.

hat box close up

I could have added a little dark wax to give it a little more weathered look as well, but for now I like the whiteness of it.

hat box vignette

The alabaster lamp is one that I picked up at a garage sale last year.  I just re-wired it, which is super simple.  If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid to do so, it really is easy.  Do you recognize the skeleton lamp shade?  It’s the small white shade that I picked up on my thrifty field trip with its cover ripped off.  I just clipped on a vintage wedding photo instead.

hat box on suitcase

So what do you think of my faux french hat box?  Do you think it comes close to passing for the real McCoy?  I can tell you that it cost way less than $12 to make, so it was right in my price range.

Update:  bad blogger alert!  I’ve been a bad blogger and not given you the ‘official directions’ for this project, which say to let the gel medium dry for at least 8 hours.  Also, if you’re wondering, the product I used was Liquitex acrylic gel medium.  If you want to try this at home, here is a much better step by step tutorial on how to do it yourself.

Linking up with:

My Salvaged Treasures and French Country Cottage

23 thoughts on “a french hat box.

  1. Awesome Linda the corner lends an air of authenticity! It’s way cool! I have an old hat box vintage 1996 lurking in my closet covered in a magnolia paper – yuck- perfect solution. My box might actually make it out of the closet again…


  2. Fabulous! I have struggled with all the transfer techniques. Did you use a laser or ink jet printer? Does that matter? When you rub the paper, how does the design not come off? Mine came off. I’m going to try again!


    1. Well, that is kind of why I hesitated to try this technique, ‘cuz I wasn’t convinced it would work. But since my co-workers had the stuff and were trying it, I just jumped on their bandwagon. I used a laser printer. I’m not sure if it matters. I am guessing that the ink is transferred into the gel while it is wet, and then it dries and the ink is set into the gel, but the paper comes off. Did you let yours dry long enough? On the first piece I did (which I didn’t show in the post), I let it dry overnight, which worked great. The hat box only dried for a few hours. I also did a little galvanized metal container, and that worked beautifully as well.


    1. Oops. Bad blogger! I meant to include more info on that! I used Liquitex acrylic gel medium. I think I used the matte finish one, but it also comes in glossier versions. You can find it at most craft stores.


  3. I love your version and it’s so thrifty too. The old photo clipped to the lampshade is such a good idea too. Thanks for sharing at Vintage Inspiration Party.


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