Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine Mailbox Makeover Mania

You may recall that I dug out our family Valentine mailbox the other day and told you how to make your own right here.

As much as I love this festive creation in its current state, I've been thinking it may be time for an upgrade. I've got ideas for sprucing up, switching around, making it new. Several ideas. Several half-baked ideas, if truth be told, but I'm not going to sit around thinking about this when V-Day is just a few days off.

I'm not really the type to plan my projects all out ahead of time. Quite the opposite. 

Once I reach a certain point of conviction that it's time to swim in the river of change, I just jump off the cliff, hit the water and hope for the best. Unless my materials are expensive, I don't measure or calculate or do any math; trial and error work just fine for me. Sure, I hit the occasional whirlpool of complications or an unexpected waterfall of unforeseen consequences when I don't plan out every detail, but that is where the fun of creative problem-solving kicks in. 

I understand that not everyone likes to dive headfirst into these unpredictable waters. And sometimes, people are surprised to learn that I can be so...spontaneous and random. "What the heck," they will say to me, as I cut once without measuring twice, "you used to be an accountant, for crying out loud. Aren't you supposed to be a bit more methodical and by-the-book?"

And of course, that's deliciously ironic, because accountants have gained quite a reputation lately for being a little bit too creative for their own good. Remember the Enron scandal which led to the implosion of one of the granddaddies of all accounting firms and my former employer, Arthur Andersen? Yeah. Accountants are not always as cautiously rule-bound as the stereotypes would have you think. Trust me on that one.

Wait. I've digressed. Let me get back to our purpose here. Today I implemented Phase One of Operation Valentine Mailbox Change-Up and the results are in:

Aww, it's kinda cute, isn't it. I like the way the white snaps against the soft brown cardboard, and at the same time, the curvy scallops play down the harsh angles of the cubbies. Here's the DIY play-by-play, if you'd like to follow along.

{Just a reminder that in my DIY instructions, I always provide written instructions first, 
followed by a photo that illustrates the step. First words, then photo. Always.}

1. Grab some basic white paper and trim it to the width of your mailboxes. 
Make sure you have measured the internal dimension as we are eventually going to tuck this paper inside the unit, as you can see in the photo above.
For now, don't worry about the depth of your mailboxes; we will trim that dimension down later.
Cut enough paper to fill in every row of your cubbies with scallops. My mailboxes are arranged in four rows, so I'm using four pieces of paper.
I used legal size paper to cover the entire width of my mailbox unit without any taping, gluing or further frou-frou.

2. The long edge of your paper should now be cut to fit inside your mailbox unit, over the top of your cubbies.  The next step is to measure in one inch along that long edge and create a fold. 
This narrow strip will become the scallops; the rest of the paper will be tucked inside the mailbox, between the layers of cubbies.

3. Open up that long fold you just made, and fold the whole paper in half, hamburger style.
Do adults know about hot dog and hamburger style folds, or is that just grade school kids? I don't even know. Anyway, fold it like a book, like this: 

4. Ok, now fold it in half again and again, until you get down to a strip that looks like the right width for your scallops. 
My paper here is about 1 1/2 inches wide, but I didn't measure it. The proportions just look pleasing to me.

5. On the end of the folded strip, where our original fold marks off the section that will become the scallop, sketch out a rounded curve to give yourself a cutting line.
Note to you perfectionists out there: go ahead and get out your compass if you like, and trace the perfect semi-circle. But honestly, the point of handmade art is that it is actually supposed to look handmade. Be in love with your imperfect touches.

 6. Trim off the rounded end of each narrow strip and use a punch to pop a little hole right in the middle of your scallop. 
Note to perfectionists: Off-center hole punches are cute. But if you really must have a protractor to align it dead center, I've got one you can borrow.

 7. Open up the folds to see what you have wrought. Isn't that so cute?!

8. Right now, your scallops are wiggling and waggling in alternating directions. So pick one direction and carefully smooth all the little guys in that same direction, along the line of your original fold. 
Once you get them cooperating, make a nice, sharp crease.

9. The last step of fitting the scalloped paper into the cubbies requires the most innovation. 
If your mailbox has individual cubbies, like mine, start from the bottom and pull out the second row of cubbies. Cut down the width of your scalloped paper so that the fold will align with the front edge of the cubbies and the extra paper will lie smoothly on top of the cubbies without any bunching or crumpling. 

If your mailbox has basic dividers like this box full of light bulbs, rather than cubbies, you can slide the scalloped paper underneath the top edge of the mailbox and glue it into place to create the upper level of scallops. The second layer will be a bit trickier; you can either cut slits in the scalloped paper to match the slits in the cardboard and glue the two together. Or alternatively, you could cut up the scalloped paper to fit the smaller cubbie spaces, and glue them into place. Make it work!

 Once you whip your scallops into shape, step back and admire. I love the crisp lines and charming attitude of these little guys and I'm inspired to continue on with my mailbox makeover. I wonder what I will do next!


When it comes to projects, are you more of a patient planner or a determined do-er?

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More sweet whisperings of Valentine love:

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