A New Decorative Mailbox
I’ve always enjoyed special decorative mailboxes. There’s are a wide variety of curbside interpretations as to what constitutes “special,” including wood add-ons that turn them into animal shapes, but mine tend to feature some type of hand-painted element—usually flowers.
Most of the mailboxes in our neighborhood are the larger, rural sized versions, and my last one featured Mackenzie-Childs-inspired checks.
Although I love painting mailboxes, I have yet to discover the secret to their longevity outdoors. Even with many and updated coats of varnish, they take a beating from the elements and really only last about two years, if I’m lucky. Since a replacement for the one above was long overdue and the time to paint a new one is a little scarce, I decided to take a shortcut and try using ModPodge.
A decoupage staple that I’ve used for other indoor and outdoor crafts, basic ModPodge is fairly weather resistant, so I’m hoping their outdoor version wears like iron.
I still loved the checked pattern on the old mailbox, so I decided to use gift wrapping paper I had purchased from Mackenzie-Childs as a short cut on the bottom of the new one, and chose a complementary outdoor fabric for the top.
Usually, paper wrinkles quite a bit from the decoupage medium, so I started by giving the paper a few light coats of varnish, allowing it to dry in between.
While waiting, I roughed up the surface of the mailbox with a sanding block to improve adherence, and wiped off the residue.
Next, I used an inexpensive paint brush to paint the Mod Podge goop on the bottom half of one side of the mailbox, let it set for a minute or so, and applied my cut-to size wrapping paper. I hand pressed it in place, smoothed it out carefully (trying to eliminate bubbles) and let it dry. Then repeated the process on the other side as well as the front. It did still wrinkle a little, but the varnish definitely helped.
After identifying the best placement for the fabric design, I cut it to size and applied it to the top of the mailbox, from side to side, using a slightly heavier coating of the goop. I didn’t wait for the ModPodge to set this time because I wasn’t concerned about the fabric wrinkling the way paper does.
Next, I painted over everything with Outdoor ModPodge. If you’ve never used it before, ModPodge is a lot like white school glue, and though it goes on white and heavy, it will dry clear (“clear” happens quickly, “dry” does not). It stays tacky for a couple of days.
I also used a new favorite product, “Liquid Leaf.” to paint a metallic gold edge around the door, on the narrow balsa trim decorative trim pieces that I then glued on the side (the cans kept the wood trim form curling up), and also on my ceramic bird that will go on the top of the mailbox later.
The paint covers beautifully and really sets off the trim. And, since Liquid Leaf is not recommended for outdoor applications, I gave all the gold trim a light first coat of ModPodge.
The bird I painted was a tiny ceramic glass bird. I stuffed the hole at the bottom with paper and glue, and inserted a drywall anchor inside so I could screw the bird to the box.
You might get good results just simply gluing it on, but I have neighborhood demons, so mine needs to be secure. I drilled a small hole through the top of the box and screwed it on.
I also carefully cut away the fabric covering the red alert flag hole using snips, and made sure the flag will fit again. Remove the flag, and give the entire mailbox another coat of goop. I did not use a super thick coat, but did make sure everything was covered.
Then. I. Let. It. Dry. Again.
SO, my new decorative mailbox is complete and I am ready to install it. It stayed tacky for a while, so I waited the recommended 72 hours before putting it outside. I’m not sure how the fabric will hold it’s lovely colors in the sun, but fingers are crossed. I’ll be sure to post on how it holds up to the elements and whether or not it fades.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: See that lovely vibrant color below? After the first rain, it was obscured by a milky layer. One quick phone call to Plaid, makers of ModPodge yielded this important tidbit: “Outdoor” Modpodge is NOT WEATHERPROOF! (Really? What does the “Outdoor” actually mean?) I was told to let it dry (I did) and the milky layer would go back to clear (it did); then coat with clear varnish (I did) and I should be fine (I am…and so is the mailbox…just as vibrant as it was…phew!).
Next time? One topcoat of Modpodge, then finish with two coats of traditional outdoor varnish.
One last update: A year after putting it curbside, the mailbox held up fairly well. It is starting to fade and won’t look very nice if I leave it a second year. I’ll likely touch it up by replacing the fabric and paper before fall arrives.
In the meantime, I think I have a few more outdoor applications for this paper/fabric combo that I can’t wait to try!