Now that I had a new doll with a collection of clothing, I needed a place to put it. The original wooden wardrobe from the eBay auction was too small to fit everything, so I went searching for something else. Most of the available trunks, however, were sized for 18″ American Girl dolls– too large for my small doll, even with her ever-growing wardrobe. (it did occur to me at this point that since I was replacing the clothes anyway, there’d been no need to get a 12″ doll and I could’ve saved myself a lot of alteration and trouble by just selecting a bigger one)
Continued searching turned up pictures of what seemed to be the perfect trunk– a double-wide case with a compartment for a doll up to 13″ tall, a compartment for her clothing, a Murphy bed, and a vanity table with mirror. Unfortunately, it was a vintage item that had originally been sold at Cracker Barrel, and was very difficult to find on the secondary market.
Finally, I found one for sale on eBay and managed to win the auction. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but since I planned on totally revamping it anyway that wasn’t a deal-breaker. Not shown in the above picture is the Murphy bed, which I removed from the left-most compartment to make more space for clothes. A trip to the craft store yielded several different colors of paint in burgundy and brown, along with some extender medium and a can of Polycrylic. With the addition of several brushes and a generous layer of newspaper over anything stainable (it only mostly worked), I was ready to get started.
First I taped off the hinges and clasps with painter’s tape, and then used a foam brush to apply two coats of plain burgundy paint to cover up the scratches on the original surface of the trunk. Once that was dry, I mixed some burnt umber and black paint with extender medium (maybe a 2:1 ratio of paint-to-extender) and roughly dabbed it with a wide, flat bristle brush onto all four corners of each rectangular section of the trunk. Then I immediately brushed on some bright red (also with extender) into the center section. Using a dry, wide bristle brush, I swiped up and down the entire surface in long strokes, blending the umber into the red in streaks that actually looked a lot like woodgrain against the burgundy. After letting that dry and applying two coats of Polycrylic, the trunk looked surprisingly like stained cherry wood, especially when the light hit it. I particularly liked the antiqued effect that the dark edges gave the trunk.
1. Americana brand craft paint is significantly better than the FolkArt or other cheaper paints they have at the craft store. It’s thicker, has much better coverage, and for only a few cents more you can avoid having to do too many coats on your project. This is especially apparent with shades of red.
2. Extender medium is great to increase the transparency of paint and extend the drying time. I also used it on the faux-marble countertop of my Play Kitchen to great effect.
3. Dry-brushing dark and bright tones gives a reasonably good woodgrain effect on a medium-toned background, but make sure your brush is actually dry, or it’ll blend too much and you won’t get any streaks at all.
4. Foam brushes work well for smooth basecoats, but aren’t as good for blending– too many sharp edges from the foam.
5. Don’t try to apply Polycrylic on a less-than-horizontal surface; it’ll form drips, which will then harden and mess up your gorgeous paint job. If you do get a drip of Polycrylic despite your best efforts, wait until it’s completely dry and then sand off, then spot-repaint with more Polycrylic. Do NOT (like I did) try to wipe it off when it’s only partially dry– it’ll take paint off with it, and all of your careful blending will go to waste.
Next up: The Inside!