Thursday, May 9, 2013

Shadow Boxes: What To Do With the Stuff You Find in Your Wall.

After finding old toys, paper dolls, Valentines, and other personal items in our wall during a renovation project, I decided to display these items in homemade shadow boxes as a gift for the previous family that owned our home from the 1920's until the late 20th century.
Sorenson family, December 2012
We are so fortunate to know the family that owned and lived in our 155 yr old house throughout most of the 20th century.  We count this as a tremendous blessing!  I love listening to stories about who lived in what area of the house and how it has changed over the years!

This past December, we opened our home to the whole family for a Christmas home tour.  About 30 people showed up, and what a night!  I loved it.  My favorite home tour!

We had a special present made up to share with the sisters who grew up here and even raised some of their children in our home:

About 4 years ago, we were cleaning out and painting a back storage room in our home.  When we had to cut a hole in the bottom of a wall, out tumbled old toys, paper dolls, handwritten valentines, and various personal items!  It was like finding buried treasure, so you can imagine my excitement!! I spent more than a few minutes reaching my arm in as far as it could go to grab anything I could find! I had no clue what to do with these items, but I knew they were special.  I kept them safe, and decided one day, I'd make a project out of them.

Stephen and me with 
Mary Ann, Pat, and Bunny
A few months later, we opened our house for a tour benefiting the local historical society.  We were so surprised and happy to meet the Sorenson family. (the family that grew up in our house!) While on the tour THEY were surprised to see their old toys and belongings that I had carefully laid out on display for our visitors. How exciting to see something that you played with years before!

Fast forward a few more years: I decided that these items belonged to these sisters. Bunny, Pat, and Mary Ann.  The best way I thought to display these items was to make shadow boxes.

Shadow boxes are soo expensive, so we decded to make our own using matching frames, homemade boxes to fit, fabric scraps, hinges, and an old piece of cork board cut to fit. I put Stephen to work spray painting the frames, making boxes to fit, and finding a hinge that would work to connect those two parts together.  My dad cut an old piece of cork board into three rectangles to fit into the boxes, and I cut up some old scrap fabric that I thought would look nice and compliment the pieces for each box.  Then I went to work figuring out how to make all of the items fit into three small shadow boxes.

There are 3 sisters, so I split the items into themes: toys/valentines, paper doll items, and personal items.

The paper doll box turned out to be my favorite. The clothing actually has little wire hangers that I painstakingly bent and twisted to take shape.  What little girl HASN'T played with paper dolls?? (My 4 yr old daughter did NOT want me to give this away!)

The most adorable little nurse outfit!
I loved the way the vintage turquoise, red, and yellow colors played out on this next box!  (Side note: this is actually going to be the color scheme for my kitchen...anyway...) As someone who has changed, washed, and folded many cloth diapers, I loved the Long Life Baby Pants box! Pat and Bunny remembered that their mother used the Arrid Underarm Deodorant all the time.


This "Toy" Box is so playful, and I think the most personal out of the collection because it has hand-written valentines actually written by one of the sisters, Mary-Ann.  The little birthday party invite was from one of Pat's good friends, and it was such fun watching her realize who it was from!  She started to cry when she saw that it was from Patsy Preston on Pleasant St. And I've always had a weakness for vintage toys and blocks.



Their response to this gift? Tears and pure joy!  For them, it was like stepping back into time.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the past as much as I did!


  1. Very cool! So crafty and thoughtful!

  2. I enjoyed reading about these shadow boxes and those you made them for. Very thoughtful!!


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