Vintage, distressed, shabby chic, what have you, I'll probably love it. However that is usually the last thing people want in a cell phone.
My cell phone is already considered "old" simply because it doesn't have so many features that even basic models now have. However! Mine has flashing lights when it rings that make me feel like I'm playing pinball and I love it. I am easily amused, what can I say?
My last two phones have been hand-me-downs from my friend Karen without whom I probably wouldn't even have a cell phone at all. *applause for Karen if you please* With the current phone I now have she also provided me with a cute new cover and side bumpers so that the phone would look all shiny and new for me. That was two years ago.
Once I got into the idea that a person could make steampunk style for everyday objects I desperately wanted to try it. [I can't decide what I like the most about steampunk - the stylistic aspect, the literary aspect or the historical aspect.] And if you are completely confused and don't even understand the terminology I'm throwing about willy-nilly, please see this earlier post.
Thankfully because my cell phone is oh-so-aged it is also quite easy to disassemble. Two pieces make up the front and back and rubbery plastic see-through bumpers on the sides also come off.
Before painting (or disassembling for that matter) I checked to see which nooks and crannies would be adversely affected by a layer of paint. These areas, like the camera phone lens opening and front screen lens opening as well as a back side button which disengages the case so you can get into your phone's inner workings, I taped off with painter's tape. All the insides of the phone as well as the keypad I put to the side in a safe and dry location.
To steampunk the phone I bought two mini cans of spray paint, one in gold and one in copper (I couldn't find a brass color at the store I was in). First layering on a thin, even coat of gold and allowing to dry and then a thin, even layer of copper. Because of the very smooth and plastic surface you have to take care that you are making thin coats so your paint won't fish-eye. Using a spray paint specifically formulated for plastic would be best, if you can find it in the color you need.
I did have to paint about four layers on both the front and back pieces, making sure to get all sides and little nooks and crannies. Once the paint was on, I layed out in pattern a set of art-nouveau style stickers in gold that I had found at the craft store. Then I carefully removed their backing and applied them, then spraying three layers of sealant allowing each to dry between times. When I was done with the painting, sticker application and sealant I left the pieces alone for a few days to make sure everything was cured.
During the "waiting time" I took the plastic side bumpers and traced around them onto a piece of muslin fabric leaving a little excess just in case. The natural tones of the fabric and the thickness (or rather lack thereof) would both fit with the steampunk style and still allow my beloved flashing lights to show through (feel free to roll your eyes at me).
The color of the muslin wasn't quite dark enough for my taste so I poured a cup of coffee and soaked my pieces in it for several hours. I removed them from the coffee, rinsed, dried and ironed the pieces. Using some tacky glue I applied the fabric like you would upholster something - tucking in the edges and corners. Once they were dry everything was ready for reassembly! Hopefully if you tackle a project like this you won't forget how it all goes back together in the time it takes you to make over all the pieces.
It could certainly be more steampunk style, but it was a first project and got me over being scared to try it - and it didn't turn out too bad!