The easiest way to dip your toe into farmhouse style is with an antique wooden crate or two. These boxes add instant interest and dimension to any room with the added benefit of giving you extra storage for those things that never seem to have a place of their own. I’m all about the one-two punch when it comes to decorating my under 1,400 square foot home, and this is probably the biggest reason that I love these crates so much!
I’ve used crates in a variety of ways over the past few years, and I’m excited to share some ideas with you today. I think what makes it so simple to start your farmhouse decorating with these is that they are relatively easy to find (of course, once you start finding them, you’ll see them everywhere, which might lead to a little bit of a crate overload. If you happen to scroll through my Instagram, you’ll probably come across the photo of the wedding prep for Christina’s wedding last year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, friends).
Another reason I love them is that each one is so unique–whether it has a partial label describing what it was used for, some writing from the previous owner, or some great paint or patina that’s been wearing away for twenty or thirty years, I love all of it. Some of the manufactured-to-look vintage pieces that they sell at Hobby Lobby and Target are cute, but I just can’t see myself ever wanting to decorate with them–they feel a little soulless to me. I like something that’s done a little bit of life already.
If you’re wondering about how to find them, here’s my best tip: I regularly check this website using my zip code to find great estate sales in my area. When I’m looking for something specific, I try to find a sale that has a lot of that item, in this case, crates. When you see one or two, that tends to drive the price up, no matter what the item is, but if you see that there are ten or twenty, odds are that you’ll be able to get a pretty good deal ($5-$15 usually) on a great vintage crate. I’ve picked them up for as little as $2 at garage sales, and I’ve even found a few of them on the curb!
Anyway, here are five great ideas for styling your perfect vintage crate, once you find it:
Pretty Bathroom Storage:
I love fluffy white towels and my linen closet is laughably small. However, even in my dream bathroom (which has ample storage, let me tell you right now) I’m storing towels in a big vintage crate because I just like looking at them.
I don’t know about you, but this little setup just makes me want to run a bath, grab a book and some tea, and settle in for an hour or two of relaxation. Having towels and soap on display in the bathroom creates a visual invitation to just stop and spend a little time on myself, and I’ll take as much of that as I can get!
I love this asparagus crate because it also doubles as a tote (which means multiple uses for one piece, which is amazing) and makes it super easy to roll and display up to four towels, plus soap, bath bombs, hand towels, and wash cloths. This one is for sale in my Etsy shop if you want to skip the long hours of hunting and get straight to styling!
Photo Shoot Backdrop:
Here’s our family photo shoot from 2017, done by the amazing Anna Dwyer. I love being able to take great photos right in the backyard, as we are practically living in a forest. Since there are no fences or anything to worry about, we can take photos back there anytime and basically feel like we’re at a park or way out in nature somewhere, which is amazing, but I still like to jazz it up sometimes (ok, fine, all the time) with a great vintage piece or two.
In this case, I used about fifteen crates of various shapes and sizes to create a little backdrop behind us. All the different tones of wood and various degrees of aging and wear work together really well to add height and visual interest behind us. We tend to do our family photos in the fall, since it’s my favorite season and I’m the one that schedules these things, and the crates also work really well with that time of year–the worn wood really echoes orchard and farm crates and barrels and makes me think of harvesting and apple-picking and all that good fall stuff. Looking at this is really making me think about what I want to do for this fall. Decisions, decisions…
I love wooden boxes in all shapes and sizes–this one is technically a cheese box, rather than a true crate, but I’m counting it because it’s so pretty. I’ve used these for all kinds of events–Bible studies, showers, backyard parties, weddings–and they are always unique and interesting additions to the table.
When I see these at a flea market or garage sale, I almost always pick them up (I wouldn’t pay more than $10, and I’ve found them for $2-$7). I love that they are all different, whether it’s a different cheese company, a different design or color of the lettering, or a different level of wear and patina. I found one not too long ago that had been gnawed a bit on two of the corners, and I picked that one up immediately. What’s better than a vintage cheese box with a few little mouse bites on it?
When I’m putting the centerpiece together, I line the boxes with 2.5″ votive holders filled halfway with water and then almost always start with a ton of filler, like the gypsum in these photos. I want it to look like the flowers are just filled up inside the box and for the little glasses to be hidden, so I really pile in the filler. One box usually has at least 4-5 stems before the bigger flowers go in.
I actually like how the boxes look just with the gypsum, but I almost always layer in another color or at least a larger flower in white to fill it out a bit more. The box with the roses is one that I did for Christina’s wedding last year. It’s fun to have some contrast between the vintage colors on the boxes and the flowers themselves, which is another reason why I pick up every box that I can–that way I have more options when I’m mixing and matching.
This is a tiny bit off topic but I’ll throw in a little bonus idea here: I’ve often used vintage wooden crates upside down or stacked sideways to add height to a different centerpiece or to a variation of something like this (the sweets table at Christina’s barn wedding–before the sweets, of course):
I’ll do this kind of stacking at a craft show or vintage market, too, to show off the smaller pieces that I have and add a little height to my display. It’s nice, whatever you’re doing to add height and texture wherever you can so that the eye has plenty of places to bounce around.
Unique Occasional Table/Bookshelf:
I have a real lack of entryway space in my house. The front door opens right into the living room, and the back door right into the kitchen. I’ve kind of given up on trying to create an entryway space in the living room–we almost always have people come in the back door anyway–but the kitchen is a different story. I need something in there to help me corral all the stuff that accumulates on my kitchen table.
I found the large crate pictured here at a flea market last spring. I originally bought it for my Etsy shop, but I loved it so much that I stuck it in the corner of my kitchen and it hasn’t moved since. It was a crazy good deal (I want to say it was $20, but it could have been $30…either way, it was too good to pass up), and in really good condition for being WWII-era. I like having it by the back door because it’s a great place to stash my book bag and purse when I come home, and I can toss mail or keys on the top to help myself keep track of them better.
Seasonal Front Porch Display
I found the old deck rails on the curb a few weeks ago, and I cut them down to fit on either side of my front door–they give me a little porch feeling without the actual porch (someday, friends). I added in some apple crates (this one is a curb find and I can’t remember where the other one came from. A lot of times you can buy them at orchards, though, so keep an eye out while you’re out pumpkin and apple picking!) and some white pumpkins from Meijer. At $5.49 each, they aren’t super cheap, but they were reasonable enough. I love using the squashy, “fantasy” pumpkins, but I’m essentially just buying squirrel food, no matter what I put out there, so paying much more than $5 apiece starts to drive me a little nuts when those guys start chewing on them.
White mums are my favorite (surprise, surprise), but I had to hunt around a little to find some that weren’t already done for the most part. Meijer for the win again, there. And how cute is this little sign from Marshall’s Home Goods? I think this is probably my biggest porch display ever–usually I worry that, because my porch isn’t covered, everything will kind of quickly get ruined or soggy, but hey, if something gets ruined this year, I’ll just replace it, right? It’s worth it to have a cute front porch for the fall, especially since it’s my favorite season. I already have plans for my Christmas porch…these deck rails are going to come in handy for that season, too, I think. Can’t wait to share it!!
So there are my tips on using vintage crates. It’s the perfect time to snag one or two of these. I’d love to see your finds–tag @itsjessforton on Instagram to share!!
What are your favorite ways to use vintage crates? Do you prefer the old, slightly dirty ones, or are you just as likely to pull one off the shelf at Hobby Lobby and throw it in the mix with your vintage pieces? Either way, let’s talk about it!