Five Ways To Decorate With Vintage Crates

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:

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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:

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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…

Unique Centerpieces:

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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):

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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:

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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

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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!

Jessie

 

 

 

How I’m Transforming Our Garage

Good morning!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (I post in my stories on the weekends that we work on this) you know I’ve been working hard on cleaning up/cleaning out our garage and moving it from just a work space to a more inspiring and “pretty” space, both for me and for my customers.

I’ve been leaning a bit more minimalist in our house lately, pruning away things that I don’t need or use that are just cluttering up my time and my life. That mindset—exactly what it means for my family and I–has been taking shape over the past few months, but it’s been hard to get there when it comes to business stuff. I had so much in the garage that I was saving for a certain project or idea that I was going to get around to “someday” that it was getting in the way of the projects that I was really excited about and really taking away my motivation to create what I really wanted to create.

I had to realize that in the same way I get overwhelmed “at home”, I was also getting overwhelmed “at work”–I had too many possibilities and not enough time or space to get them all done. I had to let things go or I wouldn’t be able to make the progress that I wanted to in my business or in making the garage look the way I wanted it to.

So here’s the big, scary, “before” (it’s actually not as big and scary as it truly was because I took photos way after I initially started. So look at this but imagine it being a lot worse):

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See that gray washed pie crust table in the middle of the photo all the way to the left? This is what the garage looked like when a customer came to pick that one up. Not great, right? I’ve been running into that situation all summer, though, and I really wanted to create a space that I enjoyed more and that would be more inspiring to me and to my customers.

That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with this move. For a long time, I really wanted a retail space. I was saving for it for awhile, even. Then goals changed a bit, as they do, and that dream got a little farther away from me. But this kind of pushed it’s way in, and then I would lay in bed and think about how much of a step back this dream was from that one. I almost felt embarrassed about it–who has a store in their garage? Who is going to come and shop in my garage that’s freezing half the year and kind of unpleasantly hot the other half? What about torrential downpours, when the roof leaks a tiny bit in that one spot and water soaks into that one corner? Primarily, though, it just looks a little dark and dingy and, well like a garage.

I played around with my Etsy backdrops for a long time, but they were almost all too small for me to take photos of the increasingly larger pieces that I was creating. So the first step on this journey was to throw up some curb find scrap wood and do a white wash over most of it.

 

 

The photo with the shutter shelves looks all right, but obviously this one with the dresser makes it obvious that this solution wasn’t quite what I wanted just yet. Still, it took me probably two years after I first put up this backdrop to upgrade to this (keep in mind, this is just about one half of the north wall of my garage):

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So much better, right? I used 1′ x 6′ common pine boards with a white wash over them. It actually ended up being a couple of different white paints over the course of the whole project, because, as you know, I have paint everywhere (literally in places I didn’t know I had), and most of it is at least half used, so rather than buying new paint, I pretty much just used up what I had. I don’t know about you, but I get a real sense of satisfaction when I get to throw an empty paint can away. I’ll admit, this is kind of strange, but it’s true.

Speaking of paint, I so should have taken pictures of this corner (the one down below) and what it looked like before, because it was an absolute disaster. I basically had these makeshift shelves that were loose boards supported by 2 x 4’s that weren’t exactly even and definitely weren’t that great to look at. Then I found this beauty one night during a particularly fruitful curb shopping trip:

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This has been my paint can corner for a long time, and before the 2 x 4 shelves, there was a metal cabinet there. The latch on that cabinet never worked properly, and so the door was always swinging open and getting in the way, and the shelves on the inside were too narrow for much more than two cans of paint each, so a lot of it was stacked in the bottom and it just wasn’t that convenient (or pretty).

When I found this piece and Dan measured it and discovered that it fit in this space perfectly and had amazing storage, I was pretty much over the moon. Charlotte was also very excited because this thing was filthy, and before I could wash it, it needed to be sprayed down with the hose to get rid of the first layer of grime. Charlotte’s favorite way to help me is by spraying things down with the hose (painting is a very close second). I really wanted to paint this, but I knew I wasn’t selling it, and I’m always hesitant to paint a piece for myself that I know I’m just going to using in the garage. I compromised with myself and used some paint that I didn’t love (obviously not Annie Sloan–I love the color here but not the finish, for my normal pieces, anyway), and it made such a difference:

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There’s something about seeing my paint cans all lined up like this, out in the open but organized and ready to be used, that is really inspiring to me. I don’t feel like I have to clean up before I can start working. There are three shelves hidden underneath, too, where I stashed my boxes of sandpaper, my box of trash bags, some cleaning supplies, and my basket of shop rags–you know, the less inspiring stuff (all of which used to be just out on my workbench, always in the way and never organized).

We had these big light hoods up in the rafters that were leftover from the previous owners:

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Dan did a little poking around in the rafters and discovered that they weren’t hooked up to anything, which makes total sense, since the electrical in our house has always been a scary jungle of wild cords that go nowhere and connect to nothing but are ominously marked “live” and are constantly appearing out of nowhere from places that we thought we’d checked years ago. It’s a real fun circus over here when it comes to potential fire hazards. Anyway, just to be safe, of course, he turned off everything for about an hour and pulled all of these down for me.

In addition to making it a lot more open and less cave-like, I sold the hoods on Facebook later than night, which helped us purchase the next round of common boards for the walls. I love it when that happens.

Back to the north wall. Here’s the before and after:

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I apologize for the second picture being so dark at the back–I’m fighting the shorter days now. I’m also in the process of pricing a window installation back there to let in a lot more light–I’ve always wanted to put another window in for the extra light and also so that I can see and hear Charlotte more easily when she is in the backyard playing.

One of the things that is back there in that very dark corner is this cabinet (it’s probably going to move across the garage and onto the workbench when that wall is done, but I haven’t totally decided that yet):

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I wish I knew more about this piece. It’s super old and handmade, from what I can tell. When I have better light, I’ll take some photos of the inside so you can see the way that the shelves fit in there. Seriously, so cool. I bought it at an estate sale for about $17, which I still can’t believe. It locks, and it seems like it was made to go on top of another piece. I’ve taken it to a few shows and almost sold it a couple of times, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it, and maybe that’s a good thing now. I’m currently using it to store the props and the little things that I use for my Etsy photos, and, like the paint cabinet, it’s really nice to have a place to store these things where I actually enjoy looking at them and can easily find and pull things out.

Previously, they were either scattered all over the garage, stored in random crates, or, most recently, sitting on a shelf all jumbled up and stacked in such a way that I couldn’t really find anything efficiently at all. It’s always felt like a waste to me to put so much time and effort into the space that I’m working in–I could be using all of those resources to work on more pieces–but it’s honestly made such a difference so far, and I’m barely halfway done. I’ve always enjoyed working out in the garage but now that it’s actually pretty and a lot brighter out there, I’m enjoying it so much more. I can’t wait for my window to be installed and to finish up the back wall and I’m so excited to take the final photos and share how my Christmas sale went with you!


How do you feel about your work space? And does anyone else out there sell out of their garage? I’d love to see your photos! Let’s connect in the comments.

Talk soon,

Jessie