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:

vintage crate 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:

crate photo background

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:

crate side table

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

 

 

 

DIY Upcycled Bathroom Shelf

Good morning friends!

We were up north in Bellaire for the entire week of the fourth this year which was super fun. It’s really starting to become a tradition since Dan’s birthday is on the third and his company considers that one of his holidays. So two holiday days in a row, one vacation day, and two half days working remote meant that we could stay all week!

What did Charlotte and I do while he worked those two mornings, you ask? I think you know.

Shopping up north is extra fun because I don’t get to go to all of these places as regularly as I do the ones downstate, so I don’t usually mind if Dan has to work a little when we’re in Bellaire, because I love working, too, and if he’s working, I can work!

On Thursday morning, Charlotte and I were driving around looking for a garage sale that we never ultimately found, but I did spot these babies on the side of the road, and I picked them up! I love garbage day.

mid century desk drawers

 

They are super solid and heavy, plus dove tailed at both ends–perfect for an up-cycling project! Dan used to roll his eyes and ask crazy questions like “What are you ever going to do with those?” He knows better now.

I didn’t have a solid plan until I was browsing at my friend Shelly’s store (definitely head there and hang out for a bit while you’re waiting 2.5 hours for your table at Short’s the next time you’re in town) and picked up a little tub of chalk paint and some antique glaze. Then I started seeing shelves. Of course, drawers made into shelves isn’t an earth-shattering concept–I’ve done it a couple of times already–but I still thought it would be fun.

I wanted to share a quick tutorial featuring my drawer shelf, Shelly’s Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh, and her Old Town Paints Antique Glaze.

shabby chic paint in refresh

The first thing I did was add some hardware to the back for hanging. I use these mini D-rings for most of my shelves because they are easy and pretty sturdy.

hardware for bathroom shelfhardware on bathroom shelf

I just wiped this one down with some warm water and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I don’t usually do a deep clean or any kind of prep work if I’m going for a vintage look or using glaze, since if a stain or spot shows through the paint, it only adds to the look. This particular piece didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem anyway–it’s usually the more cherry looking woods and stains that start to come through the paint in places, and since most of this piece was still the natural wood, I wasn’t too concerned.

coverage for Shabby Chic Paint in Refresh

Again, because I was doing the glaze and going for a more rustic and imperfect look, I didn’t go crazy with coverage or perfect brush strokes, and I only did one coat. You can see from this photo that there is some opacity in places. This was my first time using the Shabby Chic Paint, and while I loved the color, the paint went on more like latex than typical chalk paint, and it definitely felt shinier and more like latex to the touch once it was dry. I haven’t used the Old Town brand in a few years, but from what I remembered, I felt that way about their paint as well.

I’m used to working with Annie Sloan’s paints more than anything, and I’ve gotten used to the way that they dry, so for me, working with this paint would have been more challenging on a bigger piece (on something this small it hardly matters what you use, which makes a project like this the perfect experiment for a first time DIY’er). I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but this paint almost seemed to slide if you tried to go back to a section and add more paint or take some away. If I had been doing a second coat, this wouldn’t have mattered, but since I wasn’t, it was a little frustrating not to have the ability to play with it just a bit more.

Because I hadn’t used it before and it seemed like the drying time was a lot slower than I’m used to with Annie Sloan, I just let it dry overnight before trying the glaze.

old town paints antique glazeold town paints glaze applicationold town paints glaze application 2

Shelly warned me that the glaze dried super fast, but I was still not prepared for just how fast it dried! I used an old sock of Dan’s that was inexplicably already in the garage anyway, since that was what she suggested (instead of using a brush). You can see how just in the time that it took me to do one side, the very first application dried before I could get enough on the sock to blend it in to the second one fully. It definitely took some time to get used to it, and it made me curious to try another glaze that was maybe a little easier to work with. Once again, I’m really glad that I didn’t try to use it on anything bigger the first time.

I think it’s so fun that there are all these different products to experiment with–I am always excited to try new techniques, and I love the way that the upcycled Refresh drawer shelf turned out!

finished product bathroom shelfclose up bathroom shelf

I put the two blue shelves in my Etsy shop, along with the rest of the plain drawers that I picked up. I had been thinking about switching up a few things in my bathroom, and for a bit I added one of the au natural shelves to the wall above my towel bar (as pretty as the blue is, it doesn’t really go in there color-wise).

bathroom drawer shelfbathroom drawer shelf 2bathroom drawer shelf 1

For awhile I was picking up these insulators super cheap at garage sales. I thought they were interesting and fun, but I didn’t really know what to do with them–kind of like my obsession with apothecary bottles. Mostly they just ended up in my basement, but I figured I would pull them out for awhile and stick them on  my new (old) shelf. I picked up a succulent from the Rochester Farmer’s Market mid-July, and a little antique Hall dish to put it in from the July Utica Antiques Market. I’m thinking about layering in some white and wood frames behind the other pieces to give it a little depth. Really, the last thing I should be thinking about right now is a tiny space in my bathroom, since the mattress is still on the floor of the bedroom and the TV is sitting on an ugly unpainted side table since I sold the buffet that I did have it on…


What projects are you working on and what did you think of my little shelf? Is it something that you’d have fun doing, too?

I’d love to see your projects! Tag me on Instagram @itsjessforton or comment below. Have a great week!

Jessie