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

 

 

 

Up-cycled Radio Shell Wedding Card Box

Ok ladies. How many of you have things that have been sitting in your garage for months (or years…ahem) that you keep meaning to get around to but are maybe also slightly intimidated by?

My hand is in the air right along with you. I’ve been toting this rusty, busted up radio to shows with me all summer (and listening to my husband tell me to trash it every time he saw it or moved it). I pulled it out of an old house in Utica when Charlotte was a baby, and my ideas for it have gone through several revisions in my head.

Until Christina needed a card box for her wedding last month, however, I had no motivation to actually get it finished. And, of course, I waited until basically the last minute (the Monday before the event) to get it done. I took plenty of photos along the way, because there was no way that I wasn’t sharing this major triumph with all of you.

Here’s my vintage radio shell upcycled into an adorable wedding or shower card box:

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This piece was disgusting. I’m talking it was caked in several layers of grime. The house where I found it had been basically abandoned for twenty years, and everything in it was really, really dirty. I’m pretty sure that there were various animals living in it when the grandson finally got around to cleaning the house out and putting it up for sale.

Most of the radio’s guts were long gone, and what was left was really rusty and basically impossible to salvage. To be honest, when I saw this thing laying in the front yard of that Utica house, I probably should have just left it there, but I was drawn to the shape and the details on the front—there’s just something so romantic about an old radio to me. So I tossed it in my van and saved it from being trashed.

Fast forward three years.

The first thing I did was spray it down with the hose to wash the first layer away of dirt away. I still ended up with several rounds of super dirty rags before it approached some semblance of being clean.

I used my jigsaw with a metal blade to get rid of the guts of the radio before the final wipe down.

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There were obviously some sharp edges left over, but the screws holding this metal ring in place were still there, which made a future step much easier than I thought it would be–more on that later. I left the sharp edges for now, since I wasn’t messing around inside the radio much. I figured I’d sand them down a bit later, or else tape over them if they seemed too threatening.

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I had to glue a few of the little pieces back on, and then I gave it a few coats of Rethunk Junk in Cotton. I know what you’re thinking—no Annie Sloan? Girls, I’m loving Rethunk Junk right now for certain pieces, and this was one of them. I also used this paint on my newly redone kitchen table and some of my chairs, and I love the cleaning product, paint and sealer, especially for a piece like my table, which gets a lot of traffic every day.

With Annie Sloan, I really feel like these old pieces with the deteriorating finish are going to bleed really bad through lighter color paints like Old White, but the prep product for Rethunk Junk seems to sear all of that stuff away pretty well. There is a small brown spot on the front of the radio that came through the paint, but I distressed it in that area and it doesn’t really show up super dark. I might do a compare and contrast post for these two paints at some point in the future, because there is a lot more that I want to say, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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For the card slot, I drilled a hole in the top of the radio and then used my jigsaw again to cut a rectangular hole across the top of one side. What the photos don’t show is that, like a dummy, I did this while the paint was still wet on the other side of the box…yeah, that’s right. I’m a total spaz. I would just say that I was so excited to finally be putting this together that I just couldn’t help myself, but really, it’s probably that I just wasn’t thinking. At all.

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I used my jigsaw to cut a piece of wood for the back, and then cut that piece into three pieces for the top, the side, and the door.

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Remember how I said that the little metal ring on the inside still had the screws in it, and how they weren’t rusted past recognition? That made it super easy to remove the bits of old fabric that were still hanging on around the edge of the speaker, cut a little circle of this vintage lace that I’ve also had for years, and then put the metal circle right back over it to hold the new fabric in place.

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Now that it’s over, I have no idea why this project was so intimidating to me. It could be that I didn’t really have much to go off of when I was putting this together–I couldn’t really find a tutorial or a photo for inspiration anywhere, like I often do when I’m up-cycling or building a piece for a customer.

I was surprised at how smoothly the whole thing went, too–I didn’t really hit a snag like I often do with other projects, and the metal ring made what I thought would be the hardest part into what was actually the easiest part.

The card box fit in perfectly with the rest of the decor–it was even more adorable than I thought it would be. The last thing I did was use my Cricut to make a Kraft paper and twine “cards” banner for the front of it.

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I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the box now that the wedding is over. I halfway want to keep it, but honestly, what am I going to use it for? The occasional wedding? Every party that I ever throw from now on? My practical mind is telling me that I should just list it in my Etsy shop and let it go, but my emotional mind is telling me that I’ve held on to it this long, and worked so hard on it, and that I’ll probably use it again someday…

Decisions, decisions.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about that project that you had (or have) sitting around for years before you finally got around to it. Why did you wait so long? How did it turn out? Was it easier or harder than you imagined? Did you do it for yourself, or for someone else, and do you still have it today?

Thanks for reading!

Talk soon,

Jess