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

 

 

Christina’s October Barn Wedding

I’m going to let everyone in on another secret. I love weddings! Everything about them. The food, the dancing, the getting to see friends and family, the celebration of love, the kids running around—and family weddings are my absolute favorite. Since I started dating Dan, it seems like we’ve been to a bazillion weddings (there are almost 30 first cousins), and every one of them has been perfect.

Christina’s wedding was especially perfect because I got to be along for most of the planning and preparation ride—she basically gave me her wish list, a small budget, and creative license to handle the entire venue set up. Her wedding board was full of ideas for the reception she planned at an awesome barn venue on the other side of the state, and from the minute I saw it I knew it would be a favorite fall project, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

July was wine bottle month—I had them soaking in my driveway, drying in the sun on my deck, scattered across the kitchen in various states of first coat, second coat, and wax, and then packed into bins to be taken back to Paw Paw intermittently throughout the summer.

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Christina’s colors were pink, white, and gray, and I did all the wine bottles (95 to be exact) in those colors using some Annie Sloan Old White and some leftover Wise Owl chalk paint I had in Petal and Gray Linen. It took two coats of paint to get the bottles fully covered. I probably didn’t have to wax them, but I wanted them to be as durable as possible, especially since we were transporting them back and forth across the state, so I figured the wax wouldn’t hurt, and it would have time to cure over the summer so that we could keep the paint chipping to a minimum (though Chrissy said she didn’t mind the shabby look).

After several thoughts about the base of the centerpiece, we decided to go with simple barn wood squares and slabs to tie in with the venue and keep everything unified (we debated using vintage mirrored trays, wood slices, and fabric squares, but the barn wood went best with the rest of the décor).

Once the wine bottles were well underway, I started to work on the guest book idea. Christina wanted an alternative to the traditional guest book in the form of an art piece that she could hang in her living room or master bedroom. Since her husband has two children, she didn’t want to leave them out by doing a piece that featured only her and Jabin, so she opted to have me do a piece that featured their family’s last initial. Again, I used ideas that she pinned to her board or sent me on Facebook (we had to communicate a lot that way since we are 2.5 hours apart!). A lot of the ideas we saw had a dark wood stain—I suggested going with a gray wash since that would work better with the color scheme of the wedding and the color palette in her house. I used a gray Minwax stain, a 28” x 28” piece of pine, and cutouts of the letter “Q” and hearts to get the design right before I started painting.

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These are the little things I work on at night when I’m watching TV with Dan. It’s pretty bad…I almost can’t just sit on the couch without having something to do with my hands, unless it’s a brand new episode of Game of Thrones, or a crucial play in a Patriots game. Everything else we watch, I have to multitask during.

I took advantage of a sale and a 20% purchase coupon at Joann’s to buy a ton of wood slices for the table numbers, then painted them with chalkboard paint and drew all the numbers on them ahead of time, since I wanted to save as much time as I could ahead of the actual wedding day.

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Christina also needed a card box, so I transformed this radio shell that I’ve had sitting around my garage for about a million years (I’m really into hyperbole in this post, I guess). I’m going to do a whole post about this project, so I’ll just do a quick before and after photo for you here, and you can look for the detailed post later this month. This was a project that I’d had in my head for about as long as I’d had the radio–I just needed the perfect excuse to work on it!

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The rest of what I used was all things I had sitting around my garage—crates, barrels, chalkboard signs, an old ladder—basically, anything rustic and barn-y looking that I had I crammed into the back of my van the morning we set out for the hotel. I also brought along the elements that I needed for Beth’s baby shower as well, since that was happening that night (Friday). Another thing about having a big family is that there are always a bunch of things going on at once–I can’t remember a year where there hasn’t been at least one baby or one wedding, though there are usually both, and multiples of each, and so we often celebrate multiple occasions when we get together. Beth’s baby shower was an adorable woodland theme–I’ll have a post up about that event soon, too!

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Friday night after the shower we spent a few hours getting the flowers ready—boutonnieres for all of the groomsmen, baby’s breath bouquets for the girls, and roses and baby’s breath for Christina. We also made a little bouquet for their daughter, Taylor. I had fun doing the bouquets, but I won’t claim to be an expert, and I didn’t take any photos of the process, shockingly enough….the only other time I’ve done bouquets was for my sister’s wedding a few years ago, so I felt a little bit rusty. The last one was probably the most beautiful…I always feel like my first few tries are a bit of a train wreck.

We only had a few hours to prep at the barn, so I brought along as many aunts and cousins as I could find, and Christina sent a few friends to help as well. The venue, MillCreek Wilde was a little smaller than I had pictured, since I’d only seen it in the photos on their website, and as we were unloading, I was trying to mentally check off all the things that I’d brought and sort out what we needed and what we wouldn’t have room for.

**While you’re over on their website, because you know you clicked that link, can we just take a moment to gush over the bridal studio? When I walked in there before all the girls arrived, I was like, whoa. Amazing. I want that exact thing in my backyard. I would spend all my time in there. Give it to me now.

The biggest thing was prepping the tables, so we started there. Tablecloths were steamed, barn wood was set, wine bottles with baby’s breath were placed, and table numbers were assigned according to the seating chart.

Christina and her mom, Carol, did this really cool thing along one wall of the reception area where they had us hang all the wedding photos of all the family members that they could get their hands on—just the couples, and it was really sweet. With such a huge family, they had no problem covering the wall with the photos, and it was one of the biggest things that guests commented on—they’d never seen anyone do that before and it was a really special thing to see.

One of the biggest challenges of the day was the head table. I’d brought a bunch of mismatched linens with me, along with bunting and little cheese boxes and a cute DIY’ed Mr. and Mrs. banner, but, because of the weather, the ceremony was moved indoors, which meant that the reception area was also the ceremony area and the head table couldn’t be put together until AFTER the ceremony—about a half an hour before the dinner would be served (which also means that I didn’t get a good photo of the head table, so don’t be surprised when you don’t see it).

Luckily, the head table was made up of four or five rustic farmhouse style tables that were stained dark and whitewashed slightly, and they didn’t really need a lot of dressing up. After the ceremony, I threw the biggest lace tablecloth that I have (it used to belong to my grandmother) over the center of the table on a diagonal, pinned the banner across the front, and then scattered my rose and baby’s breath chees boxes along the front, using the bridesmaid’s bouquets to add a little more interest here and there.

We ended up having about a million extra wine bottles, so I used them everywhere I could—I stuck them in the bathroom, along the stage by the dance floor, by the windows, on the dessert tables—all the extra ones really helped tie the whole thing together. By far, I’d spent the most time getting all those bottles ready, so I was going to use them all!!

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Weddings are the best, don’t you agree?

Talk soon,

Jess