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How to repurpose your ladder into an adorable piece of vintage home decor

Ladders have a lot of design potential, especially in small spaces. They offer great vertical decorating and storage options, both something often coveted in a small space. This is where your old dinged-up ladders come in handy to add character and vintage charm to any space. Decorative ladders, tall and short, have multiple uses and can be made to have a rustic, farmhouse chic, or industrial aesthetic.

decorated ladderGetting the right look


If your design style is industrial, or you want a distressed metal look, a new aluminum ladder will fit right into your vision. If you want it to be a little more distressed, you can place the ladder outside for a little while to subject it to the elements and give it a natural weathered look. If you are more into vintage, grab a paintbrush and paint your aluminum ladder. As always, make sure you are painting or distressing in a properly ventilated area and remember, children and small animals are susceptible to fumes, so read all that tiny print on the directions to be totally safe.


Wood is another great option if you are going for that vintage look. Wooden ladders can be whitewashed to get that perfect old-school feel. If it has shiny varnish, you’ll need to sand it off. After sanding, a white acrylic exterior paint mixed with water (two-thirds paint, one-third water) does the trick. Use this mixture to paint the ladder completely, and before it dries, wipe it down with a damp rag. Yard sales, estate sales, or perhaps your garage are great places to pick up ladders that have a little worn character to them.

repurposed ladder for throw storagePractical uses

Single ladders, versus step ladders, offer some interesting vertical decorating and some great practical uses. If you are using an old wooden ladder, make sure to lightly sand the rungs to get off any stray pieces of wood. Once that has been taken care of, you can safely hang your throw blankets or towels without fear of them getting snagged.

Get “S” hooks and use the ladder in the entryway to hang coats, purses, and scarves. Or, you can hang plants on the “S” hooks and twine the ivy around the rungs for a useful and decorative look.

Speaking of plants, use ladders outside for a quick trellis for Morning Glories or similar plants. Three ladders can make a great arbor if you are handy with tools. To add even more character and ambiance, you can combine plants with hanging lanterns or string lights.

If you plan to mount your ladder to a wall, be sure to attach it to the studs before you hang anything on them. The last thing you want is to hang all your pots and pans and have it all come crashing down because you didn’t secure it safely or properly.

Depending on the rungs’ width, a ladder attached to the wall can hold various items like the kitchen items and plants mentioned above to knick-knacks, magazines, and books. Place a ladder attached to the wall next to your desk, and voila, you’ve got a home office or homework space with storage to hold office supplies, etc. Take it one step further and anchor the ladder’s ends into the ceiling (firmly) and have a ready-made area to hang clothes if you don’t have a closet. 

woman putting plants on step ladderStep ladders and stools

A small step ladder can function quite nicely as an unconventional side table in the living room or bedroom (and it won’t take up a lot of space). There’s enough room for a lamp, a book, and perhaps a beverage.If you need a little more space, add a shelf across the steps to increase real estate. Home decor and hardware stores frequently stock pre-cut shelving, so you can easily grab what you need.

In a closet, you can use a small step stool with shelves for shoes and boots. Or, repurpose old drawers and use them instead of shelving material on the step stool’s rungs to give you storage for smaller items or items that might roll off a straight shelf.

Get creative

You can use a taller step ladder with shelves during the holidays, especially Christmas, for decorations. Twist small lights around the ladder and put gifts or an entire Christmas village on the shelves. Place delicate pieces on the top shelves to keep them out of reach of children and pets. Don’t have a mantel? Decorate a ladder and hang the stockings on the rungs.

Who knew there were so many uses for ladders? Don’t limit yourself to just looking at a ladder and thinking it’s only good for hanging blankets on. The uses are limited only by your imagination, so dust off that old ladder and get creative!

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Kathleen Ostrander
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kathleen has worked for United Press International and she's written about everything from style to pets for newspapers…
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