How to Decorate Around Your Ugly Old Radiator

Image for article titled How to Decorate Around Your Ugly Old Radiator

Photo: archideaphoto (Shutterstock)

Living in an older home presents all sorts of challenges. The layouts may be more closed in, the wiring could need updating, the closet space is lacking—and the heating systems might be outdated. Older homes will often use a boiler and radiator system to heat the home, which involves steam rising through the pipe system to transport heat to the room through a radiator. Cast iron radiators are common in older homes, they’re usually placed under windows, and they take up quite a bit of wall space. But, since these 90-pound heaters can’t be moved, why not try blending them into your decor?

Advertisement

How to update your old radiators

Old radiators can become an eyesore. After the original finish has worn off, they can become rusty or discolored— but you can give it a facelift by restoring it to its original silver color or paint it to match your walls and room tone. According to Best Heating Advice Centre, painting your radiator is easy enough to do yourself and takes about two hours to complete.

You’ll need a few cleaning supplies, a sander, and some radiator primer, in addition to the paint you’d like to use. It’s a good idea to get an official painter’s drop cloth and some cardboard to protect the radiator’s surroundings from any paint drips. First, you’ll need to clean the radiator thoroughly (see Lifehacker’s guide to cleaning your radiator), then sand down any rough or bumpy areas. You’re now ready for primer. If you’re dealing with a rusty radiator, make sure you get a rust-inhibiting primer for your undercoat paint. After the primer dries completely, you can apply your first coat of color paint. Best Heating Advice suggests that, “for the best results, you should paint a radiator in stages—painting the edges first, before moving on to the face of the appliance.”

How to make your radiator into a shelf

To make the radiator functional, you can put a marble, stone, or quartz slab on top to create a shelf. This is a better idea in the warmer months when your radiator is not being used. Apartment Therapy suggests a marble saddle, which is a thinner slab and fairly inexpensive, costing as low as $22. Remove the slab entirely in the colder months or remove decorative items and leave it to warm up gloves and socks in the winter. You could also install (and anchor) a year-round shelf a couple of inches above the radiator.

Blend your radiator into the room as furniture

One of the most appealing ways to decorate your radiator is to hide it behind a functional piece of furniture. Easy-to-assemble radiator covers come in various shapes and sizes with front slats or metal grates to hide the coils but allow heat to bleed through. They often look like cabinets and have a shelf on top for picture frames or plants (especially high heat and humidity-loving plants). Depending on the size, look, and retailer, a radiator cover can cost anywhere from $70 to $250.

Advertisement

You can also try building one yourself—all you need is the wood, trim, metal grate, legs, nails, and appropriate tools. That sounds like a lot, but essentially, you’re constructing a glorified box around the radiator. Construction and design site This Old House has detailed instructions on building your own radiator cover for $50-$100. They recommend using a circular saw, but if you know the dimensions, your local hardware store should be able to cut the wood for you, so all you need to do is assemble the pieces.

Although these covers are an easy option, you can get even more creative. Designer Marie Proeller Hueston with Bob Vila’s home improvement site offers other suggestions for transforming your radiator into useful furniture. For heaters that are low to the ground but take up a significant amount of wall space, Hueston suggests a low bench constructed of treated wood boards and slats. Tall radiators in the kitchen can be converted into extended counter space—in addition to a regular radiator cover, place matching countertops over the radiator for more prep space. Apartment Therapy does warn against using wood over radiators as it can crack and warp with the change in temperature, so you should make sure sure the wood is treated and able to handle the heat.

Advertisement

DIY site Shelterness uses an antique table cut in half over the radiator for a vintage look—secure it to the wall above the heater, and you’ve got additional seating for dining when the heater isn’t in use (and an additional shelf for when it is).

 

Advertisement

Leave a Comment