HOUSE: Newburgh + Scavenging

Fruit crates & radiators.


I decided to stain the fruit crates black. At first I thought I’d want to leave the wood bare or oil it, but after giving them a good cleaning and sanding, it was pretty clear that the wood just wasn’t cute enough to leave exposed. I used an opaque black stain, the same as I used for the mega-planters and for a million other projects over the years (I’m still on the same gallon!). In my mind that was a 30-minute project, but in reality, it took six hours to paint three crates. The wood was really porous, and there are just so many tiny nooks and crannies and surfaces to cover.

I may still add casters to the bottom crate à la this photo, but for now, I like how these guys look stacked two high in the living room. I took my Dwell magazines out of storage (I’m not a fan of magazine hoarding, but I do love Dwell and refer back to old issues often—I got rid of several years’ worth when I moved out of Brooklyn, and I still regret it) and piled ’em up. I love the colored spines on the more recent issues.


I spent a little time cleaning up this radiator, too. We’ve had it wrapped in aluminum foil (no, seriously) for a couple of years now because the paint flakes off like crazy and we don’t want the dogs to eat it, but after a long session with a wire brush, I think I’ve managed to remove most of the really loose stuff. We still need to have the radiator sandblasted and powder coated—it’s really expensive, so that’s on the back burner for the time being—but at least it’s less of a danger now. I know the scruffy old chipped paint look (I refuse to call anything in my house “shabby chic”, sorry) can be nice, but there’s a fine line between rustic and health hazard. A rusty radiator covered with flaking paint isn’t something anyone should have in their house.

By the way, if you have old cast iron radiators and you’re looking for a good way to keep them clean, I highly recommend buying a long, bendable vent brush (this is the one we have, but I’m sure there are plenty of other brands). It’s kind of horrifying (but super-satisfying) how much junk they manage to clean out of the fins.

p.s. Did you notice how much we managed to cross off of the to-do list for this weekend? I’m so proud!

Previous Post Next Post

Other Stuff You Might Be Into


  • Reply Adam November 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Goodbye tinfoil! The crates and the radiator both look awesome! I love the lamp you chose for the top of the crates as well.

  • Reply Dan November 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Love it! The colorful Dwells set against the black crates is really lovely (it’s the only magazine I keep too). Thanks for the tip on the vent brush, I’ve been wondering what to do about the crap I can see in my radiator but can’t figure out how to get to! I’m pretty sure nobody has ever, ever cleaned them (or even vacuumed under them, that was fun) before I moved in.

  • Reply paige November 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Way to go! There’s nothing more satisfying then a list that’s almost completely crossed off.

    I think I’m still a bit in shock that you don’t usually get snow until January. Really?? Why do all my visions of the East Coast involve a white Christmas? Maybe I’m just jealous…Winnipeg got almost 20 cm last week.

    I noticed Fritz refused to sign. He must be getting good legal advice.

  • Reply Monica November 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    The crates look fabulous! Love your lamp.

  • Reply kay* November 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    the crate diy is such a ‘simple’ one yet so wonderful…i’m definitely doing a few in India!

    & i had no clue that old radiators and old paint would be a bad combo. that’s why i like your blog so much – it’s not just pretty pics and good writing…it’s informative too! know if i ever own an old home (which is a dream) i’ll know.

  • Reply maria November 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    they look great!

  • Reply frisken November 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    that cleaning brush is just what i need!

  • Reply ehalvey November 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm


    Love the crates! I might steal that idea for shoe storage when we move.

  • Reply PhillyLass November 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Looks great! And I love the print above the radiator!

  • Reply Rosa, Copenhagen November 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Its the most amazing info I can get from this blog. I have heavily ribbed radiators (which means many small cubicles between two “flat” panels) and for years (yes, years!) I’ve been looking for a cleaning”thing” that I could use to clean out those cubicles that seems to generate an ubelieveable amount of dust. So far I’ve managed to do this with a knittingpin (!) wrapped in an old sock… I know… not, so NOT a thing to reveil to the world – but it works. Almost.
    I must get that bendable duster. Asap 😉

  • Reply petra November 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    heya, I just discovered your blog, and I can already tell that I will get lots of ideas from it :o) thanks a lot!

  • Reply Sue November 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    The crates look awesome Anna. Looks like you’ve had a very productive weekend. Wish I could say the same, I didn’t even get out of my p.j.’s today!

  • Reply Courtney Ward November 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I just love this and everything you do! Where is that adorable lamp from?

    • Anna @ D16 November 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks, Courtney! I’m pretty sure the lamp came from West Elm. It’s several years old, though.

  • Reply tara November 29, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Wow. That looks terrific! Not sure if you’ve already covered this, but is that a blueprint of the house on the wall? I

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 12:30 am

      Haha, no, I wish! It’s a totally abstract geometric pattern.

  • Reply nancy November 29, 2010 at 12:19 am

    when i saw the title of the post, i was expecting to see that you used the fruit crates to make a radiator cover. lol.

    anyway, i like the black and if i ever come upon fruit crates again, i won’t ignore them…

  • Reply Nicola November 29, 2010 at 3:09 am

    They look good! Like the print on the wall, where is it from?

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 7:32 am

      It’s a piece of wrapping paper. I don’t know the designer, sorry…

    • Sue November 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      Anna! You never cease to amaze me. Wrapping paper! Awesomeness!

    • Nicola November 30, 2010 at 2:00 am

      Looks good! I’ve actually got wrapping paper framed in my spare bedroom!

  • Reply Elissa November 29, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I have three radiators that are in need of a good exfoliating, luckily we don’t have any dogs or kids that might eat the chips, I just keep vacuuming them up. Guess I should get one of those brushes. btw, I have a few Dwell magazines collecting dust on a shelf, from June of 2005 to September 2006. you can have them if you don’t already have those issues.

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 7:34 am

      The vent brush won’t really help with the paint that’s flaking (I used a small wire brush for that), but the brushes are great for cleaning out dirt and dust and whatever else might be collecting in there—a good idea for everyone in the house, regardless of age or species. 🙂

      (And thank you for the offer, but what’s gone is gone…I don’t care about filling in gaps.)

  • Reply Arawa November 29, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Thanks! I am going out to buy that brush! I am just a little scared about what I am going to clean out of the nooks of my radiators…if you know what I mean.

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Oh, I definitely know!!

  • Reply anna November 29, 2010 at 11:23 am

    i vaccumed one of the radiators & found all sorts of gross to wierd stuff (coins, paper clips, etc). for now i just spray painted it w/ heat resistant rust-o-leum black. works for now. *shrug*

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

      I’ve found marbles in EVERY single one of the radiators in my house. In the kitchen, there were chicken bones. Uggghhhhh

  • Reply Natasha November 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Anna. Is this beautifully old radiator still working, I mean heating your living room?

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Yes, with the exception of an electric wall radiator in our bathroom, all of our heat is from steam radiators. I think we have 10 of them? Cast iron radiators are still very common in older houses in the US, and are fully operational (and easily repairable) even 100+ years after they were installed.

  • Reply Emma November 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I totally need that bendable brush. The other day I held a flashlight up to our old radiators (looking for mice – I hate to say) and I couldn’t believe what was back there; old toys, mail, socks, and most of it not ours.
    I love the heat our radiators give off. So much nicer than forced air. One day, I’d love to get them all cleaned and powder coated but it seems like such an undertaking (and one that would definitely have to take place in the summer!)

  • Reply M.K. November 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    May I ask who sandblasted & powder coated your other radiator? We are in the market to get 3 radiators refurbished…

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      We used a local (New Windsor) company, Extreme Powder Coating.

      Our plumber did the disconnection and reconnection, though.

  • Reply brandi November 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Gross!! You found chicken bones?!! How does that even happen?!! I used that same brush to clean our radiators, and it is horrifying! I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to afford powder coating, but at least I know there’s nothing gross lurking in those fins.

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      Oh, I found all kinds of disgusting things in our house!! The chicken bones were the least of it!!

  • Reply Lori E. November 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Did you ever find anything interesting though? There is a show called something like “if these wall could talk” or some such thing and the homeowners find the coolest old items in the walls, attics, etc… We didn’t find anything cool in our house during any of our remodeling projects unfortunately. The only things that came up for us was more work than we originally thought. Ah, the “charm” and “character of an old house… 🙂 BTW, the crates look awesome!

    • Anna @ D16 November 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      The closest we’ve come to finding something cool was the graffiti in our closet!! I imagined us finding all kinds of neat stuff behind the walls or in the attic, but there wasn’t anything. I suspect that happens more in houses that are occupied by the same family for a long period of time.

    • nancy November 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

      Oh, your graffiti post reminded me… in Greenfield, MA, where we live, some old buildings were converted into lofts. The developer left the old brick walls exposed in one of the buildings and left up the graffiti that he found– from the 1800’s!

    • nancy November 29, 2010 at 9:09 pm

      We found bats in our attic. (I grew up in a 100 year old brownstone in downtown Albany.)

  • Reply Iz November 30, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I discovered your blog through Dan of Manhattan Nest and just wanted to let you know I think it’s incredible! Keep it up!

  • Reply elissa, ebb & flow December 2, 2010 at 10:22 am

    i have a similar black stain that i use for everything. it’s lasted me ages as well.

  • Reply Ouno December 12, 2010 at 1:41 am

    The black looks great. Beautiful DIY recycling.

  • Reply Moorea Seal December 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Gosh I just love how you style your home. It is so beautiful. It is obvious that you have a designers eye based on the simplicity and elegance of your blog design AND your gorgeous living space. I love it!
    I was really inspired by your fruit crate side table that I whipped up a plan to redecorate my living room! I created a little illustration too 🙂
    You can check it out on my blog: and I linked to you too!
    <3 Moorea

  • Leave a Comment

    Door Sixteen is a hate-free, drama-free, spam-free zone. Open dialogue is welcome, but comments designed to harm or deceive will be removed.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Get D16 in your mailbox

    Sign up to receive weekly digests and (occasional) other updates from Door Sixteen! I promise to not bombard your inbox.