Beach Cottage DIY Decor How to Decorate Vintage Ladders

Wed 3rd, Oct, 2012

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Hello Beach Cottage ladies, some pics of the family room from me, the low-down on vintage ladders and how to weave a bit of vintage into your decorating…yes this room has had a leetle bit of Beach Cottage foofing, so shoot me…

I must say now though, if you have very young kiddos, husbands who feel the need to raise their eyebrows at your escapades with home decor or crazy pets, you may want to step away from the screen right now.

So this is a question I got from a reader recently regarding how to use vintage furniture in your home

Dear Sarah

I have been reading your blog for a while now and love it I always enjoy it when you find old furniture and slowly I have been changing things in my house to a more vintage style.  I do not live by the beach but I am near water and have also been adding nautical items. 

I have been also been making trips to op-shops and second-hand markets and the other day locally online found an old ladder, similar to the one I have seen in your pictures, I bought it, collected it, and then when I got it home I just didn’t know what to do with it.  Then you posted about climbing on top of yours for when hubby got home, that sure did make me laugh out loud, I won’t be doing that but I was wondering what to do with it??  Do you have any ideas on what I can do with it, I just can’t seem to get it right? 


Well now, this is an interesting one isn’t it Beach Cottage ladies and I have been in this situation before myself…when you get the happy dance feeling in a second-hand shop when you come across a lovely item that you can actually afford to take home, when you clap your hands together in glee when you find something pretty special that no-one else will have and money so cannot buy (like my old Hungarian refugee seafaring trunk that I found at a garage sale) or something that has been loved and worn by life with that special patina that only time can bring.

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At that stage of the hunt all is tickety-boo and you feel the elation of your find, you are high on your purchase, you skip out to the car and load it in, or bribe any random passing males to give you a hand.


When home on the drive, you are still on this thrifting-induced high and the neighbour’s net curtains twitch yet again at the crazy English lady who moved in a few years ago and continues to fill this cottage as if it is a tardis

And then,..doom…you bring it in and lean it somewhere, you try it in the Lounge Room, you lug it to your bedroom and in desperation you drag it around and prop it in the bathroom, hoping for inspiration.

You find none and sadly your new, to you, piece of pre-loved, with a life, bargain vintage find, actually finds itself down in the depths of the garage with the cans of white paint, the old photos and the spiders.

So here are my ideas for how get ready and to use vintage ladders in your home

1.Clean It Up

Take a good look at the condition of the piece – I have found lots of these now and have them propped here and there….you want to look for pieces that are ultimately chock full of vintage signs of life – this one is stamped by the carpenter, splattered with paint, tied with random and aged jute and overall is scuffed, pitted and rickety…money cannot buy those things (well not my money) and so wanted to preserve those things and left it as it is.


However these vintage ladders are often filthy, to put it mildly, by their very nature, they will probably have been sitting lost and forgotten in the back of someone’s shed for thirty years…they will be covered in grime and dust and their make-up of choice will be dirt.

But it’s really easy to clean these babies up and I have now about my person, a tried and tested formula, you can find it here…please remember I am far from a professional here, I lust after, search and bring home to this old cottage many a vintage piece or six and I have found a way to clean them up so that I am comfortable having them in the house…my way of doing it suits me, take it as you will.


2.  Paint it

If the condition is not that good or you don’t have anything vitnage to ‘save’ or quite frankly you just don’t fancy it in your house unless it is much cleaner and fresher…well then paint it…

The beauty of a vintage ladder is that it is rustic and you don’t have to be either fussy or a professional to get painting it right.  Did anyone say can of spray paint?  And let us not even talk about drips shall we?  We all know on here, us regular Beach Cottage Girls that drips are part of blogging, and as the Real Girl Amateur DIYers…we love drips, they say home, they say life, they say I found this, I loved this, I did it in my spare time and I brought it back to life.


You can paint it to co-ordinate with your look or in a contrasting colour to pop against a neutral decor…I have seen vintage ladders in a more modern (but neutral) setting to mine where the ladder has been painted a pillar-box red, or turquoise or go the more shabby faded paler colours like pink and baby blue.

3. Find some space

OK, so I have a teeny tiny old cottage, if there is one thing this place does not have it is an abundance of space, but, you do need to find a space where this can ‘sit’ without lots around it…I have tried them ‘layered’ up and that seems to just create one old big pit of clutter…if you have a bigger than house than me, which I can assure you is not hard, then putting it up in all it’s glory is great..

4. Use it as Storage

I use these in our bathrooms to store towels (for this use I prefer the cleanliness of painting)  but you can use them for all sorts…I have also used one for scarves and have seen them used for jewellery, books and magazines (hung by the spine).  If you are handy you can also add shelves


5. Use it as a display piece

My favourite way to use these is to dress them up…whatever your look, they sure do give you bang for your buck…I have done all sorts with mine..there was once when they were graced by lemons (find that here), but mostly, for my coastal beachy decor look I like to combine a nod to the nautical with the odd shell or similar and then combine with fresh flowers…best thing is, all so very easy, on both the pocket and the old brain.

So that’s it from me, I hope you enjoyed my ideas for using vintage ladders in your home, I love them and it’s great to be able to collect things that add a bit of individuality and character to your home that is not in every other homey boutique that you walk into or in every magazine or blog that you open…and isn’t there nothing worse than opening a blog to a new post that just so happens to look so very much like another?

My best piece of advice is if you see a vintage ladder on your travels, girlfriends, lace up your spikes and sprint, do not walk, RUN, do not pass go, go directly to the vintage ladder, pushing out anyone standing in your way eyeing it up too, snatch it to your body and do not let it leave your person until it is sitting in your home dressed up to the eyeballs and sighing at its new life.

Be seeing ya next time


Beach Cottage Easy Guide to Cleaning up & Painting Vintage Furniture Here

and the ladder on the deck here



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23 Responses to “Beach Cottage DIY Decor How to Decorate Vintage Ladders”

  1. bec says:

    gorgeous display on that very cool ladder… I have a very old wooden cacky green painted extension ladder under my house with old metal clips…no idea where to fit it in to the house ….your post may trigger some creative inspiration…or …it may just stay under there for another 10years. :)
    Bec x

  2. Rach says:

    I am obsessed with old ladders!
    I use mine as book shelves, or in the bathroom for towels.
    Love your idea too!
    Rach x

  3. Rukmini Roy says:

    I love old ladders. Found one in faded sea green the other day but there isn’t space for it in my tiny apartment. Had to give it away. My life is becoming a sob saga :)

  4. Morning Sarah- I too am a vintage ladder hoarder….grab and run – I’m so with you….

    Love the vintage styling today sweet AND loved flipping open the local paper to see your *table scaping* – perfect with my morning cup of coffee on the balcony, puppy at feet and sun a-shinning….

    Was like reading your blog in hard copy!

    Have a good one- it’s going to be hot today!

    Melissa x

  5. Love! Must pop ‘old vintage paint splatted ladder’ on my shop list. I have a couple of ladders but nothing like this beauty. And pics just gorgeous per usual too. Iphone or camera? xx

  6. AlissiaD says:


    I just found your blog and am a new reader (from the North Shore article yesterday), I love everything you have done! So inspiring.

    Keep up the good work, amazing to see home decor in a real home with a budget and not get that sinking feeling that some stylist has ‘sourced’ the products that add up to thousands and thousands of dollars that you get in all the magazine articles.


  7. Love that ladder, my father-in-law has one I have my eyes on. The trouble is he’s still using it – I think a new aluminium one would be the perfect Christmas present for him & I’ll even offer to take the old one off his hands!. Great pic of your deck in today’s Manly Daily.

  8. alison says:

    I refoofed my HUGE vintage ladder on the balcony on the weekend when we got rid of the old bbq and positioned the new one. I use my vintage step ladder for all sorts of uses in my house. At the moment it’s our phone chair.

    OHHHH dear!!!!! I did a BC dance two days ago when I happened across a small, v v cute trolley on wheels with a drop side. It is being used as a display shelf in a lovely homewares shop near my home. The owner’s husband refurbishes vintage furniture to use or sell in the shop. At this stage, the trolley isn’t for sale but I left my name and phone number if it comes on the market when the husband can let go of it. OHHHHHHHHH dear. My house is officially full, full in a non-hoarding kinda way. I already have a lovely old trolley (completely different style)that I refurbished and use daily as a side table and storage. OHHHHHHHHH dear. That trolley is calling me, softly.


  9. HRH Sarah says:

    That’s one gorgeous ladder, Sarah. It always seems to find the neatest accessories, too ;)
    I have an ancient black stepladder here that has served me well as a side table, perfect for setting a drink on by the sofa… Otherwise it would have languished in a corner, because who would trust it to hold their weight???

  10. Sandy says:

    I was very pleased to see one of your images in the newspaper this morning but very surprised that it didn’t credit you enough! The whole article used your beautiful images to fill the page and did not shout out how wonderful your blog is and how it promotes this lifestyle and the Northern Beaches and quoted another blogger! Come on Manly Daily, credit where credit is due.

    I will continue to come here for my daily inspiration and hope your star will rise far Sarah

  11. Cheska says:

    Looking at your design I suddenly remembered what I saw in Martha’s the other week.. I am so surprised that something like that could actually be done. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Charity says:

    Fab-u-lous. I’m going straight back to the antique market this weekend to pick up the ladder I saw there.

  13. Charity says:

    and p.s. I, too, had the glee of a vintage find at a remarkable price last weekend. A gorgeous trunk with iron detail with just the right amount of scratches and wear to make it beautiful. Then only to lug it home, desperately search for a place that it will fit and here is currently sits in the middle of my kitchen floor begging for a home in my home. Such is the life.

  14. Carol says:

    Love your ladder…I have a little red one sitting next to my sofa. I would love a taller ladder, but then I would have to move my favorite red pole lamp. I guess I am destined to just admire all the lovely ladders of my favorite bloggers.

  15. Surely Sarah says:

    Some great ideas! I’m picturing them in my house as I read… now to find some lovely vintage pieces… hmmm.