Frugal Living: Step up your decor with vintage ladders |

Frugal Living: Step up your decor with vintage ladders

Sara Noel

Old wooden ladders can be found at garage sales, estate sales and flea markets. It might be too old to be used for its intended purpose, but if you see one (folding or straight) marked low or free at the “curbside mall,” it can be creatively used in your home and garden. Ladders can be left in a weathered, rustic state, or get a can of clearance paint at your local home improvement store or use up any leftover paint you’ve been storing to give it a more modern look.

How have you used an old wooden ladder?

Here are a few ideas to put an old secondhand ladder to use rather than pay retail price (which can cost upward of a couple hundred dollars) on a decorative ladder:

Book shelf: You can take two or more folding ladders and add wood planks between them to make shelving (CDs and DVDs, or even fabric and yarn could be displayed). You could simply hang a folding ladder horizontally on a wall. (Think tall books toward the bottom step and shorter books toward the top step.) Hang a straight ladder or two horizontally to hold framed photos and collectibles.

Plant display: Indoors or outdoors, a folding ladder can hold potted plants. Lay a straight ladder flat on the ground to separate garden plantings such as herbs. Ladders make a great trellis for your garden vine plants. (Clematis would look lovely, but vegetables would work well.) It would be pretty to use for climbing houseplants (philodendron, ivy and pothos come to mind) on a front porch, too.

Side table: For use in the living room or office, or in the bedroom, a small folding ladder makes a lovely side table or nightstand.

Rack: Lean a straight ladder against a wall and use it to display magazines, artwork, quilts and blankets, vintage tablecloths or bath towels. And speaking of towels, a wooden ladder propped against the house is a whimsical addition at a lakefront cottage; if you have a backyard pool, use it to dry wet towels from swimming. Or simply add groupings of multicolored citronella candles on a folding ladder. You can use wire or hooks to display hanging lanterns on it during the summer.

Suspended from ceiling: Hang a straight ladder from the ceiling with chains and use it as a pot rack. Place baskets on top of the ladder to hold kitchen items that you don’t use daily or to store supplies such as napkins, taper candles, extra sponges and paper towels so they’re close by, but not taking valuable cabinet or counter space. You can display your picnic basket, prompting you to use it more often this summer. Also, use the ladder as a makeshift drying rack for clothes or flower/herb bundles.

Organizer: Straight and folding ladders can be used to organize shoes, sweaters, purses, stuffed animals, etc. You can attach wire baskets and use it for extra storage, too. Consider having a wire basket for each family member. It can be a convenient place to store hats, mittens, scarves, school work, mail, keys, etc.

Holiday display: Use a ladder to display holiday cards and hang stockings, ornaments and lights. As a focal point, place a fresh poinsettia on top or attach a holiday wreath to the front.

Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (, a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email ladder