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Great Ideas for Decorating with Old Ladders
by Jessica Ackerman

If you're looking for a unique decorating idea, your garage might hold the perfect accessory. Old ladders can be used in many different ways to add a stylish touch to your home, without the need to spend a lot of money. If you've got an old ladder sitting around your house, here are some ideas that can help you turn it into a decorative accent that will add charm and appeal to your home.

Decorating Old Ladders

If your old ladder has seen better days, it might need a decorative paint job to help it look its best. There are many different techniques you can use, depending on the look you are trying to achieve and your artistic abilities. You can simply give it a coat of paint to freshen it up, or add decorative painted designs and patterns. For example, paint a small ladder bright yellow and use it by the kitchen window as a plant display stand. Or, paint the ladder with a base coat of cream colored paint and use artist's brushes to decorate it with flowers, vines, and leaves. Sponge painting and other faux painting techniques are also quite effective when decorating an old ladder. If you'd like a painted pattern but don't have artistic skills, use paint decals after painting the ladder a solid color. Painting each step a different color, such as varying shades of green or the colors of a rainbow, is also a great approach. Splatter painting is also a great choice for decorating an old ladder. First, paint the ladder a solid color and let dry. Then protect your work area with drop cloths and use a paint brush to flick paint onto the ladder's surface, giving it a speckled look. Use more than one color for added appeal.

Natural Looks with Old Ladders

Old ladders in their natural state can look great without a fresh coat of paint. In many cases, the rough surface of an antique ladder can add a touch of rustic charm to your decorating scheme. After cleaning the ladder, assess it to find ways of accentuating its natural appeal. You can use sandpaper to remove defects such as excessive paint splatters which may detract from the overall look if desired. Sandpaper can also be used to add a more weathered look to a ladder, which can add to its rustic charm. Of course, if your ladder is truly an antique, you might want to leave it in its original state in order to avoid detracting from its natural appeal and possible value. Sandpaper can also be used to roughen up a ladder that is relatively new in order to give it an older appearance. Distressing the wood surface by hitting it with a chain or other blunt objects is another way to "antique" a newer ladder.

Using Old Ladders in the Home

When decorating with an old ladder, you should first assess its strength and safety. If the ladder is sturdy and strong, it can be used in a functional manner. However, ladders which are weak or in poor condition should be used in a purely decorative fashion. Prop one up beside a vine or climbing plant as a trellis. Grapevine or a string of clear lights can also add a touch of decorative charm. If the ladder is functional, it can be used in the kitchen or the home library as a stepstool to reach high shelves and cupboards. Or, use one in the bedroom or closet as a rack to hang clothing.

Jessica Ackerman, author and staff designer at, specializes in large outdoor wall clocks and affordable large wall crosses.

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