Using Old Window Frames

Old window frames have become the popular subject of a huge variety of DIY projects; a quick search on Pinterest will prove just how much DIYers love to incorporate old windows into their various up-cycling ventures. Originating in old houses, churches, and barns, antique window frames come in a huge variety of different shapes and sizes. This is what makes them such an intriguing item to work with: variety means versatility! You can find beautiful DIY projects– anything from a rustic family photo frame to a unique garden trellis–all over Pinterest and other DIY sites and magazines.

We have been working with old window frames at CBH for a long time, and their recent burst in popularity has challenged us to come up with original ways to find new purpose for these old pieces. We try to go above and beyond what we see online, and we want to share certain projects that we’ve noticed have emerged as customer favourites. Depending on your project, antique frames can mean a lot of work. Sanding off who knows how many layers of exterior paint, safely removing the often shattered glass, and scraping off messy caulking from the backs of window frames can certainly be tedious and time consuming, but we think it’s worth it for these awesome projects:

1) Window mirrors are one of our most popular uses for antique window frames by far! Replacing glass window panes with mirror makes the perfect one-of-a-kind, conversation starter for any room. This is a classic look, and very popular among DIYers, so we like to do a few things to change up the project and make it our own. Filling the panes with antique tin in addition to mirror can really change the look of the piece, adding texture to make it a little more interesting!

For this frame, we replaced the top two panes of an eight pane window with antique tin that has been painted a chic grey to modernize the look.

Seeking out really unusual frames is another great way to change things up. Window frames that come out of churches or barns especially are often unusual shapes and sizes; this makes for a really special statement piece!

This arched frame likely comes from an old church, and adds an elegant touch to any space!

2) Chalkboards are always a fun and functional project! Larger window frames are perfect making stylish, but useful chalkboards; the mullions provide a natural division–great for to-do lists and chore calendars or menus!

window chalkboard
We used this window frame as a sign and message board in our store; what a fun way to list our services and contact info!

We love to leave the original hardware, latches and hinges, on these pieces to give them even more character! This can be especially useful for chalkboards because the latches can act as hooks, perfect for hanging keys on a message board!

3) Using old windows to build a partial wall or room divider is the perfect way to add character and charm to your space! This is a really great option for a smaller space; if you leave the glass in tact, it creates a division but still allows light through to keep the space feeling bright and spacious, and you can always frost the glass for privacy.

window wall
We built this divider in our store to create a distinct “workshop” area using old windows from a local Cornwall home and an antique footboard–how cool is that?!

4) Sometimes we feature antique windows by framing them up as cupboard doors! We’ll build a custom cupboard around the window frame and, depending on the function of the cupboard, fill the panels with glass, mirror or antique tin. This really highlights the frame as the focal point of the piece!

medicine cab
This medicine cabinet is made from a smaller window in its original casing! In this case, we opted not to remove the glass which is original to the piece, and instead frosted the panels to hide the clutter inside. Adding a modern silver-striped knob contrasts the rustic look of the piece and adds even more visual interest.

5) A large window hanging over a bed is a great option either as artwork to hang over a headboard, or in a tight space can even replace the headboard altogether! You can really achieve a variety of different looks with this project, depending on how you choose to fill the window panes. For a luxurious look, you can cover foam padding with fabric to achieve something like ‘tufting’, or cover flat panels with patterned fabric or wallpaper for a more sleek effect.

window headboard
We chose a black and white floral patterned wallpaper for this window frame, to contrast the geometric pattern of the cushions!

It’s amazing how many different projects can come from one piece! This is just a sampling of some of our favourite things to make with antique window frames; comment below to share some of yours!


Up-Cycling Antique Tin

Anyone who has visited our store in Cornwall knows just how much we love unique pieces— especially when it comes to antiques and one-of-a-kind, up-cycling projects! One of our very favourite items to work with falls into both of these categories:framed green tin .jpg antique tin ceiling tiles!

In the 1800s, most popularly in the 1850s, beautifully patterned tin tiles were often used to adorn the ceilings of old farm houses. These tin tiles served not only as
a decorative element in these homes, adding interesting texture and charm, but also performed the practical function of reflecting heat downwards to more efficiently heat the main levels of these houses. Over the years, as the houses have been renovated or torn down, the tin ceilings have rarely been preserved as part of the house. Tiles are often missing or damaged and the cost to replace or restore them is just too high, especially since a tin ceiling in a new, or newly renovated house would generally be far more decorative than practical.

Luckily, the tin is often salvaged in good enough condition for antique-lovers like us to use it for some of our favourite up-cycling projects! It’s amazing how many different ways we can use these tin tiles to preserve the history of the old homes they came out of, while adding some antique character, charm and visual interest to new houses!

Here are some of our favourite ways to revitalize and showcase antique tin:

  1. Frame it! A single tile in a simple frame can be a work of art all on its own. Depending on the individual tile, we sometimes choose to simply clean and seal the tin to showcase the metal and rust, and other times we paint the tin to add a pop of colour and highlight its pattern.
3x tin.jpg
The unpainted tin has a chic industrial look, while the painted tin really highlights the ornate pattern in these tiles!
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We love pairing tin with a simple barn wood frame to complement its farmhouse history!
headbaord tin.jpg
A larger piece of framed tin can make for an awesome, unique headboard! This works especially well in a tight space where a headboard and footboard might take up too much space in the room. (I love this idea so much that I used it myself!) 


2. Incorporate it into panelled doors! Tin is a great fit for the doors of small cupboards and medicine cabinets— it hides the mess inside the cupboards (which is definitely an important feature in my house!) and adds elements of texture and visual interest that you don’t get with a solid wood panel or mirror.

tin medicine cabinet .jpg
Painting the tin the same colour as the rest of the cabinet showcases the intricacies of the tin’s pattern, without making the whole piece look too busy!


3. Frame it up and make a clock! Some tiles feature more simple patterns than others. These pieces can be great for making clocks because the simple pattern doesn’t interfere with the mechanism or clock hands, and allows us to paint the numbers on clearly!

tin clock .jpg
This tin tile is particularly perfect for making a clock because the flat centre is practical for the clock face, and the patterned border keeps things interesting!

4.  Make a tin crown shelf! The flat tin tiles were often accompanied by beautiful crown moulding; both of these styles are great for making up-cycled tin shelves. We love to showcase heavily patterned tin in pine shelves; the simple design and clean lines of these shelves really features the tin nicely, and makes it the focal point of the piece!

tin shelf .jpg
This shelf is doubly special! The antique tin is housed in an old window frame, which makes the backsplash of the shelf!

5. Use it as a canvas! Antique ceiling tin provides a unique surface to paint on and makes for really interesting artwork; this way not only is your artwork one-of-a-kind, but your canvas is too!

paitned tin .jpg
This painting, by Deirdre Cuggy, features the history of the tin by complementing the original chipped paint on the borders of the tile!

We absolutely LOVE antique tin for its decorative texture, its history, and its versatility. With materials this great, it’s hard not to be inspired! Keep an eye on our store and website for more projects featuring antique tin ceiling tiles.