Using vintage school lockers in your home can be a clever way to introduce some vintage and industrial style, while also creating great closed storage. I’ll be sharing one of my favourite pieces, our vintage elementary school lockers, and giving tips for how you can use lockers in your own home.
Our Unexpected Vintage Lockers Purchase
A number of years ago, we were enthusiastic about our new hobby of hunting for vintage and antique treasures. Our favourite thing to do in the summer was to find new antique shops or fairs in small towns and go on day trips.
Around that time, I had just discovered a store called Tin Barn Market on Facebook. They had a photo of aqua/minty green lockers that caught my eye immediately. They were so beautiful and they were my favourite colour.
We didn’t really have any intention of buying the lockers at that point. But if that was an example of the kind of vintage pieces that the Tin Barn Market sold, we definitely wanted to check the place out. So we planned a weekend trip there for the following weekend. When we arrived, the lockers were still in the shop and were every bit as amazing as I thought they’d be. But alas, there was a sold sign on them. Oh well.
But all was not lost. The Tin Barn Market happened to have a fabulous vintage metal barrister bookcase. (You can read more about it in this post). We fell in love with that bookcase for many reasons, and so we purchased it. But unfortunately, it was too big to take home in the car.
But wait! A surprise twist!
We ended up renting a bigger vehicle to go pick up the barrister bookcase the following weekend. In an unexpected twist, upon arrival at the Tin Barn Market, they told us that the sale of the lockers had fallen through. What luck! And
after a bit of much debate, we decided that we couldn’t pass up such a unique piece.
All this meant that we had to rent an even bigger vehicle for yet another trip to get the lockers. (I’m sure when we made that final trip we had an agreement between us that we wouldn’t spontaneously buy any more pieces of furniture.)
To read about more unexpected vintage finds and approaches to shopping for vintage decor, check out The Thrill of the Find.
Keep reading for more about our vintage lockers.
Things to consider about vintage school lockers
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Vintage lockers are a fabulous way to incorporate vintage industrial style into your space. But there are a few issues to take into consideration and to prepare for:
- Moving them – Depending on the size of the bank of lockers you find, lockers are HEAVY and they don’t always have great handles to hold onto when moving them. We have moved twice since we’ve acquired our lockers, and luckily we have used the same fantastic moving company both times. But let me tell you, not only did the movers remember us from the previous move, but they remembered our lockers. After moving them to the second floor of our house, the movers expressed their fervent hope that they will never have to move the lockers again.
- Scratching floors – Each set of lockers is likely different, but these ones have very sharp metal edges underneath. In our previous apartment, the movers set them down in place, where they stayed until our next move. However, in our new house, we had just had new hardwood laid before we moved. We had not yet had time to paint or install baseboards. Since we didn’t want the floors ruined, we had the movers place the lockers on foam exercise mats. We were then able to slide them around to complete the painting and baseboards. When we were ready, we carefully tilted the lockers on their side and put a whole bunch of felt pads underneath the edges. Then it was a snap to slide them into place without damaging our hardwood.
- Lead paint – You should also be aware of the risks of lead paint, especially around young children and pets. Be sure to test, research the risks, and take appropriate steps to solve the issue.
Where Lockers Can Create Useful Storage
Vintage lockers can take on so many different roles depending on where you place them in your house. Here are some of my ideas:
- Entry – I very much wish that our house had a big enough entryway to fit our vintage lockers. Unfortunately, we’ve never had room to place them in an entry yet. I think that using vintage lockers as cubbies to house shoes, hats, gloves and mittens, etc. would be a fabulous way to achieve storage with style.
- Mudroom or combination mudroom/laundry – Similarly, lockers would be useful in a mudroom or combination mudroom/laundry room. Each family member can store outdoor gear, baseball bats, or bike helmets. Or you can hide away dog leashes and coats, or umbrellas. The closed storage that lockers provide is great for eliminating all that visual clutter.
- Workshop/Garage – Another useful place for lockers to provide storage is in a workshop or garage. The industrial feel of the painted metal blends well with a workspace, and lockers are strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear. You can also add narrow shelves to create storage for handheld power tools or bins to contain small parts.
- Child’s room/Playroom – Lockers can be great in a kid’s room. (Just another reminder to test for lead paint and/or safely repaint them). As a kid, my brother had an old pair of lockers in his room. My parents repainted them red and added shelves to house all his Lego and other toys.
- Pantry – You could place shelves inside the lockers for dry/canned good storage. Or leave out the shelves and store your mop and broom inside.
You might also like The 7 Best Reasons to Buy Vintage Decor.
How and where we use our lockers
Unfortunately, we don’t have many great spaces in our house to put the lockers. We could put them in our unfinished basement laundry room, but I’d prefer to put them where they can be regularly seen.
For now they have found a home in my craft room where they add a big, bright pop of colour. I don’t keep craft materials in them, mostly because I have enough storage in my closet and on my bookshelf. Therefore they can store other useful items from around the house.
It is too bad that they are not a little bit deeper and can’t accommodate the depth of a hanger to store out of season jackets. But there are hooks inside the tall skinny locker sections, and we store all of our backpacks and work bags in there (which have received little to no use since we’ve been working from home).
The skinny lockers also hold lots of tall things like my camera tripod, soft box lights, as well as the tube of our puzzle mat.
The cubbies at the top are a fantastic size to store bike helmets and we’ve used them for that in the past. However, the bike helmets have found a new home in our house. Now the cubbies mostly hold office supplies, like packages of printer paper and extra file folders. We also keep a lot of Oliver’s things like jackets and sweaters in the cubbies.
Why I love our vintage school lockers
I’ve seen lots of vintage lockers in person and for sale online. Sometimes they are rusty or exceptionally dirty. Ours are in really good condition, while still having the scratches and wear that adds character.
I have also never seen this configuration of lockers before. We were told they came from an elementary school somewhere in the United States. Based on the numbering, each student would get a slim locker and then a cubby up above.
Another reason I love the lockers is that they remind me of school. As an educator, I’ve always loved decorating with items related to school. I’ve also got an old school bell, some texts and reading primers, chalkboards and an old slate.
Lockers are also a great nod to industrial style. I find that adding the odd industrial style piece to your mix of vintage and antique finds brings great contrast. The often heavy-duty, utilitarian, and worn quality of industrial items can help prevent vintage-style decorating from becoming too sweet.
One of the main reasons I love our vintage lockers has to be the incredible colour. While lots of vintage lockers are dull colours – grey, olive green, etc., there are many out there that are a vibrant, aqua/mint/blueish-green. Because the paint is in relatively good shape, it means a lot to me that the colour is original. These lockers make a colourful statement in any space they are in.
Just a warning that what follows is a sad story. It’s ok if you need a tissue.
And finally, I love our vintage lockers because they have a special connection to Millie. Millie was a senior Airedale that we adopted when Oliver was a puppy. We were heartbroken when she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour at 9 years old. We made one of the trips to the Tin Barn Market involving the lockers as a way to distract ourselves while Millie had surgery for cancer. Millie did recover well from surgery, but the prognosis wasn’t great.
Then later that fall, our apartment bathroom was renovated. We had to block the dogs in our living room/den to be safe from the demolition, and Millie did not appreciate being contained. We captured a (blurry) photo of her looking very exceptionally disgruntled while leaning against the lockers near the closed hall door.
Later that winter, Millie sadly passed away. A wonderful and talented friend surprised us afterward with a drawing from that photo of Millie. And so, while I love our vintage lockers for all the other reasons above, they’ll always be special to me because they’re immortalized in this piece of art with our sweet Millie.
If you also love terriers or want to see more Oliver and Millie photos, check out Playful Decorating: Vintage Toy Terriers.
Where would you use vintage school lockers in your home?
I’d like to hear your ideas. Vintage school lockers are a great way to add style and storage at the same time, and can be used in many different rooms of the house. Would you decorate with vintage lockers? If so, how would you best use them in your own home? Let me know in the comments below!
All the best,