Looking for great DIY storage ideas for your home? Then look into vintage wooden crates which also make great decorative pieces for your tomboy living area, especially if you want your castle exuding a rugged, earthy and eco-friendly vibe. Wooden crates go a long way in terms of their adaptability and what they can be used for around your living space. We spoke to vintage crate maker, Cumberland Crate Company to find out more.
College dorms do ’em. Apartments for singles do ’em. Garages do ’em and these days, lots of retail stores do ’em too. That’s right. We’re talking about vintage wooden crates. Once the go-to solution for wine and beverage companies looking for an authentic, olden day farmer’s way of storage, wooden crates are now a popular way to do up the shabby chic-ness of your pad.
Vintage crates or ‘bushel boxes’, as they were sometimes called, were used by farmers back in the day for their harvests, until they were damaged or just plain broke, after which they were then burnt which meant they couldn’t be used. These days, vintage crates are almost impossible to source now and are too expensive for farmers to continue using, so what better way to breathe new life into an age-old agricultural tradition than to use them as decorative and DIY storage solutions for your home?
Today, vintage wooden crates are more than just a sign of appreciation of things past, but it is also an indicator of good taste and a resounding nod to the good ole days where value was given to products of great craftsmanship. Plus, they lend an aura of ruggedness to a living space that infuses a feeling of comfort and calm.
Today, there are a few established vintage wooden crate companies that have popped up lately serving a niche clientele that consists of private individuals and retail brands alike. We spoke to one of them – The Cumberland Crate Company from British Columbia, Canada which began their journey into ‘vintage wooden crate-ing’ in the winter of 2013.
The story behind the brand was that two old friends decided to start filling the obvious niche for a sustainable and durable alternative to plastic crates. Though the first prototypes were built for farmers (stackable farm crates), the company now caters to a much broader market. The company’s ever-evolving product line now includes crates to fit many functions; from housing your LP collection to storing your favourite bottles of wine. Right now, they also wholesale to a growing list of boutique stores, u-brews, vineyards and grocery stores across British Columbia, one of the retail stores being famous handmade bath and body cosmetics company, LUSH. We contacted Archie Pateman, co-founder of Cumberland Crate Company to nail down just what makes crates so cool these days.
TT: Archie, Cumberland Crate Company has really grown quite rapidly. Could you tell us the story behind the company and the inspiration behind Cumberland?
CC: Cumberland is a small town on Vancouver Island BC. We wanted to create a long lasting wooden product, made with local wood, by local people here in our area. No one was making simple, strong wooden crates in today’s general market, se we decided to. It turns out people want them!
TT: How do you keep your crate solutions sustainable and their designs interesting for these big brands?
CC: We often design custom creations for Saje Natural Wellness and LUSH. They come to us with a specific need and we work with them to find a solution while staying close to our signature design, or look.
TT: We’re really big into crates as a means of sprucing up a space, not just for retail but for homes as well. What are the most popular storage solutions from Cumberland Crate Company right now, for the home?
CC: Our crates are generally used as shelving (as opposed to storage). When I think of storage I picture rubber bins piled up under a bed or in a closet. Our crates are functional to store things in, but they also look great, and people tend to keep them in a more visible space within their homes.
TT: What are the types of crates you would recommend as storage solutions for homes?
CC: We offer a wide range of larger crates. Our Old Funk (designed to house an LP collection) and Funk Jr crates make particularly good storage boxes. We also have an array of smaller crates such as the Pretty Paola and Fast Eddie that do a great job of containing counter top and vanity type clutter.
TT: Why do you think so many people are into hand-made crates these days?
CC: Because they’re tangible. You can actually fix them. If a side comes off or something like that, all you need is a screw or a nail and you’re back in business. They’re also sustainable in the sense that they won’t end up in a land fill somewhere, like most things plastic. Worse comes to worse, and you actually can’t find another use for one of our boxes (after years of use), you have non-toxic wood in your hands but the good news is, you can build something else with the components, or start a bon fire!
TT: Haha! What’s the typical process behind the making of a vintage wooden crate and what types of wood are best? Do you use recycled wood?
CC: We do not use recycled wood for a few reasons: First, because we pride ourselves on the consistency of our products. Secondly, we couldn’t get our crates to the general public at such great prices if we were to add the extra processing time that using recycled wood would add. Our wood is all BC wood, and a lot of it is actually from local mills. We create zero waste with the materials that we use. Off-cuts from bigger crates become smaller crates, and so on until we have tiny pieces that feed the fire that dries the non-toxic stain that we use to antique the crates.
TT: Tell us more about your signature crates and bestsellers.
CC: We have a line of crates that runs the gamut of day to day functionality. The Old Funk houses at least 100 LPs and stacks on it’s side to display your collection, the Flying Frenchman fits on the back of a cruiser bike and has a specially designed Growler Compartment for your favourite craft beer. Pretty Paola is a small crate often used in bathrooms to hold miscellaneous beauty products and Fast Eddie is a sleek little crate often used on counter tops to cut down on clutter. Funk Jr is perfect for kids toys (and is legal document sized for those that want to replace file cabinets for something cooler). The Farmer Rod and Lil’ Rod crates are our standard, stackable apple crates. Boozy Ben has 12 compartments and can safely hold 12 bottles of wine or beer. All of our crates are reinforced and built to last. The bottoms will never give out, etc. The crates age really well too! They look cooler with age. We offer the crates in natural wood or with our special Antique solution. This is a non-toxic stain that we use to give new crates an old look right out of the gates.
TT: How can buyers outside of North America get their hands on Cumberland Crate Company’s products? Are there plans to expand to Europe or Asia in the future or build an online store?
CC: We are in the process of getting our crates to an international market. We’re happy to mail crates anywhere in the world. Ask your favourite boutique, bike shop, grocery store, etc if they carry Cumberland Crate Company crates. If they don’t, I suggest that they should!