My new shoe storage solution: the apple crate.

Our shoe crates after adding LIFE. COLOUR. BIJOU. @bijoukaleidoscope

For almost a year now, I have been miserable about our shoe storage solution. I am Chinese Malaysian, so I have been brought up in a culture that frowns upon wearing shoes in the home. Even more untenable is the largely-Western practice of storing shoes in closets next/near clean clothes, underwear and the like.

Though I left Malaysian shores for Australia more than 15 years ago and have been with my Irish Australian partner/husband for nearly 14 years, this practice continues. In our 9 homes (yes, nine), our shoes have remained stacked/racked/shelved just inside the threshold.

Of course, as our income has grown, so have the quality and amount of shoes; though we’re anything but shoe-collectors. Furthermore, now that we’re a family of four, shoes have multiplied.

So our once-adequate wrought iron shelves isn’t adequate at all now.

This is our ‘before’:

… Complete with little Jasmine doing… well, what she does.

Jasmine caught red handed doing what she used to do 4-5 times a day: destroying our shoe rack @bijoukaleidoscope

Jasmine caught red handed doing what she used to do 4-5 times a day: destroying our shoe rack @bijoukaleidoscope

See the cloth tacked behind the rack? We were renting this place so had to protect the wall from the dirt and smudges. (And it works.)

I’d been desperate for over year for something better, something more substantial, but something unique. Scouring Pinterest, Google and the blogs, of course, there were many looks, but mainly two categories: open shelving and close-doored shelving, be it armoires, cupboards or cabinets. Shoe cabinets like this, abound everwhere:

But of course, for me, it was too oatmeal. I’d been drawn to the idea of repurposing a glassed bookcase or pigeonhole-style vintage/antique piece for shoe-storage:

Beautiful antique cabinet used for shoes, in event designer and decorator Ken Fulk's House in San Francisco, as featured in Architectural Digest

Beautiful antique cabinet used for shoes, in event designer and decorator Ken Fulk’s House in San Francisco, as featured in Architectural Digest

A beautiful Sheraton cabinet used to store and display beautiful shoes, Roséline Lohr, founder of blog This is Glamorous, as seen on Marcus Design inc

A beautiful Sheraton cabinet used to store and display beautiful shoes, Roséline Lohr, founder of blog This is Glamorous, as seen on Marcus Design inc

Who we are

But I don’t have these beautiful shoes… bejeweled and 3-5 inch heels :) I don’t really go for them myself (for displaying they are sublime) since my husband’s not tall, I have small bunions and I prefer gorgeous creations like Clark’s new Orla Kiely line.

In thinking (almost obsessively) about our shoe solution storage, I’ve been paying attention to our lifestyles, personalities, shortcomings and habits. We are not a family that lovingly removes shoes off our feet, wipe the shoes down, then opening a glassed door to neatly and proudly arrange them in glassed cabinet.

We are more the sort to come in the front door with bags, toddler and stuff, kick off our shoes, drop our bags and get to kitchen/bedroom/bathroom with all haste.

I know, without a shadow of doubt now, that open shelving is more our style.

Bespoke pale grey shoe shelving

Open shelving for shoes in a walk in robe, via Pinterest

Open shelving for shoes in a walk in robe, via Pinterest

Loving these open shelving solutions, I quickly found that bespoke or vintage pigeonhole cabinets in Australia are rare and cost an arm and a leg. I also had a specific space limitation. It needed to fit the space seen in the top photo of this post, including the depth. Our shoes are roughly 30-35cm deep.

I liked the idea of using a vintage baker’s bread rack for it, something like this:

Bakers' rack, via Restoration Hardware

Bakers’ rack, via Restoration Hardware

Very sleek, neat… but pricey as hell!

I came back to this image time and again. I couldn’t get it out of my mind:

Shoe crates, via Handimania

Shoe crates, via Handimania

It seemed to be the best answer, intuitively. So I toyed around with buying brand new crates, painting/staining them… or having them made… But after weeks of looking for crates, on Gumtree there was someone selling loads of vintage apple crates for AUD$18 each! So I picked some up and got busy.

The Process

After getting the dirty crates, I cleaned them with a soft bristled brush. I also vacuumed it out. I decided (for now) not to coat the crates with a clear lacquer. I placed the boxes in the space… I’m so glad it worked in the space.

My apple crates placed insitu for shoes and boots @bijoukaleidoscope

My apple crates placed insitu for shoes and boots @bijoukaleidoscope

Looks very boring doesn’t it? After staring at it for ages, I figured out what was lacking. LIFE. COLOUR. BIJOU. And I knew exactly what I needed to add to the picture.

BIJOU.

Colours, textures, layers. So I grabbed a sailing oil art piece that I bought recently and some other framed pieces and let that small corner sing. And it worked.

Our shoe crates after adding LIFE. COLOUR. BIJOU. @bijoukaleidoscope

Our shoe crates after adding LIFE. COLOUR. BIJOU. @bijoukaleidoscope

I bought some plastic shelf stackers/helpers/savers from Kmart for $4 which fit perfectly and added precious space for our shoes:

Crates were the right depth for our shoes, but more shelves were needed. @bijoukaleidoscope

Crates were the right depth for our shoes, but more shelves were needed. @bijoukaleidoscope

Kmart plastic shelf helpers for our shoe crates @bijoukaleidoscope

Kmart plastic shelf helpers for our shoe crates @bijoukaleidoscope

The orange wire basket is a favourite answer from Kmart in many areas in our home. I grabbed a spare and it fits perfectly in one crate to hold flip flops and slippers. I used black giant bulldog clips to secure the crates to one another.

Now my vintage apple crate can hold up to 30 pairs of shoes, but the plastic of the white shelves wasn’t working for me. I knew what was needed to zhoosh it up somewhat: bling. In the way of COPPER.

Krylon Brilliance Copper spray paint and my bulldog clips @bijoukaleidoscope

Krylon Brilliance Copper spray paint and my bulldog clips @bijoukaleidoscope

I used Krylon Brilliance Copper spray paint to cover the bulldog clips and the plastic shelves. (Warning: quite a love of spray cans were used… alot is wasted because these items are essentially just wires!) Love it.

The best bit

I saved the last for the best.

Sides of my vintage apple crates @bijoukaleidoscope

Sides of my vintage apple crates @bijoukaleidoscope

My apple crates all have these awesome apple labels on them. All very old. The guy I bought it from said when he purchased the house, he found stacks and stacks of these crates in the shed, all dusty, old and not moved for many years. I made sure my husband selected those with good labels.

But they needed preserving:

These old apple crates were used over and over again, see the different layers of stickers? @bijoukaleidoscope

These old apple crates were used over and over again, see the different layers of stickers? @bijoukaleidoscope

Barely there, this colourful sticker @bijoukaleidoscope

Barely there, this colourful sticker @bijoukaleidoscope

I knew right away that the best thing for it was Mod Podge, a PVA-based glue, primarily used for decoupage projects. I was nervous about this, because Mod Podge relies on the surface being very clean… and I really wanted to preserve all the existing paper as best I could. Still I lightly vacuumed it with the brush attachment and wiped it clean with a lightly damp cotton cloth. After waiting for it to dry as best as possible, I began decoupaging the sides. After three layers (you got to wait for each layer to dry), the labels looked very vibrant. Now they are protected forever (Mod Podge cannot be removed).

The sides of my beautiful shoe storage crate shelving @bijoukaleidoscope

The sides of my beautiful shoe storage crate shelving @bijoukaleidoscope

The Mod Podge makes the labels more vibrant. I walk by and touch them.

Walla!

I love my solution. I hope your journey towards a more-you-home continues… as mine does :)

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The Woman behind the Blog

Welcome to my blog! It’s such a pleasure having you here.

What are you inspired by? I am inspired by beautiful and bright interiors, fabric, furniture, pinks, yellows, greens, chairs, china, trees, chocolate, peonies, hydrangeas, cherry blossoms, roses and rhubarb with cream.

Friends and family call me drey (pronounced 'dree'... short for Audrey) and I can often be found zipping through op-shops and vintage stores in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

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