small improvement: rattan radiator cover.

October 19, 2021

We have four small radiators in our apartment, though for most winter days, the heat pipes servicing them would be plenty to heat the apartment. When we moved in, the radiator in the kids’ room had a simple wooden and perforated aluminum cover which was serviceable enough, but which left plenty of room for improvement. The stained wood didn’t match the painted trim and the faux-brass aluminum was unstapled in spots leaving the sheet dented in some places and bulging in others. I painted the wooden surround and the aluminum sheet as a first attempt at cleaning it up a bit, but when Calder pushed the whole sheet inward while learning to stand last winter, I decided I’d look for something to replace it. Just in time for the heat to turn on this fall, I found it. This is a small improvement that’s fairly specific to our needs, but a variation on this fix might prove useful to folks facing a similar dilemma, so here are the details:

When the radiators turned off last spring, I removed the aluminum sheet entirely and lived with it open for months before deciding on a solution. First I considered drilling simple holes in a sheet of thin plywood and painting the whole thing to look more like cabinetry. (Similar to what I did with this old dresser.) I love the simple design on these pierced pantry doors designed by deVOL kitchens and wondered if I could replicate it with enough holes for venting, but I was concerned that veneered plywood and high heat might not be an ideal combination and decided to look elsewhere. For a while I toyed with the idea of a using galvanized steel hardware cloth, but predicted that it might heat up and that little fingers would as easily find their way through it, and I worried it might read as something that should be in a country kitchen, or worse, a barnyard. I decided to skip that too. Finally, I decided to try a sheet of natural rattan. With this option, I was slightly worried about dating the room in the wrong era, but I chose a natural radio weave rattan with a square webbing, which I think ultimately feels simple and subtle enough.

The rattan ships rolled and so I soaked it for about thirty minutes to make it soft and pliable before installing. To secure it to the wooden frame, I used a staple gun and made sure to pull the rattan taut as I fastened it into place. A few hours later the rattan was dry and the sheet had tightened like a drum over the opening of the cover.

It was a small improvement with immediate room-changing results, which is all I could really hope for.

Do you have genius radiator solutions? Tell me!

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  • Reply Megan October 19, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    We have in floor vents in our main living spaces and also the room out kids share. They pull out easily and aren’t attached to the floor. Currently looking for solutions that will prevent my toddlers from sticking toys, books, underwear, whatever down in them hopefully I’ll find an easy and somewhat elegant (and inexpensive) solution 🙂

    • Reply Rachel November 1, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Megan, we used some old screens under the vents that prevented most drop-throughs in ours! Not exactly elegant, but relatively unnoticeable and definitely inexpensive. Good luck!

  • Reply shila m October 20, 2021 at 1:00 am

    love the look!

  • Reply Katharine October 20, 2021 at 6:05 am

    This looks so nice! Definitely not dated at all, just a pretty, airy-looking solution.

  • Reply Elizabeth October 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

    All the elements in the room go really well together. I always think whoever gets the apartment after you is lucky.

  • Reply Steph October 20, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    it looks beautiful and now i really want to use that rattan for a project that i have yet to dream up!
    i don’t know if this classifies as genius but we have large radiators / i live upstate where i need all the heat so i wouldn’t cover them (i do not miss overly hot nyc apts :)) – i place some tiles on top and now they’re at least a functional surface for books, flowers, etc. a peek here:

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 20, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      genius in my book!

  • Reply Christie October 20, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    Your kids’ room makes me cry. We have three small ones (each about 2 years older than yours) in one room, and their room is a disaster. We have paired down their toys to just a few: some lovies, some blocks, some magna-tiles. I’ve made bags for everything and put them in a nice box. Books have a nice bookshelf. The room has the potential to look like yours but everything goes everywhere! Their clothes get pulled out of the closet and drawers and thrown around. Costumes pulled out and thrown around. Blocks become projectiles and leave dents in the walls. Books are piled in beds. And my middle one is a hoarder of paper and books, and loves to craft with paper and it all ends up in tiny pieces everywhere. What’s your secret?

    • Reply Sara October 20, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      You’re not alone, Christie! Kids, man.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 20, 2021 at 9:11 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about the tears! For starters, it’s probably good to remember that in terms of this particular photo, this is my job! I cleaned up this room and shifted things around and hauled out my camera and editing the photos to compensate for the darker afternoon light and tried my best to get a shot that felt as free and airy and bright as I hope the room feels in its best moments! It’s part aspirational even to me! This evening the room was littered with a lounging(?) unicorn figurine my kid traded for her lip gloss (!!!) at school and tiny badges (?!?) she decided to cut up into smaller than dime sized pieces in hopes of trading and scoring more loot which I can only hope comes in the form of more small plastic unicorns and not another child’s used lip gloss! Kids are magpies and also gross and we can all only do our best. My secret is probably at least 1/2 being generally more averse to mess than most people and 1/4 being committed to cleaning everything up each night so that the books are back on the shelves and the clothes are put away and blocks are returned to boxes and 1/4 spending half the morning reminding children that they have yet to return their pajamas to their bin or put their underwear in the hamper, or put the books they were reading back on the shelf, etc. We also have blocks as projectiles and boogers on walls and mysterious greasy smears on bedsheets.

  • Reply Milou October 20, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    I think it looks lovely! We are in a prewar with metal radiator covers that I hate and this gives me some inspiration!

  • Reply Jess October 21, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    Love the little wooden doll house! Where is that from?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 22, 2021 at 8:46 am

      We gave the dollhouse to our kids for Christmas a few years ago. It’s made by Ferm Living.

  • Reply Lainey October 23, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    My kids had the same play kitchen and played with it so much! I was almost crying when I had to get rid of it because we remodeled our storage area (granted, our youngest had also just turned 18, haha…:) )

  • Reply Amanda Loftis October 25, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Do these not get hot from the heat coming through? Is the rattan heat-safe?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 25, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      They do get warm, just like the metal grates, but there are several inches between the rattan and wooden box and the radiator so there’s not a risk of fire.

  • Reply Kate F October 25, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    This looks great! I actually bought a cabinet from Target that fit the right specs and left the bottom and shelf out. I lined it with fire proof insulation and installed a fan in the top to draw the heat out. It took some planning but it worked well.

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