While it's hard to dispute the importance of indoor heat (especially as temps start to dip), if you live in an older home whose heat source is a radiator, how to go about integrating it into a stylish interior can be up for debate. Radiators first came onto the scene more than 100 years ago and while they can infuse a bit of old-world nostalgia, they tend to be a real challenge to design around.
Enter the radiator cover which cleverly encases the unit, rendering it more attractive, and the area around it more useful. Ideas run the gamut from incorporating a radiator cover into a piece of furniture — like a sofa or bedside table — to simply utilizing the space above it by adding shelves. They can be purchased, but many people opt to DIY radiator covers for a bespoke look that can accommodate their unconventional location and shape.
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Speaking of ... a radiator's shape will dictate the type of cover you can have. For example, if your radiator is tall and slim, fashioning a bench around it won't be feasible, so consider a design with an extra-deep top that can function as a ledge for photos, plants, or displaying a collection of decor instead. The most popular radiator covers are made from wood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is embraced for its ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and stability under the ebb and flow of extreme heat. Covers can also be made from heavy-gauge metal — a gauge over 18 — which can be difficult to cut and work with, so if you desire a metal radiator cover, you may want to leave that to the professionals. Also, remember that a metal cover will be hot to the touch so there is a higher risk for burning children, unsuspecting adults, and pets. While this is a big disadvantage, metal covers do conduct heat better than wood which actually insulates heat — so if your primary goal is maximizing warmth, a metal cover may be the way to go.
Ready to get started? Scroll on for 15 radiator cover ideas that are downright genius.
The 15 Best Radiator Cover Ideas
1. Upcycle an old radiator cover.
Like the idea of a radiator cover, but don't want to spend loads of cash? Follow the lead of Erin from Francois et Moi and breathe new life into an old one by turning it into a window bench. This approach might take a little bit of time and patience, but eventually, you'll be able to find one that works for you and your space. Try looking for a gently used radiator cover online at Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or IRL at local yard sales and thrift stores.
2. Buy a brand new radiator cover.
If refurbishing a gently used radiator cover isn't on your bucket list, you can always buy a brand new one. For example, this narrow decorative cover from Wayfair comes in a few different colors and is easy enough to slide over your existing radiator to give your space a fresh new makeover. Pro tip: If you don't like any of the colors, you can always paint it to match your home decor.
3. Build a window seat.
If you have a long radiator under a window that sits low to the ground, consider building a window seat. The team over at Rift Cabinetry did just that in this living room. Not only does the clever idea completely hide the radiator, but it also provides additional seating and built-in shelving on either side to keep books at the ready whenever the homeowners fancy a good read.
4. Make a plant shelf.
DIY radiator cover ideas don't have to be difficult and time-consuming. In fact, it can be as easy as putting a piece of wood down on top of the radiator, transforming it into a plant shelf. (Although we suggest mounting your makeshift floating shelf to the wall, right above the radiator, to eliminate possible fire hazards.) And thanks to the natural beauty of your verdant foliage, no one will even notice the radiator.
5. Cover it with a bench.
Becca of Malmo & Moss actually replaced the existing radiator with a new low-height option, which afforded her more opportunities in her entryway — such as adding a minimalist bench. Covered by an unfinished wood perch, the radiator pretty much fades into the background. If you, or someone you know, is a crafty woodworker, you can have your seating tailor-made to fit your home. If not, you can shop around for an off-the-shelf bench that could work.
6. Add bookshelves.
Everyone could use a little extra storage space, so why not solve two problems at once by hanging a few shelves right above your radiator? We know, this stylishly functional idea doesn't hide the radiator, but it does distract from it. In this light-filled space, the shelving is stocked with a colorful collection of throw pillows that draws the eyes.
7. Design a bookcase for toy storage.
Take inspiration from this kid's bedroom by Chango & Co. and hide an ugly radiator with a custom bookcase that functions as toy storage and also factors in their safety. This way you'll have more room to stash your kiddo's playthings, and you won't have to worry about your little one getting too close to the radiator.
8. Hide it behind caned detailing.
Not sure about you, but this radiator cabinet idea is hands down one of our favorites. Sofia from Mokkasin built a Scandi-chic cabinet, complete with a caned panel in the front, to hide her radiator. If we didn't know any better we'd think it was just another piece of furniture in a well-styled home. And bonus, the top can be used to showcase an assortment of collected treasures.
9. Use paint to your advantage.
You can always paint your radiator cover (or just the radiator itself) plus the wall in the same color so that they blend together. That's usually less work than buying or making something to cover it up, which might just draw more attention to it. This is an especially good idea if your radiator is slim and more modern — the larger variety can't hide in plain sight quite as easily. In this home by design team Massuco Warner, the narrow design almost goes completely unnoticed. The eye-catching artwork hanging above doesn't hurt either.
10. Disguise it as a wood cabinet.
Prospect Refuge Studio built a custom wood radiator cover for this sitting area, resulting in the perfect display space for a few thoughtfully chosen trinkets. The wood is a near-perfect match to the millwork around the window, resulting in a seamless and high-end finish. Does anyone else feel like this cozy corner is calling you to sit and stay for a while?
11. Don't hide it at all.
If all else fails, don't try to hide your radiator — instead, embrace the old-school charm it brings to your pad with a coat of paint. Dabito from Old Brand New did just that by opting for an easy DIY project. By painting his radiator in an extremely vibrant shade of yellow, he effectively turned it into a bold design moment that's guaranteed to grab everyone's attention.
12. Make it elegant with luxe materials.
The surest way to introduce a dash of sophistication to the utilitarian radiator is with a cover that flaunts high-end materials. In this bathroom by Hughes Studio, a marble ledge sits on top of the cover to maximize storage in a spatially challenged setup while adding a timeless and glam touch.
13. Configure it into a bedside table.
Marry form and function with a radiator cover that pulls double duty as an elongated bedside table. Liz Caan encased the heating element in this eclectic bedroom with a cover featuring traditional details, giving it a thoughtful and purposeful look that enhances the overall decor scheme.
14. Create a cozy kitchen nook.
Create an idyllic seating nook without impinging on natural light or adding visual clutter by incorporating a low, built-in radiator-covered bench. This airy and elevated kitchen by Ivey Design Group maximized space by turning a potentially unused corner into the perfect low-slung seat. A decorative vent adds a subtle dose of pattern.
15. Fashion a pint-sized perch.
Mask an awkward or unfavorable radiator location by hiding it behind a cover that blends seamlessly into the background. A radiator in this well-appointed cook space by Still Stars would distract from the refined and minimalist aesthetic, but a hinged cover that doubles as a perch for a handful of tasteful objects look like it was always meant to be there.
Radiator Cover Installation and Maintenance
A radiator cover is essentially a three-sided box with a lid that requires perforations or slats in the face to let the heat escape. Known as a grill or grate, it can be made from a variety of materials including wood, caning, rattan, or even laser-cut from radiator tin. A unique grate lends a welcome decorative touch to an otherwise utilitarian object. Keep in mind that radiator covers require good ventilation to allow heat to escape and to maintain energy efficiency. Leave at least two to three inches around a radiator so you don't impede airflow. You can increase the efficiency of your radiator by installing a reflective backing or panel behind it before you place the cover on. Radiator reflector panels reflect heat back into a room and prevent it from seeping out the back.
Before you embark on a DIY radiator cover project, the first thing you'll need to do is measure the radiator, adding at least 2 to 3 inches to those measurements. Gather your tools, which include:
Things You'll Need
Wood of choice
Paint and primer
Radiator tin in the pattern of your choice
Miter saw (or hand saw)
Tin snips or another material for the grate
Detailed instructions on how to build a radiator cover can be found here.
On the plus side, radiator covers maintain the cleanliness of the top and sides of the heating element, which has a deserved reputation of being very difficult to clean when the dust settles into the fins and crevices. Cleaning a radiator cover is much easier thanks to its flat surfaces: When the cover has cooled down, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth. Dust that settles onto the grate can be vacuumed off, or, depending on the material, you can remove the cover entirely and hose it off outside.
Radiator covers offer a clever way to disguise the utilitarian feature, protect against burning accidents, make cleaning a bit easier, and reclaim the lost space surrounding them. They can be purchased off-the-shelf, outsourced to a professional, or tackled by DIY enthusiasts as a weekend project. Add personal flair with the addition of decorative grates, paint, and custom woodwork.