23 Stylish Radiator Cover Ideas to Hide Your Home’s Old, Ugly Radiators

published Apr 7, 2020
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If you live in an older home or apartment, you probably know that radiators don’t exactly add aesthetic appeal. But have you ever wondered what exactly you can do to make these practical items look a tad bit prettier? Whether you’re able to take on a large-scale DIY or just are looking to make a small, quick fix, these smart radiator cover ideas are sure to inspire you. 

If you have questions and concerns about the safest way to create, install, and maintain a radiator cover, then you’ve also come to the right place. Stephany Smith of the London-based Fantastic Services notes that for steam radiators, metal is not the best option. “The reason behind this is that the steam radiators are hotter than the other types,” she says. “Radiator covers act like a barrier, so they are not as hot as the bare radiators. But under extreme heating conditions, the metal form can deteriorate and lose its aesthetic properties. It also poses the risk of burning, if touched, especially if the metal sheet is thin.” 

What Should a Radiator Cover Be Made Of? 

The only safe and durable metal options are heavy gauge, which has a gauge number over 18. But Smith prefers wooden radiator covers, as they are an excellent insulator and less hot to the touch, which is a nice safety feature if you have small children or pets. 

If you’re on a budget, she recommends MDF as a material, which is often smoother than solid hardwoods and can also be painted. “No matter if you opt for MDF, wood, veneer plywood, or other material, your first step is to measure out the area around your radiator,” says Smith. To ensure free air circulation and enough space to fit the cover, she suggests adding two to three inches to your radiator’s dimensions. 

How to Design a Radiator Cover

Stylistically, radiator cover ideas run the gamut. “When you make a custom radiator cabinet, the grate opening on the front panel is entirely up to your preference,” says Smith. “You can add aluminum, rattan, cane, or whatever grate you like.” Decorative metal grills with laser-cut designs, for example, come in various styles and create an extra touch of sophistication. “Best of all, high-quality materials allow fantastic heat output and are saving you from direct burns and injuries,” says Smith. 

Here are some general guidelines to creating and adhering a radiator cover: 

  • Use non-toxic glue: The easiest way to attach a cover to the front panel is to use a non-toxic, professional glue that bonds to multiple surfaces. Smith says to place the metal screening inside of the front panel and secure the middle part in place with a staple gun. If you want to go with a string grill, be sure to use only natural materials like linen, wool, rattan, cane. Using artificial products here can burn and cause a safety risk.
  • Add a shelf: To round out your cover display, consider creating a shelf on top of it. Again, wood is an excellent choice for covering the top of your cover and can create a cozy look.
  • Finish it off with paint: Finally, you can lay a coat of paint on the radiator cover in a color of your choice. 

Radiator Cover Ideas

Now that you know the ins and outs of radiator cover construction and safety, here are some decorative radiator cover ideas that you can consider for your own home.

Credit: Olivia Muenter

1. Repurpose a marble sink top.

When Olivia Muenter came upon a marble top from an antique wash stand, she knew the piece would perfectly complement the radiator in the front entryway of her historic upstate New York home. Now, the radiator doubles as a console table and is an excellent place to set down keys and display small trinkets. 

2. Or give a marble cutting a new life.

Even a small marble cutting can work wonders, turning an ordinary radiator into a functional shelf. Style the top marble piece so that it complements your aesthetic — here, ceramic pots fit right into this neutral living room full of textures.

3. Utilize wood paneling.

Looking to cover up a radiator in your entryway? Use wood paneling to design a radiator cover that will hide your piece while also serving as a spot to corral essential items or make a statement with decor — in this case, candlesticks — for a warm welcome. 

Credit: Amy Lamb

4. Get creative with paint, wallpaper, and art.

Nicholas Carl, the founder of Nicholas Carl Design, built this radiator frame cover out of poplar, added an aluminum screen to the front, and coated the piece in Benjamin Moore Super White spray paint. The addition of black and white artwork and Cole & Son Plume Wallpaper draws the eye upward and adds visual interest to this nook.

Credit: Francesca Stone

5. Built a wooden slatted cover.

Francesca Stone, the founder of Fall for DIY, wanted to cover an old radiator positioned below her TV. “I love the slat wood trend and decided to utilize it to allow for air flow to and from the radiator while also hiding it in a visually pleasing way,” she explains, noting that the frame she built can be easily removed if necessary. She attached each individual slat using a nail gun and placed a shelf on top of the piece to create a stylish vignette.

Credit: Jared_Kuzia

6. Coordinate your radiator cover with your walls.

This radiator is situated in a mudroom, and designer Sarah Cole, the founder of Sarah Cole Interiors, wanted the cover to allow for space to set mail or charge phones. She had her cabinet maker finish the cover to correspond with the beadboard paneling across the room. “A solid brass grille on the front lets heat out while keeping the radiator hidden from view and complements the lighting and hardware in the room,” Cole says. 

Credit: Kara Mercer

7. Design a shelf.

Designer Amy Vroom, founder of The Residency Bureau, had a radiator cover made to replicate the existing millwork in this Tudor home’s entryway. “The shelf serves as a drop zone for keys or sunglasses,” she shares. 

8. DIY some wooden panels.

Create a Scandi-chic radiator cover with a bunch of thin wooden strips like @foreverhome_no1 did. She painted her DIY radiator cover with light-colored paint, but black or even a natural wood tone would also work for this minimalist project. 

9. Cover it with caning.

Blogger Benita Larsson created the beautiful solution pictured above using caning that is often used for crafts, and the result couldn’t be more minimalist-chic. Just be sure to take the appropriate precautions before beginning your project, Smith notes. “Cane should be soaked for 40 minutes or more in hot water before you stretch it securely to the radiator cover frame. Thus, it’s not only easily manageable, but the material will not be prone to the risks of temperature changes.”

Credit: Linda Duffy

10. Weave it into a shelving unit.

Why not turn your radiator into part of a functional storage system? Blogger Linda Duffy did just that, all while incorporating a good old IKEA hack! She was fortunate enough to already have a radiator cover on hand, which she then framed with two small BILLY bookcases that happened to match the cover’s color perfectly. A piece of stained pine on top makes the three separate pieces look more cohesive.

11. Add a bit of fresh paint.

Repainting your radiator, like blogger Kandice of Just the Woods did in her son’s bedroom, can make for a dramatic transformation. Grab a paintbrush and the color of your choosing, and go to town! Latex paint is usually fine for these types of jobs, since you are painting the cover and not the radiator directly.

12. Or test out a new-to-you hue.

Blogger Erin Francois also painted her radiator cover, and the piece now serves as a functional table in her entryway. It’s a great idea to copy if your radiator happens to be near your front door. The soft gray hue looks charming and soothing in contrast to the dark wood door and black tile floors. Her cover has mixed materials — wood and metal, so she used spray paint to tackle both surfaces at the same time. Genius!

Credit: Vikkie Lee

13. Build a fancy cover.

If you’re comfortable with carpentry, you may be able to create this homemade radiator cover by blogger Vikkie Lee. While the project certainly isn’t one for beginners, it’s an excellent option for those who have the time and comfort level for a larger undertaking. The final product looks sleek, stylish, and very unobtrusive in Vikkie’s space.

14. And make another for the bathroom.

Ah, the bathroom radiator: They’re ever-present and can be difficult to work around. Camouflage yours a bit with this DIY cover, which designer Shannon Claire Smith made for her own space. Not only does it look fabulous, it also provides some extra space for storage.

Credit: Tera Janelle

15. Beef up your storage space with a shelf.

Designer Tera Janelle also tackled the radiator in her bathroom, adding a custom-built cover with a top that extends out just a bit on each side of the cover. This new little perch provides a welcome storage spot for bath time essentials.

16. Construct a cover that doubles as a bench.

Blogger Erin Kestenbaum had the creative idea to turn the many radiators in her home into beautiful window benches. While doing so is a multi-step process, who wouldn’t fall head over heels with the gorgeous end product? If you can turn your radiators into built-ins, this is a win-win, since you’re utilizing an eyesore that’s otherwise dead space.

Credit: Nat Rea

17. Or simply slide an existing bench into place.

Not up for a building project? If you find a bench that just so happens to fit over your radiator anyway, you have an extremely viable, chic, and easy solution right there! In doing just that, designer Rachel Reider added more seating to her living space. Just make sure there’s enough clearance above your radiator, as Smith suggested with constructing a radiator cover. This will keep both your bench and home safe.

Credit: Jules

18. Remove a bench’s legs for a minimalist cover.

Jules of IKEA Hackers offers one more clever take on the radiator-turned-bench. Remove two of the bench legs and slide it over the radiator to allow it to sit flush to the wall. This is an excellent budget-friendly and minimalist take on this solution. It almost looks like a cool sculptural piece, since the radiator blends in so well with the bench’s legs.

Credit: Christina

19. Design a sweet shelfie vignette.

This Apartment Therapy before and after once again caught our attention! Blogger Christina of Christina’s Adventures took a few simple steps to turn an ordinary corner into a sweet vignette. The addition of a few small accessories make a major difference in transforming the space, and we love the idea of a grate that contrasts the rest of the cover so starkly, as seen in this charcoal gray-and-white combo.

Credit: Marian Parsons

20. Create a full-on shelving unit.

We love how the radiator cover in Marian Parsons’ bathroom also features built-in shelving. Storage has never looked so adorable, and the setup certainly helps the radiator better blend into the space.

21. Try a fast, budget-friendly fix.

It’s impossible to resist a DIY project that only costs $5, especially when it makes a major difference! Blogger Amanda Paxton created a radiator shelf on the cheap using supplies that you can easily pick up at your local hardware store or home center. You don’t have to create a full cover to make your radiator look a little bit better.

22. Say yes to wood panels.

Another AT before & after showcases how much a little TLC can totally transform a small mudroom. The wooden radiator cover plays a key role in the makeover, given that it’s one of the first things guests see when they walk in. Just be cautious before committing to such materials, Smith advises. “Materials that are not checked and do not meet the fire safety standards are not suitable for radiator covers,” she says.

23. The no-cover cover.

Don’t have the time or resources to create a cover right now? Then just camouflage your radiator with a coat of paint that matches your walls. Make sure you find a paint that’s suitable for your radiator’s material and heat levels.