We've all seen those amazing Art Deco style radio cabinets hanging out in the back of the local antique store. While they once held the all-important radio, today they seem like a pretty relic of the past. With their fluted decorations and lovely hardware, there's no denying antique radio cabinets are gorgeous, but they cry out for repurposing. Unless you live in a castle, things also need to be functional to take up valuable floor space.
Turns out, there are some creative and cool ways to repurpose radio cabinets to make them stylish and useful at the same time. From an adorable retro pet bed to a repurposed antique radio cabinet home bar, our ideas are just as groovy as the tunes that once came out of these old beauties.
Transform an Antique Radio Cabinet Into a Display Shelf
Radio cabinets sometimes sit on legs that put them at or near eye level, making them the perfect height for a display shelf. They also have tons of space inside, once you remove the old radio and speakers. Replace the speakers with mirrors or fabric panels to show off your style game along with your stuff. You can also use wallpaper, tin ceiling tiles, a contrasting color of wood, or anything else you like.
To turn an old radio into a display piece:
- Add a simple shelf by drilling holes and using shelf pegs to support the shelf.
- Cut the shelf to fit the dimensions of the inside of the cabinet.
- When that's done, sand, prime, and paint the cabinet in your desired colors.
It can be fun to do a distressed look by painting it one color, applying candle wax to the edges, painting it another color, and sanding lightly.
Make a Bar Cabinet Out of an Old Radio
While you might not get daily use from an old radio, let's be honest - you could get a lot of use out of a home bar. Stocked with your alcoholic or non-alcoholic faves, it can become the focal point of your space. This kind of bar cabinet has a ton of retro style appeal. Everyone you have over to your place will be charmed by its adorable functionality.
You can go the shelf route described above or try to turn the super cool retro front of the radio into a cabinet door. Depending on the style of the cabinet, see if you can remove the front panel of the radio intact and add hinges and a clasp. Whether or not you add a door, you can put in shelves to hold your vintage glassware, liquor, and mixers. Don't forget to add hardware for hanging towels and bar tools.
Repurpose a Radio Into a Funky Console Table
One idea for wider old radio cabinets is to turn them into console tables. These can be super functional pieces to have in your entryway or living room, perfect for holding everything from extra hats and mittens to board games or your Pez dispenser collection. Everyone always needs a little more storage, especially when the piece has plenty of cute vintage style.
- Start with an antique radio in a cabinet and remove the actual radio components and speakers.
- Add shelves if you want, and paint the cabinet a pretty color.
- Replace speakers with fabric or rattan panels to give it more style.
- Add a contrasting top made from wood or marble for a high-end look.
Flip an Old Radio Case to Make a Pet Bed
Mid-century stereo cabinets and radios often had tops that could slide or lift to allow you to access components like record players. Even if you're not into listening to vinyl, this feature is super useful for accessing and changing pet bedding.
To turn an old radio into a cozy bed for your furry friend:
- Remove all electrical components and radio equipment.
- Replace the speakers with screens or mesh to allow plenty of air flow inside the cabinet and leave the front of the cabinet open so your pet can access his new bedroom.
- Paint the entire cabinet in any color that matches your decor and add a comfy bed inside the cabinet.
Give a Boring Cabinet a Trippy Paint Job
Although it isn't technically repurposing, you can upcycle an old radio cabinet into a funky piece of furniture. If you have an old record player or radio cabinet with a lot of wear or staining, you can take it from meh to marvelous with a modern custom paint job. This is an awesome way to make the piece functional and super cool at the same time.
Before you try this transformation, remove all electronic components. Replace the speakers with thin wood panels. Add shelves if the piece doesn't already have them. Prime everything and paint it in bright, fun designs. Mod or psychedelic patterns can be especially funky.
Repurpose a Radio Cabinet as a Nightstand
Another great idea for an old radio cabinet is to transform it into a nightstand. This is a perfect way to use a smaller radio - and by "small," we mean not gigantic dresser-sized freestanding units. Old radios designed to sit on counters or tables make great starting points. Look for one that's wood so you can paint it any color you like or leave it with its original finish.
To turn an ugly and outdated piece of audio equipment into a super cool nightstand:
- Remove the speakers and radio components.
- Pick up some cool furniture legs from your local home store and screw them to the bottom of the case.
- Add a drawer if you want more storage.
How to Remove the Radio From a Cabinet
When it comes to vintage radio cabinets, repurposing often means gutting the actual radio and speakers. Every antique radio is different, so you'll need to take a minute to look carefully at what you have before you get in there with the screwdriver and wire cutters. Follow this basic process to get that radio cabinet you scored ready for a whole new life as something else.
- Start by looking at the knobs. In many cases, you can't get at the inside of the radio with the knobs in place. See if there are small screws on the sides of the knobs, which you can unscrew to remove the entire knob.
- After you've taken off any knobs you can, it's time to look for some screws for the cabinet itself. You might find them on the back of the cabinet, on the underside, or even underneath the legs of the case.
- Unscrew the screws and open the cabinet. The radio components will be screwed inside it. Remove the screws holding these in place and take the parts out. You may need to cut wires connecting these parts to the speaker.
- The speaker is often held in place with screws, too. Take those out and remove the speaker if you are planning to replace it with another material when you repurpose the cabinet.
Value of Antique Radios
Scoring a great deal on an old radio is the first step in your repurposing project. You can buy them at flea markets, garage sales, antique shops, and in online classified ads. You may even see one sitting curbside for free if you're lucky and have a sharp eye. While these old beauties are definitely worth something, there are a bunch of factors that can affect just how much an old radio is worth.
- Functionality - Retro audio equipment is definitely having a moment. Some people value antique radios for their original purpose, and functional radios tend to be worth more.
- Beauty - A pretty radio cabinet tends to be worth more than an ugly one, all other factors being equal. Especially when it comes to repurposing, an attractive cabinet is important.
- Age and style - Older radios are often worth more than newer ones, but this isn't the most important factor. If the cabinet is iconic for the era, such as a super sleek and futuristic design that's so mid-century modern it stops you in your tracks, it's often more valuable.
- Condition - In addition to whether it functions, the general condition of the radio and cabinet can affect how much it's worth. Cracks in the cabinet, stains or worn areas on the wood, and other damage can decrease the value.
Antique radios in cabinets can range from under a hundred dollars to a few thousand. If you're hoping to flip one as an upcycling project, look for one that's not functional as a radio and potentially in rough shape cosmetically. A coat of paint can work wonders to cover stains and damage to the cabinet, and you can transform something ugly into a work of retro art.
Creative and Sustainable Decor
Most vintage radio repurposing projects are totally doable with a few simple tools and supplies. They're also a great way to show off your love for Art Deco design and retro style without shelling out for more expensive pieces. If you can make a pretty old radio do double duty as a functional piece of furniture and an object of art while keeping it out of the landfill, it's win-win. Everyone who stops by your place will be impressed by your creativity and sustainable home decor.