Tips on Decorating with Vintage Fruit Crate Labels

Selecting an Item

Here at The Label Man, we generally ship more packages to decorators than collectors. You can't beat antique seed packets for the kitchen wall, or vintage fruit crate labels for the kitchen, dining area or breakfast nook. A grouping of antique crate labels can be a focal point of any living area.  We’ve framed a King Pelican lettuce crate label for our kitchen - the black frame, gold trim and white matt really brought out the rich colors of the label and this accent piece really tied the room together.

Another special part about decorating with seed packets or fruit crate labels is that you will be interacting with living history. These items are the real thing, not a color copy or “art print.” The history behind the items add a special aspect, much more than a simple mass-produced product focused on a decorating trend.

King Pelican Lettuce label


Framing Tips

When we first started selling labels, we would set up at many antique shows and craft fairs.  We would bring some framed items, but mostly just labels in sleeves. We found it was very tough to have the right label, right color matt, and the right type of frame.

Having the framed labels gave some great ideas to people, but they wanted to individualize the decorating project to their own ideas. Ideas ranged in cost saving ideas from pasting labels on boards to using labels to look like crate ends. Other buyers wanted to do custom framing, such as the Tom Cat lemon we have hanging in our living room. Below are a variety of ideas to give you inspiration. New collectors or decorators should be cautious of exposing labels and packets to moisture and direct sunlight.

Tom Cat lemon label


Decorating with Antique Fruit Crate Labels 

When selecting crate labels for a grouping, decorators often choose a theme. Your theme could be animals, scenic views of orchards, labels of a certain color, or from a certain location. We just pick the ones we like. Here’s a photo of a grouping that someone sent us. The labels are various sizes, but by using standard sized frames the makes the display very uniform.

photo of labels of various sizes

If you decide to take the labels to a custom framer, it’s recommended that you spend some time picking out matt colors. A properly chosen matt color will bring out different effects. If you have a quail in the label, you may want to pick a matt color similar to the color of the quail, which will help draw attention to the quail. Our advice would be to try four to five matt colors which are in the label, or similar, to see what effect you like best. If you are undecided, a black or neutral background will work.

By using a matt, you can use standard size frames to cut down on cost. Often, we will find a frame to fit a label, and then have a matt cut. You have the option of cutting a window in the matt or just floating the label on top of the matt. If you have the matt cut, you will lose part of your border. It's also a bit more expensive to have the matt cut, but it’s very nice if it’s done well. 

Keep in mind that many of these labels have their own ornate border and a cut matt may take that away. If you do have some frames and have matt cut to fit the frame, then you can do the rest yourself. You can use stamp hinges or a touch of glue (not too much) to hold the label in place. Notice the Wake-Up tobacco label - we used an old frame we had and had a red matt cut. Although it was very inexpensive, it looks fine with a grouping of vintage items.

Wake-Up tobacco label in an old frame with a red matt

Cooper tape used on borders is also popular and very inexpensive. Personally, we have never used this method, but we've been told you can find the products at a cut glass shop or craft shop. Along the same line, you can have a piece of glass cut to the size of the label, then use a backing and metal clips to hold everything together.

Another option is a black frame, or barn wood around the label without matt. People also paste labels on wood, which wouldn't be recommended for a rarer label. In the past, we have used a water-based paste for this process. You can check with a local craft store to see what they have available. If you do plan on pasting labels on wood or something similar, let us know and we'll throw in some damaged labels you can experiment with.

Lastly, on the longer, narrow labels such as can or grape labels, you can fit two labels in a standard 11-by-14-inch frame. Large poster-sized frames with a group of labels can turn out nice as well.

We've also taken can labels into our local supermarket to find a can the same size and to glue the label to. A stack of vintage can labels glued back on to cans, makes a nice display. We recommend that you empty the product out of the can before applying the label.

Decorating with Antique Seed Packets

Antique vegetable seed packets seem like the natural kitchen décor. We also have antique flower seed packets in one bedroom and one flower packet in a bathroom. 

In the past, we've set up at antique shows and often watched people go through the process of elimination to determine which seed packets to use. These crafters and decorators had packets spread all over the place. 

You probably want to pick a company or a certain time that match well for your seed packet décor. You are going to want to pick your favorite vegetables or flowers and then decide how many you need and in what sequence you want them. Color is important, too - you may want all green vegetables or you could mix in a radish or two.

A vertical or horizontal row of vegetable seed packets for the kitchen is not only very nice décor, they are very easy to coordinate into a certain area. For the side of a long kitchen cabinet, you can use five packets in a row, or use three for a smaller cabinet.

Note the example of some 1910 Burt's Flower seed packets in a white frame with lace over a blue backing. The blue backing pulls out some of the blues in the seed packets. 

Next is a vertical grouping of four Card Seed Company vegetable seed packets. We had someone frame these for us and they bent the flaps on the packets. The paper on these old packets is brittle and cracked so it may have been better to leave the flaps open.

antique seed packets