Visit any flea market, and you’ll likely see rows or stacks of them—vintage letters in nearly every color, size and style you can imagine. You’ll find large, plastic, block-type letters that once resided on gas station signs. Sturdy metal letters from store signs, many in retro fonts. Wooden letters, some teeny-tiny, once used to print newspapers. Or marquee letters that just might still have the ability to light up.
Besides providing personality, the other bonus to buying vintage letters? They’re rarely expensive—anywhere from $1 to $50 per letter.
Whether you’re filling up a wall or perfecting shelf décor, vintage letters can creatively proclaim your unique tastes. Here are 10 ways to do just that.
01 of 10
Decorating with letters isn’t a new trend (you may have had your initials spelled out in your teenage bedroom), but decorating with vintage letters lends a fresh take, a “you won’t find these anywhere else” feel. You can spotlight a favorite quote. Jumble them up on a wall to create your own sort of chaotic alphabet. Or you could even hang up your initials once again.
02 of 10
Describe Your Space
Vintage-style letters, like the ones here from B Vintage, crafted from weathered wood, can be a charming descriptive element in any room. The word “EAT” can be hung up in a dining room or kitchen, “FAMILY” works in a living room, while “LOVE” might be a sweet detail in a nursery.
03 of 10
Take It Outside
These letters from lotmarie on Instagram, are built to last in the outdoors, so why not hang a letter above your garden, on a porch or on your patio? It can bring an industrial look to an otherwise soft, green area.
04 of 10
Display a Phrase
With enough collected vintage letters, like the ones shown above from rescuedliving on Instagram, you can put together a favorite phrase or quote on a wall. There’s really no wrong way to do this—mismatched colors and sizes, staying in the same color family, using different fonts—it all works. For an added level of whimsy, gather letters in wildly varying sizes.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Accent an Empty Space
If you have a wall, a corner or a portion of flooring that just calls for something, and you can’t quite put your finger on it, try standing up or leaning a vintage letter in that spot. Gietemuis from Instagram shows us how it's done here. The height can fill that white space, and act as a distinctive conversation piece as well. Complement the décor by featuring a letter that fits in the color palette.
06 of 10
Many vintage letters tend to have an industrial quality, rendered in hard-edged metals, stark hues or even old wiring. Embrace the rigidity of these letters by juxtaposing them with organic items. Place an old neon letter alongside a diminutive potted plant. If there’s an opening on top of a letter, use it as a makeshift vase for branches and florals. Or even try growing a succulent in one.
07 of 10
Fill a Bowl
For a one-of-a-kind bowl filler, turn to a heap of small vintage letters. Here, cement letters from evassunday on Instagram harmonize with the gray bowl, but this could also work if you use mini plastic letters or letterpress blocks. Either way, it’s an unexpected way to show off your collection.
08 of 10
Add Interest to a Gallery Wall
Vintage letters can speak all on their own when they’re the star of a wall, but if you hang them up next to artwork, photos or decorative items in contrasting textures, they serve as a way to enhance the character of a gallery wall. For example, you could spell out a word like “TRAVEL” among your vacation photos, or just include a few letters here and there. Tumbleweedpress from Instagram pulls this off effortlessly with their letterpress collection.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Showcase Small Objects
Tiny typeface letters can be just the thing for petite displays or printer’s drawers. The fact that they’re backward is a unique touch, and they play nicely with other small-scale objects, like seashells or little vintage treasures. Stephanie Morrison behind acquiringdesign on Instagram pulls this off beautifully with her antique printing shop items.
10 of 10
Bookend Your Favorite Reads
Use weighted, substantial vintage letters as bookends, punctuating your beloved tomes. They’re much more interesting than run-of-the-mill bookends, and you could look to your initials or a sentiment like the “XO" bookends shown above from KariAnne at Thistlewood Farm. If you’re searching for a bit of personality without going over the top, vintage letters are a lovely addition to a shelf, or for that matter, anywhere else in your home.