Design Dilemma: How to decorate around radiators

1/25/2018 12:08:00 pm Unknown 0 Comments

Quite  a specific post today, but one that I know people often agonise over. How do you decorate around radiators? If you're lucky enough to be starting from scratch then you can install underfloor heating and be damned! But most of us don't have that option.

I don't mind the odd radiator myself, but they can be pesky to decorate around.  Here are my suggestions for dealing with some common radiator conundrums.

Radiators and curtain length

There is a reason radiators were typically placed under windows: to keep out drafts. If you have double glazing, then this is unlikely to be a problem, but if you are in an older house, you'll probably want to leave your radiators under the windows. The dilemma then is how to dress your windows (without opting for short curtains. Please don't hang short curtains. Unless perhaps it is a child's bedroom. Or belongs to an ancient relative who you reasonably feel might get tangled up in a full length drape and come a cropper. But even then, there are better options...).

Short curtains make ceilings look lower and windows look squatter. When drawn, half the heat from the radiator goes straight up between the fabric and the glass, meaning they're not hugely efficient either.  Here are some alternative suggestions:

a) Choose simple blinds or shutters. Roman blinds can be interlined for additional warmth too – perfect in older houses.

b) Add full length curtains over the blinds. These can be left open or drawn halfway (with the blinds providing more darkness/privacy). You could save by making long curtains with half the fabric width and leaving them open at all times.

c) Have full length curtains and just stop worrying about it! In our bedroom we have a radiator under our bay window, with full length curtains. It's never really an issue, as we only close them when we go to bed and the heating isn't on then anyway.


d) If you have a large bay window with radiators underneath, you could consider adding a built in window seat, with exposed grills (so much more useable than a regular radiator cover). You will of course have to refer to points a) and b) for covering the window. I've searched for ages for a picture to demonstrate the point, but can't find anything I like enough to include.  Clearly my heart's not fully in this option! One to consider for a playroom or bedroom perhaps.

Lack of wall space for radiators

The modern love of open-plan living has seen plenty of us knock down walls and open out entire floors, only to wonder where on earth the radiators will go! Tall radiators are your answer here.  They can be squeezed into relatively narrow spots, which might not be fit for much else anyway. This room below is the perfect example:

It's best not to skimp on the output of your radiators, you don't want a room that looks beautiful but has everyone running for an extra layer to put on. There are plenty of only calculators that will tell you exactly what output you require for a given size of room (some even take into account construction type, number of windows and ceiling heights to give you an accurate view). Just search for BTU calculator.

Radiators behind the sofa

If your radiator is in an awkward position (often on exactly the wall where you need to put your sofa) then it is worth looking into having it moved, which may not be as expensive as you think. A radiator is undoubtedly less efficient sat behind a huge piece of furniture and won't do the furniture itself much good either. Not to mention that the lines of your amazing Danish sofa are going to be somewhat spoilt by a radiator sticking up behind it!  A little outlay on moving it now could reduce your heating bills in the long run. If moving it is simply not an option, then try placing a console behind your sofa to provide a buffer from the heat (and a ledge for your drink), or at least paint the rad to match the walls.

Radiators built into furniture

This is a fairly elaborate solution, but if you need storage, then why not build around your radiator? This fabulous bookcase is hiding a radiator behind a very minimalist grille (you can just see it peeking out behind the sofa).


Or this simple built-in ledge and log-store arrangement leaves the radiator on show, but provides a shelf for plenty of visual distraction:


Get your paintbrush out

And finally, you could always paint your radiators and make them a feature in their own right, like this gorgeous tomato red radiator below:


And if your radiators are slightly less 'charming victorian' in style and slightly more 'eighties utilitarian' then painting them in the same colour as your walls is a good solution – you're eye won't be drawn to them (like this purple radiator below). It's the solution I've chosen in our hallway and living room, albeit in a slightly more muted colour!

I'd love to have column rads everywhere, but actually I don't really notice them now. Admittedly they're not perfect, and yes, the paint gets chipped (particularly when you repeatedly ram a buggy and several scooters/bikes etc into them), but if you keep a jam jar of left-over paint handy, then touch ups take 2 minutes (providing you don't store said jam jar in the shed. If you do, and you're anything like me, you'll probably never see it again!)

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So there you have it. Several liveable solutions to decorating around radiators. There's plenty more inspiration over on my radiators Pinterest board. Let me know if you have any other suggestions, I'm all ears!