DIYtreasure hunting

treasure hunting: hangers

by Kate Pruitt

Hangers may have gotten bigger, sturdier and reproduced in plastic, but for the most part, the design of the hanger hasn’t changed much over the years. They are a true example of form following function, and we love them. We need them. Case in point: I happened to catch a snippet of a recent episode of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York, and from what I could tell, it looked like five grown women were actually about to fist fight over who did or didn’t steal someone’s hangers. So . . . hangers are kind of a big deal. Yet they get so little appreciation as objects of beauty. But they are beautiful, especially en masse.

I hope this post argues the case for the beauty of all kinds of hangers, whether they be old or new, big or small, plastic, wood, wire or otherwise. If you have a surplus of hangers lying around, don’t let those sad, naked hangers sit in the dark — repurpose them with one of the great display ideas below, and give the hard-working hanger a moment in the sun! — Kate

Image above: Lot of vintage wood hangers available from Antique Whisperer

Have an old object that you love, and need ideas for what to do with it? Shoot me an email with images or a description right here, and it might become the subject of a future Treasure Hunting post!

Images, from top: Hangeliers by Organelledesign; Coat hanger fruit bowl by Amplifier; Keiran Jones’ rearranged IKEA hangers on Mocoloco; Tim Poiesz’s “hangout” table on Apartment Therapy; Clothes hanger lamp by Hector Serrano for Droog

Hanger Furniture: Owing to its solid design foundation, the hanger is an iconic shape with few major variations. This recognizable quality makes hangers great sculptural fodder, and many designers have manipulated hangers into incredible functional objects without completely obscuring the original form. Organelle’s “hangeliers” and the rest of the awesome designs above are proof that the humble hanger can be so much more!

How To Get the Look:

1. To make a plastic hanger pendant light similar to Organelle’s hangeliers shown above, you can try out this hanger light tutorial from ReadyMade magazine.

2. Stay tuned for an upcoming post showing you how to create your own Droog-inspired hanger lamp!

Images above, from top: Set of 4 reclaimed wooden hangers from Paloma’s Nest (no longer available); Hangers color-coded by size with washi tape, from badskirt + amy

Printed Hangers: There’s something so wonderful about a closet full of identical hangers. What I love about these examples is that they introduce a new role for the hangers in your closet: organizational artwork! For a truly artful closet, you can give equal love and attention to the hangers by giving them a personalized stamp or symbol. It would make a wonderful housewarming gift, and would be a fantastic way to update your own closet. I’m doing this immediately!

How to Get the Look:

1. Using stamps and an ink pad, stamp your design onto the arms of the hanger. The ink will print best on sanded, untreated hangers, but if you have pre-varnished hangers, you can try sanding them down for the ink to stick, or you can use acrylic paint instead of ink.

2. After the hangers are printed, paint the hangers with a thin, even coat of varnish to protect the design.

3. Alternatively, you can paint the hangers or embellish them with fabric, tape or paper decoupage. The sky’s the limit!

Images above, from top: DIY wire hanger wall storage by Super Ziper; Hanger wall organization on Emma’s Designblogg

Hangers as Wall Storage: Hangers are useful for storing so many things beyond just shirts and coats. If your floor space is tight or your wall space is plentiful, you might want to consider creating a hanger wall display that doubles as simple storage. The compositions above are fun and unexpected ways to repurpose cheap plastic or wire hangers, not to mention wonderful alternatives to throwing the hangers in the trash.

How to Get the Look:

1. For the wire hanger shelves shown above, take a wire hanger in both hands and bend the hanger about 4″ down from the neck on both sides.

2. Straighten out the sides of the hanger by flattening the curves, and then bend 90 degrees at the left and right of the base to create a long rectangle shape from the hanger.

3. Bend the long rectangle shape 90 degrees toward you, then 90 degrees up to create a cradle for storage.

4. For the clear hanger hooks shown above, simply secure the base of the upside down hanger to the wall using small nails.


Images above, from top: Antique wire hanger collection on Emmas Designblogg; Hanger installation in Rotterdam from Peter and Margarete

Hangers as Sculptural Display: If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a surplus of hangers, and your closet is all squared away, then the creative possibilities really open up. Some hangers are so beautiful, they can stand alone as sculptures and look fantastic on the wall in any quantity or composition. If your collection is more quantity than quality, use it to your advantage and create a massive hanging installation like the one shown above. The open wall can act like an airy, artful room divider that lets in light and grabs your attention.

How to Get the Look:

1. To display a collection of unusual sculptural hangers like in the top image above, lay your hangers out on the floor to determine the proper composition. Starting with the top hanger in the composition, measure the distance from the center of the underside of each hanger’s hook — this will be where the nails will go.

2. Hammer small nails or brads into the wall using your measurements. Then hang each hanger on the corresponding nail.

3. To create the hanging wall of hangers as shown above, take fishing line or thin white thread and cut in lengths that measure 36″ longer than the desired height of the wall. Every 12″, tie off a small loop of the fishing line for the hangers to hook into. Repeat with multiple strands, and then secure to the ceiling using screws or eye hooks and install the hangers.

4. Alternatively, you can create a hanging strand of hangers by tying a length of fishing line to the base of one hanger and knotting it to the hook of another hanger. Continue with multiple strands of thread and hangers until you have a full length. This method is slightly less sturdy, but it will not require fishing line running along the entire length of the display as the method in step 3 does.

Where to Find

You’re in luck here because hangers are everywhere. For unusual antique hangers, try perusing flea markets, antique shops, Etsy and eBay. Also keep an eye out for local businesses that might be unloading old hangers, especially old shops that could have some really great finds. If you simply want a large quantity of hangers, you will probably be successful looking for lots on eBay or Craigslist. For wire hangers, try inquiring at your local dry cleaning shop — they may sell you some or be able to tell you their wholesale source.

If you plan to seek out antique specialty hangers, be aware that there are some serious hanger collectors out there, so you may have to fight for the really special finds. However, I hope this post has illuminated the many ways that ordinary, cheap hangers can be transformed into spectacular art and design objects with just a little creative energy and very little cost.

Happy Hunting!

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  • I’ve been collecting vintage wood hangers for a few years now from thrifting and garage sales just to sp[ice up my closet! never woulda thought to make art installation. How cool

  • those wire hanger shelves are absolutely stunning!
    a perfect DIY project that takes less than 5 minutes…
    i like them as temporary little helpers when i’m organizing paperwork on my desk:-)

  • This is why I love twitter! Other people’s creativity spurs mine! Love the artistic way the lowly hanger becomes art!

  • I have a friend who is a metal artist. Last year she designed a really cool hanger for a local clothing designer’s photo shoot. Wish I could find that photo! It’s a hanger, how different could it be? It’s minimal and industrial and one of the coolest hangers I’ve ever seen!

  • My mom picked up a whole garbage bag full of crochet covered hangers from the side of the road last year, and gave the whole bag to me! Each hanger is different, and I have a few favorites. I never would have thought that having fun hangers would encourage me to hang up my clothes after wearing them!

  • I’ve been looking for an interesting/quirky chandelier for my in-process bedroom decoration. I think I can tackle the “crystal” chandelier which you linked to. Thanks!

  • Every time I move, I always make sure to pack my favorite hangers – they’re wrapped in ribbon, almost kind of like a braided wrapped thing. And I’ve no idea how I got them. My ex boyfriend was like, really, a favorite Hanger?! He wanted to bend one and I wouldn’t let him.

    So glad you featured this article. What greatness there is in the everyday necessity.

  • My family owned a department store before WW2 in a small town outside Dresden, Germany. My great grandparents were the only Jewish family in the town. Eventually, they disappeared into the Nazi machine and were killed, but the town never forgot. At the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, my family was invited back to town to commemorate the store and my great grandparents’ history in the town. As part of the event, people from the town came forward with artifacts from the store which were hidden by townspeople including the original store sign and several of the store’s hangers which bears the family name. No object in my life means as much to me as that hanger since it is a link to everything that my family went thru and all that we we lost.

  • came across a wooden hanger from winokurs–clothier & haberdasher –150 delancey st., ny–anyone interested?