Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 12, 2011

DIY Framed Skeleton Keys

I had started a collection of vintage skeleton keys a few years ago, but stored them in a drawer.  I really love skeleton keys because the 1950s home I grew up in had keys like this, although most of them were fazed out for newer, safer keys when we moved in (but one of these may or may not be the key we still need to open the shed).  For a long time, I was stumped because what do you do with skeleton keys?  One day, it dawned on me: frame them!

Frame vintage skeleton keys for display
DIY shadow box art ideas

  1. Shadow box
  2. Silk ribbon (I used silk because the sheen is a nice contrast against the patina of the keys)
  3. Skeleton keys (I used 5 - I like odd numbers)
  4. Straight pins (5)
How to display vintage skeleton keys:
  1. Tie a ribbon around each key, at various lengths, securing the ribbon with a bow
  2. Slide a straight pin through the back of the bow (to hide it)
  3. Push the pin into the shadow box
  4. Fuss a little to arrange the bow so it looks nice
  5. Re-insert the glass and call it a day!
Silk ribbon bow
Display keys
Vintage key art
Use bows to display and hang vintage objects
. . . are a-okay!

For now, my collection of vintage skeleton keys is displayed Hubby's new DIY desk.  Because my shadow box has room for a photo, I added a picture taken in Budapest Hungary that features some ironwork because the colour and texture really complement my arrangement of keys. 

Vintage skeleton key collection
Projects using vintage keys


  1. I just came across some keys like this in an antique store and was trying to think of a way to use them! Thanks:)

  2. I'm excited to see what you do with them! There are so many ideas out there for a hundred keys, but fewer options if you only managed to collect a few, like me.

    I'm glad you like!

  3. What a creative display. I can't wait to see the office reveal! :)

  4. Love it! Simple idea, but great!

  5. Faith, it won't be anything exciting because you've seen Hubby's new desk and my Expedit hack. But I'll take some shots in the New Year that show how everything "fits" together, as opposed to isolated shots of individual elements.

    Thanks Jae!

  6. I have always loved skeleton keys but it's so much more meaningful if they were part of your past. Lovely display!

  7. Those are so lovely. I love the ribbon you used.

  8. Carol, and part of our present. I don't think my dad has been able to get into the shed recently. Oops. I thought there were two shed keys kickin' around.

    Thanks ladies!! :)

  9. Oh Tanya, I love this idea! I wish I was this creative. The colour you chose for the silk ribbon is beautiful!

  10. Lovely to visit you here Tanya! Your blog is beautiful :)
    Nancy xo

  11. The keys look great! What a simple way to decorate! I'll have to be on the lookout for some now.

    Congrats on finally joining Pinterest! It is great and inspiring! (I'm linked up through my blog if you want to follow me!)

  12. This is a really gorgeous little DIY..I imagined something for my home with black and white striped ribbon..thanks for sharing lovely x

  13. Popped over here from Hodge:Podge and I knew from the pictures in the interview I would be interested to find out more about your blog! I am not disappointed and am sure I will spend my "morning house cleaning" time taking a look around :)

  14. My boyfriend gave me some keys like these as a part of my birthday present and I wasn't sure what I should do with them. Thank you for the idea. I love your house, it looks like somewhere I would love to live!


  15. I love this! where did you find the skeleton keys? I'm always looking for some, but haven't had luck (maybe I'm not looking hard enough!) I followed you on Pinterest - you can find me as Wendyjp!

  16. Hi Wendy,

    I bought the keys at an antique shop (actually, I think I collected them from a few) a few years ago, but I've seen them at yard sales, too.

    The bigger antique shops (like antique malls, with numerous vendors) have the best selection.

    Lots of people have them kicking around, so post a "wanted" add in your local classifieds (like craigslist) and see if any turn up!

    If you still can't find any, try ebay or etsy.

    Happy teasure hunting!!


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