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How to Create a Wood Focal Wall Using Repurposed Pallets

February 27, 2015

Sometimes you can take found or inexpensive materials and repurpose them into something that’s truly amazing. And many times, this can be done relatively easily.

Case in point: Using wooden pallets to create a focal wall of wood. It’s a great way to recycle those wooden pallets while also giving a room in your home a chic, rustic look. Once you see how easy it is to do, you might even want to do this in more than one room.


Via Better Homes and Gardens

For this project, you’ll need access to pallets. Free would be best and you will surely find a local retailer that would be happy to let you take some pallets off their hands. Measure the area that you need covered in feet and make sure you get enough pallets to cover that area; each pallet will give you about ten planks that are three feet long and three inches wide, and it’s a good idea to get a couple extra pallets just in case. You’ll also need a sawzall saw, a sander (preferably electric), one or more stains depending on the look you’re going for, nails and a nail gun, a stud finder, a pencil, brushes or rags for applying stain, some protective gear, a level, and some outlet extensions.

Step One: Breaking Down and Cleaning the Pallets

After you’ve obtained your pallets, the first things you need to do is break them down and clean them. Some people want to use a crowbar to break down pallets, but that can damage the boards. A sawzall saw works best since it can cut through both wood and nails, turning that pallet into single boards.

Since pallets are used to transport all sorts of things, they can get very dirty. You don’t want to get them too wet when cleaning them, but a ring-out soapy rag should suffice.

Step Two: Prep the Boards

Before they’re ready to go onto the wall, the boards need to be sanded and stained (if you’re going to stain them). Don’t sand too much if you want them to keep the color applied during the manufacturing process to give your wall a more rustic look. The main purpose of sanding is to remove the rough parts and snags, so most of the sanding will be on the ends and edges.

As for staining, it really depends on your desired look. If your goal is to match the pallets to other wood in your home, you’ll want to be more selective about the stain you use. Otherwise, you can select whichever stain or stains that give you the look you want to achieve. If you’re unsure about which stain to use, you can consult a staff member at your local hardware store and they can point you in the right direction. Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the stain with your rags or brushes and allow them to dry.

Step Three: Find the Studs

You’re going to be nailing quite a few boards into your wall, so it’s important that you know where the studs are so that the boards are appropriately secured. Use your stud finder and a pencil to draw lines over the studs. This will show you where to place your nails as you install your wood wall.

Step Four: Plan the Pattern

Even though you could simply start attaching boards to the wall, you’ll probably want to lay the boards out and plan a design. Similar to the way bricks are laid in an offset pattern when masons use them to build homes, you should stagger the boards so that every row isn’t vertically even. It looks more authentic when each row’s boards are different lengths, beginning and ending in different places. This gives you a little more work and gives the project a puzzle-like phase, but the end definitely justifies the means. Once your floor pattern looks how you want it, you’re almost ready to start nailing.

Extra Credit: You might consider “framing” your wall by using boards to create a border on all sides. Use the pallet boards and cut the corner pieces diagonally as would be done for a picture frame. Then you can just begin your pattern one board’s length inward on all sides. This is a great way to give the rustic wall a more contemporary, polished look.

Step Five: Extend the Outlets

If you’re electrically-inclined, this is something you could do yourself. Otherwise, you’ll want to hire an electrician so that the outlets in your new wood focal wall will be even with the wall and not sunken into the wall where they are now. If the wall you’ve chosen has no outlets, you can just skip this step.

Step Six: Installation

Using your level and pencil, start at the top of the wall and trace the lines on the wall where each row of boards will go. Work from top to bottom, left to right. It’ll also be easier if you have a helper with you so that one person can hold the board in place while the other nails it to the wall. Try to keep boards that need additional trimmings toward the bottom of the wall so that longer, more solid boards are closer to the top of the wall. Continue each row until the entire wall is covered.

By Jane Blanchard. Head to for more design advice and inspiration.


Personalize Your Kitchen with DIY Cabinet Knobs

February 13, 2015

As an interior designer, I know it’s not always practical or in the budget to gut the kitchen and start over, but that shouldn’t stop you from updating the room where you cook and eat. Even little changes can turn “ho-hum” into “wow.” And if you can say, “I did it myself,” even better!

The easiest and fastest way to update a kitchen is to change the cabinet doorknobs or pulls. There are literally hundreds of options (and price points) available. But to really personalize your kitchen, make your own.

Idea 1: Button Knobs



Adding a colorful knob is less expensive than painting walls or cabinets. However, they’re hard to find. Most handles come in neutral or metallic colors: brass, chrome, bronze, black, or white. So, I raided my button box looking for shank style buttons (the kind with a hollow protrusion on the back, as opposed to buttons with holes).



I purchased a bronze knob with a flat top, and then chose a button that would fit but still show off the bronze border.

In order for the button to lie flat, cut off the shank with a wire cutter. Glue it to the new knob. Be sure to use a heavy-duty glue like Super Glue or Gorilla Glue.

Idea 2: Decoupage Knobs


Another easy DIY cabinet knob is decoupage.



This time, I purchased 2 in. unpainted wood knobs. They come in various sizes, but larger ones are easier to work with. You will also need Mod Podge, a paintbrush and paper. Choose a decorative paper that reflects your personality. Maps are always fun-especially maps of places you’ve been to.

  • Cut a paper circle 1 in. larger than the knob.
  • Apply a coat of Mod Podge to the knob.
  • Lay the paper on top and smooth with a brush.
  • Add more Mod Podge to the back of the knob and fold paper in. You will need to cut slits around the circle so it will fit.
  • Apply another coat of Mod Podge for a waterproof finish.

Idea 3: Embellish What You’ve Got

An even easier update is to add something to an existing knob. There is nothing wrong with this vintage glass knob, but an antique skeleton key gives it a unique update.


Of course, my favorite DIY projects involve something totally unexpected. You never know what you will find when you shop in the hardware department. Start looking at everything with a new “eye”. I always ask myself, “What can I do with this?”

This rubber and metal hose clamp is a perfect solution for updating cabinetry. It’s unusual, creates a nice contrast with painted cupboards and requires no work. I will guarantee, no one else will have a hose clamp handle in their kitchen!


What creative updates have you given your cabinet knobs and pulls?

Merri Cvetan is an interior designer who writes about home décor, including kitchen design and kitchen cabinets, for The Home Depot. Home Depot’s selection of kitchen cabinets and hardware can be viewed online here.

A New Twist on a Kitchen Valance

January 23, 2015


There are three reasons to add a drapery to a window: privacy, shade relief from the sun, and to add color, pattern and texture.

There are many style options, as well as thousands of fabrics, to choose from. I have a client who was looking to update her kitchen, but she wasn’t ready for a complete makeover-she just wanted something new and fresh. A new drapery is a great place to start!

Her single kitchen window overlooks a river, so she doesn’t have to worry about privacy and certainly didn’t want to cover-up her view. I decided to give her something unique: an awning style valance.

Awnings are typically found on the exterior of homes to keep the sun out, but this style works for inside, too!












Her old curtain was a simple blue valance with a scalloped hem and tassel trim. It was not only time for a new style, but a new color.


She’s thinking of decorating the kitchen in a French Bistro look, so I found a contemporary paisley print in shades of dark red and gold. Instead of trim across the bottom, I decided to add tassels. The only other thing I needed was a pair of tension rods. This is an easy DIY project for someone with a sewing machine and basic sewing skills.





Measure the width of your window opening and add 1 in. for the seam allowance. This window was 41 in. wide. I decided on an overall length of 25 in. and added an inch for seam allowance. I cut two pieces from the paisley fabric 42 in. wide by 26 in. long.




Instead of a straight hem across the bottom, I wanted a curved hem for the tassels. I drew a gentle curve from one side to the middle and repeated on the other side. Cut out the fabric.



Next, pin the right sides together and sew all the way around with a .5 in. seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 1 in. opening on each side at the top for the rod pocket, and an opening at the top so you can turn the valance right side out.



Turn the valance right side out, trim the corners and press. Sew a top-stitch at the top edge to close the opening. Sew another line of stitching 1 in. from the top to make a “pocket” for the curtain rod. Insert the rod.


I then measured 18 in. and 19 in. from the top edge and drew two lines across the width of the valance for the second rod pocket. Sew on both lines. With a seam ripper, open the seam between the two rows of stitching (at the sides) and insert the curtain rod.




I hung the valance between the upper cabinets as high as possible. I put the second a little above the half way point of the cabinet. You can adjust yours to whatever height works best for your window. I liked the gentle curve of the fabric, but it could have been pulled straight and tight. Sew the tassels to the center point and corners.

This is a perfect window treatment for an apartment window. There’s no need to drill holes with tension rods, and you can take it with you when you move!

Merri Cvetan of MEC Design Studio is an interior designer who writes about her projects for Home Depot. Merri’s DIY kitchen valance makes for a great indoor project to take a bit of the bite out of winter’s cold. Home Depot’s selection of windows for kitchens and other rooms can be viewed online on the Home Depot website.

Ring in the New Year with a New Job

December 31, 2014

Interview-handshake-620x480The new year is an ideal time to breathe new life into your job search, especially with job growth projected to increase going into 2015. Whether you’re currently employed or actively looking for work, make the most of the post-holiday lull by organizing your job search goals with these five tips.

  • Identify Your Career Goals

It’s not always easy to identify your ideal career, but there are tools that exist to help your discover your true passion. One way to move in the right direction is to identify things you like to do, the types of work environments that appeal to you and even the types of people you enjoy working with. Ask your friends and family members what they perceive as your biggest strengths. Try out career assessment tools and personality quizzes that can help you learn more about jobs that may be good matches for your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Get Organized

The job search process involves lots of time, and lots to keep track of. It’s not uncommon for an active job seeker to submit applications for hundreds of positions before landing employment. Virtual organization tools like Huntsy, Evernote or Jibber Jobber help you stay on top of emails, relationships and deadlines. Because properly managing your job search is just as important as identifying job opportunities and submitting your application.

  • Clean House

Tidy up your social media profiles, resume and references. A good rule of thumb is to not post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your employer (or potential employer) to see. That includes badmouthing current or former bosses or oversharing about last night’s antics. While you’re at it, run a spell check on everything: 66% of hiring managers said on a Jobvite survey they would hold poor spelling and grammar against candidates.

Taking a couple hours to really clean up your resume is worth doing before you start a job search, or even just once a year as a tune-up. Make sure your resume includes important keywords, is free of work history clutter and conveys the specific talents you will bring to the table. If you want additional assistance, stop by one of Goodwill’s job resource centers to receive free help in crafting a standout resume. We have trained professionals on staff who can sift through your life experiences to highlight the skills and qualifications that support your career goals and outsmart HR recruiting software.

  • Be News Savvy

Make sure you’re up-to-speed on trends in your field by reviewing the latest industry news. Search out niche sites that specialize by industry, type of employment and specialized skills. In addition to advertising job postings, good niche job boards also offer relevant news about the industry. Identify influencers in your area and follow them on social media. Then, share what you’re learning with others to brand yourself as an expert in your field.

  • Volunteer

Not only does volunteer work look good on your resume, but it also grows your network. Additionally you gain an in-depth knowledge about a specific cause.  This can be a big plus if you want a paying job relating to that mission. A study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service tracked more than 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t. If you’re ready to volunteer, here are some tips to help you get started.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about finding a job?

Barriers to Employment: Disability

December 26, 2014

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In 2013, only 17.6 percent of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 64.0 percent. This staggering discrepancy reveals how much work continues to be needed to help thousands of job seekers with disabilities experience the dignity and independence that accompany a paycheck.

As an organization with a longtime commitment to helping people of all backgrounds overcome barriers to employment, Goodwill is honored to help thousands of people earn this self-respect and sense of accomplishment every year. Goodwill provides a variety of programs that assess and identify an individual’s abilities, vocational interests, job readiness skills and training needs. Services are provided by trained vocational coaching specialists who assist workers like Fletcher by providing ongoing support to build success in the workplace.

Despite the fact that the United States passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than 20 years ago, Americans with disabilities are no more likely to be employed today than they were before the ADA was enacted. Many of today’s young adults with disabilities have been able to accomplish vital academic and life skills and are ready for work. Additionally, because of breakthroughs, people who are blind or are unable to speak on their own can now use technology to succeed in ways previously only imagined.

A recent study reveals that hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities doesn’t just improve culture—it improves an employer’s bottom line. The study, which was conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, found that more than three-quarters of employers surveyed ranked their employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities as good or very good on work quality, motivation, engagement, integration with co-workers, dependability, and attendance.

How does a proactive employer seek out special needs employees? A great place to begin is simply to contact local organizations that support persons with particular special needs or disabilities.

This month Senator Tom Harkin delivered his farewell address to the U.S. Senate after 40 years of public service. An author of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, Harkin has a long-standing history of commitment to people with disabilities. He closed his final speech on the floor with a poignant reminder of the importance of workplace inclusion for all Americans:

Let me close with a single word from American sign language that has a powerful message for all of us. Let me teach it to you. (PAUSE to sign “America” in American Sign Language). This is the sign for America. All of us, interconnected, bound together in a single circle of inclusion with no one left out. This is the ideal America toward which we must always aspire.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What does workplace inclusion mean to you?

Easy Bathroom Storage Ideas

December 23, 2014

No matter how big or small your house is, storage is always an issue. It seems we never have enough drawers, closets or cupboards, especially in a bathroom shared by more than one person. You know the old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place”? Once you’ve determined where everything goes, it’s much easier to find what you need and get your family to put things back.

Baskets are an obvious solution to bathroom storage, but I like to find creative ways to hold towels and toiletries. For example, a wine rack is a great way to show off pretty towels. Assign each member of the family a particular color, so everyone can find their own. This is also a pretty display in a guest bathroom.


If your decorating style leans toward country or vintage, look for an old drawer. This one probably came from an antique sewing cabinet—the kind with a foot-pedal sewing machine. It’s still in great condition and has a decorative panel on the front. Add rolled up or folded towels.


The drawer is also the perfect size for toiletries. Fill it up with every bottle, tube and jar you use daily and sit it next to the sink or on the counter, or put it on a shelf with excess or new products. You’ll always know when you need a refill.


If counter space is at a premium, add a hook to the back of the drawer and hang it on the wall for easy access. Nail polish fits perfectly and you can see each color.


If you don’t have a dedicated linen closet, borrow space for another one. A fabric shoe organizer is only 6″ wide, hangs from the rod and has multiple compartments. You can store a lot of towels and toiletries in a very small space, and they are front and center when you open the door.


Another handy organizer is a cutlery tray; the kind that comes with flatware. Use it on a shelf or in a drawer for your toiletries.


If you want something really unique to hold perfumes and items you use regularly, try a mirror. This little oval gold frame is very feminine and pretty. Instead of a plain old jar, I found a glass and silver toothpick holder for miscellaneous things. Very glam and girlie!


What other items have you creatively repurposed into handy bathroom accessories?

Interior designer Merri Cvetan writes about DIY projects and home décor for the Home Depot, including unique upcycling craft ideas for bathroom storage and accessories. Merri’s interior design career began when she purchased a century-old farm house. Home Depot’s online selection of bath accessories can be found on the company’s website.

Wrap Up 2014 by Giving Others a Brighter Future

December 19, 2014

donateThe time period between December 26 and New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest times at Goodwill as people drop off their donations to get their last tax deduction for the year. Proceeds from the sale of these items help fund job training and employment programs in your community, which are more critical than ever as unemployment continues to hover around 6.5 percent in the Carolinas this holiday season.

Get an early start this year by collecting things you no longer need for Goodwill. Here are five tips from organizing expert Lorie Marrero to help you get a head start on decluttering your home.

  • Use the trusty “One In, One Out Rule” to equalize your storage for the new items you receive for holiday gifts. For every new toy, give one away to Goodwill. For every new sweater or shirt… you get the idea. You’ll usually find the momentum from doing this will result in more donations than you planned.
  • Help your children learn the value of giving by organizing their toys together before the holiday gifts arrive, and donating what they no longer need to Goodwill. Take them with you to the donation center so they can see their stuff go to a new home, and tell them how the sale of the items is used to create jobs for people in your own community.
  • Get all of what’s coming to you. You have until December 31 to get a tax deduction for donating household goods for 2014, and most people grossly underestimate the value of the household goods they are donating. Generally, an item’s value should be based on fair market value – what the item would sell for in a thrift store. Use our handy valuation guide to calculate the value of popular items.
  • Remember to get a receipt from your local Goodwill when you drop off your items. If you need a visual reminder of what you donated, take a photograph of your “donation pile” as another record of the deduction.
  • Do NOT get hung up on finding “the perfect home” for your donated items and running your stuff around to ten different places. The holidays are busy enough! If you are looking for a convenient drop-off location, click here to find the Goodwill store or donation center nearest you. Goodwill helps create jobs, so that is a wonderful thing!

All of us want to give back this holiday season. By taking a quick drive to your local Goodwill donation center and giving before December 31, you can help put friends and neighbors back on the path to employment success, while cleaning out your own closets and getting a fresh start on 2015.

Goodwill holiday hours are December 24 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., December 25 closed, December 31 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and January 1 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What are you donating this holiday season?


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