Welcome to Bob Vila


In Lake Tahoe, a 1969 A-Frame Gets a Thoughtful Update

In renovating his own vacation home, architect Curtis Popp used many of his professional skills but relied most of all on his gift for restraint.

A-Frame Remodel - Homewood Exterior

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Curtis Popp believes in the power of editing. As partner in Sacramento-based Popp Littrell Architects & Interiors, he knows that some projects require gut renovation and that, in some situations, new construction makes good sense. But for his own vacation house, a charming 1969 A-frame situated on Lake Tahoe, he opted for a light, thoughtful approach. He explains it this way: “We wanted to eliminate the things that weren’t working and exploit the things that were.”

Related: House Tour—An Architect Edits His Own Vintage A-Frame

When he bought it in 2011, there were many things to love about the cedar-hewn retreat, dubbed Homewood. Still, there was work to be done before his wife and two children would be comfortable in the two-story two-bedroom. The goal was to usher the place into the 21st century without sacrificing the funky modernism that’d initially attracted him. ”If it ended up feeling too slick, it would be out of place,” Popp says, acknowledging the casual rusticity of the California countryside.

Previous owners had added superfluous touches, including a decorative foam anchor on the roof. That was among the first things to go, followed soon after by the doilies that had been on the windows. The windows themselves were aluminum, and Popp swapped those out with wood-framed replacements that not only perform better in terms of efficiency, but also complement the wood paneling that covers all of the walls—and even the ceilings—of the A-frame interior.

A-Frame Remodel - Homewood Interior

Photo: plarch.com

While the floor plan remains true to the original program, Popp re-did the bathrooms and kitchen. In the latter space, he chose small, European-made appliances, because in such a compact home, he feared that full-size appliances would leave the kitchen out of scale with the other rooms. The “micro” refrigerator, dishwasher, and range fully integrate with the cabinetry, allowing more real estate for countertops while minimizing the visual weight of the kitchen overall.

Related: House Tour—An Architect Edits His Own Vintage A-Frame

Another of Popp’s successful editorial gestures is the color scheme, what he likes to call “chocolate and peanut butter.” It’s a combination of matte black trim and the “pecky” cedar that so defines the home, past and present. In discussing Homewood, Popp reserves a sense of humor, for as much as A-frames are practical in design, they also possess an uncommon degree of personality. As Popp quips, “They keep the snow off the roof, but they make people smile, too.”

Somehow, given all the work that’s gone on, Homewood looks like it’s barely been touched. “It’s a respectful update of a period A-frame,” according to Popp. And if that’s true, then it’s only because the home’s editor respected the original building enough to make only the most thoughtful changes.


5 Things to Do with… Aluminum Foil

It's a pantry staple whose value we take for granted in the kitchen, but did you there are many more ways that aluminum foil can help you tackle household challenges?

Cooks know the value of aluminum foil, particularly around the holidays, when it plays a role in everything from roasting vegetables to storing leftovers. For something so unabashedly simple, aluminum foil has a surprising number of uses—not only in the kitchen, but in other rooms as well (and even outdoors). Scroll down to see five ways this versatile pantry staple can help you take on the household challenges faced not only this time of year, but in all seasons.

 

1. SCRUB POTS

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Scrub Pots

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Cooking is fun; cleaning isn’t. If your meal preparation has left a pot, pan, or casserole dish with a layer of stubborn gunk along its bottom, try this time- and sanity-saving trick: Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil into a crunchy ball, then use it as you would a piece of steel wool. The final step? Do a happy dance.

 

2. PROTECT TREES

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Protect Trees

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Many tree species, fruit trees most of all, are subject to a particular nuisance: mice, rabbits, and other creatures eating the tree trunks’ lower bark. If unchecked, those hungry garden pests can seriously compromise a tree’s overall health. Put an end to the problem by wrapping the trunk with a double layer of aluminum foil.

 

3. MAKE A FUNNEL

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Funnel

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There aren’t many times when I think, “Gosh, I wish I had a funnel!” But on those rare occasions when I realize that what I’m doing would be so much easier with a funnel, I chastise myself for not owning one. Then I remember that you can always make your own, quickly and easily, using a sheet of aluminum foil.

 

4. CLEAN IRON

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Your clothing iron doesn’t need to be cleaned with the consistency of, say, the bathroom sink. But there are times when starchy buildup can actually subvert the appliance’s proper operation. When that happens, run the hot iron over a piece of aluminum foil. The starch transfers to the foil, and the iron comes out clean.

 

5. POLISH SILVER

Uses for Aluminum Foil - Tarnish

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To polish silver using items you have on hand, follow these steps. First, line a pan with aluminum foil. Next, add one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of salt. Slowly pour in a half-cup of vinegar, then add one cup of boiling water. Finally, put your tarnished silver into the mixture, letting it sit for just 30 seconds. Pull the silver out with tongs (remember, it’s hot), buff it to a shine using a soft cloth, and suddenly—presto, you’re ready for dinner!


Bob Vila Radio: Get the Fireplace Ready

Before having your first fire of the season, read these tips on operating your wood-burning fireplace with the utmost efficiency.

When you’re pulling your parkas and mittens from the back of the closet, it’s also a good time to make sure your fireplace and chimney are safe and ready to operate at top efficiency.

Get the Fireplace Ready

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIREPLACE EFFICIENCY or read the text below:

First, be choosy about the wood you burn. Seasoned hardwoods are best. Stay away from burning scrap wood derived from crates or pallets; when ignited, they may emit toxic fumes.

Consider installing a top-mounted damper. Providing a tighter fit than conventional dampers, they function much like a chimney cap to help keep out rain and snow. If you decide to go with a conventional chimney cap, choose one that’s stainless steel. They’re a bit more expensive but last longer due to their rust resistance.

Of course, keeping the chimney clean is a must. Have the sweeps come in at least once each year. If you burn more than three cords of wood a season, have them come twice. What you gain in fireplace efficiency, not to mention peace of mind, is worth the extra cost.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Clean a Mattress

The sweat, dust, and allergens lurking in your mattress are enough to give anyone nightmares—but don't lose sleep over it yet! Follow these five steps for a seasonal cleaning that will help you get a good night's rest.

How to Clean a Mattress

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Wash and dry your sheets and pillowcases once a week—that’s all it takes to sleep in clean comfort, right? Wrong. You’re forgetting the mattress! Plenty of hair, sweat, dead skin, dandruff, dust, dirt and even food particles can accumulate in the mattress’s crevices. For allergy sufferers in particular, a mattress in grubby condition can make for unpleasant nights. Rest easy again by giving your mattress a proper cleaning at least once per season. Here’s how to go about it.

STEP 1
Remove all bedding so that the mattress sits alone on the box spring or bed frame, then vacuum the mattress all over, using the appliance attachments to help you do a thorough job. Pay close attention to the crevice around the seam that runs along the mattress’s perimeter. Here, you’re likely to find the greatest amount of gross buildup. For the record, any vacuum can probably do the trick, but experts do recommend HEPA-rated cleaners, as they can draw out even the tiniest particles.

STEP 2
Now’s the moment to spot-clean any stains you encounter.

How to Clean a Mattress - Sheets

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• For stains left behind by vegetable oils, grease, food spills, and chocolate, use a paste made from baking soda, salt, and water. Cover the stain with the mixture, then let it set for half an hour. Next, brush away the dried paste and wipe down the area with cool water. Finally, dry the moist spot with either a hair dryer or a fan.

• Hydrogen peroxide works well to remove stains created by crayons, beverages, blood, or urine. Dilute the chemical by mixing it with an equal quantity of water, then dab the stained area with the solution. Next, brush the area gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let it dry for five minutes, then dab again with the solution.

STEP 3
Sprinkle baking soda on the mattress to deodorize any lingering smells. Let it sit for an hour or so, then vacuum up the powder.

STEP 4
Does your mattress need to be flipped? Many today (e.g., pillow-top models) are designed to to be one-sided. If yours is two-sided and you haven’t recently flipped it, do so now. Besides helping your mattress wear more evenly, flipping prevents too much dirt from building up on any one side. Once you’ve flipped the mattress, repeat Step 3, sprinkling baking soda on the side that’s now on top.

STEP 5 (optional)
If the weather is warm and sunny, give the mattress a sunbath: Take it outside in order to capitalize on the sun’s natural germicidal effects. But don’t just set the mattress on the porch; prop it up on a pair of clothing racks or by any more expedient means,  being sure that your chosen supports are clean. Before replacing the mattress pad, sheets, and bedcovers, wait for the mattress to cool down a bit. Never air-out the mattress on a humid day, as the moisture could later lead to the growth of mold.


Bob Vila Radio: Save Big Bucks with Attic Insulation

Ever get the feeling your energy dollars are going through the roof? You might be exactly right! By installing attic insulation, you can cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as half. Start here.

Looking to put a dent in your monthly heating and cooling bills? The answer may be right over your head. If your attic isn’t insulated, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to cut costs.

Attic Insulation

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ATTIC INSULATION PREP or read the text below:

No matter what type of insulation you end up using, start the job by preparing the work area. That includes clipping portable lights onto rafters, so you can see what you’re doing. Also, if there’s no flooring in the attic, lay down sheets of plywood for a solid platform to work from.

Now’s also an optimal time to check the attic for any signs of discoloration or mold; either might signal a roof leak. While you’re at it, use weatherstripping or expanding foam to seal up any air leaks around chimneys, plumbing stacks, exhaust fans or anywhere you suspect outside air might be getting through.

Attic insulation can literally cut your heating and cooling bills by as much as half. So whether you hire a contractor or do it yourself, your wallet will thank you.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Holiday Hotlines to Have on Speed Dial

Millions of turkeys will be brined, pies baked, and wine bottles opened in America this coming holiday season. While we all cross our fingers on flawless meal prep, it's good to have a backup plan: Keep these emergency hotlines on hand to avert kitchen and cleanup disaster.

Hotlines to Help with Holiday Prep

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The holidays (and holiday guests) are a-coming, so stock the refrigerator, unearth your turkey roaster, and polish the silverware. But there’s only so much prep you can do to distract your mind from the looming fear: What if something goes wrong? Luckily, you can get the 4-1-1 for your holiday 9-1-1 from these holiday hotlines, and save the day. Add these three numbers to your speed dial, stat.

Butterball
1-800-BUTTERBALL, M – F 10am – 7pm
The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has connected trained turkey experts with home chefs to answer pressing questions for more than 30 years. What started in 1981 as just six experts fielding roughly 11,000 calls has grown to a team of 50+ people offering advice via all mediums—phone call, social media, email, and live chat—all the way up through Christmas Eve.

Help for Cooking Turkey

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USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
888-674-6854, available weekdays 10am – 4pm all year, and 8am – 2pm on Thanksgiving
The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline began in 1985 in an effort to help prevent foodborne illness. Since then, it answers over 80,000 calls every year on the everything from safe storage to preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. Not exactly sure how to tell when your meat is done? No need to risk any guest feeling sick; a real person is waiting to talk to you one-on-one.

Help Cleaning Up Spilled Wine

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Rug Doctor
1-800-RUGDOCTOR, 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week during the holidays
After the party’s over, it’s time to assess the damage. How cranberry sauce got ground into the living room carpet doesn’t matter near as much now as how to clean it up. The experts manning the Rug Doctor hotline can help you tackle the tough stains on carpet and upholstery that holiday merry-making can leave behind.


Bob Vila Radio: Top Tips for Cutting Carpet

There's a huge difference between laying down and area rug and installing wall-to-wall carpeting. For one thing, the latter involves cutting the floor covering so that it fits the room precisely. These tips can help you handle that portion of the job with relative ease.

Installing wall-to-wall carpeting? It can be tricky to cut the floor covering so that it accurately fits the room. To speed the process and minimize hassle, remember these tips on cutting carpet.

How to Cut Carpet

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING CARPET or read the text below:

First things first, know that a utility knife—a sharp utility knife—is the best friend you can have for a job like this. If you’re cutting carpet for a big room, it may be necessary to change out the blade several times before you get finished, but those little interruptions will pay big dividends.

Whenever possible, work on the back side of the carpet. The backing is flat, with no thick pile to get in your way. Outline your cuts with a marker before making them with the knife. And for the sake of accuracy, consider using a straight edge to guide your marker.

For trimming in around intricate shapes, use short, incremental cuts. Creating a cardboard template of the shape you’re aiming for can also be a big help.

Since walls aren’t always built perfectly on the square, especially in older homes, it’s best to measure both the width and the length of the room from a couple of different spots. Much better to be surprised before your cuts, not after!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Meet the Detroit Couple Giving New Life to Salvaged Lumber

For these two artists, making custom furniture reveals their true passion for materials, craft, and their hometown.

Mutual Adoration

Meet Mutual Adoration—the power couple behind one of Detroit’s coolest furniture design studios. Wayne and Clare run a design house and experimental craft workshop in their hometown, building furniture from reclaimed materials. With degrees and hands-on experience in seemingly every art and craft, from photography to printmaking to woodworking and lithography, this pair have combined their powers to create truly unique pieces. They currently sell their custom wares regionally—and on Etsy.

The reason we started doing what we do is…
A couple of months into our relationship, Clare had an art show at a gallery in Southwest Detroit. She created a huge installation using abandoned wood that she had scavenged throughout the city. As we were taking down the show, there were a lot of beautiful pieces of lumber that neither of us could bear to just throw away. We added that wood to a massive collection of maple hardwood flooring that Wayne had stored in his basement. With a hoard of materials and some big ideas, Mutual Adoration was born! The name speaks to our love for each other and also the love we have for our materials, our city, and our work.

We started collaborating when…
Early on in our relationship, we talked about building things together. We each came with different experiences, talents, and skills. After fumbling our way through a few small tables, we got our first custom job. It was incredible! To be able to create together and make money was a dream come true. We quickly learned that to succeed we would have to trust each other and work hard. As we have done that the demand for our work has increased.

We love working together. Seeing our complimentary skill set click into place while creating beautiful objects is the best feeling in the world. And then feeling the love and appreciation from our customers is amazing. Not only are we more connected to each other in doing this work, but the connections we have made with retailers, clients, and consumers is so incredibly satisfying.

Related—7 Incredible Uses for Salvaged Lumber

We’d define our design style as…
Refined rustic. Our work is equal parts big city loft and cozy log cabin.

My first job was…
Wayne: I was in the final generation of after-school paperboys. From the age of 12 to 15, I delivered The Detroit News on my old Schwinn cruiser. I was the kid knocking on your door during dinner, looking for my $2 for the previous week’s paper. I think this makes me sound like I grew up in the ’50s or something, but this would have been the late ’80s.

Clare: When I was in middle school, I earned my allowance by helping my mother. She ran the theatre department for a high school. During their rehearsals, I would help out with props, costumes, and set design. Mostly I was just trying to impress the teenagers by reading poetry and song lyrics out of my diary.

Our main sources of inspiration are…
Our inspiration really comes from our city and the materials it provides. Much of our wood comes from various locations in Detroit, from abandoned homes, warehouses, factories, and shops or as salvage from remodeling projects. Everything is so steeped in history—dirt and rust, wear and tear by generations.

Mutual Adoration - Reclaimed Materials

Photo: mutualadoration.com

We have a deep reverence for the material and its past. The fact that we are working with wood that was cut into lumber over 100 years ago—and, before that, started as just little sapling trees in the late 1700s—is truly inspiring. Our clients also prompt the direction our projects take. Many of our designs have come to Clare in her dreams. She often wakes up with ideas and visions for products, and then during our morning coffee, we’ll make sketches and figure out ways to engineer her ideas.

The most challenging thing about our work is…
Doing it all! We just hired our first employee (the amazing Brenda!) to give us a hand with production and our online store. Up until recently, it was just our four hands juggling all the design work, production, material sourcing, retail and wholesale sales, website design, and the hundreds of other things running a business entails.

In the future, we plan on greatly expanding our wholesale and retail sales, which will necessitate bringing in more employees. Supporting our local economy is very important to us. Detroit has an unmatched workforce of skilled craftspeople and manufacturers. We plan to hire and train additional production and administrative staff and provide much-needed jobs, as we expand and the demand for production increases.

We choose our salvaged materials by…
We take them as we can get them, whether that means quarter-sawn oak flooring from an 1860s home slated for demolition or knotty pine paneling from a suburban bungalow. Any given week might mean hundred-year old hand-hewn beams from a rural barn, cast iron tool bases from a factory, or recycled paint and stain from someone’s basement. We try to find a way to repurpose whatever materials we can get in a way that respects the original form while providing new function, all while keeping waste out of the landfill.

Related—7 Incredible Uses for Salvaged Lumber

Our biggest DIY success is…
The Union Table. Our first Union Table was made as a wedding gift for some dear friends. We wanted a piece that was symbolic, as well as functional. The Union Table is a set of two tables that can be used together as a coffee table or separately as end tables or bedside tables. We create the piece as one, split it into two in a diagonal pattern, and then finish each piece to operate in a variety of ways. The finished product can unify a variety of spaces and, when put together, is truly beautiful. Two becomes one. Maybe a little corny, but we LOVE it. It is the piece that really brought our complimentary skill set together and holds a lot of meaning for us.

Mutual Adoration - Union Table

Photo: mutualadoration.com

Our favorite materials to use are…
Clare: By far my favorite material is knotty pine paneling. It’s beautiful, warm, classic, and abundant. In its un-refinished, amber-hued, heavily varnished state, it is reminiscent of dive bars and ski lodges. To work with it is a dream! It’s forgiving and versatile. The grain contains gorgeous dots and stripes, and, when planing or sanding, it smells like summer camp.

Wayne: I love old flooring. Quarter-sawn oak is my favorite. There’s something about it being stepped on, spilled on, and abused that gives it a beautiful look and feel. It might sound sappy, but when I run a dingy dark piece under the belt sander, uncovering the flecks and grain that was hidden under all the muck, I feel like I’m rescuing it and able to give it a second shot at being beautiful. I’m not sure that the wood cares, but I like it.

Our all-time favorite go-to tool is…
Clare: That would have to be my beloved Flex Cut hand carving tools. I am a printmaker and spent many years making relief prints from wood blocks. Whether I am making a frame, a piece of furniture, or carving a block of wood to be printed, these are my favorite tools for achieving a variety of marks and executing fine detail.

Wayne: I am in love with our new Grizzly 3hp cabinet saw. Most of our early work was done on my mid-70s Craftsman table saw, but it just couldn’t keep up with larger work or give me the precision that I needed. The new saw is like a dream.

To get the latest from Mutual Adoration, check out their website and follow them on Facebook or Instagram.


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Basement Window Leaks

Don't blame basement window leaks on the amount of rain. Likewise, the problem probably isn't due to the age or installation of your windows. The first things to are your gutters and window well drain. Here's what to look out for.

Basement windows are great for letting natural light into subterranean space, but what if they also let in water? The culprit could be your gutters and downspouts.

Basement Window Leaks

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BASEMENT WINDOW LEAKS or read the text below:

Check the gutter running along the roofline nearest the window well in question. Check, too, the nearest downspout—that is, the gutter leading from the roofline to the ground. If there’s a clog in both or either one, then excess amounts of water could be spilling right into the window well. That’s not necessarily a problem in itself, but it might be a contributing factor.

If the window well was installed correctly, there’d be a drain at the bottom designed to let water permeate into the soil. If you don’t see a drain, dig down a few inches. If you still don’t see one, that’s a problem. In an exceptionally heavy rain storm—or in combination with a clogged storm drainage system—the absence of a drain could very well be the causer of basement window leaks.

You can add a drain, but it’s not the easiest of jobs. An alternative is to remove about two feet of the soil at the bottom of the window well, replacing it with crushed stone. Keep the level of the stone about three inches below the bottom of the window. That will help keep the water out.

For added protection, hinge a clear window well cover to the foundation. Being clear, the cover will still admit sunlight without inviting in water, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


4 Creative New Ways to Reuse Wood Pallets

Just when you think wooden pallets couldn't be any handier, a new book illustrates 35 new projects for the classic DIY supply. Here, we have a sneak peek that's sure to inspire.

Wood Pallet Ideas

DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

Shipping pallets are easy to come by, often at no cost. And they’re easily broken down into separate, simple wood boards, the rough-hewn look of which many people love. Affordable and aesthetically pleasing? It’s not often that the world comes across a material that satisfies both criteria. So for the past several years, do-it-yourselfers have expressed their enthusiasm by unleashing a veritable torrent of wood pallet ideas, each more inventive than the last. We loved seeing what clever things clever people came up with, but from benches to daybeds, it starting to seem like we’d seen it all. As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong. With her new book DIY Wood Pallet Projects ($19.99, F+W Media, Inc), Karah Bunde, the mind behind The Space Between, we’ve learned that when when it comes to wood pallet ideas, there are virtually no boundaries. Here, we take a look at four favorite projects from the book. For more, buy the book right here.

 

1. RAISE YOUR GLASS

Wood Pallet Ideas - Wine Rack

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

Check out this simple DIY wine rack outfitted with storage for stem glassware. It’s the perfect conversation piece for any comfortably eclectic outdoor living area. Don’t drink wine? No worries—the same design would make for a rustic-chic magazine rack to be hung in a living space or a cookbook holder in the kitchen.

 

2. GO OFF-THE-WALL

Wood Pallet Ideas - Wall Treatment

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

If you’re partial to nautical-inspired home decor, you know that rope makes a wonderfully easy and versatile addition to furniture and miscellaneous parts of the house, such as the stairwell. In the stunning wall treatment picture here, rope appears between the rows of white-painted, pallet-board paneling. Wow!

 

3. STEP IT UP

Wood Pallet Ideas - Shoe Rack

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

It’s an age-old question: What do you do with the space at the bottom of the closet? Here’s a simply genius organization solution: Build a shoe rack out of a shipping pallet. All it takes is six slats. The result is a stackable shelving system that can be easily customized to meet the demands of about any shoe collation.

 

4. ADMIRE THE VIEW

Wood Pallet Ideas - Shutters

Photo: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space by Karah Bunde

A simple set of shutters is an easy way to add a little curb appeal to the front of your home. Depending on the size of your windows, you might actually be able to use pallet slats, but this project uses new 1×4s to show that with a little sanding and staining they can end up having the same look as a pallet slat.

 

Excerpted from DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space. Copyright © 2014 by Karah Bunde and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Karah Bunde.