Studio Updates: Rustic Crate Storage Wall (& my failed veneer attempt)


Today I’m sharing the dark side of DIY. It’s not often that a project completely fails to the point that it can’t be salvaged, so when it does it’s pretty upsetting.

As you can tell by now, I’m eliminating all of the turquoise in this house. I had this console table in the studio because it was the perfect size and just deep enough to hold my supplies but not take up too much room in the small space:

My dad built this piece for us years ago—here’s a glimpse of it in our first home (on the right):

A couple years ago I painted it blue for our Florida house…

And now I wanted it a natural wood color. Problem is, the surface was veneered, and once stained and painted there’s no way it can return to its natural wood color.

I really wanted to keep the table, so the only way to get what I wanted was to cover the surface with wood.

Enter veneer. Veneer isn’t cheap. The best deal I found was this on Amazon. And I had to buy two sheets so it ended up costing $70.

The material itself is like a really thick, sturdy paper. Seemed easy enough to install.

You can buy stick and peel veneer but it’s quite a bit more expensive, so I decided to just use contact cement.

After lightly sanding the table, I opened my can of contact cement and read the instructions…

It said to apply it to both surfaces and let it dry for 15-20 minutes, which seemed long to me.

My first mistake was not applying enough (you can see the thicker areas above where it’s yellowish and shinier—the entire surface should have looked like that).

The veneer just soaked it right up so it dried up real fast.

I figured that just meant I didn’t need to let it dry any longer, so I applied the veneer way too soon.

I didn’t notice there was a problem at first—it seemed to hold okay. The most challenging part of it all was trying to cut my piece to exactly the right size and apply it perfectly straight so it lined up evenly everywhere. That was my third mistake—you’re supposed to cut the veneer larger, apply it, and then trim the edges off. I didn’t have the proper tools to do this, just a dull utility knife.

I tried setting the table on top of the veneer after both sides had the glue applied, and then cutting the excess off on the ground, but the table is very heavy so it was near impossible for me to lift it up and set it down while lining it up perfectly. This is definitely a two person job.

Still, I managed to make it work as best as I could and I thought it was coming along pretty well.

It was a lot of work and very time consuming, though. I worked on it over the course of 3 afternoons.

Once all my flat surfaces were veneered, it was time to address the front edges. I picked up these lattice strips which were the exact width of my boards (1 5/8″) and also a light colored wood.
This was the easiest part of the project—I simply cut the pieces to size and nailed them on.
Then I patched all of the holes and seams where the veneer met, and sanded it all down.
For my stain, I used a random mixture to achieve a weathered brown-gray wood effect: Rustoleum’s weathered gray, driftwood, and dark walnut.
I was pretty happy with the results…
And I was relieved it was over.
Until the next morning, when I woke up and found this:
Every DIY’ers worst nightmare. The entire table was covered in big air bubbles. I figured it had something to do with the temperature change caused by bringing it inside (and also improper contact cement techniques, of course).
In a desperate attempt to salvage it, I peeled off the top layer and applied a ton of contact cement to both surfaces. I let it dry for the recommended amount of time (20 minutes) and began to reapply it.
Unfortunately, it worked a little too well this time because when I tried to peel it off to reposition it, it wouldn’t budge. I pulled as hard as I could and it ripped to pieces. And that’s when I made this sad instagram post:
The table is covered in dry contact cement and is now ruined, so I lost over $100 worth of veneer, trim and stain, as well as a nice table my dad hand built for me. It was a sad day.
I sulked for half a day and pulled myself together to come up with a Plan B.
Pinterest to the rescue… I spotted this crate bookcase and that was my answer.
via Pinterest
The cheapest and most easily accessible crates I know of are these for $13 at Joann:
The size was just right, too. Just slightly narrower than my console table which might even be better because now there’s a little more room to walk by.
With the 40% off coupon Joann always has, they come to $8.40 each. I already had two crates so I just had to pick up 4 more. You can only use one coupon per item/visit and I didn’t feel like making 4 separate trips so I paid full price for 3 of them. Still, a great deal though.
For the stain I decided to use a combination of Minwax in dark walnut with just a touch of Rustoleum’s weathered gray (basically the same combination I used for my large storage box).
It takes a little while to get into every little nook & cranny (~15 min for each box) but it was easy and I loved the way they turned out.
To secure them to the wall, I located the stud and drilled two screws in each crate (at the top & bottom)
They are dark enough to blend in but will be hidden by binders anyway.
Then I got to a road block… the outlet.
I took the cover plate off and the outlet ended up fitting perfectly between two slats, so I simply cut out a small section in the center with my jigsaw.
I left the cover plate off because it would have been even more noticeable—my scale will be plugged in 24/7 and there will be objects in front to hide everything.
To minimize gaps between the crates and make it one single solid unit, I also screwed them to each other.
Susie wanted to break them in…
They’re quite sturdy and they should hold up just fine to my binders and files.
I started to add a few things already, but tonight and tomorrow we’ll be going through all of our files and purging/reorganizing. I haven’t done that since I first set up my binder filing system over 3 years and two moves ago!
I’ll be rearranging some things and updating all the labels to fit in with the new house. 
That was a pretty popular topic with you guys last time, so if you love organizing like I do, you’ll definitely want to stay tuned for next week’s post. 
Can’t wait to fill these babies up! Better get started now…


20 thoughts on “Studio Updates: Rustic Crate Storage Wall (& my failed veneer attempt)

  1. I love the crate shelves!! And I would totally have cried about the veneer fail- so sad!! I don't know if this would work for you or not, but if you look on Lowe's site, they have iron on wood veneer for $20 for a 12″ x 4ft piece. I don't know if iron on veneer would work for your table though. I'm going to give it a try at some point for a piece that I hope to build (soonish) in our house 🙂

  2. Oh I sure did loveeeeee that table your dad had built for you, I am so sorry 🙂 On another note, we used those same crates from Joann's to make DIY “fruit crates” for our wedding table centerpieces and they are the best crates available! So much better quality than Michael's!

    Also, I wanted to mention that our Joann's (Chico CA) allows me to use as many coupons as I have items…I don't know if this is a store-to-store policy or not. But since the coupons do not state “one coupon, per customer, per day” as Michael's and Hobby Lobby's do, then I think it is up for debate!! Sometimes I go in and buy 6 things of yarn (crocheter) and they allow me to use a 40% off coupon on each one as long as they aren't on sale! This includes using paper coupons, coupons printed from the website and iPhone app coupons

  3. I heard about the iron on type too. The one from Lowe's wasn't long enough unfortunately and after the second attempt failed I just gave up on the idea altogether 🙂 I hope you can learn from my mistakes though!

  4. Our Joann's is just really strict 🙁 They wouldn't let me return a ton of leftover batting because I didn't have the receipt either. They aren't very nice here.

  5. I absolutely love the outcome–especially since you made them floating!!!!
    PS: I'm sure you've sourced it before…but where is the rug from?

  6. Have you heard of Panyl.com ? They have faux wood veneers that upgrade IKEA products. They also sell their “panyls” in sheets as well, kinda like fancy contact paper. They have a weathered grey one that may work.

    Also, Stikwood.com wood panel pieces could easily cover up all the imperfections from the old veneer glue. It has 3M double-sided peel and stick tape for easy re-positioning, as well as it cuts with a hacksaw or chopsaw.

  7. Yes, I looked into that as well! They are insanely expensive though. It would have cost hundreds to refinish the table. Not worth it IMO 🙂

  8. Great ideas! I like very much the stand with crates 🙂 In fact you always have interesting ideas and articles 🙂 Go on and I wish you inspiration and fun of what you are doing 🙂

  9. That would look amazing—you have to link it to me if you end up doing that! I was also planning on using them as side tables in our bedroom once we start on it.

  10. Love the look of the crates…but sad about your console, especially seeing it was made by your dad…have you thought of trying to resurrect it by covering it in hessian – or burlap as you call it? You could sand it back, give it a clean and try the fabric covering with the timber edge. At least you'd still have an item made by your dad

    The house is looking amazing though. Well done!

  11. I have been following your blog since just before you moved. You are so clever and talented! I love the crate shelves. They are my favourite so far 🙂 Michelle … Sydney Australia

  12. I've been trying to think of somewhere else we could use it if I were to salvage it but that wall was the best spot for it. I haven't decided what to do with it yet, not sure if I'll keep it or not!

  13. DIY is always a challenge especially if you are trying something new. But nothing beats the challenge you will undergo if you create and made great looking storage solutions that are simple and chic. I love the pastel colors and designs of the first few images of the storage solutions made. My wife loves it for her working space at home.

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