Organize Your Office on the Cheap with These DIY Cork Board Projects

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on November 1, 2009 in Freelance Writing Business, Working From Home
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Before I was a freelance writer, I was a branch manager at a corporation. Whenever I needed something for the office, I found it in a catalog, placed an order, and welcomed the FedEx guy a few days later. Now that I’m in charge of my own office, though, those catalog prices begin to look exorbitantly expensive. Why pay over $100 for a large white board at Office Depot when I can head next door to that other famous Depot and buy the components for under $20?

This monthly series on do-it-yourself projects for freelance writers will serve a dual purpose of saving you money on all the various and sundry freelance writing accoutrements you need and allowing you to personalize your office space. After all, you’re a freelancer unlike any other, why use the same old laptop stand, pencil cup, or inbox tray that everybody else uses?

This month’s project is all about cork boards. Cork boards, known by school children everywhere as bulletin boards, come in second only to white boards as the handiest of all office wall decorations. Though you can’t write on them, you can fill them with your schedule, reminders, outlines, pictures, motivational sayings, and whatever else you need to see in your day to day. If all else fails, you can also throw darts at them with few lasting effects to your office walls.  Better yet, both of these cork board projects can be done safely from your own home with only hand tools.

Cork Board with Personality

This is possibly the easiest DIY project for the office, but also one of the most versatile. Not only can you use cork boards in the traditional spot – on the wall where you can easily see them – you can use them in hidden places such as inside desk cabinets, or on the side of the file cabinet.

You will need:

  • 4 (or more) cork tiles (available at Office Depot)
  • Fabric in a style and pattern that suits you
  • Staple Gun
  • Scissors
  • Super glue/Glue Gun (Optional for Hanging)
  1.  Measure your cork board, then cut your fabric so that it is 1 ½” longer and wider than your cork board on all sides.
  2. On a flat surface, lay the fabric print side down, making sure there are no wrinkles. Lay the cork gently on top of the fabric. For some reason, the meeting of cork board and fabric will cause the fabric to immediately wrinkle. This will be your challenge. Pull the fabric taut under the cork board and be prepared to struggle to keep it that way.
  3. Fold the excess cloth around the back of the cork board, as when wrapping a present.
  4. Start stapling. Staples should be about ½” to 1” from the edges of the corkboard, and about 2 inches apart in order to hold the fabric in place. During this step, watch for wrinkles in your fabric. Pull taut every time you staple.
  5. Use thumbtacks or nails to attach the finished product directly to the walls. Get creative and use negative space or a diamond pattern to make your cork boards stand out. If you wish to hang your cloth covered bulletin boards inside desk drawers or on the side of a file cabinet, use a hot glue gun to apply. Be advised though that this is a permanent solution. (Hot glue can be removed, but it’s difficult.)

Criss-Cross Cork Board

Do you already have a bulletin board, but get sick of how its dull corkiness sticks out like a store thumb in your otherwise immaculate office? Transform it into a criss-cross board! Criss-cross boards are surfaces covered with cotton batting and fabric, then criss-crossed with ribbons. The ribbons allow you to stick receipts, bills, notices and photographs right onto the board without bothering with thumbtacks.

You will need:

  • 1 Cork bulletin Board (Substitutes: large piece of cardboard, plywood, artist’s canvas)
  • Cotton batting
  • Fabric in a style and pattern that suits you
  • Spool of ribbon (or a variety of ribbons)
  • Sawtooth Picture Hanger
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • A Staple Gun
  • A Glue Gun
  • Decorative Thumb Tacks (Optional)
A DIY ribbon board with horizontal/vertical ribboning.

A DIY ribbon board with horizontal/vertical ribboning.

  1. Decide whether or not you wish to remove the bulletin board frame. My personal ribbon board still has its frame, but the project works either way.
  2. Remove your cork board’s hanging mechanism. Sawtooth and other hangers can be glued back on after the project is complete.
  3. Cut the cotton batting so that it is 3” longer and wider than your cork board on all sides. (Can be shorter if you choose to remove the bulletin board frame.)
  4. Lay the batting on a flat surface. Then lay the bulletin board, cork-side down, squarely in the center of the batting.
  5. Gather the excess batting around the back of the bulletin board and then staple the batting to the back of the bulletin board. Staples should be about 1/2” to 1” from edges of the bulletin board and about 2” apart. When finished, trim off excess batting.
  6. Next, take your cloth, cover the front (cotton batting side) of the bulletin board with it, and use that measurement to trim it to size. Leave a generous amount of fabric (at least 6”) so that you have room to wrap the fabric around the board. You can always trim the fabric later.
  7. Staple the cloth to the back of the bulletin board. (Try to avoid the staples you used for the batting!) Staples should be about 1/2” to 1” from edges of the bulletin board and about 2” apart. Trim the excess fabric.
  8. Now comes the fun/hard part – applying the ribbons.  You can either apply the ribbons in one of two ways: horizontally/vertically or diagonally. I recommend diagonally because it’s allows for better hold in day to day use. Starting a couple of inches from one of the corners of the board, run a piece of ribbon diagonally across the fabric surface to the opposite side of the board. Hold the ribbon in place temporarily with pins or fabric tape, then do the same with the rest of the ribbon. Then run the ribbon in the opposite direction over the fabric surface, so that the ribbons form a criss-cross diamond pattern on the front of your board. You will be tucking small papers into the ribbons, so be sure to leave enough room.
  9. When the ribbons look the way you want them too, hot glue or staple them to the back of the board.
  10. Hot glue or staple the points where the ribbons intersect. You can optionally use decorative thumb tacks for this purpose to give your board a little extra flair.
  11. Glue a sawtooth picture hanger to the back to hang the board.

There’s a whole lot more you can do with malleable and versatile cork board. If you want to get creative with the shape of your cork board, visit DesignSponge.com for a template for the mother of all funky cork boards. Or if you simply want to construct a school-style bulletin board of your own without bothering with fabric and glue guns, visit Instructables for a step-by-step guide to DIY bulletin boards.

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9 Comments

  1. Jennifer Mattern November 2, 2009 Reply

    Very cool project Jenn. :) I’m definitely more of a white board person than a cork board type, but I do keep a cork strip on the wall near my desk. It’s great for me b/c I love using index cards for all kinds of things, and I can tack up any important ones so I don’t lose them. Love it. :)

  2. Author
    Jennifer Escalona November 2, 2009 Reply

    I’m more of a white board lady, too, but do happen to have a criss-cross cork board for those occasions when I need to hang a bill or a notice right in front of my face. (If you couldn’t tell by the professional quality photography up there, that cork board in the post is mine. :p)

    • Jennifer Mattern November 3, 2009 Reply

      I do love criss-cross boards. I like tucking photos in the ribbons and such – used to use them in college, but not anymore. I just know if I did my cat would find a way to get to it and shred it to bits. It’s a talent of his.

  3. LaToya Irby November 3, 2009 Reply

    I love the idea of covering it in fabric! I doubled up my cork boards because when I used a single one, the push pins went into the wall.

  4. Author
    Jennifer Escalona November 3, 2009 Reply

    Good advice, LaToya! You do have to worry about that with the small corks, so thanks for mentioning it! You can also reinforce them with plywood backing (glue gun them on) if you’re serious about your cork boarding!

  5. Rebecca Garland November 3, 2009 Reply

    How funny to find this today – I was actually trying to talk our librarian at school into covering up some giant air conditioning vents in the library with plywood backed cork tiles. The AC units are a huge eye sore, and I didn’t even think about fabric to cover them. Of course, the project will have to wait a while. I lost the librarian at “mount a thin sheet of plywood…”

  6. Author
    Jennifer Escalona November 4, 2009 Reply

    Rebecca, don’t you just hate an eyesore like that? Maybe you can go beyond the library and talk to the building folks about the project. I suppose you could always cover them with a curtain, but a big out-of-place curtain can draw almost as much attention as AC ducts, and then, of course, students would always be tempted to go look behind it.

    Let me know if you find that a variation on this project works for your library problem. Cork board really is a wonder!

  7. Dizsu February 24, 2010 Reply

    i’m more of a white board too…but what i did was paint my corkboard white…and the frame black…looks great. looks like a modern furniture and looks expensive in my office.

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