How to: Make Large-Scale Inspiration Boards on the Cheap (My Total Office Makeover)

How to: Make Large-Scale Inspiration Boards on the Cheap (My Total Office Makeover)

Welcome to our newest blog series, My Total Office Makeover, in which Curbly's editor-in-chief, Chris Gardner, realizes that as a full-time design and craft blogger working from home, he'd better transform his second bedroom into an inspiring space where work can actually get done.

created at: 01/26/2011

Part VI: Inspiration, Inspiration, Inspiration As a design writer and maker, I spend my days swimming in a sea of image heaviness: photos of incredible rooms, beautiful handmade objects, clever logos and typography, and just awesome looking goodies. For my new office space, I wanted an opportunity to have an ever evolving and changing collection of images, allowing me to curate, add, and reorganize as necessary. So, immediately I thought "corkboard!" and upon checking out the prices at the office supply store, immediately I thought "DIY!" (Seriously, $45 bucks for a bulletin board?!)

So, I did a little research, and came up with a solution that allowed me to create attractive and HUGE pushpin-able surfaces for under $5.00 each, allowing me to cover all of my walls for less than $20.00.   The magic words?!


This product is made of compressed newspaper bound with cellulose...so it's basically a giant piece of paper mache. It's mostly used for sound reduction in building projects, and so comes in 4 x 8' sheets like plywood or MDF. You won't likely find it at Lowe's or Home Depot, but any independent lumberyard should carry it. If you can't find any locally, call a hobby shop. It's popular with that crowd as they use it for model building, gaming, etc. It accepts push pins super well, and I got a whole sheet for $13.89.

Other materials used:

  • Yardstick or long straight edge
  • Utility knife
  • Fabric and scissors
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Drill with driver bit
  • Drywall screws and anchors
  • Finish washers 

I also added a hand-printed design to mine, which I created using acetate sheets, acrylic ink, and sponge brushes.

created at: 01/25/2011

1. Measure your homasote sheet to it's finished dimension and mark the size with a heavy marker.

created at: 01/25/2011

2. Using the straight edge as your guide, make several shallow passes with the utility knife, until you've cut through.

created at: 01/25/2011

3. Cut your fabric to size, adding 2-3 inches to your inspiration board size on all sides. Wrap the fabric around the homasote and begin stapling it down, starting in the center, then moving towards the corners, mitering the fabric. (See this how-to for more direction.)

created at: 01/25/2011

4. For fun, I added a little handprinted design. On this one, I just drew some mountain shapes on a piece of acetate (an overhead transparency), and cut them out with a craft knife. Then, I just dabbed the ink on with a spouncing brush. I did a row of circles on another board, and some abstract orbs on a third.

created at: 01/25/2011

5. To hang, mark a dot in each corner. Cut a little X with a craft knife, to prevent the fabric from twisting in the drill bit. Then, drill a pilot hole through the fabric, homasote, and into the wall. Take the board down and insert and anchor, then place a finish washer on the screw, and drive into the anchor. Then, repeat!

The fabric cost $5.87, and with the sheet of homasote at 13.89, I was able to create four of these guys, some quite large, for until $20.00

Not bad for a few hours work.

*Note: As you work with homasote, you may find yourself unable to stop inserting it into this unbelievably awesome tune from Paul Simon, subbing it from "kodachrome" in the chorus, as in, "Mama, don't take my homasote away."

I've added this here for convenience: 

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midcentfan on Jul 21, 2011:

I made one with a 2x4 ceiling panel but the panel didn't last long - I think the Homasote would be more durable.  When I was covering mine, I put in the bottom half of snaps and screwed through those; I gave it a very nice finished look.

elseajane on Jan 26, 2011:

I've used hemasote (sp?) for all kinds of stuff in theater projects but as an inspiration board, too cool. In fact it's on my cutting table, I just remembered that. Thanks Chris

DesigningMom on Jan 26, 2011:

Great job Chris. I would think one could use a ceiling tile for this too since you can get them for less than three dollars in 2 by 4 foot sheets at Lowes and Ho De.

Alicia on Jan 25, 2011:

This is great! I went the cheap, lazy route which clipping four pieces of foam core to IKEA skirt hangers and hanging each from a small nail on the wall. The best part is that they are double-sided!

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