When I got the call from The Nate Berkus Show several weeks ago about creating an art project using the contents of someone’s junk drawer, I was naturally excited.   Having a big pile of ‘random junk’ in front of me and being told to just ‘make something’ is the kind of challenge I love to take on.  They gave me a bit of direction by saying they wanted it to be two pieces of wall art in gray and white and from there I was off and running.   I took one of my own junk drawers (I too, have many) and played around with a couple of sample boards just to explore what ALL I could do with typical junk drawer stuff.  I knew I’d end up having to create the pieces when I got to New York out of completely different contents that were from the actual family’s junk drawers but it was a good exercise to play around with things first so I would be ready for anything.

Here is what I played around with here at home beforehand….(can you spy the word in each?)

Below is what I had to work with in New York…(to see them in their final painted state……you’ll have to watch the segment from the show here…I didn’t get a chance to grab any photos)

HIS Junk Drawer

HER Junk Drawer

HIS art piece before it’s painted

HER art piece before it’s painted

BOTH before they’re painted… (their art department was going to paint them in the spray booth the morning of taping, so this was where I left things at about midnight the day before taping (with crazy ‘check this, check that’ ‘this one gray, this one white’, ‘edge framing would be nice’ kind of  notes written all over the table)….I went back to my hotel room nervously hoping like heck that the producers would like what I did in the morning! Thankfully, they did. Phew!))

I gotta admit, I’ve done a lot of projects out of life’s leftovers but to solely focus on the contents of a junk drawer was creatively eye opening (Every junk drawer is different and their contents reveal a lot about the owner’s personality, interests, lifestyle, stories, etc)  Once you dig in and start playing around with things, you’ll soon discover all the possibilities…..

Here are some tips on how to go about creating  some of your own junk drawer art:

  • Sort by color and size – see what you have to work with.  Look at the shapes of your objects..do they resemble anything?
  • Can some items be taken apart?  This will give you a lot more material to work with.
  • Develop a theme or pattern to play off of.
  • The items can all have their own ‘space’ or you can build off them and layer the different objects.
  • Are there stories or dates to go with any of the pieces….can that be worked into your ‘design’….everyone’s junk drawer is filled with stories….make it part of the art if you can.
  • Using flat papers:  They make great ‘backgrounds’ or you can crinkle them to give them body and texture…do some folding techniques.
  • Work with larger items first and then fill in with smaller items…
  • How can some of the items be creatively manipulated…disassembled, flattened, twisted, etc.
  • If you want to maintain the integrity of the item…work a ‘pouch’ into the design so things like ipods/cameras, etc.. could be removed and actually used.
  • Could come back in and paint some of the pieces in other colors or leave them as is for accenting.  Could play off the different values of one color.
  • Create hidden words in the design by using some of the objects as lettering.
  • Great family project.  Kids love digging through junk drawers and creating things out of what they find.  Their little imaginations are very inspiring.
  • It makes for a fun ‘I spy’ game when it’s all said and done.

Wall Art Steps:

Work on a wooden background for your canvas.  It’s a sturdier surface that will support the weight of your objects.  It also gives you other possibilities for connection methods.  I just used a piece of plywood.  Could explore other re-using other items from around the house as your canvas like wooden game boards, frames with wooden backings, old doors, etc.

Connection methods:  Various objects called for different ways to secure.  I used everything from high-temp hot glue – (for a quick grab hold before wiring), contact adhesive, white glues, wire, screws, nails and staples.

I did a monochromatic look for the ones on the show, but don’t hesitate to play around with other variations…leave some of the items ‘as is’…individually paint for pops of color….tape certain things off, etc…

  1. Determine background and size.
  2. Prime background – this allows for more even coverage after you have all your objects adhered.
  3. Layout all objects first to determine placement and positioning.
  4. Start securing each object in place.  The object determines how you want to attach.
  5. Once items are all secured, spray with primer.
  6. Primer is important because you are working with so many different materials…plastic, metal, paper, etc.
  7. Once primer is dry, spray with even coat of paint.
  8. May have to position your board at different angles to be sure you’re getting thorough coverage.


Note:  We had to work within short time constraints and with what was available so we did end up using spray paints and a couple of glues that I know are thought to be ‘unfriendly’, but they were the best choice for the job at hand…….if you’re striving for a friendly version, you can rely solely on non-toxic paints to hand paint and use only eco-friendly glues and the wire/screws/nail connection methods.

Other artful ideas for you ‘junk’..

  • Use it to create interesting assemblage style portraits.
  • Mixed Media Shadowboxes
  • Create last name plaques/signage.
  • Tabletop Sculptures.
  • Smaller items can be used to create funky jewelry pieces.

Cheers to the natural collector in us all and the creative webs we weave..


What does your junk drawer say about you?


  1. graphic banners says:

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  2. Edie Bukwa says:

    I’m thoroughly into this idea of ‘junk drawers’ – What a great way to Save The World !! This ‘grouping’ of ‘stuff’ is the basis of a ‘memory collage’, or even a way to teach kids about their family and/or environment. Adding Natural ‘parts’ will enhance the manufactured pieces, and reinforce the connections we have with our WHOLE habitat !! Thanks for your inspiring shows !!

  3. Edie Bukwa says:

    I’m thoroughly into this idea of ‘junk drawers – What a great way to Save The World !! This ‘grouping’ of ‘stuff’ is the basis of a ‘memory collage’, or even a way to teach kids about their family and/or environment. Adding Natural ‘parts’ will enhance the manufactured pieces, and reinforce the connections we have with our WHOLE habitat !! Thanks for your inspiring shows !!

  4. Jen K. says:

    I saw your segment on the Nate show and you were great! I felt nervous for you for some reason :) But of course you pulled it off in the most spectacular way! Of course I love the idea of re-purposing, but I never thought of a junk drawer collage. That really got my creative juices going. I’ve been in a creative lull and watching you do your thing gets me pumped up to create again. The always inspiring Michele! Thanks!

  5. Jennie says:

    You know, we moved in our first home last May and I still haven’t created a junk drawer. I am disturbed by this revelation! Ok, well I have many drawers throughout the house, but no junk drawer. Per se. Or maybe they are all kind of junky. Who knows, but I am definitely loving this idea. Love the show I just discovered it about 2 weeks ago. You make a great instructor!!

  6. Phil says:

    I missed the show so thank you for posting the video. I loved the look on her face when you dropped the covers. Very nice works of art and I like that word “re-purposing”.

  7. Candi Lewelling says:

    I think it says I like to cook and can’t throw anything away. (lots of “orphan” recipies) My bookcases are the same as junk drqawers–we put everything “up’ on them to keep toddler fingers out (Grandson). Will have to get creative on this! Love “pouch” idea. Keep my hand tools in there.

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