Waste not, want not

Posted on January 6th, 2009 – 1:25 PM
By Jason Hammond

About ten years ago I was working as a designer/art director for a small company that published interior design trade magazines. Among our various publications We had a small industry magazine dedicated to wall finishes, namely wallpaper. It was, at the time, a dying industry where only the highest-end products in both commercial and residential applications were making any headway or profit for that matter, and it looked as though paint and faux finishes had finally done in the art of applying materials to walls . Fast-forward roughly ten years and both the supply and demand for wall decor has seemingly skyrocketed. However, unlike their existence a decade ago they are now being used more to create accent walls and interest rather than to cover entire rooms.The growing popularity of these wall applications seem to range from the extremely dynamic composite wall panels like those by modulararts, to the paper squares like those made by inhabit and finally the more traditional, but equally as cool strong graphical patterned wallpapers like the work of Nama Rococo.

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The Clif™ wall panels from Modulararts.com

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The SHAN Sangri La wall panels from Inhabit.
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The Sixty-Eight, one of the beautiful patterns from Nama Rococo.

After spending more than a year looking and considering a variety of materials and applications available to us, Stacy suggest that we might be able to create our own wall application with the idea of using some scrap material we had left over from other projects. After talking about what pattern we liked the best and what would be most easy to execute with both the tools and materials we had. We settled on a linear sliding plane pattern that mimicked the design of our house and was relatively easy to execute. Using scrap pieces of MDF in both 1/2″ and 3/4″ thickness we cut them down in to a series of long linear strips and then cut them down to varying lengths. To give it an added layer of dimension we spaced the pieces in a staggered manner and used the wall to create a third plane. Once the wall was covered we filled the cracks and nail holes with paintable caulk and then painted the entire wall bright white.

The results of our little scrap project is a very inexpensive but fairly cool feature wall, that gives our first floor bathroom a sophisticated, mid-century modern meets modern contemporary feel. Because we used scrap material and the paint that we already had for the house our only out of pocket expense was roughly $6 for some decent 1″ paint brushes to get into the little spaces between pieces—a well worth it investment.

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The MDF as we applied it to the wall in various sizes.
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The finished wall.
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A close-up of the wall dimension.

12 Responses to "Waste not, want not"

Michael Wendell says:

January 6th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I’ve been following your blog for a while and the house is absolutely wonderful.

While I think the wall came out beautifully, and I thank you for the inspiration, I wonder about how it will weather, so to speak, the location. I have two concerns on that front. My first concern is simply one of convenience, as I’d hate to be the one who had to clean the nooks and crannies in that wall down next to the toilet. Second, although I have no direct experience with it, I hear that bathrooms and MDF don’t mix because of the moisture.

Still, it is definitely gorgeous, thanks!

Jason Hammond says:

January 6th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Hi Michael.

First off thanks for the comment and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog.

I agree the location to the toilet may have some disadvantages and we may even see an increase in misses as a result of the gawking factor it might create to new visitors, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’m sort of a clean freaks with bathrooms anyhow so I’m constantly wiping the area down although this ads another dimension to the task.

As far as MDF in bathrooms goes it’s a bit of a generalization, and there are a couple of things to consider. 1. if you paint the mdf with a high quality paint and get really good coverage it should be fine. Secondly, this bathroom is only a washroom (toilet and sink) and doesn’t have a shower or tub that would lead to the room having moisture issues that you might run into with a full or even half bath. Additionally this room does feature a really nice quiet Broan fan that moves the air out of that space fairly well, as an added precaution.

MDF is certainly a sponge when it comes to moisture so you do need to consider this and the location in which it will be before you use it. I think in our case that we should be pretty safe.

Jason

Connie says:

January 9th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I think this wall is awesome. Great idea and wonderful execution. Really inspirational. Kudos!

Jason Hammond says:

January 11th, 2009 at 8:27 am

Thanks Connie.

It’s nice to hear that other people like the way it turned out as well.

Jason

Diane says:

January 11th, 2009 at 10:23 am

Nice wall! another idea I might have to steal, but for the basement TV room not a bathroom (see accoustic note below). Wondering why MDF and not cementboard — since moisture will be an issue? If you haven’t already noticed, a side benefit of MDF plus the three dimentional texture will be a reduction in sound bounce as the wall provides some of the benefits of the waffles in accoustic tile used in music studios. I love tiled bathrooms, but the “noise” factor of sound bouncing off all that hard surface is reaaly grating. Also wondering if you’ve got plans to relocate light sources or add down/side “grazers” to really emphasize the texture? How often will you need to re-paint to keep it white and water resistant?

Josh says:

January 11th, 2009 at 11:48 am

Jason…gr8 idea! I’m gonna have to openly steal that one from you.

Your place looks fantastic… Kudos on seeing the project through!

troy. says:

January 13th, 2009 at 7:07 am

Great idea. It looks amazing!

Todd Swenson says:

January 15th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Dear Jason,

Looks very nice! A couple of things, though. Sawn MDF edges are rough. Did you smooth them at all? Second, it seems like all those little ledges would collect dust and be quite difficult to clean. Any experience with that so far?

Jason Hammond says:

January 17th, 2009 at 8:36 am

Diane,

Why MDF? It’s sort of three part. The first was a simple reason, I had scrap of it in both 1/2″ and 3/4″. the Second was that MDF cuts down really easily and gives you nice splinter free cuts. Once you paint MDF it basically has a protective layer of latex over-top of it. This is also why I caulked all the seams to prevent moisture from getting in between the pieces. I can’t imagine that I will need to paint it anymore frequently than any other space.

Regarding lighting, there is one little light in the bathroom by the back of the toilet that was put in place to highlight art. This light also casts some really wonderful shadows on the wall.

Jason

Jason Hammond says:

January 17th, 2009 at 8:37 am

Josh,

Go ahead steal away, that’s why I post this stuff up here, so other people can share the ideas.

Jason

Jason Hammond says:

January 17th, 2009 at 8:43 am

Hey Todd,

regarding the rough edges of the mdf. I neglected to mention that I spent sevral hours sanding the sides and edges down to give them a nice feel. It’s probably the one big draw back to MDF. If you plan on doing something like this I would recommend using a mask as well because the dust is pretty fine and nasty.

As far as dust collecting goes, like any other flat surface it collects a fair amount. But it seems to vacuum off easily with the soft brush extension, and I don’t mind getting in their and doing that.

Jason

Bridget says:

January 30th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Jason, love the wall, but am also interested in the floor. I’m thinking of using rubber flooring in our new mudroom, hallway and bathroom…is yours rubber? Do you know of any good rubber flooring manufacturers? Thanks!