In 1953, during a career phase when Charles and Ray Eames were designing for children, they produced the Hang-It-All—a coat hanger that paired their cutting-edge wire welding method with what resembled brightly hued gumballs. They speculated that capturing children’s imagination might encourage them to actually use the coat hanger.
The design has proved enduring. Herman Miller continues to manufacture it today, now in a variety of more serious colors as well as the original multicolor, to steer all ages toward the fun of tidiness.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of kitchen DIYs, the pegboard organizer is practical, straightforward, and adaptable. Inspired by how the Eames brought panache to the humble coat hanger, I gussied uo a pegboard organizer with inexpensive wood balls available in any local craftshop.
Here's how to make it:
Note: In an effort to keep this project as accessible as possible, the steps below are aimed at beginners with a limited array of tools. If you’re an experienced DIY-er, you may wish to substitute wood glue for wood screws, and more elegant joinery for the butt joint; particularly if you have access to clamps and a miter box or more advanced saw.
Measure the height of your pegboard. Using a straight edge (like your other 1x2) and a pencil, make a cutting line at the midpoint of both 1x2's that will result in the four lengths you need to frame the pegboard.
On a surface suitable for cutting, use the hand saw to cut along your pencil mark.
Place your pegboard face down on your working surface. Align the outside edge of each 1x2 with the outside edge of the pegboard. These will form the vertical and outside components of your frame, designed to conceal the seam of the butt joint when the pegboard is viewed from the side.
A few tips for using a handsaw: The piece of wood you’re cutting should be elevated, for ease of use and to avoid cutting into your working surface. You can use scrap wood to elevate the 1x2 or cut it on the edge of a table or countertop. (If you use the table/countertop method, you can even put a trash bin under the cut line to catch saw dust.) With either method, just be sure the wood is resting solidly and remains stable on your working surface. In the absence of a clamp, press down firmly with the palm of your hand to keep the wood steady while you cut. Check out this site for more tips on how to use a handsaw.
In order to attach the pegboard to the face of the frame, flip everything so that it’s right side up. Because the components aren’t yet attached, this means recreating the frame on your working surface, using the pegboard as a template to be sure your 1x2s are placed and spaced appropriately.
Using your electric drill, put a wood screw through the top right of the pegboard, as close to the corner as you can while still hitting the piece of 1x2 that spans the width. Repeat on the top left side to secure the piece. Do the same thing along the bottom of the peg board, to secure the other width, and on both vertical 1x2's as well.
You should have eight screws inserted in total, two in each corner and two in each 1x2.
Using painter’s pyramids, elevate the pegboard and frame on a surface suitable for painting. Paint the face of the pegboard and the sides of the frame. Let rest until completely dry.
I painted this pegboard unit the same color as the wall to achieve a discrete “built-in” look and contrast with the unfinished wood knobs. You can use any color you like. For example, to replicate the look of the Limited Edition Eames Hang-It-All, released by Herman Miller in 2010 to appeal to adults, you could paint the pegboard black and stain the wood balls in a walnut finish.
Follow the instructions on the French cleat packaging to install it on the back of the peg board, being sure to use a level. Secure the pegboard to the wall.
Select a drill bit with a diameter just slightly larger than the head of a peg hook. Hold a wood ball alongside the drill bit, aligning the tip of the drill bit with the center of the ball. Wrap a piece of blue tape around the drill bit where it meets the outside edge of the ball. (This tape will serve as your guide for how deep to drill each hole, preventing you from drilling past the center, which risks cracking the ball.)
With the drill bit inserted into the drill, hold a wood ball in your non-dominant hand. Using your dominant hand, slowly drill into the ball until the drill bit is submerged up to the blue tape—very carefully!
If you have a table clamp at home, you can clamp the wood ball as an extra safety measure. If you take the hand-held approach, please use caution and stop when you reach the blue tape!
Repeat with the remainder of your wood balls.
Mix the epoxy according to package instructions to activate the adhesive. Squeeze a bead of epoxy into the channel in the wood ball and slip it over the head of the peg hook. Wriggle the peg hook around to increase contact between the wood, epoxy and metal. Then, let rest to dry.
Repeat with the remainder of your peg hooks. If you plan to hang items that won’t slip easily over the circumference of the hook, you may want to leave a few wood balls unglued.
Insert hooks into the pegboard, arranging them to accommodate the size and shape of the items you’d like to hang. To replicate the look of Eames’s Hang-It-All, stagger the peg hooks.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a scheme mapped out in advance. The beauty of the peg hooks is that they can be rearranged as often as you like!
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider adding a display shelf to your pegboard. You can purchase inexpensive utility brackets from your local hardware or home improvement store. Simply cut a piece of wood to your desired size and rest it on top of the brackets. If you’re using the pegboard as a kitchen organizer, as I did, this is a great way to store and display your salt and pepper mills.
A cheat code: If you’re short on time (or just feeling low on DIY moxie), purchase a pre-made pegboard panel to skip steps 1-3.
Just keep in mind that if you purchase a metal panel, you’ll need to use paint specially formulated to adhere to metal. You’ll also skip the French cleat and use the fasteners that come with the panel to attach it to the wall. The rest of the steps are the same! This cheat will cost a bit more, but save you roughly 30 to 45 minutes.
And here are a few of the goodies that Food52 brought over to help style the finished peg board, seen in the pictures above:
Alex Kalita is the co-founder of Common Bond Design, an interior design studio in New York CIty.