Furnish and Decorate your Apartment on a Budget with Wooden Pallets
Furnishing or decorating your place can be one of life’s great joys, but it can also be a time of stress, especially when it comes to the cost. While you might feel tempted to go to a furniture store and buy it all from there, you should take the time to plan and lay the groundwork to achieve the look you want.
Have you heard the advice to not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? Well... the same rule applies for furniture stores.
So how do you make your space look nice while fitting all your needs without going off budget and buying everything brand new?
- Wooden pallets are the answer!
A wooden pallet in technical terms is a flat transport structure, which supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a fork-lift or pallet jack. Its creation is widely credited to George Raymond in the 1930s.
Pallets are made out of plywood, pine or in rare cases oak, however, you can also find some plastic ones but I would recommend avoiding them because they won’t be as versatile as the wooden ones and also because plastic-free is our number one priority - Don't you agree?
What can I do with a wooden pallet?
Wooden pallets offer endless possibilities for your home, all you need is a little imagination and some DIY skills, which only require some planning and patience. If you find it hard to imagine how to transform a wooden pallet into a decorative piece of furniture, art or garden fixture, you can check out a few ideas that I’ve listed below!
I’m obviously not inventing anything new here as you may have seen all these ideas in many places already, I'm simply giving you a little reminder that you can also steal those ideas for your home.
INDOORS / OUTDOORS SOFA
Let’s be honest, this repurpose is simply never getting old. It is probably the first one that comes to mind when mentioning wooden pallet furniture and for good reasons!
A sofa is an important piece of furniture where we lounge, read, eat and drink, entertain family and friends, watch TV and, even sleep, however, the price of a new sofa can set you back a few hundred euros. So it makes sense that you want to cut the price and attempt to make your own unique bespoke furniture as a cheaper alternative.
How? First, here's your materials and tools list:
Get 3 wooden pallets - no panic, I will provide information about where to find or purchase some at the end of this article
Some sandpaper (depending on the surface condition I would suggest 80- to 120- grit for smoothing and removing small imperfections. 360- to 600- grit for finishing the surface smoothly)
Appropriate wood paint depending if it's for indoor or outdoor use
An electric drill
Bolts with washers and nuts, and we are good to go!
A quick note about specifics throughout this article.
Pallets are shipped around the world and come in different international sizes, and materials as mentioned. For your personal projects, you will need to experiment with where you need to drill holes, what drill bit to use and how many pallets you will need for your space!
Luckily, using pallets is a relatively cheap material to source and if your D.I.Y project doesn't work out you can simply find more pallets and also ask a Co-Tasker to help you!
Okay, let's get into it!
1. Sand the wood
The first thing you want to do is to sand your pallets if they didn't come pre-treated. (They usually don't if you find them on the street or from a local shop/market).
Why do we need to sand the wood? You need to sand in order to make the surface smooth by removing milling marks which will help you to prepare it for the paint. This will improve the appearance of your project and give it a more professional look (plus you’ll avoid splinters in places where one really doesn't want splinters).
2. Paint the 3 pallets
Stir the paint and then apply the first coat which you’ll need to leave to dry for 1-2 hours before applying the second coat. Depending on the finish you want, I’d say you can apply up to 3 coats of paint.
Remember to let It dry before flipping it over!
Where to get wood paint? Check any hardware stores such as Bauhaus.
3. Form the Base and Back
In order to have an appropriate height, I suggest stacking two pallets - you can always add more if you think it doesn't meet your needs.
When you’re finally happy with the height you can drill holes and secure the height with your bolts, washers and nuts.
Add another pallet in a vertical position to create the back of your sofa, and the same as the base, secure it all with a drill and bolts. If one isn't enough, you can reproduce the same steps by placing them side by side to accommodate more people.
4. Dress it
Make sure to purchase outdoor cushions if you plan on leaving them outside. You can find some waterproof ones which will remain clean and obviously last longer.
BED FRAME / BED HEADBOARD
Another a great way to use wooden pallets when furnishing your home is to use them to create a unique and stylish bed frame.
Now, some will say: to bed frame, or not to bed frame?
It is, in fact, optional, take a look at people in Japan who don’t use them.
But it can be a good idea to have your bed raised above the floor for these reasons: to avoid mould and insects by letting air circulate, as well as creating stability and energy circulation based on the Feng Shui considerations which help you to have better sleep (I could go on for hours about Feng Shui but let's try to stay on-topic).
Get 2 pallets for a twin bed, 4 pallets might be a bit too big for a double bed so you might need to cut them depending on the size of your mattress and preferences, but you can always ask a Co-Tasker to help you with this step.
(If you have extra surface space which isn't covered by your mattress, this is not a problem at all, in fact, it could be a nice step and/or a place for your books. Check out my mood board below for inspo).
Follow the same process as the sofa, sand, paint and secure it all together with an electric drill and bolts. For the paint, you can either use wood lacquer, varnish for a more rustic, natural look or paint it in any colour you want.
If you're looking to get a coffee table but you just can’t find one that is quite right. Or perhaps you're looking for a vintage or contemporary style but nothing is matching your interior (without an expensive price tag), then it’s time to make your own.
Get 1 pallet and follow the exact same steps, I've listed above, then purchase 4 wheels castors ('Räder Rolle' auf Deutsch) with brakes (optional for the brakes) which you can find in any hardware store: Bauhaus, Max Werk, Hornbach, Hellweg to list a few.
Make sure your coffee table height is appropriate to the height of your sofa, on average it shouldn't be any higher than 48cm (You can find more information about the standard measurements for any furniture here), so choose accordingly the size of your wheels.
Drill holes and install the wheels, et voila, you have a functional coffee table.
There are multiple other ways to make a coffee table out of pallets, this is probably the easiest and quickest option I’m offering you right now. You can be very creative when using pallets so always check for more inspiration if you want something very different.
Sadly I cannot go on forever with the million possibilities you have to create unique, clever and bespoke furniture for your home but I’m listing below a few more ideas and if one of them catches your attention and you'd like to know more about it, ask a Co-Tasker to guide you in your D.I.Y journey.
1. Freestanding island / Bar
3. Vertical planter for balcony
4. Swing chair / Pallet swing bed
5. Radiator cover
6. Pallet bed for a pet
7. Bug hotel
And so much more!
NOW, WHERE CAN I GET MY WOODEN PALLETS?
This is probably the question everyone has on their lips. Where? When? How?
Alright... you don't necessarily need to buy them as you can find them on the street or from a store where they are being used for deliveries and carrying merchandise.
Most people will tell you they found theirs randomly on the street or they simply asked someone who was getting rid of theirs.
(A gentle reminder that if you do find some pallets make sure to ask the owner if you can take them as pallet removal without permission is considered theft and is punishable by law.)
Now the best place to start out is by heading to a local shop, a large chain store where you can go and ask if they have any pallets lying around.
Since it costs the company to get their pallets picked up, they might be very happy for you to take them off their hands. Of course, the condition of the pallets may not be perfect but you judge yourself if it's worth it or not.
Check Facebook Marketplace and Groups for people selling or giving away wood pallets in your area.
eBay Kleinanzeigen also has some offers for free pallets sometimes.
Now if you don't have time to look and ask around, I would suggest to simply buy them off eBay where you can get them for a decent price.
There is also this company Papierfritze which sells all types of pallets, new or used. A used pallet is 9 euros and you can purchase as many as you want.
Important things to know
Make sure to check and inspect your pallets, if they have the letters 'MB' on them, avoid them at all cost as they have transported dangerous chemicals and you don't want them in your home.
The marking 'HD' means the pallet has been treated and is now safe to use.
Sometimes they simply don't have any marking on them but this doesn't mean they aren't good to be used for your DIY project.
I’ve linked a website below that will help you understand what the marking on your pallet means and if it's safe.
If you find all of this a bit too overwhelming to do all by yourself, this is exactly what Co-Tasker was created for, to help and support you with any DIY projects you might have where you need an extra pair of hands!
Laurine Lalande is an Interior Designer with much experience in commercial projects. Previously, Laurine worked as a visual merchandiser for many retail brands in the United Kingdom. She graduated with honours from Middlesex University in London with a Degree in Interior Design & Architecture.