Photo: Melissa Massello/Shoestring
In these penny-pinching times, cleverly using whatever you have on hand for project materials has become more popular than ever — including using actual pennies as the unorthodox base for everything from kitchen countertops to subway tile-style bathroom floors, DIY jewelry to tap shoes.
As of 2011, it costs the U.S. Mint more than 2.41 cents to produce each 1 cent penny thanks to the rising cost of metals used to make pennies (such as copper and zinc), creating an interesting crafting conundrum: Keep the pennies in circulation, thereby decreasing the need to mint more coins (to the tune of 4.3 billion pennies at a cost of $100 million dollars per year), or use them as a project supply more valuable for the metal they contain than as currency?
If you choose the latter, here are my 9 favorite penny projects — with dozens more on my Pinterest board: Pennies for Thought.
1. SUBWAY TILE FLOORS
Ever since the Standard Hotel in New York City created a penny tile floor for their lobby bar, interior designers and DIY bloggers around the globe have had coppery crafts on the brain. If you're thinking of tiling a bathroom floor or countertop with pennies, think about using this tutorial to adhere them to mesh backing first — exactly how contractors would purchase mosaic or glass subway tiles from a supplier — and look into a good sealant so your home doesn't permanently smell like wet coins. Apartment Therapy has more photos for inspiration.
Photo: Toki/Shop Adorn
At the very top of my domestic daydreams for when I finally buy a fixer-upper home to call my own is this DIY penny-tiled countertop created for the Portland, Oregon boutique Shop Adorn. It's a cute and classy way to incorporate pennies into a counter — and cost effective, too, using IKEA cabinets for the base and reclaimed wood for an aesthetic casing. Other tutorials exist for bending pennies over an existing countertop or tabletop propped up on brackets.
Photo: The Hip Soiree
3. ACCENT WALLS
If you're jonesing for a major home improvement project but limited by your rental agreement (and worried about your security deposit), try this trick from blogger Lizzie of The Hip Soiree for creating a temporary accent wall made of pennies and plywood. The perfect winter project while you're cooped up indoors, all Lizzie & her husband Ryan need was plywood and trim molding (which you can have cut to measure at Home Depot), glue, about $50 in pennies and about 50 (wo)man hours of elbow grease.
Photo: Melissa Massello/Shoestring
4. MARQUEE LETTERS
My own first foray into penny crafts was creating these marquee letters as a gift for a sibling who now lives in Brooklyn. Inspired by a 2012 tutorial published by The Crafted Sparrow & Raw Canvas Photography, I simply purchased cardboard letters for a few dollars each from the craft store, gave them a coat of Krylon Copper Metallic Brilliance spray paint, and arranged two layers of pennies on each letter, affixing with
E6000 craft epoxy (allowing to dry for 12 hours between layers). A gleaming (and much easier!) alternative to the lighted DIY marquee letters so popular right now — with more permanence, too.
Photo: Dollar Store Crafts
5. PENNY JEWELRY
Copper accessories are totally on trend right now in fashion, and this 2009 penny necklace project from Dollar Store Crafts costs just $1.36 to make. All you need is a small drill bit, jump rings, a jewelry clasp, 36 pennies, and a few hours worth of patience.
Photo: Pat's Design
6. COMMEMORATIVE PENNY GIFTS
There's something so sweet and romantic about this DIY keychain idea using a penny dated from the year you met your spouse and a penny from the year you were married. Order the finished keychains with a washer stamped "Lucky Us" from Pat's Design on Etsy ($18) or make your own using a drill bit, a plain key ring, and a washer at least 1/2" larger than the circumference of the pennies. A maker-ready Valentine's Day gift if I've ever seen one!
Photo: Vone Inspired
7. MOSAIC TILE
Rather than invest in expensive mosaic tiles for covering vases or tabletops, try using pennies instead. A coat of paint, a glue gun, and a few bucks worth of pennies took this thrift store vase from tacky to trendy. Check out the entire step-by-step makeover on Vone Inspired.
Photo: Elisa McLaughlin
8. OMBRE PENNY ART
The hardest part about creating this display piece designed by Missouri blogger Elisa McLaughlin is taking the time to collect and sort all the different "shades" of pennies so that you have a range of oxidation for the ombre effect. Once you've laid out your design to your liking, glue the pennies to a scrap of reclaimed barn wood or to the matting of an IKEA frame and voila! Instant conversation-starting art for your walls.
Photo: James Wojcik/Real Simple
9. CHILDREN'S TAP SHOES
This 5-minute DIY from Real Simple is perfect for parents dealing with snowed-in kids — and it's temporary! Simply take a handful of pennies and attach them to the soles of a pair of children's shoes using a hot glue gun. Hours of entertainment for less than a quarter!
Have you ever used pennies in a DIY or home decor project? Love to hear from you in the comments!
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About the Authors
Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out
|Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »|