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How to Make a Rustic DIY Command Center

message center with hooks and chalkboard

Creating a rustic DIY command center is a simple project that anyone can do. The best part about it is that when you make it yourself you can customize it to fit the colors and style of your home, and add the features that your family needs.

DIY Command Center
Here’s the finished product hung on the wall. You can see our keys fit nicely and the hooks can hold a scarf, hat, dog leash, or even a coat. I probably won’t hang anything on them because they are so pretty… #obsessed


  • Reclaimed pallet wood
    • For frame (just for reference)
      • (2)  20 1/2″L  x 3″ W
      • (1) 20″ L x 3 1/2″ W
      • (1) 20″ L x 5 1/2″ W — the piece on the bottom I used a wider piece to hold the letter box and hooks
    • For letter box (just for reference – this will hold legal sized letters)
      • (2) 12 1/4″ L x 3 3/8″ W
      • (2) 3 ” W x 3 3/8″ W
  • Nice piece of plywood (mine is 20″ x 12″)
  • Thin 1 1/2″ wide strips of pine or poplar (any wood), or a larger piece veneer or MDF
  • 2 key hooks
  • 2 knobs
  • Primer
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Stain or Paint (optional)
  • Polyurethane sealer (recommended)
  • Trim Molding – whatever floats your boat (optional)
  • Picture hanging kit (wire & fasteners)
  • Chop Saw (or Hand Saw) to cut the wood
  • Drill / Kreg Jig / Finish Nail gun
  • Wood glue

Sand and paint plywood with chalkboard paint

Sand your 20×12″ piece of plywood so it’s nice and smooth. Wipe it down, and prime the surface. After it dries, paint a coat of chalkboard paint. Let it dry, and sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper. Do this 3 times to get the best coverage.

paint the plywood with chalkboard paint
This is just the wood framing out my nice piece of plywood.  It’s easier to paint the plywood with chalkboard paint before you assemble the command center. This way you can be as sloppy as you want! Learn more about chalkboard paint.

Assemble the letter box

While you’re waiting for the paint to dry, let’s work on assembling the letter box / mail holder for the command center. I used wood glue and a finish nail gun to assemble the letter box. Take the two 20″ length pieces, and glue them together so they are perpendicular to each other. Nail in place. Then, take the two small blocks and flank the sides of your L with them. The back (open side) should be completely flush so that you can later connect to to your command center.

closeup of the letterbox to hold the mail on your command center
The letterbox holds the mail on your command center. Here is a closeup of mine. Just make a box without a top or a back — it won’t have a top and the back attaches to your command center. Easy peasy!

Assemble the Frame

Secure the wood for the frame. Make sure that it is nicely framing your new chalkboard. I assembled my command center from the back, so turn everything over (chalkboard painted side facing down). There are a lot of different ways you can connect this.

The frame of the command center is officially assembled around the chalkboard
There are two ways to assemble the frame to the chalkboard command center. The easiest way is to use backing the covers the whole length and width of your command center (version 1). If you don’t have that on hand, version 2 shows how to use random scraps you have laying around to make this work. 

Frame Version 1:

The easiest way is to get a piece of thin veneer or MDF and just cut it to the size of your entire message center. After it’s cut, you can use a finish nailer or screws to connect all 4 pieces of reclaimed wood and the chalkboard to one another.

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Frame Version 2:

The second way involves using 1 1/2″ wide strips of thin wood. Usually the wood is pine or poplar at the hardware store, but whatever you have on hand should work fine as long as it’s thin and you can drill or nail through it without destroying it. This way is a little more tricky/involved. Think of it as 2 steps. First, we assemble the frame that goes around the chalkboard. Then we will secure our new frame to the chalkboard.

Secure the 4 pieces of reclaimed wood to each other using a kreg jig and screws. Don’t have a kreg jig? Just use the thin 1 1/2″ wood strips. Put some wood glue on the back, and span the strip across two pieces of wood. Use a finish nailer or screws to secure the wood strip to both pieces you are connecting. If you are screwing it in, make sure you pre-drill if you do this so the thin strips of wood don’t split. Repeat 4 times to connect each piece of wood, making sure you are framing your chalkboard nice and tight.

Secure the frame to the chalkboard. Use the 1 1/2″ wood strips to build a frame in between the chalkboard plywood and your reclaimed wood. Glue the wood down, and use the finish nailer or screws to connect it. Make sure you screw and nail both pieces — the reclaimed wood AND the chalkboard. Repeat all the way around the frame (4 times).

Secure the Letterbox to the Frame

To secure the box you made in the steps above, mark the spot you want to position it, and then apply a little bit of wood glue to the back. From the back of the frame, use the finish nailer to secure it. You can also drill in from the back (slowly and carefully — after predrilling)… or even from below the letter box at an angle up and toward the back of the frame.

Add Hook & Knob Hardware

I chose 2 [awesome] globe knobs and 2 ornate key hooks and positioned them on either side of the letter box. The hooks can hold keys, and the knobs can hold a dog leash, a scarf, a hat… whatever. They both have an antique brass finish to make it look cohesive. I spent about $13 on the hardware.

To attach, just drill a pilot hole into your frame where you want them, and attach them through the back. I used a hacksaw to cut off the excess knob threads on the back side of the command center.

Decorative Brass Key Holder for the command Center

Brass globe map decorative knobs match the finish of the key hooks

Frame the Chalkboard with Molding

This is an optional step. Because reclaimed wood is not always straight, I had some gaps between the chalkboard plywood and the frame of the command center. I remedied this by adding some thin molding. I measured the distance within the frame to get the right dimensions (because the reclaimed wood was a little crooked it wasn’t exactly 20×12″). I cut the molding at 45 degree angles with a hacksaw (the chop saw was too powerful to do this and it snapped my first piece of molding).

Once the molding was cut, I sanded it a bit and painted it a nice blue to bring out the color from the knobs. .You could use wall paint, spray paint, acrylics, or even just stain and/or seal it with polyurethane. The moldings are small so just use whatever you have handy. I sanded the paint a little bit to give it a more distressed look, then added a dark furniture wax on top.

Once dry use some wood glue to secure the molding onto the chalkboard plywood. Corners not quite perfect? That’s ok! Put some paintable wood filler in the gaps, let it dry, then sand and repaint. Or leave it as-is. One of the benefits of making something look “rustic”.

Add Molding to the Command Center
You’ll notice that my molding is far from perfect (lol). That’s ok. All you have to do is fill the gaps in with a paintable or stainable wood putty and no one will ever know how bad you suck at cutting 45 degree angles 🙂

Hang Up Your New Command Center!

I used picture hanging wire that was strong enough to hold such a heavy piece.

DIY Command Center

Wrapping Up

This command center is a fun project that is really easy to customize. Choose your colors and hardware to match the style you like. Want to paint the reclaimed wood white or a nice black and white contrast? Go for it? Do you need additional hooks for keys or coats? Add some more! Want the letter box to be smaller, or not have it at all? You can customize all the details of this project to make it something truly unique and extremely functional.

If you like this post, check out my chalkboard refrigerator.

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