abacus-inspired family command center

Alternate title: random thingy we made that has no real name because it’s a hybrid-mixed-mutt calendar.

But that’s how we roll round here in the Millz Hizzy.

This would be easy peasy to make! Check it out, here.

About a month ago {yeah, it took me about a month to get to this one} I received a message on our convo hub from a sweet gal named Tiffany. She wrote:

“…I need some design inspiration – my husband and I keep a dry erase board in the kitchen to jot down a running grocery list as well as meal ideas and notes to each other. We’ve recently decided that we need to expand this to include a monthly calendar. Any tips for creating a stylish fun calendar that won’t look like it came straight out of a corporate office??”

via pottery barn

I said to myself: “Self, I feel a blog post comin’ on…as we need a family command center, ourselves. ” {read: I tend to get a little scatterbrained at times.}

technically, this could be a two part post. It’s forever long. But i had to provide a littleinspiration before I got to the how-to of things…

plenty of eye candy, here.

Something great to do, here.

Something you could do yourself, here.

of course, a command wall, with giant chalkboard fabulosity would also rock my world. But personally, I already have two giant chalkboards in our house. So I was looking for something a little smaller.

something else, here.

Look at what a fabulous job this gal did?! I suddenly want my own office space! {one day. one day…} Props to her.

But with all these fabulous family command centers, I wasn’t really seeing much in the way of perpetual calendars combo. Hmmmm…

found here

how awesome is this lil number?

love the subtle pops of color in this magnetic one.

this one would be fairly easy to do…

and check out this fun fabulous colorful how-to, here.

But none of these little configurations were really floating my boat, for me, personally. I’ve always had an obsession with the abacus. There’s just something about the clicking of wooden beads, and their fun, fresh, childhood-reminscent quality that I liked…

feel free to swoon, here.

I’ve been wanting to make a real-live abacus for a while. And when I looked it up this morning for a visual reference, I saw that this oh-so-crafty gal had, here.

While you’re there, feel free to stalk the rest of her blog. I’m loving every single project she comes up with. CLE-VER!

But I’m digressing.

So, this weekend, I decided I was ready to tackle this project. And I wanted to challenge myself, in designing something that could be done with the things we had around our home. Free {already paid for} for us. I realize normal people might not have all of these things. But alas, challenge with myself accepted…and this is what we came up with. Without further inspirational ado…

This is the basic idea, and you could always go larger to suit your family’s needs…but our overall final size was 47.5″ w by 24″ h.

Want to make one like ours?

I was inspired by this frame I already had from Ikea, and its modern, simple shape. So, using this as my springboard, I came up with this little creation.

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 select pine {1 x 2} cut to 24 inches.

2 select pine {1 x 2} cut to 47.5 inches. {these go on the top and bottom}

MDF pieces {thinnest you can find} cut to 12 x 24

4 more pieces of select pine {1 x 2} to brace the top and bottom of your pieces of MDF at 12 inches wide. {you’ll see that below}

paint color of your choice {I recommend spray paint, but I didn’t have it so alas there were gloopy glops, but when I sanded it down, it had a cool subtle distressed look}

paint brush or roller

cork squares {you can purchase these at your local craft store. Mine were left over from our kitchen project (like, three years ago) and I purchased them at amcork.}

screwdriver and screws


hot glue

thread + twine

beads + painty pen

clothespins {you can decorate these however you like, but I’ll give more details on mine below}

fabric + wood disks for your days and months

Other decorative things for your board like thumbtacks and magnets, etc.

1. I started out by painting all of my already cut pieces. I also used one thin piece of MDF, and added a couple of coats of magnetic primer, and then a few layers of chalkboard paint. Again, I would recommend using rollers {I was going with what I had, and we were out of rollers.} Bonus: your chalkboard will have super magnetic powers, as well.

2. I placed the cork on my MDF and glued it down. Special side note: pay attention to the thickness of your cork squares. The standard ones from your local Hobby Lobby won’t need an additional layer. Mine were special, so I laid down some basic cork from a roll I already had, to provide an additional layer of thickness for those thumbtacks.

1. while those were drying, I decided to make my months and days. I wanted to break it down for you, so you could see what I did…Basically, my flowers are made from cut layers of fabric and felt, {sizzix, but you could easily do your own shape} topped off with a simple round wooden disk that I scored from the woodworking department in a little package at H.L. I simply hand lettered it with a pin, but you could easily stamp your own, or come up with some other way to display your stuff.

2. The backs of all of these, for sliding purposes, were backed by these plastic luggage tag pieces I already had. These can be found at an office supply store, but you could easily do the same effect with clothespins, if you aren’t feeling up to the task of hunting these puppies down. I’ve  had mine for so long, I don’t remember where they came from. I secured all the layers to the plastic piece with a glue gun, and…tada!

After those, I gathered these wooden beads {you can purchase these from your craft store, but mine were from an old necklace) and dutifully painted each one, all the way around, with a number. {Hand. Cramp. But it was fun!} I had two flowered ones, and ironically had JUST enough to go all the way to 31. Everyone in our family, except myself, have birthdays on the 13th or 16th of a month. So I designated those as the “special” beads. {left the flowers. No sweat.}

1. When my pieces were dry, we pieced them all together on the counter, face down.

2. Making sure that the MDF pieces fit inside the main frame piece {we may or may not have had a re-do because we forgot to check} start joining the pieces together.

3. + 4.  In order to insure that your thinner pieces of MDF {holding your corkboard and magnetic chalkboard} come to the forefront of the piece to give it that modern look, we joined two additional pieces of pine {as mentioned above} to the top and bottom of each piece. Laying them all face-down into the frame, we drilled to attach them to the piece.

We also filled the gaps with wood filler, to unify it more, and touched it up with paint to give it that modern look. a

Next, we threaded all all our pieces on separate strands, and measuring, drilled holes in each side, to join them through the frame. We went all the way through the secondary inside piece, to secure the knot behind the MDF boards. Here’s where your hot glue gun will come in handy: if you’re using thinner pieces of thread {you could always use dowels, but again, going with what we had} secure the knot with an extra dab {or puddle} of hot glue.

measure on each side, to make sure your lines are straight.

For our beads, we used smaller pieces of thread, as it was hard to thread them. If you have issues pushing your thread through the drilled hole in the wood, use the old knot-it-up-to-a-larger-piece-and-pull-it-through-trick. You know what I’m talking about…the same one your mom used to get your soccer shorts back into gear, when you were little and pulled the thread out…

We recommend attaching a picture hanging kit to the back. And TADA! There you have it. An abacus-inspired perpetual calendar family command center. With bonus magnetic magical powers and a little style to boot. At least we think so…

maybe we need to get out more.

As always, let me know if you try it. And if you’d like to see us tackle something in particular, or blog on a certain topic, be sure to shoot me an email: [email protected], or leave a message on our convo hub!

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Responses to abacus-inspired family command center

  1. Nancy says:

    I love anything chalkboard, organizational and, corky…. is corky a word?
    Absolutely darling and functional. The little flowers stole my heart. as always, love it!

  2. these inspirations are all stunning & I LOVE LOVE what you’ve come up with! Fabulous!

  3. jessica says:

    so cute!! loved all the inspiration too

  4. Alima says:

    super stylish! i love it! I just wish I had a wall to put something like that.
    And i never knew about the convo hub, but i’m glad you mentioned it bc i have a question that ive been wanting to ask! :)

  5. Jennifer says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!!! want to make me one!!!!!! :-) seriously you could sell these and me and all my craft challenged friends would sooooooo buy them!!!! without a handy hubby I’m a little scared of anything involving cutting wood!

  6. jami nato says:

    really, so cute. worth all the work!

  7. Hi Ashley, this is so cute and creative! I have the pottery barn one, but I really adore all the wonderful character of yours. Beautifully done!

  8. Ellie says:

    Love your command center–and all the other inspiration pics! Thanks for sharing. :)

  9. Londen says:

    Wow, what a great post filled with wonderful inspiration! I love what you guys did for your command center….pretty and useful.

  10. What a fabulous post! I loved your inspiration and your command center turned out beautiful! I’ve got this linked to my command centers post too today, well done!

  11. Jeanne says:

    I live this idea! But I love you wall colors too:) what brand/color did you use in the final picture?

  12. Monica says:

    Okay, so I came to your site through Pinterest and I was looking for where the stuff from the top image came from (the one with the two chalkboards, cork board, hanging folder things, big R, and calendar). Can you help me out, I would love to recreate that.