French Cleat Command Center: What It Is and How to Build It

If you have kids, you’ve probably either heard of or have a command center in your house.

But I’m willing to bet you have never seen one quite like this:

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

This command center is the love child of my insistence on maximum storage and function, and my husband's ability to address unique problems and requests. He’s the ultimate troubleshooter, guys. Plus, he loves to build. We make a great team.

Why do I need a command center?

In our last house we had this small the counter top that was always a mess. No matter how I tried to organize school documents, incoming mail, and random notes or papers- it was always a heaping disaster. It slowly chipped away at my sanity.

Where do you put a command center?

When we started the building process for our new home, I started planning where we could have a place for all the stuff on that counter. It needed to be a place where we could all access it and that we frequently found ourselves in.

If my house was the Starship Enterprise, my kitchen would be The Bridge. So I chose a little spot right next to my kitchen where I could easily access all the things I needed without traipsing through the whole house every time. Location, location, location.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

How do you decide what to include in a command center?

When we moved in I laid out all the things that I had brought over from that mess of a counter in the old house. I thought about how I use them and if other people in the house would use them, too.

 

A Calendar

First and foremost, we need our family calendar. Every Christmas I make these calendars with Shutterfly.com and I love them! They are a place to write down events and family birthdays so that the kids can see what’s happening and be involved. I utilize a digital calendar on my phone that has all the info duplicated, but find that we really need a place to be able to quick reference in order not to forget things as a family unit. And every family member has come to depend on them as much as I have so that is a win-win for me.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Mail and Key Holder

A place to hold the mail until I could sort it was priority number two, and a place for my van key chain was number three. Mail was always everywhere on that counter in the old house. There was no way I was letting that happen with my beautiful new granite counter tops, so I bought this one on Amazon. I was really happy that it also had a place for the keys so that my husband wouldn’t have to complain about digging through my purse every time he needed them.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Chore Chart

I was getting really sick of writing chore lists on a crappy white board magnet at the old house so I bought a Quartet dry erase board similar to this one, and some extra magnets on Amazon.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

A Place for Random Paper or Pictures

We really needed a place for those random small reminder papers and pictures that get changed out regularly, so we bought a pack of these clipboard style clips on Amazon and screwed them into the mobile cleat pieces.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

A To Do List

We had a another crumby dry erase sticker mounted on our old fridge that we used every day for to list or quick notes to each other. I went ahead and purchased a second Quartet board  from Jo-Ann so there would be some repetition in the overall design of the command center.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Hanging Folders

One thing there was never enough room for at the old house was a place for things like menus that we had made notes on, reference sheets (like the ones from the doctor) and info from the kids’ teachers that you have to access here and there, such as the school directory. This was a Marshall’s purchase, but I have seen similar ones plenty of other places, including Amazon. We have one section reserved for the parents and one for the kids.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Family Signage

I don’t care who you are or what your name is, personalized signs are fun to make. My kids got such a kick out of this when I showed them. I bought the chalkboard at Walmart (they don’t have the exact one any longer, but here is a similar one)  and the chalk markers at Jo-Ann with a coupon.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Writing Utensil Storage

One cup for dry erase board markers, pens, and pencils for quick notes, another for the fine point Sharpies I use to write on the calendar. I picked these silver cups up at Dollar Tree around back to school time.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

A Place for Paper NotePads

I may be the only one who still writes paper notes, but this was a must for me me. I found a napkin holder at Marshall’s and figured that would do the trick. (It did. I love it.)

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

A Decorative Element

I actually can’t take credit for this one. It was a house warming gift from my friend, Katie. (You remember her- the inspiration for this post.) I don’t know that I would have thought to add a decorative element on my own, but when she gifted it to us I knew I needed to be able to see it everyday, so the command center was the perfect place for it.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Putting it All Together:

I envisioned a board made from pallet wood that I could just hang on the wall and nail into for each individual component. I figured it would be better to have old wood to nail into (rather than my new walls) everytime I wanted to change something out or add something. At that point I brought my husband over, showed him my set up, and asked him to point me to the wood I could use to make it myself.

I got a little pissed off when he told me he thought it was a bad idea and that he had a better solution. I really wanted to call this one my own so I was not thrilled about him taking over. Plus, I like calling the decorating shots. But when I listened to what he suggested, I knew it would be uber functional. So I gave his idea the thumbs up- albeit reluctantly.

What are French Cleats?

Brilliant, that's what. Woodworkers have been using French cleat setups in their workshops for eons. And with good reason. You can store ANYTHING in this way. Which makes it the perfect solution for an ever changing command center in a busy family’s home.

Basically, you have horizontal strips of wood secured to a wall (or in the case of this command center, a piece of plywood). Below are a couple of good pictures of french cleats my husband made for the garage. The top of each wall mounted strip of wood is cut at a 45 degree angle, which is really only visible from above or to the side of it. 

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Then, whatever item you want to store is attached to a wood piece that also has a 45 degree angle along the bottom.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Being able to move components around in seconds, and adding or subtracting elements as the seasons of life change for your family...they make this the perfect solution to creating a custom command center for your family. So let’s talk about how to make it.

 

Building a French Cleat Command Center

1. Decide what dimensions you want it to be. I wanted ours to pretty much fill up the wall right next to my kitchen and have plenty of room to add more components as my children get older, so we decided on around 4 feet by 5 ft, which is close to the size of a sheet of plywood.

2. Decide on the overall aesthetic. (As always, Mr. Berry used Sketchup to come up with a plan.)

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

Do you want a frame? We did. We went with a width of 3.5 inches.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

3. How big do you want the slats and how close together do you want them to be? (We decided on a slat size of 2 inches because it was substantial enough, but smaller than the frame pieces. We spaced them 2.5 inches apart.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

4. What will the color scheme be? As in, do you want the frame and slats to be the same color as the back piece? (We didn’t want a whole lot of contrast, so we went with a latex primer and a bright white enamel paint on all pieces.)

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

5. Then comes buying the lumber and wood glue. We didn’t need any wood glue because we buy that stuff in bulk, but we bought two sheets of plywood (one ½ inch sheet for the backing one ¼ inch sheet for the cleats) and (3) 8 foot long 1x4’s.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

6. Time to make your cuts. First, use the 1x4’s to cut the frame pieces with miter edges.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

7. Next he cut the ½“ plywood piece to match the size of the assembled frame pieces. (This becomes the backing.)

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

8. After that, cut the stationary cleat pieces by making 2” inch strips out of the ¼“ plywood, then cutting the top 45 degree angle of the cleat. Cut them to the width of the inside of your frame.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

9. Then, cut the mobile stationary cleats in the same way, but make them whatever length the object you are mounting is.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

And plan ahead; make extra cleats. When we were cutting and painting we had the foresight to make a handful extra cleats for any items down the road that we might need to add to this family hub. We store them behind the calendar and no one is the wiser.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

10. Glue it up with a healthy amount of wood glue and secure with either clamps or by placing weights on top of it. The latter was the method we used because we assembled in our garage and we had all our barbells right there. I never got a picture of that stage (because we were in the throws of Recently Moved Chaos), but here's how it looked just after:

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

11.. Time for paint! Gather some rollers and paint brushes, the latex primer (so the grain doesn’t become raised from the moisture) and the enamel paint (so it hardens and is durable enough to handle the abuse a command center takes.) We used quite a few different sized brushes. A 1” brush for the corners and angles, a 2” brush for the frame pieces, and a 2” roller for the slats and the frame pieces. (Once again, no time for pictures of the painting process. Sorry.)

12. Once it’s dry, mount it to the wall using sleeve metal wall anchors (Mr. Berry used these because we happened to know our drywall was 3/4" thick; you may have different sized drywall and anchors for your project) and let it hang there for a few days in order to let that Pine wood flatten out again and lay as flush to the wall as possible. (It’s pretty common for Pine to warp so don’t be alarmed if during the building and painting process your command center bows.) After a few days, tighten the anchors and cover them with food filler. Then sand and touch up with paint once that’s dry, too.

13. You might even want to caulk around the edges for a really clean look. We have textured walls that make for an uneven look from the side view, so we opted to do this with a white caulk to match the white command center. If you chose a different color for your command center,  you may want to use clear caulking.

14. Add your custom components and live an organized life! Or at least a more organized life.

French Cleat Command Center -MIY with Melissa

 

Let’s total it all up shall we?

  • ¼ inch sheet Plywood: $25-$30 (depending on the grade)
  • ½ inch sheet Plywood: $30-$35 (again, depending on the grade)
  • Select Pine 1x4’s: $10 each
  • Wood Glue: (we already had a jug in the garage)
  • Calendar: $12.00
  • Mail Key Holder $15.00
  • (2) Silver Dry Erase Boards: $14.00
  • Magnets for Dry Erase Boards: $8.98
  • Hinge Clips $3.99
  • Marker Cups: $2
  • Chalkboard: $1.99
  • Chalk Markers $2.69
  • Decorative Element: FREE!
  • Napkin Holder: $5.99
  • Latex Primer: $17-$30 (I paid about $30 with a coupon)
  • Enamel Paint: $30-$40 (I paid about $40, again with a coupon)
  • Drywall Anchors: $8.84

That’s a Grand Total of: $220.48

Wow. That’s actually the first time I’ve totaled up the cost of this project and it’s more than I thought it would was. That hurts a little. I'm cheap, guys.

BUT, I use this sucker everyday, all day. We all do.

And I it is completely custom. So I guess that’s still some serious bang for my buck. (And I have A TON of primer and paint left over to start painting the board and batten we are planning on installing all over the house.)

Have you made any french cleat projects? I would love to see them...tag me on your Instagram posts, guys and gals!

 

Happy home improving and building my friends. And whatever you make, make it yours!

 

Have a peek at some other project The Hubs and I have worked on together: