before and after by 101

before & after: penny wall

With all of us here at D*S going through a major copper obsession right now, it should come as no surprise that we love penny installations — walls, floors, you name it. One of the greatest assets of using pennies for decor is the inherent variation in color and pattern you get; the salvaged look of pennies works in your favor, and as you’re gluing them down, you don’t have to worry about trying to maintain any order. It’s going to look great no matter what! This penny wall by Lizzie and her husband, Ryan, is a perfect example. It adds just the right touch of dark luxuriousness to their bar corner, and it sets off their vintage-inspired decor beautifully. Awesome job, Lizzie and Ryan! — Kate

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Read the full post after the jump!

Time: It took us from May until January. That being said, it would have been much quicker if we had really put our nose to the grindstone. As an example of the time-consuming nature, we would glue in 1- to 2-hour spurts, and it would give us between 3 and 6 inches of pennies (a few rows). Needless to say, it got a little daunting.

Cost: $75 ($50 in pennies, $25 for supplies)

Basic Steps: First we nailed the plywood to the wall. You could just glue the pennies directly to the drywall if you wanted. The reason we used plywood, though, was to ensure the surface was completely flat so that the pennies would be flush with the wall. Also, if we move one day, we didn’t want to have to scrape them all off.

Starting at the bottom of the wall, we glued an exactly level (like, get your level out) row of pennies. From there, nestle the next row of pennies in between the spaces of the previous row. That sounds easy, but there is some play in the nestle, so you have to be careful. You can easily get a little off track, which, after a few rows, turns into a downright slanted row of pennies. At one point, the pennies got slightly unlevel and we had to rip a couple of rows off and re-do them. Very irritating . . .  Also, we always started on the outer edge of the wall because we wanted to make sure the penny on that side didn’t stick out too much since we were going to be covering it with trim. Lastly, we nailed the wood trim around the edges.

Our advice is to skip the glue gun completely. We had to re-glue some of the pennies to the wall after Ryan nailed up the trim, and he used a clear silicone instead of Elmer’s. He said it worked the absolute best, but it would definitely be more costly. I’d also suggest checking the level of the wall every 6 inches or so. Believe me, you don’t want to rip any pennies off. It’s like ripping out a part of your soul :) Lizzie

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101 Comments

amb

Sorry to be a debbie downer, but pretty sure this is considered defacement of currency. There must be tons of other ways to achieve this look.

Meredith

Pennies aren’t actually considered legal tender anymore. Also, as long as you aren’t trying to represent them as more than they’re worth, then this isn’t defacement. We’re doing this to our bathroom floor right now, so we’ve done a little research on the matter.

Martha

HAHA! “It’s like ripping out a part of your soul” made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that, it was a good way to start my day.

MS

If you think *this* is defacement of currency, you should see how I make kindling for my fireplace. Hint : it involves old flags and $100 bills.

In all honesty, since you’re not “cementing” the coins to anything, and not rendering them unfit to be used, I’m sure it’s fine. In further honesty : they’re pennies. PENNIES!

ls

Every single time I see a post about using pennies in a cool way, somebody says “isnt this considered defacement of currency?” SO ANNOYING.

Jeana

I love it! It makes me want my own penny wall. Or maybe even just a frame filled with pennies the same way. Amazing work, Lizzie & Ryan!

Varia

I LOVE this!! Did you do anything to the plywood first? (paint, stain)

Kate

Cool! But, if it were me, I would’ve probably stained the trim or painted it white so it would blend in with either the white wall or the color of the pennies. Also, I’d probably go grab one of those metal face covers for your light switch at Home Depot. Only a couple of bucks and would really set off the metallic look!

K

I am in awe of both how awesome this looks, and how long it took to make.

Varia

@Meredith…. what will you seal the floor with once this is complete? Floor, wall… I think this would be gorgeous anywhere!!! LOL@ MS….

Bérangère Bouffard

Seriously?? Hahaha! Who cares! The again I’m from Canada. It’s not like they destroyed the coins! See it as a coin collection on a wall and I doubt that some government will come knock on their door for that! It would be lame. This looks great! LOVE IT! Was thinking to screw plywood on my pantry wall to do something similar with small scraps of wood but this, THIS is just perfect and makes me reconsider my choice of material! How fun!

Susana Chipps

Hey Meredith, what will you use to seal it? If you are using it on your bathroom floors?
I have a bare bathroom floor right now and can’t decide what to do with it!

Shannon

Very cool, nice to see the effect it has on a well. My only disappointment – the light switch really sticks out.

Claire

Looks awesome, but augggghhh that’s so much money on the wall! (Granted, I actually stop to pick up pennies in the street…so I may be biased. But last time I emptied my change jar I had more than $40 in there!)

Chrisiec

Looks fabulous! Especially love the texture next to your Arts and Crafts cabinet. We appreciate your efforts!!!!!!!

Jennifer

Well that was silly of me….I see that my 2 questions were answered, had I just finished reading the description instead of being distracted by the silly ‘defacement of currency’ tidbit. :)

Christy

This looks super cool Lizzie and Ryan! It almost looks like cork from a distance.

And why do I get the feeling AMB isn’t *really* too sorry about being a Debbie Downer. :)

Megan

LOL MS!! I love how the wall ends up with a natural pattern without even trying. Putting down plywood first to keep it level is brilliant. I hope I can try this some day!

Alix

Since the pennies themselves are not being tampered with in any way besides being glued to the plywood, I don’t think they’re being defaced. I think you can do whatever you want with currency so long, as noted above, you don’t do anything that makes in unusable or try to pass it off as a different denomination.

In fact, wasn’t it possible, not long ago, to buy uncut sheets of one-dollar bills to use as gift wrap or whatever? You could cut up the bills later and they’d still be considered legal tender.

But back to the wall — this is gorgeous, and so well done!

Shannon8foot6

Wow! Fantastic. I can almost imagine the moment you realized how long it would actually take. Like, after gluing 461 pennies on and you are only 4 inches up the wall! Talk about commitment!

Carolyn Kirk

Omg I love reading the Debbie downers – makes me giddy I just read their words and don’t have to know them! Love this look – I’ve seen it done as a kitchen backsplash and it looked amazing. Your time and effort certainly paid off…and the floor at the Standard Hotel (link above) is really beautiful! $100 bills and American flags? I laughed out loud!

Lizzie (and Ryan)

THANKS EVERYONE! I’m actually kind of happy that Debbie Downer posted first since everyone set the record straight!

As far as staining the plywood – nope. We were tossing around grouting them, but I kinda like the look of the wood underneath. The trim…I was totally disappointed by the plain-ness, but I just couldn’t wait anymore to take the pix. Ryan said we can staing/paint it without a problem.

Oh, and good idea about the switch plate! It does look a little standy-outy.

I’d suggest rinsing off the pennies since they’re pretty gross. We found just swishing them around in our mouth worked pretty well. Psych!

Sara

I am 100% doing this on a tray this weekend! Already picked out the tray (IKEA, of course) and I’ll be picking it up tonight! So excited!!!

Rinna

i really like this, I may use up a few different currencies on a small version of places we have been or lived…but then I may have several countries after me for arrest though if @AMB gets hold of me wah ha!

Shei

I’m all about correcting a mistake, but there are ways to do it without being flippant. (I don’t know the first poster, but the sarcastic tone of *some* commenters did put a dampen on the fantastic feature). Anyway — the penny wall looks great!

Kate

Oh, and forgot to mention this in my earlier comment…I FRICKIN LOVE THAT HUTCH/DRESSER!

Jamie

I’m with Shei, poor AMB probably never thought he/she would get such backlash on usually friendly blog for posting an innocent question. Why so defensive penny people? I was also wondering, defacement or no, if we all start doing this will they have to make more penny’s for us to cover our floors and walls even though they cost more to produce than they are worth? Maybe the government should start selling pennies to hipsters and pay off some debt. Though once everyone starts doing it, it wont be cool anymore so I guess we don’t have to worry. :) all of that said, I would love to do this.

Laura

This is great! I love the idea of being able to do this in a rental!

defacement of currency… lolzzzzzzzzzzz

I wonder what AMB would say if s/he walked into a bar or cheap Italian restaurant with tagged dollar bills plastered on the walls. tsk tsk…

Marcy

Looks truly awesome. My only question is about the interface with light switch. The pennies appear to go under the cover, which concerns me since copper is conductive, any consideration of this?

teresa

i too am in awe of your patience. i love the look so much. the idea of trying it on a tray is great. i think i’ll try that too. my first thought is the smell though. you know that smell you get on your hands from handling dirty coins? does washing them first take care of that?

Sherri

That’s really pretty, but does it smell weird? I always notice when I collect a bunch of change together that there’s a distinct and somewhat unpleasant smell. Or does a quick rinse get rid of that?

Susan L.

I agree with Shei. Give AMB a break. She is not the only one who had the same thought/question upon first glance. I did, too!

Unkindness is the real downer.

That said, I love the wall. Looks great.

Joyce

this is amazing!! Does the clear coat cover up the smell at all? I really can’t stand the metallic-y odor.

Scott

absolutely brilliant! There was an article in The World of Interiors a couple years ago where an entire rooms walls were covered in lottery tickets. Just a simple suggestion for the light switch…..paint the switch and cover plate with metallic craft paint that looks like copper. Then it should disappear….great job!

Amy

I can’t believe that no one has used these yet:
That wall is so money!
It looks like a million bucks!
The work it involved was well worth it!

But seriously, very very cool.

Jeni Sandberg

Arts and crafts geek, reporting for duty–that looks like an L & JG Stickley sideboard, maybe? Whatever it is, it does look great with the pennies!

Robyn

Love your wall! but I’m interested where the painting came from and the artist?

Lisa

Robin look up 8 comments to Stefanie it is her print and her link!
The wall looks amazing especially beside the wood – perhaps stain the trim the same colour as your hutch, and a wood covered light switch would also work.
Love the swishing in your mouth comment – took the sour out of the other comments!

Birgit

A while ago I saw a kitchen/bathroom countertop made like this. They used 2-part-epoxyto seal it, it looked amasing. I am still working n getting enough pennies. Oh, and for what it’s worth, they cleaned the pennies in some sort of cleaner in a bucket. But as much as I LOVE this idea, I wouldn’t have never thought about making a wall. I just love this idea! Think about it, the possibilities are endless! So people, stop complaining and being negativ, start picking up those pennies on the road!

Bérangère Bouffard

The reaction from some people regarding money being used is really funny (by that I mean interesting). It reminds me on how taboo or disturbing it can be for some. Maybe not so much on this post but on other sites that have shown similar projects. Some people can get pretty vocal about how disgusted they are, they are thinking of the poor, they think it’s illegal, they scream scandal! Why? Nobody cries when it’s an unrealistic expensive rug that was probably done in a sweat shop or how about the pricey wall papers that can only be affordable as a sample! It’s all oohs and aahs then! This cost less than most projects shown here!

And what’s with the anti hipster comment? That’s an other interesting trend that keeps popping out on blogs and sites. Such envy! Such anger! Lighten up people! It’s all superficial so have fun with it!

caramiame

it all feels like monopoly money anymore, regardless of whence it came, love the depth and design value you’ve added, it may even become priceless one day, Ha!

Lizzie

Lizzie (and Ryan) again. First off, I am in LOVE with you all. Not really, but you know what I mean. ;) Here are some answers to some questions. If you have any more, feel free to pop over to my blog and e-mail me.

@Marcy – we put the pennies JUST under the switchplate and it doesn’t touch anything related to the actual switch.

@Kate & Denise – the arts and crafts buffet is part of an antique set I inherited. Actually I kinda stole from under my sisters’ noses. Tee hee. My grandma bought it in the 70′s for around $800 – the whole set (buffet, side board, table and eight chairs!) because she thought it would be sturdy for a family with 5 kids. Little did she know…

@JMM – I about died at the smelling funny. LOL. I didn’t think it really did and I was about an inch away from all those blasted things.

@Stefanie – I’m OBSESSED with your photography. I want that bowling sign!!!! I opted for the Liquor one. :)

Oh, and speaking of the photograph, I’m having it framed next weekend! My friend is a woodworker (if that’s what it’s called) and he’s making a custom one for me in walnut. I cannot wait!!

Ruth Abbott

I love the whole penny trend going on. I rent a really old English cottage with 2ft deep stone walls so couldn’t put any holes in the wall to hold up a sheet of plywood. Instead I cut a sheet of clear acrylic to the size of my splash back, cut out ‘penny holes’ (with a 5mm gap between ) and slid the edges behind the flanking cupboards and started gluing the coins in. The space I had to fill was only about 2.5ft square and I swear I wanted to rip the whole thing out my soul be damned after about 6 rows. Kudos on your hard work, it looks fantastic!

Megan @Retroverse Vintage

Love it. Great use of an otherwise useless currency. In the Eurozone, we have 1 & 2 cent coins. Many stores won’t even accept them. And the 1-cent coins are tiny–smaller than a dime.

Cathryn Peters

I LOVE the look of the pennies on the wall, but my very first thought was “Why didn’t they use grout and tile the pennies onto the plywood, then attach it to the wall, so it could be easily removed later?” And the other thing was, that if you used grout and tiled the pennies on the board, you could lay it flat horizontally and finish the job in a few hours instead of months! The hardest part would be to lay the pennies down all “face up.”

Cara

Oooh! I agree with Cathryn, I would have done the panels while on a table with a few gaps left for nails, then hung them, and then hidden the nails with pennies.

I have really loved this concept after seeing the penny floor on AT a while back. Great job Lizzie & Ryan.

April

Thinking of trying this in our tiny bathroom – maybe the shower moisture would add a cool patina?

Kim

My Shower needs this! I will just grout around the pennies! I can’t wait to do this project!

Angelina Marie

This looks awesome! Seeing more and more penny walls, they always come out amazing. love the art work you put with it, perfect use of this space.

Carrey

I did this on my kitchen back splash and my first thought was “that is a LOT of money” turns out not to be the case. My penny “tiles” came out to about 22 cents for a 4X4 inch square. Try buying anything but the cheapest white tiles for less than that!

Jennifer

You two did an amazing job – it looks so unique AND professional. If I owned my own plac (I’m in an apartment), I’d hire ya’ll to make a penny wall for me any time. Well done!

Meghan

Absolutely gorgeous! Have you thought about switching out your switchplate to something that better blends with the beautiful wall? I don’t the the white does your fabulous wall enough justice :)

Nancy

This is beautiful and I’m thinking of ways/places I can incorporate something like this into my world (I just bought a retro bus and a penny-tiled ceiling might be really cool), but OMG! All I can think about is germs! Germs! Germs! LOL My pennies will definitely be getting a bleach bath before I undertake a project like this. :)

Stacy @ Fritz & Fraulein

This is incredible! I’m particularly amazed at the dedication to this project. If I had a garage, I would definitely put the pre-cut plywood in there and work on it before putting it up so the wall wasn’t ever just “partially finished” during the process. Regardless, nice job!

Jane Curtis-Ragland

I LOVE this!!! Immediately realized I want to do this in my cellar way which is the entry to our game room. My suggestion for the light switch is to do a decoupaged a print out of a dollar bill over the light switch plate. I applaud your ingenuity.

Jan

Love it, read all the comments and am now trying to figure a way to incorporate into my home!

Kathy Foster

This looks great! I am going to do it somewhere.

Snobahr

Pennies ARE legal tender, according to the Coinage Act of 1965, for those who say pennies aren’t legal currency. However, a merchant can opt not to accept pennies (it’s how merchants are able to opt not to take bills larger than $20, for example).

Debra

Did you keep them all heads up, or just let it happen? I want to do my bathroom floor, but i’d like to craft 12×12 squares on to tile mesh. I haven’t researched to see how or if i can do that. We are re-doing out barhroom and have red cedar half way up the walls, and bought a copper sink. Still looking for an old cabinet for the sink to set on. Thank you for this post. I really like it.

Lauren

My husband and I will be moving into a new home soon and this idea would be perfect for our craft/office room. I’m thinking a small one panel room divider with supports on the bottom so it doesn’t fall over of course. It would be perfect with the industrial/eclectic look for my craft area and the masculine look for his study area.

Amanda

Love the penny wall! I was thinking about doing this on the risers of my stairs. To the user who was wondering about putting them on the bathroom floor, if you’re looking for a good thick permanent seal, you could look in to clear epoxy. Its sometimes called surf board epoxy.

Rowan

Just to put a few minds at rest, copper naturally kills germs on contact- so much so that hospitals use it for handles to stop the spread of diseases. So, although epoxy will protect the pennies and provide an easily clean surface, it’s not necessary from a health point of view.
On the other issue of legality, pennies are legal tender that can be turned down by merchants. Defacement, or any act devaluing the penny is illegal. However, the act of collecting/ displaying is legal as is using them for art, for example jewellery making.
I plan to do a splash back in my new home (a 1904 lighthouse) and think it’ll go fantastically with my collection of copper kettles and saucepans. I view this as an artistic display of a coin collection. My plan is to use as many different currencies as I can. I plan to glue them to wood, cover with epoxy (leaving ready done screw holes to be covered with extra pennies once hung) and hang once dry. I think flying whilst flat should help avoid the gravity effect of the lines not staying straight.
The wall is fabulous and adds real character to the room, very impressive!

carol

Pennies ARE still considered legal tender. Stupid people with
stupid ideas.

melody

I love this. did y’all paint the plywood a certain color before putting the pennies on the wall?

jen

Love it. I am reworking an old door into and information center for a wall by the back door. I was just looking at it tonight and thought gee the square at the bottom of the door would look awesome with pennies applied. Will start on that part tomorrow.

Kat

This question may already have been answered but I the thread is really long and didn’t want to read all the posts. Did you grout the wall after or put a protective finish on the pennies? BTW, it looks awesome – great job. I’m planning on doing one wall in my powder room.

Pete

One of the cooler ideas for a redesign I’ve ever seen. Thanks for sharing! I might need to raid my son’s piggy bank and do something similar :)

Debbie M.

What kind of cleaner/detergent if we want to clean it first before gluing the pennies down?? Did you have it in a certain way like all heads up??

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