Look at all those branches, lying around your home or cottage retreat. To some, they look like yard waste but to other, craftier folk, they look like natural decor items in waiting. There are a ton of things you can make with stray branches and logs and many of them are actually useful things you would want to have around your home.
These ideas are arranged roughly in order of craftiness (i.e. how much skill and energy you need to not just make these things but make them well enough that when you tell people that you made them yourself they will react with pleasant surprise and not gentle pity). We hope they inspire you to build instead of buy.
Filling a glass vase with pinecones, branches, twigs, acorns or bark sounds too easy to be a real craft, but the results can be beautiful. In the right glass vessel and with the right lighting, you can create a table centerpiece that’s really eye-popping.
Suspending a branch from your ceiling and hanging lights or small lanterns from it might sound a bit outback but with the right branch in the right space (think long counter spaces or dining room tables), this can have a lovely effect. Add some colour with ornaments that suit your taste.
The holidays might be over but your front door can still look festive. Defy the dead of winter by creating wreaths from vines or soft, pliable branches. Form these into the shape of your choice. Circles, stars, hearts, suns – whatever you can bend your materials into, you can have on your door. The power is yours. Use it wisely.
By which I mean that you string holiday lights along a branch and hang that branch in the space you want to be lit. It’s simple, effective, and creates nice, ambient lighting in small spaces like reading nooks and window seats.
Hold coats, dog leashes, brooms and dustpans, keys, towels, oven mitts, kitchen utensils, toilet paper, garden tools, whatever you need with these simple, natural hooks. Darren Bush at The Art of Manliness gives detailed advice on this project here.
One-up yourself by building an entire coatrack made of branches. If you doubt that your handiwork will keep your guests’ coats off the floor, you could make a rack for laundry drying by suspending a single branch and thereby really spruce up your laundry room.
Using the forks of tree limbs for brackets for a curtain rod (either a conventional rod or one made out of a relatively straight branch) adds to the natural decor of any room. Be sure, of course, to test the load-bearing capacity of your brackets, especially under the stress of many pulls on the curtains.
Hollowing out a small upright section of a tree limb makes a lovely candle holder. These can also be tweaked to make pencil holders, raised pet food bowls, distinctive human food bowl holders, vases, the sky’s the limit. For fireproofing purposes, set your candles in glass holders before placing them into the wood.
Placemats and Coasters
Half-inch thick endgrain slices of large branches make beautiful coasters or trivets on their own but you could also create larger placemats by using a piece of felt or burlap as a backing for an assemblage of smaller branch slices. Ambitious DIYers can expand their scope and create table runners and wall hangings using the same basic principles.
Home and Garden Furnishings
Sections of logs work as end tables, side tables and coffee tables. They also work as stools, bench ends, ottomans, anything that has a round shape and needs a sturdy, solid structure to it. The degree to which you finish the logs depends entirely on your aesthetic. Bark can look attractive and authentic but will act like a magnet for your house cats.
Create shelves by using the forks of branches as natural supports for either a plank or a length-wise slice of a tree limb. This is a simple yet elegant design that shows off books, decorative items, hats and gloves or kitchen items. The Family Handyman offers this tutorial for the project.
The log is nature’s bench, which we know from sitting on them in the wild. You can cultivate that look by straight-up placing logs in your garden as resting places or you can use sections of log as supports and either a lengthwise plank or a log split in half, lengthwise, as your seating area. You can get as simple or as fancy as you can imagine with this craft.
Gates and Fences
Wattle gates and fences are easy to make with an ages-old technique that’s much like basket weaving. Saplings or pliable branches are literally woven through larger, sturdier supports to create panels. These are beautiful and functional, especially when you need to keep marauding creatures out of your garden. Insteading explains the technique here.
Garden arbours are commonly made out of branches – their rustic look blends seamlessly with most landscaping. There are many possibilities for designs and they’re very straightforward to build. Kate Sheridan over at Hunker tells us how here.
You can DIY a chair using sturdy branches for the frame and more flexible willow branches for the seat and back. It’s reminiscent of the days of homesteading, when all furniture was made of biodegradable things. Ernest Lewis of Mother Earth News offers a step-by-step guide here.
Building codes will apply to this project, so it’s not a project for the novice. But if you’re handy and can build it to code, a section of log as a newel, a long sturdy branch as a hand railing and some branch sections as balusters, a natural staircase can be a wonderful addition to a cottage or a rustic farmhouse. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for these projects.
A floor made of thin round slices of log (sort of a large-scale version of the placemats above) makes for a stunning entryway, hallway or bathroom floor. The same technique can be used for wall mosaics. End grain flooring is not for the impatient or for those who don’t care for details but the results are well worth the effort. This tutorial from the Sugar Mountain Center explains the process.
Happy building and good luck with your project!