Literally the Best Thing Ever: The Hardware Store

Even better than Michaels!

I started running errands before I had dry cleaning or a bank account or even a firm grasp of fine motor skills. Errands were the magical stuff of which weekends were made. Every weekend, until I was old enough to stay home alone, my parents would toss me in the car and away we’d go—to the grocery store, the bank, to do a return. On an errand, anything could happen. Checkout-line candy bars were acquired. Teachers were encountered outside of their natural habitats (always weird). Standing rides on the back of a shopping cart left me winded and thrilled.

My favorite place to run errands was a place called Hechinger, down the street from my first childhood home. On semi-monthly jaunts to this big-box hardware store, I’d sit in the cart while Dad loaded bags of mulch and cans of paint into the shelf underneath. My dad has never been handy in the let’s-just-unscrew-the-pipe-and-take-a-look kind of way, but he’s always been excited about projects. Through the plastic lattice of the cart, I learned to share his excitement, and to recognize the hardware store as a place of infinite possibility.

A hardware store is a craft store plugged into a generator, propped up on stilts, and illuminated with a set of halogen spotlights. While A.C. Moore pushes preboxed mosaic kits, Ace hustles 10-pound bags of concrete and tiles by the case. When I started making things, I fawned over yarn and glitter and jars of glass beads—craft store stuff. Though I still lust over the Michaels circular in the Sunday paper, I’m just as likely to peruse the Home Depot flier. In warehouse-sized aisles of the hardware store, project possibilities feel infinite. Bins of metal doodads, tiny potted plants, and stacks of wood are constant reminders that anything—really, anything!—can be fixed, repurposed, or made from scratch.

Since I’ve learned the ways of the hardware store, I’ve furnished two bedrooms for under $20, learned to clean my own hair out of the drain, and turned out a bunch of semi-wearable necklaces. It’s freeing to know that it is within my grasp to fix or make anything, or at the very least find two studs and hang a shelf.

The hardware store will also supply you with everything you need to hang heavy stuff, like this map, on a wall.

At the hardware store, everything has the potential to be something better. If you’re the kind of person who likes to build, tinker, make, or destroy, odds are you’ll find SOMETHING in this project-topia that gets you going. Here are just a few products, departments, and ideas to get you started:

  1. Chains and ropes. You can buy all kinds by the yard for mere cents. Right next to them, you’ll find all kinds of crap for putting them to use. Fasteners. Pulleys. Swively-things. Necklace-making/beaded-curtain/hanging-stuff potential is endless.
  2. Lights! For a non-Christian like me, Christmastime at the hardware store means January sales on twinkle lights and multicolored light bulbs.
  3. Plants and seeds. Make terrariums or plant a garden or make seed paper.
  4. Wire. Wrap stuff in it. It comes in colors, and, like chains and ropes, it comes by the yard for next-to-free.
  5. GLUE AND TAPE. This is my favorite section. Take two things. Hold them together—for eternity, or for just five minutes. Once you expand your worldview beyond the classic Elmer’s you’ll realize how much you never before knew you had to, um, adhere? For big stuff I like Gorilla Glue. For small things like jewelry, E-6000 in the big metal tube.
  6. Tension rods. These spring-loaded bars let you put a curtain anywhere without drilling holes in the wall. Great for dorms, rented apartments, and bedrooms that your mom won’t let you redecorate. For larger spaces, try expandable shower curtain rods, in the bathroom section.

    Curtain on a tension rod.

  7. Paint, especially spray paint. You might need someone to buy it for you if you’re under 18, but it’s worth it, because Krylon Premium Metallics are one of my top five favorite products on earth. Like, I’m 30-cans-in-the-garage obsessed. This miracle paint dries shiny, like metal, so anything can look Cash4Gold ready. As of now, I’ve got a 24-karat bike and dresser.

  8. Tools. You can never have enough X-ACTO knives, screw drivers, hammers, and tape measures.

Lots of things that are freeing or thrilling come from being somewhere that you feel like you really aren’t supposed to go. When I first started thinking about my love for the hardware store, I thought for a second that maybe I loved it because I was a girl in a place that was made for supposedly greasy-handed, dirty-finger-nailed MEN. As it turns out, I really don’t give a shit about who’s standing next to me as I deliberate over two different kinds of glue. Like with my dad, it all comes down to my project, and making it happen.

Before & after.


  • isobele July 31st, 2012 7:13 PM

    Ive always just had random urges to do something crafty, and then found that I dont have the right supplies to be spontanious. This makes me want to go to go and buy shit loads of glitter and sequins and just dedicate a room of my house to keeping it all in

  • youngfridays July 31st, 2012 7:25 PM

    DIY-ing is possiblt the best thing ever ^___^

  • yelhsa July 31st, 2012 7:27 PM

    This has inspired me to get super crafty via the hardware store for my new apartment!

  • youngfridays July 31st, 2012 7:27 PM

    Oh, and on a side note, I’d really like to see a ‘socialising’ side of Rookie, like we can log in and all but it’d be heaps cool if we could have our own little profile with a little about me + music/movie/tv show interests section + an image of ourselves. And maybe a few forums or whatever <3

    • July 31st, 2012 8:07 PM

      Oh my Gosh that’s a great idea!!!! Seriously that would be a great way for everyone to keep in touch :)

    • Kathryn July 31st, 2012 8:31 PM

      Rookie forums would be so cool!

    • Julianne July 31st, 2012 8:46 PM

      Seriously! I was fantasizing the other day about an all-the-time Rookie chat room where you could hop online and chat with whoever happens to be online about music and crafts and feminism and what have you. That would be amazing!

      • la fee clochette July 31st, 2012 9:02 PM

        I would love that too! Great ideas!!

      • isobele July 31st, 2012 9:14 PM

        That would actually be really good. You can kind of talk in the comments, but its awkward cuz you have to always keep checking back and stuff

        • Anaheed July 31st, 2012 10:19 PM

          This is actually something we’ve been talking about, so it’s good to hear that you guys would want it.

        • pusupulu August 1st, 2012 5:14 AM

          a forum and a personal page, not a chatroom because it’s harder to jump in to a convo when you don’t know what has been going on

          but a rookie forum with different sections for fashion/help mehh/body related stuff/plain fun/deep philosophical mysteries, PUH-LEASE!!!!

    • LeatherStuddedFae July 31st, 2012 10:15 PM

      That is such an awesome idea! :O

  • Cerise July 31st, 2012 7:27 PM

    Well, I know where *I’m* gonna go now. :O I mean, as a craft store enthusiast/addict, I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t done this before.

  • mdoodle13 July 31st, 2012 7:42 PM

    I love this. I’m starting a new project where I’m covering the largest wall in my room with road maps. To Lowes!
    Also, I have the same shower rod-curtain idea in my room covering up the excess of my closet. To be cliche, great minds think alike!

  • Tyknos93 July 31st, 2012 8:17 PM

    This post is the knees of bees thank you.
    Fun Fact: I was a bit obsessed with spray paint in elementary school and colored myself green. I wish I had “blue myself” a la Mr Funke…

    Quirks of Blazoning Pens

  • la fee clochette July 31st, 2012 9:00 PM

    Yes, everything must be spray-painted GOLD!!! I went through at least30 cans of that stuff the first month I ever found it..seriously..dis makes me smile

  • whatnaomiloves July 31st, 2012 9:59 PM

    Awesome. I love the curtain idea!

  • Adrienne July 31st, 2012 11:11 PM

    I love the hardware store! I’ve seen metal collar tips made out of decorative corners which are usually used for tables and drawers:

    Oh and I’ve also seen climbing rope and utility rope as bracelets and necklaces:

  • Eryn July 31st, 2012 11:35 PM

    This is SO great! Thank you!

  • Whatsername August 1st, 2012 12:33 AM

    I love those little colorful squares of paper in the paint aisles that are supposed to show you what each shade of paint looks like. When I was little I’d collect all my favorite shades and bring them home and not know what to do with them. Now I make origami with them.

    ps. Hardware stores smell SO FREAKING GOOD

    • Maddy August 1st, 2012 8:27 PM

      Person!!! Hi! I still do this. I have a lot of them. My sister and I compare our collections. I don’t know what to do with them, but I don’t want to use them for origami.

  • streaked lights August 1st, 2012 3:42 AM

    As a person who LOVES refurnishing things, I’m surprised I never thought of going to a hardware store before! I guess it’s time to go to get a million cans of spray paint now!

  • Lucille August 1st, 2012 4:50 AM

    This looks great!

  • julalondon August 1st, 2012 6:28 AM

    Haha, i’m 21 now and whenever my parents go to the Hardware store, i still come with them!

  • RockHatesMiriam August 1st, 2012 8:18 AM

    Love this! I got a cheap can of gold spray paint and painted some hideous sandals that I had. Now they make me look like a Greek goddess! lol

  • Krista August 1st, 2012 2:44 PM


  • kkanadian August 1st, 2012 4:31 PM

    I work at an Ace Hardware and get so many random ideas, plus we can order in any piece really. Hardware stores are so interesting, you got to dig to find the treasures!

  • tellyawhat August 1st, 2012 5:33 PM

    I love hardware stores too! My favorite hardware store to frequent when I was a teen was a USED/OLD hardware store in Sacramento that had everything for super cheap and tons of little plastic bins full of doodads and whatchamacallits and GOLD SPRAY PAINT. I sprayed a bike, my dresser and whatever else I could convince my friends would look better gold. I felt like King Midas.

  • GlitterKitty August 1st, 2012 6:26 PM

    At some point could we please discuss the magical wonderland that is the dollar store? That would make me so happy.

  • Maddy August 1st, 2012 8:33 PM

    There are approximately 4 places that I can bike to: a donut shop, an ice cream stand, the library (<3) and Ace hardware. I looove going places by myself and usually go to the library and hardware store in the same trip. One reason that I like it definitely is that I’m a GIRL in a place meant for macho men (I like being underestimate/out-of-place way too much). I recently took out a knot-tying book from the library and then walked over to Ace and bought me some gorgeous rope! I mean, gorgeous because I bought it myself and it was new and bendy like how rope it. Anyways, I highly recommend The Complete Book of Decorative Knots for summertime fun. Awesome.

  • SweetThangVintage August 2nd, 2012 12:03 PM

    I love this article! Hardware stores are the best thing ever for real.

  • Harley August 2nd, 2012 11:03 PM

    I would love to work at a hardware store, but my dad won’t let me because I’m a girl. I still love going there to buy stuff though!

    • Anaheed August 2nd, 2012 11:50 PM

      Your dad won’t let you work at the hardware store because you’re a girl?!

    • firky November 5th, 2012 2:19 PM

      Yo. So I wrote about my dad owning a hardware store. He actually owns a few, and the managers at each are girls. Young women, actually. YOU CAN DO IT!

  • xclassicalxoutragex August 8th, 2012 5:50 PM

    forum please!!

  • Cheddah4Evah August 9th, 2012 1:41 PM

    This might be one of the most useful articles I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to hit up Home Depot!

  • Peanutpug August 11th, 2012 8:15 PM

    When I was wee and on holiday every year there was this crazy eccentric old-fashioned hardware store that I loved which sold EVERYTHING you could think of, including ENORMOUS baggy granny panties next to clotheslines and nail guns!