Sunday, May 13, 2007

How I made a car console with duct tape and yogurt containers

Recently, I solved my driver's seat storage problems by making a "custom console" for my minivan, using stuff I had lying around the house. This worked so well, that I just had to share.

My original plan called for something that looked like this:

console original concept

This would provide four cup holders: two for the front seats, two for the middle seats. I eventually reconsidered putting the rear two cup-holders on the console because I wanted the wipes container to be easier to remove, and because I decided it was redundant, due to built-in cup-holders for the middle seat.

When I decluttered a closet earlier this year, the above plastic box was released from duty. It cost $12.95 from the Container Store. It has a frame and a slide-out drawer. It was meant to hold large shoes.

I started by making duct tape straps that would hold a Kleenex box centered on the top of the plastic box. These were trimmed to the size of the opening of the Kleenex box.

straps made
trim straps to fit kleenex opening

I used the grommet setter to set four grommets on the ends of
the Kleenex straps.

straps with grommets

I always rescue the heavy duty wire-closure part of the coffee
bags, so I had a healthy supply. These are like heavy duty, stiff,
double-wired twist-ties. If you don't have these, twist-ties will work.

The coffee-wires were thread through the grommets to secure the Kleenex box.

kleenex box in place
coffee bag source of the twist-ties

I had a plastic bag left over from a recently purchased tablecloth. The bag wasn't very thick or durable, but it was the perfect size to hold a pencil case of baby wipes: (The pencil case is blue in this picture.)

tablecloth packaging

Inserting the wipes-box in the bag, I duct-taped it to the plastic box. It is important to do this with the wipes-box inside, so that the tape won't be too tight. The goal is for easy retrieval and insertion of the wipes box. I reinforced the top edges of the plastic bag with more duct-tape. It really was a flimsy bag.

attaching wipes holder

The plastic box had a big hole in the bottom, under the drawer. I used the table cloth bag's insert card between the duct tape and the bottom of the box, in order to prevent the duct tape from sticking to the bottom of the drawer (through the bottom of the box.)

reinforcing edges of wipes holder
taping bottom with card
kleenex and wipes done

Meanwhile, I painted the yogurt containers with leftover paint I
found in the basement. I started with a beige color, but didn't have enough, so switched to a strange burgundy color for the second coat. Here is a picture of the first coat, drying in our backyard: (This was before I decided to use only two of the four yogurt containers.)

yogurt containers hanging to dry

I keep bricks-and-mortar-store-specific coupons in the car. Otherwise I forget to bring them. There is also a tendency for receipts to build up in my car. These can be categorized as either gas (and other car-related expenses), which I like to keep in the car, or other receipts that I bring inside my home to file.

To organize both the coupons and the reciepts, I modified a plastic three section file as part of the console.

I put a grommet in the plastic file envelope to be hung from the driver's side duct-tape Kleenex-holding strap. This envelope has three pockets: one for gas receipts, another for other receipts, and a third for holding coupons that stay in my car (as opposed to the grocery coupons, which my husband keeps in his car.) This picture might be confusing, because the envelope is resting on the front passenger's side, not the driver's side, where it was placed.

I had a stockpile of 3M Command hooks. I attached one of these to the Kleenex-strap. The envelope hangs on this hook by its grommet for easy access.

coupon enveolpe with grommet

After attaching the dried, painted, two tone yogurt containers to the front of the console with a glue gun, it was done!

Here you can see it in all its glory, in the car: It holds the Kleenex close enough for everyone in the first two rows of seats to reach. The cup holders are large enough to hold a large cup of tea. I the tea spills, it spills in a water-tight holder. The built-in holder can still extend. The wipes-container is accessible from both the front and back seats. The drawer opens to hold all of the adapters and cables that were cluttering the floor.

completed console
completed console

Here is a view from the back seat: (The yellow bag is how we handle garbage in the car - with a plastic bag hung on the front passenger seat's arm rest.)

view from back seat

This has been in my car for two weeks. I only wish I had made it sooner!

18 comments, so far. Add yours now!

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Anonymous said...

nice ghetto rig...and you got on lifehacker...can't beat that...
good job.

johnk43 said...

I like your console. Here's a addition that I think you would like. I keep a 12 month receipt organizer in my homemade console that keeps things neat and organized. I take 12 old envelopes, the return envelopes that the utility companies send are perfect (yes, you could use new envelopes. Cut off or tape back the taps. Label each with one of the 12 months of the year, or numbers 1- 12, or what ever system you use to organize your reciepts. Staple them together on one side only. Slide it next to the maps in your console. You can organize them at stop lights or while you're waiting for your kids to come out of band practice.

Juggling Frogs said...

@harvey: LOL! If you saw the REST of my MommieMobile, you'd realize it fits the decor.

@johnk43: That's a great idea!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

did you have to photograph the final product next to your knives? Do you drive i L.A.?

Unknown said...

At first I thought you had attached a knife holder in your minivan console--never know when you need to do some chopping on the road!

Juggling Frogs said...

@joshua: That's too funny!

The closest I've come to "cooking in the car" was when I lived half an hour's drive from our school.

On Fridays, when making my weekly challot, I'd prepare foil-covered cookie sheets with grease and cornmeal, and place them with the rising dough and some clean dish towels in the minivan.

An hour and a half later, between errands, I'd wash my hands and shape the dough, placing the formed loaves on the prepared cookie sheets, covered with the towels, to rise again.

By the time I returned home from the afternoon carpool, the dough completed its second rise, and was ready to pop in the oven! said...

I read a bunch of the posts over at Lifehacker. They were mostly focused on the 'custom' appearance of your setup. However, i must congratulate you on creating a console that has everything you need and nothing you don't. Sure, you could have gone to Checker and plunked down a bunch of $$ to get something to hold your drinks, but the rest of the console would not have worked for YOU.

Congrats for having the guts to put that cutie up on the Web.

Charity said...

I also saw this on lifehacker. I personally think it's incredibly clever and handy.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article! Hooray for resourcefulness and sensible reuse, down with mindless consumerism. I particularly agree with the previous post about your console being perfect for you needs (since you made it of course!) I say this because I have looked high and low for a console for my Dodge Caravan and am totally disgusted with the lack of selection and the utter uselessness of most of the offerings (Dodge's own included). I'll be going your route methinks. My hat's off to you!

Elizabeth said...

I saw your console on Lifehacker too, and the awful comments. I like your console a lot, especially the smaller cup holders you've built in. You seem to have the exact Dodge that my husband drives (my own Echo is much better designed), with the useless cup holders that slide out of the dash. The plastic slider things on ours that allow you to grip smaller drinks than the ginormous 48 oz cups are broken. Also, there's no storage between the front two seats, so when we go to the gym, my mp3 player, headphones and magazine go sliding around on the floor. Now I finally have a little inspiration on how to solve that problem with little or no cost.

Your console is perfect for your needs and is a wonderful example of recycling and repurposing without wasting anything. Thanks for the inspiration!

Juggling Frogs said...

Thank you all for the kind words.

@elizabeth: It's a Ford Windstar. I guess they all look a lot alike.

I found out why they were so snarky over at LifeHacker. Apparently, the link was posted to a hardcore custom-detailing auto forum, first thing in the morning.

I doubt any of those people ferry kids from school to soccer to piano... For some reason, I think day school tuition is not a line item in their budgets.

Anonymous said...


Don't worry about the LifeHacker comments. I just came from there; we're always snarky. In fact, I just posted a comment advising you to buy a console in Canada. ;-)

Your centre console is cute and useful to you; it'll never live up to LH standards. You created something totally cool and functional for yourself: That's all the matters. I don't have kids, and I don't even own a car I'd want to put kids in, but I salute your ingenuity!

If anything, take solace in the fact that I'm probably going to be decapitated by my Kleenex box if I ever make a panic stop. Also, my garbage bag hangs off my cigarette lighter. Think I should submit that mod to LifeHacker? ;-)

Anonymous said...

you do really leave on car... what about a refrigerator for those hot days and maybe a small kitchenette for burger and a table to cut the tomatos.. yeah - curious

Anonymous said...

Could you pleae build me one...

Anonymous said...

Nice job Carolyn!
My Windstar already has a console where yours sits, but there's some room in front of it to get creative.

Now I want to see what you did with the *cargo* area of your van..

Anonymous said...

This blog is great! Thanks for your hard work on it.

rmc said...

What can you NOT accomplish with duct tape and hot glue? There is suspicion that even Batman kept same in his utility belt. Bravo, nicely done!

Caitlin @ Buy Backlinks said...

Lovely! You've just saved me from spending my money! These things cost a bit when buy it ready made.

If you liked this article, congratulations! You have great taste. Please brew yourself a cup of coffee.
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