small improvements: covering phone jacks.

March 18, 2021

There’s an old phone jack for a landline telephone on the wall of our dining room. It’s a few inches from the doorframe that goes into our kitchen and I have every confidence that in another time and place a mustard yellow telephone with a satisfyingly heavy handset and a curly cord hung in that spot. If I close my eyes I can picture the cord stretched around the corner into the kitchen where someone prattled away on the phone while stirring a pot of sauce on the white stove or ironing shirts at the pull down ironing board that’s still tucked into the kitchen wall. Now, the phone jack is empty—a small but ever-present blight on an otherwise blank wall. What to do with an unused wall jack? Cover it.

If you’re thinking that the easiest way to cover an unused phone jack is to simply remove it, know that I agree. Wires going to things like phone jacks don’t carry a high voltage and can be relatively easily capped and shoved back into the wall (though in this case that would require unearthing the wire from the length of the room). Once the outer plate is removed, it’s easy enough to cover the jack with a hardware store plate cover that costs approximately $2 and takes approximately two minutes to put into place. (Making an actual repair patch to the wall itself wouldn’t be terribly more complicated either.) Still, as a renter there’s a limit to the projects I want to take on myself or ask permission to tackle. And renter or not, sometimes we all need a quick solution and a small improvement because there are more pressing things to focus our attention on.

In some cases, covering an offending wall jack (or thermostat, or doorbell, or whatever it is that you don’t want to look at) can be as simple as hanging a painted canvas or a deep-set picture frame. (This is precisely what we did with the covered phone jack in our last apartment.) Here, the phone jack is close enough to the molding that covering with artwork would makes things feel off balance, so instead, I opted for a high hook and for the moment, a simple bottle vase.

The bottle vase could be easily swapped out for anything else that hangs: a basket, a bag, a pouch, a cutting board, et cetera. I love the artful simplicity of a good hook and that hanging one high opens up all kinds of future possibilities. (On the opposite side of the door frame, in the kitchen, I’ve got a simple cord and s-hooks hanging from my pot rack, which does a nice job of keeping our aprons tidy.)

In case you’re curious, a few details:

Hooks:

I hung an old hand-forged iron hook I bought from Brook Farm General Store a decade ago. Instead of using screws, which would have required finding studs or installing anchors, I affixed my hook to the wall with two small rounds of Sugru. It’s solid as can be and I’ll be able to remove without needing to patch the wall whenever I tire of it.

Bottle Vases:

In the apartment that James and I shared in Providence, we had bottles hanging everywhere. I hung any pretty old bottle I could find, but the ones with a rim around the neck makes it easy to tie a simple bottle knot and cinch the bottle safely. Right now I have some grocery store flowers in my jar, but other pretty and fuss-free options are fresh herbs or sprigs of greenery that can take root and grow in water or bundles of dried botanicals. Inspired by my friend Chelsea’s book Field, Flower, Vase, I’m hoping to plant a mini cutting garden on our windowsill this summer and have blooms to cut all season.

Wall Baskets:

If I tire of the bottle, I might also consider hanging a basket. A basket on the wall has the added advantage of looking pretty and providing a bit of useful storage.

+ A looser weave macramé basket won’t hide the wall jack completely by itself, but they’re easy and fun to make and filled it up with something solid—a book or a cloth or a bunch of onions—the phone jack could disappear beneath it. Best of all, when weaving myself I could make it just the right size for this space.

+ In a kitchen, a simple garlic basket would be an affordable and pretty route to take with lots of options for usefulness. (I used to keep my phone charging in ours and now we use it to stash clothespins by the kitchen window.)

+ In a space with more room, I might opt for a larger, tightly woven wall basket that could serve as cover for any manner of sins: piles of mail, magazines, phone chargers, etc.

Other things:

+ Cutting Board: We’re on the hunt for a new cutting board and I think a relatively slim cutting board like this gorgeous White Oak Paddle Cutting Board from Blackcreek Mercantile could be beautiful.

+ Bag: If not a basket, a rumply linen bag or satchel or market tote could make an artful and useful addition here, too.

+ Hooks aren’t the only solution here, of course. One enterprising reader wrote saying she’d covered an offending phone jack with paper maché creation. In the right spot a strong magnet and a pretty postcard could do the trick. Suffice to say, as ever, the only goal is to find a solution that works for you.

This post includes several affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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11 Comments

  • Reply riye March 18, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    We had a similar situation at my mom’s house. The jack is in a tongue and groove wall so we’d be stuck repairing a hole in the wood wall and we didn’t feel like doing that. I recycled a small wooden box (it had a sliding lid so there was a gap for the wires) and used it like a picture frame for some washi paper. A couple of pieces of velcro keeps the box in place. 🙂

  • Reply Grace March 18, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Our phone jack is metal and I was inspired by YOU a few years ago to stick a magnetic clip to it and hang up a seasonal Gwen Frostic card postcard that I even occasionally remember to switch out 😉

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 18, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Yay! In another spot a postcard and magnet would be my go-to!

      1
  • Reply Annie March 18, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    We are lucky, the phone jack in our rented apartment (which was useful in the day of dial up) is on a small wall in the kitchen that is the perfect size for a wall calendar. I’m not sure we’d have a wall calendar otherwise, but we love the opportunity to have changing art there and we write things we are looking forward to on the calendar so it’s not all bad 🙂

    1
  • Reply Allison March 18, 2021 at 6:39 pm

    We got an actual phone! The number came free with our wifi so I thought, why not? It’s used exclusively by the kids to talk with Grammie. A landline. So retro.

    2
    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 18, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      I wish ours came with! going to have to check again!

  • Reply Allison March 19, 2021 at 10:01 am

    Love the idea of an actual working land line phone, but if not, then how about a rotary dial wall phone just for “fun”?

    1
    • Reply Michele March 20, 2021 at 3:59 am

      I agree, I would put one there even if it doesnt work, just dreaming of living in those times. Especially with that bathroom that would take me back too!!

  • Reply Michele March 20, 2021 at 4:01 am

    Ha, mustard phone, living Mad Men days!! X

  • Reply Chelsea April 19, 2021 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Erin! I love the way your new space is coming together. I am so happy the balcony cutting garden idea inspired you. I am looking forward to seeing how your windowsill cutting garden comes to life!

  • Reply Mrs. Ainee C. Beland October 22, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    Funny to find this post on old phone jack not in use and forever the reminder; anyhow, we have an old phone jack on wall here and for a long time in our old apartment I had purchased this plate cover (golf bag with hints of red/green paint) and I never got to use it in our old apartment; so when we moved here and I saw/kept viewing of this eye sore, it struck me to put the golf bag phone jack over it; so I got a screw driver and aimed it high on the jack and low and behold it is holding in place and I have managed to put post cards around it as well; making like a small mural. Truly, I am not making this up. Stay blessed and thanks for sharing.

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