Hospital white walls can always use a colorful coat of paint, but picking a palette can result in a plethora of those little paper paint samples. Instead of tossing them in the trash, you can create a mosaic table. Not only will you feel good about recycling, but you'll also have a conversation piece inspired by history.

Mosaics are a centuries-old, utilitarian art form, originally used to adorn the floors of expensive homes and later to decorate the interiors of religious houses. The basic concept revolves around placing colorful pebbles, small pieces of glass or tesserae (square pieces of glass or stone made especially for mosaics) in a pattern to decorate a surface. Mosaic artists employ a variety of materials, often mixing mediums to create patterns and elaborate scenes. Historic examples of the art can be found along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

You can add a mosaic finish to just about any object -- from a garage-sale coffee table to a plain picture frame to a sterile backsplash. We wanted to makeover a tabletop, and took a straightforward, linear approach with our design. Another option is to get as crazy and crafty as you wish with your mosaic pattern, experimenting with various paper sizes and their placement. No matter which approach you pick, you'll find a second use for those paint chip samples and learn an easy method to transform an object.

-- Kathleen Hom

Step One

Gather your supplies: For this project, we used an Ikea Fornbro pedestal table ($14.99); jewel-colored paint chip samples (free!), plus clear decoupage glue, a sponge brush and a utility knife (you should be able to find all three at most craft stores for less than $10).

Our tabletop was white, a perfect color to mimic grout lines. If you need to paint your table, do so beforehand, following the paint's instructions to leave adequate time for it to dry.

If you want your table to look like ours, start with paint samples that are a uniform size. If your chips are a variety of sizes, pick one size and trim the others to match. Then lay out your paint samples on the tabletop, experimenting with color combinations and placement until you find a look that appeals to you. Leave some space between each of the samples so that the white tabletop will show through -- for our 21/2-inch square chips, a spacing of 1/16-inch worked well. And if some chips hang over the edge, that's fine -- you'll trim them later.

Remove the chips, labeling them on the backs if necessary to remember the design.

Step Two

Make sure your tabletop is clean of dust and dirt. Use the brush to apply a thin layer of decoupage glue to the back of one paint sample. Adhere the chip to the tabletop, and then repeat until all paint samples are glued in place, following the pattern of your design. Allow the tabletop to dry.

Thoroughly clean your sponge brush with water to get rid of excess glue.

Step Three

When the table is dry, turn it upside down and set it on a firm surface that you can cut on such as cardboard. Using your utility knife, trim any chips hanging over the table's edge.

Flip the table back over and cover its entire top with a layer of decoupage glue. Use long brush strokes to keep the coat as smooth as possible. The glue will appear opaque but will dry clear. Let dry, then apply another coat of glue.

Let this final layer of glue dry and wait for the compliments about your nifty recycling to roll in.

Create a mosaic with paint chips from your local hardware store.