Built-in-the-Wall Shelving - Reclaiming Hidden Storage Space

4 Hours

Our daughter's closet has a large, blank wall on one side. It was a perfect spot for some added storage and display shelving for her little collections.

Since this was was not a load bearing wall, I could carve into it without worrying about the roof caving in or adding a header. I sliced open and peeled off the drywall, creating the rough opening.

The studs got cut off with a oscillating multi-tool, below the edge of the drywall.

I wrapped the opening with 2x4s, just to replace some support within the wall. It got screwed into the remaining studs I'd cut off and ended up laying flush with the rough opening.

Assembled with pocket holes

The basic shelving unit is a box, made from select pine 1x4s screwed together and backed with a piece of beadboard paneling. I made the whole thing a little to tight and had to persuade it into place with a rubber mallet.

The gentle persuader

I added a couple more horizontal 1x4s with pocket holes and screws for shelving.

A face frame constructed from 1x2s gave the unit a heavier, finished furniture / cabinet kid of look. It also strengthened the shelves and squared up any slight warping imperfections. It got attached with 2" finishing nails.

After some nail hole putty, I gave the unit a light sanding and slightly rounded the edges of the protruding wood. It would help keep the paint from chipping later and hopefully prevent injury if someone was to bump into it after tripping on kid stuff that will surely litter the floor of the closet in the future.

After some caulk and a couple good coats of primer, the piece is done. Waiting for final paint. It will get a gloss white finish. Our daughter is probably going to choose light blue walls as we complete the remodel. Here's a digital preview:

This can be a weekend, do-it-yourself project that's actually not that difficult to do. I've got a ton more step-by-step info on the blog with tools, techniques, and inspiration explained in more detail.

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John @ AZ DIY Guy

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 10 questions
  • Rod
    on Jan 11, 2018

    Could this possibly be made with 1x6s? My 16-year-old daughter has a few SHOES?
    • John @ AZ DIY Guy
      on Jan 12, 2018

      I don't see why not. Depending on the thickness of the wall, it would likely protrude outward a couple inches. Cool idea!
  • Lynn
    on Sep 20, 2019

    How do you know what wall's are load bearing or or witch ones aren't.

    • John @ AZ DIY Guy
      on Sep 22, 2019

      In my case, it was a short length, interior wall, just partitioning two closets. There were two adjoining exterior (originally exterior anyway) walls, one of which would be carrying the load. I still added more framing than I needed to keep everything solid. Here's a good article on WikitHow to get started in your investigation: 3 Easy Ways to Tell if a Wall is Load Bearing.

  • Lyn
    on Dec 8, 2019

    I've been thinking about doing this above the ledge to my basement stairwell, but I want to cover it with doors to cover miscellaneous plasticware. It's messy no matter what. But the doors can't be too big because there's not much room in the stairwell. How deep are these shelves?

    • Sandra
      on May 19, 2020

      I haven’t done this yet, but I would think it’s as deep as the frame work is. Most likely 4 inches, minus the depth of the board or sticky paper or wallpaper you put on the back wall. They put bead board. I have been wanting to do this in my husbands bathroom so he has more storage. And I want doors too.

Join the conversation

3 of 87 comments
  • Bubba
    on Jan 30, 2019

    Better make sure that wall is NOT load bearing before you start cutting out studs.

  • Kathryn
    on Oct 4, 2019

    I have wanted to do something like this for a long time. Great job! However, I wouldn't bother cutting existing studs, just make short shelves between them. Thanks for the excellent instructions.

    • John @ AZ DIY Guy
      on Oct 5, 2019

      Thank you! The between the studs approach is absolutely a great way to go. If you check out my original, linked blog post you'll see the version that inspired me. Cristina from Remodelando la Casa had built a narrow version, without the face frame, snuggled between the studs. I felt I had to take advantage of the big, open wall space, so I plowed though those studs.

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