Built-in Kitchen Wall Shelves!

7 Materials
$75
3 Days
Medium

I spent my winter vacation building these shelves into the wall of my little kitchen. It's a fun project if you're looking to upgrade your kitchen and have a couple days to burn.

DIY Built-In Kitchen Wall Shelves

Tools and Materials

  • Stud finder (Mine decided it was on vacation for this particular project)
  • Jigsaw
  • Mini craft saw
  • Cedar wood
  • Stain
  • Sandpaper
  • Plywood
  • Wax
  • Nail gun
  • Nails
Find Studs
Jigsaw a Hole to Find Studs

This is my lovely non-load-bearing "interior" kitchen wall. I jigsawed out a peephole to check where in the world my studs are hiding. My stud finder was acting bonkers on me.

Be extra cautious of wires in the wall!

Cut Along Studs
Cut Along Studs

Found you guys! The opposite side of this wall is your everyday drywall. The side you see is plywood. I used a jigsaw, a mini craft saw and all my patience to cut along the studs.

Add Molding
Add Molding

I cut a "molding" type pattern in the wall and used the scrap wood from the wall to cut more pieces. The trim is cedar wood I bought for the shelving.

Stain
Stain

I went with one coat of a black and brown mixture and then lightly sanded it for a distressed look.

Add Backing
Add Backing

I stained some thin grainy plywood for the back of the shelves and then waxed the whole thing with teak.

Add Shelves
Add Shelves

My wife had an idea of what she wanted on each shelf, so I measured accordingly.

DIY Kitchen Shelves
Fill with Whatever You Desire

Now its time to fill this bad boy up!

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Have a question about this project?

19 questions
  • Tara Sal
    Tara Sal
    on Jan 5, 2016

    awesome idea! Couple thoughts - obviously you need to know where your electrical wiring is prior to this project, also in colder climates I'm wondering about how cold this would be? But beautiful!

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 5, 2016

      @Tara Sal Thank you and you're totally right! I built this into an interior non-load-bearing wall. It can be done in external walls too using high density insulation. Extra caution should be used when it comes to the wires! I'll go back and add your thoughts to my post. Thank you so much! :)

  • Nancy T
    Nancy T
    on Jan 6, 2016

    Oh I love this idea. Beautiful job. I have a teeny, tiny bathroom and I would love to do this (okay, have this done for me) to add storage. My QUESTION is this - how can I be sure before knocking the wall apart that there is no wiring or other stuff behind the wall??

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 6, 2016

      @Nancy T Thank you! Bathrooms are difficult because some have studs in weird places. Thers's a lot more going on in bathroom walls and most have a vapor barrier you don't want to mess with unless you know how. I live in Japan and bathrooms are coffin small. I built an awesome looking cabinet for the hallway that keeps all of the shower room stuff in it. I hope I helped a little. :)

    • Toolpro
      Toolpro
      on Jan 8, 2016

      @Nancy T Look for outlets, switches and light fixtures on both sides of the wall and in any room above. I found a wire unexpectedly with a sawzall... it tripped the breaker. Fortunately I was putting in a box and switch for a new vanity light and needed to cut the wire anyway. Pull the dry wall or plaster off carefully. I only needed a hole for a box so couldn't see what I was getting into.

    • Bonnie
      Bonnie
      on Jan 13, 2016

      @Nancy T I built a cabinet inside my bathroom wall (4 inches flush to the wall, and one that was 6 inches, 2 inches out from the wall and added doors); I used the opposite wall from the sink, shower and toilet because I wanted to avoid cutting into any of the plumbing pipes....I knew there was a closet on the other side of the wall in the bedroom. A good rule of thumb is that the plumbing will run along in a line from one water source entry to another (the pipes will come up from underneath the floor and to the shower, then lead to the toilet, and then the sink. If you build your shelves high, there would be less chance of running into pipes. Same with electrical; they are usually stretched in a straight line from outlet to outlet, then up to the switch or a high light socket. Those are "general" rules, but not always followed. You can get a pipe and stud finder and electric wire detector at hardware or home improvement stores to help you track where they are if you're unsure of where they run.

    • Danielle
      Danielle
      on Jan 6, 2017

      I have just been itching to do this in my laundry room and bathrooms, yours came out GREAT! Time to innundate the hubby with pics until he agrees to let me start cutting!

    • PRESIDENTSAC
      PRESIDENTSAC
      on Jan 6, 2017

      Just a note for those of you working with plaster or older drywall. The paint likely is lead based and can pose serious health problems especially for young children. Be sure and check out the various safety precautions.

    • Joan
      Joan
      on Jan 6, 2017

      Just a bit more on bathroom walls... beware of those glued on mirrors that contractors put in. They hide a nightmare of stuff behind the wall. Vents, wiring, plumbing... you name it... next thing you know your simple project costs go through the roof.

  • Mobile hair girl
    Mobile hair girl
    on Sep 1, 2016

    Hi There! I noticed you said this was a non load bearing wall. If I don't disturb the studs does it make a difference? Because, of course, I want to do this on a load bearing wall. ~thanks!

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Sep 2, 2016

      You can do this in a load bearing wall, just make sure you know what your dealing with first. Stuff like insulation, fire blocks, wires and pipes. I live in Japan and have a diagonal brace in some of my walls upstairs and ladder backing at the ends of my hallways. Once you've figured out the wall, this is a fun project to do. Good luck!

    • Jay Paden
      Jay Paden
      on Jan 5, 2017

      This does not effect a load bearing wall actually it makes it stronger but certainly wires and pipes your wall, wall plugs and switches on the other side of wall and exterior wall have insulation that you want to keep

  • Sharon
    Sharon
    on Jan 5, 2017

    I love this idea but I have plaster walls, what would you suggest? Do I just build my own shelves and attach them to the walls?

    • Nancy Tracy
      Nancy Tracy
      on Jan 5, 2017

      I love this! I wish I could get my husband to do this!

    • Patty
      Patty
      on Jan 5, 2017

      I had plaster walls at one time and I would not attempt this unless you plan on doing the whole wall and even then you could get into more than you bargained for. One good thing usually plaster walls are deeper so your shelves would be deeper, if you can do this and it is doable, I don't want to discourage you, but you have probably tried to hammer a nail and you know what that is like, I would consult a pro first. Good luck.

    • Susan Dye
      Susan Dye
      on Jan 5, 2017

      It can be very messy/dusty/dirty when you demo plaster walls. Plus, you might, depending on the age of the house, run into lathing behind the plaster. More work and more mess.

    • Sharon
      Sharon
      on Jan 5, 2017

      Thank you, I will stick to putting up shelves instead.:)

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 6, 2017

      You can totally do this in a plaster wall! Wow, how old is your house? Be sure you have a plaster wall first and not just plastered drywall. Shelves would be easier, but where is the challenge! :)

    • Jr1012
      Jr1012
      on Jan 6, 2017

      plaster walls are a mess on the inside. With wood lath it's not as bad as metal lath but the opposite wall can have plaster poking through up to 1 1/2" . To chip it out is a slow process and you can take out too much and ruin the integrity of the wall, you could also crack the opposing wall. best to stick with an exterior shelving unit and the hell with the challenge.

    • PRESIDENTSAC
      PRESIDENTSAC
      on Dec 28, 2017

      One more caution on plaster. Likely it was painted with a paint containing lead. Therefore the dust from the plaster will have lead dust. Lead dust is particularly hazardous for small children. See more here:
    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Dec 29, 2017

      Follow this link for removing lath and plaster walls. http://www.gdiy.com/projects/removing-lath-and-plaster-walls/

      I've worked on interior lath and plaster walls before with no problem. It's just messier, dustier and you'll have a lot of garbage. Plan out your project and decide for yourself if you're up to it. I'm currently remodeling an upstairs room in an old Japanese house with lath and plaster walls. Good Luck!
    • Cynthia Whitney
      Cynthia Whitney
      on Dec 29, 2017

      I thought this would be a great idea for showing off the coffee mugs I collect when we travel. Then I remembered that I have an 80-year-old house with plaster that is as hard as concrete. It has also been covered over with sheetrock so it's a double-whammy. Not to mention that the area I really want to use also has a long-abandoned chimney still standing there. Well, it's a great idea for a newer house but I'd caution those with plaster to be prepared for a huge mess if they try it! Love the look, though. For those asking about a mobile home, yes, the walls are much thinner so you could only put very small items on the shelves.
    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Dec 29, 2017

      Your house sounds lovely Cynthia! If I lived nearby, I'd totally help you do this.
    • Karen Anne Mahoney
      Karen Anne Mahoney
      on Dec 29, 2017

      This looks simply amazing! Great job!
  • Maryguzman210
    Maryguzman210
    on Feb 22, 2017

    Can this be done in a new mobile home? Like in a spare room. Thanks I love what you did. Mary

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jul 30, 2017

      Hello! I'm sorry, but I have no experience with mobile homes. I really wish I could give you a helpful answer.
    • Wlg29973425
      Wlg29973425
      on Dec 28, 2017

      I too live in a mobile home and have a spare room that I use as an office. I too want to try something like this in that room. Perhaps next month. A good thing about a mobile is that there are no load bearing walls. Definitely going to give it a try.
    • Dee Simmons
      Dee Simmons
      on Dec 28, 2017

      I live in a mobile home and I did this in my kitchen. I had a small wall that jutted out beside the small cabinet next to the stove. I did this there and it now houses my spices and oils. It works great. No more space taken up and looks great.

    • Uncommonsensesc
      Uncommonsensesc
      on Dec 28, 2017

      Unless the newer mobile homes are built differently, you'll find that interior walls of a mobile home aren't built using 2 x 4's so the space will be smaller (thinner) - but it can be done and would be perfect for spices (like Wlgillingham1958).
    • Use 2x6's for deeper storage space with the same idea of the small boards to hold things in, but set it up against the existing wall (somehow) and you have a fabulous craft supplies storage area.Put up a second small board across the fronts a little farther up and you can make a filing area. And on and on. Go for it.
    • Maryguzman210
      Maryguzman210
      on Dec 28, 2017

      Thank you for your answers, I appreciate it. Mary
  • DORLIS
    DORLIS
    on Dec 28, 2017

    Would you want to do this to an exterior wall? I would think it would allow more cold air to penetrate.
    • Uncommonsensesc
      Uncommonsensesc
      on Dec 28, 2017

      You shouldn't do this to an exterior wall - hopefully you'll find insulation and a vapor barrier in the walls! And the other side will be exterior plywood sheathing and not drywall.
    • Carole Atson
      Carole Atson
      on Dec 28, 2017

      I would think you can only do this on an interior wall because on an exterior wall you would loose insulation.
    • Em
      Em
      on Dec 28, 2017

      you can clearly see it is an interior wall.... why would you ask that question?
    • Karen Anne Mahoney
      Karen Anne Mahoney
      on Dec 29, 2017

      why are you so disagreeable, Em? The person was asking IF they could do it on an exterior wall, not that Bryan DID it on one! Please read first
    • DORLIS
      DORLIS
      on Dec 29, 2017

      i was just curious, wondering what if
    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Dec 30, 2017

      Hey Dorlis! The protection that keeps your house safe and dry is its thermal envelope. A lot of things make up the envelope and this is what keeps your home safe and you healthy. Opening an exterior wall might open the thermal envelope. It's more than just insulation. Building shelves into exterior walls can be done, but the thermal envelope must be closed again. It's good to know all about your house even if you don't plan on doing anything yourself.
    • Neva Dew
      Neva Dew
      on Jan 6, 2018

      Exterior walls are load bearing!!!!!!
    • Crystal Melancon
      Crystal Melancon
      on Jan 6, 2018

      And be very careful not to hit wires with your saw. That goes for an interior wall as well as an exterior wall
    • Mic33377067
      Mic33377067
      on Aug 24, 2018

      Not all exterior walls are load bearing.. but they are usually insulated and ypu wouldn't want tp do an exterior because of loss of insulation

    • Grace Gleason
      Grace Gleason
      on Jan 15, 2019

      Even if they are load bearing, if you don't remove the 2x4s, nothing will be adversely affected.

  • N Elizabeth Sewall
    N Elizabeth Sewall
    on Jan 2, 2018

    I love love this idea but have a couple of questions. It looks like you just used the studs for the verticals but the horizontal shelves look like they might be slightly more than a 2x4 width. Can you verify for me what size you used for the shelves? Thank you so much. | Elizabeth
    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 4, 2018

      Hello! The shelves are only about 12mm thick cedar. A cut pieces to put on the front of the shelves to keep stuff from falling off too. We get a lot of earthquakes in Japan. That piece is the same thickness of the shelves. The shelves are also screwed into the shelf holders under them and are a couple millimeters away from the wall. I hope this helps.
  • Linda L. Deeren
    Linda L. Deeren
    on Jan 6, 2018

    My house was built in 1905 and has plaster and slats walls. Can I do this with my rooms?
    • Jeff DiMora
      Jeff DiMora
      on Jan 6, 2018

      Yes you can, but plaster and slats are thicker then drywal. Also the back you will have a rougher area to work with. It will be more work if you do this projec.
    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 7, 2018

      Hello Linda! In my experience, it's totally doable, but more work and planning are needed. Another Hometalker asked this question and I was surprised at the "don't do it" answers. Please check out the replies to that question. A lot of good pros and cons are under that question. Here's a good link to check out.

    • Dan
      Dan
      on Nov 7, 2018

      Be carful the studs may be rough lumber that vary in width and thickness . When plastering a house the studs don't have to be uniform in size and they can be twisted or bowed as they may not have used kiln dried lumber.

    • Prelude
      Prelude
      on Jan 15, 2019

      Sure you can, but you need to keep in mind what may be behind those walls, ie., pipes and wiring. And I agree with Dan, about the wall's interior framing not being uniform. Plaster walls are such a rarity now. If it was my home and the walls were in good shape, I'd not touch them.

  • Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    on Dec 5, 2018

    How did you get the frame , especially the base in? Did you have to cut through the studs and place the base in the wall ?

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Dec 5, 2018

      Hey Elizabeth! You do not need to cut into the studs. All of the shelves are sitting on wood cleats. Think of the entire open space between the studs as an empty cabinet. You'll screw cleats inside the space to the sides of the studs to sit shelves on. You can see the cleats under the shelves in some of my pictures.


      The base is just shelves on cleats with two pieces of trim running across the bottom. I have trim running horizontally across the front of every shelf and vertically down every stud. I hope this helps. :)

  • Joanie
    Joanie
    on Jan 15, 2019

    Very pretty wall.....you do nice work ......a little more dusting for your wife, but she ask for it... .Why is all the spirits and pickled eggs on the top shelves???????

    • Mona Blake
      Mona Blake
      on Jan 15, 2019

      Super easy answer, out of children's reach!

    • Kay Camenisch
      Kay Camenisch
      on Jan 15, 2019

      Nice work in building the shelves and nice job outfitting them too. Handsome shelves and beautifully decorated.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jan 18, 2019

      Thank you Joanie! I do most of the cleaning around here too! :) I thought that they'd look the coolest up high.

    • Jill V Harper
      Jill V Harper
      on Jan 21, 2019

      I'm confused Joanie: Why is the wife having to dust? I feel like I went backward about 100 years.


    • Joanie
      Joanie
      on Jan 21, 2019

      I just told the builder, the more shelves, the more clutter and more for the wife to dust.

    • Chris Gaines
      Chris Gaines
      on Mar 23, 2019

      I thought it was to deter the kids/grand kids!!!

  • Granny Laura
    Granny Laura
    on Mar 23, 2019

    This is beautiful!

    Would you please tell me how you attached the thin plywood on the back in between the studs?

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Mar 24, 2019

      Hey Granny Laura! I used an adhesive similar to Titebond 'Titegrab.'


      Think of the very bottom shelf as a base to sit the thin plywood in the back on. The thin plywood won't fall down between the studs with that shelf there. I covered the back of the thin plywood with glue and it's held against the inside wall by the cleats the other shelves sit on.



  • My caren
    My caren
    on Mar 26, 2019

    I have a small kitchen with the only free walls being exterior. Would this project be do-able with them.? I need storage desperately! There is plenty of wall space but no storage. Any ideas on a built in storage other than cabinets?

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Mar 28, 2019

      I do not recommend doing it. It can be done, but you can cause serious damage to your house if you're not experienced. I don't like saying things can't/shouldn't be done, but this is no small task.


      What does your kitchen look like? I can offer alternative storage ideas and you can also ask the Hometalk community for srorage ideas. You can also ask a professional to come to your house and check if built-in shelves are a good idea.

    • My caren
      My caren
      on Mar 28, 2019

      My dad passed away a few years ago and he was a contractor and I worked with him for several years. While my expertise was paint and paper I did pay attention to the remodeling jobs he did. I never saw any exterior walls with this type of make overs. So, I just needed to see if anything new was working with exterior walls. I may have to relocate some interior wall cabinets then use that wall. Thanks for your reply.

    • Twyla J Boyer
      Twyla J Boyer
      on Sep 11, 2019

      Exterior walls contain your insulation and hold up your house. It would not be wise to cut into them for this type of project. That said, you could create a similar look by building shallow shelving units using 1 x 4 or 1 x 5 lumber backed with luaun (thin plywood). These could be attached to the existing walls using appropriate brackets (they make some heavy duty ones that sort of hide up in the corners). I did this at my house in a area where I needed storage but could not put a cabinet, though I did not bother to put a back on them (just let the freshly painted wall color show through). It is unbelievable how much stuff I can store on these shallow shelves.

    • Vilma McLean Bouchard
      Vilma McLean Bouchard
      on Sep 18, 2019

      You could use wooden crats/boxes an attach to wall.

    • Brenda Bickford
      Brenda Bickford
      on Mar 24, 2020

      I have done this on exterior walls using insulation foam board instead of the plywood with wallpaper over it, also did some with cabinet doors on them for a broom closet; broom, dustpan, dusters, all hung in there nicely. Decorated the door like a piece of artwork

  • Twyla J Boyer
    Twyla J Boyer
    on Sep 11, 2019

    Beautifully done. Do I detect a little lip on the front of shelves to keep stuff from being easily knocked off? I am in the process of improving my kitchen until I can afford to renovate and I think this idea will work well in a couple places, though I will have to wall mount them instead of cutting into the walls because they are exterior and/or load bearing. (Every wall in my kitchen except the one with the fridge and stove is load bearing. Crazy)

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Sep 12, 2019

      Yes, I put lips on the shelves. We get a ton of earthquakes in Japan. Please take pictures and make a post for you kitchen project. I'd love to see.

    • Layne
      Layne
      on Mar 24, 2020

      It doesn't matter if the walls are load-bearing. The drywall does not provide support, you can build your shelves on a load-bearing wall.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Mar 25, 2020

      Hey Layne! Drywall doesn't support the house, but I don't recommend doing this to an exterior wall without the help of a professional. Using the space between studs and omitting insulation would be a bad idea. The last thing you'll want is a cold spot that'll condense interior moisture and grow mold. Sure, there's high density insulation, but with it, you're looking at like 3" deep shelves.

  • Tree
    Tree
    on Sep 11, 2019

    It looks like you carefully cut out the drywall leaving it in place fronting the studs. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just rip-off all the drywall and simply tacked on the decorative top “molding”, or did you leave the drywall on top of the studs to add extra depth?

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Sep 12, 2019

      I did it this way for depth. It's easy with a jigsaw and you also won't need to deal with the drywall nails/screws.

    • Bettina
      Bettina
      on Mar 24, 2020

      I don’t have an answer, but I was thinking the same thing about this project. The author said it had to be a “no weight bearing wall” but that makes no sense to me. Drywall doesn’t support the structure. The project is a nice idea and I will probably put it on my to do list.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Mar 25, 2020

      Hello Bettina, I didn't say "it had to be a non-load-bearing wall". I was only explaining the kind of wall I was working on. :)

  • Armando
    Armando
    on Mar 24, 2020

    How about the insulations if you knock down the wall what will happen to the insulation’s.

    • Sarah
      Sarah
      on Mar 24, 2020

      This was an interior wall-there is no insulation.

    • Ellen P.
      Ellen P.
      on Apr 2, 2020

      It was an interior wall so no insulation. I wouldn't recommend doing this with an exterior wall because of losing insulation.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Apr 2, 2020

      It was insulated and I didn't knock the wall down.

  • Beverly
    Beverly
    on Apr 2, 2020

    I love this idea! My question:

    How did you attach the panelling to the backside? This is a beautiful addition, but I'm stumped...lol.

  • Bundy
    Bundy
    on Apr 2, 2020

    Are the shelves fixed or adjustable?

  • Mina
    Mina
    on Apr 2, 2020

    No wires behind the drywall?... You were lucky.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Apr 2, 2020

      Most electrical runs going horizontally are about 2 feet off the floor or very close to the ceiling. There are lots of reasons for this but one of the obvious ones is it limits the areas of concerns when drilling. I did a similar built-in project in my workshop. That wall has wiring and it wasn't a problem.

  • Darleen
    Darleen
    on Jun 7, 2020

    Do you think this can be done with lath and plaster walls? My house is over 100 years old.

    • Bryan's Workshop
      Bryan's Workshop
      on Jun 18, 2020

      Yes, but it's more difficult and a lot messier. You'll need to use a grinder to cut-out the area, be careful not to break the wall out, because cracks will radiate across the wall and up to the ceiling. You might have less room inside the wall depending on the other side. It's most likely plaster and lath too, so you'll need to be carful to not disturbed the plaster keys. You'll need to attach the back of the shelves to the studs. It's definitely more work and a lot messier, but it's doable.

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