Hidden Kitchen Storage: Turn a Filler Panel Into a Pull-Out Cabinet!
If you have filler strips in your kitchen, you can reclaim that wasted space and build a custom base cabinet into the space the filler occupies - even with a gap as little as 3".
The light bulb went off one day when I was surfing the net and found this inspiration shot for a base filler cabinet roll out. But why would we purchase something ready made, when we could easily build it ourselves and customize it to our needs?!
Here's how the filler beside our sink looked before - you can see the 6 1/2" space on the left side of the sink cabinet:
I was hopeful that, with a little careful measuring, we would be able to gain some valuable real estate in this small area to store a few things.
Many of the ready made units I saw online had adjustable shelves, but we decided it would be simpler and faster to determine what we wanted to store and just build fixed shelves to the height we needed - the beauty of DIY'ing is customizing the size to your needs! We decided to store plastic containers on the top shelf (so we could stack them) and cooking oils on the bottom so went with only two shelves.
At Birdz of a Feather (link below), you'll find a drawing that illustrates our dimensions to help you determine your own. Everyone's situation will be different, but here are some of the considerations to keep in mind when you build this project:
Prep Work and Steps
1. Decide on what slider hardware you will be using. We decided to purchase hardware that could be mounted on the top and bottom of our pull-out so we wouldn't lose any space on the sides. Since the height of the pullout box needs to fit the height of the space, and you'll need something to attach the drawer glides to on the top and bottom. My husband built a frame of sorts with a top and bottom to mount the drawer glides to. He then added in a filler strip under the counter top so we wouldn't have an ugly gap - our filler was was 3 inches long and wide enough to fit between the side between the sink cabinet and wall (there is wood along the underside of the filler strip to mount the top glide to).
You'll need to determine the type of gliding hardware you want before you start to build the box because you'll need to know what clearance you're dealing with - which will determine the finished size of your box. I also didn't want to put any hardware onto the front to draw attention to the cabinet (that's what makes it 'hidden' storage!), so we purchased the type of hardware that you can simply push on to click it open and closed.
2. Remove the filler strip you currently have in place. Once filler strip was removed, my husband was able determined the width and height of the gap and calculate the measurements for the size of the box we would need for the pullout.
I was worried about how we were going to create the door front and match the paint colour (the badly painted filler piece was trashed by the time my husband pried it off). As luck would have it, I was able to buy a flat panel drawer front to match our kitchen cabinets from the manufacturer and use that as our front door panel by using it on its side - no painting, no muss, no fuss! It was almost the exact size we needed (6 " x 29 1/2")! We simply had to cut about 1/4" off the bottom to match the height of the door beside it (which we never got around to doing and is hardly noticeable unless you stare at it!).
3. Cut your pieces of wood and dowel for the rails and assemble box. We chose to use maple for the box to match the rest of our cabinets, but you could probably use MDF and paint it or even veneered plywood if you finish the edges with veneer tape.
Construction was pretty simply. Cut your outside pieces and shelves to size, construct the box by fitting the shelves in between and screwing it all together. My husband squared up the box, added a little glue to the edges and screwed it all together by countersinking the screw holes (unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of the box before it was installed but you'll get the idea with the picture below). We also had to come up with a solution to keep our stuff from falling off the shelves; the inspiration shot had nice metal railings. My husband's solution? Fibreglass rods he had left over from his kite building days!
Once our pieces were cut and assembled, my husband sprayed a water-based lacquer onto the wood to seal it and protect it from spills and water (especially since it's near the sink).
We actually placed some of our items on the shelves before drilling out the holes for the rods and to determine both the best height and width for our items. Our rails were 2 5/8" above the bottom of the top shelf to restrain our plastic containers and 4" above the bottom of the lower shelf to keep our glass bottles from tipping out when the cabinet is opened. The holes for the rods should be a snug fit so drill a few sample holes for the rods in some scrap wood to test it out before drilling the cabinet itself; you don't want o drill them too loosely and have them flopping around. My husband simply drilled a hole through the back of the cabinet (which you don't see once the cabinet is in) and then drilled another hole to line up at the front that was slightly countersunk into the wood (not all the way through) to hold the rod in place. The rods got threaded through the back before the box got mounted into the cabinet. I think an easier way to do it might be to drill the hole in the front (which gets covered by the door) and then countersink the holes in the back of the cabinet - but either way you choose to do it will work. You could probably find small wooden rods at your local big box store that would work just as well as the fiberglass rods we upcycled.
An important factor is the spacing between the rods. Since we knew we wanted to store plastic containers, we dry fitted them in place so we could see what the best width for the rods would be. Our rods are spaced 5" on centre - any smaller and we wouldn't have been able to fit our containers between the rods on the shelf!
4. Attach sliding mechanism. Once the box is complete, add your sliding drawer hardware. We weren't exactly sure how to line up and mount the hardware, but we did it with not too much trial and error. Test it out to make sure it glides in and out properly before mounting the door front.
5. Mount door front. Once the box is mounted into the cabinet, the last step is to screw on the door front. The door gets screwed on from the back of the cabinet into the back side of the door. Double check to make sure that your screws are short enough, it will be a 'doh' moment if your screw is too long and comes right through the front of the door!
We made a template of the door cut to size out of cardboard and lined it up on the box to make sure we were happy with the way everything lined up. We then tape it securely and pre-drilled through both the cardboard and the box in two places (top and bottom) all the way through to prepare for mounting the door. We also traced the shape of the box onto the back of the cardboard with pencil and added an up arrow. By transferring all the marks and location of the screw holes to the back of the door, we could be sure that we wouldn't accidentally place it upside down onto the box. You can drill a tiny divot where you marked the screw holes (or use an awl) - or you can just transfer the pencil marks onto the back of the door; we did both. Holding the door tightly against the front of the box, insert the screws through the hole in the box to meet up with the door and screw it on tightly (if you pre-drilled a divot, it can help you set the point of the screw and find the screw placement).
I'd love to hear about YOUR projects - leave me a comment (and even pictures) to let me know what you've done to eek out more storage space in your kitchen!
And if you're looking for more storage ideas in the kitchen, be sure to check out this post! We hacked our Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart by adding a REMOVABLE drawer unit so we could squeeze even MORE storage space into our small kitchen. Here's a peek at that project:
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