DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom

This space above my toilet has been speaking to me for five years now. What’s it been saying, you may wonder? It’s been saying, “This is wasted space that could be a functional, show-stopping, toilet-paper-holding, chachki-displaying extravaganza.”

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I must agree with my talking space. I’m not a carpenter by any stretch, and although I’m comfortable with power tools and know how to use them, let me assure you this is a very simple project that can be done with basic carpentry skills. And to top it off, I’m a girl! If I can do this, so can you.

Bathrooms never seem to have enough storage, and this is a great way to add some. I happen to have a linen closet in this bathroom, so I’m not really needing more storage, but pretty much anything would be more visually appealing than air.

I had some time off work when the weather here in Central Illinois was a record-breaking 25 degrees below zero with wind chill, so it was the perfect day for a project like this one. Needless to say, I brought my miter saw into the house, and totally made a mess so I didn’t freeze my patootie off in the garage. Seriously, I set up this saw on my kitchen table and let the sawdust fly. Who does that? (Thanking God for my laminate flooring.)

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I already had some scraps of bead board in my garage, so I just had to purchase some 1 x 8’s for the shelves and outer box, and some casing for trim. I’m a painter by trade, so I already had paint, caulk, primer, brushes, etc… With that in mind, this project cost me $15.75. It’s true, ladies and gentlemen. You can make yourself some sweet, mind-blowing storage for mere pennies.

To start this project, I decided to cut a piece of bead board plywood about 1/4″ smaller than the recessed area over my toilet since I’ll be trimming the shelving unit out to cover any gaps. No need in my mind to make it fit so tight that I have to ram it like a linebacker to get it to fit in the space. Since walls are rarely straight, and to assure myself that I could avoid the linebacker situation, I placed the cut-to-size bead board where it was going to go before building the shelving unit to fit the bead board.

I did actually hold the plywood up to the ceiling where it’s actually going to be mounted, but couldn’t do that and take a picture at the same time. That’s why it’s hanging out on the toilet tank in the photo. (Imaginations, please.)

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I cut four pieces of 1 x 8 to fit the bead board, and made a box out of them using simple butt joints. This shelving unit is only going to need to be sturdy enough to hold things like toilet paper, towels and pretty stuff, so there’s no need to reinforce it with a frame-type construction. I used screws to construct my unit, pre-drilling the holes to make my life easier. It keeps the blood pressure under control.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I decided to slide the box into the recessed area just like I did the bead board to be sure it was going to fit before I went any further.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I then determined where I wanted to place each shelf by using items I plan to put on them. Of course I won’t be keeping the same items on here for forty years or anything, but it gives me a plan. If you’re needing shelving more for storage of not-so-lovely looking items, like, well, you know–those hygiene sort of items we all need–you can buy yourself some pretty baskets, and keep your personal items hidden. I would recommend buying your baskets first, then spacing your shelving appropriately.

 photo IMG_3092.jpg

Before screwing the shelves in place, I made sure they were level by using two speed squares placed in both directions. One speed square makes sure the shelf will be level side to side while the other makes sure the shelf will be level front to back.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonILg

I screwed in each shelf using two screws on each side. And here’s my unit with all the shelves installed.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonILg

Next I attached the bead board plywood to the back of the box by using upholstery tacks that I bought at a garage sale (note my 10 cent sticker reminding me of the fantastic bargain I snagged). Upholstery tacks are perfect for this application because they’ve got a large head, and won’t pull through the plywood. I attached the tacks on the edges of the back of the box as well as one in the middle of each shelf. If this were a freestanding bookcase, I would have run several tacks into each shelf, but since it’ll be against the wall, there’s no chance of the plywood pulling away from the back of the shelf.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Now we’re starting to look like something! And holy toilet paper, check out my bubble! Gotta love it when that happens.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

To save a few dollars, I bought less-than-desirable wood that’s referred to as “standard” grade, and fixed any imperfections myself. I carefully checked to make sure the boards I bought weren’t warped, which was, and always is, a monumental task. If you’ve ever tried to pick out wood at a box store, you know where I’m coming from. For every ten boards you inspect, you may find one good one, but I consider it a fun challenge in some sick sort of way.

I covered all the imperfections with durabond, let it dry, sanded, and I was good to go! Or if you’re not a cheap skate like me, you can just spend a little more and buy decent wood. But you’ll still have to go through several pieces regardless, so I say go the frugal way, and buy a stick of gum or something with the money you saved yourself. Here’s a picture of my patched up shelving unit.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After I primed the shelf, I caulked every place where two boards meet, and every place where boards meet the bead board. Caulking makes a huge difference on how your finished product will look so don’t skip this step! Here’s before caulking.

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And here’s after caulk.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then it was time for paint! Since this will be in a bathroom, and next to my shower, I used a semi-gloss paint–one coat now, and another coat after adding the pre-primed wood trim. I used Sherwin Williams Promar 200 in the color Pure White. It’s a nice, crisp white that I use on all my projects, including the trim and interior doors in my house.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I installed the unit by driving screws into the corners. I bought pre-primed casing at Menard’s to trim out the cabinet, and here’s a photo of that. Trim gives it a more finished look and hides the gaps left after installation.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s a picture with the two vertical side pieces of trim tacked into place.

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

To install the trim, I used finish nails and then counter-sunk the nails with a punch. I spackled over the holes being sure to overfill them so I could sand the spackle down smooth. I was careful not to sand so much that the hole showed again. I then brushed some primer over my patches so they wouldn’t show through after I painted the second coat. Here’s a picture of all the trim complete.

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Then it was time for more caulking. I caulked around both sides where the shelf butted up against the side walls and also against the ceiling. Then it looked like a real built-in!

After the caulk set up, I applied a second coat of paint, being sure to paint over the installation screws so they’d disappear.

And here are the before and after pictures.

 DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Of course once I had this nice, new built-in shelving, I had to update the light fixture. And a new light fixture made the old paint look bad, so I had to repaint. Then I needed a new bath mat to match the new paint color. Then I needed new towels to tie in the bath mat, etc… So much for my $15.75 project.

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

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5 thoughts on “DIY Custom Shelving for a Small Bathroom

  1. marsha schierbeck says:

    I do enjoy your projects and your witty commentary.  You should be on This Old House!! 

    Like

  2. Ben Verdi says:

    It’s really nice how you have made each step look so easy with help of a clear, well-illustrated picture tutorial. Those who have a limited storage space in their bath can also try some other handy ways too. Add-on storage wardrobes and under-sink solutions are already in trend these days. If nothing suits your congested bathroom well, I’m sure countertop cabinets will work the magic without fail!

    Like

  3. Dan Kogan says:

    I am impressed with your idea of updating the light fixtures for a more vibrant look, despite that you had to repaint. Recently, I have got custom shelving installed in my congested bathroom. I tried to enhance its beauty with a monochromatic color scheme and was successful.

    Like

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