How to Install Shelves in Closets

How to adapt a closet into a built-in shelving system and transform a living area into an office.

The McNay project is nearing its end! Nothing excellent comes quickly, and that’s true of most of our efforts as well. And our latest DIY built in shelves turned out so amazing! UPDATED: Check out this space’s living room/office reveal in full , And the large modification we made to the McNays’ living room on the office side is ah-mazing! Begin by taking a look back at the “before”:

Shelves in Closets

I don’t know what you mean… Please take a moment to admire the 1960s wet bar in the left-side closet for a moment. It’s groovy, baby.

See what happens next

See what happens next!

Because these closets were so small and their doors were so narrow, King and Heather said they wanted to get rid of them and put in built-in shelving instead. However, we next considered whether or not we could use the existing structures to create built-in shelving in the closets. At the very least, it was less time-consuming than tearing everything out and beginning from scratch. It’s not lost on me that we built our own closets in our own home office.

Convert Closets into Built-in Shelves :

  • Affiliate connections are available below.) The whole truth is out there.)
  • Supplies
  • Clean/fine cut wood saw blade for circular saw
  • A multi-tool that oscillates.
  • Finishing nailer with cordless operation.
  • Mouse sanding machine
  • Pencil for framing the level
  • A measuring tape.
  • finishing nails, 2 inches in length
  • 3 – pre-coated. 1′′ x 6′′ x 8′ long planks (per closet)
  • 2′′x4′′x8′ (per closet)
  • A 3/4-inch MDF panel
  • Filler for the wood
  • A putty fork
  • Caulk
  • sandpaper with a medium grain rating
  • Shims
  • Hammer
  • Pry a bar
  • Pillow shams

The guide was on hand to answer questions (not necessary, but it helps for getting straight cuts with a circular saw)

Steps :

  • Remove the door frame and trim from the closet using a hammer and pry bar before removing the doors.
  • For the built-in shelves, mark the new opening size using a framing level and tape measure.
  • Use a circular saw to cut along the pencil line.
  • Using 16 boards, measure the opening’s sides and cut lengths to be marked and used in the closet.
  • Put the 16 boards on the sides and secure them with nails.
  • Fill nail holes and knots with wood filler and caulk all edges and cracks.
  • Use a mouse sander and medium-grit sandpaper to level out wood filler.
  • Then prime and paint. (We used Behr Polar Bear Satin in our project.).
  • Pilaster strips are screwed to the closet walls on the outside, and brackets are attached at a height that you specify.
  • Cut MDF panels to your closet’s measurements for the shelves.
  • Decorate, too!
  • Throughout the last month, I’ve been scouring antique shops and thrift stores for objects that will give the shelves a rustic, coastal vibe.
  • I found a sweetgrass basket in an antiques store that reminded me of Charleston. In front of it is a low country urn from South Carolina.
  • After a few last tweaks, I can’t wait to show you the rest of this room!
  • Because I can’t resist, here’s another before and after of this side of the room.
  • So much anticipation is killing me that I couldn’t resist giving you a peek.

People with short arms, like me, were not meant to use built-in cupboards. Because the shelves are too deep, you’re forced to store your belongings in little piles that occupy only a third of the available space, allowing you to easily access the rear of the closet. Replace the shelves with drawers for convenient access to avoid this issue.

My built-in cabinets now feature three drawers that can be filled to the brim and yet be easily accessible, thanks to the removal of two deep shelves.

The old shelf was removed and replaced with two new shelves after it was removed and chopped down to length. When I needed to measure and mark the interior frame for the new shelves, I simply divided the space into three equal halves.

The SupaWood used to build the drawers is 12mm thick. Drawer runners were not attached to the drawers but I made the drawers high enough to prevent them from tipping over when opened.
Drawer runners can be added by simply allowing for their width when building the drawers. Builders Warehouse carries a variety of drawer runners in varying lengths.

For the drawer fronts, SupaWood 12mm was used, with a 50mm SupaWood 3mm outer frame. Plascon Velvaglo was used to paint all of the drawer fronts. For a smooth finish, I used a foam roller, but keep in mind that you’ll need to finish the project all at once because you can’t clean the roller with mineral turpentine or lacquer thinners – they’ll go too far if you use them.

Apply double-sided tape to the drawers before attaching them to the fronts of the cabinets. This lets you experiment with the drawer fronts to make sure they’re precise and straight. Doors and drawer fronts are trimmed to match and slightly overlap each other. Also, the shelves below are covered. At Builders Warehouse, I found the handles for about R30 each. The new drawers would not be complete without them.

Having so much extra storage space has been a huge improvement for me. As an alternative to the two deep shelves, the three drawers provide for much greater storage because they may be filled all the way up.

Aly and I recently purchased our first home, as you may recall from our post from December. Our DIY home renovation projects can finally get underway, something we’ve been talking about doing since we first moved in together and didn’t want to worry about upsetting the landlord over.

In 2014, when we started renting our property, I asked Aly to make a list of all the projects she wanted to accomplish, and she surprised me with a seven-page, hugely bullet-pointed, and beautifully detailed list of all the projects she had been pondering over ever since. To save time and money, I picked on the one that will serve as a daily reminder that we can do this task. The closet bookshelf was a no-brainer for this project.


As far as handyman skills go, I’m not very good at them. Instead, I like more technical repair jobs like assembling computers or identifying WiFi dead-zones or fixing gaming consoles. I never took a shop class or learned how to use tools. So, if you happen to be a more experienced builder than I am and happen to be reading this, please don’t hesitate to share your knowledge with me. The process of renovating our house will be a learning experience, so any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!


We had a small, unattractive closet at the top of our stairs that rapidly became a catch-all for everything that didn’t fit anywhere else in our house. Aly and I initially explored utilising it for coats or any spillage from our linen closet, but realised that the two bars on the inside made it difficult to keep Aly’s enormous collection of winter jackets (seriously, this girl has like 40 coats.)

Prior to making any decisions, the bottom door suddenly had difficulty closing completely and regularly popped up, revealing its interior’s wood panelling. I continually tried to fix it, but discovered that the door itself was deformed and that the magnetic attachment had been damaged by the normal wear and tear of opening and closing it.

We decided to make it into a built-in bookshelf during Aly’s endless hours of Pinterest searching. A lot of time was spent looking at the closet and reading up on how to perform the conversion the best manner possible After months of delaying it, I realised that the initial design I had planned was the best option. And it seemed like I couldn’t go wrong with this. As a result of this modest home renovation job, I’ve learnt to trust my instincts.


I’ve come across a lot of home improvement blogs that don’t include the products they used or the total cost. There may have been a few things missing from my list despite my best efforts to be as detailed as possible. Keep in mind that the size of the closet and the number of shelves you choose will have a significant impact on how much space you need. We had settled on four shelves for our walk-in closet (one of which makes up the base of the closet.)


  • 3 – 6ft x 1in x 1/2in wood planks are required (used for shelf supports)
  • 4 pieces of 3′ x 3′ x 1/4″ plywood (used for shelves)
  • You’ll need a box of #10 1-1/2in wood screws (if you’re not screwing into wood panelling, use drywall screws).
  • Sandpaper with a medium-fine grain
  • Drilling and sanding using an electric drill (optional)
  • Handsaw with circular blade (optional)

Measure everything:

This should be self-evident, but it’s worth repeating. Consider how many shelves you’ll need, the size of your closet (ours was roughly 26″x 29″), and the precise location of your shelves before beginning this project. It’s also a good idea to decide on the colour of the shelves before you go out and get the paint and supplies. To make the closet appear more “built-in,” we simply painted it the same colour as the trim in our upstairs hallway.

Consider having the wood professionally cut after gathering your supplies and before leaving the store (unless you have a circular saw or handsaw at home and prefer to do it yourself.) For the plywood shelves, I requested that Lowe’s personnel cut them to a few centimetres below my closet’s measurements.

But I just requested that they cut the wood planks so that they fit in my car. Re-cutting the shelf support wood was easy because I have a circular saw at home. If you don’t have the tools, most places will cut your wood for free or for a very minimal cost, even if doing it this way was much easier. Once I had all of my wood cut, I began attaching the shelf supports to the closet’s interior.

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