Saturday, November 17, 2012

Closet-To-Nook Conversion with Custom Shelf

Awhile back I saw this idea on Pinterest from House of Smiths and thought it was brilliant - I wish I had come up with it myself.  I was itching to try it out, but had to wait for just the right opportunity.  This summer that opportunity finally came.

A client approached me with an entryway dilemma.  The front entry of her house was composed of a bland, short and narrow hallway, which didn't make much of an impression on visitors. She was preparing to host several people at her house for a special occasion, and wanted them to be met by a much more inviting front entrance.  Practically, she wanted a place for her guests to sit down, remove their shoes and hang their coats, as well as a place that introduced her visitors to her family and welcomed them with the warmth and love that existed in their home.


There really wasn't much to my client's front entrance beyond the front door, a short narrow hallway, a couple of windows, and a standard double-wide closet.  Placing a conventional bench somewhere for people to sit down on presented a major problem, because there really just wasn't a good place to put it.  Anywhere it could be placed would cut into the space awkwardly, interrupting the traffic flow.

Almost instantly I knew that this entryway was was a prime candidate for the idea I had seen from House of Smiths.  My client didn't indicate that storage space was a primary concern for her in this space, but knowing  that a family with 4 kids typically comes with a lot of stuff, I held my breath as I opened the closet to see what she was keeping in there.  I was giddy to find not much more than a couple of coats and a vacuum.   My client explained that her family really didn't use the front entrance of their house much for storage or anything else.  Their primary entrance was from the garage where they stored all the coats, boots, and various items that are dropped by a family of 6 when they walk in the door.  The front entrance was almost exclusively used for guests and visitors only.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect situation.

I got to work on the design, molding my ideas for the space into the time and budget that my client had available and held my breath once again as I presented her with the finished product.  I wasn't sure if she would be interested in a slightly unconventional use of this space, but luckily, she LOVED it, and was game to go forward with the design as I had planned.

My client was working on a pretty tight timeline as she wanted the entrance finished in time for her special event.  She also wanted to keep costs at a minimum.  The result was that our closet-to-seating nook conversion was a little less elaborate than that done by the House of Smiths.  I ran with the idea, but made it fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive to pull off in accordance with my client's needs.



- Skill saw with guard
- Screw driver
- Drill
- Level
- Measuring tape and pencil
- Sand-paper
- Painting equipment
- Primer / Paint
- Prefabricated kitchen cabinets (in this case I used these 2 fan cabinets from Ikea that almost exactly fit the width of the closet opening)
- Cabinet connectors (4 for 2 cabinets)
- Length of 2x4" lumber
- Wood screws (appropriate length)
- 1 4x8' sheet of plywood (1/4" or thicker) 


- Stud-finder
- Skill saw
- Sandpaper
- Measuring tape and pencil
- Level
- Drywall compound
- Painting equipment
- Primer / Paint
- 1 length of shelving material (I used 15" wide)
- 5 Pre-made shelving brackets ( I used these from Ikea)
- 1 length of 1x8" lumber
- 8 coat hooks
- Wood screws



1) Remove the closet doors, shelving, accompanying hardware, and closet contents.  Patch any holes with drywall compound.

2) Carefully measure the bottom width of the closet opening and compare to the total width of your assembled and joined cabinets.  Prepare the closet opening and/or pre-fabricated cabinets according to your measurements so that they are the same.

In this case, after removing the bottom sections of trim framing either side of  the closet thereby widening the closet opening, the cabinets I purchased from Ikea were still just a smidge too wide.

To get around this, using a skill saw and sand-paper we shaved down the top and bottom pieces as well as the door of 1 cabinet to reduce the total width of the cabinet by the amount needed.  Then we re-drilled the appropriate holes for hardware that had been effected by the width reduction and repainted the effected side of the cabinet door.

At this point, you can position the cabinets in the opening to ensure a good fit, but don't leave them there.  You still need to do some work in behind, so you'll want to be able to slide them out still. 

3) Assemble cabinets, and join together with cabinet connectors by drilling a hole in each corner of the inside wall of both cabinets.

4) Measure the height of the cabinets and use that measurement to place a mark along the back, and side walls of the closet.

 Measure the width of the back wall of the closet where you have made your mark to correspond with the top of the cabinets, and cut a length of 2x4" lumber according to your measurement.

Using a stud-finder, locate the studs in the back wall of the closet.  Mark your piece of 2x4 that is the same length  as the width of the back wall of the closet with the location of the studs, and drill appropriate holes. Install the piece of 2x4 on the back wall of the closet, so that the top edge of the 2x4 is level and aligned with the mark you have made corresponding with the top of the cabinets.  Anchor the 2x4 into the wall studs with screws.

Repeat this process for the side walls of the closet as well.  When you're done, it should look something like this:

5) Position assembled and joined cabinets in closet opening.  Anchor outside walls of cabinets into closet frame with screws.

6) Measure the outside edges of the surface area inside the closet which will be the seat situated on top of the cabinets and 2x4 installed on the closet walls.  Mark a sheet of plywood with your measurements, and cut out the shape of the seat.  You may want to make your cuts just a smidge shy of your measurements to make the installation of the seat easier (ie: you don't want it to be too snug).

If you don't own a table-saw to cut your plywood, have the building supply store where you purchased your plywood make the larger cuts for you at the store.  If required, you can make the smaller cuts at home with a skill saw.

7) Install the cut plywood inside the closet on top of the cabinets and 2x4s.  Drill holes around the outside edges of the plywood and anchor to the 2x4s and cabinets with screws.  Fill screw-holes and paint to match the cabinets if desired.

8) Cut a piece of 3-4" thick foam according to the same measurements used to cut the plywood seat.

*I have a very affordable local furniture foam company Ducan Industries do this for me*  

9) Sew a custom cover for the foam cushion using my tailored slip-cover tutorial (I also added piping to the edges and a zipper in the back).  Place foam cushion on top of plywood seat and add whatever throw pillows and other cushions you may desire.


1) Measure the width of the back wall of the closet where you plan to position your shelf (I made mine about 14" below the top of the closet opening.  Using a skill saw cut a length of 1"x8" lumber according to your measurement.  Sand rough edges, prime and paint, leave to dry.

2) Using a stud-finder locate the studs in the back wall of the closet (should be the same as for the seat).  Mark the location of the studs on the length of 1x8 you previously prepared, and drill appropriate holes.  Position 1x8 on the back wall of the closet, ensuring that it is level and aligned with the mark you made previously.  Anchor to wall with screws.

3) Evenly space pre-made brackets along 1x8, and install according to manufacturer's instructions.

4) Measure, mark, and cut shelving material to fit the width of your closet.  Position in closet on top of brackets.  Secure with screws.

5) Fill screw-holes and cracks with DAP (see this tutorial on Painting Furniture for more instructions on how to do this).  Allow to dry.  Paint as required.

6) Install coat-hooks on 1x8 evenly spaced between brackets.

Stand back and admire what you have created!


  1. I love that green polka dot fabric. I used that same fabric for the curtains in my sons' nursery. It's so bright and cheerful and welcoming. I'm sure your clients love it!

  2. Love it!

    I have some DIY too :)

    if you want to check:

  3. I absolutely LOVE this project. I would love to do somehing like this but I have no place to do it in my home. You are a very talented girl :)

  4. I plan on doing something quite similar for the kid's playroom. My idea is to make it into a hide-out, reading nook, with hopes of creating a double bunk in there. We'll see what my hubby says, but I know they would LOVE it! Kids just adore private little spaces!

  5. where are the hooks from? I love how simple they are!