Building Custom Shelves and Cabinets- A Year in the Making

Anyone who has gone through a major renovation might relate to having a project or 2 (…3 ‍♂️) saved after it’s finished. Our biggest saved project is the big empty blank wall across from our kitchen. We planned on installing cabinets on that wall but the old fireplace bump out complicates it. We didn’t want two disconnected cabinet units on both sides and felt we needed a design that minimizes the effect of the bump out. Over a year later we have finally tackled this project!

The Wish List

We desperately needed storage! We didn’t build a single closet on the parlor floor of our house. That left nowhere for the broom, vacuum, and or even Zuko’s enormous bag of food! We knew we needed some deep (ish) and tall cabinets.

We also didn’t have a place for our bar and ended up with bottles on temporary racks so that was important as well. Not too mention we haven’t even invested in nice wine glasses because we don’t have a place to store them.

Finally, we only have one upper cabinet dedicated for dry food storage and really just needed additional pantry space.

The Design

This was the hard part. We stared at the blank wall for more than a year before we figured it out. We made many sketches. We consulted designer friends. And we went through a lot of ideas.

The fireplace bump out and a radiator on the left side made it a difficult space.

These features always dictated the design. What helped us to figure it out was to ignore the bump out and radiator completely. Functionally we couldn’t ignore it but from a design perspective it solved the problem. We decided we would design as if it was a flat wall and then work it around the difficult features.

Overall the key elements of the design are a Scandinavian feel with flat front cabinets in a white oak veneer. There are tall 90” cabinets on the deep side, and cabinets & opens shelves spanning the middle and opposite side. The shelves and cabinets inconspicuously step back in depth over the fireplace bump out and seamlessly hide the radiator. It’s simple, but it accomplishes all of our goals. It gets us tall storage, gives us a place for a bar, provides ample pantry space, and minimizes the effect of the bump out. It’s a nice contrast to our grey shaker kitchen cabinets and white walls.

The Build

The entire wall including the fireplace bump out is all original masonry and has been plastered over many times through the years. As you can imagine that leaves the walls very out of plumb. We took a lot of measurements but also knew it was going to take a lot of tweaking during installation.

The cabinet construction is melamine interior boxes (to save a bit) and white oak veneer fronts, panels, and shelves. The hinges and push openers are from IKEA (also to keep the costs down, but we have used their hardware many times and trust the quality). We finished the white oak veneer with an extra matte clear polyurethane. The radiator has a grill at the bottom and the top for air flow.

So our vacuum and broom now have a home, our whiskey collection has room to grow, and Zuko even has his own shelf for treats! Equally as important we love the design and the way it integrates into the rest of our house. Now that this project is crossed off the list that only leaves a couple (…3…is the list growing?!) more!

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