DIY Built-In Shelving

Make your own modern DIY Built-In Shelving with this simple tutorial. Love the natural wood used in this beautiful bathroom renovation!

Make your own modern Built-In Shelving with this simple tutorial. Love the natural wood used in this beautiful bathroom renovation! Great tutorial for DIY shelving in the bedroom, living room, or any room!

I love these types of projects; DIY Projects that you can easily modify and recreate for any space or room. When we removed the closet doorway here, I knew we wanted to use this space for built-in shelving. Built-in shelving is the best way to use those “wasted spaces,” like corners, hallways, and walls. This DIY Built-In Shelving turned out to be one of my favourite projects of the entire bathroom renovation!

Love this modern bathroom design! Gorgeous faucets, fixtures, and tile choices! Follow along as this outdated bathroom is transformed into a beautiful modern oasis!

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This is the “before” picture. The doorway that you see in the above photo was there before we moved it and shifted the entire layout around.

We took out the doorway and added a barn door on the other side of the wall to give a new access point for our closet. The switch left us with an open space along this wall, which was perfect for some new built-in shelving!

Materials Needed:

Tools Needed: 

Sharing great tips, tricks, and tutorials as we complete our master bathroom ensuite renovation! LOVE the modern, chic design plans!

How to Make Your DIY Built-In Shelving

There are a few steps to making these built-ins fit like a glove. If you build them properly, most of your guests will wonder how you did it!

Measuring Your Opening

The first step is to build an MDF box that you will fill with 2×4 shelving.

Start by measuring your opening to determine your outside dimensions of your built-ins. You need to find the height, width and depth. We had framed our opening with 2x4s before starting our shelving project, so that we would have pieces to nail/screw into.

The cutting process for built-in shelving
Using a rip-cut to cut the MDF for the shelving

Cutting Your MDF Box

Next, cut your pieces for the box using MDF. You need to cut a back piece, two side pieces, a top and a bottom board according the measurements to collected.

We used a rip-cut to easily make the straight cuts for this box – it connects to your circular saw to make perfectly straight cuts. Remember to consider the thickness of the material you are using when you cut your sides and back pieces.

Constructing the MDF box for the built-in shelving unit

Constructing the MDF box and Shelves

The next step is to put your MDF box together. Dry fit the four sides and back all together. We used clamps to temporarily hold all the pieces together. If you’ve able, you can bring the entire box into your space and make sure it fits perfectly into your opening.

Pre-drill the holes on the sides before fitting the MDF box together

Before assembling, we pre-drilled the holes (pilot hole and counter sunk bit) at all the joints; we did 3 holes per joint. When you’re ready and confident that everything to to size, remove the clamps, glue the edges, and screw the box back together.

Divide the MDF box into equal parts for your shelving

Next, lay out your shelves inside the box. We divided the box into 4 equal spaces to make three shelves total.

Put 2x4s at the front and back of the box where you want the shelves to sit. These boards will be used to attach your shelves. Once you have cut your shelf frames cut, glue and screw them into place.

Glue and screw the 2x4s into place inside the MDF box

Below is what the shelf will look like with the 2x4s in place at the front and back. You can see there is a small space left at the front. That space is the width of our pine shelf board, which you are using for the actual shelf. The space is left at the front so that the shelves will be flush with the wall.

The raw bones of a built-in shelving unit

Installing the MDF Box in Place

Bring your MDF box to your space and put it in place. Install the MDF box, making sure it is level and screw to your structure. Ensure that it’s screwed into the studs and watch out for utilities in the walls (electrical, plumbing, etc). Putty and touch up finish as required.

Use drywall putty to blend the shelving into the existing wall space

You can install trim to finish the box (around edge of box and onto drywall), or you can tape and use drywall putty to blend it into the drywall to achieve a smooth flush transition, like we did.

If you choose to try and tape it into the drywall, router/groove the outside edge of the MDF box slightly (about 1/8″) to allow room for the drywall tape and mud. Putty any screw holes, then, sand, prime, and paint the MDF case.

Putty and touch up the finish of your built-in wall shelf

Build Pine Board Shelves

Measure the inside dimensions of your box where the shelves will go. Each shelf will require 3 pieces: a top, a front, and a bottom. The front board will have a 45 degree cut on the top and bottom, the bottom and top boards will have a 45 degree on the side facing the front board.

When you are measuring the front board, remember to take into account the thickness of the shelf material. Cut all of your pine boards, keep the wood grain the same for the entire shelf when possible (top, front, and bottom).

You can see the top board below (under the polycrylic) with one straight edge and one 45 degree edge.

Protect your new shelving with a coat of polycrylic protector

Finishing

If you are using wood, stain and varnish the shelves prior to installing in the MDF case. If you are using MDF shelves, prime and paint them. I used my Natural Wood Stain from Minwax. When that was dry, I protected everything with Polycrylic.

Use wood finish to stain your new shelving
You can use Minwax to stain your new shelving

Attach the shelves to the 2x4s in the MDF case. We used glue and finish nails. You can see how the grain of the wood remains the same across the top and front pieces of the shelving.

Attach your shelves to the 2x4s in your shelving unit

Our Finished Built-In Shelving

Now, enjoy your new DIY built-in shelving! I LOVE the look of these shelves in our renovated ensuite!

Built-in shelves in a renovated en-suite bathroom
The finished shelving

I’m really happy that we chose to go with a natural wood stain. I love the look of the natural wood against our white paint. The shelves are not only practical, but also beautiful.

Great tutorial for DIY shelving in the bedroom, living room, or any room!
Modern built-in shelves
The finished shelving unit
DIY Built-In Shelving

DIY Built-In Shelving

Yield: 1
Active Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours

Make your own modern DIY built-in shelving with this simple tutorial. Love the natural wood used in this beautiful bathroom renovation! Great tutorial for shelving in the bedroom, living room, or any room!

Materials

  • 3/4" thick MDF boards
  • 2x4 wood boards
  • Wood Stain of Your Choice
  • Polycrylic
  • Pine shelf board

Tools

  • Kreg Rip Cut
  • Circular Saw
  • Mitre Saw
  • Drill
  • Screws

Instructions

    1. Start by measuring your opening to determine your outside dimensions (confirm outside width, height, and depth) of your built-ins. (i.e. measure the box you are filling up with shelving
    2. Next, cut the pieces for the box using MDF (the back portion, 2 sides, a top and a bottom board). We used a rip-cut to easily make the straight cuts. Remember to consider the thickness of the material you are using when you cut your sides and back piece.
    3. Construct your MDF box and dry fit the four sides and back all together.
    4. Before assembling, we pre-drilled the holes (pilot hole and counter sunk bit) at all the joints. When ready, remove the clamps, glue the edges, and screw the box back together.
    5. Lay out your shelves inside the box. We divided the box into 4 equal spaces. Put 2x4s at the front and back of the box where you want the shelves to sit. Once you have cut your 2x4s, glue and screw them into place.
    6. Leave space at the front for the width of your pine shelf board so that the shelves will be flush with the wall.
    7. Bring your entire MDF box up to your space and put it in place.
    8. You can install trim to finish the box (around edge of box and onto drywall), or you can tape and use drywall putty to blend it into the drywall to achieve a smooth flush transition (this is what we did). If you choose to try and tape it into the drywall, router/groove the outside edge of the MDF slightly (about 1/8") to allow room for the drywall tape and mud. Putty any screw holes, then, sand, prime, and paint the MDF case.
    9. Install the MDF box in place. Level and screw to structure. Ensure that it's screwed into the studs and watch out for utilities in the walls (electrical, plumbing, etc). Putty and touch up finish as required.
    10. Measure the inside dimensions of your box where the shelves will sit. Each shelf will require 3 pieces of wood: a top, a front, and a bottom. The front board will have a 45 degree cut on the top and bottom, the bottom and top boards will have a 45 degree on the side facing the front board.
    11. If you are using wood, stain and varnish the shelves prior to installing them onto in the MDF case. If you are using MDF shelves, prime and paint them.
    12. Attach the shelves to the 2x4s in the MDF case. We used glue and finish nails.

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13 thoughts on “DIY Built-In Shelving

  1. Im in love with the result. The shelves will help maintain the order of the house. Whatever you place there will be neatly piled up. Thank you for sharing your idea and instructions.Id love to read more of DIY projects from you.

  2. This is an awesome idea
    We did this in a really small bathroom that also had access thru a hallway (we closed off a doorway into a bed room) The new cabinet is just deep enough (so we did not steal room from the bed room or the teeny bath room) to hold a roll of toilet paper or paper towels with 6 shelves. Since the new cabinet sits directly across from the toilet (and there is just enough room to walk between the cabinet and the toilet) My husband made a “tip out” door and mounted the toilet paper holder on the inside… there is also enough room for a magazine bin down there too.

  3. Lindi, this is fantastic. About how long did this project take you? Were you able to do this in one day? Anyway, I’m impressed. You obviously have an inner general contractor. Keep it up. I would love to see more posts like this.

  4. This is awesome. I want to do this!

    You mention a routered edge in the mdf. I’m just curious on how you made the mdf to drywall corner so seamless, without causing a mud build up that throws off the pine edge

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