We’re renters in NYC who needed some more storage space beyond what our kitchen cabinets and closets could provide. This guide details the construction of our storage cabinet solution, made entirely of 3/4″ plywood. The design has 12 shelves, one of which we left open, which can be used for a cat tower or fish tank.
- Interior furniture-grade plywood (we used 7 sheets of 3/4″ Purebond maple)
- Heavy-duty drywall anchors (we used snap toggles)
- Pocket hole screws
- Wood glue
- Door handles
- Polycrylic or other protective finish
- Primer & interior paint (optional)
- Roller/brush for applying finish
- Old carpet scraps (for optional cat feature)
- Circular saw (no table saw required! but handy if you have one…)
- Power drill/driver
- Pocket hole jig
- Carpenter’s square
- Tape measure
- Shop vacuum/dust extraction
- Eye protection
- Hearing protection
- Dust mask
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This project is big and involves dangerous tools. Use common sense and be safe while building.
Check out this 3D model in Tinkercad
The general concept of these shelves’ construction is very simple— please modify the dimensions to suit your needs. Nailer boards with pocket holes are affixed to the wall (in studs where possible, using heavy duty snap toggles where only drywall is available), then pocket hole screwed to long vertical boards that stand on the floor. The shelves have pocket holes so they rest on the nailers and attach to the uprights. As long as there are enough nailers overall, shelves can be added in between without more nailers. Doors are optional.
To make most efficient use of our plywood sheets, we used the Workshop Buddy site’s free Cut Optimization Calculator to generate diagrams of our sheets before cutting. We paid attention to the grain on the plywood for the doors, but only the three destined to show their grain (we planned on painting most of them).
Install Nailers, Uprights, & Shelves
All the nailers and shelves needed pocket holes drilled, and I used my new 3D printed jig to vacuum up the chips.
Together, Smokey and I installed the remaining uprights, nailers, and primary shelves. Since we’re renting, we didn’t use glue to join any perpendicular pieces. That way it can be disassembled easily if that becomes needed. We did glue and brad nail in some shelf supports on the uprights to provide more structure there, but the shelves just rest on them in addition to having those pocket hole screws. After the main structure was complete, we finished the interior with three coats of Minwax polycrylic. It dries quickly with a durable finish, and the fumes aren’t nearly as bad as the high-test stuff.
The next day, we started to hang the doors. We’re using two different hinge styles, depending on where the door is and which way it is supposed to open. We changed our minds about the cabinet closest to the kitchen, and ended up one set short on the wraparound hinges. If I could do it again, I’d have ordered an extra set of each kind of hinge, since changing our minds meant waiting for the last set of hinges to come in from backorder.
Prime and Paint
We used one coat of primer and two coats of low VOC interior paint on the top and bottom doors, and finished the middle row of doors with polycrylic. We originally did this because we liked the way it looked, but after using it for a while I can tell you that the center cabinet doors are used more regularly, and our flat white paint has a habit of picking up dirt and showing it off more than the clear finish, so it’s a win-win.
Add Door Handles
The final step was to attach the door handles. We picked out these brushed nickel rectangular ones. I measured and placed them in position, then traced around and found the centers by drawing an X. I drilled a small pilot hole before switching to a larger bit that matched the size of the screws that came with the handles.
Cat Tower Feature
I cut a hole in one of the shelves so Chaz can climb up and hang out. At first, we had some move-in boxes stacked there for him to climb, and he really seemed to like it and hung out up there all the time.
We conceived of a more permanent ramp system to get him up and down. It consists of three ramps, which we cut from scraps of plywood into trapezoids, where the angled end cuts will meet up with the walls of the cabinet interior. Then we covered the ramps with pieces of an old carpet to make it easier to grip and screwed them in place.
I traced and cut an opening in the cabinet door for Chaz to walk through using a jigsaw. My boyfriend also outfitted Chaz’s cat tower with an overhead light fixture and some Christmas lights to illuminate the ramps.
Thanks for following along with this project! It was so much fun to build and it’s so functional for us in our new home. If you have any questions or tips, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:
- Easy Motorcycle Ramp
- Leather Wallet
- Tips for Moving in New York City
- Mini Concrete Planters
- Human Cell Mini Golf
- Live Edge Maple and Epoxy Table