Nancy Benard

(708) 927-1014

850 Brookforest Avenue, Shorewood, IL 60404

Easy-To-Build Cubby Shelves

Hi everyone! This year, Collin and I built matching dream closets for my husband and I. It was one of the most fun projects ever because instead of doing clean, white closets like we have in the past, we went for more colorful options. For my closet, I went with a blush pink (no big surprise there—you know pink is basically a neutral in our home). For Jeremy’s closet, we went with the color Forest Path by Behr. It’s not a deep green, but it reads that way in such a dark space. I’ll share more photos of the completed closet at the end of this post!

OK … I am now passing it off to Collin, who is here to teach you how to build cubby shelves.

Hi everyone. I’ve built shelves like these for Elsie quite a few times, and you all ask for a tutorial every time—so today I’m here to share a full tutorial! You will want to customize this for your space, but I hope that this tutorial gives you a basic understanding of an easy way to build grid shelves like these.

1″ x 10″ x 8′ shelf boards
1″ x 2″ x 8″ trim boards
3/4″ x 1/2″ support boards
1″ x 4″ x 8′ board
-one 2″ x 4″ board
-drywall anchors

-tape measure
-circular saw or miter saw
-nail gun
-4′ level
carpenter’s square
-stud finder

So before I get to the steps, I’m going to pretend the wall in the pictures are a perfect 8’x8′ square. It will make it easier to explain because there is a decent amount of precise math involved for them to be perfect. So, first thing you want to do is very precisely and accurately mark on the wall with a pencil where all of your boards will be once they are up as well as where all of the studs are. So like I said, this wall is 8′ x 8′ and i wanted around 6 rows of cubbies. So you’ll want to divide the length of the wall in inches by how many rows of cubbies you want. 96″ ÷ 6 = 16″. Start at one side of the wall and mark every 16″ with a pencil, and then go back with a 4′ level and trace vertical lines from the floor to the ceiling on each of those 16″ marks, making sure they are perfectly level.

Now for the horizontal lines—since there will be a 3.5″ wide baseboard along the bottom, this measurement will be a little different, so 96″ – 3.5″ = 92.5″. So 92.5″ is your new measurement to divide. 92.5″ ÷ 6 is roughly 15 3/8″. From top to bottom, mark every 15 3/8″ and then repeat the process of marking the perfectly level lines. If you are adding crown molding to the top, you’ll want to do the same process and subtract the width of your crown molding from your total measurement and then divide by 6 again with that new measurement. Lastly for this step, use a stud finder and mark every stud to make it easy to identify the stud lines from the board lines. I like to mark each side of each stud and then pencil in a squiggle all the way up and down so I can tell what’s what. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see what I mean.

Since there will be a 3.5″ baseboard, you’ll need to cut some pieces of 2″x4″ to create a sort of riser for the bottom shelf to be flush with the top of the baseboard. These also work as anchors for the vertical boards. Using screws or a nail gun, anchor the riser pieces into the floor. Then cut your vertical boards to length and line them up with each of the lines you marked on the wall and attach them with a nail gun into the floor anchor/riser pieces. For the top of each board, cut some pieces of your 2″ trim boards to 10″ to make supports and nail gun them to the ceiling, and then subsequently attach the top of the vertical boards into those supports as shown above.

Now, for the support boards. Measure between each vertical board and cut your 3/4″ x 1/2″ boards to fit into those spaces. Now remember you already marked the horizontal lines for these pieces, but you will want to attach them 3/4″ lower than those lines you drew, because the shelf boards themselves are 3/4″ wide and you want the top of each shelf to be flush with that pencil line. Make sense? Great! Attach the supports to the wall with a nail gun, making sure both sides are in a stud. This isn’t always possible, so where some sides might not reach the other stud, just use a drywall anchor and screw for that side of the piece. Can be a little tedious but if you have a nail gun nail not hitting a stud and just into the drywall, it will be super weak and can eventually pull out.

Next, measure and cut all of the side support pieces and attach them level with the back support boards you installed already.
Next, measure and cut your shelf boards to fit and set them into place on each of those supports and secure them with a nail gun. Now, take that 3.5″ wide baseboard and measure, cut and attach to the bottom. It encloses the bottom opening and makes everything look way more pro! (My hardware store was out of primed boards in that size.)We added crown moulding to the top because the room had it and we wanted to continue it along the top to make it look really pro. So that’s why the top shelves in this last picture look taller than the rest—to account for the width of our moulding. Lastly, measure, cut and attach all of the trim boards to trim out the entire front of the shelves! i would go into more detail about this, but it’s actually one of the easiest parts! Attach them all with a nail gun. Caulk to fill gaps and get to painting!

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments. 🙂

Credits//Author: Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Kelly. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Author / Contributor: Elsie Larson

Nancy Benard Homes

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(708) 927-1014


850 Brookforest Avenue, Shorewood, IL 60404