Building Custom Open Shelving For The Kitchen
When we started planning the kitchen renovation, we knew we needed something on the wall above the new cabinet (we still have yet to settle on a name for that area — bar? Buffet?). We didn’t want to install regular wall cabinets because we felt that that would close the room in too much, so we decided to build open shelving.
We knew we’d be installing wine glass storage under the bottom shelf, so we determined the shelf size based on the size of our wine glasses. Our glasses are pretty large, so we chose to do them 2 deep and 4 across — this would provide enough storage for 8 of our 12 glasses (which is plenty for day-to-day use — we can store the other 4 away and only get them out for parties) with room for my KitchenAid mixer underneath in the corner, while keeping the shelves shallow enough that they wouldn’t overwhelm the counter space. Based on the measurements of our wine glasses (yes, I actually measured them), the shelves would be 30.5″ wide and 7.25″ deep, with 0.75″ trim on all sides. This is the lumber we bought to make 3 shelves:
-8′ 1×8 poplar board (for shelf boards)
-8′ 1×2 pine board (for cleats)
-16′ poplar trim
-6 decorative pine shelf brackets
With lumber in hand, it was time to get started. We marked the positions for the shelves on the wall, then used the magnetic studfinder and marked the studs. This posed a bit of a challenge, because our studs were in inconvenient places:
The left brackets wouldn’t be a problem, because they could all go in that stud. But what about the right side? We wanted something in both studs in that area to provide as much stability as possible, but obviously couldn’t put both brackets in studs. So what could we do?
After a bit of googling I happened upon this post on Merrypad, in which she used a metal French cleat to hang her floating shelves. I thought maybe we could adapt that method — that way the cleat would have a screw in both studs, holding most of the weight, and the brackets would be more decorative than functional. When we bought our lumber we picked up three of these — which I thought were the same things as she used:
But when we hung the first shelf up, it did this:
Hmm… Something wasn’t quite right there. It turns out that we got the wrong kind of French cleat; because ours were designed for pictures and mirrors, they were meant to hang at a slightly downward angle. Obviously not what we wanted for our shelves. We returned them to the store and looked for French cleats like the ones in the example, but couldn’t find them. So we were back to square one: how do we hang these things?
Ultimately we decided to put the left brackets in the stud, the right ones in drywall (with anchors), and to use 1×2 as a cleat in the middle with one screw in the other stud, and one screw in drywall. Then the shelves would be screwed vertically down into the cleats, which would hold them firmly in place.
We put the bottom shelf’s left bracket in first, since its location would determine the exact locations of the other brackets. From there we determined how far inset the bracket would be from the edge of the shelf, and positioned the right bracket so that it would be equally inset. We then measured the space in between and cut our cleat to size.
Holding our breath, we tested the stability of the first shelf. Hey, it worked!
With a definite solution to our stud problem, we repeated that same process for the middle and upper shelf, spacing them 12.75″ apart vertically based on what looked good.
While Jason worked on that, I worked on putting the shelf boards and trim together. Using our new compound miter saw, I cut trim pieces to length, mitering the corners at 45°.
Because we were planning on staining these, we didn’t want nail holes on the trim pieces because we felt that even stainable wood filler in the holes would look obvious. Instead I used heavy duty wood glue to attach the trim and taped it securely in place to dry, making sure to thoroughly wipe away any glue oozes, because any dried glue on the surface wouldn’t accept stain. Here’s a look at the shelves (from the bottom) with the trim attached:
Once the glue was dry enough to be handled (we waited about an hour), we removed the cleats from the wall, clamped one to each shelf, and pre-drilled the holes for screwing them together during final installation, using a countersink bit so that the screw heads would be flush with the shelves. Doing it this way ensured that the holes would line up perfectly when it was time for installation. Before un-clamping them we marked which cleat went with which shelf.
Then we removed the brackets from the walls, painted them and stained the shelves, and finished the shelves with paste wax. We used the same paint as on the cabinets (Benjamin Moore Advance in Cloud White), and Minwax stain in English Chestnut. We decided on the paint/stain combo because I felt that we needed to bring in some warmth to the room, but wanted to carry the white through at the same time.
Once everything was dry, we reinstalled the brackets, rehung the cleats, and screwed all the shelves into place. With a few paint touch ups, we had a finished set of shelves!
We have yet to install the wine glass holders (we just need to pick up one piece of lumber — will post details as soon as it’s done), so I’m waiting to decorate the shelves until that point. I’m also not sure if I want to just paint over the screws in the cleats, or to spackle over them first , since they’re countersunk. Spackling would provide the cleanest look but I’m afraid of the difficulty involved in taking them down, if we ever needed to, if the screws were covered like that. What would you do?