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Do you just cringe when you see that tiny linen closet in your bathroom and those wire shelves that all of your little knick knacks fall through? If you answered HECK YES! You’re probably like me and you ripped out the door frame and everything before you really knew what or how to transform a closet into open shelving.

How To Transform a Linen Closet into Open Shelving

I’ll be the first to tell you this is not a one day project, it took me a few weeks to complete on my own. We were able to double the space that was here before by removing the door, door frame and ripping out part of the wall above.

Shopping List, Supplies, and Costs for this project are all at the bottom of this post.

Before

Week 1 : Master Bathroom Remodel Plans

 

Step 1: Remove door frame, molding (casing) + wire shelves

Use a box cutter to cut along the caulk line before using a pry bar. Door casing are installed in 3 pieces: the molding, door case, and molding on the other side. Below the red lines indicate where you will need to use a box cutter to loosen the caulk.

transforming a linen closet into a built-in with open shelving

Once all of the caulk has been loosened you’ll need to use your pry bar, hammer, and flat head screw driver to shimmy the molding away from the wall. Remove the molding on both sides first then the door casing. The door casing will most likely have shims and installed with either nails or  brad nails depending on the year your home was built.

transforming a linen closet into a built-in with open shelving

transforming a linen closet into a built-in with open shelving

Be sure to remove all of the extra nails in the wood frame after you have removed the door casing entirely.

Step 3: Expand the Space

Use a large speed square to mark the expansion of the door frame. You will need to remove the top 2×4 and drywall. To remove the 2×4 we cut it in half with a sawzaw and hammer. To remove the drywall use a drywall saw along the lines you marked with your speed square (prepare to get a good arm workout y’all!)

transforming a linen closet into a built-in with open shelving

We added more 2×4’s to frame out the larger door way we created. In order to frame out the area with new drywall you have to frame out the larger area with more 2×4’s.

Step 4: Build the Base

Building the base was the most crucial part of this whole built-in. We made a 2×6 base with a few scrap underlayment plywood pieces as shims under the 2×6’s to level out the base. Use a brad nailer to secure shims.

TIP: You do not need to use shims if your flooring is level with the main floor. We laid new tile on the main floor of the bathroom and the built-in base was built on the subfloor with no tile. So there was 1/2 inch difference.

The 2×6 between the doorway must be flush with the drywall and edge of tile. You will be attaching a baseboard to the front 2×6 so be as precise and flush as possible.  I used a brad nailer to hold it in place while I attached the rest of the 2×6’s to each other.

Attach all the 2×6’s to the surrounding wall and the corners where they meet. The center 2×4 is attached on the long edge.

I used a circular saw and ripped a 4×8 sheet of plywood into two pieces for the top of the base and the shelves. Measure the Length and Width of the entire base on both sides.

Walls are not always straight or even, I found that out the hard way thinking both sides were the same. Follow the diagram below and measure your base where all the arrow are and use a jigsaw to cut out the two squares with the X’s

Step 5: Add sheetrock to unfinished framing

We measured from the top of the base to the top of the new opening and the width to cut the thin drywall piece.

TIP: You can cut drywall with a box cutter and it will just snap in half. I found that out after I made a huge dust storm outside cutting our drywall with a circular saw. 7

Once you’ve cut and measured two sides and a top secure new drywall with drywall screws. You will also need a drywall bit (some screw boxes come with a drywall bit inside).

There will be a small gap between the two pieces of drywall, this is normal.

To finish the edges of drywall you will attach a metal corner bead. These usually come in a standard length of 10 FT I believe. We measured from the wooden base to the top of the new opening where the drywall met.

They were extremely easy to cut, we just used a pair of medical shears. But, if you don’t have those you can use gardening shears or pliers.

To attach the metal corner bead to the edge we used drywall mud and pressed it into place. When it dries it will act like a glue.

After, we added drywall mud to the white paper edges as additional adhesive. We added another 3 coats and sanded between each coat. Finishing drywall was not my forte so hubs was in charge of all the drywall finishing.

It take about 4 coats of drywall mud, with the last coat being your finishing coat. You will sand between each coat of drywall mud after it has completely dried. Be sure to lightly sand the last layer

Step 6: Attach baseboard

This is the baseboard on the base of our office bookshelf built-in that I used as a guide for our bathroom built-in.

Paint the baseboard before installing and attach with brad nails. Caulk the edge at the top where it meets the base for a clean look. Use the photo above as an example.

Step 7: Paint and touch up drywall

Paint your first coat of primer after you’ve finished sanding the final coat of drywall mud. Look over your paint job after it has dried, you may see a few imperfections. You can either take your finger or take a small putty knife to add more drywall mud.

When painting the base I used a cabinet paint roller since it was wood and not drywall. I wanted to make sure it was smooth and not chunky with brush marks.

Step 8: Attach brackets for open shelving

Now you’re ready to attach the wood brackets where the open shelving will sit on! At this point I was so proud this whole thing had worked and I’d gotten this far.

Use 1×2 on the left, back and right of the walls. Before attaching all of your brackets, use a a stud finder to attach your open shelving to at least one stud on each wall for the best support.

Hold your bracket up and mark where the studs will be and drill pilot holes into your wood brackets.

Use a level and screw your bracket into the walls on all three sides.

I did not attach all the shelf brackets at once. I attached the first bottom bracket, then cut the plywood shelf by measuring all the sides then putting into place.

TIP: Remember, not all walls are straight so be sure to measure all the walls!

Follow the same diagram below to cut all your open shelving pieces.

Once you’ve completed the first shelf you’ll move on to the second and so on. I measured to have the same distance between all the open shelving. I wanted 4 shelves and counted the base as one of the shelves when doing the math for the distance between all of them.

Step 9: Sand your top open shelving pieces

Each shelf fit snug into place and instead of pulling them out and possibly damaging the wall, I just left them in and sanded them in the bathroom.

Step 10: Measure and cut your underlayment plywood and finishing piece

Your underlayment plywood is very thin and will be mounted under the wood shelf bracket shown below. Do not install the under-mount shelf piece yet, just measure and cut.

Measure and cut your 1×3 finishing piece that will cover the gap between your top shelf and under-mount piece. This piece should fit snug between the the door frame.

Step 11: Stain all your open shelving pieces

You will stain the top shelf and under-mount piece as well as the front 1×3 finishing pieces that will hide the gap.

Tape off the edges so you don’t get any stain on the freshly painted walls! Wipe down the open shelving with a wet rag to make sure there isn’t any excess dust. For all the how to’s on staining check out this post for a more in-depth tutorial.

Since I used two different types of plywood I wanted to make sure the stain blended well with both types of wood. We ended up trying a few different types of Varathane stain to pick the best one.

I went with Varathane Golden Oak on all the shelves and ended up blending great with the different types of plywood.

Before installing the rest of the open shelving pieces, I stained the under-mount and finishing pieces separately for easier staining.

Step 12: Install and Assemble Open Shelving

After you’re done staining all your open shelving pieces you’ll need a brad nailer, clamps, and wood glue to install and assemble the shelves together.

Use wood glue to adhere the top and bottom pieces before using the brad nailer.

Use clamps to hold your under-mount piece in place while you use a brad nailer to nail around the edges into the brackets. Repeat this step for each shelf for the under-mount piece and the top shelf piece.

Your shelves should look like this after you’ve installed the under-mount piece.

Apply wood glue to the top and bottom of the exposed edges for the finishing piece.

Use clamps to hold the 1×3 in place to let the glue dry. Once the glue has dried use the brad nailer to tack in the finishing 1×3 to the top shelf piece.

I added some more wood glue on the under-mount piece and left the clamps till the glue dried. Your shelves should now look like this with the finishing 1×3 attached.

After

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To get the look for all product sources check out our Master Bathroom Reveal!

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SHOPPING LIST :

**The shopping list will vary based on the size of the closet you are converting to open shelving built-in. Below you will find the types of items and quantities we used yours will differ. 

1 – Scandia 4×8 Sheet Plywood (for base and top shelf piece)

1 – Underlaymount 4×8 Sheet Plywood (for under-mount shelf piece)

2 – 2×4’s (for extending the door frame)

1 – 2×6’s (for building the base)

1 – 1×3’s (the front finishing pieces to the shelves)

2 – 1×2’s (for shelf brackets)

5″ baseboard (finishing piece for base)

Sheet of Drywall (to replace door frame and expansion)

1 – Drywall pre-mixed mud tub

1 – Box of Drywall screws

50 – 1 1/2″ wood screws (for brackets)

1- Box of 1″ Brad Nails

1 – Bottle of Wood glue

Minwax Polycrylic (Water Based) – Clear Satin Finish

Varathane Golden Oak Stain

Wiping Cloths

3M Final Finishing Pad 

Paint Brush for Water Based Paint

Rust-Oleum Satin Black Spray Paint

 

TOOLS :

Tape Measure

Pencil

Safety Glasses

Ear Protection

Mask

Drill

Circular Saw (or Miter Saw)

Sander (or Sanding Sponge)

Brad Nailer

 

CUT LIST :

The cut list will be different for your project as everyones closet space is not the same as ours. If you’d like our cut list specifics just let me know!

SKILL LEVEL :

Intermediate/Advanced

PROJECT COST:

$150-$200

 

Let me know if you have any questions about anything product wise or even remodeling questions! I’m an open book πŸ™‚

For more behind the scenes on all of our DIY and home projects be sure to follow along on instagram. To see all of our inspo and upcoming projects be sure to follow along on pinterest.

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24 thoughts on “How to Transform a Linen Closet to Open Shelving”

  1. I can’t believe there are no comments on this post! This is one of the best shelving tutorials I’ve ever seen – great job on explaining all the steps! Plus, it looks amazing πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Lisa,

      You are so sweet! Thank you so much. It was such a fun project and I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      They are from Home Depot and Amazon. You can find links to the exact products in the Master Bathroom Reveal πŸ™‚

  2. Thank you for the post! Love this idea. Did you use 3/4” plywood for the shelves?

    1. Hi Victoria,

      You’re so welcome! I hop it helps you πŸ™‚ Yes, 3/4″ on the top and 1/4″ underlayment on the bottom!

  3. I love your project and great directions! Maybe I missed it, but could you tell me approximately how much space you allowed between each shelf? We are planning to do an open shelving unit in our bathroom also! Thanks!

    1. Hi Karmen,

      You didn’t miss anything, I did not list the width between them! I evenly spaced them out for how tall our ceiling was. I’d be happy to find out the measurements between the shelving if you’re still interested!

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      It’s from IKEA! You can find the exact link in the β€œShop our Home” tab under Master Bathroom!

    1. Hi Anne,

      It’s from IKEA! You can find the exact link in the “Shop our Home” tab under Master Bathroom!

  4. I am trying to figure this out… you have that you used 1x1s for the wall brackets – but with 3/4 plywood and 1/4 plywood that only adds up to 1.75″ – not the 2.5″ that a 1×3 would be. did you actually use 1x2s? because that would add up to 2.5″

    1. Hi Katie,

      I used 1×2’s for the wall brackets, 3/4″ plywood on top, 1/4″ plywood underneath and a 1×3 board on the face.

  5. This is what we’ve been talking about for weeks!!! FANTASTIC WORK. WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT MAKES! I especially HATE the door on my Linen Closet. Cannot open the door to ENTER the bathroom…..they bang into each other. Going to change the Entry Door into the Bathroom. ONE THING AT A TIME.. IN MY LATE 60’S! Honey, and your hubby are incredible! Love the look of your whole bathroom, as well! I’m an artist and have done decorating for Ethan Allen. Question: Did you paint your window frame Black? Love that look! Wishing you and yours all the BEST and during this pandemic, pray you all stay safe! (HUGS) Diane, Boston MA

    1. Hi Diane!

      You are so incredibly kind and what a compliment! I’m truly honored πŸ™‚ I did not paint the window frame black, we purchase a black custom window for the bathroom and painted the exterior frame of the window to match the rest of the house. Hope you’re staying safe!

    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you so much! The tile is from The Tile Shop! You can find the link under Shop our Home > Master Bathroom πŸ™‚

  6. Hi there! I was wondering if you could tell me where your shower head and faucet are from. I love them!

    1. Hi Kassidy,

      They’re from Amazon! You can find all the product sources for the master bathroom under Shop our Home > Master Bathroom πŸ™‚

  7. This is awesome and my wife loves how cute it is!
    Can you tell us where you got the vanity?

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