Custom Walk In Closet For Teen

Have you ever opened your child’s closet and just screamed at the disaster it is? Same my friend, same. Especially when it comes to my teenage daughter. Add the fact that it is a smaller walk in rather than just a reach in, and we are talking storage for mounds of her junk. This mamma could not tolerate it any longer, so I decided to remove the builder grade wire racks and design a custom storage solution that would eliminate her hoarding habits. Let me share the space I was working with.

When I looked in her closet beyond the disaster, I saw so much potential. With previous builds, I have learned how a built in can actually make a small space feel so much bigger, so I immediately started drafting a few different configurations. The closet itself is roughly 5×5 (give or take) . . . . and the first draft I came up with an L-configuration, and even though I hate a “blind corner”, I thought we could use it to store her less used items so that not being in her immediate reach would not be an issue. But as I started to build, I shifted (no surprise there) and modified my original plans. I’ll share my rough overhead sketches below as well as the builder floorplan so you have an idea of the closet space. I wish I could say I was proficient in Sketch Up with my designs, but I’m not quite there yet, so please enjoy my archaic pencil and paper drawings.

After measuring it all out and buying supplies, I started with the prep work. Remove wire racks, and patch any wall holes that will be visible. Next, remove the baseboards (I always use a 5-in-1 tool to score the caulking and a trim puller to pull it from the wall) . . . do this safely because you will usually find a million nails have been used to attach the baseboards to the drywall . . . and carefully if you intend on repurposing or donating the trim. Once the room was cleared of these items, I set out to build the first wall unit.

With this particular build, I wanted to try something different for the base construction of the cabinets than I have done in the past. There was no particular reason for this change, other than I wanted to learn an alternate way of building cabinet bases. The supplies are the same, its just a different construction.

Here is what I used :

  • 2x4s
  • 3/4″ red oak plywood
  • 1/4″ oak plywood
  • 1×2 select pine for face frame
  • 1×4 select pine (for trim / face frame at bottom of unit)
  • Drill / 3″ cabinet screws / 2 1/2″ multi purpose screws
  • Brad Nailer / 2″ and 1 1/2″ Brad Nails
  • Pocket Hole Jig / 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
  • Caulk (Caulk Gun)
  • Wood Glue

I typically purchase my 3/4″ plywood in 4×8 sheets at a supply store and have them cut it down to the height I need or at least a size that will fit into my truck. I finish up my cuts at home either on the table saw or with a circular saw, depending on the size of the boards I am working with and my ability to maneuver them. For this build, I started with my wall of shelves / or lockers if you will. I broke it up into 3 sections :

  1. Long Hanging Items
  2. Shelves / Cubbies (think shoe shelves)
  3. Double Hang Items

I did a lot of research to determine the depth that I wanted for these units, and found that it really ranged depending on several factors including (but not limited to) space available, desired look, and clothing type that would be stored. Ultimately I needed to consider the size of the space I was working in and went with what would give me the space I needed in order to build a unit across from it and allow some dressing space in between the two. From there I cut 6 strips of my plywood in the depth and height of the unit (2 for each cubby / unit). I built each cubby attaching the 2 pieces of plywood with strips of scrap wood across the top and bottom (think 1x3s or 1x4s) using pocket holes and pocket hole screws across the back. Then I built the bases using 2x4s and wood screws. See the images below for a better idea. These units are secured to the studs in the wall using cabinet screws through the back braces across the top and bottom, wood glue between each cubby and I shot a few brad nails to the connecting cubbies just because. (side note to say, check to make sure everything is LEVEL before securing).

Now typically the 2×4 base is built first, with the units sitting on top of it, and its what I normally do, but I saw this method somewhere and thought I would give it a try. I don’t know if there are any benefits to this one over the other, but it was worth a try. Then I cut down some 1/4″ plywood to fit each cubby and nailed them into the 2×4 frames with brad nails. After installation, I went ahead and caulked all the seams and wood filled nail holes so that I didn’t have to do it all at the end of the build . . . I find doing it as I go makes it less overwhelming.

With this new shift design, I decided to move the shoe shelves from the left wall to the center cubby along this wall. I decided on the height of each cubby based on her shoes and went from there. I also took her feedback and made one large shelf in the middle where she said she wanted to store accessories, etc. I cut each shelf the width and depth of the cubby from my 3/4″ plywood, drilled pocket holes and installed them with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws as well as wood glue. I did 4 pocket holes on each side, 2 towards the back and 2 towards the front on the bottom half of the shelf. I used two precut pieces of scrap wood to help me ensure the accuracy with the spacing of each shelf so that I didn’t have to keep measuring as I installed them. For the lower shelves, I secured the pocket holes from the bottom, and for the higher shelf above eye level, I secured it from the top. And as before, caulk the seams and wood fill the holes.

Once these shelves were installed, I started working on the top cubby that would span the width of this entire unit. The first part of this was cutting a piece of 3/4″ plywood the width of the entire closet and then the depth of the unit. I secured this to the unit with wood glue, wood screws and brad nails after ensuring it was level. I then built the cubby that would sit on top of this. I cut the 3/4″ plywood to the same size. Then I cut 2 pieces of 3/4″ plywood to the height I wanted this cubby. I secured them to the bottom shelf and the top shelf using pocket holes and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws as well as wood glue. I created a support beam across the back to secure it to the studs of the back wall. Check that it is level, caulk seams and wood fill. I wish I had a better photo to share but I literally only have this screenshot of a video I took.

The last steps for this unit build was to install the face frame, which I did using a mix of 1×2 select pine and 1×2 poplar because thats what I had on hand. I installed these along all the raw edges of plywood using wood glue, 2″ brad nails and plenty of shims where I needed the wood to line up. The bottom face frame was a 1×4 to match the heights of the base. Then wood fill all the holes and the seams where wood meets wood … lots and lots of wood filler. Make sure to sand all the wood filler down before you prime and paint.

As you can see in the pictures above, I got ahead of myself and installed the hanging rods the double hand cubby and the long hang cubby (I recommend waiting until after you paint to do this but I’m an impatient person and wanted to see it). I wanted to keep these a natural wood color that would compliment the color I would be painting the unit , so I purchased some oak dowels at Home Depot and found some complimenting pole sockets to match.

Next I started working on the unit for the other side of the closet. We needed some drawers in here, and I decided instead of building a dresser from scratch, I’d do an Ikea Hack and build a unit around a cheap IKEA Rast dresser that would fit the space perfectly.

I truly wish I took pictures of this process rather than just video, but I’ll do my best to share the process. First, I cut 2 pieces of 3/4” plywood to match the height of the unit on the other side of the closet, and I did them to a depth just over half the depth of the dresser. It’s construction is similar to the first units, so that I could secure it to the wall. The first shelf I built to connect it was at a height just above the dresser, this would be come the new dresser too and would sit just over the ikea dresser (think of an H shape). I attached it to the sides from the bottom with pocket holes. This shelf / counter was the depth of the dresser. I repeated this for the top of the unit and an additional shelf at the top per my daughters request (however these pocket holes were attached from the top).

I had to pivot and cut another piece of plywood to add on the bottom half of the side of the dresser so that it was all flush. I could have cut my plywood with a jigsaw to prevent the seam this created but this was a design I was just winging. I connected the two pieces with some pocket holes from the inside, wood glue and a lot of wood filler to make it look like one piece(you can see this below). And then I wrapped all my raw plywood edges with 1×2 pine to trim out out. As always, caulk seams and wood fill holes.

After everything is caulked, wood filled, sanded down and vacuumed, it was time to prime for paint.

I prefer to use Killz primer, and then I sanded it down with a 220 grit to take out any imperfections. After the primer dries, and you vacuum again, you guessed it, paint! I always sand down my first coat with a 220 grit, but definitely not the second coat. Once that’s done, I reinstalled baseboards, waited for the paint to cure a few days and let my daughter move her stuff in. Oh, and the dresser knobs? I just used the knobs the unit came with but I spray painted them gold!

Let me know what you think in the comments, and check out my instagram highlights for videos of the process.

Remember, you’ve got this, so just go for it!



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