Here’s an awesome project for you! How about converting an old wooden wardrobe into the perfect storage cabinet? When we recently had a leak in our kitchen, we had to have the the entire first level of wood flooring replaced. As many of you DIYer’s know, such a calamity usually brings on a chain reaction to other things in the home. With the furniture out of place, we decided to take advantage and create more storage space in our home.
I’m a big fan of Craig’s List and started a search for old wood cabinets or Armories. I was very lucky to find this old wardrobe needing a bit of TLC for only $140. It stands 7 feet tall x 3 feet wide and 28″ deep. Space, yes space oh yes…now what? I had to make it functional, enter hubby!
“Dave, sweetheart, I know it doesn’t look like much but it will when “WE” get done”. So Dave began mapping out different scenarios of how we were going to do this. We actually spent a couple of days drawing plan after plan. Should we take the back off to get the shelves in, or maybe the sides, no the front, what about the bottom? How are going to get the maximum storage out of this thing? There is about 2 inches of trim on either side of the frame preventing us from using it the full width.
Whenever you decide to repurpose an item there are going to be challenges. Converting this wardrobe to a cabinet certainly presented some interesting design issues. First, the side panels are only ¼”, so shelves cannot be attached to the sides. Secondly, there is molding on the front that holds the doors and reduces the front opening. To use the whole width of the cabinet, shelves have to enter the cabinet on the diagonal. Laura wanted an old card catalog case to rest at the bottom of the cabinet. It has ten drawers and she uses it to store craft supplies.
The case is 33” x 17” and the wardrobe inside detention is just under 34” by 23” so it would seem a no brainer to insert the card case. I told Laura the two drawers on each end will only open 6” because of the molding. No problem, she could still use them for her purpose. Now I had to give her the bad news. Because the catalog is 9” tall, it has a 34 ¾” diagonal. To clear the molding, it has to go in on the diagonal and once in the wardrobe, I did not think we had enough clearance to set in down. My solution was to eliminate two draws with a saw but this was not acceptable to Laura. Taking the molding off was not acceptable to me. So even though the numbers appeared to indicate it would not work, we decided to give it a try. With some careful moving down on one side and up on the other and a slight give in the side panels of the wardrobe we managed to set it down.
Now we had two choices regarding the shelves. We could try to build a shelving unit inside the wardrobe or we could try to find something to insert that would act like shelves. I think I could build a unit, but it would take time and present its own set of challenges, so we opted out for finding the already built version. That led to a several day two person research project. We looked at old serving carts, small bookcases, end tables and as many other items as our imaginations could come up with. We did find a few items that might work, but we would have to use more than one and trying to fit a few together seemed like a nightmare. Then I had a brain storm about using a small open shelving unit where I could add wooden shelves that extended the length of the wardrobe. It was like using a support structure in the center and adding my own shelves. Bingo, we found a metal 24” x 18” shelf unit that I could put together right inside the wardrobe. At 34” high it was perfect for the 44” space I had after inserting the card catalog.
There were still a couple of small engineering tricks yet to tackle. I placed a 25” x 18 ½” board on top of the card catalog so the metal structure had a firm footing. Most book shelves and even kitchen cabinet shelves use ¾” thickness, but since the cabinet shelves are not carrying much weight, I used ½”. The metal structure was assembled by placing the bottom shelf over four poles and sliding it into place onto the plastic inserts that held in at the height I wanted.
Next, I cut holes in my wooden shelves to accommodate the four metal posts. I could have used shelves to fill the entire inside wardrobe dimensions, but I decided to make them narrower than the full depth. The shelf had to go inside on the diagonal, maneuvered around the poles and up above the poles to set down over them. It was a bit of a struggle, but I figured it out. I could tell the second shelf could be built the same way, but once the third metal shelf was constructed, I would not have enough room to insert anymore wooden shelves. So after I completed shelf #2, I placed the other three wooden shelves on top of shelf #2. Then I held three wooden shelves above the post, while Laura constructed the third metal shelf. I then set the three wooden shelves down and we constructed shelf four and five in the same manner. It was a tight squeeze with both of us working inside the wardrobe, but we managed. Laura is adding many cool touches and we now have a very unique cabinet.
I used old designer fabric samples to cover the shelves, you know the kind that come in books? The outside needs a little work where some old trim was removed, we need to add a unique handle, I need to stain my cheese crates and decorate them but all those things will take time. For now I have a very lovely storage cabinet that is literally one of kind. How cool is that?