Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Tania Griffis

Article Posted By: Tania Griffis

of Run to Radiance

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Custom built-in cabinets can be a big enhancement to a dining room, living room, or just about any room in your home. We were interested to see how DIY blogger Tania Griffis approached the design and creation of built-in cabinets in her dining room. You should see the amazing work she’s done on her home, as seen on her blog Run to Radiance.

Her custom built-in cabinets are part of our DIY Challenge series here on The Home Depot Blog. We’ve invited several of our favorite decor and DIY bloggers to create projects all starting with a particular material– in this case, plywood.

Take a look at how Tania and her husband thought through the process of designing and building the cabinets, and how they completed the project… with a couple of clever twists.

My husband Scott and I have been remodeling our home for over two years now—time flies when you are having fun! One of the first rooms we tackled was our dining room. When we designed the floor plan for our dining room, we added a wide nook with the intention of adding a custom built-in cabinet. As things go, however, time went by, and as we took on remodeling the majority of the rooms in our house, our cabinet idea fell lower on our to-do list. You can see below that we found a way to make the nook useful, but neither of us felt it was a long-term solution, and we have always intended to go back and create something fabulous.

When I was invited to participate in The Home Depot DIY Challenge, and found out the only stipulation was I would have to use plywood to create something, I knew our cabinet project could finally happen.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets
I spent a long time thinking about the various functions the cabinet needed to serve. We entertain frequently, and I have amassed quite the collection of servingware and table linens. Since we throw dinner parties often, we also have a collection of wine and liquor, so I designed the cabinet to be a modern spin on the classic dry bar.

Creating a Foundation for the Built-In Cabinet

Since this was a pretty large undertaking, I asked my dad to come give Scott and me a little guidance to start us off. After a trip to The Home Depot to pick up our supplies, we started by emptying the nook. We removed the baseboard and created a foundation out of 2″ x 4″ pine lumber.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

We then added a plywood base using ½-in. thick plywood, as well as plywood walls that we screwed into the wall studs. Since the drywall in the nook wasn’t perfectly level (most walls aren’t), we used shims to ensure the plywood walls were perfectly straight and met the plywood base at a 90-degree angle. I used a jigsaw to cut out a hole for our electrical outlet.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Creating the Interior Walls and Shelves for the Cabinet

Next, we added two interior walls by using a combination of pegs and wood glue.

We simply measured the width of the plywood base, and divided the space into thirds, marking with a pencil where the two dividing walls should go. Once they were marked, we measured and cut the plywood walls, drilled holes into the bottom of them to fit the pegs, and gently hammered them down into place, making sure they were level.

After we had the interior walls secured, we were able to add shelves. We added a support board that was about 1-in. thick to hold the shelves up, then cut the shelves and used a combination of screws and a nails to hold them in place.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

When I designed our cabinet, one of my favorite twists was to skip the traditional flat cabinet doors and instead make our doors 5 inches thick with two shelves inside of each for even more storage.

In the photo above and below, you can see our Ryobi cordless nailer. It made the job a lot easier than if we had been hammering the nails.

To create the shelves we used 1″ x 6″ boards to make a rectangular box. Again, we used a combination of wood glue and a nails to hold everything in place. We measured the diagonals to ensure they were square, and then added a ¼-in. thick plywood face to the box.

Next we added a shelf half-way up on each door.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Painting the Cabinet, Adding the Top and Doors

Finally, it was time to paint!

I gave the entire project two coats of semi-gloss white paint and waited a day for everything to dry. Then I lightly sanded any areas that felt slightly tacky to me.

To create a top for the cabinet, we measured and cut a ½-inch thick piece of plywood and stained it, adding veneer edging for a finished look.

Once the top was on, we hinged the doors onto the cabinet frame, then added trim around the entire nook to camouflage the hinges and give the built-in a more finished look. We also used crown molding to trim the cabinet doors out and add some dimension.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Adding Floating Shelves

I wanted to add floating shelves to the wall above the cabinet, so we used stained 1″ x 10″ boards and metal brackets that we spray painted.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

Adding a Colorful Twist

One of my favorite additions to our project was adding under cabinet lighting with the fun LED color-changing light tape we picked up at The Home Depot. They stick to the wall directly and include a remote control so you can create a custom lighting mood for any event. We had so much fun playing with the colors—we are set on using the red and green ones during Christmas!

Colored light strips in custom-built cabinets

The Finished Cabinet

Finally, after all our hard work, it was time to put everything where it belonged. All of our dining and entertaining items finally have a place to call home. Everything is organized and put away and ready for use when needed—it’s the perfect combination of form and function!

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets
Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

The dining room is one of my favorite rooms in our house—some of the best conversations and biggest laughs have happened in that room. I have to say, it’s never looked better! We are already looking forward to our next party where we can select some custom LED mood lighting and create our guests’ cocktails in style.

Creating Custom Built-in Cabinets

See more photos of Tania’s custom built-in cabinets on her blog.

Tani Griffis considers herself a Renaissance woman, interested in arts and crafts, cooking, entertaining, DIY and home remodeling. She writes about all that and more at Run to Radiance. She lives with her husband Scott and two Miniature Australian Shepherds, Boomer and Bella, near Dallas.

See other DIY Challenge articles here on The Home Depot Blog, and follow our Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest. Our Building Materials Department carries plywoodlumberplastic sheets and just about anything else you need to make your home better.

Tania received a Home Depot gift card to complete her custom built-in cabinets. The ideas and opinions she expressed are her own.