Introduction: Alcove/Recess Shelving for the Time Poor, Minimally Skilled or (Like Me) Both

Hi! This is my first Instructable. Having spent years taking inspiration from you awesome guys I've finally decided to take the plunge and come to terms with a few things:

  • I don't have much time
  • I don't have much skill (although working on it)
  • I need to make more room around the house

This is the product of 10 (rare) interrupted hours: Not at work, without my two young kids (thanks to my mother-in-law), help from my wife and some careful preparation.

Whilst I had to do this all in one go (as I don't have the luxury of being able to leave sharp tools and paint cans lying around) this is for anyone with limitations in: Time, skill, tool or money. You complete this during a working week and spend a couple of hours an evening so hopefully no excuses :-)



  • 3/4 inch Plywood
  • 1 x 2 Timber Battens
  • Small Wooden Cabinet (roughly same width as recess, but not wider)
  • Screws (general purpose and wood screws)
  • Wall Plugs
  • Paint (same as surrounding walls)
  • Decorators Caulk
  • Decorative Handles (optional)


  • Hand or Circular Saw (I borrowed a circular saw from a friend to save time and money)
  • Drill/Screw Driver
  • Sealant Gun
  • Tape Measure
  • Spirit Levels (one smaller and one larger if possible)

n.b. I have been a bit vague on sizes as a lot will depend on your own measurements

Step 1: Prep - Saving Time

If you only have a short window of time it's best to get all of the materials before the big day. In addition to all of the standard building materials I didn't have time to build the lower cabinet from scratch so went around a few charity shops/thrift stores and picked up this one (above) for £20 (just over $25). It was a couple of inches narrower than my recess, and a little deeper than I was aiming for, but with a few alterations it ended up working perfectly.

Step 2: Building a Simple Frame

I then measured and cut two lengths of plywood, the first to fill the recess on side against the chimney breast and then mirrored this on the opposing wall. These where then fixed to each wall with screws and wall plugs.

There was no need to paint the ply prior to attaching to the walls as we were using the same colour paint. So once fixed in place my wife started painting these in situ whilst I began to hack at the cabinet : -)

In order to fit the cabinet a few inches needed to be taken off the depth. I took off the doors, making sure that any alterations I made wouldn't weaken it. The back only had a thin piece of board covering it and therefore removing the few inches needed didn't have any effect. Although in hindsight it is probably best to check this with anything that will need altering prior to purchase. This was then painted with primer and then the final colour before fixing in place between the two pieces of ply

Step 3: Adding the Shelves

The shelves were relatively simple to fix at this stage thanks to the frame. Each support was made from 3 pieces of 1 x 2 timber batten. 1 fixed to either side of the ply frame at the desired height and the 3rd fixed to the wall behind. This is the point (if you haven't already) to break out the spirit level(s). Checking each is both level as well as being level to the other battens as you add them.

Once the brackets were in place plywood was cut to size for each shelf and fixed with screws from above into the battens.

Once fixed in place, all shelving was again painted in situ. The doors were also painted and fixed back onto the cabinet.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Finally I added a thin piece of wood to make up the small gap between the left side of the cabinet and used decorators caulk to fill any minor gaps, this was then smoothed and repainted. I also added a thin strip of wood to the back of the cabinet to drill the hole for the lamp again caulking and over painting.

I also picked up some decorative door handles replacing the old wooden ones.

Step 5: Done

...And there you have it, throw your books on, stand back and admire with a mug of your favorite hot beverage.

As I say we had 10 hours to do this, however I am not the quickest. I'm sure you could probably shave a few hours off if you needed to. All in all the build cost around £80 (around $105)

Either way, hope you enjoyed my first Instructable and found it useful. I'm going to throw this into the Shelving contest in the very faint hope of a T-shirt, but if not at least it might get a few views so I can get a few comments and advice for the next time I upload a project.


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