Introduction: BOOOW - Bathroom Organizer Out of Wood

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Introducing the ULTIMATE bathroom/wall organizer - The BOOOW ("Bathroom Organizer Out of Wood").

Anyone with a teenage daughter, large family, or small bathroom knows....there's just never enough room in the bathroom. Being the only boy, and growing up with 3 sisters, and now married with a teenage daughter, I finally had it with the constant messy bathrooms. After careful design and analysis, I built the BOOOW to solve this problem once and for all.

It really is the ultimate bathroom organizer - with numerous benefits:

  1. Uses Wasted Space - This is one of the key factors that the BOOOW (pronounced as 'Boo') was custom built for - to utilize the dead space behind a bathroom door (or any door for that matter). Ever notice that 4-5" void of space behind the door as a result of the door knob - well that's the space utilized by the BOOOW. Further, unless you close the door behind you, it, as well as your stuff, is practically invisible. Since most bathroom doors remain open unless being used, most people won't even notice it. It's a great location to take advantage of unused space for some storage potential.
  2. Customize-able - Make it as big or small as you and/or your family needs, add only the features your interested in (i.e. lipstick holder, finger nail polish shelves, mini shelves, magnetic holders, hooks, etc.)
  3. It's mobile - It can be moved from bathroom to bathroom or take with you when you move residence requiring only 1 hook to install (and not even needing a stud behind the wall).
  4. Modular accessories - Whether you build or buy the accessories, it can accommodate numerous acrylic holders, custom built holders, etc. so you can customize it to your needs. Since it is modular in design, you can re-arrange accessories, add/remove them, or install new ones, it can morph as needs change.
  5. Within reach: As this is built between knee and head level, every item is easily within reach - no longer straining your back under dark cabinets looking for a needle in a haystack.
  6. Wood-Based / Expandable - Why wood? Well, for numerous reasons. First, it's most likely the easiest and most customizable material that people can work with. Additionally, it can be painted/stained to the color of your choosing, custom built to your liking, waterproofed, easy to match existing room decor, and has the ability to be added on to in the future.
  7. Increases Storage space - Using my BOOOW as an example, I increased my storage space by 472 square inches!! Or, over 3 square feet - and that doesn't count the storage from the magnets or hooks. That's a lot of extra space considering a small bathroom counter with a sink may not even have that much storage.

If you do decide to tackle this project, it is a good candidate for a weekend project. Although the actual labor of cutting and assembly may be only 2-4 hours depending on your skill, there are times you need to let it sit and let the glue and/or paint dry. The cost of the project varies based on the quality of materials selected, but using wood in the mid-range of price (largest expense), I would estimate approximately $40-75 depending if you have any materials at home. Set aside a time, where you can relax, focus on the project, and enjoy the peace that comes along with building (and eliminate the bathroom insanity once and for all)!

Step 1: Measure & Design

A quick note on Design - Form & Function:

Form should follow function. Before you build anything, you need to know what the purpose and function is going to be before you can design its form. Do you need it primarily for storage? If so, what needs to be stored and how much? Or, do you prefer a quick routine in the a.m.? In what ways can this be built to meet that need. At the same time, what form will support that function? Can it be built in a way to meet all those needs? Will it be aesthetically appeasing? These are just a few questions you should ask yourself – the point is to take some time to think about it. In most cases, products these days focus on function OR form - rarely do they meet both. In many cases, it’s virtually impossible as everyone's unique needs can't be met by a standardized product. That’s why I love to build things – you can get something you want EXACTLY – and something you'll never find in a retail store. My point of saying all this is that the BOOOW has endless amount of options and possibilities – it's really up to you to determine what you want - my design serves only as a template - but I encourage you to stretch the boundaries (hopefully a few of my design ideas in this photo section can spur some of your own). Anyway, take the time to design something that will really meet your needs, build it to last a lifetime, and in turn, it will serve you for a lifetime. It can be a piece of furniture worthy of a museum. It’s up to you. Whatever you decide, I wish you well in your endeavors….

I'll leave you with this famous quote by John Wooden who said " If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?". Now, lets get started!

Will it fit?

So, to begin. The first thing you'll want to do, is measure the space behind the bathroom door where you plan to install it. Make sure there are no obstructions that would prohibit it from being installed where you would like it. Next, check the depth between the wall and the door - as this will ultimately determine how deep your BOOOW can be (assuming your installing it behind a door, if not, then you won't be as restricted to the space). If you open the door and measure on the hinge side of the door to the wall - this should tell you the maximum allotted space you have (typically around 4"). However, keep in mind if you have a door stop, floor vent, or the door doesn't close all the way, you may well have up to 5-6". Also, if you plan to have it hang father out from the hinges, you may have a little additional space. It doesn't sound like much, but I found that 95%+ of the items you have in the bathroom can easily fit on this size shelf including bathroom containers and accessories.

How big should it be?

For this instructable, I'm usingthe measurements I used to build mine which are 19"W X 51" Tall. This is also reflected in the materials needed in Step 2 as well, but more likely than not, you'll want to customize yours based on your needs and the space you have a available. Below are a few notes to determine what size you might want to consider.

  • Budget: Keep in mind, the larger and more extensive it is, the more it will cost in materials - but this should be relatively negligible.
  • Depth: As desribed above, depth will likely be between 4-6".
  • Width: Next, determine the width. I say this because if you plan to install it behind the door, you most likely will be limited by the door size, and the distance of the door knob from the hinges. You don't want the door knob to be hitting the shelves. On most typical doors, you'll have about 18-22" to work with.
  • Vertical Height: This should be dictated how many shelves you want and what height they'll be. And the number of shelves you need should be determined by the amount of stuff you plan to store. Thus, your best bet is to take inventory of your bathroom supplies (keeping in mind any future items), determine how many would fit on one shelf taking into account the depth and width above, and then you can determine how many shelves will be needed. Tip: Keep in mind to optimize the space, your shelves likely should differ in heights which allows you to maximize the efficiency of the space. If you have all large shelves in height (12+"), and most your items are 6", you would be essentially be wasting half your space. So, in my case, I staggered the sizes from 10"-8"-6" or so, but knowing what you plan to utilize the space for is always your best bet, but keep in mind, things change too...
  • Sketch: Once you have an idea of the dimensions, it's typically a good idea to make a rough sketch on a piece of paper as shown in Diagram A above. This can be used as your 'blueprint' as you move towards the building stage.
  • Backing: *Note - the BOOOW has no backing. This was intended by design. Primarily for the purpose of having as deep as shelves as possible in a small space. It has the added benefits of seamlessly blending into your walls as the back will match the color and texture in the room. Lastly, the benefits of needing less materials and labor to construct is an added bonus.

Once you know that the project is feasible (i.e. no obstructions), know the size you want it, and have a sketch, you can move on to determining the materials you'll need (Step 2).

Step 2: Tools & Materials Needed

For this project, you'll need:

Difficulty: (Easy-Medium) / 4 out of 10


  • Miter Saw (ideal), or handsaw, skilsaw, or jigsaw
  • Hacksaw
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • Measuring Tape
  • ~ 1/4-1/2 sheet medium grit sandpaper
  • Drill bits: 1/8", 3/8", 1/2" (1/2" not shown, only needed if rope is 1/2" vs 3/8")
  • Pencil
  • Optional: Wood or speed square

Materials (Not shown in photo above):

    • Wood*: (Note*: If your planning to paint it, a cheaper wood like pine should suffice, if you prefer to stain it, a hardwood such as hickory, oak, or maple will produce nicer results).
    • 2 Maple Boards (.75"thick X 2.5W" X 51L") - Vertical pieces
    • 8 Maple Boards (.75" thick X 3.5"W X 17.5"L) - Shelves
    • 1 Maple Board (.75" thick X 1"W X 2L) (Riser for back row of finger nail polish)
    • Optional: Above board should be purchased 4L if planning to fasten bottom of BOOOW to the wall.
    • 1 Board (.75"thick X .75"W X 3') (Extensions to install steel rod on shelves)
    • (2) Plain Steel Round Rods - 1/4 in. x 48 in.
    • Rope: 3 feet long and 3/8-1/2" (minimum weight bearing of ~50lbs)
    • Wood Dowel: 3/8" X 36" (or 24 dowel plugs)
    • 2-1/32 in. Flat Black Single Post Wall Hook
    • 2 Washer Screws
    • 8 X 1.25" screws or wood dowels (1/4"thick X 1")
    • ~20 Wood Screws (1 1/2"L)2 washer-screws
    • 200 lb. drywall hook (only if no stud available behind wall)
    • Black spray paint
    • 1 pint of wood stain of your preference
    • 8 Cylinder Neodymium Magnets (3/8"x 3/8" or 1/4" X 1/4")
    • Optional: 1 pint Rub-on Polyurethane or can of spray-on polyurethane

      Material Links (Home Depot):

      Step 3: Prepare Prep Space

      Gather all your tools and materials, and ideally find a flat, open space where you can cut the wood without getting dust in unwanted areas. Typically, a garage, patio, or driveway work great. Note: you'll need an AC receptacle nearby to plug in any power tools.

      Step 4: Cut the Wood to Size

      Using your saw of choice, preferably a miter saw in order to get straight 90 degree cuts, cut the wood material to size based on your sketch you made in step 1. Make sure to take the appropriate safety measures.

      In my case, I had 8 shelves (1x4's) at 17.5" each, 2 vertical pieces (1x3's) at 51" long, and one riser (1x2), for a total of 11 boards.

      Step 5: Cut Hole for Rope

      Having the sides of the frame slightly higher than the top shelf (in this case, 1 1/2") allows for two things: 1) It provides ample space for a hole to be drilled so that you can thread a rope through it and hang the BOOOW, and 2) allows any items on the top shelf not to slide off the side.

      In this step, we'll be making a hole in each of the two vertical sides as shown in Diagram B. Mark the measurements, and using a 3/8-1/2" drill bit (depending on the size of rope), drill through the board. *Note the hole is towards one side allowing the rope to hang more vertically - **Note: going forward, this side will be the back of the BOOOW, so make a mental note of it going forward to ensure to keep that end towards the back when necessary.

      Step 6: Build Rod Fasteners

      The Rod Fasteners are what will hold the rod into place, and in a later step they will be attached to the frame. However, we want to build them now, so we can paint it at the same time we paint/stain the rest of the BOOOW.

      To build the fasteners, we'll be cutting the 3/4"W X 3/4"D X 36" piece of wood. We'll need 4 pieces (2 pair) that are 3" long, and 4 pieces (2 pair) that are 2 1/2" long. After cutting, drill the holes required for the dowels as shown in diagram C above, and glue the dowels in place. Drill the hole for the rod as well making sure to drill only 1/3-1/2 way through. Thus, there should be 3 holes in each piece (2 for the dowel rods on one side, and 1 for the rod on an adjacent side). **Important: Make sure you drill the rod hole on the right side of one of the pieces in the pair, and the left on the other piece). (View more photos in step 11 if needed).

      Once completed, set aside for now, as they will be installed to the frame in a later step.

      Step 7: Add Magnets...

      On my BOOOW, I added the magnets to the outside vertical piece. It's easier to install the magnets on the board prior to building the frame. Using Diagram D as a reference, grab one of the vertical frames, and using a pencil (and square if you have one), mark a line running down vertically about 1" on each side, and every 2" horizontally in the area you want the magnets (tip: I also measured to ensure this area would be between hip and shoulder height, so I wouldn't need to reach down to low).

      Once marked, drill about halfway (3/8") through the board as indicated on the marks (see Diagram E). Insert a little glue, the magnet(s), and finally, add either a dowel rod or wood dust to fill the hole. Let it dry, and cut/sand it smooth.

      Step 8: Stain / Paint / Poly

      Time to start adding a little color!

      For contrast, I determined it would be best to have 2 different colors - black for the vertical frame (and the metal rod), and a wood stain for the shelves. For this reason, it's best to paint/stain before assembly so the colors don't inadvertently bleed onto each other. If your doing one color, you could assemble first. Using the black spray paint, I painted the vertical pieces, the metal rod, and the previously assembled rod fasteners, and then stained the wood shelves. Once painted/stained, allow to dry fully.

      *Tip: An option, but highly recommend, is to use some polyurethane (rub on or spray) on all the wood pieces which will act as a water/stain barrier in the event of spills, etc. Now, lets move on to assembly!!

      Step 9: Measure & Layout

      Now that the wood is cut, painted and/or stained, lay the wood out on a flat surface, and make sure all the pieces appear to fit as intended (see Diagram F).

      Glue Riser (In this case, the riser is being used to elevate the back row of nail polish on my BOOOW). Add a bead of glue along the the bottom of the 1x2" riser, and glue it onto the back of one of the previously cut shelves. Make sure it's flush with the back of the shelf. Wood glue will bond stronger the the wood itself, so don't be concerned if it will be strong enough. Set aside, and let dry.

      Mark Shelf Locations (See Diagram F&G). Using a tape measure and pencil, measure from the bottom of the vertical side frame, and mark (on the outside of frame) where the center will be for each shelf. Keep in mind the shelves are 3/4" thick, thus, the center line will be 3/8" (middle of shelf). As an example, if you want the second shelf from the bottom to be 12" higher than the bottom shelf, you want to mark the center line at 13" 1/8" (12"+3/4" (thickness of bottom shelf) + 3/8" (center line of 2nd shelf). Make all necessary marks to determine where to drill for the locations of your shelves. Repeat the process for the second vertical board (or, if you have speed square, you can line up both boards and transfer the marks to the second board).

      Step 10: Fasten Shelfs to Vertical Frame

      Now that the screw holes have been marked on both vertical pieces, use your 1/8" drill bit, and drill a pilot hole all the way through the wood in each mark (a pilot hole does a few things, makes the screw go through easier, keeps it aligned with the hole, and also helps prevent the wood from splitting). Once completed, take the larger drill bit, 3/8", and drill into the pilot holes approx. 1/4-3/8" deep (~halfway) being careful not to drill all the way through as you did with the pilot hole. Also, make sure you enlarge the holes on the outside of the vertical frame (vs. inside). The larger hole serves two purposes: 1) it allows the screw head to sink below the wood surface, and 2) allows you to fill the hole with a dowel rod (or wood dust) so no screws are visible for a cleaner look. (So, this can be skipped if you don't mind seeing the screws on the outside frame).

      Once the holes have been drilled, add some wood glue to the shelf ends (don't skip this, wood glue is incredibly strong - in most cases, stronger than the wood itself, and will help support the screws from tearing out under a weighted-load), and then fasten the shelves to the vertical supports using the screws one at a time, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Best approach is usually installing one screw on one side of the shelf, then one on the other side, re-align shelf if necessary, and then repeating the process putting in a second parallel screw on each side.

      Once all the shelves are screwed in, the primary frame should now be complete!

      Step 11: Add Steel Rod Onto Shelfs

      You're almost there.

      The steel rods that run across the front of the shelves are there to help prevent your stuff from falling off inadvertently. But at the same time, you don't want them too high or it will be more difficult to remove things from the shelf. I found about 1 3/4" high on the taller shelves (8+"), and about 1 - 1 1/2" on the smaller shelves worked great.

      Although adding the fasteners may be the trickiest part of the project simply because they're attached (and aligned) on two sides instead of 1, it's still relatively easy with a little patience.

      Cut the Steel Rod to size. Even though you already measured and cut the shelves, it's always a good idea to measure again. Measure the width of the shelves where you plan to install the steel rod, and cut the rod 1/2" longer than the the shelves. The extra 1/2" will allow you to put 1/4" into the rod hole of each fastener previously built in step 4.

      Install Fasteners to frame. Refer to Diagram I, and see photos above. Drill two holes into the front of the frame as shown in Diagram I. **Tip: to line up the holes just right, add a small amount of glue to the two dowels on the fastener, then gently press them onto the frame where you want it installed. Remove fastener, and a bit of the glue should have transferred to the frame indicating where the holes should be drilled. Now, drill the holes. Next, apply a little glue on the side of the shelf the fastener will be next to, as well as on the dowel and in the hole, and then insert the fastener into the frame. Install only one fastener on one side for the moment. Align the fastener to the front of the shelf (there should be approximately a 1/4" gap between the fastener and the frame due to the fastener being 3/4" wide, and the shelf sticking out 1" based on the board dimensions I previously gave). Prepare second fastener for assembly to the frame, but move to next step before gluing in place.

      Install Rod: Now that you have one fastener installed (let it dry for a bit if it's wobbly, if it's secure, you can proceed with this step), apply the glue to the second fastener and the side of the shelf you be installing it next to. Place the steel rod into the rod hole on the first fastener already installed, then with the second fastener in your hand, place the other end of the rod into the hole of the second fastener, and then install the fastener to the frame with the rod holder in place. This approach allows you to install the rod without having to bend it to get it to fit.

      Step 12: Install Towel Hook / Washer Screws

      Towel Hook: Add the towel hook on the outside of the frame based on the manufacturer's guidelines - center approx. 5" from the top - on the side of the frame. This is a great method to hang larger items such as bandanas, headbands, large bracelets, necklaces, garment tape, towels, robes, or whatever you can think of.

      Washer Screws: Washer screws are essentially that - a screw that has a large head the size of a washer (try to find one with smooth rounded edges). Note in the photo above, there is a smooth section between the threads and the head, that's an important detail so any items you hang don't get caught in the threads. When you screw it in place, ensure the threads go all the way into the wood leaving only the smooth section and the washer head. I opted to use two in the frame, but you can install as many as you would like. I installed them approx. 12" down the front of the vertical frame - one on each side. These are much smaller than the towel hook, but are still great to hang small items such as hair ties, small bracelets, etc. These were used in place of hooks, just because they were smoother, and less likely to scrape a hand or finger if someone was reaching over for an item.

      Step 13: Add Hanging Rope & Wall Hook

      Last step....hooray! Soon, you'll be able to see your bathroom counter again.

      Thread the rope through the holes as shown in the photos above, and tie a knot on each end to prevent it from slipping through. Install the hook in the wall, keeping in mind the extra vertical space needed for the rope (in other words, it should be approximately 8-10" above the top shelf), and measure so that you get the desired distance from the ground. In my case, I didn't have a stud where I wanted the hook to be, and used a special heavy-duty drywall hook that can support up to 200 lbs (provided a link to one in the materials section).

      Step 14: Optional: Fasten Bottom to Wall

      This step is optional; but I highly recommend it if you don't expect that you'll be moving it around much. By fastening the BOOOW to the wall (towards the bottom), it will prevent it from pulling away from the wall if some one inadvertently hits it or pulls at it. Although you could fasten it to the wall directly through the frame or shelf, I opted to glue a 1x2 brace to the bottom of the 2nd to bottom shelf, and then fasten it to the wall using two screws. You don't need to hit a stud here, as it's not bearing any load, rather just keeping it from pulling away from the wall. Unless you kneel down, it's not even noticeable, and took only about 5 minutes to install.

      See the other photos in this section to view the completed BOOOW before we place items on it.

      Step 15: Organize & Accessorize!

      Congratulations! Your BOOOW should now be hanging on your wall allowing you to access counter space you never knew you had, and hopefully saving you some sanity as well.

      Now for the fun part! Accessorizing and organizing the shelves. To significantly increase the versatility of your BOOOW, you can add extra components (custom-built or store-bought) to your shelves such as eyeliner holders, lipstick organizers, acrylic organizers, etc. The options are endless - and having a modular design allows you to change it as your needs change.

      I think you'll be surprised at just how many things will fit on a 4" wide shelf including most bathroom accessories. It has really helped to declutter our bathroom, my girls love it, and I already have plans to build a 2nd one...

      Well, that's it. Hope you like your new BOOOW! Remember, it's always easy to add on to, whether a new shelf, more hooks, accessories, etc. and it can also be used for another purpose entirely.

      And if you get the chance, plant a tree, so the next generation can build one too....

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