Introduction: Build a Box - Gain a Medicine Cabinet

About: Like Birdz of a Feather, let's flock together to create sustainably. After all, good planets are hard to find! We're a husband/wife team that takes our inspiration from everything around us; especially things …

At Birdz of a Feather, we're all about upcycling so when it came time to renovate our small powder room, we wanted to do it as sustainably as possible.

Since my husband was going to use the bathroom to get ready in the morning, he needed a medicine cabinet for his toiletries. A cabinet door we found at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for only $2 was the starting point. With a bit of creativity and some recycled materials (plywood, 1x4's and free calendar pages) we built a box and turned it into a one-of-a-kind piece that added much needed storage. You can't get more sustainable than that!

To see the full bathroom makeover, head over to my blog.

Step 1: You Will Need

Refer to the image for the material cut list we used; however if you build your own you'll likely need to adjust your cut list according to the size of the door you use. You will need:

  • 1 x 4's(frame)
  • 1 x 2's (face frame)
  • Plywood for backing (3/4" thickness)
  • Plywood for shelves (3/8" thickness)
  • Plastic edging (to fit edges of 3/8" shelves)
  • Pin nailer + pin nails
  • Wood glue
  • Old calendar with interesting pictures
  • Crackle medium
  • Glaze
  • Decoupage medium such as Mod Podge
  • Clear water based varnish (we used low sheen for the interior wood but high gloss on the door)
  • Paint
  • Wood putty
  • Recycled Cabinet Door (ours was 29 3/4" long by 13 1/2" wide)
  • Knob
  • Hinges (2)
  • Narrow wood trim
  • Primer
  • Wood screws

Step 2: The Frame and Shelves

Cut your top, bottom and side pieces for the frame of the box to the dimensions on your own cut list (yours will vary according to the size of your door). Our cabinet door was 29 3/4" long by 13 1/2" wide so we built our box (the frame) 31" long by 14" wide (exterior dimensions) - some of which would be covered by the face frame (which was 32" long x 15" wide; also exterior dimension).

Since we don't have too many fancy tools, we simply glued and pin nailed our box together. We spaced the two shelves 9" apart, glued along the edges, clamped and then pin nailed them through the sides of the frame through the centre edge of the each shelf. You have to have a steady hand when the shelves are so thin!

Cap off the shelves with the plastic edging by slipping it over the ends.

Step 3: Add the Backing and Face Frame

On the plywood backing, transfer the position of the shelves onto the wood with pencil so you'll be able to pin nail through the centre. If you own a plunge router, you can create a recess around the frame and drop the backing in flush with the frame.

We glued along the edges of the box and shelves, then positioned the plywood backing in place. Then we pin nailed around the perimeter and along the lines marked for the shelves. Keep the nailer dead straight or the pins make poke through the front of your box! The inside of the box was clear coated with a few coats of low sheen water based varnish.

The exterior dimension of our finished face frame was 32" long by 15"wide to fit over our box (see 2nd picture). We built it by butting the edges together and gluing and pinning as we did previously. Before we attached the face frame to the box, we primed it.

Once the backing was on, we attached the face frame (last picture). If you have a pocket jig, such as a Kreg, you can position the face frame, clamp it together and drill pocket holes - then fasten together with screws. Again, we didn't have a pocket jig so simply glued and pin nailed through the top of the face frame. We puttied and sanded any indentations then touched up with spot primer. On the cabinet door itself we filled all previous holes with wood filler (our handle and hinges were going to be placed in different positions). Then we primed and sprayed the door - front and back - with a grey paint to match our wall colour. We also applied the same grey paint to the face frame of the box and some narrow wood trim that I used in the next step. Once all the paint was dry we positioned and predrilled holes for the hinges and door knob.

Step 4: Add Some Unique Flair

I could have left the cabinet door plain but I wanted to add a one-of-a-kind touch, so I cut up some old calendars and decoupaged four of the pictures onto the front of the door. I wasn't too fussed about the cut edges because I covered them up in the last step with trim.

I'm always on the lookout at thrift stores for out of date calendars with interesting images that can be used for decoupage, like shown in the first picture. However, the calendar I used for this project was one I got free when I purchased my Benjamin Moore paint for the bathroom!

To further embellish the decoupage, I pressed some leftover venetian plaster I had on hand through an assortment of stencils and let it dry. I added a crackle finish over the entire surface and allowed it to dry again. I put a tinted glaze over everything. Once dry, I put two coats of high gloss varnish over the decoupage.

The final step is to glue on the previously painted pieces of wood trim to cover the edges of the four calendar scenes. I carefully clamped the trim pieces in place while they dried, taking care not to mar the decoupage.

Step 5: Install Hinges and Mount Door

Before installing the cabinet, it's easier to mount the hinges onto the door and face frame first so you don't have to work vertically.

Spread the hinges out evenly then measure and mark and door. Drill pilot holes and screw in place. Place the door evenly onto the face frame (it's easier if you have someone to help!) then transfer the hinge holes with a pencil. Predrill the holes in the face frame and complete mounting the hinges by screwing in place.

Remove the door again for the next step so the cabinet box will be lighter to maneuver.

Step 6: Mount the Cabinet

To mount the cabinet, we used a stud finder to find the studs. We lined our markings up with a stud on the right side of the cabinet. We marked the dimensions of our hole on the drywall making sure our lines were level and plumb then cut a hole in our drywall. We added some additional framing for support along the left side and the bottom since the cabinet was narrower than the distance between our studs (which should be 16" on centre).

One thing to note: our cabinet was mounted in an interior wall. If you are placing the cabinet on an exterior wall however, just make sure that you replace and seal up any insulation removed when you cut into the wall.

We mounted our box - now a full fledged cabinet - into the drywall between the studs, flush with the drywall opening. Then we drilled some pilot holes through the side frame and into the studs. We used small head wood screws to fasten the box into the opening.

Step 7: Load Up Your New Medicine Cabinet

Reattach the door and it's now ready for all your stuff to be placed on the shelves!

Step 8: Final Reveal (Please Vote)

In the picture above you can see the final outcome of the cabinet reflected in a vintage mirror we rescued from our own basement. Add a door pull and you're done!

By making a box to accommodate an old door, you too can add some personality into your powder room with a medicine cabinet.

If you enjoyed this I'ble, please pin and share.... and don't forget to vote!

For more home improvement ideas, feel free to visit and subscribe to my blog - Birdz of a Feather.

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Box Contest 2017

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Box Contest 2017