In this instructable I’ll show you how to build an aesthetically pleasing closet in a tight space. Our house is pretty small (around 1000 sq ft) and was built in 1880. Our bedroom is too small to fit a closet so we’ve been keeping our clothes in the 2’ wide closet in the second bedroom, which serves as my studio. Having all of our clothes that are on hangers in the closet that I keep my art supplies in was way too cluttered so I made some plans to build this closet. At first I thought this was going to be the most boring project ever because there’s nothing really exciting about a closet but the more I thought about it the more ideas I had and it ended up being a really fun project.
In my excitement I forgot to take some progress photos so I ended up going backwards in the project and deconstructioning parts of it so I could document it. This is why you’ll see siding on the frame before I get to the actual siding step.
Step 1: Gather Tools, Hardware, and Supplies
Here is a list of the tools I used:
Driver bits and drill bits
Router (not pictured)
Rabbet router bit
Concealed hinge jig
Pocket hole jig
Caulk gun with construction adhesive or air compressor with a nail gun
Speed square (super handy and only like $5, get one!)
General construction screws - 2.25”. I prefer the star bit screws but ended up using some square head screws because I had them and wanted to use them up.
Kreg pocket hole screws. Not entirely necessary, other screws work fine with pocket holes, but I picked them up out of curiosity’s sake.
Short screws for attaching siding
Closet bar hanging kit - 1.25" diameter
European style hinges x 4
Door handle (if desired)
Magnetic catch with strike
Siding - Whatever material you’d like to use for siding. I used pallets because I already had them but you can use anything you’d like. I think this build would look good with 1x6 common boards or anything similar.
1.25" diameter wooden dowel
Three 1x3 select pine boards
Sheet of plywood for door. This could be built with a variety of options
Material to build your shelves with. I used materials that I already had lying around so my top shelf is made out of plywood and the bottom shelf is made out of 1x6s (technically .75" x 5.5")
Stain - optional
Step 2: Lay Out the Dimensions of Your Closet Using Tape and Make a Drawing
Use some painters tape to figure out exactly how big you’d like your closet to be. I had a good idea when I measured it originally but having the tape on the floor gave me a good visual, which helped inform my final decision. Lay a clothing item that is on a hanger on the floor and make sure that you have at least a few inches on either side of it.
I’m a visual person and having a drawing helps me with the building process. Here is a quick drawing that I made before I started building. I based the shelves on the dimensions of our storage bins. I designed mine to be 82.5" tall, 26" deep, and 41" wide.
Step 3: Cut 2x4s and Begin Building the Frame
Cut your 2x4s:
78.75" x 4 (Vertical supports - z)
26" x 4 (top of frame - x)
23" x 8 (frame support - x)
33.75" x 6 (front and back of closet - y)
I laid out my X and Z boards and began assembling them. Place the 26" 2x4s at the top and bottom of each tall piece and screw in from the top and bottom, creating a basic rectangle. I think its always beneficial to pre-drill all of your holes so you don't split any of your lumber. From there I placed my storage bins and measured out where I wanted the pole to go, and then screwed in my 23" pieces.
Bottom shelf: 16" on center
Middle support: 41.5"
2x4 that will hold the bar and top shelf: 65" on center. In a later step I ended up lowering this a bit.
Step 4: How to Drill a Pocket Hole
I used pocket holes for both the framing of this build as well as for the door. Here is hole to use a pocket hole jig:
Place the pocket hole jig on the 2x4 about a 1/4" from the edge. Make sure that the front of the jig is flush with the front edge of the 2x4 and clamp it down
The pocket hole jig comes with a special drill bit made for it. The hex key allows you to adjust the depth but I found that leaving it on its default setting works great.
Insert the drill bit into the jig and drill the hole, then repeat the process on the other side. Some jigs come set up with two holes so you only have to clamp it down once, which is a time saver.
You will need a long driver bit or bit extender because the screw enters at an extreme angle.
I used the Kreg pocket hole screws out of curiosity but you can use pretty much any regular screw.
Pocket holes are surprisingly strong and especially useful when it comes time to build the door frame.
Step 5: Stand Your Frame Upright and Connect the Two Sides
Use the 26" boards with the pocket holes to connect the frame at the top and bottom in both the front and back. The front 2x4 is laid on its side so I had more clearance to fit baskets on the top shelf. On the back wall, add in two support pieces so they line up with you shelves. You don't really need one in the middle. Use a level to make sure everything is as level as possible.
At this point I placed my laundry basket in an figured out where to build supports for the bottom shelf.
Step 6: Install the Clothing Rod
On the 2x4 that will hold the bar, mark the very center of it, that's where you will attach the hardware that holds the clothing rod. Drill a hole and then attach the rod holders. Measure the distance between them and cut the rod to size. Then simply place the rod in the holders, theres no need to screw it in. Check that its level and adjust as needed, then put some clothes in and feel accomplished.
Step 7: Cut the Top Shelf and Install
Measure the dimensions of the top shelf, make a little drawing and make the cuts. I used some plywood that I had from a previous project. I used a jigsaw to make the little rectangle cuts and a circular saw for the long cuts.
Install your shelf and make sure everything fits.
At this point I would have built my second shelf but I opted to install my siding first because I needed to get all the lumber from it out of the second bedroom because it was in the way. But for the purpose of this Instructable, the bottom shelf is the next step.
Step 8: Build the Bottom Shelf
Measure the dimensions of the bottom shelf and make a reference drawing. For this shelf I used 1x6s because I had a couple from a previous project that I never used. I think they look nice too. Remember to make cuts so the shelves fit around the 2x4s. If you're not making room for a clothes bin you can make the shelf the entire width of the closet.
Begin making your marks according to the diagram and make cuts on your lumber of choice. I ended up using four .5"x6" boards and one .5"x3" board. Place the boards and screw them in place.
Step 9: Cut Your Siding to Fit and Install
Gather your materials and cut them to size. I used pallets because I already had a bunch of them and I like the way they look. You could use anything for siding really; 1x6s, plywood, drywall, its up to you. You could paint it, stain it, turn it into a giant chalkboard, there are many possibilities.
If you go for the pallet or wooden route, pre-drill all your holes so they don't split. Its easier to install if you get your screws started before you place it on the frame. That way when you're holding it up you won't fumble around with screws and drop them. Start from the top and work your way down.
Move to the front and cut siding for it. A lot of pallet boards are the same width of 2x4s so that makes it pretty simple. Do the same for the other side then cut a piece to fit the top and bottom.
Pick up a piece of .5"x.5" trim and stain it (if desired) and use it to cover the gap between the side of the closet and the front. I used a caulk gun and construction adhesive to attach it only because I didn't have my nail gun with me and I really wanted to keep the project moving forward.
Step 10: Build the Door Frame
Measure the space for you door. The opening to my closet is 34" x 78.75". I'm using .3/4" x 2 1/2" (1x3) "select pine" for the door frame and I want a 1.75" overlap on the sides which means that my door frame will end up being 36.5" x 79.5". I put a piece of 1/2" scrap wood on the floor and measured from there so the door won't end up getting stuck on the carpet.
Cut two vertical pieces (called a stile when building cabinets) @ 79.5" and two horizontal pieces (called rails) at 31.5". The top of my doorframe will overlap just a little less than the other sides because the clearance with the light fixture is so close. Drill pocket holes in the horizontal pieces and attach them to the verticals. Use a clamp to hold them in place, this will help keep them flush. Once all sides are connected, place the door frame next to your closet and make sure it fits.
Using a router to cut an indent to place a panel:
Install the rabbeting bit and set your depth. I went half way through but should have added in an additional 1/8" so I would have some room when I added in some pieces to hold the panel in place. When cutting rabbet joints, have your router facing forward and have the lumber to the left of the bit and move forward. Cut the rabbet all the way around the inside of the frame. The rabbet bit I used is 3/8".
Another method would be to cut a dado in your stiles and rails and fit the panel in that way. That method eliminates the need for extra lumber to hold your panel in place.
Step 11: Cut a Panel for the Door/how to Paint a Mural
For the door panel you can use a sheet of 1/8" plywood and paint, stain, or make a design on it. You could also make your router cuts deeper and use strips of wood, such as .5"x6" boards. Cut the sheet to fit into the grooves that were routed.
This was the real fun part for me. This is a mural I painted in 2015 for an installation at a gallery but since it came down its been sitting in storage. Although lightweight, its big and I've been wanting to repurpose it for a long time and with this project I finally found that opportunity. I first placed my frame on a couple different panels to see which composition I wanted to use. I decided on the second one. I then measured the dimensions inside of the frame and cut my panel to size. I trimmed the corners at a 45 so it would slide into the frame nicely.
How to paint a mural:
Murals are fun to make and don't have to be complicated to look good. For this one, I did a drawing first, scanned it, and then used a sharpie and a projector to get my image onto the panels. You can also freehand it, which takes more time but is a good skill to have, or use a grid. If you use the grid method first measure your surface and figure out the proportions between that and your drawing. As easy example would be if you're going to paint on a 4'x8' piece of plywood have your original drawing be 4"x8" and draw a grid in 1" intervals. On the panel, makes the grid in 1' intervals. The use your original drawing as a reference and draw it on the panel one square at a time.
Painting on a piece of plywood is a great way to become familiar with the mural painting process in many regards and I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to get into this medium.
For paint I use either spray paint such as IronLak, Flame, MTN 94, or Montana Gold or I use bucket paint. If you go to any of the big box home improvement stores you can get 8oz paint samples for around $3.50 and use those to paint, or buy quarts and gallons and mix as needed. The benefit of the 8oz samples is that its affordable to buy multiple colors and then you can get your colors right without mixing and accidentally making the wrong color. I do a fair amount of color mixing for some projects but for others its nice to just have the colors and focus on getting the job done. If you've never painted a mural before, consider focusing on a design that uses 5 colors that work well together and try that. Adobe Kuler is a free tool that is great for figuring out balanced color schemes. Most places can't match paint to Pantones but if you print your color scheme and match it to swatches you'll be sitting pretty. Of course, this is all based on what your particular style is, but this is a good place to start to get familiar with the materials and scale.
Step 12: Drill Holes for Concealed Hinges
I wasn't planning on buying this concealed hinge jig (or European style hinge as they're also referred to) but ended up getting it because I have another cabinet project after this and will have to install 8 more hinges, so I decided it would be worth it. In addition, I come this far with the build and really didn't want to accidentally drill through my frame and have to buy more lumber and build it again. You can install the hinges without it but just make sure to be super careful that you don't accidentally drill all the way though your frame.
The gray screws adjust how far the hinge will sit from the edge. I set mine to 3mm at the advice of the instructions. I then placed the jig on the frame and checked to make sure that I wouldn't drill through the frame. From what I found is that standard cabinets have hinges placed 3.5" from the top and bottom, so I lined up the jig with the ruler on the side and then clamped it down. Attach the bit and begin drilling.
Use a really thin bit (I apologize, I forget what size drill bit I used) for the small holes on either side of the large hole. I put the bit into the hole first and made sure it was the same depth before I drilled it. Once the small holes are done, use a larger bit so you can add the plastic inserts. Take a larger bit (5/8 I think) and use tape to mark the depth, and then drill into the small holes. Insert the plastic parts and use a hammer to get them all the way in if they won't go, but be gentle. Place the hinge in its spot and use the small screws to attach it. Then repeat the process and space out the hinges evenly.
Step 13: Install the Panel and Add Supports
After the panel was cut and fit, I cut thin boards to hold the panel in place. I had acquired a bunch of Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) lumber for free years ago and used that because it was about an 1/8" thick and looked nice for the inside of the door. It ended up not working as I planned though because the wood was so dense I couldn't get my screws to really tighten down to it like I could with pine, so I ended up ditching my original strips and replaced them. This way I was able to get my screws to really tighten into the lumber and stay secure. I would like to replace these blocky pieces eventually. If I were to do this again I would buy 1/8" pine and use that.
On second thought, if I were to do this again I would cut dados into the frame and and insert my panel in that way. When I had access to a nicer shop in college I used that method for framing pictures and it was great.
Step 14: Install the Door Onto Your Closet
Place your completed door in place and install the top hinge. Then measure where the edge of the hinge lands on the 2x4 and mark this spot on the 2x4 for every hinge. Install the bottom hinge and test that the door opens and closes properly. I had to lower the door about a quarter inch so it cleared the light. Finish installing the middle hinges after that. If desired, install a magnetic catch and also a handle.
Step 15: Thats a Wrap!
Thanks for checking out this Instructable, I had a blast building this project and writing this. A lot of the things that I did in this build were new to me. Although I've owned the pocket hole jig for at least a year, this was the first time I had to chance to use it and I absolutely love working with it. This was also my first time installing concealed hinges as well and its been a few years since I've used a router for this sort of project. Before I started this project I thought that building a closet was going to be super boring but it ended up being a ton of fun and I learned many new skills along the way.
Additional optional things:
-Install a floor. I left the floor carpet but I considered adding in a wood floor. It would make it nice but isn't really necessary.
-Install cedar on the inside. You can buy packs of cedar designed specifically for closets but its really expensive. You can also just buy cedar planks and use those. I'm considering doing that down the road but then again, it isn't really necessary.
Runner Up in the