Handy Pop-up Trunk Shelf




Introduction: Handy Pop-up Trunk Shelf

About: Life is a series of projects. Woo-hoo!

My SUV is great, the third row seat gives me plenty of room for my kids and their friends but it makes for a short trunk area. That leaves two options when I have a load of groceries; either fold down the third row seat, or stack the groceries in the back. Here's the problem, if I fold down the third row it leaves a cavernous space and my groceries (or sports items on the weekend) roll around and get smashed plus I have to crawl around back there to gather the groceries when I get home to unload. If I stack the groceries instead, invariably my bread/fruit/eggs/chips get squashed and when I open the lift gate at home the items stacked on top fall out to the ground.

What I really needed was a two shelf system to give me some help separating delicate groceries or keeping muddy cleats away from everything else. But, it had to stow away flat when I need to haul bigger, bulkier items.

My solution is a Pop-up Shelf. It saves me money by not having to replace grocery items, effort by not having to clean mud off of our sports items, and frustration by giving me easy access to everything without digging through a pile of stuff to find what I need. I also feel more secure about hiding shopping bags or purses out of sight when I need to leave them in the car. Want to build your own? Check out this Instructable you're on your way.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

To make this shelf you'll need the following supplies:

1. Open Wire Closet Shelf - I bought a 48" piece from Home Depot that fit perfectly in my trunk ($6.00)

2. 2 Legs - I used a pair of legs made for fold down seating on boats. They are lightweight and very strong plus they lock in place in the up and down positions(17.99 each online). I splurged on these legs but you could easily substitute wire folding locker shelves at $4.99 a piece.

3. Grey auto-grade carpet - I bought a 4' x 3' piece at Home Depot ($4.92 / .41 per sq. ft)

4. 8 zip ties - I had some in my garage but they are cheap and widely available.

5. 2 teacup hooks - I had these in my garage too, but they are also cheap and widely available (Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc)


1.A needle and thread - I used a heavy duty upholstery needle and heavy duty thread.

2. A hacksaw - to trim the legs if needed.

3. scissors and/or a box cutter

Step 2: Trim Shelf and Legs to Fit Your Trunk

Measure your shelf to your trunk. The shelf should be deep enough to reach from the back of the seat to within an inch of the lift gate when the lift gate is closed. The shelf should be mounted high enough to allow it to fully hinge down against the back seat, but low enough to allow the backseat to be a back wall (you don't want groceries rolling over the backseat). Be sure to hold the shelf at the height it will be mounted to get the correct length, most vehicles narrow from bottom to top. The shelf should be long enough to reach from side to side of your vehicle. Pre-cut 48" shelves work for many vehicles, mine included.

Now measure for the correct height for the legs. You want your shelf to incline ever so slightly towards the front of the car. This prevents items from rolling off the shelf when you open the lift gate. My legs needed to be trimmed. I used a hack saw to trim the length and then sanded the cut smooth. I removed the rubber plug from the trimmed off section by pushing it with a wooden dowel and then re-installed it to the remaining leg.

If you use the option of folding wire locker shelves they are often usable as-is. The reason I chose the tube legs is for their ease of use and strength, plus I like the way they look.

Step 3: Add Shelf Hooks and Secure the Legs

Now that your shelf and legs are sized, we will add the mounting hooks and secure the legs to the shelf.

Take your shelf and hold it where it will be mounted in your trunk. Screw the teacups hooks into place at either end of the back of the rear seat to mount the shelf. The back of my seat is a board covered by carpet as are many seats. It easily accepts small screws. Mounting the shelf on hooks makes it easy to remove (if you ever want to completely remove the shelf).

With the shelf hung in place, pull the shelf up and prop it up with the legs. Position the legs far enough away from the sides of the vehicle and each other to allow you to easily fold the legs up and down without obstruction. When you've positioned the legs to your satisfaction fasten the legs to the shelf with your zip ties. Run the zip tie through the screw holes on the leg bracket and pull it tight around the wire of the shelf. The zip ties do not hold any weight, they are only used to keep the leg firmly in place.

Now the structure of your shelf is complete, time to make it look nice.

Step 4: Upholster the Shelf - Cut the Carpet

At this point your shelf is functional but not pretty. If you want to make it look nice you'll need to cover the shelf with carpet to match your vehicle's interior. I used a gray carpet that was slightly darker than my interior. It was inexpensive and right in front of me at Home Depot so I bought it. I may switch it out at a later date to a more exact match but for now I like it well enough.

Take your shelf off of the hooks and bring it to a big flat surface. My kitchen island is my go-to work surface but tables work too. Place your carpet piece face down and put your shelf down on top of it, aligning it with the edges of the carpet. You are going to cut notches into the carpet so it will wrap tightly around the shelf.

Pull one edge of the carpet up over the back end of the shelf and fold it up to the back of the shelf's overhang on the front end. I clamped the carpet in place nice and tight to hold it in place while I cut out notches to fit the carpet around the legs. Next, cut notches on the short side of the carpet flap so the carpet can wrap around the front edge of the shelf. Only cut the sides of the front notches, do not remove the flap you've cut. You will tuck the flap under the leg bracket.

Step 5: Upholster the Shelf - Sew on the Carpet

To secure the carpet to the shelf you will be sewing it in place. If you do not sew you can substitute a strong glue, upholstery glue or carpet glue will do. Sewing will be a longer lasting option.

Start by folding the flap over the back of the shelf and stitching a line along the back edge of the shelf from the left edge to the right edge. I used the clamps again to hold the carpet nice and flat to make the stitching quick and easy. A simple running stitch will do the job. I used black thread which sunk into the carpet, so the stitching did not show. This is a plus because my stitching was quick and effective but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing.

Next fold the carpet over the front end of the shelf, taking care to tuck the flaps under the leg brackets. Tuck the front flap under the flap from the back edge of the shelf. Use the clamps to hold it in place. Sew another running stitch from the shelf's right to the left edge along the short overhang of the front of the shelf. This stitch will hold the carpet tight to the front overhang on the shelf.

Next fold down the back edge flap over the front edge flap. Sew a running stitch down the middle of the shelf from the right to left edge of the shelf. Sew another running stitch just behind the overhang to hold the front edge of the flap securely. Finish by sewing the left edge upper and lower carpet together and then repeat on the right edge.

Step 6: Add Holes for the Hanging Hooks

Your shelf is wrapped in carpet, but you need 2 small holes to be able to hang the shelf on the hooks. To do this, first bring the shelf to your trunk and mark the location of the hooks onto the shelf carpet. You want your holes to line up with your hooks, so don't just eyeball the measurement (this is the voice of experience talking).

Bring the shelf back to your work space and use a blade or scissors to cut out a small hole at the back of the shelf. Cut through the top carpet layer first and then the bottom carpet layer. Now to finish the hole, stitch around the edge of the hole to pull the top and bottom carpet layers together tight. Repeat this for the second hole.

Now go back to your trunk and hang your shelf.

Step 7: Popping Up the Shelf

To pop up your shelf just grab one side and pull it up towards you. Push the button on the leg and swing it down into position until you hear it click into place and lock. Do the same for the second leg.

To fold the shelf down push the button on the leg and fold it back up until it clicks into place. Do the same thing for the second leg. Swing the shelf down and let it rest against the back off the rear seat. It will snug into place. You can leave it up or down when not in use.

Enjoy your new shelf.

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47 Discussions


10 months ago

I am wondering if I can attach to one back seat, so I still have access for longer items if needed. I have a Versa hatchback. Just attach shelf with 2 hooks on one seat back, but use 2 legs for the length. or would it be better to make 2 one for each back seat.

I think I'll make this, but I'm going to flip the shelf so the lip points up instead of down. That should provide a lip to help secure items on top, and will provide an extra inch of clearance underneath.


1 year ago

I love this idea

This is a pretty excellent storage shelf! I wonder why the car manufacturers haven't come up with anything like this on their own. Thanks for sharing your idea mate.

3 replies

My Chevy HHR has a feature like this submerged into the floor. very handy, allows my to close it hiding items under it too.

My 2004 Toyota 4Runner has a cargo shelf. Flip two latches, lift it up and push back, and then latch it into place. About 8 inches of space, underneath, if I recall correctly, so maybe not enough for groceries, but works well for a lot of things. And, since I almost always have a moving blanket in the back of the car, I'm not as worried about "dirty" things.

My first Chevy Equinox in 2005 had something similar, it laid flat in the cargo area, and flipped for two sides - one side carpeted to match interior, the other side hard plastic (which matched interior) so that yo could put wet things, etc on it and it wouldn't damage carpet. You could fit it in - I forget exactly how, with either side up, and it allowed you to store underneath (unseen) and on top! When I bought in 2008, it wasn't there! I think now you have an option for it!

this is perfect. I have a tiny car (a vauxall aguila if your wondering) but with a young family, and elderly parents, I do a LOT of shopping, and never have enough room. I am now building one of these too.
I'll share photos when done :D thank you so much

1 reply

having just been outside to measure up, I find out my back seats are actually backed with a steal pannel, not board, so mine will have to be a 4 legged one rather than hinged, but thats still prety good


2 years ago

Could you please post more photos of step three? Also I am confused as to how the tea cup hooks are strong enough to hold much weight. My car has leather not carpet so I am concerned about tearing it up with the hooks. I tossed an old refrigerator that wasn't working and kept all of the wire shelves and plastic drawers. I'm wondering if some of those might work for repurposing.

I LOVE this idea, and can't wait to try it. I may try a variation and divide the shelf. I often just put one side down flat. But i think you could do this with two legs on one side and one on the other/shorter side?

I love, love, love this idea! I had a hard time finding the legs, but did finally find them at http://greatlakesskipper.com for $9.95 each. The shipping was as much as the legs! So I kept searching and found the same legs from the same seller on ebay at a third of the shipping cost - go figure. Here's the brand and item number they gave:

Rinker 220436 White Marine Plastic 7/8 In Boat Support Leg

What were the sizes of your legs and where did you order them?

What were the sizes of your legs and where did you order them?

I'm waiting for the legs to come in and debating on doing the carpet. A suggestion to this since you do have it is for example I use those large thirty one totes for groceries. You can add Velcro to the bottoms so they stay put and don't slide around. Can't wait to see how mine comes out. My opening to the trunk is a little weird so I can't do anything completely deep enough that would fold

I love this I am definitely making one for my SUV ?? Thanks for sharing

Great Idea! Would this work to use paracord or nylon woven material to make a loop that goes around the shelf & the head rest instead of using hooks? I also think that maybe leaving out using the carpet, or only carpet 1/2 of the shelf, so you could use "S" hooks hanging from the wire shelving to hang even more bags would be cool. I will try this when I can get 2 legs ordered from Amazon.

Anyone have a link to where to buy the legs? I'm having trouble finding them online for a reasonable price. Thanks!

1 reply

Here's some I found on Amazon, under $16 each :)


I really love this I have several of these wire shelves when I first seen your pictures I thought maybe you had used wood this makes it much lighter I am definitely making one for my SUV ?? Thanks for sharing !