Like many people who live in an older home, my wife and I struggled to find an organized place to put our shoes and coats once we came in the door. We also wanted a place for our toddler to sit as we put on his shoes. As you can see from the first picture, I had an open space behind where my backdoor opens that became a shoe dumping area. We have a coat closet, but it is small and in an inconvenient area. So we attempted Living Without A Closet.
Step 1: Know Your Final Hardware, and Trim First.
My wife suggested a bench with an area we could place our shoes, and hang our coats. We started with the rule of selecting hardware, and trim before building. I found some trim at a local wood workers shop, while my wife ordered some hooks online.
Step 2: Reuse What You Already Have
I knew I wanted to use the existing baseboards, as I was afraid if I tore them out, it would create larger problems. I also didn’t want to waste wood that I could incorporate in the design. I started measuring the distance from the doorway to the end of the wall. This provided the total length of my storage area. I then divided it by 4 to account for each cubbyhole. I accounted for the width of the wood I was using to build each cubby. I used ¾ inch plywood. I then opened my door to figure out the distance from the door to the wall when the door is open at 100 degrees. If I had the door opened less than 100 degrees, we’d risk not being able to come in and out of the door freely. This provided a measurement for how deep the bench would be. I also determined height from testing benches at the mall and department stores. Find what is comfortable for you. Also consider the height of your shoes or boots to ensure the cubby’s are large enough. Once I figured lenth, depth and height dimensions, I knew how large the cuts were that I needed to make. I said in my previous step I also wanted to account for the existing trim. I pre-sanded and painted the ¾ inch plywood to make for a more finished product before I started assembly.
Step 3: Getting an Idea of Size and Depth
Once the wood pieces were cut, I put 1 box together to give me an idea of the size and depth. I tried this out in our hallway and my little helper wanted to fill it up with shoes right away.
Step 4: Pocket Holes Into Existing Trim
Next, I used a Kreg Jig to make pocket holes throughout all of my pieces to connect them together. The Kreg also worked to make holes to fasten my new wood to the existing trim. This created a solid anchor to the wall.
Step 5: Shelving
This bench was built with removable shelves. This made it easy to clean. Plus, my wife wanted a place to put boots in the winter. We simply removed on the shelves so that the boots fit without bending them. I used spare poplar wood pieces I had, ripped down to ¾ inch strips to hold the shelves in place. I also drilled a ¾ inch hole in the middle the removable shelves. This is so you can pull the shelf up with a finger, making it easy to remove.
Step 6: Keeping the Area Clean - Prepping for the Top
Once everything was screwed into place, my little helper wanted to make sure the area was kept clean, so we could install the top portion of the bench, and put a finishing coat of paint on the shelves. We used a Paint and Primer paint from Home Depot. It worked well, and keeps up to the dirty shoes we put inside. 2 coats should work fine.
Step 7: The Bench
The top portion is made from 1 ¼ inch thick Quarter Sawn White Oak. I didn’t stain the wood, but did finish it with Helmsman Spar Urethane. I’d suggest Generals Arm N Seal, as it’s been terrific on my other projects as well. I anchored the top by putting screws through the top portion of the shelves into the bottom of the oak. This way the screws are completely hidden.
Step 8: Know Where You Are Drilling
After the bench was finished, I went to work on the coat hanging portion. I purchased poplar from a local woodworking shop. Using a table saw, I ripped the Poplar to 1.5 inch pieces to create panels. My little helper and I drilled a few test holes into the wall to make sure we didn't hit the electric, water, and air-conditioning vent on the other side of the wall. (I turned my back for a second, and my helper put my screwdriver into one of the holes and stepped on it. This took a 4-inch piece of plaster out of our walls.)
Step 9: Wood Panels
I then screwed horizontal boards to the wall. After that, I screwed vertical boards into my horizontal boards using my Kreg Jig. I then filled the boards with wood putty, and caulk. I also calked around all the vertical boards. This made them look like wood panels connected to the walls. My little helper came back to help me sand.
Step 10: Top Shelf
The very top board is simply a 3.5 inch piece of poplar that was ripped on my table saw, and then routed on both sides to round the front. I then added trim. I used a nail gun with 1.5-inch nails to keep it in place. I then caulked around any area that could use it. For older homes that aren’t 100% square, caulk is essential.
Step 11: Hardware
Once painted, I added the hardware.
Step 12: Finished Product
This project could probably be done in a couple weekends. When we started we took our time. And because it wasn’t cold outside, we didn’t need the coat rack right away. So we actually completed it over 11 months. In fact, by the time we finished, we had another little helper.
Thanks for taking the time to look. If there is a step you are unsure of, please ask and I would be happy to help.
I had someone ask me what this cost. Below is what I paid. Of course it can be done for less, but this is what we paid. The Oak and Hooks were our largest cost. Definitely an area you can save here. We splurged on this to match some other furniture.
Plywood for the bottom / base - $45.00 Quarter Sawn Oak - $88.00 Polar for the top portion - $22.00 Trim for shelf - $16.00 Trim for base - $14.00 Paint / Helmsman Spar Urethane - $28.00 Hooks - $28.00 each Misc (Screws and Caulking) - $6.00
First Prize in the
Living Without Closets Contest