How to Make Budget-Friendly Open Kitchen Cabinet Cubbies for Storage

This wall of assorted cubbies is an inexpensive, impactful way to display cookware.

Blue and white kitchen with cubbies
Photo: Stacey Brandford Photography
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 4 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

A handmade teapot. Her grandmother's vase. Vintage Pyrex baking dishes. These are a few of the collectibles Tanya Watson, who shares DIY and decor projects on her website, Dans le Lakehouse, longed to display in her Ontario, Canada, home. She also likes keeping her everyday dishes and glasses out in the open. So she and her husband replaced the old standard wall cabinets with simple wooden boxes they built, creating a series of kitchen cabinet cubbies.

Although the arrangement looks free-form, Tanya carefully planned each cubby's size and position. She built each kitchen cabinet cubby a different size for variety but kept them to either 12 or 16 inches deep to best fit the pieces in her collection. "If one cubby was slightly too big or too small, it would throw off everything," she says. The entire project took about four days, and Tanya kept costs to $250 by using materials she had. Check out the step-by-step instructions below on how to make this DIY kitchen cubby wall.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Stud finder
  • 1 Pencil
  • 1 Miter saw or table saw
  • 1 Clamps
  • 1 Nail gun
  • 1 Belt sander
  • 1 Drill
  • 1 Fine-grit sandpaper
  • 1 2-inch angled brush
  • 1 Small foam paint roller
  • 1 Damp cloth

Materials

  • 1 Painters tape
  • 1 12-inch deep laminated pine shelves
  • 1 Plywood
  • 1 Wood glue
  • 1 Nails
  • 1 Screws
  • 1 Wall anchors
  • 1 Wood filler
  • 1 Paintable caulk
  • 1 Semi-gloss paint

Instructions

  1. Prep the Wall

    Room with taped off areas
    Tanya Watson

    After taking down existing wall cabinets or shelves, fill small holes and repaint the wall as needed. Take stock of your dishes and collectibles to determine the sizes and orientations you need for the kitchen cabinet cubbies. Map out the desired arrangement on the wall with painters tape. Using a stud finder and a pencil, mark studs and wires to ensure each cubby overlaps at least one stud and that you don't hit wires during installation.

  2. Cut and Assemble the Cubbies

    overhead view of gluing wooden cubbies together
    Tanya Watson

    Use a miter saw or table saw to cut the wood into pieces according to your desired measurements. Use the pine shelves for the sides of the cubbies and plywood for the backs. You could also use plywood for all sides as a more affordable option. (For her cubbies, Tanya used a combo of white painted planks she had, new laminated pine shelving, and plywood for the backs.) Apply wood glue to the edges of four side pieces and one plywood back and press them together to create an open cubby.

  3. Secure the Cubbies

    using drill to install cubbies
    Tanya Watson

    Use wood clamps to hold each cubby together as the glue dries. Reinforce the joints with a nail gun. When the glue is completely dry, go over each cubby with a belt sander to smooth the sides and corners and remove excess glue.

  4. Install Cubbies on the Wall

    installing cubbies
    Tanya Watson

    Mounting the kitchen cabinet cubbies works best as a two-person job. Working from the bottom up, have one person hold each cubby in place while the other drills through the back. Attach each cubby using two screws in a stud and two into drywall anchors.

  5. Sand and Caulk the Cubbies

    Empty wooden box
    Tanya Watson

    Lightly sand the installed cubbies with fine sandpaper and fill nail and screw holes with wood filler. Apply a thin line of paintable caulk to the inside seams and where the cubbies meet the wall. "Taking the time to do this made everything look so seamless," Tanya says.

  6. Finish Cubbies and Style

    White Kitchen Cubbies
    Stacey Brandford Photography

    After the caulk has cured completely, paint the cubbies with a semigloss paint using a 2-inch angled brush and a small roller. When the paint is dry, lightly sand the surfaces and wipe off the dust with a damp cloth before applying another coat. Repeat these steps until you achieve an ultrasmooth finish. Stack dishes, glassware, serving platters, and other kitchenware inside and on top of the cubbies.

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