This January, Scott and I will be welcoming a baby girl to our family! For the last handful of months, we’ve been working on the design for her nursery, but our biggest challenge has been around the size of the room. As is typical in an old Chicago home, the room is narrow and long; it’s no more than 7′ wide and 12′ long. Our goal for the room is to be able to fit a crib, shelving storage, a glider and changing table, and of course, we want it to feel comfortable, too. Luckily, we love small space problem solving, and we knew that in order to fit in all those main pieces, we’d need to borrow space from an unlikely space – the closet!
We wanted to add a hidden splash of color first, so we painted the inside of the closet a muted blush, Benjamin Moore’s Morristown Cream. It’s the sweetest backdrop for all the function we were hoping to squeeze into the space – and on a budget. After sketching a few ideas for the room, our idea was to create a closet that could house a changing table, ample storage for toys and baby supplies, and of course, room for clothing. Ideally, this would be a closet that our baby girl would grow into. Here’s how we achieved it!
Tools + Supplies Used
- Tracks + adjustable brackets
- Rod brackets
- Closet rod + end caps
- 4’ x 8’ x ¾” plywood sheet
- Wood veneer banding
- Edge Trimmer
- Compound miter saw
- Sanding paper/block
- Household iron
- Sheet of aluminum foil
- Water-based polyurethane
- 4” Foam roller
- Drywall screws + anchors
- Measuring Tape
What We Did
We started by measuring the closet, and we both drew a few ideas for shelving and storage. More often than not, putting pencil to paper helps both of us get on the same page! Once we landed on a design we both loved, we purchased a 4′ x 8′ sheet of ¾” thick furniture grade plywood from the hardware store. We chose plywood over the ready-to-buy shelves in the closet aisle for their strength and durability, even though we knew that would require more prep work on our end. We had an employee rip the plywood sheet lengthwise into 12″ strips, and we brought that home and got to work!
With the lengths already cut for us, the only other cuts we needed to make were for the widths of the shelves. With our design plan in hand, Scott used a miter saw to cut down all the proper widths, and we sanded the rough edges smooth.
While we do like the look of a raw plywood edge, we decided to try our hand at wood veneer banding to give our shelves a more polished look (and we were happy to learn that it’s incredibly simple to use). I purchased a veneer that was wider than the depth of the plywood, which would allow us to trim the edges for a cleaner look.
First, I cut strips of banding about 1″ longer than the width of the shelf, and we used a hot household iron to adhere it to the plywood. The instructions for the banding recommend that we use a sheet of aluminum foil between the iron and banding to prevent burning the plywood. To apply, we simply pressed the hot iron along the foil and banding for 5 seconds, and we worked our way along the length of the plywood. Tip: It’s helpful to have two people doing this job; one person to hold the plywood and one person to use the iron.
Once the veneer banding was applied, we used a spare block of wood to rub it into place, ensuring a secure bond.
After allowing the shelves to cool, we could trim the banding for a clean edge! We used an edge trimmer, a $5 tool made specifically for this type of project. With all the edges neatly trimmed, we lightly ran our sanding block over the edges once more and used a rag to wipe them clean.
We only used the veneer on the fronts and sides of the shelves (essentially, any side of the shelves that would be visible), but you can see here a comparison between a shelf with a veneer (on the left) and one with a raw plywood edge (on the right):
The last step in completing our shelves was to add a coat of water-based polyurethane. I used a small foam roller to smooth on 2 thin coats of Polycrylic in a matte finish, which would allow us to easily wipe down the shelves if needed. After the work we put in to create these custom shelves, this final step is worth it to preserve their durability for years to come!
Next, it was time to install the tracks to complete our closet system! We purchased these white tracks at the hardware store along with the coordinating adjustable brackets. Following our design plan, we used anchors to adhere them to the wall, making sure to use a level every step of the way. Tip: Not only do the tracks need to remain level vertically, but they also need to remain level side-to-side as well. Your trusty level will be your best friend for this step!
With all the tracks in place, we could add the shelves. We opted to leave a ½” gap between the shelves and the track, which would allow us to remove each shelf with the brackets attached down the road. Typically with this style of track and bracket, you would snug the shelf to the track, but if you wanted to adjust the shelf up and down, you would need to unscrew the shelf from the brackets, move the brackets, and re-attach the shelf. In leaving a small space at the back, we’ll have the flexibility to adjust the shelves as much as we’d like without taking them completely apart!
Before we installed the closet rod, we first used a stud finder to find the studs beneath the drywall. After marking them with blue tape, we were happy to learn that two of the rod brackets could be mounted directly into studs! For the third bracket, we used heavy-duty anchors to install. Tip: Start by installing a bracket on one side first and then use a shelf and a level to align the bracket on the opposite end.
Although the above may seem like a fair amount of steps, they’re all relatively simple and quick! The hardest – and most fun! – part came in choosing a changing table and baskets we loved.
Each side of the closet has a drywall bump out that hides plumbing beneath the walls. Rather than fight with them, we took advantage of the angles by creating adorable shelving niches! We were also sure to extend the closet tracks down the entire length of the wall, so that we could adjust the shelves to any height we wished down the road. For now, we opted to hang the shelves high, which left room for a diaper pail below:
The changing table is our favorite part of the entire closet. It’s a vintage dresser from MegMade, a local Chicago company that specializes in refinishing furniture in need of little attention. We placed a changing pad on top and hung a mirror above to complete the look. The drawers are nice and deep, which will be nice for us while the baby is still young, and we’re hoping that in five, ten and fifteen years from now, our girl will appreciate the ample storage space!
We’ve hung our tiny collection of baby clothes on the other side of the closet, but once baby no longer needs the changing table and mirror, the clothes can, of course, be hung across the entire rod.
There are also additional shelves with baskets for toy storage, teeny shoes and a spot for a laundry hamper. As she grows, the baskets will accommodate her changing needs – from diapers and burp cloths, to building blocks and a growing shoe collection.
We couldn’t be more smitten with the results of this blushing closet, and we’re even happier to report that the cost of all the shelving supplies and plywood came in well under $200!
The whole family – pups included – are looking forward to baby girl’s arrival! But first, we have a crib to assemble.