You could buy one of those metal or wood shelving units that fit over the toilet....but that takes up floor space and if you have a smaller toilet, it's uncomfortable because your back and/or head bumps into it every time you sit on the toilet.
Of course, a renter could buy shelving units to house all those pictures and dust collecting objects that they just couldn't do without. But that takes up more floor space, makes the rooms feel far smaller than they really are and (most importantly) who wants to go through the expense of renting a house, the moving expenses and then on top of that have to buy storage solutions?
My solution? Add shelving between the wall studs! This was a very messy project but a very attractive solution! It takes up zero floor space and adds life to an otherwise blank wall. It will also make your rental stand out from all the others potential renters might view. They might not remember if the yard was fenced but they'll remember the built-ins. They add valuable storage and display areas while giving the home character. It's a win/win.
Here are some examples. Below the photo's I will give you step by step instructions.
Below are more photo's for inspiration
...and yes, you can add doors simply by installing the hinges and hanging the doors.
By the way, while you're building the shelves between the studs, why not build some simple boxes to go beneath it for even more built-in storage??
Now that you've seen the completed projects, let's get on to how to do this in your space.
Bear in mind that you can only have the width and depth that your house will allow. The first thing you have to do is find a wall that you want to rip into.
- Find the studs in that wall and mark each stud with a thumbtack (or you can use a sharpie and clean up afterwards). Then taking your hammer knock out the sheetrock between the studs. NOTE: try to be careful during this process for two reasons. First, you don't want to knock into any electrical or plumbing that might be hidden in the wall and secondly, you don't want to damage the sheetrock that covers your studs. I chose walls that didn't have any electrical outlets on them to minimize the risk of finding electrical wires.
- Once you have knocked away enough sheetrock to expose the area between the studs, take a sheetrock knife (I actually used a large serrated knife typically used to cut ham) and trim up the edges.
- At this point there are two ways to continue. You can either build a box that fits tightly into the opening or you can use the existing studs and back wall as your box. If you choose to go this route, all you will have left to do is install the shelves, paint and trim it out!
- If you go with the first option, there will be some measuring and cutting to do. The end result will not vary greatly from option number two. However, with option 1, if you are off in your measurements, you will have to recut, renail and try again. I don't know about you but I'm not good enough with this type of precision, so I chose to go with option number two and build off what was already there.
- One issue you might have with the second scenario - you have to make sure that the studs butt up against the back wall for this to work. If it very nearly butts up, you can still use this procedure but you will need to apply paintable caulking to fill in the gaps otherwise your cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter will escape quite easily. Gaps will also allow critters such as spiders easy access to the interior of your home. To me the most important reason is because if you don't close up the gaps - it just looks ugly! Once you have applied caulk and painted, no one will ever be able to tell - promise!
- Once you have opened your space and trimmed up the sheetrock, wipe the area clean and paint. I like to use the same wall color for the back board and studs and then paint only the trim white. It gives it a lot of depth. However, if you paint the entire area white will make it pop!
- While the paint is drying, begin to cut your shelves. I used regular MDF (medium density fiberboard) for my shelves. NOTE: MDF should never be cut indoors! Also, when knocking in the wall always turn off the HVAC until you have gotten rid of all the dust or it can and will clog up your filter. I like to use MDF because it's cheap and since I'm not going to be putting anything heavy on the shelves, it will hold up really well. If you are going to have 3 shelves you will still need to cut 5 pieces. 3 for the shelves, 1 for the top of the area and one for the bottom to close up the gap. I then used plain, cheap quarter round (or toe kick) to make my shelf supports.
- When you go to the lumber store to get your lumber, don't be afraid to take your measurements with you and get them to do all your cuts for you. Each store varies but most will give you a couple of free cuts when you buy the lumber and will charge you a nominal fee for any additional cuts that you want. I had my MDF cut for the shelves but cut my own quarter round and trim.
- While you are there, pick up your trim. I used a plain corner trim for the sides of the opening and also for the front of the shelves. As the name suggests, corner trim is typically used on corners. I then picked up trim that matched the existing trim in the hallway to put at the top and bottom of my unit. Tip. Before you go to the lumber store, take a photo of the existing trim and take that with you when you shop for the trim for your shelving project. You may think you remember what your baseboard trim looks like, but once you are confronted with 50+ just every so slightly different trims....you can get a bit confused. Another tip. You can purchase trim that is already primed. This cuts down on the painting part of this project and normally it only costs a few pennies more than the plain wood.
- Once you have everything cut and ready, use brad nails to attach the quarter round inside your unit to act as a support for your shelves. Make sure the flat part is facing up so you can sit your shelves on top and that each side is exactly the same distance otherwise your shelf will tilt. Also, make sure the piece you have cut is wide enough to give amble support to your shelves but short enough that it doesn't interfere when you are trying to put your front trim on.
- The first shelves to install should be the top and bottom that will serve as the interior top and bottom of your unit. Attach supports just below the sheetrock on the bottom and then set the shelf on top. For the top part put the supports as close to the opening as possible allowing just enough room to put your shelf in. Then continue to the rest of the shelves.
- Don't worry about nailing the shelves onto the supports. If you have cut your shelves to fit snugly into the opening, they will sit there without wobbling. Also, should you decide to place something tall in your unit later, you can always take a shelf out if it's not nailed into the support.
- Once you are satisfied with the placement of your supports and the shelves, it's time to do the trim. The corner trim is awesome on this project because it covers the edges of the sheetrock where you have trimmed it and it gives it a wonderful finished look. After the corner trim is applied to the sides of your opening, attach the top and bottom trim.
- Now that the unit has been completely assembled, it's time to grab the caulking gun. Look for any spaces between the shelves and the back wall or studs, gaps between the trim and the wall, etc. Give each space a good bead of caulk and then smooth it flat. Allow 24 hours for the caulk to completely dry. Then paint and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
This is one of the easiest and most rewarding projects that I have ever done. It really gives an air of custom built-ins to any room and makes any wall look finished. While this is a messy chore, it's not at all difficult and costs next to nothing. Little bit of wood and a little bit of paint.