DIY Kitchen Cabinet/Pantry with Shelves

There’s a little nook in our kitchen with upper cabinets that used to have a washer and dryer below. Our laundry machines are in the basement, so there is a lot of wasted space in this little area of the kitchen. I considered buying a freestanding pantry that sort of looked like my cabinets. Here are a few of the contenders:

The vertical ribbing in the doors is similar to that of my kitchen cabinets, which are also white. But besides the not-ideal price tag, I couldn’t buy one with a height I wanted because these two pantries have been out of stock. But I had an epiphany while making my entry hall tree. The homemade wood shelf that moved to Virginia with us from New Jersey (and used to be our storage in the mudroom) was suddenly homeless and happened to be the perfect size to repurpose into a pantry.

Here’s our guy ^

The shelf was about 60 x 36″, but the ideal pantry for the kitchen is 41 x 28″. I measured the width of the sideboard, which is 3/4 of an inch, subtracted that measurement from 28 inches, and drew a line on each shelf at 27 1/4 inches. A circular saw made an easy job out of the cuts.

Then, I reattached the sideboard using wood screws; hiding the mechanics wasn’t totally necessary since this side will be facing the wall in the kitchen. Here’s the trimmed down version of the shelves:

To turn the shelves into a pantry, I needed doors and a back, but I really wanted to make it look like it belonged in the nook below my upper cabinets. Here’s what I came up with:

Turn shelves into a DIY kitchen pantry cabinet

Here are the steps to turn a standing shelf into a kitchen pantry.

You will need the following materials:

  • A bookshelf or other type of standing shelf
  • Plywood
  • Paint and paintbrushes (I used a roller and sponge brush for a smooth finish)
  • 2 knobs (I used these knobs from Hobby Lobby)
  • 4 cabinet hinges with screws
  • A appropriate saw to cut your materials
  • Nails or staples and a staple gun (only if you need to fasten a back board)
  • A screw driver to install the hinges
  • A level
  • Wallpaper or contact paper (optional; here’s what I picked)

Measure the space for the pantry. Decide whether to cut your shelves down or keep them their original size. If you do decide to cut them down, be sure to use the appropriate tool based on the shelf material.

Cut your cabinet doors from the plywood. Consider the thickness of the doors when purchasing your plywood. I used 1/4″ sanded plywood, but after buying it I didn’t like how thin the doors would have been. So, I cut four pieces to the correct door size and doubled them up, sticking two pieces together with wood glue for each door to get 1/2″ doors. We created the vertical ribbing with a table saw lowered almost completely so it barely grazed the wood. Then, paint the doors.

Create a border around the front perimeter using the plywood. This is where you’ll fasten the hinges. My border is 2″ at the top, 3″ at the bottom, and 1.5″ on each side. You’ll need to adjust these measurements depending on the size of your doors. I used a nail gun with a compressor to attach the border around the front. Once the border is secure, paint it.

Cut your back board. Your shelf may already have something backing it, especially if it’s like the classic IKEA Billy bookcase that comes with a thin piece to help hold the shelves’ shape. This is the time to paint or apply the wallpaper/contact paper if you want it. Then, attach the back board to the shelves using nails or staples.

Install your knobs on the doors. If you’re matching your pantry to your cabinets like I did, look at where your other cabinets have their knobs and mimic the spacing and height.

Install the hinges and attach the doors. Use a level to make sure they’re straight.

I’m a big fan of the way my pantry turned out. All in all, I only had to purchase the knobs, contact paper, and plywood, which totaled a whopping $34. Even if I had to buy the hinges, paint, and paint brushes, my all-in cost would still be a small fraction of the pantries I was looking at online.

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