We have a tiny little closet on the second floor and we wanted to turn it into a linen closet. It’s a very narrow but deep space, measuring only 20½” wide and 21″ deep.
It was a pretty sad sight when we first bought the house. It only had a little rod and shelf.
We got rid of that rod and shelf pretty quickly as well as the awful yellow.
I really liked the idea of painting the inside of the closet a different colour and even got some paint samples… but in the end we decided to go with white because it’s a pretty dark space and we wanted it to be as light as possible.
When we painted the rest of the upstairs, we primed the closet but never painted it because I had this colour idea. So we unfortunately had to paint the inside of the closet.
Three coats later, there wasn’t a hint of yellow to be seen!
Types of Shelving
Once the closet was built, it was time to install the shelving.
It took us a while to figure out what kind of shelving system we should build. There are several to choose from and it was difficult to figure out what all of the options were.
Because we’re never used this closet, and we’ve never had the luxury of a dedicated linen closet before, we really didn’t know what our needs were. We would likely store the obvious linen closet-y items like towels, extra sheets, maybe our 48 rolls of toilet paper… the possibilities were endless. So we decided to install an adjustable shelf system so we had some flexibility.
There only seemed to be a couple of options for adjustable shelving. We could have a peg system (like a billy bookcase) or use track shelving. We opted for the track shelving option because it was much easier to install and readily available (and it looked nice). Here’s an example of what we were going for:
We found a reasonably priced, good quality option at Lee Valley for around $140.
Installing the Shelves
Installing the rails took the longest since we wanted to make sure that they hit studs and were straight and level. Also, working inside the closet was pretty awkward.
We started by drilling small holes into the back wall to find the studs. Luckily we hit studs a couple of inches out from each side.
We wanted to install the rail so that it had the same spacing between the top of the rail and the ceiling as between the bottom of the rail and the baseboard. Since we haven’t installed our baseboard yet, we had to remember to take this into consideration.
To install the first rail, we figured out how height and how far out from the wall it needed to be and screwed in one screw. We then used a level to make the rail straight and then screwed in the remaining screws to make it secure. We also used 3″ screws to make sure it went as deep into the studs as possible.
Once the first rail was in place, we then needed to install the second, making sure the height and spacing were right. We didn’t just copy the spacing from the first rail. Instead, we installed the rail at a height that would make the shelf level. We used a small little shelf that had a straight edge to figure this out.
Just like the first rail, once we had the height and screwed in one screw, we used the level to make the rail straight.
We were pretty happy to have these guys installed. It wasn’t overly complicated, but our arms were tired from holding them in place.
Making the Shelves
Luckily we had a bunch of leftover plywood from our fauxdenza project, so we used that to make our shelves. It probably saved us about $100 in wood.
Our closet is 20½” wide and 21″ deep. We wanted to shelves to come almost all the way to the opening of the closet, so we decided to make them 20″ deep to leave about an inch of clearance. Since our plywood was 24″ x 8′, we first had to use the table saw to rip it to the right depth.
Once we had the right depth, we cut four 20½” pieces.
Once all the pieces were cut, we sanded them using 80, 150 and 350 grit sandpaper (these were the grits we had on hand). I likely should have just used 150 and 400 because they’re not as smooth as I would have liked, but I made my peace with it since it meant not going to the hardware store.
Once the shelves were cut to the right size and sanded, we applied veneer to the edge of each shelf (like we did when we made the fauxdenza). I only veneered one edge (the edge that will face the hallway) and was careful to pick where that edge should go based on the condition of the wood grain.
Once the glue from the edging was dry, I sanded the shelves one more time.
The next step was to stain the wood. I used Jel’d stain because I still had some from fauxdenza project and it’s really the only product that is effective on birch. I also used the same technique as I did for the fauxdenza: I used a rag to apply the stain, working it into the wood. I then made sure to wipe off any excess so it didn’t streak. I stained both sides of the wood, as well as the veneered edge.
Warning: Make sure to drench the used rag in water before throwing it out. Apparently this stuff can randomly catch fire.
I let the stain dry for a day before applying the finish. We used Varathane’s clear, satin water-based finish because we had it leftover from the fauxdenza project. I applied the finish to both sides of the wood and the front veneered edge using a foam brush.
When the shelves were dry we placed them in the closet. The shelf brackets have screw holes, so we could have fastened the shelf to the bracket, but decided against it. The weight from whatever we put on the shelves will hold it down, and because the shelves are snug against the walls, they won’t slide around. Plus, this leaves us with the most flexibility to change the configuration as needed.
The existing closet didn’t have a door. It’s a very awkward closet because it’s narrow and doesn’t have a door jamb. Installing a door jamb would mean losing some of the width of the closet, so we decided against a standard door.
We did, however, consider installing a 5 panel door with some barn door hardware, but that was a complicated option too. Most barn door hardware sits about an inch away from the wall and because our baseboards are thicker than that, we would have had to order special hardware.
Also, given that we had a baby on the way, we decided to leave the closet open and call it a day. The closet looks nice anyways so I’m not too fussed. Plus, we can always install a door later if we find that the closet is out of control messy.