In our small home, we need to take advantage of any and all closet space we can get. Our master bedroom actually has a decent closet, but ever since we moved into this house, we haven’t been able to use it because it was so terribly designed! Would you believe they make closets that are actually too small for hangers to fit?
So after trying several solutions, including using kid-sized hangers, which shockingly aren’t meant to hold adult clothes, this closet stood empty for 1.5+ years. We finally decided we were tired of wasting the space and we were going to put it to use one way or the other.
We went back and forth trying to make a decision as to whether or not we wanted a closet with shelves in our bedroom, but in the end we wanted to make our home work for us. So we took out the clothes rod and put in shelves to hold our towels, blankets, and sheets, since we desperately needed a linen closet.
If you’d like to create your own custom closet shelves, I’m detailing our process here for you to follow. Now before you think this is too complicated or you don’t have the right tools and know-how, I just want to tell you that we didn’t use any fancy power tools to do this, and we really have no special skills or training. If you can use a screwdriver, hammer, and basic drill, you can definitely do this! You don’t even need to cut the wood, because you can usually get it cut for free at your local hardware store.
Items Needed to Create Custom Closet Shelves
I’ve included affiliate links to the products we used to make these shelves. For more information, see my disclosure.
To determine the measurements of the wood cuts you’ll need, see below for how to measure!
- Wood for shelves (we used melamine board)
- 1 x 2s for shelf supports
- 1 x 3s for bracket supports
- Shelf brackets
- Screws: 2 inches long for the supports & shorter screws for the brackets
- Drywall anchors (only needed if you’re not drilling into the wall studs)
- Paint & paint brush
- Stud finder
- Measuring tape
- Saw (only needed if you won’t be getting the wood cut at the hardware store)
Measuring for Your Custom Closet Shelves
I’m including the dimensions we used for our custom shelves just to give you an idea, but these measurements are specific to our closet. Please take the time to measure your own closet before beginning so your shelves will fit! I always recommend double checking your measurements before getting your wood cut. Measure twice, cut once!
- Shelves: Determine how many shelves you want to install in the closet. Measure length-wise from one end of the closet to the other to get the length of your shelves. The width of the shelves depends on how large your closet is, and how wide you want the shelves to be. (We did three shelves. Two of our shelves are 68″ x 16″, and the top shelf is 68″ x 11″–we reused the one shelf that was already in the closet.)
- Shelf Supports: You will need one 1 x 2 support the same length as each shelf for each shelf. (Since we had three shelves 68 inches long, we had three 1 x 2 supports 68 inches long.) You’ll also need 1 x 2 supports as long as the width of the shelves, minus one inch (to accommodate for the longer 1 x 2s). You’ll need two of these for each shelf. (Since two of our shelves were 16 inches wide, we had four 1 x 2s that were 15 inches long. For the shelf that was 11 inches wide, we had two 1 x 2s that were 10 inches long.)
- Bracket Supports: You’ll also need some wood to support the brackets. Depending on how wide your brackets are, you might get away with using 1 x 2s for this. However, our brackets were too wide for the 1 x 2s, so we used 1 x 3s for the bracket supports. You’ll need one 1 x 3 for each bracket. It should be the length of your bracket, minus two inches for the 1 x 2 it will be up against. (We had six 1 x 3s that were 12.5 inches long.)
- Brackets: These will help support the weight of the shelves. We used two brackets per shelf for our shelves, which were 68 inches long. If your shelves are longer, you might need more brackets, and if they’re shorter, you’ll need less. The brackets should tell you how much weight they support. Make sure the brackets aren’t longer than your shelf.
How to Build Custom Closet Shelves
1. Remove any existing hardware from the closet that you won’t be keeping. You’ll probably only need a screwdriver to unscrew and remove any shelving or rods that are currently in the closet.
2. Measure and mark where you want to place the shelves.
3. Drill the 1 x 2 supports into the walls right along the lines where you will be placing the shelves. The long 1 x 2s should go lengthwise, and the shorter ones on the sides. Use a stud finder and try to get as many screws into the studs as possible, and use a level to make sure the supports are even. If you can’t find a stud, use wall anchors.
Important! If your closet is small, you’ll have to put your shelves into the closet before you finish drilling in all the 1 x 2s, or you might have problems getting them into the closet after you’ve drilled the supports in. We drilled the long supports along the back of the closet first, then balanced the shelves on top of them before drilling in the 1 x 2s on the sides.
4. Place the shelves flat down on the 1 x 2s and nail them into the supports.
5. Determine where you’ll be placing the brackets. Try to space them evenly and on a stud, if possible. Drill your 1 x 3s vertically below the 1 x 2 shelf supports where you’ll be placing the brackets.
6. If your closet looks anything like ours by the end of this, you’re probably going to want to paint it so that it looks nice when you show off those custom closet shelves you made! Our entire closet was pretty scuffed up from the project, so we repainted the entire thing. If you are careful, you might only have to paint your wood supports. (We did this before installing the brackets so we didn’t get paint on them, but if you prefer, you can install the brackets first, or just skip the painting altogether.)
7. Screw the brackets into the 1 x 3 supports and the shelves.
8. Step back and admire your gorgeous, hand built DIY custom closet shelves. They look pretty great, if I don’t say so myself. And I have to admit, that paint makes a huge difference, don’t you think?
I cannot even tell you how excited I was to put these shelves to good use and arrange all of our things on them. I’m weird, I know. This closet is so much more useful and functional now, and it’s the perfect place to store all of our linens!
So what do you think? Are you ready to make your own custom closet shelves? It’s honestly not a complicated project at all, and it’s so worth it in the end! If you’re stuck with a closet that’s just not working for you, I hope you will think about making your own custom shelves. It’s much cheaper than buying those pre-made closet systems at the store that are a huge pain to install. And, you can completely customize your shelves instead of being stuck with whatever limited options you have with those closet systems.
The second part of this project was turning our bi-fold closet door into french doors (in case you’re wondering why the closet doesn’t have doors in the majority of the pictures). Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about adding custom shelves to your closet in the comments. And if you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my newsletter. Sign up below for weekly craft, DIY, and home projects and tips!