We bought a new house this summer. It's great - I absolutely love it, but EVERYTHING must be updated. As is typical, our car broke down on closing day, so we had to buy a new one as well as the house. This left us with very little leftover cash to fix anything up. I was really bummed out, until I realized I can do tiny micro projects for a few hundred dollars here and there.
The first thing I set my sights on was our front hall closet. It seemed no one had the energy to open the doors and put their jackets on a hanger. Plus, there was no good place to put school bags and gym bags, so my entire entryway became a pile of hoodies, shoes and bags. For some reason, the closet became a catchall for bizarre things, like toys and a random fan. Completely useless.
I wanted a place where, in one fluid motion, people could hang their jackets. I needed a bench for backpacks and to sit on for boot removal. I needed a space underneath the bench to kick the said boots, so they wouldn't be in anyone's way. It was clear I needed a mudroom-style closet.
My first step was looking for the most economical, yet functional design. It had to be simple, or I couldn't do it. I'm not Bob the fucking Builder and I have three kids, plus a puppy to deal with every ten minutes. Learning complicated woodworking skills was out of the question.
I decided on a simple design, a row of hooks, with a shelf above them, and a mid-century style hairpin leg bench, that was modern enough to be cool, but rustic enough that a total novice couldn't screw up the look of the wood.
At first, I was going to tile the back wall, but then I did not, because it's too close to Christmas and I did not have the budget for it. I decided on peel and stick wallpaper, instead. I could always come back to it in a few years, if I decide to re-finish it.
Now, when I say I'm a novice, I mean I am a novice. Sure, I've hung shelves and cut wood with a circular saw. I've used hammers and nails and screws and drills, but I've never stained wood or constructed anything worth remembering. So, if I can do this, so can you. No joke.
I screwed up here and there, because I didn't have a clear direction and my plans changed, so I am going to give you the steps in the correct order. I muddled through, but you will zip along.
What You Will Need for Planning
- Tape Measure
- Design Ideas
- Basic tools to remove screws and nails
Look at the closet and decide how you want it arranged, and what style you like: modern? Rustic? Southwestern? Victorian? Shabby Chic? I decided a cross between industrial and mid-century modern. Now is a good time to collect ideas on what colors you would like to use and what style hooks or bench legs.
Take the doors off and remove the long hanging bar that usually stretches the length of the closet. Completely clean the closet out and remove any shelving and trim you don't intend to keep.
I was left with a ledge of 1x4 wood that ran around the entire closet, which the old shelf sat on.
Measure every dimension. The height, the width, the length.
What You Will Need for The Closet Build
- 1x4 lumber
- Small sized baseboard trim
- Wood screws
- Peel and stick wallpaper, exacto or sharp box cutter, smoother
-Sander (hand or orbital)
-Respirator (*if you go with orbital)
-10-12 screw in hooks (I used 11)
Cut your 1x4 board so that one piece runs parallel to the one already on the back of the wall. Cut the other two pieces so they fit on top of the board that runs along each side. Screw them in, with two screws - one about a half inch from the top and one from the bottom, respectively - every few feet (preferably into studs.)
Sand the boards down so they are smooth and even, then patch the seams in between the boards and over the screws. Re-sand and smooth it all down, so it looks like you have one 1x8 board running the perimeter, not 2 1x4 pieces.
*If you have textured paint in your closet, like I did, you will also have to sand all the walls between the bottom of the board and the floor, or your wallpaper will not stick. do that while you sand the boards and make your life easier than I did.
Wipe everything down with a wet cloth. Get rid of all sanding dust and vacuum the closet out. Prep for your paint by taping down a plastic tarp on the floor.
After everything is dry, go ahead and paint all the walls your chosen color. This should go over the boards and above them. Underneath your boards can be sloppy, because you'll cover it up, later. I also painted my ceiling and the walls that faced inside the closet, even though you cannot see them unless you are inside the closet.
*Make it even easier, by painting everything, instead of bothering with peel and stick wallpaper at all. Skip Steps 9-12.
Measure the exact center of the board on the back of your closet wall and hang your first hook. It should be placed near the bottom of the boards, so you will have room to hang things when the shelf goes in. I spaced mine out 6 inches apart, from center to center. I put two on each side as well, though they would have fit three.
Starting in the center, hang your chosen peel and stick wallpaper from the base of your hook board, all the way to the floor, smoothing as you go with a large plastic smoother (I used a metal one I had in my garage.) Keep the design aligned and the seams parallel, according to package directions. Don't worry about the corners touching perfectly, because we'll trim over them later, just make sure the design lines up on both sides.
Make sure your trim is pine and not a plywood or composite like my dumb ass accidentally picked out, or the finishing nails will not sink in. Cut your trim pieces to line all around right underneath your hook board, then the floor, then down each interior corner, and finally, each outer edge corner.
Paint your trim to match your board and walls. Let dry.
Nail in your trim pieces every few feet. They will act as an edge to keep the wallpaper from peeling and hide any ugly edges or cuts. If you need, brush over all the nails with a little extra paint to conceal them.
What You Will Need for the Shelf and Bench
- One piece of 2x12 lumber (I used Douglas Fir) cut into the exact length wall to wall of your closet.
-Two pieces of 2x12 of the same lumber, cut about two to four inches shy of your wall to wall measurement.
-Wood Stain and a rag
- Spray on polyurethane
-Four 16 inch hairpin table legs
-Two long metal fasteners to secure the bench, plus screws.
Use the long metal fasteners to attach the two bench boards together. Make sure they are long enough to span 1/2 to 3/4 the width of the two pieces of wood. I put my fasteners approximately 8 inches from the center on either side. This will be your bottom, so make sure the "prettier" side is on top.
Sand all the wood. I used a 200 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander. make it smooth and buff the edges so they aren't too sharp. Wipe down with a wet cloth and remove all dust. Let dry.
Stain the wood according to directions. I used Minwax wood stain in Early American. I thought this part was going to be super hard, but it wasn't. Just apply thin coats and wipe quickly. No need to do the bottom of the bench, but you will have to do both sides of the shelf. Let the stain dry overnight.
Apply a few thin coats of spray polyurethane (it was easier than the wipe on stuff, in my opinion) according to directions. Let dry and off gas for a bit.
Screw the hairpin legs into each corner of the bottom of the bench. Viola!
I even had a little wood leftover, so I bought four tall hairpin legs and made a cute hallway table.
Pop the shelf in, so it rests on your top 1x4, and if you want, you can secure it with a little wood glue. Slide the bench on into the closet. There you go, very simple. The hooks and legs were the only expensive part, because I wanted a specific look. My lumber barely scratched $50. I probably spent $350 total. In fact, I'll share some purchasing links below to give you some ideas.
Here are some handy-dandy shopping links, if you like what you see, or just to get a gauge of pricing. My lumber was bought from Home Depot, and my trim from Lowe's.
I used the Craftsman legs for the bench and the other hairpin legs for my hallway table. Those come in many colors and sizes. I used both Minwax products and the white/black wallpaper. I did not use the other two wallpapers or those specific hooks, I just thought they might be interesting for a different look. Good Luck Handy Mannys!