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Modifying Built-in Wardrobe Storage Space

Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.

Modified Built-in wardrobe and cupboard in our home-office

Modified Built-in wardrobe and cupboard in our home-office

The Wardrobe’s History

When we bought our home all the furniture in the spare bedroom was built-in, including the single bed and beside table; and the wardrobe. When we converted the spare bedroom into our home-office I dismantled the built-in bed, bedside table, removed the cupboard doors above the wardrobe (because they restricted access to the cupboard), and dismantled the fireplace and chimney breast to create extra floor space.

However, we decided to keep the wardrobe intact because it provided overflow for our other wardrobes, and because if we ever converted the office back into a bedroom we would already have a built-in wardrobe.

Wardrobe’s Layout and How it Evolved Over Time

The wardrobe measures about 2ft deep and 4ft wide. Initially it had two large doors, and on the left hand side was large pigeonhole shelving, made from white veneered chipboard, that was about 18 inches in depth and 1ft wide. To the right of that was one long clothes rail, going from left to right that was about 3ft in length.

Adding a side desktop as part of a major makeover of the office about ten years ago blocked off one of the wardrobe doors. The impact of this was that access to the clothes through the remaining door was restricted by the pigeonhole shelving. The other issue was that with it being such a small room access to the wardrobe doors were restricted by the office chair.

To remedy these issues:-

  • I modified the remaining wardrobe door to a folding door; to reduce its floor space when open, and
  • I dismantled the pigeonhole shelving and replaced it with new shelving around the corner of the wardrobe e.g. moved the shelving from the left hand side to the right hand side.

However, this was not an ideal solution as the clothes then restricted access to the shelving.

Therefore, during our recent major makeover of the office my definitive solution was as follows:-

  • Dismantle the large shelving on the right hand side, and build a small bookcase on the left, at the back of the wardrobe, so that it doesn’t restrict access to the clothes. The bookcase, made from pine floorboards, being 2ft wide and 6 inches depth, and
  • Turn the clothes rail around 90 degrees, locating it on the right hand side.

The effect of these two minor changes was to effectively create a mini walk-in wardrobe.

The other modifications I made to the wardrobe as part of the office makeover included:-

  • Building the rear computer speakers into the wardrobe.
  • Repairs to the brick wall inside the wardrobe, and decorating to make good.
  • Laying laminated flooring in the wardrobe, and the cupboard above the wardrobe, and
  • Adding a folding door to the cupboard above, to match the existing wardrobe folding door.

Recessing the speakers into the wardrobe cupboard gave a more aesthetic finish to the office, and enabled me to fit folding doors to the cupboard above the wardrobe.

The laminate flooring I used was spare flooring leftover from when I did repairs to the floor after removing a fitted three drawer unit in the alcove.

Below is a step-by-step guide to the changes I made to the built-in wardrobe and cupboard during the recent home-office makeover.

Recessing Rear Speakers into Cupboard Above Wardrobe

Because of the shape and design of the wardrobe cupboard each speaker would need to be recessed differently; and the cabling for one of the speaker would need extending.

The stages in recessing the speakers:-

  • Decide where and how the speakers will be recessed into the cupboard.
  • Select the required wood; which in this case was recycling scrap wood.
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For the rear right hand speaker (on left when facing the wardrobe):

  • Cut a section of the cupboard’s frame to fit the speaker.
  • Make a platform and brace to seat the speaker on and brace the cupboard frame.
  • Cut and fit a decorative facing in front of the platform and brace.

For the rear left hand speaker (on the right when facing the wardrobe):

  • Make a side support to contain the speaker.
  • Cut and fit a decorative facing over the side support.
  • Cut a facing plate from 4mm plywood to fill the gaps above and to the right of the speaker.

Modifying the Wardrobe’s Interior

After removing the old shelving and clothes rail in preparation for modifications, the three phases of this part of the project were:-

  1. Resize and relocate the clothes rail; turning it 90 degrees to how it was previously.
  2. Built a new bookcase (from pine floorboards) to replace the old veneered chipboard shelving; and relocate to a more accessible position.
  3. Repair the plaster on the brick wall inside the wardrobe, and paint to make good.

After the Interior Modifications

Relocated clothes rail, and new bookcase inside the wardrobe.

Relocated clothes rail, and new bookcase inside the wardrobe.

Repositioning the Clothes Rail

The existing clothes rail went the full width of the wardrobe, which was about 4ft, but because of the shelving around the corner only about 2ft of the rail was usable.

In turning the rail around 90 degrees, to put it where the shelving used to be, I would need to cut the rail almost in half; the depth of the wardrobe.

Because the original rod was so long, for added strength, there was a thick metal rod inside the clothes rail. I was able to cut the clothes rail with a pipe cutter, but the metal rod inside had to be cut with a hacksaw.

The clothes rail is located in position and supported by two wardrobe rail end support brackets. I reused the same brackets, which I screwed into place a couple of inches below the top of the wardrobe to give some clearance when hooking the clothes hangers over the rail. However, because the panel on the front of the wardrobe is only 12mm (½ inch) thick I screwed and glued a wooden block to it to give additional depth for screwing the bracket in more securely. I could have used smaller screws, but because of the weight of the clothes, I wanted to use longer screws to take the weight.

Once the two brackets were in place, and the clothes rail cut to size (just a few mm shorter than required to give some clearance when fitting) it was just case of clipping the clothes rail in position.

Preparing Bookcase for Assembly in Wardrobe

The wood used was:-

  • Pine floorboard, used for the shelves and side support, and
  • Salvaged wooden beading, used for shelf supports on one side only.

The steps I took for making and fitting the bookcase were:-

  1. Take accurate measurements of where the bookcase is to be fitted; on the principle of ‘measure twice, cut once’, to reduce the risk of error.
  2. Acquire the required wood.
  3. Cut the pine floorboard to size for the shelves and side support.
  4. De-nail and clean-up the salvaged window beading for recycling as self supports.
  5. Cut the beading to size.
  6. Cut notches out of the back of the shelf side, top and bottom, to profile the skirting board etc.
  7. Round off all the edges and corners with an electric sander.
  8. Fitting a pair of modesty blocks to the underside of each shelf, on the left hand side only. The right hand side would be support by the recycled beading.
  9. Using a tape measure, pencil and square to measure and mark the lines for fitting the beading as shelf supports.
  10. Glue and tack (using a staple gun) the beading into the marked positions on the side panel.
  11. Using white spirit to clean off the sawdust, and then oiling the wood with teak oil, and waxing with beeswax. Alternatively you could use wood dye, wood stain, varnish or paint. I opted for a light finish, because being inside the wardrobe the light coloured wood would reflect more light.
  12. Drilling pilot holes in the side panel, just above the shelf supports, so that on assembly the side panel could be securely fixed to the shelves; giving a solid finish.

Assembly of Bookcase inside Wardrobe

  1. If you’ve measured for a tight fit you should be able to wedge the side panel more or less where you want it inside the wardrobe; it makes assembly a lot easier than trying to support a loose fitting side panel as you fit the shelves.
  2. Assuming the side panel is a tight fit, working from the top down, you should be able to gently wedge the top shelf in place, and level it off with a spirit level. Then screw it in place; on the left hand side using the modesty blocks, and on the right hand side by screwing through the pre-drilled pilot holes in the side panel directly into the side of the shelf.
  3. Repeat the process for each shelf; working from top to bottom.
  4. The side panel can then finally be fixed to the wardrobe at the top and bottom; using the same modesty blocks used for the right hand side shelf supports.

Plaster Repair and Decorating Interior Brick Wall

Being an old British home with brick walls it’s not unusual for old plaster to crack and crumble. The repairs are quite modest and straightforward:-

  • Remove any loose plaster.
  • Brush out any loose dust.
  • Prepare your plaster, and get your tools ready.
  • Plaster over the damage, smooth off with a damp float, and sand smooth when dry if required.
  • Leave for 24 hours and then paint to make good.

For this job I used wall plaster which required adding water to powder and mixing before use. Alternatively you could use ‘ready mixed’ plaster, or Polyfilla or similar for small jobs.

We always opt to white emulsion walls inside cupboards for maximum reflection of light; to improve visibility.

Laying Laminated Flooring in Wardrobe and Cupboard

During the office makeover a section of floor in the alcove, where a built-in drawer unit was removed, needed re-flooring to match the rest of the office floor. As it was in the alcove, and would largely be hidden by new furniture, a colour match wasn’t essential; but to fit properly it had to be the same thickness as the existing laminated floor.

Therefore I needed to buy one pack of laminated flooring, and a metal flooring strip to securely join the new with the old.

Once I’d finished the repairs to the alcove flooring I had just enough laminate flooring leftover to floor both the wardrobe and the cupboard above the wardrobe.

When laying the laminate flooring in the cupboard above the wardrobe I secured it in place with a piece of decorative scrap wood, which would also act as a door stop for the folding doors which I would later fit to the cupboard to complete the project.

Folding Doors

On my previous modifications to the wardrobe ten years ago, to take up less floor space when open, I converted the left hand side veneered chipboard door to a folding door.

For this project, using 12mm (½ inch) plywood, I made a similar folding door for the cupboard above the wardrobe; matching it in style to the existing.

A step-by-step guide to making folding doors will be given in a separate article.

New folding, door fitted to cupboard above wardrobe; in open position.

New folding, door fitted to cupboard above wardrobe; in open position.

Multi-purposing Your Wardrobe

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Arthur Russ

Your Comments

Arthur Russ (author) from England on August 19, 2020:

Yes that’s part of the fun of DIY around the home; the ‘Planning Stage’: Deciding what can be modified/adapted, salvaged and or recycled, upcycled and repurposed; and then what needs to be replaced. And then drafting an outline sketch with plan and list, to help work out what materials and tools will be needed, and bring it all together. It can sometimes take as long, if not longer, to plan a Project than actually doing it.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 19, 2020:

This gives much food for thought. I like the idea of adapting what you have rather than ripping it out and starting from scratch.

Danny from India on August 19, 2020:

Arthur, very nice tips to spruce up the wardrobe cabinet

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