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Create Space in a Small House: Make Nooks and Shelves Inside the Walls

Maren is a one-person fixer of "TLC Needed" houses. She explains methods simply to homeowners who are not in the construction trades.

Storage Nook Inside a Wall

The spotless, wonderful space found inside a wall.

The spotless, wonderful space found inside a wall.

A Little More Room

When the walls start, space does not necessarily end. For those living in small quarters - such as 700 square feet - finding another 2 or more square feet for storing "stuff" is wonderful!

Movies in a Wall Shelf

Kids' VHS tapes in a wall nook right by the VCR/DVD player.

Kids' VHS tapes in a wall nook right by the VCR/DVD player.

A Built-In You Create

Think about where in your home you could benefit from a little extra space for small items. Could you use a small first aid supply station accessible to everyone? Or a place for office supplies or paperback books or trinkets? Shelves are good places for those items, but they eat into the house footprint. Baskets can hold them, but then the basket needs a place to rest. Why not steal a little bit of real estate from the walls?

In my home, I know where my walls have "opportunity areas" without electrical wires or heating ducts. This is because all the walls were un-insulated and I have been slowly ripping them open to check for the possible presence of mold and to add rolls of insulation. I leave it to you to determine safe locations in your walls for a little box of shelves.

Think about the purpose for your nook inside the wall and how many square inches are needed.


Thrift Shop Box

A wonderful wooden box which cost only $1.00.

A wonderful wooden box which cost only $1.00.

Thrift Shop Find

I have a great group of thrift shops in my area. At the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, I can purchase inexpensive lumber and building supplies. At other stores, used furniture is deeply discounted.

I wanted to add space in the room I use as an office and TV room. ?? videos? dvds?

As I started forming my concept of a nook, I kept my eyes peeled for building materials. Happily, at the Re-Store, I found an already complete wooden box with dovetail joints in the size range i was contemplating for my office nook for only one dollar!

Test the Location

I am holding the box against the wall.

I am holding the box against the wall.

Determine Exact Location

I held my new wooden box against the desired wall to make the final determination for its location. If you are going to be building a box or adding shelves between studs, you will want to draw the shape on your wall.


Exploratory Hole

The general location for the nook.

The general location for the nook.

Close-up of nook space.

Close-up of nook space.

Remove or Flatten Obstacles

If you have insulation in the hole, remove it. If there are other items such as nails holding shingles in place, bend them flush against the wall with needle-nosed pliers or pound flat (carefully) with a hammer. You also will want to note the location of the closest stud. You will use at least one stud as either a vertical wall of your nook or as an anchor to which you will attach your insert. Draw a mark on the wall to show the location of the stud, so that the final opening will be cut along it.

Flatten Nails

Nails from 90-year-old shingle layer.

Nails from 90-year-old shingle layer.

I am bending the nail to be flush against the plywood.

I am bending the nail to be flush against the plywood.

Final Opening

Use a level, a pencil, and either your pre-made insert or a metal straight edge and tape measure. In my case, I had a wooden box to trace. In all cases, be prepared to do a little adjusting and fine-tuning of the opening.

Drawing the Opening

Pencil lines mark where to saw.

Pencil lines mark where to saw.

Insure that Bottom or Shelves Are Level

I cut the outline of my box as closely as I could. However, when I tried placing the box inside the wall, it stuck halfway. I trimmed a little more from 2 sides in a quick, less-than-super-careful manner. The box then fit.

My next step was to anchor the box to a stud using a drill to make holes for screws. I love having a cordless drill. No more worrying about the reach of the cord. I also can put a screwdriver type head in the drill to turn it into a screw driver. This saves so much time and is more powerful than my hand turning of a screw. For the nook pictured, I attached the box on only one side because the box size did not extend from one stud to another. I was vigilant in using a level to position the nook-box. If you are cutting shelves to attach to studs with corner braces, also use a level to position them.

Cordless Drill

Using a Level

The screw was started in the side of the box, but no pilot hole was made in the stud until the level gave its approval.

The screw was started in the side of the box, but no pilot hole was made in the stud until the level gave its approval.

Look for a bead which is absolutely in the middle.

Look for a bead which is absolutely in the middle.

Caulk or Frame Opening

I chose to caulk the imperfections around my nook. The pink caulk is fantastic, because it turns white when it is finally dry enough to paint. Also, if your nook is using the back of drywall from another room, caulk to seal any openings.

Caulking

Nooks on an interior wall between a bedroom and bathroom.

Nooks on an interior wall between a bedroom and bathroom.

I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing the neon pink will change to docile white color.

I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing the neon pink will change to docile white color.

Another view of the caulked box edge.

Another view of the caulked box edge.

Sand and Paint

When all was dry, I lightly sanded down any bumps. Then I painted the caulk and the wall around nook wherever the jig saw had scraped and left marks. I used tape to protect the inside of the wooden box, which was lovely from the beginning and needed no further improvements.

Satisfying Job

This was a labor of fun and love for me. If future home owners do not like it, they can hang a picture over the storage space!

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© 2014 Maren Elizabeth Morgan

Comments

Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on May 19, 2014:

Thank you, AliciaC. I especially value my first aid supply one outside my bathroom.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 18, 2014:

This is a great idea, Maren Morgan! A wall nook would be very useful. Thank you for the instructions. I'm not much of a do-it-yourself person, but this project is very tempting. I may try it one day!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on May 18, 2014:

Thanks, WiccanSage. I will admit that I "glossed over" the part about determining location of electric lines and the actual sawing. But, if you can do it or have handy friends with whom you can barter services, you are set.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on May 18, 2014:

Cute, what a great idea! I would have thought something like that was totally beyond my abilities but apparently not, you make it look easier than I thought it would be with the wooden tray. Nice work!