The entryway to our house has always been a bit of a mess. We walk in the door and drop our stuff, kick off shoes then go about our business. We kept some stuff here, some there, but nothing seemed like it was ever where it should be. My wife asked me to design and build a custom set of cabinets and cubbyholes so that we could have a place for shoes, bags, jackets and backpacks and a bench to sit on while getting ready to leave.
The entryway area for our house is not particularly large, roughly 8.5′ deep x 7.5′ wide and an 8′ ceiling. There is also a 4’long x 3.5′ high pony wall that separates the playroom from the entry. Any deep cabinets would cut off our ability to move large things into the home because of the pony wall intrusion so we needed to keep it close to the walls. This meant that I would need to span as much wall space as possible while keeping it less than 20″ deep. We also wanted to hide and/or refinish the nasty dust collecting air intake vent on the right side.
My initial design called for open upper cabinets and open lower cubbyholes for baskets where shoes would go, a few compartmentalized coat sections for each family member and a single small cabinet in the corner with a door on it for purses. I had made some other custom built-ins in my wifes office a few years ago and they are visible from the entryway, so I chose to make these using similar materials and white paint to match.
I did the initial sketches about a year before I started working on the cabinets though. Sometimes I have an idea or a plan and I just let it marinate for a while until I see an object or have an idea that suddenly connects all the dots. That object for this project was a set of white cabinet doors at ikea for $2 each in the scratch and ding department.
For whatever reason, I saw these doors and it pulled the entire design together in my head. Maybe it was the size or the wainscoting texture, maybe it was because I didn’t want to build the doors from scratch and this was an easy way out. Either way, I grabbed them and started to rework the design. I decided that I wanted the upper cabinets to have doors on them as well as the corner shelf system and this was a good start point. Believe it or not, I designed the entire structure based on these doors. Here is my final sketch.
Now its time to start building. For the first time ever, I got almost every piece of material that I would need in one single trip to the hardware store. It was a large cart and all in I was about $450 for materials, hardware, tools and paint. An added expense was the Ryobi AirStrike cordless nailer. I have been using air nailers for years and because I was going to be building this in the main living area I didn’t want the air compressor running all the time. This was an amazing tool that saved me a TON of time and frustration on this project. To be honest, I planned on returning it after the project was over, but I will never use an air nailer again after this project. The first thin I did was mock up the size and shape of the main cabinet. Then I measured out on both sides to see how much room I would have to spread before I ran out of wall on the right side or hit the door on the left.
Once I had most of the major components in place it was time to start building the center cabinet that everything would hinge off of. As you can see, I had helpers on hand to test fit the ikea doors for swing and shelf placement. For the center cabinet, I chose glue and screws for strength, for the rest I used glue and the nailer.
My wife wanted 4 permanently fixed large shelves rather than a bunch of smaller ones. This way she can stuff large diaper bags, overstuffed purses and other grab and go baby stuff in there and keep it there hidden away when not in use. I used the door placement to determine shelf placement.
I decided to leave the top of the center cabinet open to the air. There was no reason to close it off and if I left it open it would illuminate the top shelf a bit better. The entire cabinet unit would end up being topped off with multiple layers of molding but that would be one of the last steps. After I had the shelves in the center cabinet locked down, I decided to build the upper cabinet frames. I chose to keep them the same width as the coat hanger sections which was exactly 48″. I also went to a few second hand building supply shops to see if I could source 5-6 14.5″ upper doors but only found inspiration in the cabinet door below on the right – this was the general look I wanted for the upper doors.
Once that one was done, the right hand uppers went even faster. I chose to put the wainscoting texture facing downward to show a little more detail work on the bottom rather than just a flat surface.
Here is the first sand coat and paint prep work. I left the third cabinet space on the top right open for a shelf because we were concerned that in the dark, a person might hit their head on the corner of the door when walking by if they weren’t careful. It also in my opinion opened the space up to the house and gave it a more custom look than two identical cabinets. I also chose to round off the corner of the bench below it to match.
Here it is after the first coat of paint and again with a test fit of some of the detail work, bench and lower cubbyholes. I
Originally I wanted to paint the legs white, but we loved the way they looked in black so we decided to keep them like that. I didn’t take any pictures of the doors while I was making them, maybe because it had been a full week and I was just done with this project. I cut 5 doors 14.5″ x 3/4″ MDF, then drilled a hole in the center of each one and screwed it to the corner of my woodworking table. I used the screw as a pivot point and spun the door while holding the router to the edge. Then I glued 8″ square sections of wainscoting scraps to the middle of each one. I finished by using some left over trim scraps from another project around the edges. I installed them with standard white painted flush mount door hinges. We chose to finish the cabinets off with custom wrought iron hardware and some cool looking water valve spigots that she found. She wanted the handles for the uppers to be center mounted which I thought would look strange, but the look has grown on me. The coat hooks are extremely sturdy and beautifully wrought with a top hook for a coat and a bottom one for a backpack. One of the strangest things about this build was that it just happened that each hook was directly on a stud – this was not planned, it was just stupid lucky. These hooks could hold a 500 lb school bag!
Overall, I am very satisfied with the outcome. The best part about it is that it really brightens up the whole entryway and gives the kids NO excuse not to put their shoes, jackets and bags where they should be. Its really nice to see something that you built immediately when you walk in the door. Below is a gallery of the final painted entryway cabinets.