before & after: wall cabinet + stacked-crate bookshelf

I love hanging cabinets and shelving units because of their dual functionality as wall art and storage. You can tell from a mere glance that this shelf has potential, and its owner Tiffin has capitalized on the modular aspect of the piece to transform it into a cheerful, graphic display unit for her milk-glass collection. The white milk-glass looks wonderful among the bright white shelves, and the mix of prints is lovely. Great work, Tiffin! — Kate

Time: 5 hours (including drying time)

Cost: $55 (including shelf and supplies)

Basic Steps: Prep your piece by stripping or sanding any of the old finishes (I got lucky that my wood was completely void of paint or stain). Use a cloth to wipe away any excess dirt or dust after sanding. Then apply one to two coats of primer, and follow up with one to two coats of your top color. I used a semigloss for this piece to match the rest of the trim in my room.

Hang the shelf on the wall by screwing it directly into your wall studs. We used all four of the studs that the shelf hangs over just to ensure there would be no accidents! Find an assortment of fabrics that complement your room. Then measure each nook and cut out the fabric panels to fit accordingly.

To attach the panels, take a panel outside one at a time and spray the back side with super 77 spray glue. Then adhere it to the back of the shelf by starting at the corner and carefully pressing it into place along the top edge of the nook. From there, you can smooth the fabric out from top to bottom. If the fabric was cut too large, you can use an X-Acto blade to trim it down. Don’t worry if your fabric is a bit crooked or does not cover the back side completely. Once you place items on your shelf, this will be unnoticeable.

Tips: Use a mini roller to apply paint. This makes the project go much faster, plus you get more consistent paint coverage. Also, when screwing a large wooden piece on the wall, take a moment and assess how the piece was made. Often the back board is flimsy plywood, and you would not want this carrying the weight burden. In my case, the top bar of the shelf (behind the tulips) was a solid 1×4 and was a perfect place to put the screws. I found it easier to adhere the fabric panels once the shelf was already hanging, but this could be done just as easily beforehand. — Tiffin

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE to see Melissa’s stacked-crate bookshelf corner after the jump!

My book collection is a little out of control, and I’m afraid my storage needs are getting to the point where any kind of creative shelving would be out of the question. If I do weed out my books eventually, I’m tempted to create a cool shelving stack like this one by Melissa. I really appreciate that she turned some of the crates to give the piece more dimensionality and utilized its position in an awkward corner of the room. Clever work, Melissa!

Time: 5–6 hours

Cost: $70 ($50 for all the boxes, $20 for supplies)

Basic Steps: I wanted the boxes to blend in with the wall somewhat and not stand out as raw wood, so I purchased an off-white color (“vanilla”) and watered it down for a white-wash effect. Then I picked out a mossy green for the inside bottom of the box as contrast. Remember that the wine boxes are not finished wood, so some of the paint will be absorbed. For indoor use, it doesn’t necessarily need a finish, but it definitely would for anything outdoor.

I played with stacking them up the wall to get the look I wanted then drilled holes in the back of the boxes so I could anchor them into the wall. Being in an apartment and in a weirdly shaped corner, studs were lacking, so I used wall anchors and screwed the boxes into those. I wanted my base box to be off the floor, so I sawed 4″ sections from the stump of my old Christmas tree and screwed those into the bottom box for feet. A good friend made the bottom box for me out of plywood since I wanted it larger than the rest and wide/deep enough to fit my larger books.

Lay your boxes out (by stacking the boxes) up the wall in different arrangements until you get it the way you want it. And if you can afford to get extra boxes of various sizes, it gives you some more options; you can use the extra boxes for a multitude of other projects anyway! — Melissa


Both are just beautiful.

Also, I love the addition of the steps, cost and time. It’s completely inspiring!


What!! This is so awesome. Motivates me to figure out a new plan for my hot mess of a book shelf. So smart.


I love the stacked boxes!!! I have a million books as well and love for them to be displayed because they offer such great texture and color to a room… this is a great idea!!! I will have to put it on my list of to-do’s!!


Once again I’m awe of color blocking/organization in book shelves, just stunning!


I adore the stacked boxes! Also love her side table. Very cool sense of style.


I was just looking at the best of book storage last night, loving looking at books organized by color! I love looking at another beautiful example! :)


this would be perfect in my living room, does anyone know where to find boxes like those?


Love the stacked crates, but I’m just DYING over the side table in the picture of the crates. Is that also a DIY?


Amazing! I wonder where to buy boxes like that? Anyone know?

Emily Z.

Why are all of the before and afters today completely amazing?!


Thanks for the compliments! I purchased the boxes from Dean & Deluca, and Total Wine. The Total Wine ones were cheaper ($5 each). Call ahead to see when they get shipments in. And the side table is actually still in progress – wood slabs are not fixed to the base yet. :)

Sharon R.

I absolutely love that wall cabinet! I really like the idea of using different colors/patterns of fabric for the backsplash…genius! Thanks for sharing!


thanks for all the love on the hanging bookshelf. someone above asked about the glass topped desk. it is part of the vika line at ikea. i have 2 side by side and love the look!

Cathy Wall

Wow both projects are very clever. Love the bights in the background of the first and the clever re-use of the crates in the second.


That wall cabinet is AMAZING! Such beautiful prints and such a creative idea!!!!! This is definitely something I’ll have to try!!


That wall shelf project is uh-mazing. So inspiring! And the bookshelf turned out beautifully too – but I’m like you, I have waaay too many books for this. :)


Love the shelf! But where is that side table in the last photo from?? Major LOVE!


On the first project, the patterned background is an excellent compliment to the milk glass! I’m impressed. It really makes the silhouette of the glass stand out.
The second piece is also quite smart in the use of the corner! I love the changing orientation of the shelf. You can’t do that with just any standard shelf. Really nice work!


Great shelving idea! I’m pondering how to adapt this idea to my yet-to-be-resolved shoe storage problem…


Bravo Melissa. I’m impressed by the way you staggered the boxes – so creative!

Laura McAvoy

My husband and I have always enjoyed your Before and After section – it has given us ideas on how to recycle some stuff we already own.

We’re currently working with Indianapolis Painters right now. And we couldn’t have thanked you guys for giving us ideas.


I love looking ast the before and after pictures. Thanks for sharing, can you post more pics of the glass top deak. I really like those. If you just want to email that is great to.


I know this is an older post but I found a shelf that looks almost exactly like that one in my crawl space in my moms old house she moved into. I had no idea what it was at first because it was laying face down, then when I saw it was a shelf I thought what the heck can I do with this. So thank you the after is gorgeous I can’t wait to makeover my shelf.