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Between-Studs Storage WITHOUT Complicated Woodworking

When comparing our first house to this house, it was quickly noticeable that we have twice as much room but about half the storage, and that was especially true of our bathroom. So, I had to come up with a few ways to add storage in my bathroom remodel design. One of these ways to add storage is a bathroom project I’ve managed to finish (this room is taking forever…for a variety of reasons I’ll get to at a later date), so I thought I’d share this project with you while I’m feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something.

I kept seeing on Pinterest ways to create a between-the-studs cabinet. Some of these ideas are really cool. A bunch show open shelving, which I knew was not something I wanted – I have no desire to constantly see my husband’s collection of hotel soaps. A few Pinterest people created between-studs medicine cabinets over the sinks, but I knew there was a LOT of electrical back in that wall and I wanted to avoid that trouble. Then I saw on Pinterest how some people made tall/long cabinets that could hold a ton of stuff while also allowing you to have a full-length mirror which acted as the sliding door of the cabinet.

Bingo! Since we had a wide space on the back wall of our bathroom (see the towel racks in the picture below), this seemed like the perfect spot for a long cabinet and a mirror. And so I studied these Pinterest how-to’s.

Before: Not a lot of hidden storage.

The only problem was…the Pinterest tutorials that showed how to do a full-length cabinet mostly showed how to cut the hole, build a cabinet, insert said cabinet, and build a frame for a mirror yourself so that you could attach it to your cabinet frame. Quite frankly, that seemed to require a lot of skills and tools and time that I don’t really have. Couldn’t I just build a cabinet in place and buy a mirror to attach?

And so I went off-book and did it my own DIY way.

Supplies:

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Step 1: Find the studs and make sure the space between will work. Using a stud finder, I marked on the wall where the studs supposedly were. Then I used a utility knife and cut a small square out of the drywall along the side of one of these stud markers. Once that left me a hole, I used the camera on my phone (with the flash on) to take pictures facing up and down inside. The first hole I made like this showed a wire running along the stud, so I made a hole on the other side of that stud and tried again. This time, my picture of the insides showed that this whole space between these studs was empty. If I’d decided to go with the side with the wire, I would’ve had to built a new frame to cover the wire before making my cabinet, and this would’ve limited my space. No, thank you, all around. So I’m glad I lucked out on the other side of the stud and had a nice, open space.

Between my studs – empty 👍

Step 2: Cut the space for the cabinet. Now that I was sure where my studs were, I used a level and traced the outline of where I wanted my cabinet. I choose 48 inches long because that looked good and centered on the wall, and the space between my studs was about 14.5 inches. I made sure to position everything so that we could stand back and take advantage of a full mirror, and I even remembered to take into account that my husband is taller than me and would also probably like to see his head in the mirror.

That decided, I used my oscillating multi tool and quickly cut along my traced outline. You could also use a utility knife, but my multi tool made the job go fast while also letting me get a nice smooth line along the studs. (See my “DIY Must-Haves Tools” below for this and other tools I used in this project.)

Cutting the cabinet hole.

Once this hole was cut and I pulled the drywall free, I had a good visual of what my cabinet space would look like.

Let’s ignore that first-attempt hole, shall we? 😜

Step 3: Insert top and bottom braces. The sides were obviously created by the studs, but I needed a top and bottom to enclose the space and give me something to attach my cabinet to. I measured from stud to stud just inside the drywall at the top and bottom, and again this was 14.5 inches. Then I simply went down to my miter saw and cut a spare 2×4 to give myself 2 pieces that were 14.5 inches long.

With these 2×4 braces, I did get a little “fancy” and used 2 pocket holes on each end to attach them to the studs. I drilled the holes, got the screws ready, and started with the top brace. I pushed the 2×4 up into place so that it was level and lined up with the edge of my drywall. Then I screwed it into the studs on either side. Easy.

I would love to tell you I pulled this off on the first try with the bottom brace… Here’s what finally worked. Carefully, I held the bottom brace piece so that it didn’t fall to the floor inside my hole. 😑 Then I quickly screwed one screw into a stud to make sure it wouldn’t fall, then I checked for level and quickly put a screw into the other stud. With the brace secured on each end, I finished by screwing in the second screws on either end. I tested this supporting brace by pushing down on this bottom 2×4 quite hard. Since I’m assuming I’ll never put more weight in this cabinet than my own body weight, I’m gonna say it’ll hold.

Top and bottom braces in.

Step 4: Create the back piece. This is where I really started doing it my own, easier way. I didn’t want to build a cabinet and hope that it would fit perfectly, so I went piece by piece and built it in place. Measuring across the space between the studs was again 14.5 inches, and from the new top brace to the new bottom brace was 48 inches. So that was easy enough to cut a leftover sheet of 1/8 inch plywood to that size.

Note: You could use something thicker as the back part of your cabinet, but I wanted all the depth I could get for storage. I also toyed with the idea of tiling the back but decided to save my tile for elsewhere. Whatever you use, take into account it’s thickness, because that could alter the dimensions you need for your frame’s wood.

After a quick sanding, I used the same white gel stain I was using on our vanity to give this back piece a little protection and color. (You could paint it or use a poly or whatever you want to tie this into your room.) Once dry, I simply inserted the sheet into the space and pressed it against the back. I could have glued it to the drywall in the back, but it fit snuggly and stayed put. Besides, it’s not going anywhere because the frame would hold it pinned in place.

Step 5: Create the frame. I bought three 8 foot, primed 1×4’s from Lowe’s and cut these to make my whole frame, shelves, and shelf supports. Again, the top and bottom were 14.5 inches across, so those were the first pieces I cut. Assembling as I went meant that I held these in place and used my nail gun to shoot some brad nails in. Top and bottom done, I measured the sides (no longer 48 inches since the top and bottom had frame pieces attached now) and got something like 46.5 inches. I cut another 1×4 for these side pieces, held each in place, and nailed them in. That left me with the back and basic surrounding frame done!

Note: The biggest trick here is to make sure the front edges of the frame are flush with your surrounding drywall and don’t stick out or sit back too far. The depth of your cabinet is only as wide as your 2×4 stud plus (+) your wall’s drywall minus (-) the piece you insert as the back of the cabinet. You don’t want your frame to be too off, or else the trim won’t sit right against the wall AND it could cause problems with your slides/mirror. 1×4’s worked well for my cabinet depth, and I had a little wiggle room along the back to adjust forward or back to line up with the drywall.

Step 6: Make the shelves. Again using the 1×4’s, I measured the space across the frame and cut shelves at about 13 inches. Using what was left of my 1×4’s, I next cut 1-inch strips to use as supports for the shelves – so I needed 2 for each shelf, 1 to support each end. (I’ve seen it done where you can drill holes in your frame to make adjustable shelves, but I wanted it to look custom and finished, so I liked this more secure and permanent option.)

My support pieces.

Here’s where I got super-scientific and grabbed our tallest mouthwash container, set it on the bottom, and marked with a pencil where the lowest shelf could go while still fitting that bottle. Using a small level, I drew a line where the bottom supports needed to go on either side.

Next, I held the little support pieces in place along my level lines and slid the pieces back a bit so they pressed against the back board of the cabinet – this would allow my supports and shelves to be ever-so-slightly recessed in the cabinet. Then I nailed the supports in with my brad gun. Right away, I picked a shelf board and set it on top, made sure it was level, and nailed it into the supports on either side.

I repeated this method for each shelf, varying the spacing depending on what I wanted on each shelf.

Step 7: Add trim. I got lucky here and used part of our demo-ed bathroom doorframe (that’s another day), but this is where an extra 1×4 would work great, halved lengthwise and then cut to lengths for trim surrounding your framed cabinet. Whatever you use, the trim has to cover the gap between the drywall and the frame. And if you attach your slides to this trim like I did, it has to be flat and wide enough to secure into the frame and/or your studs.

I measured again around the outside of the cabinet and cut my 4 pieces (2 long for sides and 2 short for top and bottom) at 45-degree angles to match up like a picture frame. I also wanted to be sure I had this trim all the way covering the frame wood, edge to edge, to “widen” the depth of my cabinet a bit.

Trim adds some depth.

After a quick level check, I used my brad gun and nailed the trim on. This done, my between-studs cabinet was starting to look great! I realized only when finished that I hadn’t taken many pictures of this process – it went together so fast that I didn’t take the time. But you can easily see the assembled parts in the picture below.

Back, frame, supports, shelves, and trim!

Step 8: Caulk, fill holes, and paint. I used paintable caulk along each shelf edge, all the gaps along the undersides where the shelves met the supports, and along the trim around the frame. My go-to white wood filler got rid of all my nail holes nicely, and it smoothed out my 45-degree trim cuts.

Once all that dried, I painted my frame, shelves, supports, and trim with white, high gloss trim paint.

Painting!

It looked good! If I’d wanted open shelving, I could’ve stopped there.

Step 9: Measure for and prep your mirror. I swear this is easier than building your own framed mirror! It took a bit of shopping by math 😂, but I found a wall-mounted mirror on Amazon that was the dimensions I needed to cover my cabinet but also not too crazy big. I bought one with a silver/chrome, thin frame that would look good with our bathroom’s planned finishes, and it would give me about an inch of room all around to extend over the cabinet’s trim.

Note: You could buy a mirror first and plan your entire cabinet dimensions accordingly, but here we are.

Because this was a metal frame, I had to find a way to attach my drawer slides. This was easy enough to accomplish by glueing wood pieces to the backside of the mirror, along the bottom and top. I used scrap wood, but you could again use that extra 1×4 and cut pieces from that. You won’t see these, so the wood doesn’t have to be pretty…as you can see from mine here. lol

Not pretty wood, but it works!

I let the wood glue dry overnight before I dared move on. I was worried about the weight this wood would add because the mirror is already pretty hefty, but it turned out not to be a big deal because these slides are hefty too.

Step 10: Attach drawer slides and hang! I won’t bother explaining how long it took me to figure out the easiest way to do this… Let’s just skip to the easiest way.

I used 14-inch drawer slides like the ones I’ve used on MANY projects before. I know these hold a lot of weight and are nice, soft-close slides. I also know how easily the slide/extending part detaches if you have to adjust over and over…and over. After centering the slide base against the bottom edge of the top trim piece, I checked for level, then screwed the slide in place. I used longer screws than what came with the slides to be sure they were secured into the frame wood, not just the trim – important. With that top slide in place, I detached the slide/extending part and took that with me to start work on the mirror.

Top slide, both parts.

With the mirror lying face down on my bed (excellent workstation, I know), I positioned the top slide’s extending part near the top of the top wood piece glued to the mirror. I made double sure to measure from my cabinet’s installed slide to the top of the trim to make sure I had at least that much mirror above the slide to cover and hide the cabinet once in place. Then I measured from side to side to make sure of the same. Once sure of my positioning (let’s say), I screwed the top slide’s extending piece to the mirror’s wood. MAKE SURE to flip the slide the right way so it will connect with the slide part already on the cabinet.

Attaching the top.

For the bottom slide, I measured my cabinet from the bottom of the top slide to the top of the bottom trim. Then I went back to the mirror and used that measurement to find where to position the bottom slide, also keeping it as “centered” as the top piece already on the mirror. With that figured out, I screwed on the bottom slide’s extending part. This time, I left the main part of the slide connected too.

Attaching the bottom.

Mentally crossing my fingers, I took the mirror into the bathroom and held it to line up the top parts of the slide. They actually connected surprisingly easily, and then I carefully slid the mirror into place over the cabinet.

Hanging the mirror!

With the top held by the slide, I knelt and grabbed the bottom slide which was only attached to the mirror. Holding the base part in place, I pushed the mirror back out again but kept the base of the slide in place against the bottom trim of the cabinet. Using my longer screws, I screwed in that slide to the bottom. Once that was secure, I held my breath and pushed the mirror closed.

Securing the bottom slide.

It worked! It covered the cabinet and trim! Now instead of a bare wall, we have a nice big mirror. And most importantly, now we have much more bathroom storage that isn’t visible or cluttered.

AFTER: Closed mirror cabinet…
AFTER: Open. So much storage!

Now for the rest of the bathroom… See that demo-ed floor and all those tools in the reflection? Yeah, I’ve got a long way to go.🤞

https://videos.files.wordpress.com/vwCl8mzD/export_1660619268960.mp4

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