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Friday, September 11, 2015

Adding Shelves to Organize an Antique Cupboard

shabby chic cupboard

Inspired by Daniel at Manhattan Nest, who added shelves to his antique hutch with great result, I was inspired to make some long-needed changes to the cupboard in our cottage. The scope of the job seemed fairly straightforward - I simply needed to add a shelf to both the top and bottom sections of our hutch. In fact, getting the shelf in the top to fit the interior properly took more "tries" than I anticipated. Hopefully you can avoid my mistakes.

shelves for the cupboard

Currently the top of this hutch has two portions divided by a single shelf and the bottom has no shelves, so we find ourselves stacking things in a rather precarious fashion. It's annoying, because when you simply want to pull out a plate, you have to pull out all the serving bowls that are nestling on top of the plate stack and set them aside. In addition, the glasses are currently at the bottom of the hutch, when these are items we use most often. There's a ton of space down there - and I can even see by brackets on the side that there once was another shelf. At the very least, I wanted to restore that shelf.

This cupboard is prime for a much-needed organizational makeover, starting with the addition of two shelves.

Ready? Let's go!

Step 1: Remove everything from the cupboard.

Step 2: Measure the interior of the cupboard to see what dimensions your shelves need to be. (Better yet, do what I should have done and remove the existing shelf in the top portion to use as a template.)

In the top half of the hutch I measured 11" deep by 33-1/2 wide, and noticed that some notches would need to be cut out of each corner.

The width I measured was actually 33-3/4", but standard carpentry practice says take off 1/4" to ensure the wood is not too long to fit. How did I know it wouldn't then be too short? The brackets on the sides that will hold up the shelf are about 1/8" on either side, giving me some wiggle room.

The bottom of the hutch is much deeper, so that shelf could go as deep as 22", but I decided a shallower shelf would be better, to give us full access to the things on the very bottom and make it easy to get things in and out. 

As 11-3/4" deep is the size of a pre-primed white shelf being sold at our local Riverside Building Supply, where I went to purchase mine, I decided to go with that.

Step 3: Purchase the wood and have them cut it for you. I bought one 72" long shelf and asked them to cut it into two pieces each 33-1/2". 

(While they made the cuts I asked if I could search their scrap box for some small scraps of trim that I could use to make the brackets that will hold up my new shelf. Riverside are nice about that.)

Step 4: Place the bottom hutch shelf on the already existing brackets. 

That was easy. Perfect fit!

Now comes the hard part. The top half of the hutch. My top shelf needs a lot more work, for several reasons:
  • There are no existing brackets to hold it, so I have to make them and glue/screw them in.
  • To fit the depth, I need to rip 3/4" off the back of the new shelf.
  • Then I need to saw notches to each corner of my new shelf to fit around some interior struts.

Step 5:  Remove the existing shelf in the top of the hutch and use it as a template for the new shelf. 

Using a sharpee, draw lines following the shape of the original shelf. Leave the original shelf out, as you will need space to tilt and place the new shelf once your brackets are in. (I replaced it and actually hammered it in, only to have to remove it again to get the second shelf in - doh!)

Step 6:  Using a Skil saw with a reverse blade (the blade I use most often!) rip an inch off the back of the new shelf and cut notches in each corner so it will fit around the internal struts. 

Step 7: Take your brackets (mine are the two pieces of scrap trim I scrounged from Riverside Lumber). Drill pilot holes for your nails and add wood glue or liquid nails to the side that will abut the cupboard. Nail in your brackets, then go eat lunch or take a coffee break while your glue dries.

Step 8. Place your new shelf. Then restore the existing shelf.

Step 9: Reorganize.

Before replacing all of the dishes and glassware that you removed, take inventory. Group things you 1. never use, 2. often use, 3. sometimes use, 4. seldom use.

Take a good look at the things you never use. Why are they here? 

Common excuses:
-You used to use them but you don't anymore? (Example: baby cups, bowls, and spoons that are long out-grown.) Time to give them away.
-Sentimental attachment? Grandma's teapot, for example - if it's truly a keepsake, put it in a visible spot!
-That thing you got at a yard sale for an unbelievable price? It's not worth anything to you if you are not using it. Give it away to someone who will use it.
-Cracked or chipped? Throw it out.

Of the things you often use, separate light things from heavy things. Put the heavy things you often use in the lower hutch in a place that is easy to get them in and out. Place the rest of the often used things in the top hutch. The bulk of this will likely be glasses, cups, plates and bowls - yes, everyday tableware. Count out enough for the people living in your house plus two. Call this the everyday set and put them all in an easy to reach place. If there are additional place settings, put them aside and group them with the "sometimes use."

That tray and serving bowl you only break out when you are cooking for a crowd. Those extra plates, glasses, cups. Store them in the bottom hutch toward the front so they are easy to retrieve.

Place seldom used items in the bottom hutch far in the back. Sure, you will have to move things to get them out, but as you seldom use them it won't be often.

The lower half of the hutch holds serving platters and extras that we break out for big gatherings 

Step 10:  Once everything is back in place, step back and admire your handiwork. 

The cupboard is now organized in a way that the things you use most often are easy to retrieve and those you use less often are tucked away. This was a small job, but it will have a daily impact. 

Organized Home = Happy Home!