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Convert a Closet to an Elegant Built-In Bookcase

Do you have spare bedroom that you want to craft into a new space. Whether the kids moved out or you want to upgrade your office space, that closet can be transformed into something more elegant. It is easy to convert a bedroom closet into a recessed bookcase or desk with an elegant built-in look.

The concept is simple, take a closet space, remove the doors, shelves, hanger bar and empty the space. Depending upon the size of the closet, you may have something from 30 inches up to 10 feet or even more. For our example, we will assume a 8 foot wide closet with two sliding doors. Now let's consider the possibilities.

First of all, let's plan what will go into the space. In our closet, and most closets, the interior space is wider and taller than the opening to the closet. This space might still be usable, or some of it might be wasted. If you want to install a bookcase, it may be impractical for the bookcase to fill the entire width of the closet. Filling the closet would mean that some of the shelf space is hidden behind the wall and difficult to access. If you install a desk, this hidden space could be used as shelf space to the left and right of the desktop space. There may be room to hide-away a TV on a swing out arm, install a small safe or small sound system.

How to fill the space also has some options. Whether a bookcase, desk or other purpose, you could build the unit in-place yourself. If you aren't looking for a project that big, you could order cabinetry, from the same people who make kitchen cabinets. Home centers can probably provide just the cabinets, shelves, desk features you desire, made to order for your space and do it for a price that rivals stand-alone furniture. Finally, you can fill the space with stand-alone furniture, possibly something you already own. Admittedly, placing a piece of furniture into a space may not fill the space as nicely as a piece made-to-order.

For our closet we will install a double bookcase, with a small desk space on the right side. Above the desk, recessed behind the wall will be shelves to house our vast collection of CDs. In this same nook, below the desk will be a space for a PC.

After removing the closet doors, we removed the track. Inside the closet, we removed the hanging bar, the shelf and pried the wood off the wall that supported the shelf. We also painted the wall we exposed when we removed the closet door track.

Our closet is 8 feet wide, 8 feet tall and 2 feet deep. The opening though is 6.5 feet wide and 7 feet tall. We have ordered two base cabinets with doors that stand 36 inches tall. We omitted the toe-kick, to achieve a more furniture-like look. On top of those cabinets will sit one shelf unit, 40 inches wide and 50 inches tall. The top two inches will be hidden behind the top opening of the closet, but that is okay.

For the desk, we ordered a desktop 7 feet long and 24" deep. One end will sit on top of the cabinets, with the bookcases on top of the desktop and the other end will disappear into the nook on the far right. We'll add supports to the wall to secure the desk top. For the CD shelves in the nook, the manufacturer already makes a 20" wide CD holder in various heights. We picked a 4 foot model that will hold hundreds of CDs. Finally, to give this all a elegant finished look, we ordered casing from the manufacturer to replace the moulding that surrounds the closet now. We'll remove the old moulding and install the casing after the cabinets are installed.

Installing cabinets is not too difficult, and this project is a little more forgiving than installing kitchen cabinets. However, professional installation should only take 3-4 hours and shouldn't break the bank either. We installed ours ourselves in a weekend. First the base cabinets were leveled and secured, then the desktop installed, including the supports mounted to the wall of the closet and then the bookcases were tilted in and secured to the wall. The CD storage was put in place and secured. There was a 4 inch gap because the CD rack was only 20 inches and the closet 24" deep, so will used a filler piece provided by the manufacturer to close that gap. We used a hole saw to cut a 2 inch hole in the desktop for the wires for the PC and insert a plastic grommet made for the purpose. Finally we installed the decorative moulding around the closet and we were done.

We transformed an unused closet (well it had a bunch of junk in it, but we discovered it was junk we could live without) into a beautiful bookcase and desk space. We spent $1,900 on the cabinets and another $200 on miscellaneous materials. We looked at cabinets that would have looked equally nice for a few hundred dollars less, but we picked these. In any event, furniture to fill the space would have cost $2,600. We got something that looked a lot nicer than furniture would have and saved money doing it.

This project isn't just for a bedroom closet either. You can convert a hall closet or other unused space into a curio cabinet, wet bar or a snack center. The possibilities are enormous.

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