How to Design Wall Units


A large wall unit can provide substantial storage or display space in any room of your home. Built-in wall units work well in both smaller and larger homes and can accommodate entertainment needs, books and media, crafting supplies or even toys. You can opt to build your own custom wall unit, to purchase a wall unit or to assemble one from smaller components.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Graph paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Measure the available wall space. You need to know the dimensions of the space quite accurately. Measure multiple spots along the walls to see that the area intended for your wall unit is square. If not, build or buy a slightly smaller wall unit and use trim molding to eliminate the gaps.

  • Determine what you want to store in your built-ins. If you will be using them for electronics, be sure to allow for ventilation and cords. Note down approximate measurements. Take the time to mark the position of wall studs using a stud finder while you are taking measurements. You will need to know the position of studs when installing your wall units.

  • Decide whether you will be custom building your wall units from scratch, purchasing wall units or assembling your built-ins from available cabinetry. This can alter or change your overall design. You likely will want some open and some closed storage in your unit. If you are planning to assemble your built-ins from purchased cabinet pieces, be sure that you have the sizes and measurements on hand. You can choose board lumber, medium density fiberboard or plywood if you are building your own wall unit. The same decisions may come into play if you are opting for custom cabinetry. Purchased units will vary in materials depending upon cost. You may find it most effective to opt for good quality plywood or board lumber for visible areas and less expensive fiberboard or lower quality lumber for shelves and supports.

  • Sketch your wall units on graph paper. Choose a scale that allows you some detail. Be sure to include adequate upright supports, space for cords and room for growth in your built-ins.

  • Take your design to your local home improvement center or custom cabinet maker. You can purchase the materials you need to build or assemble your own wall units at most home improvement centers, including lumber, plywood and hardware or stock cabinetry if you prefer. Depending upon how you choose to build your wall units, you may need a circular saw, miter saw and sander. Regardless, if you are installing your own wall units, you should have both a drill and bit set and a good quality level.

Tips & Warnings

  • Adjustable shelving can extend the life and functionality of your wall units.
  • Add lighting to make the most of display space.
  • Be certain that your wall unit can support the weight of books, televisions and other heavy items.
  • Secure your wall unit to the wall studs to prevent any possibility of the unit shifting or falling.

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