How to Build a Wall of Shelves With Doors Like a Wardrobe


Wardrobe cabinets typically have tall, or full-length doors from top to bottom. If the height of the wardrobe is more than about 60 inches, the doors can be divided into two sections, one at the top and one at the bottom. Build a solid wall of shelves with the characteristics of a wardrobe using different types of plywood.


  • Wardrobe cabinets are tall and relatively narrow. Typical ceiling height is about 96 inches. One way to get the look of a wardrobe is to measure the length of the shelf unit from wall to wall and divide that into equal, narrower sections for the width of the individual shelves. For example, if the width between walls is 120 inches, you can make five individual sections for shelves that measure 24 inches in width. If you're planning on placing only linens or lighter items on the shelves you can make the sections wider if desired, but if you make them too wide, you stray away from the look of a wardrobe cabinet, and If you're placing heavy boxes on the shelves, it's advisable to make the shelves no longer than 24 inches. Cabinetmakers usually allow for some type of brace if the shelf is 36 inches or longer.


  • Use 3/4-inch material to build individual shelf units that screw together. Hardwood plywood will make your wall shelves appear like a set of kitchen cabinets with a complex grain pattern. It can be stained any color, and when lacquer is added, will compliment your home with the look of fine woodworking. Another option is laminated plywood, which has a slick surface and is a bit less expensive than hardwood plywood. Laminated plywood or "medium-density-laminate" is one of the top choices for shelf units because of its easy cleanup and maintenance, slick surface and sterile appearance. It's a bit less expensive than hardwood plywood. Look for it in offices and businesses. Fir plywood is the best choice for economy and is most often found in garages or utility shelf units. It's strong enough, but lacks the smooth surface of other materials. If it's for a garage or shop, it's usually fine without any finish. But fir plywood looks and works great when coated with enamel paint.


  • After you build and screw the boxes together along the wall, the unit is ready for shelving. Adjustable shelves work best for this kind of unit. There are two ways to install them. One way is to install metal shelf standards. Also known as ladder tape, these thin metal strips are stapled to the inside of the boxes on all four corners. Small metal clips lock onto numbered slots on corresponding sides. The shelves fit on the clips. Another method includes drilling small holes at regular intervals. Shelf pegs are installed in the holes by hand. The shelves sit on top of the pegs. Shelf pegs are less than half the cost of ladder tape but lack the strength. Adjustable shelves are typically used on larger wall unit shelving for their adaptability and efficiency. You can change the positioning of the shelves at any time.

Doors and Hardware

  • Cut two doors for each box. The doors should be as wide as the outside dimensions of the individual boxes. Cut one door for the top and one for the bottom. A single, long door from top to bottom will tend to warp. You can split the doors evenly, or make one longer door for the top or bottom with a corresponding, shorter door. It's best to make the doors using 3/4-inch material; anything thinner might warp. The best choice for hinges on this type of unit are installed inside the cabinet. Also known as concealed hinges, they work to maximize the space because they don't require a face frame like you find on kitchen cabinets. Since the doors fit flat on the cabinets, some type of hardware should be installed. This choice is yours. Go with simple knobs or handles. The doors should stay shut by themselves, but for more security, add magnetic catches, or the simple friction type where a small knob on the door fits between two flexible arms.

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