So, lots of people have asked for a step-by-step of how we built the alcove storage in our living room. We had been quoted approximately £800 to build these so we decided to give it a go ourselves. We’re not experts/professionals so please take this guide with a pinch of salt but here is how we did it…
Some of these tools you don’t necessarily need but they make the job a lot easier and can help to get a cleaner finish.
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Power drill
- Circular saw
- Mitre saw or hand saw
- Sandpaper or orbital sander
- Enough 2×3 inch timber to build the base and frame
- MDF to finish the base, build a shelf, cover the top and box in the frame. We used 18mm MDF for the frame, shelf and base because our doors were 18mm deep. We used 22mm MDF for the top.
- We bought kitchen cupboard doors from B&Q. You could make these yourself but pre-bought doors give a lovely finish and also come with blum (concealed) hinges so you don’t see them.
- Door handles
- Screws (80mm)
- Wood filler, glue and primer.
- Decorators caulk
- Paint colour matched to the cupboard doors.
- Some skirting (or MDF) to put along the bottom. We had saved the skirting which was originally in the back of the alcove so re-fit this.
- Firstly, remove any skirting which is in the alcove. Using a multitool, cut the plaster along the top edge of the skirting to stop it from cracking when you remove the skirting. Do a vertical cut where the skirting will end (this depends on how far out you want your storage to come). For us, this was level with the chimney breast. Use a crow bar/chisel (and some strength) to carefully pull the skirting away from the wall. If you plan on refitting any skirting along the front remember to keep this!
- Measure the width of your alcoves, measure at several points up the wall (old houses rarely have straight walls!). For us one alcove was 106cm, the other was 115cm.
- Start with your base. Build a rectangular base out of 2x3inch timber. The width is the width of the alcove (eg 106cm). The depth depends on how far you want your storage to come out. We wanted ours flush with the chimney breast. Remember you will have doors on the front of the frame (ours were 18mm). You will need to leave a gap of 18mm (if using 18mm doors) between the front of the base, and where you’ve stopped your skirting. Screw the four pieces of timber together, and then fix to the floor (be aware of any electrical wires which may be under the floorboards).
- Measure and cut (using the circular saw) a rectangle of 18mm MDF to cover the timber frame base and screw into place. Use a spirit level to make sure that it is level.
- The next thing to do is choose your doors (assuming you are buying them pre-made). We bought shaker style kitchen cupboard doors from B&Q. You need to make sure that they will fit in to the space, with enough room for a frame around the outside.
- We identified the centre of the alcove, and held a cupboard door with hinges attached in position. As blum hinges do not fit flush with the edge of the door. You’ll need to make sure your vertical timbers for the frame (which the hinges will be screwed to) come out far enough to ensure the doors close flush.
- In our example, the alcove is 106cm. The two doors whilst 100cm in width, the hinges are set in by 2cm (so use a measurement of 96cm). We could then use 2x 2×3 inch timbers (they’re roughly 5cm wide each) for our vertical frame. 96cm (for the doors) + 2 x 5cm (for each timber) = 106cm (the width of the alcove).
- You next need to work out how high the vertical timbers need to be. This will depend on the height of the doors (ours are 715mm). You also need to know how big you want the frame around the door to be. Cut the timbers (either by hand or with a mitre saw) and screw in to the wall (making sure that they are level using a spirit level – none of our walls are straight!). Do this at the front and back. We also screwed them into the MDF base by putting a screw in at a 45 degree angle.
- You also need to screw in a horizontal timber along the top to finish the frame. It doesn’t matter which order you do this in. We found it easier to screw the frame together first then fix to the wall. For each fixing use a minimum of two screws.
- Next you need to cut two more vertical timbers (the same size as the other four) and screw these in dead in the centre (photo below). You will also need 3 horizontal timbers to act as brackets for the shelf.
- Next, cut a shelf using a circular saw out of 18mm MDF. Cut notches out so that the shelf fits around the timber frame. We used offcuts of the 2×3 timbers to draw these and then a handsaw to cut. Screw into the horizontal timbers which are acting as shelf brackets.
- We next added the 22mm MDF lid. Cut the wood using the circular saw to fit. If there are gaps at the edge you will be able to use wood filler/decorators caulk to fill them. Screw in to the timber frame. To avoid seeing the screws, use a counter sink to recess the screws and then you can fill over them.
- We then fitted the cupboard doors to the timber frame. To mark out where the hinges needed to be, we placed the skirting which would be fitted to it against the frame to make sure that the doors would sit just above this. You’ll have to drill a hole into the timber frame to screw in the hinges. We used a 7mm drill bit for these specific hinges.
- You then need to box in the doors using the 18mm MDF. Carefully measure (and re-measure) the gap between the doors and wall/MDF lid. Then use a circular saw to cut strips out of 18mm MDF (the same depth as our doors) to fill the gaps. If we’d had a nail gun we would have nailed these in. We secured them using a wood adhesive.
- Next you can use a wood filler or all purpose filler to fill any gaps and joins. We used decorators caulk between the storage and the walls. Leave to dry and then sand until flush.
- To refit the skirting, we used another strip of MDF along the front of the timber frame, and then secured the skirting to this so that it sat slightly proud of the doors (totally personal preference). It is the original skirting so needed lots of filling and sanding.
- We then primed using the Zinsser Bullseye 123 primer. We bought colour matched paint from B&Q (we took the cupboard door from their kitchen display over to the colour match counter in store) in a satin finish.
- Finally, we bought door handles from Etsy and fit these to the doors.
So there we go, we did this over quite a few weekends, it is quite time consuming. The most important thing is to measure and remeasure. It’s definitely the hardest part. On one of the alcoves we messed up the measurements and had to take some bits off and give it another go. My advice would just be to take your time, and at the end of the day it’s only a few pieces of wood.
As always, any questions give us a shout over on Instagram and we’ll try our very best to answer it!
Emma and Jack