DIY Hallway Cabinets – Part 1

I finally have some hallway cabinet progress to share with you!

I wanted these cabinets configured so that there would be a wide, open cabinet section (open, meaning that the 48-inch-wide section would remain open rather than being sectioned off as two separate 24-inch-wide cabinet sections, but it will have doors on it) on the bottom where I plan to place my cat’s litter box, out of my dog’s reach, with a hole in the side of the cabinet where she can enter and exit. In the middle, I wanted a shallow drawer where we could keep pet things like dog leashes, claw clippers, brushes, etc., on one side, and then on the other side we could keep items like flashlights, batteries, emergency candles, etc. And then the top section would be another cabinet section with doors and adjustable shelves for linens and general storage.

I’ll share the step-by-step, but first let me share the final picture from last night just so you can get a visual of where all of this is heading…

I basically built three open-faced boxes (one box for each section), stacked the boxes in the configuration I wanted, and added trim. Here’s how it looked once I got the trim installed last night.

how to build cabinets- 20 - basic cabinet build finished with boxes trimmed out

You’ll notice on the side of my cabinet, you can clearly see three separate boxes. I didn’t bother covering the side because this actually works with the design I’ve chosen for this cabinet. I came across this and loved the linen cabinet on the right. Specifically, I love how there’s decorative trim that separates the drawer section from the upper and lower cabinet sections.

So I plan to use that same general idea on my hallway cabinets by adding decorative trim to set off the drawer section from the upper and lower cabinet sections. My trim will cover those areas where the boxes meet.

However, if I weren’t planning on that design and didn’t want the sections showing (which you obviously wouldn’t want), I would have built the boxes, stacked the boxes, and then added one continuous piece of either 1/8″ plywood or 1/4″ plywood to the side from floor to ceiling. Home Depot carries 1/8″ oak plywood specifically for this purpose in their unfinished cabinet section.

So now I’ll back up to the beginning and show you how I constructed the whole thing. 🙂

I built the whole thing out of 3/4″ plywood, and had Home Depot cut most of the pieces for me just to make it easy. And then I started constructing the bottom box section and worked my way up.

I started assembling the bottom box (i.e., the lower cabinet section) by placing the back piece flat on my work surface, which happened to be the ramp in the sunroom. 😀 And then I placed the top piece with its edge on the work surface and nailed it to the top edge of the back piece. I assembled this using wood glue and 1.5″ 16-gauge nails. The box with the handle was just acting as my second pair of hands to hold the piece in place since I was working alone.

how to build cabinets- 1 - place back on work surface and attach top

how to build cabinets- 2 - place back on work surface and attach top

Next I attached the side piece, which I glued and nailed into the edge of the back piece and top piece.

how to build cabinets- 3 - attach fir st side piece

And then I repeated that on the other side.

how to build cabinets- 4 - attach second side piece

NOTE: Don’t be distracted by the fact that the back piece is so much shorter than the side pieces. The guy at Home Depot cut it wrong, and I didn’t notice until I was home. Thankfully it was the piece for the bottom section, so the mistake didn’t matter since it would be covered up, which you’ll see next. Had this mistake been made on the drawer section or the upper cabinet section, it wouldn’t have worked at all.

With the back, top, and sides assembled, I sat the box upright and put it into place in the hallway.

how to build cabinets- 5 - put box in place and secure to wall

Next I made a very basic frame (as in, no mitering, just square cuts) out of 2″ x 6″ lumber, assembled with 2.5″ 16-gauge nails and wood glue, to fit in the bottom of this section. Once in place, I nailed it to the sides and back of the cabinet box using 2″ nails.

how to build cabinets- 6 - build frame for bottom using 2 x 6 lumber

And then I covered that with a piece of plywood, and nailed it into place.

how to build cabinets- 7 - add plywood for bottom shelf

That gave me the right height for my baseboards to wrap around the cabinet, as well as some additional height for the partial overlay doors to lie against the face frame. If that’s clear as mud, it’ll all make more sense later. I promise. 🙂

Next I worked on the box for the middle drawer section. I built it the same way, placing the back piece on my work surface, and attaching the top piece with glue and nails.

how to build cabinets- 8 - drawer section - attach top to back

Then attaching the side pieces.

how to build cabinets- 9 - drawer section - attach side pieces

how to build cabinets- 10 - drawer section - attach side pieces

But on this section, I also added the bottom piece. So this really is just a simple open-faced box.

how to build cabinets- 11 - drawer section - attach bottom piece

And then I stacked that on top of the lower cabinet section.

how to build cabinets- 12 - drawer section - stack drawer section on top of bottom cabinet section

I built the upper section exactly like the center drawer section, but before assembling the box, I used my Kreg shelf pin jig (this is the one I have) to drill holes for the adjustable shelves.

how to build cabinets- 13 - upper cabinet section - drill pin holes for shelf pins in side pieces

So this is what my side pieces looked like before assembling the box.

how to build cabinets- 14 - upper cabinet section - side pieces with shelf pin holes drilled

But the assembly was exactly like the drawer section. And with the top cabinet box assembled, I stacked it on top of the other sections (with some help from my brother, of course).

how to build cabinets- 15 - place upper cabinet sectio on top of drawer section

And there’s a peek at the whole litter box setup. 🙂 I used a top entry litter box (this is the one I have) so that it has the high sides to keep the litter inside, but I removed the top and then cut an “entrance” in the end with my jigsaw. And between the side entrance hole in the cabinet (which isn’t there yet) and the litter box, I’ve used a Gorilla Grip cat litter mat (which you can find here) so that hopefully she won’t track any cat litter out of the cabinet and onto the hallway floor.

Anyway, back to cabinet building. 🙂

After all of the boxes were stacked, I made sure that the front edges were all flush with each other, and then I nailed them together and also used 2-inch screws to attach the sections to the side and back walls. All of the walls in the original part of my house have solid wood shiplap behind the drywall, so I never have to search for a stud to screw things into. But if you’re not so fortunate as to have solid wood shiplap-lined walls (seriously the best thing ever!), you’ll need to find studs before screwing the cabinet to the wall.

NOTE: If I weren’t using the decorative trim above and below the drawer section, which will cover the areas where the boxes meet on the sides, then it is at this point (i.e., before the face trim is added) that I would add the 1/8″ or 1/4″ plywood to cover the whole side.

With the boxes assembled, stacked, and secured to each other and the wall, I was ready for trim. I started by attaching 1″ x 2″ pre-primed lumber to the sides using wood glue and 16-gauge nails.

how to build cabinets- 16 - add side trim to face of cabinets

Next I cut and attached a 1″ x 6″ to the bottom.

how to build cabinets- 17 - add trim to bottom of cabinet face

You’ll notice there’s a 3/4″ space between that piece and the floor, but it won’t matter since that will be covered by baseboard trim.

I also added a 1″ x 6″ piece to the top. And of course, gaps between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling will be covered by crown moulding.

how to build cabinets- 18 - add trim to the top

And finally, I added 1″ x 4″ pieces between the box sections.

how to build cabinets- 18 - add trim between sections

I used 1″ x 4″ lumber here because I needed the extra height to accommodate the decorative trim that I’m going to add above and below the drawer section, while still leaving enough face frame for my partial overlay doors to rest against. If I weren’t using the decorative trim, I probably would have ripped some lumber down to 2″ wide to use there.

So that’s the progress so far! It’s a good start, but this has been the easy part. 🙂


I used a method for making cabinet doors that requires only basic tools. Click here to see that project

Simple DIY Cabinet Doors - make cabinet doors with basic tools

And you can click here to see the finished cabinets

finished hallway cabinets - side view



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  1. Kristi

    Looking good. You have once again inspired me to build a unit in my den. I was having a hard time thinking about the size of it – but doing it in sections is much more manageable.


  2. I love reading your how-to’s. You make it seem so possible!

    I have a suggestion for the litter box, that may seem over the top: build a vent for the cat box up through the corner of the cabinet and vent out the attic. You can use a muffin fan (the kind used in computer cases–they’re built to run continuously) to move the air out of the cabinet. I’ve done this with a dryer vent tube and it made such a difference. I imagine you could box in the vent tube so it looks nice. Anyway, just a thought.

    Looking forward to the next steps!

    1. That is a great idea! I too was wondering a bit if litter box “scent” would affect linens stored in the upper part of the cabinet, even though it is built as a separate cabinet and has doors to protect items from dust and other things!

      These cabinets are beautifully made, and I need to get busy and make the book cases I’ve been needing for 3 years now at my house! Kristi, your new studio is going to be SO wonderful; the size of it, as well as everything you plan to put in it to use for your various projects, will make life SO much easier for you. I have a big craft room, with a 72×80 inch work table, and next door is the sewing/laundry room, BUT they are in the basement, which can be a trifle inconvenient, especially as I get older. Your studio will be a superlative use of the space allotted for it, and I cannot wait to see how it all turns out!

      1. Litter boxes only stink if you don’t clean them regularly. As long as Peeve has fresh, clean litter to cover her business with, and the box is cleaned out daily, there’s no smell other than the smell of the actual cat litter. The one I use smells like Febreeze, so it’s not an offensive smell.

        1. I built a similar setup for our cats at one point but added drawer glides so i could easily pull the litter box out to make it easier to clean.

    1. I don’t know what a featherweight case is.
      I made the cabinet 49.5″ wide so that I could use 48″-wide pieces (i.e., the exact width of a piece of plywood) for the backs, tops, and bottoms of each section. I had originally planned to make the cabinet 54 inches wide, until I started drawing my cut diagrams and realized just how much plywood it would take (and how much would be wasted on each piece) by adding those additional six inches. By making it 48 inches wide, it made much more efficient use of the plywood, which saved me about $150.

    2. Featherweight case…you mean the sewing machine? I had no idea that’s what it was called until another commenter mentioned “Singer featherweight”, but yep, that’s what it is. 🙂

    3. Susang…I wondered too, if it was a Featherweight Singer sewing machine case!…I have my mother’s Featherweight and treasure it!

  3. Wow, I’m always amazed at how quickly you design, plan and work things out Kristi. This cabinet is going to be so useful and purposeful. Well done on deciding what goes where……very practical use of the cabinet.

  4. May I make a suggestion? I would try leaving a door open on the bottom section so Peeve can try it out before cutting a hole in the side. Peeve might not like it and may refuse to use it. (Im sure you are an old hand at cat guardianship and you know what I mean) It seems like it may be a bit cramped and if it gets smelly the ammonia fumes could really get concentrated in there. Then you will have an unhappy cat and pee and poo everywhere.

    1. I put the litter box and mat in there when I’m not working on the cabinets to get her used to it. She uses it with no problem, and since she’s a little cat (only 8 pounds), the cabinet is very spacious for her. But I didn’t expect her to have any issues with this since we had a very similar setup at the condo. I put the litter box inside a hallway cabinet at the condo, and neither of our cats had a problem with it.

      1. Cats are very people-like, almost all of them prefer as much privacy as possible when they use the litter box. This enclosed kitty potty is probably like heaven for Peeve, not sure how social she is, but she can also go in there and hide if she’s not inclined to be welcoming to strangers. Kristi is right, the only time a litter box smells bad is when people don’t clean it regularly, which should be done at least once a day (imagine using a toilet over and over again after not flushing when going #2!), or if there is not enough litter in it for the cat to bury her business.

  5. This looks great. We’ve been trying to think of ways to build built ins in our family room on either side of a wonky fireplace. This blog is timely and useful. Great work.

  6. Hey, that is slick! Love the idea someone had for the venting. Since there’s an electrical outlet I’d suggest leaving a nightlight lit in there. Having my master bath re-done after the first of the year and I’m using an antique cabinet like the one shown in my bath. It’ll be fun to watch this progress!! So much better than the previous cabinet in that space-lol

  7. I also have my litter box in a cuboard which two cats use. Similar set up but I keep a waste bin with plastic bag and metal scoop to the left of litter box. I also have a bin for fresh litter. Everything is there which makes it easy to scoop 2xday. CLean litter keeps kitties happy. Smells contained in plastic bag

  8. That looks like a Singer 1949 Featherweight Case. I have two of those machines, one from mom and one from my Aunt, mom’s sister.
    They work like a charm still!

  9. We have also used the cat liter in a cabinet route. Based on my experience, motion detection lights in the area are good to have. I have battery operated ones mounted on the sides that go on automatically when the cats enter. I know the cats don’t need the light but I like it when I go in to clean the pans. The last setup we had was through a sheetrocked wall into the interior of a laundry room closet. In that situation we had a cat who liked to “miss” the pan and had damage to the cabinets from the urine seeping between the sides of the cabinet. We eventually re-did that room and removed it and I was glad to see it go. If I had to do that over again I would have done silicone caulk around the perimeter to avoid any such incidents. I know your cat is most likely better behaved than mine but I had 3 of my elder cats suffer kidney failure for a year and we had lots of accidents during their illnesses.

  10. I am curious about the drawer — will it be on rollers? If so, would it have been easier to install the roller hardware to the drawer sides before assembling the drawer unit?

    1. It probably would have been easier, but there’s still plenty of room to get my hand and a screwdriver in there. I would have installed it before adding the trim if I had planned ahead and ordered them in time. I just assumed that I could get them at Home Depot, but my local Home Depot doesn’t carry the full extension drawer slides in 16-inch length, so I had to order them on Amazon. I’ve definitely made it more challenging for myself by adding the trim first, but it’s still doable.

  11. Great job Kristi! I will be very curious to know if your kitty cat will adjust to your ingenious litter box? My kitty died last summer, but I know she would have never gone in something like that unless she was trained to do so at a young age!
    Good Luck. Your house and all of your projects are fabulous.

    1. We had a very similar setup at the condo, so she’s done it before. It’s been four years, but hopefully she’ll remember and won’t have any problems adjusting to it again.

  12. I still haven’t finished my upstairs hardwood floors (Lumber Liquidators pine unfinished 5″ tongue in groove) and you’ve accomplished so much. Seems like I’ve sanded so many times, applied polyurethane, sanded, repeat. I could never get it smooth or free from something in the poly…hair, dust, little bumps, etc. Nothing upstairs except my bed…ugh. There’s a project everywhere I look. It does get overwhelming at times. Now I wish I had carpet installed…probably would have been less expensive in the long run and less frustrating. I understand about changing your mind.

  13. I love what you’re doing! You’ve given me the answer for our kitty.

    You build cabinets exactly like we do. I have a question. You see where the 4″ trim doesn’t set flush with the other trim, how do you fix that? We can never figure that spot out. I usually use wood filler and sand a lot, but I can never get it flush enough. I hope you have the answer to that.

    I can’t wait to see this piece finished. It’s going to be awesome.

    1. That trim actually is flush. What you’re seeing is where my miter saw took off some of the primer and exposed bare wood. However, I’ve had plenty of experience with face trim pieces not sitting flush with each other. 🙂 And yes, my answer is to use wood filler and the sand until smooth. I can generally get it smooth enough that it’s not noticeable once it’s primed and painted.

  14. We are building a new house and are installing a “cat station” in our hallway that will be a lot like this. Lower section will hold cat box, litter, and food (in different sections). Then there will be a counter for the kitty food (so she can eat without being challenged by the dog). Above that will be upper cabinets to house our wifi modem and all the other computer type guts that the house needs. All the cabinet doors in this area will be ventilated.

  15. I would love to have shiplap walls, especially the original ones! Have you ever thought about removing the sheetrock in one of your rooms and let that shiplap shine? (Or maybe you already have) I have a question about the type plywood you used. Is it cabinet-grade plywod?

    1. The shiplap in my house isn’t really the kind you’d put on display. It’s incredibly rough, has random knot holes in it where you can see inside the wall (and see insulation on exterior walls), etc. That type of shiplap, even if it could be sanded smooth(er), doesn’t fit my style at all.
      I do use cabinet grade sanded plywood, but I don’t use the most expensive stuff. I’d save the expensive stuff for projects that are going to be stained.

  16. So exciting to see the progress! I love all the comments from the other cat owners. We’ve never had cats. Just dogs. So all the comments are very new to me!

    One comment above asked why you hadn’t made the cabinet wide enough to be flush with the door frame. I personally like it the size it is. I think a larger one would have felt too bulky.

    Can’t wait to see more! I know there is a lot to do, but it will be nice when this space is finished out!

    Oh, on another note, regarding the wall treatment… I love the ombre idea with the flower outline on top! That would be so nice in this space.

  17. Looks good so far. Will you put a door in the end for your kitty to go into her litter area? I like the set up and the way you throught about keeping litter from getting tracked out of that area. Should make for easier clean up.

    The cabinet design should work well in that area.

    1. Yep, it’s in the box. 🙂 It was my grandmother’s. It used to be the only sewing machine I had just 7 or so years ago. I used it for draperies, pillows, and anything else I made at that time. I have since retired it, and now have a very nice Husqvarna, but I plan to display the Singer on a shelf in my studio when I have it finished. It’s such a pretty little machine.