One Room Challenge Week 2: Building the Cabinet & Bookshelf Frames

Welcome to Week 2 of the One Room Challenge!

I am starting this project off with the most intimidating and involved project–making built-ins from scratch!

If you missed last week’s post, I shared how we built a Murphy bed in our last apartment and brought it to our new home.

When I started planning this project, I hinted at taking the Murphy bed down, but Jordan said it was never leaving this house! So, the biggest part of this makeover is getting this bed to blend in with the wall by adding built-ins on either side.

After completing our Pax built-ins in the living room, I thought, how hard can it be to build them from scratch??

It turns out it’s much, much harder! This project involved a lot of trial and error, assembly, and disassembly. However, I am so happy I did it and I can already tell it will be worth all the trouble.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Building the Platform

The first step is creating a level place to install the cabinet.

Before measuring for the platform, we removed the baseboards so the dimensions would be exact.

I used 2×4 common pine boards to make a simple rectangular frame–Don’t underestimate the necessity of corner clamps so you get right angles! Once the frame was in place, I used shims to level it side to side and front to back and finally secured it to studs.

Building the Cabinet Carcasses

Next, I took measurements for the cabinet, made cuts, and assembled it. I was insanely proud of myself as I completed my first base cabinet, only to realize it was way too tall and none of the corners were squared…kind of a problem.

After some research, I discovered that base cabinets for built-ins are usually 32-34 inches tall. This allows for a good-sized cabinet without the counter feeling too high.

What I failed to calculate in my measurements is the framing the cabinet sits on, which adds another roughly 4 inches to the total height. The cabinet was very oversized and clunky.

As I searched for an easy way to rework the cabinet I came across a super helpful beginner’s resource. A site called Shelf Help Now.

They have a virtual planner, where I added my desired dimensions, and it provided the exact measurements I needed for each board.

After discovering this resource, things went much smoother and I completed a squared cabinet with four right angles.

I added two strips of wood at the top and bottom of the cabinet’s back to secure it to the wall. Finally, I secured it in a few spots to the side of the Murphy bed as well.

Building the Bookshelf

I made the bookshelf step back from the cabinet front. This provides a little dimension and also gives the illusion of a bigger room. For reference, the depth of the cabinet is about 16 inches, while the depth of the bookshelf is 12 inches.

I cut the two side pieces longer than necessary to provide a place to attach 1×10 trim pieces next week.

(Originally, I planned to add framing to the ceiling to attach trim, but because of the way the ceiling studs ran, there was no secure place to add supports.)

The base of the bookshelf extends the full depth of the cabinet base. This is to provide a seamless, wall-to-wall counter surface.

The top shelf is installed to be level with the Murphy bed, so trimming will also flow seamlessly.

After assembling it, I secured it to the cabinet with wood screws from the underside of the cabinet and finally, at the top into the studs with 3-inch deck screws.

To install shelving, I plan to use pilaster clips (I think that’s what they are called?!). This is the easiest way to add adjustable shelves to the bookshelf. Originally, I installed stationary shelves, but it was very difficult to get these symmetrical on both sides of the Murphy bed, and I also want the flexibility of adjustable shelving.

one room challenge week 2 built-ins

Vertical Shiplap Paneling

I love adding texture wherever possible because it adds so much interest.

Luckily, this was a free addition! I repurposed the decorative vertical shiplap paneling on the front of the Murphy bed and added it as an accent behind the bookshelves.

It already makes a huge difference!


Whew. This was an undertaking, and I have developed a healthy respect for Craftsman, who makes these projects look so easy!

I am so excited to have these installed, and I can already see our vision coming to life! Stay tuned next week as I complete these built-ins by adding trim to the face of the cabinetry.

Sign up for my newsletter so you are the first to see our project updates, and follow on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes footage!

If you’d like to check out the design plans of the other participants, you can find them at the One Room Challenge Blog.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Wow, you are really tackling those DIY projects, I am so impressed. Thanks for the tip about Shelf Help Now, that will be a game-changer! Great work, keep it up!