So for my daughter’s bedroom makeover I wanted to add a built-in storage piece, but I wanted to keep it simple. I have seen built-in shelving installed between the studs in the wall in bathrooms, but I have never noticed it in a bedroom before. That’s probably because there’s typically only about 4 inches of depth between walls, meaning the built-in shelves can’t be very deep. In a bathroom, there are a lot of small things to store that can easily fit on a 4” shelf. In a bedroom, you often think of wanting deeper shelves to store larger items. But as I thought about it I realized a built-in bookshelf that is only 4” deep can actually store a lot of things in a teen girl’s bedroom.

You can easily store framed photos, art or inspiration. You could also display trophies and award ribbons. Small storage boxes, trinkets, piggy banks, candles, perfume bottles and decorative pieces also fit well on a 4” deep shelf. Really it was quite easy to fill her shelves with items we were already planning to put somewhere in her room anyway.

I think it would be cool to add a small ledge to the front of each shelf and use it to store picture books in a young child’s room. So really there are a lot of ways to use between the studs built-in shelving in a bedroom.

I built and installed this project all on my own and surprisingly, it went faster than I expected!

I started by using a stud finder to locate the studs in the wall and marked them with a pencil. I knew generally where I wanted the shelving to be along the wall, but it looked like there wasn’t a stud in both locations I was hoping for.

the large rectangle I drew on the wall is the desired overall size of my built-in

So I cut open the wall with a test hole. I didn’t want to cut a massive hole in the wall in case my plans for this built-in were not going to work. But opening up a hole allowed me to verify that there were no electrical wires behind the wall where I was going to be working. The stud finder indicated there were no electrical lines back there, but I wanted to be sure before I moved forward because if there were that would instantly nix the whole project.

I also got to see exactly where each stud was located and realized that the left stud was in a good place but the right stud was too far to the right in the corner. There is a way I could fix this, but it was info I wanted to know at the beginning of the project.

Also if you look at the photo above, you can see little nails sticking through the wall from the other side. That’s because the other side of this wall is the pallet wall that I made for our bonus room. I knew they would be there, but I wasn’t sure how many there would be or how easy they would be to trim down. So with the wall now open, I tested to see if my plan to get the nails out of my way would work and it did.

Which means I now had all the info I needed to move forward with the project and I expected it all to work out… All systems go!!

I measured out the overall opening I wanted in the wall: 4’ high x about 18” wide. Then I cut open the larger hole. I used a box cutter and drywall saw to cut through the wall.

With the wall fully opened up to the size I wanted, I went ahead and took care of all the nails sticking through the wall. I cut them mostly off with wire cutters and then hammered any remaining tips down against the drywall. Honestly, this is something no one else is likely to encounter. It was just my luck that the one wall that had nails through it was on the other side of the one wall I wanted to open up.

Since the distance between my studs was about 23” and I wanted it to be only about 18”, I needed to build out the studs. The left stud was right where I wanted it to be, but the right stud was too close to the corner of the wall so I added 2x4s to the right stud. I cut three 4’ long pieces (since that’s how tall my built-in will be) of 2x4s and slid them behind the drywall to attach them to the right stud one at a time using wood screws. I then ended up with a distance of about 18.5” between the studs. That was more like it.

Now it was time to build a simple wooden box that fit in the opening. I started by cutting a piece of plywood for the back. I cut it 4’x18.5”.

Let me just take a minute to say that I specifically made the built-in 4’ tall. I was originally thinking to make it 5’ tall because that was a size that just looked good proportionally. But in order to cut a piece of plywood to 5’x18.5” I’d have to buy a full sheet which is 4’x8’. It seemed like a big waste of material and money to buy a sheet that big for the small amount I needed. So I realized it made more sense to lower the height of my built-in down to 4’ tall. Then I could buy a 4’x2’ quarter sheet of plywood which would waste much less material and cost less money. The whole reason I’m mentioning this is that in general, it’s good to think about parameters like this when you’re making DIY projects. It can end up saving you money and time while also reducing waste.

I cut my 4’x2’ quarter sheet of plywood down to 4’x18.5” using a circular saw.

I used 1”x4”s to make the sides of the box and the shelves in between, attaching everything with wood glue and screws. And it was ready to install in the opening I had cut in the wall.

I was able to lift it into place myself and level it. I had to use a couple shims to get everything straight. To secure it, I installed screws directly through the sides of the box into the two studs. The hardest part of this project was now done!

I finished it by adding some trim around the front edges with a nail gun. I chose fluted casing and rosettes for the corners to bring some traditional flair to this part of the room.

After caulking it and painting it, I decided to add some pattern to the back to make it pop against the plain white wall.

I ended up going with peel and stick wallpaper because it’s so easy to apply. I chose a modern herringbone tile pattern to contrast the traditional style trim. I love the way the two opposing styles sit next to each other in harmony.

I’m happy with how the whole project turned out and pleasantly surprised by how easy this was. It’s a nice feature in her bedroom, and an easy affordable way to add storage in any room!

…Look for a post about my DIY ‘desker’ furniture project next.


  1. Avatar Khai

    Your page is the best. My husband and I are going to be building a custom home, and I really want to keep the costs in check. I’m also a mighty DIYer, but other than a patio table and benches, I haven’t built much furniture. This is giving me life!!! Lol. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be back!

    • Avatar Stephanie @ Studio 36 Interiors

      You’re so kind! So glad it’s helpful and inspiring for you!

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