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MUDROOM CUBBIES (not lockers)

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Were you here for the great debate of '22 where I went back and forth for what seemed like years deciding between lockers and cubbies for our mudroom? I am usually a really decisive person (AKA impulsive as heck), but I had seen a photo of some beautiful, refinished, vintage school lockers, and I could not get the idea out of my head. Spoiler alert: I didn't end up going with the lockers. In the end, I remembered that we originally took out a closet in our mudroom in order to open the space up more, and adding lockers with a closed off front would defeat the purpose of doing that in the first place. So, though hesitantly at first, I decided to go ahead and try my hand at building some mudroom cubbies.

The space before I got my hands on it

I am admittedly still a student when it comes to woodworking, so the idea of building cubbies from scratch... well, to be honest, it scared the crap out of me. For some reason, the idea of woodworking is incredibly intimidating to me. I think its because even though mistakes are FREQUENT around here, I really don't like making them, and large woodworking projects leave a lot of opportunity for mistakes to happen. BUT, I knew that I had the knowledge, and I just had to be brave enough to apply it. So, since I couldn't chicken out now (I'd already devised my plan to thousands of people on the internet), I got to work in planning the project.

I decided that three cubbies was the route I wanted to take, and so I first figured out the spacing. This will obviously differ for everyone's different spaces, but I ended up settling on cubbies that were about 21" wide, give or take. I will note that our cubbies are plenty big enough, and I think that 18" would totally work too.

I started with the boxes for the floor, and to make these, I used 3/4" plywood. I cut my side pieces to depth and height - 18" tall and 21" deep in my case, but that is personal preference. I joined them to each other with 1x4s in the back and pocket holes and screws to attach. You can watch the process here. The most important tip is to check and triple check your right angles (you'll definitely want a speed square and a right angle clamp). If you don't have 90 degree angles, your entire piece will end up lopsided (this is one of those mistakes that I was afraid to make). I was successful though, and also pretty dang proud of myself after I finished.

Once I had those pieces together, I needed to connect top and a bottom pieces to them because they were still pretty flimsy. We chose 3/4" MDF for this, mostly because the price of wood is bananas. Attaching the side pieces to the MDF with pocket holes and wood glue was next, but BE CAREFUL when screwing the pocket screws into the MDF. If you go too fast, the screw will have trouble finding something to hang on to and you might go through. After the top and bottom were attached, I was left with my bench. That I had just built. My first build ENTIRELY ON MY OWN. Insert pat on the back. The boxes need a base to sit on top of to keep them secure, so I used 2x4s to frame out a base that was the exact same size as the bench I had just made.

It is important to note that placing the base on your floors might require you to cut your floors. In our case, it did. The reasoning behind this is that floating floors can not withstand that much weight on top of them because it may encourage buckling. So, you have to cut them with a circular saw, or remove them entirely in order to give them room to expand if necessary. In this case, we decided to remove them entirely and have our base sit on our subfloor. We placed the 2x4 base in the area we had just cut and attached to studs on the back and side walls. MAKE SURE that your base is level when you attach. If your base isn't level, your entire build will also... not be level.

Once we had the bench in, the rest of the project went pretty quickly. I decided that I wanted enclosed cabinets somewhere because I knew that there will inevitably be items in this area that I want to hide away, so I decided to use cabinetry up top. Due to the size of my space, I decided to actually use a couple of vertical, unfinished stock cabinets and hang them horizontally for the sake of symmetry. Hanging these is as easy as screwing them into studs. We also decided to use these hinges to ensure that the door would stay open if we wanted to access it.

Next up came the dividers, and we chose 1/2" plywood for these. We spaced them evenly and attached to both the bottom bench and the top cabinets with pocket holes on the bottom and small cabinet screws on top (through the cabinet). This step is a "go slowly and carefully step," particularly because we went with the 1/2" plywood, and so if we weren't careful, the top screws could very easily be put in on an angle, and come through the wood. Pre-drilling is a must so the wood doesn't split.

Now that the bones of the cubbies were finished, it was time to make them pretty, so I used 1x2s to trim out the front, and used a 1x4 and some smaller trim pieces on the top to give the appearance of crown moulding. I attached 1x2s to the top of the cabinet and the ceiling so that I would have something to attach my 1x4 to. AND... once trimmed out, it was time to fill and sand and fill and sand and then do it one more time to make sure it was smooth, and then prime and paint. I used Zinsser water based primer and my spray gun, and I chose to use Sherwin Williams' Emerald Urethane trim paint, because in my opinion, this paint is the best there is, and is worth every single penny. I landed on the color Greenblack. I definitely recommend using a high quality spray gun if you have one in order to get that flawless finish. I use this one, and though paint sprayers take some practice and maintenance, they finish they leave is STUNNING.

I thought I was done after painting, but I decided to call a last minute audible and add some shelving to the top of the cubbies. It was wasted space without them, and they also added more storage and/or a place for a little decor. I went with a pre-finished MDF shelf that I cut to size and attached to my 1x6 hook support board and 1x2s that I added to the sides of the cubbies. I added some pretty gold hooks and some hardware to the cabinets and NOW I was finished.

I am in LOVE.

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Thank you so much for this post!! I am positive that it is added work but man do I SO MUCH prefer this to the fast fast reels of Instagram!! I feel like my dreams of lovely store-away space in my own digs is just around the DIY (and the putting on of big-girl courage pants) corner. 💗

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