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As I spent weeks and weeks in the kitchen painting our cabinets, my mind kept racing ahead to decorating and improving the function of the space. Since our pantry is teeny tiny and I have to store groceries in the cabinets, I knew I needed to maximize my kitchen storage to make the kitchen function as efficiently as possible.
I had looked online and in stores for simple solutions to our storage issues, but I kept coming up empty handed.
I looked on eBay for vintage items that I could transform and on Etsy for handmade items that would fit the bill without me having to do anything to them. I looked at Michael’s…and Target… and Marshall’s and any other store I happened to pop into.
Everything was either too big, too small, too long, too short, the wrong color, the right color but not food safe, out of stock, made of plastic, etc.
And still nada.
Absolutely nothing was panning out. So I put the kitchen design process on hold, but I have to admit I was getting a little frustrated with it all.
And then one day as I was painting and my mind was drifting as it often did, I noticed how my canisters looked too small for the space.
I liked my canisters and didn’t want larger ones because 1.) I didn’t want to spend the money to replace my perfectly good ones, and 2.) It might take me a year to get to the bottom of a big canister and I would prefer to keep my flour a little fresher than that.
And as the old adage goes, “Waste not. Want not”. Both of my grandmothers were dirt poor during the Depression and I saw how they saved buttons, scraps of cloth, and old jars to use again. They were “green” before being green was in. And I’m just liked that.
I quickly decided these were perfectly good canisters that didn’t need to be replaced, but they did need something.
My Grand Plan
And then this grand idea hit me. When I made over this phonograph back in the spring, I removed the bottom storage shelf because it wasn’t original to the piece. I had saved it for months and months because I thought it would come in handy sooner or later.
Then one fine day during the summer, I cleaned the shelf up, dry brushed it with some old white paint…
And used it for my Ice Cream Social to give extra height and additional storage.
So, I dug that little shelf out of storage, plopped it down on the counter, and added my canisters.
While the size was all wrong, the function and the look were perfect. This space saving storage shelf gave height to my smaller canisters, while providing extra storage below.
Hello! I think I just found the answer to my dilemma!
Although this particular shelf jutted out too far from the wall and was a bit too tall, I decided I would live with it for a week or so to see if I actually liked how it functioned. During that week, I found it was perfect for storing fruit, bakery items, or extra dishes. It kept my counter clutter looking neat and organized which I absolutely loved.
I gave my husband the dimensions I wanted for the real shelf that would be sitting on my counter and happily went back to my painting.
After a few weeks had passed and still no shelf, I gently broached the subject with my husband… “So how about I just pick up the lumber???” Hint hint.
And he surprised me with, “I’m having a wood craftsman friend make it for you because we’re both a little overwhelmed right now”.
Umm, that was putting it mildly. Between his work schedule, my painting, school field trips, and the boys’ soccer and cross country obligations, we worn slap out. And so, I was super excited to hear someone else would be doing this little project for me.
How To Build A Space Saver Kitchen Shelf
First off, we need to do some measuring. Actually a whole lot of measuring so get a pencil and paper ready.
Measure the length of the counter where the shelf will go.
Measure the height between the counter top and the bottom of the upper cabinets.
Measure the depth of your upper kitchen cabinets. Standard size is 12 inches, but you should still measure to make sure your cabinets don’t vary. I subtracted a few inches from this measurement because I wanted a little more available counter space to prep our food on and I didn’t want my space saver shelf to stick out as far as my upper cabinets. (My shelf measurements are below).
Measure the length x width x height of the canisters that will be sitting on the shelf, which will help determine max height of the shelf. Keep in mind the possibility you might want to change canisters at some point and would those canisters be taller than your current ones?
We now know the measurements for the available space where your shelf will sit. Next, we need to determine how much of that space is available for the shelf.
Things to consider before determining the size of the space saver storage shelf…
• Do you have a coffee pot, a toaster, or a mixer that will be sitting on the counter in that same area?
• Will you need to leave some available space for other kitchen items or decor that you might use on occasion for holidays or get togethers?
I recommend using wax paper, aluminum foil or a cardboard box to use as a template. Cut the paper or cardboard the length and width that you want, then place your canisters or other decor items on top of the paper and see if the size is adequate.
Our First Space Saver Shelf
The measurements of the first shelf we had built was: 28″L x 9″W x 5″T. I found the height to be a little too short for most of my storage needs and so the next two shelves I had built were around 6.5″ tall.
Remember if you are ordering a custom built shelf, you need to give state whether your measurements are the size of the opening you are wanting or if they include the wood. The opening in my first shelf was only 4.5″ tall and most storage baskets I looked at were 5 inches or taller.
Here you can see the beautiful work our friend Mark did. The joints are mitered and the edges were sanding slightly to give it a smooth, rounded appearance. He used a nail/staple gun to attach the pieces together.
The top of this shelf is a little knotty which I like. You can see that Mark sanded both sides of the wood until it was smooth and splinter free.
The beauty of making your own shelf is that you get to pick out the wood. You can go as rustic as you want or you can pick out the prettiest pieces of lumber available for a smoother finish. You can stain or paint the shelf to your liking. We chose stain with the thought we could always paint it later.
Tip: Remember to use food safe sealer if you think you’ll be placing fruit or any other food items directly on the shelf.
The old wood box under the shelf holds large ladles, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. My red prep bowls are easy to access and they add a little punch of color. I painted the canister lids and wood box Sherwin Williams’ Kilim Beige to match the rest of our kitchen decor.
These cookie jars are vintage and were painted the same Kilim Beige.
These space saver shelves are also perfect for large get togethers or wedding receptions. They add extra height for a pretty display, can hold beverage dispensers, or dessert trays.
This is the same shorter shelf that was holding the nuts. Here it’s functioning as part of our coffee and hot chocolate station. My oversized mugs fit perfectly underneath the shelf and they are no longer hogging a massive amount of space in my cabinets.
Old spaghetti sauce jars were repurposed to hold our coco, marshmallows, and cinnamon sticks.
Here you can see that our countertops are full but they don’t look cluttered plus it adds a touch of fun charm to the kitchen.
Custom built wood space saver shelf (Mark currently doesn’t have a picture of the shelves listed. Just click on this link, message him on Etsy, and mention me. He’ll know what you’re talking about!).
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