Our Skinny Space Storage Solution for the Bathroom

We took last week off to rest our brains, recharge and have an adventure. Not even two days into vacation, we found ourselves talking about bedroom trim and paint (where to end that pesky line!), and I spent an embarrassing amount of time on eBay searching for the perfect vintage rug. I guess that’s to say our downtime was a success; I was so nervous that we’d come home and feel anxious about starting back up, but that’s the funny thing about time away from the grind. Once you give yourself a moment to wind down, your brain finds the space to feel creative again. (Imagine that!) All that to say, we’re feeling good. We’re ready to dive back in! We finished the last steps of this skinny bathroom storage project right before we left, so let’s get to it:

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One of the main concerns in our master bath renovation – as is typically the case with most rooms – was storage. At the time, our bathroom had very little, with a small under sink cabinet that lacked any sort of organization. (Despite my best efforts of adding a basket to corral a few items, it just wasn’t working!) We added a huge-but-slim IKEA medicine cabinet (like this, minus the mirror finish), but our new plans included a sleek mirror or two in its place. This GODMORGAN vanity was on the to-buy list, and while that would already be a storage upgrade to what we were used to, we couldn’t kick the idea of adding shelving – or a cabinet? – to the extra foot of space at the end of the bathtub for cleaning supplies, extra hand towels and an endless toilet paper supply.

While we were at IKEA choosing our GODMORGAN configuration, we noticed the LILLANGEN! It was super slim, tall and had a door to hide away any mess. Yes! It can be tough to tell in the store exactly how these pieces all fit together, but we crossed our fingers and told ourselves we could trim the door, back and shelves to the proper width, if needed. We bought the unit and gave rough measurements to our contractor, asking them to leave the opening as wide as possible, but we requested a height of 70″+ to accommodate the LILLANGEN. Below, you’ll see that they left that dead space pretty open; there’s no trim, just a big empty hole:

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The cabinet was 11 3/4″ wide, which was, of course, a hair too wide for the leftover space. We also didn’t want it all the way up against the wall for a couple reasons: 1) There needed to be a place for our baseboards and tile to dead-end into, for starters, 2) we wanted to balance the right side with the left side, and 3) along those same lines, we needed room to add trim all around.

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By using scrap 2x4s, we created a framework along the right side of where the cabinet would go. They didn’t need to be structural in any way, but we would be screwing into them to secure the unit. Scott used the nail gun and several wood screws (directly into studs) to install one 2×4 at the front and the other centered 15″ back (the depth of the LILLANGEN).

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With that complete, we were ready to customize our cabinet to fit the space! We put it together most of the way – including adding the hinged door – so we could get the exact measurements of all the pieces that would need trimmed.

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Our new opening, due to the addition of the 2x4s, narrowed the width by 1 1/2″. To give us enough room to squeeze the unit into the space, we decided to take 2″ off the door, back and shelves. Because these pieces are all different widths to begin with (the door being the widest, the shelves being the most narrow), we measured each of these items separately and took it back apart for the big cuts on our table saw! Before ripping anything down on these particle board pieces, we always tape off the cut with blue tape to keep the white finish from chipping:

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With everything at the right width, we put it all back together again. Luckily, it’s a pretty simple unit! Our cuts eliminated the holes needed to attach the final side, so we (very, very carefully!) used wood screws. Drilling a pilot hole first always helps to prevent these thin pieces from splitting.

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Finally, it was time to shimmy the LILLANGEN into place! We screwed it into the studs from the inside to keep it secure, but I can promise you this – it is in there. Below on the left, the unit is roughed in, and on the right, we added thin lattice strips to finish the look:

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At this point, the door still had a raw edge, the trim needed a good spackling and every last seam was waiting to be caulked:

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But man, all that magical glue (aka, spackle and caulk – the secret behind every old house!) really turned it around! You can see above that the in-process photos began before tiling, because we wanted to get this in place first. Starting below, the walls have been painted white (Clark+Kensington’s Silent White), the trim and door were painted with a semi-gloss finish (Behr’s Ultra Pure White), and we added this pretty brass handle, too!

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You can see how adding the 2×4 was necessary not only to kick the unit off the wall (allowing the door to open more freely), but it also gives the trim a place to rest and the baseboards and tile to end:

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We’re thrilled with how it turned out (!), and we gained so much usable space for all those things that get stashed into bathrooms. We’ll pick up storage bins to keep things contained, and you guys, we’re almost there!

PS… We’ve been nominated for a Better Homes & Gardens DIY Blogger Award, which has us going ‘what?!’ and ‘hooray’! Feel free to vote right here, but know this: we can’t thank you guys enough for being our biggest support system.

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  • Carol - March 1, 2016 - 7:28 AM

    Welcome back! I was crossing my fingers that there would be a post waiting and here it is – And it’s beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Steph M. - March 1, 2016 - 8:49 AM

    Genius! I love it when you can make such great use out of something that would normally be closed up. It’s so good!!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hager - March 1, 2016 - 10:27 AM

    I love how this turned out. I’m in the process of buying a house and it has a funky little space like that too. This might work for us to add some extra storage!

    Laura
    http://laurelandfern.com/ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 1, 2016 - 1:52 PM

      Congrats on your future house!ReplyCancel

  • Josh | The Kentucky Gent - March 1, 2016 - 11:21 AM

    My friends had cabinets just like this built into their kitchen around their fridge. Gorgeous house, but zero storage. Always helps when you have handy friends!ReplyCancel

    • Ashley - March 1, 2016 - 1:49 PM

      What a great idea! Our kitchen is unbearably small with little storage, but a “loose” fridge. This just might be the idea I need- thanks!ReplyCancel

    • KathleenC - March 4, 2016 - 10:53 AM

      That’s it! Thank you for this comment! I too have a “loose” fridge, and (I have to admit) I hadn’t made the connection between this bathroom space solution and my kitchen… but this might be the perfect solution to using those side spaces.ReplyCancel

      • Kim - March 4, 2016 - 10:59 AM

        Especially because this cabinet is so tall, it would make a perfect fridge companion!ReplyCancel

  • Carol - March 1, 2016 - 11:30 AM

    Another great idea for small spaces! Digging your choice in floor tile too!ReplyCancel

  • Staci - March 1, 2016 - 11:37 AM

    This turned out beautifully! I’ve never done an IKEA hack (so much measuring and re-measuring) but I am so happy your plan came together the way you imagined!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 1, 2016 - 1:54 PM

      Don’t be afraid to measure and re-measure! Hacking IKEA is the best part of IKEA, haha.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Der - March 1, 2016 - 1:27 PM

    Oh my goodness it looks totally dreamy! That brass handle… (!!!!!)!

    I just voted–I very much hope you guys win!!!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - March 1, 2016 - 2:30 PM

    Awesome job! More storage is never a bad thing! Question – is the difference between wall color and trim color more noticeable in person? It’s nearly imperceptible in photos.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 1, 2016 - 2:38 PM

      They’re pretty close. :) We chose the same white that we put in our shipping room – it’s clean and warm without feeling yellow. We’ve always loved a white bathroom!ReplyCancel

  • Iz - March 2, 2016 - 7:42 AM

    It looks great, but I can’t help wonder if wouldn’t have been easier (for people as handy as you guys) to just construct your own shelves and door to fit the space?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 2, 2016 - 9:34 AM

      Maybe! We considered it. But when it comes to adding hinges to doors and getting everything to close properly, I’m not sure we trusted ourselves enough to get it all squared up. Plus we saved some time by not having to paint every piece of wood – just the door!ReplyCancel

  • Dani @ Danielle and Co. - March 2, 2016 - 8:54 AM

    What a great use of a little bit of space! Ikea always comes to the rescue… We just incorporated their Ragrund unit as opening shelving in our bathroom; not too big, not too small! The handle you chose makes it look much more custom and like it was built right along with the house.

    http://danielleandco.com/blog/2016/design-around-bold-sheetsReplyCancel

  • Sarah - March 2, 2016 - 9:15 AM

    I just bought an old house and dream of the day when my bathroom might look like yours. Right now it’s just peeling paint on the tub that clogs, the tiniest sink known to mankind, and zero storage. That ikea hack is a game changer!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 2, 2016 - 9:32 AM

      We hear you! We’ve been dreaming of this day for almost 3 years, haha. You’ll get there! I think it’s better to live with it for a while anyway – had we done this renovation when we first moved in, we probably wouldn’t have had the funds or patience to expand the room like we did. It made us realize what we really, really wanted in the bath.ReplyCancel

  • Molly - March 2, 2016 - 10:36 AM

    How did you address the raw edge on the door? Did you manage to get the trim piece off the part you sawed off? We have a weird space in our bathroom we want to build something into and this sure inspired me!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 2, 2016 - 11:16 AM

      Hi Molly, we just painted the raw edge of the door AND the front of the door in a semi-gloss pure white to match the rest of our trim! We discarded the piece we trimmed off.ReplyCancel

  • Abby - March 7, 2016 - 1:06 PM

    This cabinet is exactly what we need for our laundry room, but I have passed it by on Ikea’s website because it says it has a mirrored front (the version you linked). Is the mirror detached where you can just use the white front without it?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2016 - 8:37 AM

      Hi Abby, sorry for the delay in my reply – your comment got stuck in the spam filter! To answer your question, IKEA does sell one with a mirror front, but they also sell it with a plain white front, too. I think they even sell it in the brown/black, and there’s one more option with holes in the door (for laundry, which might work for you?). :)ReplyCancel

  • Evelina - March 9, 2016 - 7:16 PM

    A closet like this seriously is SO handy. Bathrooms never have enough storage. And I am ga-ga over the handle you chose!!
    Xo, Evelina @ Fortunate HouseReplyCancel

  • Amy - March 17, 2016 - 4:11 PM

    Beautiful space — I put similar brass drawer pulls and sconces in our daughters’ bathroom and have recently been on the hunt for accessories (towel bar, toilet paper holder, etc.) to compliment the brass. I am a big fan of mixed metals as well. Our plumbing fixtures are polished chrome while our door hardware is matte black. Will definitely be visiting Rejuvenation. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 18, 2016 - 9:48 AM

      Amy, you and us have similar taste in metal mixing. :)ReplyCancel

  • […] –Pretty bathroom renovation.  […]ReplyCancel

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