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Adding Shelf to Create Storage Space Under Side Table

Updated on February 1, 2020
Nathanville profile image

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Utilising Wasted Space for Storage

We bought a set of ornate nest of table’s years ago, three of which are occasionally nested e.g. stacked away in a corner to make more floor space in the living room when we have guests. The fourth, and largest one, is in permanent use as a coffee table by the sofa’s arm of where I sit.

It’s this fourth table where I saw an opportunity to utilise wasted space for storage by simply placing a shelf across the table legs stretchers; with the stretchers support the shelf.

I’ll not be doing the same for the other three tables because they are occasionally nested, and therefore the space is needed below them so that they can slide in beneath each other.

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The side tables nestedThe side tables in front of each other
The side tables nested
The side tables nested
The side tables in front of each other
The side tables in front of each other

Obstacle to Just Simply Using the Stretchers

The purpose of stretchers is to hold the legs together to give them more stability and to make the whole structure stronger; albeit these tables have stretchers on only three sides because the fourth is needed to be kept clear so the tables can slide in underneath each other.

However, for the particular table where I intended to add the shelf, one of the stretchers is already used to support a remote control holder that I rigged up on the side of the table. Therefore I could only use the two remaining stretchers, at right angle to each other, as supports for the shelf.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View of the table showing the three stretchers that brace the legsThe table with the remote control holder fitted in placeView of how the remote control was previously held in place, using the turn button latch, prior to fitting the shelf
View of the table showing the three stretchers that brace the legs
View of the table showing the three stretchers that brace the legs
The table with the remote control holder fitted in place
The table with the remote control holder fitted in place
View of how the remote control was previously held in place, using the turn button latch, prior to fitting the shelf
View of how the remote control was previously held in place, using the turn button latch, prior to fitting the shelf

Shelf Support Design

The shelf itself is just a sheet of wood with a notch cut out of one corner to fit around one of the legs.

The shelf would be supported on two sides by the two stretchers at right angles to each other, and supported on the third side by a shelf support being fitted at the bottom of the back of the wooden remote control holder that I made in a previous project.

Reversible Design

Because these are ornate tables (as with the remote control holder) I don’t want the shelf to be a permanent feature, nor damage the table. Specifically, so that there is always the option to reverse the design and take the table back to its original form.

Therefore the design was for the remote control holder and the shelf would click together and lock each other in place.

This was in improvement on the original design for the remote control holder. As previously, the base of the remote control holder slipped over one of the leg stretchers and the top was in front of the table top skirting, with the whole thing locked in place with a large turn button latch.

Whereas now the shelf would be pushing against the back of the remote control holder, meaning that I no longer needed the turn button latch, and the top of the remote control holder could be placed behind the table top skirting, rather than in front of it.

The big advantage of having the top of the remote control holder behind the table top skirting, rather than in front, is that it pushes the remote control holder back slightly, making it less obtrusive and a neater finish.

To achieve this, the only compromise I had to make was to fix the front of the shelf to two of the stretchers with small screws, and the only reason for that is because the table only has three stretchers because it was designed as a nest table. Therefore, over the years the two legs not held together by a stretcher had splayed, and securing them to the shelf just pulls the whole table back into shape.

However, using a couple of small screws in this way is just a minor intrusion into the integrity of the table, which is easily reversible with just a bit of wood filler if I ever decide to take the table back to its original design and purpose as a nest side table.

Step-by-step Guide to Making and Fitting Shelf

Cutting the Shelf to Size

The required steps are as follows:-

  • Measure the length and width the shelf needs to be to fit into the space and be supported by the table leg stretchers etc.
  • Measure and mark a piece of plywood of suitable thickness e.g. 12mm (½ inch) to the correct width.
  • Cut along the marked line using a circular saw.
  • Measure and mark the correct length (the back of a saw can make an ideal square for this); then cut to size.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Using tape measure and pencil to mark the required width for the shelfUsing a large square to mark the cut lineUsing a circular saw to cut the plywood to the required widthMeasuring for the required lengthUsing the back of the saw as a square, to mark the line for cutting
Using tape measure and pencil to mark the required width for the shelf
Using tape measure and pencil to mark the required width for the shelf
Using a large square to mark the cut line
Using a large square to mark the cut line
Using a circular saw to cut the plywood to the required width
Using a circular saw to cut the plywood to the required width
Measuring for the required length
Measuring for the required length
Using the back of the saw as a square, to mark the line for cutting
Using the back of the saw as a square, to mark the line for cutting

Making Notch to Fit Around Table Leg

Having cut the plywood to size:-

  • Lay it in place next to the leg so as to mark where to cut for the notch so that the shelf will around the table leg. Repeat the process for marking where to cut the other side of the notch.
  • Clamp the plywood to the workbench and use a handsaw to cut the notch.
  • Test fit, and make any minor adjustments if necessary.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Marking the corner of the plywood, with a pencil, for where to cut the notchPlywood clamped to workbench to cut the notch with a handsawTest fit of shelf
Marking the corner of the plywood, with a pencil, for where to cut the notch
Marking the corner of the plywood, with a pencil, for where to cut the notch
Plywood clamped to workbench to cut the notch with a handsaw
Plywood clamped to workbench to cut the notch with a handsaw
Test fit of shelf
Test fit of shelf

Fitting Shelf Support on Back of Remote Control Holder

As the back of the remote control holder (which I previously made to fit on the side of the table) will be supporting one side of the shelf, the next step was to make the shelf support to fit the remote control holder.

For the shelf support, I decided to repurpose the now redundant wooden turn button latch that I’d previously used secure the remote control holder in place against the table side.

This I did as follows:-

  • Place the table on its side, with the remote control holder and shelf in place, so as to mark with a pencil where on the remote control holder the shelf support needs to be fitted.
  • Using a tape measure, pencil, square and handsaw; measure, mark and cut the redundant turn button latch to size.
  • Drill a couple of pilot hole into the shelf support and screw it to the remote control holder.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Table on its side, with remote control holder slotted in place, to mark on the back of the remote control holder for where the shelf support is to be fittedDrilling piolet holes in the shelf support for screwing to the back of the remote control holderPiolet holes drilled in the shelf supportShelf support screwed and glued to the back of the remote control holder
Table on its side, with remote control holder slotted in place, to mark on the back of the remote control holder for where the shelf support is to be fitted
Table on its side, with remote control holder slotted in place, to mark on the back of the remote control holder for where the shelf support is to be fitted
Drilling piolet holes in the shelf support for screwing to the back of the remote control holder
Drilling piolet holes in the shelf support for screwing to the back of the remote control holder
Piolet holes drilled in the shelf support
Piolet holes drilled in the shelf support
Shelf support screwed and glued to the back of the remote control holder
Shelf support screwed and glued to the back of the remote control holder

Cleaning and Preparation

Before final fit, the shelf should be cleaned and prepared for wood staining and polishing.

Therefore the few simple steps I took for this were:-

  • Using an orbital sander to give it a quick sanding all round, and to smooth off the edges.
  • Using a clean rag, giving it a good wipe over on both sides, with white to clean off all the saw dust, and leaving it for half an hour to dry.
  • Then applying teak oil on the underside of the shelf to nourish the wood and give it a bit of colour; albeit the underside will not be visible when the table is in use, so it’s not critical.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Plywood wiped clean with white spirit to remove sawdust and left to dryTeak oil rubbed into underside of shelf with a cloth, to nourish the wood and give it a bit of colour
Plywood wiped clean with white spirit to remove sawdust and left to dry
Plywood wiped clean with white spirit to remove sawdust and left to dry
Teak oil rubbed into underside of shelf with a cloth, to nourish the wood and give it a bit of colour
Teak oil rubbed into underside of shelf with a cloth, to nourish the wood and give it a bit of colour

Wood Dye and Polish

I had the option of wood stain or wood dye. Wood dye is more expensive so I tend to use if sparingly in DIY projects, especially on big projects. Wood dye is effective on bare wood because (unlike wood stain) it does easily absorb into the wood to give a good finish.

I opted for wood dye on this occasion because it’s easy and quick to apply, you only need to wipe it on with a cloth; and it becomes touch dry quickly; usually within half an hour.

Once the wood dye was dry, I then generously applied the beeswax with a yellow duster, and left it for 15 minutes before buffing it up to a shine.

I always use beeswax, and never silicon based furnisher polishes, because the beeswax gives a long durable protection, while the silicon is oil which looks shiny at first but becomes dull and sticky when the oil dries, attracting dust; which means that with silicon based polish you are forever have to polish the furniture.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Applying the wood dye with a cloth and leaving to dryMy favourite beeswax for polishing furnitureBeeswax generously applied to the top of the shelf with a yellow duster, and polished up 15 minutes later
Applying the wood dye with a cloth and leaving to dry
Applying the wood dye with a cloth and leaving to dry
My favourite beeswax for polishing furniture
My favourite beeswax for polishing furniture
Beeswax generously applied to the top of the shelf with a yellow duster, and polished up 15 minutes later
Beeswax generously applied to the top of the shelf with a yellow duster, and polished up 15 minutes later

Final Fit and Securing

Although the shelf and the remote control holder all slotted together tightly, and locked each other into place, the one issue was the two leg tables not braced with a stretcher had splayed by about 1cm (½ inch) over the years, and needed to be put back in shape to keep the shelf and remote control holder firmly locked together.

It wasn’t that the legs were loose or wobbly, they were still solid; but they did need pulling back into shape with a clamp, and then secured in place with a couple of discrete screws through the shelf, and into the side stretchers.

A simple solution, that’s revisable with some wood filler (to hide the screw holes), in the event that at some future date, I decided to remove the shelf and take the nest side table back to its original form.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Remote control holder and shelf slotted into place, and the legs without the stretcher clamped prior to securing to shelf with screwsCouple of discrete screws through the shelf (one either side) into the side stretchers, to brace the legs in place
Remote control holder and shelf slotted into place, and the legs without the stretcher clamped prior to securing to shelf with screws
Remote control holder and shelf slotted into place, and the legs without the stretcher clamped prior to securing to shelf with screws
Couple of discrete screws through the shelf (one either side) into the side stretchers, to brace the legs in place
Couple of discrete screws through the shelf (one either side) into the side stretchers, to brace the legs in place

Table Preferences

If you had a choice would you prefer a set of nesting side tables than can be stacked when not required, or dedicated coffee or other some other type of casual tables in your living room?

See results

Table Complete With New Shelf and Ready for Use

Click thumbnail to view full-size
New shelf fitted under tableThe remote control holder fitted to the side of the table that partially supports the new shelf
New shelf fitted under table
New shelf fitted under table
The remote control holder fitted to the side of the table that partially supports the new shelf
The remote control holder fitted to the side of the table that partially supports the new shelf

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Arthur Russ

Your Comments

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    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      3 months ago from England

      Yep, I did one on them a few years ago (which is one of my most popular articles on HubPages); and with my new video camera there's scope for video footage to enhance a 2nd article. It is certainly something for me to keep in mind.

      They are half-breeds and Greebo tends to make the more interesting subject as he takes after his father; a Maine-coon, which are over twice the size and weight of normal domestic cats, and a lot more intelligent.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      That's an interesting habbit you have got your cats trained into. There's probably enough material about your cats and their routine for another article about them.

    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      3 months ago from England

      Thanks Liz. Adding a shelf to the smallest nesting table did cross my mind. However, apart from the issue of things potentially dislodging when we nest it, we’ve designated that table as the ‘cats table’ so it does get frequently moved about, and therefore things would be prone to slip off the shelf. Albeit, I haven’t ruled the idea out completely; it’s something that would only take an hour or two, and wouldn’t cost anything, if I do decide to add a shelf to it.

      The reason we’ve designated that table as a cats table is that previously our cats were always trying to get on my wife’s sofa table when we have our evening meal in front of the telly.

      Therefore now, at meal times, we get the little table out and place it next to my wife’s sofa table; and then place a small glass of milk and a bowl with a few tit-bits in it from our meal on it. And they then use my footstool as a seat; so effectively they are sitting up to a table for their own mini-meal, while we enjoy our meal in peace. We don’t give them much, as it wouldn’t be good for their diet, but just a few small pieces keeps them satisfied.

      Although It does look quite cute; and I find it quite amusing because I’m a vegetarian, and I do all the cooking, so most meals I cook are vegetarian meals. But our big cat (Greebo) loves to nibble on a bit of mashed potato, potato skins, chips, and pasta etc., while his sister (Dippy) has a taste for the fresh vegetables.

    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      3 months ago from England

      Thanks Doris, yes I did use a dark wood dye on the shelf to try to get a close colour match with the table, so that it would blend in with the table.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      3 months ago from Beautiful South

      Very nice job. The table looks like it came with the shelf on it.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is a great idea. Another project well-executed. Just a thought, but could you add a shelf to the smallest nesting table? Only issue would be dislodging items on it as you replace it in the nest.

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