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Thinking Out of the Box (Home DIY Woodworking and Remodelling)

Updated on October 28, 2016
Nathanville profile image

My aims with DIY projects around the home are looking for innovative space saving ideas and saving costs on materials by recycling.

Redundant Fireplace Remodelled
Redundant Fireplace Remodelled
Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space
Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space

Making the most of available space, especially in a small home, and making it shine is an art; this book is packed with inspirational ideas.

 

Exploiting Wasted Space in Your Home

This article shows what you can achieve with your DIY Remodelling projects by thinking out of the box to exploit hidden and wasted space around your home? Here I give a few simple ideas and projects with examples, including before and after photos of a built in Larder in a doorway, making a kitchen smaller to make it bigger and in the process creating a cloakroom, utilising and building on from existing furniture to create a built in Welsh Dresser; turning the old fireplace into a display unit, revamping an old bathroom, and re-using old furniture to create more space in your home DIY workshop or garden shed.

DIY Projects

Do you plan your DIY projects and if so how much thought do you put into it?

How do you plan for your DIY?

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The Handbuilt Home: 34 Simple Stylish and Budget-Friendly Woodworking Projects for Every Room
The Handbuilt Home: 34 Simple Stylish and Budget-Friendly Woodworking Projects for Every Room

An amazing book for beginners and DIY enthusiast alike; packed with lots of great ideas with complete step by step guide, instructions, illustrations and shopping list of required materials and tools required.

 

1. Creating Storage Space in a Doorway

And Making a Built-In Larder With Pull Down Worktop

Based on a 1950s style larder, built in to a space replacing what was previously a brick arch. Although the brick arch was architecturally attractive, at 4ft (1.22m) wide it was a space waster when storage space is premium. In taking down the brick arch there's ample space to retain a standard width doorway and beside it squeeze in a custom-built fitted cupboard; as shown in the before and after photos below.

This design is based on an old 1950s freestanding larder that belonged to my grandparents and the enamel bread board from the original larder was fitted into the pull-down worktop. The Carcass is built from 18mm exterior plywood and the shelves, doors and drawers are constructed from pine.

Below the pull-down worktop are spice drawers and vegetable drawers. The spice drawers are used for anything other than spice, ideal for storing all those little things that tend to get lost in the back of other drawers. The vegetable drawers are made from pine, including their bases all of which have five large 1 inch (25mm) vent holes. The drawers were given several coats of varnish for easy washing. Each of these three drawers is designed to take the weight of 10kg of potatoes. I did evaluate commercial vegetable racks to fit the space as an alternative but they're all poorly designed and none of them could take the weight of the potatoes and if we tried they would have been top heavy, not lest to say they would have ill fitted the space available.

After brick arch removed and before Larder built
After brick arch removed and before Larder built

Building of the Larder (Using Space in a Wide Door Opening)

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Steel Beam above where brick arch use to be in doorwayInitial construction of the built in larder from pine and plywoodBack view of built in larder under construction as seen from the dining roomDrawer, spice drawers and pull down flap on built in larderPull down flap with enamel bread board and shelves in built in larderLarder bread bin with flap and shelving for tea, coffee and sugar caddies, plates and stored foodNew built in larder in the kitchenDining room decorated after completion of larder
Steel Beam above where brick arch use to be in doorway
Steel Beam above where brick arch use to be in doorway
Initial construction of the built in larder from pine and plywood
Initial construction of the built in larder from pine and plywood
Back view of built in larder under construction as seen from the dining room
Back view of built in larder under construction as seen from the dining room
Drawer, spice drawers and pull down flap on built in larder
Drawer, spice drawers and pull down flap on built in larder
Pull down flap with enamel bread board and shelves in built in larder
Pull down flap with enamel bread board and shelves in built in larder
Larder bread bin with flap and shelving for tea, coffee and sugar caddies, plates and stored food
Larder bread bin with flap and shelving for tea, coffee and sugar caddies, plates and stored food
New built in larder in the kitchen
New built in larder in the kitchen
Dining room decorated after completion of larder
Dining room decorated after completion of larder
Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live
Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live

Looking for ideas to create more living and usable space from your existing home without expensive additions and extensions, then this book is packed with ideas (illustrated with photos) on how you can tweak the existing with little cost to maximise on available space.

 

2. Making a Fitted Kitchen Smaller to Make it Bigger

Making Maximum Use of Wall Space

The Larder mentioned above was just part of a larger project to modernise the kitchen and install fitted kitchen units, which are covered in full in a separate Squidoo. Here is just a before and after photo showing where a section of the old kitchen was boarded off to create more storage space. Previously, the back door was in the corner of the kitchen (behind the plasterboard in the photo) creating dead-space in a huge area of the kitchen because access to the door was needed. Blocking off that end of the kitchen reclaimed a lot of usable space that could be reutilised for cupboards and worktops. The old back door in the space behind the plasterboard was bricked up and a doorway to the space was knocked through from the living room to create a cloakroom (see the before and after photos here). The new back door was made in the opposite side wall away from the corners to maximise on space and usage, as seen in the photos below.

Remodelling Fitted Kitchen (Step by Step Progress)

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Stud wall at far end of kitchen to create a separate cloak roomPlasterboard over stud wall in kitchen behind which is the new cloakroomThe New Cloak Room behind the new wall partition in kitchen with access from living roomNew Kitchen door during constructionNew Kitchen Door completedNewly remodelled and decorated kitchenNew granite sinkNew kitchen cupboards where back door use to beNew tiled floor in kitchen
Stud wall at far end of kitchen to create a separate cloak room
Stud wall at far end of kitchen to create a separate cloak room
Plasterboard over stud wall in kitchen behind which is the new cloakroom
Plasterboard over stud wall in kitchen behind which is the new cloakroom
The New Cloak Room behind the new wall partition in kitchen with access from living room
The New Cloak Room behind the new wall partition in kitchen with access from living room
New Kitchen door during construction
New Kitchen door during construction
New Kitchen Door completed
New Kitchen Door completed
Newly remodelled and decorated kitchen
Newly remodelled and decorated kitchen
New granite sink
New granite sink
New kitchen cupboards where back door use to be
New kitchen cupboards where back door use to be
New tiled floor in kitchen
New tiled floor in kitchen

3. Built-In Welsh Dresser Above an Existing Alcove Cupboard

Adding Storage Space to Existing Furniture

Rather than just shelves for book cases here is an example of a 'welsh dresser' built in an alcove above an existing cupboard, using pine and recycled glass; the glass having been salvaged when the old front porch was remodelled.

New Built-in Welsh Dresser (Remodelling Alcove Cupboard)

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Old shelves in alcove above existing cupboard removed ready for making the built in welsh dresserWelsh Dresser under constructionShelves added to Welsh DresserWelsh Dresser completed
Old shelves in alcove above existing cupboard removed ready for making the built in welsh dresser
Old shelves in alcove above existing cupboard removed ready for making the built in welsh dresser
Welsh Dresser under construction
Welsh Dresser under construction
Shelves added to Welsh Dresser
Shelves added to Welsh Dresser
Welsh Dresser completed
Welsh Dresser completed

4. Display Shelves in Old Fireplace and Utilising Hidden Space

Maximising on Hidden and Wasted Space

When we moved into our existing home the original open coal fireplace had already been converted into a traditional gas central heating system with gas fire and back boiler; the previous owners had also faced the fireplace surround with modern stonework.

However, with the ever increasing cost of gas, we decided to modernise the central heating system by replacing the old gas fire and back boiler with a combi boiler replacing the old immersion tank in the airing cupboard (in the bedroom). We did have the option of having a new gas fire fitted but as a gas fire uses as much gas as an entire central heating system we decided it was an unnecessary luxury and opted instead for two radiators in the living room (one at each end of the room); the other bonus with a new combi system is it also makes the water tank in the loft redundant so I spent a couple of hours in the loft removing that which once removed created additional storage space in the loft.

Once our new combi boiler central heating had been installed and the old gas fire and back boiler removed the old fireplace became nothing more than just a feature; we couldn’t have used it as a coal or log fire (without a lot of additional expense) because of the damage that had been done to the old fireplace when it was knocked back to house the back boiler and gas pipes. Therefore, instead, I decided to rip out the more modern surround and brick facing revealing the original opening; which as it turned out was quite large and square, and ideally suited for repurposing as a built-in display cupboard. Having got this far and seeing the potential I plastered and decorated the old fireplace opening and then added fitted plate glass shelves.

Having got thus far, on sitting down with my cup of coffee watching television and occasionally glancing at our new display shelves where the old fireplace use to be I was conscious of the blank wall above (the old fire breast) knowing that it was concealing wasted space behind. Therefore, one weekend, with help from a friend (a retired builder) we knocked through the old chimney breast to reveal the wasted space into which we built a recessed brick arch. In this newly created space I fitted a wooden back and base and then more plate glass shelves.

To fit the plate glass shelves in the old fireplace and fire breast above I fitted small inch aluminium angle on each side with a couple of small screws to support the glass and then allowing a few millimetres for a snug fit carefully measured the gap and had the plate glass cut to size by a local Glazier.

Fitting Glass Shelves in old fireplace
Fitting Glass Shelves in old fireplace
Display shelves in old fireplace
Display shelves in old fireplace

Creating Additional Storage Space in Redundant Fireplaces

Reclaiming Dead Space

In the bedroom above the living room, where the chimney continues, the previous occupant had (as so many do) blocked up the old bedroom fireplace with plasterboard; and then built a utility cupboard in front of it. In my desire to utilise any dead-space (where possible) I quite naturally removed the plasterboard and cleaned up the old fireplace. As with the fireplace in the living room below it was a square opening, albeit much smaller, which ideally lent itself to shelving. Therefore, using some scrap wood in my workshop I quickly knocked up a shelving unit which snuggly fitted into the old fireplace; thus, as this is now at the back of a utility cupboard, creating a cupboard within a cupboard.

A cupboard within a cupboard
A cupboard within a cupboard
Bathroom Remodeling For Dummies
Bathroom Remodeling For Dummies

One in a popular series of DIY books specifically for the novice giving simple step by step and straightforward guidance on remodelling your bathroom.

 

5. Utilising Spare Bedroom Space For a 2nd Bathroom

Repurposing Living Space

A previous occupant had portioned off the end of the main bedroom to create an en-suite bathroom, but did little more than install a cheap plastic bath with a few tiles around the top of it. Therefore when a friend was getting rid of his old enamelled iron-cast bath I took it off his hands, gutted the en-suite bathroom and with the help of two friends (it was heavy) dragged the iron cast bathroom upstairs to install into the 2nd bathroom which was then fully tiled and decorated; a solid oak floor was laid and to finish oak panelling installed up the side of the bath. The remaining oak boards were used to create a built in vanity unit with glass shelves above.

Remodelling bathroom
Remodelling bathroom

6. Reusing Old Furniture for Workshop Storage

Readymade Shelving and Cupboards for Your Workshop

One of the biggest problems in a small home DIY workshop shed is keeping it tidy. Unless you're well organised and put everything back on its rack or in its shelve once used as your working on a DIY project you quickly end up with tools and materials spread all over the workbench and workshop area.

If you're like me once you taken a few tools out to do a DIY the workshop quickly become cluttered and it can take ages putting everything back after you've finished. Over the years I've found what works best for me is to have 'a place for everything and everything in its place'; a catch phrase my great grandmother, a typical house proud Edwardian mother, would frequently say to her children in an attempt to install tidiness into them.

You could go to the time and expense in buying load of wood and building your own shelves and cupboards for your workshop, or just go out and buy the shelving; if you have the time and money that's great. However, if you're working on a tight budget and you'd rather spend your time on other activities then you'll most just knock-up a few shelves and storage spaces using scrap wood. Given time you could then, as I did, gradually replace your temporary shelving with old unwanted furniture as it becomes available; provided it fits and has the potential for being functional in your shed or DIY workshop.

It helps to 'think out of the box' to see the potential of old furniture when deciding it could be adapted for use in your DIY workshop. To be functional old furniture should offer easy access storage to your tools and accessories; if tools are stuck at the back of a cupboard and are difficult to get out when needed then it's not going to work. Below are examples of different furniture reutilised in my home DIY workshop for shelving and cupboard storage.

Office Desk - When I built the shed the first and most important item for the home DIY workshop was a workbench, for this I utilised a table top from an old and redundant office desk, 3 foot (90 cm) by 8 feet (2.4 metres), the desk top was made from the same material used for kitchen work surfaces and therefore ideal as a DIY worktop bench.

Electric Fire Surround - When we moved into our present home it had full central heating installed so our old electric fire became redundant and got put into the loft. After building the shed I stripped out the electric fire and kept the wood surround, which includes shelving for ornaments and used that in the shed workshop for keeping all the main screws and nails to hand in small pots and containers.

Glass Unit - We call it a glass unit but only part of it is glass; most of it is wooden cupboard and shelves. When we replaced our old Glass Cabinet with an oak one I took the old unit down to the shed and utilised it for storage. Originally at the back of the workshop I just knocked together some shelving with scrap wood but with all its cupboards and shelves the glass Unit utilised the storage area far better than previously. I took the two doors off the bottom cupboards for easier access and took the plinth off to use the generous space underneath the unit as additional storage.

Medicine Cabinet - In our loft was an old Edwardian Medicine Cabinet that we had no use for so I screwed that to the wall in the DIY workshop for storing small bits and pieces.

Kitchen worktop - Having removed the original shelving to make space for the glass unit I had a void to the left of it which was utilised with a spare bit of kitchen worktop supported underneath by an old hi-fi cabinet on one side and two bits of sturdy scrap wood on the other as legs, leaving plenty of space underneath so when a neighbour threw away an old metal bathroom tidy I also slipped that underneath the kitchen worktop next to the hi-fi cabinet. On the worktop itself I bolted a handy vice and placed a grinder next to it.

Boxed storage units - The most recent addition are some boxed storage units a friend was throwing away as part of remodelling his living room. The boxed units consisting of a unit of four squares and two separate squares, the four square unit I put underneath the kitchen worktop as support, replacing the old hi-fi cabinet and bathroom tidy, and in the space remaining knocked together some shelving for small metal drawers; with the remaining two square boxed units sitting on top of the kitchen worktop.

Old Shelf Unit - Having completed the above mentioned modifications I had an old shelf unit that no longer had any use but the shelves were quite wide apart so I added a couple of extra shelves from scrap wood and stuck that to the back of the kitchen worktop, behind the vice.

So as previously stated, when boxing around for ideas, think out of the box and see for yourself how old redundant furniture can enhance the storage space in your home DIY workshop, shed or garage without coasting you anything other than a bit of time reorganising your shed.

Utilising Old Furniture for Tools and Accessories Storage

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Old office desk utilised as workbenchGlass unit and other old furniture utilised for storing DIY woodworking toolsOld fireplace surround utilised as shelving for storing nails and screws plus other tool accessoriesSquare box storage furniture reutilised as storage for DIY Tools
Old office desk utilised as workbench
Old office desk utilised as workbench
Glass unit and other old furniture utilised for storing DIY woodworking tools
Glass unit and other old furniture utilised for storing DIY woodworking tools
Old fireplace surround utilised as shelving for storing nails and screws plus other tool accessories
Old fireplace surround utilised as shelving for storing nails and screws plus other tool accessories
Square box storage furniture reutilised as storage for DIY Tools
Square box storage furniture reutilised as storage for DIY Tools

Your Feedback and Comments

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    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 6 years ago

      Lots of work gone into this lens. Blessed by the home décor Squid angel.

    • IlanaMoore LM profile image

      IlanaMoore LM 5 years ago

      These are beyond my scope, but the lens is really well done. I had to drop a note saying good job!

    • Nathanville profile image
      Author

      Arthur Russ 5 years ago from England

      @IlanaMoore LM: Thanks.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I bet your house was a real mess for a while during these projects, but it looks really nice after they are completed. I know if we owned where we are living, the kitchen, bathroom and also the garden would have some serious makeovers. We would need a lottery win to finance it though. Very informative lens, nicely presented, and it's now blessed.

    • Nathanville profile image
      Author

      Arthur Russ 5 years ago from England

      @TonyPayne: Thanks and greatly appreciated.

    • Nathanville profile image
      Author

      Arthur Russ 5 years ago from England

      @Joan4: Thanks, yes I do like to utilise dead-space whenever possible and make it more usable.

    • spritequeen lm profile image

      spritequeen lm 5 years ago

      Very nice lens. Thank you for the information.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      You've done a great job finding and utilizing otherwise wasted space! I love your ideas.

    • senditondown profile image

      Senditondown 5 years ago from US

      Great utilization of all your home's space. Nice job.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      You are indeed a great handyman extraordinaire. Thanks for sharing the photos and tips to inspire all of us.

    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      Outstanding! Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      BestLaminateInc1 4 years ago

      Home remodeling can be fun and creative:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      If anyone thinks outside the box it is certainly you and you are leading the way for the rest of us to make efficient use of space we didn't think we had with your excellent DIY examples, very nicely presented and congratulations on your purple star!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wow, amazing! Such a great idea. thank you so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      Funkysi 4 years ago

      Great ideas for home planning. It`s amazing.

    • Julia1000 profile image

      Julia1000 4 years ago

      Very unusual ideas, but they really do use wasted space.

    • Webrevolve LM profile image

      Webrevolve LM 4 years ago

      Great work! I get someone else to do my DIY in all honesty haha

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Great ideas, I especially like the what you did with the old fireplace.

    • Wish List Gifts profile image

      Wish List Gifts 4 years ago

      You have some excellent DIY skills! The end results were lovely.

    • profile image

      Gail47 4 years ago

      What great skills you have! Someone has put a lot of hard work into these DIY projects. Great job!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      It's wonderful the projects you do!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 3 years ago

      Your lenses are always so wonderful. I love this!

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