How to Build Countertop to Ceiling Built Ins in the Kitchen
Building custom counter-to-ceiling shelving in the basement kitchenette.
This is the last project I recently finished up in our basement kitchenette
project — it added so much character and function to this space!
I’ve been building this room from scratch for the past few months, and this
was one of the fun DIYs that really made the whole space feel finished and so
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What you didn’t see was that I stopped the ledge and tile about a foot from
the corner on the left side of the room:
I had big plans for that spot!
We didn’t install any upper cabinets on that left wall because I didn’t want
to close in the room too much. We don’t need a ton of storage anyway, so I
figured doing something fun (but still functional) would be a better use of
I’ve always had a curved arch detail in mind for this wall, and toyed around
with a few ideas over the past few months. I figured the easiest way to
implement something like that was to build something tall on both sides so I
could add the arch in between.
Our new counter to ceiling built ins were the perfect solution!
I wanted the picture ledge I built over the tile to butt up right against
the shelving, so I had to build out this corner unit a bit. I made an “L”
with two pieces of wood and secure one side against the wall:
The 1×3 board along the front is the decorative trim that the ledge runs
of these countertop bookcases could be nailed into those on one side and
some scrap I placed behind the 1×3 on the other:
These projects are always like a puzzle for me. I enjoy figuring out how to
make them work, but that’s most likely not how a professional would do
And that is OK! Don’t let that stop you from trying similar projects in your
own home. It will come out just fine in the end with the proper finishing
my bookcase shelves. Check out our dining room window seat bookcases
to see how I build the shelving part of these built in shelving units.
When the two sides and shelves were up, I installed some 1×2 select pine
trim from top to bottom with a nail gun and then 1x3s along the front to
finish off the shelves.
Once the nail holes are filled and corners are caulked, they’re ready for
paint. Those are the most time consuming parts but make all the difference!:
This light gray paint color is matched to our cabinets, here’s the formula:
Each unit has four cubbies, but if you try this it out it can be customized
for your needs! We keep some barware and a few decorative items on there —
they’re not super big, just large enough:
I built one shelving unit (the one against the wall) in place, and the other
I built on the floor and then installed into the wall (at the top and bottom
behind the trim).
After trying both ways a few times over the years, I much prefer to build
these in place. I find the fit is much better that way. It just depends on
what you feel most comfortable with:
My plan was to install the backsplash tile on the wall between the two units
and then build the arch, but when I hung the art in the middle, we quite
liked it as is:
So now I’m not so sure I’ll do the arch…we’ll wait and see. I
am sure that I won’t be tiling that wall — I have a new idea in mind
that I think will be really fun!
I built the left countertop shelf right up against the end of the counter
because eventually there will be a taller bar top/peninsula coming out from
there. I’m working on that plan right now, but I’ll share the full room
reveal before that project starts.
This is how this side of the room started last fall:
And here’s how it looks now with the simple bar bookcases built up to the
We still have plenty of countertop space as the shelving units are only 12
inches deep and 18 inches wide. The pretty storage is great for a bar area
Now I kind of wish I had run lighting to the tops of each one, but we could
still do that. The finishing details will be fun to figure out.
This countertop shelving would also create a lot more storage in a bathroom,
as long as you have the space.
We’ve packed a lot of form and function into this little kitchenette alcove in
our basement! This has been such a fun project — I’ll share the (almost)
final reveal soon!
If you have any questions about this project, please let me know in the