This quick guide will show you a fast and easy way to turn a built-in cabinet into an open cabinet shelf.

Keep reading for a breakdown of how to remove the cabinet doors, add the shelf, and how to decorate it!

This whole project can be done in less than an hour, and for less than $5.

The Easy Free Way To Turn Built-Ins Into Open Shelving

Built-in cabinets offer a convenient way to hide clutter in your home – towels, medicine, books, toilet paper, you name it! But sometimes you don’t need to hide everything. In fact, sometimes it’s nice to display some of your favorite things on shelves so you can admire them even more.

My home came with some nice plain built-in cabinets, They work well, and they’re plain white so I had no reason to complain. But in this circumstance I wanted some of my shelves to be open so I can see what’s inside and display some of my nicer things out to enjoy

This is what the final project looked like:
How To Add A Built-In Cabinet Shelf With This Easy Makeover |

I forgot to take before pics (oops), but the built-in that I gave a makeover to is an exact match of the built-in linen cabinet I have downstairs in the hallway.
Showing here:

BEFORE IMAGE | Bathroom Makeover |
Now that you have some visuals, let’s get to it.

2 Ways To Turn A Built-In Cabinet Into Open Shelving

1. Remove cabinet doors to reveal open shelves

This part was so easy. Just remove the hinge hardware from the cabinet doors and fill in the holes left behind.

(I still need to fill in the holes as you can see in the picture).

The cost was $0 and now you have nice open shelving!

2. Turn cabinet door into shelf

The second project was a tad more complicated, but it only cost a few bucks for the brackets, and less than an hour of time, so still worth it.

For me, this section of my cabinet originally had a little lid that led to nowhere. I think maybe it was for laundry once upon a time, but I never used it for that so it was just un-utilized space. To fix this, I took the cabinet door off and turned it into a shelf instead.

Honestly, it was so easy, too easy. I would highly recommend this project if you have a similar built-in cabinet in your home.

Here’s a close up of the new open shelf.
Step 1. Remove Hardware, Step 2. Add Brackets, Step 3. Add Shelf | Cabinet Makeover |
Next up, the steps.

How to easily turn a built-in cabinet into open shelving:

You will need:

    • A screwdriver
    • 4 Corner brackets (your kit should come with screws)
    • 2 small nails and hammer (to start holes with)
    • Pencil
    • Measuring Tape
    • Level

NOTE: I got my brackets from Walmart, in-store they were only $2.11. I wasn’t able to find that price-point on Amazon, but here’s what they look like… anything that is an L shape with the holes will work.

Step 1. Remove Hardware with screwdriver

Step 2. Measure twice, drill once

Decide what height you want your shelf to be. If you want it to be flush with the opening, subtract the thickness of the shelf from where you want it to sit. Use a pencil and level to mark where the brackets will go so they’re even on all 4 sides.

Step 3. Add Bracket

How to screw in a bracket (no drill required):

    1. Mark where your holes will go by holding up the brace to the wall. Trace the holes with your pencil.
    2. Nail two small nails into those holes to get it started.
    3. Then hang up your bracket over the top nail and screw in the bottom one.
    4. Remove top nail and replace with screw. Repeat.

Step 3. Place in Shelf

Depending on the size and shape of your built-in cabinet you may need to add the cabinet shelf sooner so it’ll fit. I added the 2 corner braces to the wall on one side, put my shelf into the unit, then added the brackets to the other side. If I did not do in that order, I would not have been able to fit the shelf into the wall. It can take a bit of maneuvering.

NOTE: Once your shelf is in and centered, you may choose to screw on the other side of the brace. I chose not to, but if you were concerned about sturdiness you could.

BONUS: How To Decorate Shelves

Now that you’ve got your open shelving, you get to decorate it!

I recommend to keep it organized with storage elements like boxes or trinket trays and find decorative accessories that pair well together. Display things you use the most, so they’re easy to find and in reach.

This is how I decorated my open shelf:

  • Decorative doorknobs. – I found the swan busts at HomeGoods. I haven’t seen that style again, but they always seem to have cute “Anthropologie-worthy” styles on sale for like less than $20 for a whole set. 
  • Nice gold and marble trays to display my stuff. I never like rushing these finds, I’d rather stumble upon them at the thrift store.
  • Pretty candles and lotion – Things that everyone that visits the bathroom can make use of.
  • Towels for easy access – there’s nothing quite like that anxious moment when you finish a shower and realize you forgot a towel, problem solved.
  • Later I may add some color to the inside to give it a contrast, or even a marble laminate and lights to make it feel fancier. I’ll follow up here when and if I do add more! 🙂

What do you think? How would you make these built-in cabinets even cuter (on a budget)? Let me know in the comments.

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How To Add A Built-In Cabinet Shelf With This Easy Makeover |

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Lisa Loperfido

Lisa Loperfido

Lisa Loperfido is the owner and designer behind BOHO HOUSE ATX, a beautiful, chic, mid-century modern home nestled in Austin, TX. Her house is an inspiration, and a gathering place for creatives and friends. Her website ( is an extension, a place for decorating tricks and homeowner tips, so anyone can live the boho dream.
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