Feedback welcome on built-in cupboard

3 Jan 2008
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United Kingdom
My c 1900 mid terraced house is built so that the front door opens right into the living room (no hallway, no porch on the front). I've done most of the living room up, and now it annoys me that we always have our coats and shoes hanging/standing visible right in the living room.

The alcove between the chimney breast and the front wall of the house is 100 cm x 37 cm. I want to build a built-in cupboard here for hanging a few coats and standing a few pairs of shoes.

Unsurprisingly, there's not a single 90 degree angle in this house. The chimney breast leans a little away from the alcove (c 1cm over 1.75m height), the front wall leans quite a bit away (c 4 cm over 1.75 m) and the alcove itself tilts about 1cm over the 1m (lower by the front window than by the chimney breast).

My plans are:

1) build a rectangular base 100 x 34 cm x 7 cm high. I'll join the planks using box joins.
2) prop it up with small pieces of wood to make sure it gets level.
3) on the narrow sides (facing the chimney and the outside wall) I'll have two dowel holes. I'll have dowel holes at the bottom of my side walls for the cabinet as well.
4) stand the sides on the base. Screw them into the chimney breast and outside wall respectively. Pad between the cabinet sides and the walls (just where the screws are) with battens. Battens to be recessed ca 1.5cm from the front of the cabinet sides.
5) once everything is level and straight, cut a shaped "cover" that I can glue to the end of the battons so it appears that the cabinet sides are joined fully to the walls they rest again.
6) since it's a small room, and since we have white-ish walls, I'm going to pain this cabinet in the same white-ish colour. The benefit of that is that if there's any small gaps, I can fill them with caulk and paint over it.

The top 10 cm of the cabinet will be for a shelf to place mittens, scarfs, etc. Although the shelf will be the full 34 cm deep, I'll block off the back 15 cm so there's a "hidden room" there. I'll have uplighters recessed into the top of the cabinet. The "hidden room" will hold the lamps.

Below the shelf there'll be a gap of 7 cm. Below this gap there's a bar going across the cabinet (joind to the sides using box joins). I'll screw a baton to the backwall of the cabinet (= the plastered wall inside the alcove). Between bar and backwall, I'll have to clothes rails. This way coats etc hang parallel with the wall rather than perpendicular to them. Benefit of this is that whereas a clothesrail normally need around 50cm depth, I can fit two in the width, although they'll both only be around 30 cm long. But it'll suffice for a few coats.

Bottom of the cabinet is reserved for shoes. Depth of cabinet is 34 cm. I'll be using 1.5cm thick planks. The front (as much front as there'll be... just a wee bit at the bottom up to where the doors will be inset) will be box joined to the sides of the cabinet. That means the inside depth of the cabinet will be 32.5cm. Careful measurement of our footwear suggests that my shoes are ca 31cm long and the wife's are smaller. So they'll fit there.

Once done, I'll put skirting board across the bottom (I haven't put skirting board up yet on the outside wall because I want this to all happen together so it joins nicely). Above the skirting will be a 17cm front where I'll no-more-nails glue some fake drawer fronts once it's all finished. Above these drawer fronts will be the doors that go all the way up to the top, except for a couple of cm at the top (just for looks).

The top of the cabinet will have rounded edges and hang out over the cabinet a few cm. I haven't quite decided yet how to join the top to the sides (I'll be building it in situ), but think I'll end up just screwing a thin batton to each cabinet side and rest the top on these. I can then glue the top to these battons, and since I don't expect anyone to try to rip the top off with any kind of force, I hope that will be okay.

I've bought ready-made panel doors 49.6cm wide. I'll hang them with normal kitchen cabinet "concealed" hinges. So they actually hang on the front of the cabinet sides rather than inside them. This means that I should just be able to fit the two doors within my 100cm width.

The alcove is 37cm deep. The cabinet will be 34 cm deep. So there'll be 3 cm of the chimney breast wall showing. That's on purpose to still give the impression that the chimney breast is a 3 dimensional thing. Also, the total height of this thing will be around 175cm, so there'll be room on top of the cabinet (with the uplights at the back). I hope that this will also reinforce that the chimney breast exists.

I think it'll all work, but if anyone has any comments or suggestions, I'll be grateful. So far I've just been gluing boards for the cabinet sides, so there's still time to change the design.
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