Playroom Makeover with Built-In Cabinets for Storage

As many of you will have noticed by now — we are BIG fans of built-ins! A nice built-in storage area can completely transform a room and, of course, it helps it both to feel and (hopefully) *be* more organized. Decluttering and hiding visual clutter is one of the best ways to help your home feel “magazine clean” and of course, a beautiful built-in cabinet can only help. Jennifer is here today to show you how she turned blank-slate home office into a stylish playroom, with plenty of built-in cabinets for storage, perfect for toys and games. 

DIY playroom makeover with built-in storage cabinets and a plank wall via @Remodelaholic

Especially in a room without a closet or available storage, built-ins can be a lifesaver! And obviously you’re not confined to just using cabinets: just check out these other built-in ideas, and then read how Jennifer installed her built-ins because you (yes YOU!) can do this, too!

Custom Built In with Hidden TV by Our Home Notebook featured on Remodelaholic
faux mantel with built in floating shelves (it hides the TV!)
How to build a built-in laundry unit, Seesaws and Sawhorses on Remodelaholic
built-in laundry unit
furniture makeover - old furniture to built-in closet wardrobe
built in closet
wall-to-wall built-in desk and bookshelf, Home Is Where My Heart Is featured on Remodelaholic
built in desk
Living Room Remodel with yellow accents wood floors and built-in bookcases and columns with arches-23
built in corner bookcase (or regular bookcase)

How to Make Built-In Cabinets for a Playroom
by Jennifer from Delightfully Noted

Hello Remodelaholics! I’m Jennifer, visiting from Delightfully Noted, my little corner of the world where I chronicle all of my DIY projects and other delightful shenanigans.

My current obsession involves transforming our new-to-us-boring-cookie-cutter suburban home into a space that better reflects our style and personalities. So far we’ve completed the nursery and the playroom.

Speaking of kids, I’m also the  mother and keeper of a lovable and spunky little boy who like most little people, has started to take over our home and lives with all of his toys. Today I’m thrilled to be able to share with you a DIY project that will not only help you bring a sense of order to your home, but also add style and help you make the most of your wall space.
Playroom Makeover with Built-In Cabinets for Storage by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
We recently decided to convert an unused “office” into a playroom in an effort to reclaim both our sanity and living room. This space does not have closets and I quickly realized we needed to make the most of our square footage by adding in built-in cabinets and shelving.

Hiring a carpenter was out of the question, so we decided to create our own!

DIY Storage Built-ins - how to use cabinets to create your own built in shelving, perfect for storage in a playroom, living room, or family room @Remodelaholic

Materials Needed :

**Amount of wood and materials will vary depending on the size of your project**
  • 4 hardware store stock cabinets (number can vary by wall size).
  • 2 x 4s
  • Wood screws
  • HVAC aluminum tape
  • Wood shims
  • Cabinet mounting screws
  • MDF particle board
  • Primer
  • Paint (we took a cabinet door in to our local home store and had them match the color)
  • 2.5 ” finishing nails
  • Shelf pegs
  • Baseboard
  • Quarter round
  • Painter’s caulk
  • Trim wood (optional)
  • Floor vent register or decorative aluminium sheet
  • Cabinet hardware (optional)

Tools Needed:

  • Measuring tape
  • Prybar
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Stud finder
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw (optional; can have local hardware store rip your MDF boards)
  • Nail Gun
  • Level
  • Paint brush and roller
  • Caulk gun
  • Tin snips (for decorative aluminium sheet, if needed)


1) First, take your time to measure out your space and plan out your project. Keep in mind this whole project is built around your cabinets, so carefully prepare their arrangement and spacing. My hubby and I drew up a few sketches on post-it notes to make sure we were on the same page. Don’t forget to take into account the height of your cabinets, toe kick, shelves and any windows you may have. We did a lot of math to make sure that in the end the top of the cubbies came up just below the window to about a toddler’s height. And by “we”, I mean my hubby! Trust me,you really don’t want me doing any math.

Built In Cabinet Tutorial for Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic


2) Using a prybar and hammer, gently start to remove the baseboard from the wall. Find and mark the studs on your wall.

How to Build Cabinets for Storage in a Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

3) Once that’s complete, it’s time to start framing out the platform in which your cabinets will sit on. Please note we used wall cabinets, which are meant to be hung above counter tops. There is an air duct in the space where we installed our built-ins, utilizing wall cabinets allowed for us to build our own base and toe kick in order to accommodate the air duct. Using a miter saw cut your 2 x 4s to create two frames with cross supports; one for the right side of the air duct and one for the left side.

Each frame should be the length of your wall up until the edge of the duct. The short cross supports should be spaced out at the length of each of your cabinets, it’s essentially the base that each cabinet sits on. We drilled our frames together with wood screws (you may notice we had two cross support beams on the right side and only one on the left, that’s because the right side of our wall was slightly longer than the left).

IMPORTANT: Do not build the frames to be the full depth of your cabinets, create them about a quarter inch less to allow space for the addition of the toe kick later. This way the cabinets will be flush with the toe kick. Secure the frames to the wall by drilling them into the studs so they won’t move.

Built In Cabinet Tutorial by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
DIY Built In Storage Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

4) Measure and cut a piece of 2 x 4 to attach the two frames as seen in the picture below. Place it right at the back of your air duct return.

DIY Built-In Storage Cabinets for Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
How to Design Built-In Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

5) In order to create a makeshift air duct, we used HVAC aluminium foil tape and securely taped the wood frame surrounding the open floor vent. This will help the efficiency of your heat and air flow through out the room once the built-ins have been installed.

Built-In Storage Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

6) Now it’s time to hang the cabinets. First, remove all of the doors. Next you’ll want to start screwing your cabinets together. Attach each small cabinet to one tall cabinet and then position them on top of your frames. Walls aren’t typically flushed and they could bow a bit, you’ll want to make sure your cabinets are connected, leveled, and flushed prior to hanging them. Add wood shims where ever needed. You’ll use your level a lot during this part of the project! Once you’re sure everything is flushed and aligned, then hang the cabinets to the wall with cabinet mounting screws.  Pssst……at this time we reattached the cabinet doors but I recommend just waiting to hang them back on at the end of the project.. You’ll see why later.

How to Design Built-In Cabinets for a Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Built-In Storage Cabinets for Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

7) Measure and cut your MDF particle board to cap off the top of each cabinet. If you don’t have a table saw, your local Home Depot may rip the boards for you for a minimal fee. Prime and paint the boards first, and then nail them down with a nail gun.

8) Now it’s time to move onto the cubbie. These instructions, at first, may convince you that you’ve either been hitting the bottle too much today or that you’re losing your mind but I promise if you check out the image below it’s make a lot more sense!  In order to complete this section, you will need to cut 7 more pieces of MDF board.

  • Board #1 is for the top of the air duct, which will help fill in the remaining frame at the base of the cabinets.
  • Boards 2 and 3 are the two vertical pieces in the middle of the cubbie, they are the height of the small cabinets plus what ever you want the height of your finished cubbie to be.
  • Boards 4 and 5 are the two small pieces that will sit on top of the small cabinets but alongside the two large cabinets and will serve as support for the long, top board, which is board # 6.
  • Board 7 will be the small shelf for the vertical part of the cubbie, which for some reason we added last so it’s not pictured below but you can see in the final picture. Everything was primed first and then nailed down with the nail gun.
DIY Built-In Storage Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

9) To create the toe kick,  measure and cut two pieces of baseboard; one for each side of the air duct. Nail the toe kick board to the base of the cabinets with 2.5″  finishing nails.

**You will also notice the entire inside of the “air duct” is completely taped with the HVAC tape at this point, including the underside of the MDF board that was installed on top of it.

Remodeled Playroom with Built-In Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
In steps 10 and 11, I’m going  to briefly share what the two largest obstacles were that we faced when working on this project and the solutions we came up with. I hope this comes in handy in case you encounter the same problems!
Step 10) Originally, we planned on using quarter round to fill the gap between the cabinets and the wall, but we couldn’t find quarter round wide enough to cover it.
Built-In Cabinets for Playroom Storage by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
We racked our brains for weeks and finally discovered some really soft and thin trim wood at the local hard ware store. Seriously, this stuff is so soft you could cut it with a blade. So if you have the same issue definitely take a field trip to the store to look for different options. Sometimes do-it-yourself projects are all about trial and error! PS. Remember when I recommended not doing as we did and just waiting to the end of the project to reinstall the cabinet doors…..this is why. They’ll be in your way when you go to work on the wall gap (if you have one) and you’ll just end up having to remove them again.
Cutom Storage with Built-In Cabinets for Playroom by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Step 11) Let’s talk about the air duct again. Our plan was to run the duct slightly above the floor and to install a new vent grill in the cut out notch that we created in the toe kick but some how are measurements went haywire and there wasn’t a single vent cover in the world that would fit it (seriously, we looked!) So we improvised with some decorative aluminum sheet that we found at Home Depot. Just carefully cut with tin snips, spray paint and then nail down over the duct opening in the toe kick. It ended up being the prettiest vent grill in the house!
Built-In Cabinet Tutorial for Playroom Remodel by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Step 12) Cut and install quarter round along the toe kick, including over the vent and along the top of all the cabinets to create a more finished look.
Step 13) Phew! Now for the final steps….caulking and painting! Take your caulk gun and caulk around all of your seams through out the built-in. Next, paint the whole unit so that everything is one nice, cohesive color.We took a cabinet door to Home Depot and had them color match. Optional but highly encouraged: add hardware.
Now it’s time to enjoy your new custom looking built-in cabinets!
Playroom Makeover with Built-In Cabinet Tutorial by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Look what a difference it made in this space! Obviously, cleaning and decorating helped too.
Playroom Makeover with Built-In Cabinets Before by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Playroom Makeover with Built-In Cabinets for Storage by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Remodeled Playroom with Built-In Storage Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic
Playroom Remodel with Built-In Storage Cabinets by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

I have to admit my favorite part was finally have a storage place for EVERY.SINGLE. TOY.

It’s made our main living spaces so much less chaotic. There are no more toy obstacle courses I have to endure just to get to the living room couch.

For approximately $500, we got our sanity back. Well worth it, especially considering a professional could have easily cost us over a thousand dollars!

Remodeled Playroom with Built-In Storage by Delightfully Noted featured on Remodelaholic

Hopefully, you’re inspired to make you’re own built-in cabinets! They can seem intimidating at first but when using stock cabinets, they’re fairly easy to put together. In addition, you can customize them to include more shelving or even a window seat. The possibilities are endless, so go grab your tool belt now!I hope you’ll swing by the Delightfully Noted blog soon to hang out!

Cabinets and cabinet pulls -Home Depot
Plain knobs-Land of Nod Outlet
Wooden chalkboard crates-Michaels
Wooden plant box- Ross
Additional sources for the rest of the room can be found here


Jennifer, thank you so much for being our guest and sharing your swoon-worthy playroom. Love what you did with this space!

Pay a visit to Delightfully Noted to see more of Jennifer’s lovely style (and nursery!) and more projects, like how she turned a TV cabinet into a crafting station and painted this dresser

chalk painted dresser

Want to be featured? Link up here and submit your best project here.

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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

We love hearing from fellow Remodelaholics, so let us know what you like about this and leave any questions below in the comments. If you've followed a tutorial or been inspired by something you've seen here, we'd love to see pictures! Submit pictures here or by messaging us over on Facebook.

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  1. This was such fun! Thanks so much Cassity for letting me hang out in your neck of the woods today and to share this tutorial. These built-ins really have saved our sanity!

  2. I am *still* amazed at how built-ins (which take up space) make a room look bigger. Jennifer, now all you need to do is make sure your little guy never gets any new toys. 😉 Seriously. Make it a rule now that for every toy that comes in, one must go out. I really, really wish we had done that when our boys were little. It is so much harder now that they’re older (and there are 3 of them!). 🙂

    1. Such great advice, Jenny! I have to admit prior to having a child I never understood those parents who requested “no gifts” on invitations. Now I get it! Ha! The “one toy in, one toy out” is always a personal motto I throw around in my head but I need get everyone on the same page with that belief (ahem…grandparents).