In this step by step tutorial, I’ll show you how to build shoe cubbies! Minimal tools and materials required! I did these in both of my kids closets and they absolutely love them. No more searching for shoes (most of the time!)
Building Shoe Cubbies The Easy Way
I can’t tell you how many hours of my life have been spent looking for shoes. As much as I try, I can’t always get to the kiddos before they enter the house and start playing.
Other times they go out to the backyard to play. They come in while I’m in the middle of something and they throw their shoes somewhere.
If I was a more organized person, I probably would be on top of this sort of thing but I’m not. I’ve even attempted “training” them to put their shoes in their rooms. My daughter is pretty good remembering, but my son struggles with organization as well (common with ADHD kiddos) and while we repeat “shoes go in your room” they often get thrown… not placed… and still end up getting lost.
When I was building my daughters built-in closet storage, I knew I wanted a place for shoes. They would have a dedicated spot that *hopefully* she would be excited about using. My son loved it so much that when I was building his closet, he requested shoe cubbies as well.
I did this pretty easily with my sons closet because I was using a dresser that already had a perfect spot for it! It looked like it had a door on it at some point and there was a shelf separating the space.
With my daughters closet, I was custom building the cabinet so I just left a space where I could add the cubbies.
If you don’t have a space to create cubbies and you’re not building your own box, you can pretty easily purchase any size cube storage (like this one) and convert it to a shoe cubbie using this method
Step one: Planning
You’ll need to get a plan together for how many rows and columns of shoes you want. If you’re using a cube storage (or a space similar to the photo above on the left) then it’s best to just do 2×2 (two columns, and two rows).
In my daughters closet, the space was much longer so I did two columns and four rows.
Once you decide what you want for the space you have, you need to measure that space.
Measure the entire space and make note of the height, width, and depth.
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Step two: Choose your materials + do math!
I chose to use 1/4 width MDF board for both of the shoe cubbies. This is easy to work with, inexpensive, and sturdy enough to hold shoes but not bulky enough where it takes up too much space.
You’ll need to consider the width of your materials and how many rows you will have.
For example, with my daughters closet I was doing 4 rows of shoes which means I needed 3 MDF boards separating those rows. If each MDF board was 1/4 inch then I had a total of 3/4 inch that was going to be taken up using those boards.
This is important for figuring out your spacing! If you take the entire height of the space and subtract how much space will be taken up by your boards, you can divide it to figure out how far apart those boards need to be placed. J
Here’s the example math:
The height is 34 inches and the MDF totals 3/4 inch so there’s 33 1⁄4 total space divided by 4 rows gives me 8 5⁄16 inches. Now I know that each horizontal board needs to be about 85⁄16 apart to create 4 equal spaces.
I’d measure85⁄16 inches, make a mark, then measure1⁄4 inches, make another mark (that will be the depth of the cutout) and then measure85⁄16 inches, etc.
Geez. I hope that makes sense!
If you’re just doing a 2×2 cubbie, the math is much simpler! You just mark where the halfs of each board are. Easy peasy!
Step three: cut your boards
The first boards I cut is the vertical board that goes down the middle of the space. This is easy, you just want to refer to your measurements. Make note of the height of the space and the depth of the space.
Then, I cut the horizontal boards. For this, you’ll need the width of the space and the depth of the space.
I use my table saw to cut these but you can use a circular saw or have your home improvement store cut them for you.
Step four: make the cut-outs
These are essentially going to slide together to create a grid. I used my table saw for this but you can use a jigsaw or any other type of saw you own.
If you are using a circular saw or something along those lines, it might be helpful to have a straight edge or a kreg jig straight edge guide to help keep your line as straight as possible.
Once I measure where the cut-outs need to go, I use my saw to make a cut about half way through the board. I move the saw and make a cut on either side of that line as well so it’s large enough to slide the other MDF board through.
I’m also going to measure and cut a few brackets to keep my cubbies sturdy.
Here’s a look at all the material cut and ready to go!
I’m going to use wood glue and 1 inch nails in my Ryobi battery operated nail gun to attach the brackets and the cubbies.
Note: If you’re wondering what types of tools you should invest in when you’re just getting started, here’s a list of my favorite essential tools!
Step four: assemble and install them!
These are very easy to assemble! They simply slide together!
Once they are slid together, I’ll put them in the space and mark where the brackets need to go which is right under each shelf.
Using wood glue and nails, I’ll install the brackets first. These don’t have to be anything fancy, I used scrap MDF to make mine. I just needed something for each row of the cubbies to rest on (and it helps keep it level and in place as well)
Once the brackets are in, slide your cubbie grid into the space. The rows should rest evenly on the brackets.
Because the nail gun may not fit in each row of cubbie, I recommend putting a little wood glue on the top of each bracket so that when it dries, the cubbie rows are secured to the bracket. This will prevent it from moving (or from kids pulling it out!)
Here’s a close up look at the bracket:
Once you’re done, you can paint everything one color and it will look like perfectly custom shoe cubbies!
Here’s the final result for my daughters closet:
And here’s the final result for my sons closet:
If you love DIY tutorials, please feel free to follow me on Instagram! I share every step of the way in my stories and save my bigger projects to highlights so you can refer back to the process and watch it visually! There’s lots of problem solving that happens in real-time .. hah!!