Design & DIY

How to build a space-saving bathroom cabinet

Bathroom cabinet

Storage projects tend to be all business, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, organizing a space, such as your bathroom, is a practical endeavour, but why not make it a little fun? This cabinet, with its classic lines and cheerful turquoise stain, brings a more whimsical atmosphere to the bathroom, while also providing storage for all the little bottles, tubes and elixirs that everyone has.

Tools and materials:

Tools and Materials


Frame up

Begin by cutting the main parts to size. Next, prepare a 1/4″-thick x 1/4″-wide, two-sided groove along the rear edge of each cabinet side. These grooves, called “rabbets,” are made to accept the plywood back panel that comes later. For now, sand all parts to 120-grit, and then begin assembly with the bottom, the two shelves and the two sides. As you can see in the plans, I spaced the shelves evenly, but choose whatever spacing suits you best. You could use biscuits to secure the shelves, but I used glue and #8 x 1 1/2″-long wood screws driven in through the sides. If you use screws, create counterbored holes for the screw heads so you can cover them later with tapered wooden plugs. Complete this first part of the assembly by fastening the top to the upper ends of the sides with more counterbored screws or biscuits.

Drawer and door


While this cabinet has a glass door that makes it easy to find things, there’s also an enclosed drawer that can stow items out of sight. Since this drawer is small and won’t hold much weight, simple butt joints are more than strong enough. I used 1/2″-thick, cabinet-grade plywood for the sides, front and back of the drawer. A 3/16″-thick plywood bottom panel fits into 3/16″-wide x 1/4″-deep grooves in the sides, front and back. Cut these grooves at the tablesaw or router table. Then, assemble the drawer with the bottom panel in place. I used glue and 18-gauge brads, but #6 x 1 1/4″-long wood screws work well too. Either way, attach the drawer glides and test the drawer in its opening with the drawer face left off. You’ll add the face later, during the final assembly.

Now, build the frame that forms the door. The vertical members are called “stiles,” and the horizontal ones are “rails.” I joined these parts with 3/8″-diameter x 1 1/2″-long dowels set in holes created with a dowelling jig. The stiles are narrow enough that the biscuits would protrude beyond the edges of the door, but that’s OK. Trim them flush after the door is assembled and the glue is dry.

To create, the rabbet to house the glass, set up a table-mounted router with a straight bit or bearing-equipped rabbeting bit and cut the 1⁄8″-deep x 1/4″-wide profile on the rear-facing, inside edges of the rails and stiles. The corners of the rabbets will be rounded, so square them off with a chisel so the glass can fit in. Bore holes in one stile for European cup hinges, and then install the door and make sure it swings properly.

For the leg assemblies, glue three pieces of the pine shelving together to make four 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ blocks each 8″ long. Taper the ends of the legs on their inside edges. A simple tapering jig for the tablesaw can be used, but a bandsaw also works well. Sand the legs using 80- then 120-grit abrasives, and then cut the skirt pieces and drill two counterbored holes for the #6 x 1 1/4″-long wood screws that fasten each skirt to the underside of the cabinet. Attach the legs to the skirts with more 3/8″-diameter x 1 1/2″-long dowels. Finally, screw the skirt-and-leg assembly to the base of the cabinet.

The finale 

Double-check the action of the door and drawer, then cut and attach a drawer face to fit over the drawer box before giving everything a final hand-sanding with 120-grit sandpaper. If you built your cabinet from a knotty softwood, as I did, paint the project with a resin-blocking primer to prevent resin from bleeding through the final finish. I applied two coats of coloured stain, followed by a protective topcoat of semi-gloss urethane. Once everything is dry, set the glass in place and secure it to the back of the door with mirror clips. Since the glass sits flush with the back face of the door frame, use the flat side of each clip against the glass. Finally, find and install cool-looking pulls for the drawer and door, and your job is done. Your cabinet is now ready to fill up with all the lotions and potions one could need in any bathroom.  

 To download a detailed illustration of the project plan, click here. 

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