build shelves into a bathroom wall
Photo: Julian Wass
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Build Into a Bathroom Wall

The stud bays that lie empty behind drywall can yield ample stowaway space in even the tiniest rooms in your house. By opening up the wall in this diminutive bath, Montauk, New York, architect Erica Broberg carved out a floor-to-ceiling built-in with a combination of open and concealed storage—shelves on top for easy access to everyday items like lotions and a cabinet below for unsightlies such as toilet paper—in a narrow sliver between the bathtub and the towel rack. If you plan to build one of your own, note that the standard width between studs is 14½ inches and the depth is 4 inches. Walls that contain plumbing are often framed with 2x6s, rather than standard 2x4s, which yield an extra 2 inches of shelf space.

For anything deeper, you'll have to steal space from whatever is on the other side of the wall—in this case, the chase around an HVAC duct. "Just don't make the shelves more than 18 inches deep; these are about 12 inches," says Broberg. "Otherwise, the recesses will become cluttered with stuff you don't even know is back there."

Learn how: Build this Bookcase Alcove

TOH Tip: If you're annexing space from an adjoining room for a built-in, don't just finish the back of the bumpout with drywall. Add wall-mount shelving; it's a functional disguise for the new construction.
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