Shoe storage. It’s such a challenge! Especially for those of us who live in a place where seasons are varied and extreme, because that means that our footwear is just as varied and just as extreme. Multiply the many pairs of shoes required for oneself times a household with kids, and you’ve got yourself a significant footwear storage challenge.
Until today, because today I’m going to show you how to take some miscellaneous wood pieces from your stash in the garage and build a functional (and delightfully raw) piece of shoe storage furniture.
I should tell you that I intentionally left this shoe storage shelving unit raw and industrial-feeling. I opted to showcase the plywood factory paint (green) and prints of “this side down” on the shelves. Shelf supports and 2x4s are mismatched intentionally, because I think it’s more fun that way. That being said, if you don’t prefer the factory look, you will be able to easily modify these instructions to create your own beautifully finished indoor shoe storage unit; the basic instructions are the same, you’ll just use smooth, matching wood pieces instead of the mixed media shown here. Let’s hit it.
DIY Level: Intermediate
- Four (4) 2x4s as tall as you want your shoe storage (example uses 37-1/4”)
- Four (4) 1/2” plywood as wide and deep as you want each shelf on your shoe storage (example uses 37” wide by 11” deep)
- Eight (8) smaller trim pieces, such as 2x2s or 1x2s, each cut the same length as the depth of your shelves
- Wood screws in varied lengths, depending on the size of your trim pieces (2” or 2-1/2” screws are great if your trim pieces are 2x2s; 1-1/4” or 1-1/2” work well if your trim pieces are thinner)
- Kreg rip cut tool/attachment (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
- Measuring tape, square, miter saw, circular saw, power drill, impact driver
*NOTE: This tutorial shows a project completed using only odds and ends/whatever was available. You could easily create a finished shoe storage shelving unit that’s appropriate for interior décor following these same simple instructions (plus sanding + priming/painting).
Here’s a “before” photo. Times this scenario by three, near various doors in our house, to get the full scope of the problem. Because our home lacks a mud room, the tiny laundry room right off the garage door gets the brunt of the seasonal footwear carnage.
Because “before” photos are so fun and not embarrassing at all to show to the world, here’s what our garage area looked like prior to the creation of the raw, industrial shoe storage unit. There’s simply not space inside our home for all the shoes for all the things – snow boots, hiking boots, fishing boots, golf shoes, yardwork shoes, rainboots, water shoes, and more. So directly by the entrance from the garage is where these types of shoes will be stored.
Begin by measuring and marking your 2x4s to your desired height. Example uses 37-1/4”. (Keep in mind that your unit’s true height will be this measurement plus the thickness of whatever shelving you’re using.)
Cut all four 2x4s to the exact same length using a miter saw.
The next challenge for this project was this: you may have some scrap plywood slabs, but you need identically sized shelves. How do you accomplish this easily and precisely without a table saw? Answer: Your soon-to-be favorite new tool attachment, the Kreg Rip Cut. Line up some board supports on the ground. These will raise your plywood slab off the ground while still keeping it steady as you cut with the circular saw.
Set your plywood slab down on top of the support boards. Take care to keep a broad space in the center (or wherever the line is that you’ll be cutting) as well as a clear edge on the left-hand side. (Unless your circular saw is a left-blade layout, in which case you’ll want to keep the right-hand side clear.)
Follow the instructions on your Rip Cut to get it assembled and attached to your circular saw. This only takes a few minutes. Then set the length of your desired shelf depth on the Rip Cut. Example uses 11” depth. (Note: You’ll notice, later on, that the shelf depth in this example is actually slightly less than the shelf support lengths, or in other words, the actual depth of the shoe storage shelving unit. This is because I was recycling and using what I had, and the plywood could only be 11” wide. In a perfect world, or in a world where you’re building this unit to look beautiful, these two measurements would be the same. You should consider the length of the largest shoes to be stored in determining the depth of your shoe storage unit.)
Sorry. Back to the Rip Cut, that most magical of tool accessories. With the cut line set, you’ll now align the guide “arm” (blue piece on the left) of the Rip Cut on the side of your plywood slab. This will automatically place your circular saw blade to cut at the precise depth you set earlier. It’s like magic.
Use the circular saw like normal, keeping the guide arm flush against the plywood’s edge as you cut along, smoothly and evenly. Viola. A precise cut, which means two shelves ready to go. Repeat for as many shelves as you want on your shoe storage unit.
Now, just because I’m using mismatched building materials doesn’t mean the construction of the shoe storage unit itself can be sloppy. The opposite is true, in fact. When your shelves are all cut to equal depths, it’s time to measure, mark, and cut their lengths to be perfectly square. This will help your final shelving unit to come together nicely but, more importantly, to function well. (Note: Remember that the final width of your shoe storage shelving unit will be 3” wider than the length of your shelves, because of the 2x4s. Take this into consideration if you’re customizing your unit to fit a certain space.)
(Also Note: If you want the top shelf to cover the tops of your four 2x4s, cut this shelf to be 3” longer than the other shelves. This example doesn’t do that, but it might look more polished, if you’re going for that look.)
With your shelves ready to go, it’s time to determine where you’ll want the shelves to hit on your side 2x4s. Measure and mark these positions.
Boots were a priority for this shoe storage unit, so I purposefully kept the bottom shelf tall. The next shelf up needed to be a bit on the tall side, too, but the other two shelves didn’t really matter. So, this example places shelves at 14”, 24”, 31”, and flush with the top (all measured precisely from the bottom of each 2×4).
You’ve marked the positions of your shelves, but now you’ll need to mark them so they’re level and even with each other. The best way I’ve found to do this is to lay all four 2x4s next to each other, line up their bottom ends exactly, and use a square like a ruler to draw the lines for the shelf placement across all four 2x4s at once. This enables the shelves to be not only level, but precisely even with each other at all points of attachment.
You now have your four 2x4s marked and your four shelves cut and ready. It’s now time to cut your shelf supports.
Measure and mark your trim pieces to the desired depth of your shoe storage unit. (Because the longest shoe that will be on this particular unit is 13” long, the depth was decided with that.) Cut them with the miter saw.
In my scrap wood, I could come up with four, two, and two matching shelf supports for a total of eight. Good enough! (Note: 2x2s are easiest to work with as shelf supports, but slimmer pieces such as 1x2s look better because they’re not as intrusive into the unit’s “white space.” Of course, what would be really beautiful is a unit where you use the Kreg Jig to attach the shelves, but that’s a process not covered by this tutorial. Choose based upon your own experience, preferences, and priorities for this shoe storage unit project.)
Lay two of your 2x4s down, with the bottom ends pointing in the same direction and your shelf support markings facing up. Position a shelf support on these two boards, with the top side of the shelf support touching the bottom side of the 2×4 lines. (Be sure that every shelf is positioned in this way – aligned with the bottom side of your 2×4 lines – so that your shelves are level and spaced the way you want them.)
When the shelf support is lined up, predrill one hole on one side. Always predrill whenever you’re working with trim pieces, especially when you’re screwing close to the end. This helps to avoid splitting, and it also enables the wood’s precise positioning.
Plant one screw into this first predrilled hole securely but not super tightly quite yet. You want to be able to swivel the shelf support a little if necessary. Be sure your screws are long enough to penetrate the 2×4 at least 5/8” but short enough to avoid exiting the outside of the 2×4.
Move to the other end of the shelf support, on the other 2×4. Align all ends and sides so they’re flush.
Predrill a hole here.
Plant a screw to hold the shelf support in place. (Note: Before screwing any more screws in at this point, it’s a good idea to repeat these one-screw attachment steps for at least one other shelf support on your 2x4s; this will maintain the 2x4s’ perfectly parallel positioning before you add more screws and can’t change it.)
Next, predrill two other holes through your shelf support ends into each 2×4. Insert screws. Do this for all shelf supports on these two 2x4s. Next, repeat the process on your other set of 2x4s with your four other shelf supports.
With your two shoe storage shelving unit “sides” assembled, it’s now time to attach the shelves themselves. Lay one of the sides on its side on a flat, even surface. I recommend placing the front end down toward the ground here, particularly if the shelf depths are different from the shelf support lengths, simply because this creates a flat surface for better alignment on the front side. In other words, the front joints will be flush. No one will really see the back of your shoe support shelving unit, especially once it’s loaded with shoes, so the front is the most important, looks-wise. Position the shelves “onto” their shelf supports. (Note: Place shelves on the top sides of the shelf supports, not the bottoms.)
Holding a shelf firmly in place, predrill two parallel holes through the 2×4 that are aimed directly at the middle of the plywood shelf. Use 2” or 2-1/2” wood screws into these predrilled holes to attach the shelf.
Repeat this shelf-attaching process for all shelves EXCEPT the top shelf.
In case you’re wondering, the shelves themselves are fully supported by the side shelf supports. Weight-wise, they don’t need the screw attachment to the 2x4s to be functional. The screws are important, though, for keeping the shelves in place and for making the entire unit into one piece.
For the top shelf, you need to check the positions of the screws attaching the top shelf support to the 2x4s. Notice the gaps between these screws, because these are the areas you’ll want to aim for in screwing the top shelf onto the unit.
Predrill holes into these spaces into the top shelf ends, at an angle toward the 2x4s. (Note: If you’ve cut your top shelf to cover the tops of the 2x4s, you can just predrill and attach the top shelf straight down into the 2x4s, still taking care to avoid contact with the other screws.)
Insert screws into the predrilled holes. This example just did one angled hole per 2×4; you can do another in each 2×4 if it makes you happy.
To further stabilize and secure the top shelf, I predrilled then attached two additional screws on the shelf sides, directly into the shelf support below.
I recognize it’s probably not for everyone and every shoe storing situation, but I absolutely love the urban-factory, industrial look of this shoe storage unit. I love the weathered/painted/naturally distressed wood and plywood. I love the mismatched supports. I just love it all.
If you’re wanting a beautiful piece, your next step is to sand, prime, and paint. If you’re going with gritty and raw, you can go ahead and position the shoe storage shelving unit wherever it’s going to go.
Go ahead and fill ‘er up. Boots near the bottom, shorter/smaller shoes near the top. Four shelves is a lot of shoe storage, but I was surprised how fast it filled up!
I personally hate “wasting” good shoe storage space on flip flops, so a catch-all basket arrangement works great for me and my family here. Whatever you want.
And, if you love your shoe storage unit enough, you’ll spend an extra hour or two cleaning and organizing that whole corner of the garage. Gold stars all around. Because summer is coming, and ain’t nobody got time for that when it’s gorgeous summertime! Happy building. I hope this tutorial makes all your shoe storage dreams come true.