DIY Spice Shelf – A Simple Way to Expand Your Spice Shelf

For those of us with kitchens that are lovable but on the smaller end of the spectrum, we recognize the high value of cupboard space and the importance of using that space to its maximum potential. The spice cupboard is one place where many space-saving opportunities might present themselves, but it can be a less glamorous project to tackle without a plan or idea.

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This tutorial aims to show a very easy, inexpensive, and quick way to double the space of one of your spice shelves…and thereby lessen the possibility of being attacked by falling spice jars every time you open your cupboard door. (Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?)

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Here’s how to build your own spice shelf.

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Begin by emptying out your spice cupboard. If you’re only looking to use this tutorial to expand one of your shelf spaces, just empty out that one.

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Give the now-empty shelf a good wipeout.

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Carefully measure the depth of your cupboard, from the back of the shelf up to whatever frame/trim you have at the front of your cupboard. This example’s depth is 11”.

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Next, carefully measure the precise width of your shelf, from the narrowest point anywhere in the cupboard. In this example, the trim extends into the shelf width 1-1/2”, so instead of a 10-1/2” width, I’m measuring a 9” width.

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Take an L-shaped trim piece that has a precise right angle as the inner bend and is at least as wide as your extending cupboard trim pieces. (Remember how the trim on this example’s cupboard extended 3/4” on each side at the cupboard opening? This means the L-shaped trim piece had to be at least 1/4″ greater than 3/4″, so at least 1” on one side.) This example uses a spare trim piece out of MDF. No problem. High-five for using spare materials, in fact.

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Measure, then cut your L-shaped trim piece to the length of your cupboard depth. (This example is 11”.)

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Repeat for a second piece of L-shaped trim.

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Take your two trim pieces inside and verify that they fit snugly, and precisely, along your cupboard walls. Next, take the tallest spice jar that you want to be on the “ground level” of your spice shelf, and use it as a reference to determine where you want your second shelf to go.

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Measure and mark this placement.

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Use small nails (you don’t want them poking through to the other cupboards nearby) to hammer the L-shaped trim piece in place. I simply broke off some 5/8” brad nails and pounded those in, five or six per trim piece to hold it in place.

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Measure and repeat for the other side, so your two trim pieces are in place, ready to take on your new spice shelf.

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Oh yeah. The spice shelf. Let’s create that. Take a 1/4” piece of plywood and cut it to size, meaning cut it to the precise depth of your cupboard (11” in this case) and 1/8” less than the width of your narrowest part (shelf width is 8-7/8” in this case, which is 9” minus 1/8”).

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Next, take a piece of flat trim 1/4″ x 1”. This will be cut to comprise your spice shelf’s walls. Technically, you don’t need walls on your new spice shelf, but the idea is this: Assuming you don’t have lots of vertical space to share, your new shelf will be removable so you can easily find and access the spices located in the back of the cupboard. If you want to play with fire and pull out a shelf full of spices without a wall to hold them somewhat in place, have at it. I personally don’t love flying spice jars, so I’m going to keep them corralled.

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Cut two lengths of your 1” trim at the exact depth of your cupboard (in this case, 11”). These will be, obviously, the side walls of your shelf. Then cut two pieces that are slightly less than the measured width of your plywood shelf. Measure the width of two trim pieces (in this case, 1/2″ because 1/4″ + 1/4″ = 1/2″), and subtract this number from the width of your plywood shelf. In this example, that length is 8-7/8” – 1/2″ = 8-3/8”. Cut two pieces of 1” trim at this length.

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Grab some wood glue.

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Apply a thin line of wood glue to one side of one of your longer (e.g., 11”) trim pieces.

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Place the trim piece on the side of your plywood (rough side of plywood facing up or down, your choice), and clamp into place.

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Take some short brad nails. I believe the shortest are 5/8”.

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Flip your shelf over and nail the trim piece into place from the bottom of your shelf (through the plywood). Be careful that nails are close enough to the edge that they catch the trim piece and don’t float out on the inside of your shelf walls. Check periodically to make sure you’re hitting the trim and only the trim with the nail ends.

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Wipe off any excess glue from the outer edge and inner corner of your shelf.

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Your first shelf wall is attached and is pretty secure at this point. It’s time to attach the other walls, starting with one of the shorter trim pieces.

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Glue, then nail your second wall into place in the same way.

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Place two nails at the corner to hold the trim pieces together. Add the second short trim piece and then the final long trim piece as walls onto your shelf.

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It looks good!

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You can add as many or as few brad nails as you feel comfortable with, really. I aimed for a nail every 2” or so.

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Now lightly sand the entire shelf and walls with fine sandpaper.

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Grab a can of spray paint + primer. I chose white because the rest of my spice cupboard shelves are white, although you could definitely do something a little more fun and funky!

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Use light strokes to spray paint the top, bottom, and sides of your spice shelf and walls.

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Load up your taller spices on the lower portion of your spice shelf.

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When your shelf is dry, fill it with shorter spice containers (or whatever containers you were planning on filling it with).

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Load the removable shelf onto your shelf mounts.

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Viola! Done!

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You should feel great about this DIY spice shelf. It wasn’t a hard project, and it gives you twice the spice storage in the same amount of space, plus it’s more accessible and organized.

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If you want a little bit of extra adornment, just to make your cooking heart happy, go ahead and add some washi tape as trim onto your new spice shelf.

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It’s the simple things, really, that make form + function a dream come true.

Happy DIY-ing!