Often a traditional closet would have one wooden rod spanning two walls and a shelf above the rod. Sounds like a lot of wasted space. It’s very challenging to organize a closet effectively with one shelf. No matter how hard you try to keep your closet under control, somehow things get all over the place. Having the same issue, I decided to build a DIY Closet Organizer with Drawers.
An organized closet helps you streamline your morning routine and gets rid of unnecessary clutter. We tried different things to make it more organized, but it never worked. So we decided to change the closet completely. I took everything out and built a nice Closet Organizer with Drawers in the middle. The younger son has the lower drawers and shelves and the older son has the upper drawers. Everything is much more organized.
If you decide to build a similar shelf you can easily omit some shelves or add a couple more depending on your needs. And add a few baskets for a better look.
This project was mainly done with two types of plywood. I used ½” plywood for the drawer boxes and ¾” plywood for the shelves and front of the drawer. It’s very important that this closet system is attached to studs inside the wall, because of its weight. You will need to use a stud finder to accurately locate the studs.
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page as well as links in “tools for this project” and “material list” sections are affiliate links.
Step 1 – Cut Sideboards and 2×4 Supports
First, start with building the center section of the closet system. Once the center is complete then you could easily add the shelves on both sides.
Take 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood and two side pieces to 64″x16″ using a table saw. Then at the top of these plywood pieces trim off 4″ at 45 degrees as shown in the picture. Next, take 2×4 and cut three pieces to 18 1/2″ in length. These 2x4s will be connected to the sideboards later on and will be holding the entire closet system on the wall.
Step 2 – Cut Two Shelf Boards for the Center
Between the sideboards, we will have drawers on the bottom and a few shelves on the top.
Take 3/4″ plywood and cut two pieces to 18 1/2″ x 16″. Then set your Kreg Jig to 3/4″ wood thickness and drill four pocket holes on each shelf board as shown in the picture.
Step 3 – Build Drawer Boxes Using 1/2″ Plywood
The drawer boxes will need to be built from 1/2″ plywood. This 1/2″ plywood is strong enough for the boxes and less expensive than 3/4″ plywood. All five drawer boxes will be of the same height, width, and length.
Take 1/2″ plywood and using a table saw cut five bottom pieces to 17″ x 14″, five back pieces to 16″ x 7 1/2″, and ten side pieces to 14″ x 7 1/2″.
Step 4 – Assemble the Drawer Boxes
Next, take 3/4″ plywood and cut four pieces to 8″ x 20″. These will be the front covers of the drawer box. But the top drawer box will need to have the front cover slightly taller to cover the shelf board. So cut the top drawer box cover to 9″ x 20″.
Before assembling the drawer boxes, set your Kreg Jig to 1/2″ wood thickness and drill pocket holes as shown in the picture. The bottom piece of the drawer box will have three pocket holes and the side pieces will have two pocket holes. These pocket holes will be used to attach the front cover board.
Place the bottom board on your workbench and then attach the sides using wood glue and 1 1/4 brad nail with a nail gun. Then attach the backboard. Repeat the process until you have all five drawer boxes complete.
Now take the front covers and attach them to the center of the box using 1″ pocket hole screws. The upper drawer box will have the front cover 1″ taller than the box itself.
Step 5 – Connect Side Pieces with 2x4s
Before connecting the side pieces together, first, paint them with a paint roller. It’s easier to paint the pieces as separate boards than when everything is already assembled. Paint the side pieces, shelf board, and front of drawers. Apply at least two coats of paint.
Once the paint is completely dry, connect the side pieces together with 18 1/2″ long 2x4s. See the picture for exact 2×4 locations. Attach these 2x4s with 1 1/2″ wood screws.
Step 6 – Attach the Main Frame to the Wall
Find the center of the closet and mark it on the wall. Then find the center of the 2×4 and mark it with a pencil.
Using a stud finder, locate the studs and mark them on the wall. Then lift the frame 12″ from the floor. Make sure the center of the closet lines up with the center of 2×4. Then drive in the screws through 2x4s into the stud location with 2 1/2″ wood screws. It’s important to hit the studs in the wall with screws. If you attach this frame to the drywall only, this closet system will fall down.
Step 7 – Secure Drawer Slides to the Side Pieces
Now it’s time to attach drawer slides. Take a pair of 14″ drawer slides and attach the first set 2″ from the bottom. Make sure they are leveled. Then cut a 7″ tall scrap piece and use it as a guide to attach the remaining sliders.
Place the 7″ tall guide piece on the first slider, then place the next slider up and attach it with screws. Repeat the process for other sliders.
Step 8 – Install Drawers
To install the drawers so that they work properly, it’s important to have the same 1/4″ gap between each drawer going up. Starting from the bottom, install the drawer so that it’s flush with the bottom of the side pieces. You could attach a guide board temporarily from the bottom, and then remove it once the bottom drawer is attached.
Once the bottom drawer is installed and works properly, take a 1/4″ plywood and cut it full width and length of the drawer box. Place this 1/4″ plywood on top of the first installed drawer. Then place the next drawer on top of the plywood and secure the slider to the drawer box. Repeat the process going up for the remaining of the drawers.
Now take a pencil and lightly mark the top of the upper drawer cover board on both side pieces. Then remove the upper drawer and install the shelf board just below the pencil mark. Make sure the pocket holes are on the bottom. Use 1 1/4″ pocket holes to attach this shelf board. Next, install the upper shelf 12″ over the lower shelf.
Step 9 – Cut and Attach Support Blocks for the Shelf Boards
Take the remaining 3/4″ plywood and cut six 14″ x 1 1/2″ pieces and two 12″ x 1 1/2″ pieces. These pieces will go on the left and right wall of the closet, under the shelf boards as support blocks.
Again using a stud finder, locate the studs on the left and right wall and mark them on a wall. Then mark the elevation of each shelf. Make sure that the bottom shelf is the same elevation as the bottom of the side piece of the closet system. The rest of the shelves could be placed at any elevation (I placed the shelves about 12″ apart). Attach the shelf support blocks using wood screws into the studs.
The very top shelf will lay down on the top of the closet system spanning the whole width of the closet. This shelf needs to be 12″ wide. The length of each shelf piece might be different depending on how big your closet is. But for my closet, the top shelf was 72 1/2″ in width, and the smaller shelves on the sides were 25 3/4″.
Once all the shelf boards are measured and cut, drill pocket holes on the smaller shelves only on one side. The side that will be against the middle shelf system will need pocket holes and the side against the wall will lay on the support blocks.
Paint the shelf boards before installing them inside the closet.
Step 10 – Finish Installing Handles and Coat Hanger Dowels
Take closet dowel rod holders and install them at the elevation you’d like. Then measure and cut the dowel rod to the correct length and insert it into the rod holders. Finish installing drawer handles. You’re all done with this DIY closet organizer with drawers.