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Hey look, we have cabinet doors!

It sounds simple, doesn’t it – building a wall of bookshelves? But here’s the thing: there is WAY more decision-making involved than I ever would’ve thought. Turns out you can’t just set your handy husband loose in the office and hope he emerges with exactly what’s in your head… without TELLING him what’s in your head. Who knew?

As a recap, we’re building bookshelves on one one wall in our office. The shelves will look something like this, with a space for a computer monitor and chair in the center:
And once that’s complete, “we” will also build a desk for the center of the room.

In the last post, we talked about what to use for the counters on the desk and bookshelf wall – and you guys offered some awesome tips which we’re looking into, thank you! – but now it’s time to figure out the whole cabinet door situation. Two main decisions:

1. Which style door?
2. Overlay or inset? (More on this in a sec.)

The first decision was pretty easy to make, because I already knew that I wanted shaker-style doors like this:


They are very simple and straightforward, with a raised edge and a recessed panel in the center. It also happens to be the cabinet door style we already have going on with our kitchen cabinets:
shaker-style white maple cabinets
With that decision made, we had to decide whether the doors would be overlaid or inset. Full overlay cabinet doors sit on top of the cabinet frame and cover it completely, like these:
See how you can’t see the cabinet frame behind the doors? The doors essentially cover the inside of the cabinet AND the cabinet box.

The other option is inset doors like this shot. Inset doors sit snugly inside the cabinet frame, so you can actually see the entire cabinet box around them. Make sense? Kinda-not-really?


When we were making this decision, I think Andy was quietly praying and crossing his fingers-toes-heart that we would settle on full overlay doors, because building inset doors is very, very tough. There’s no room for error because they have to fit perfectly and squarely within the cabinet frame. See how you can see the seam around the door?


Turns out that inset doors are also normally very expensive, which means that without meaning to, I accidentally really prefer them, which also means that crossing your fingers-toes-heart did not accomplish much for Andy. Fortunately, he was up for a challenge.

Shaker-style doors are made of five pieces: each of the four sides, plus the flat part in the center. Andy cut the wood, routed out a slot on one side, and pre-drilled the screw holes using his Kreg Jig – one of his most handy tools!

Then, using a clamp to hold them together, he screwed one of the short sides into the long side:

Then added the third side:

When he had the three sides attached to each other, he put a bead of glue inside that slot:

And slid the recessed panel in the middle. Beautiful.
That’s just money.
Next he added another line of glue on the fourth side and screwed it on too:

The proper woodworking environment: on a living room rug with toys strewn in the background.

He had already built the face frame (the piece of wood that the doors will sit inside), so the ultimate test was to set the doors inside and see if it made a perfect fit. Here are two doors sitting inside the face frame:

And now with four doors:

Score! They fit beautifully. Which is exactly why Andy does these kind of perfection-required jobs. I like to aim for “just good enough,” which in this case would’ve been NOT good enough. We’re talkin’ wonky, crazy rhombus-shaped doors that belong in a seuss house. Sometimes it pays to be married to a math/geometry teacher.

Pesky 90-degree angles.

Wanna see some more updates? TWIST MY ARM! Here’s our messy under-construction room with the “bones” of the side shelving installed:

And now with the center shelves and some extra trim installed to bulk it up. And look! Two doors! Yay!

Apologies for the stray sofa arm in the bottom corner. That sofa is ALWAYS photobombing our pictures.

We still have to install the other doors, close in the top, fix the crown molding, and wire for lighting. And lots of painting. LOTS and LOTS of painting. Should have more updates for ya in like five minutes. Right, Andy?

UPDATE: See the bookshelves finished here, decorated here and the office as it is now here.

Let's connect


  1. Love the progress! It’s going to be so amazing when it’s done! Oh and “Sometimes it pays to be married to a math/geometry teacher” — I know what you mean 😉

  2. I’m getting so excited about this! Can’t wait to see it come together. I’m super impressed that he made those doors!

  3. You all have been busy! It’s looking so good!

    I have been voting for you like it’s my job. I like to vote for things. Is that weird? Don’t answer that.

  4. They look amazing! You’re so lucky to have a husband who is so good with those 90 degree angles!

  5. NICE! The finished product will be absolutely fabulous.

  6. WOW. i am totally impressed right now.

  7. I’m in awe. Honestly. Can I steal Andy for a bit? Please?! I promise to return him.

  8. Ooh yay! Gotta love our perfectionist husbands. I also tend to lean toward “good enough”…with things that don’t matter much, of course. Andy did an awesome job…and I imagine you did an awesome job supervising, too. 🙂

  9. Haha, yes! I’d give myself five stars for awesome supervising. I AM a perfectionist when it comes to that. 🙂

  10. Um, I think I’m in the presence (ok, via the web) of greatness! Seriously, can you pretty please come build me some? I promise to make you whatever you want for dinner, take you for a mani and pedi, and I’ll steal you a koala from the zoo. Deal?

    Xx. Patience

  11. I think your husband and Katie’s husband would be BFFs because they are both far too handy for their own good. Can’t wait to see the final result! And p.s. you better win so we can throw you a party!!

  12. WOW….my husband is working on doors right now, but he is making overlay doors! Yours are beautiful!


    PS I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

  13. Shut up. He’s making them??? Girl, you are so lucky 🙂

  14. Hello! I just discovered your blog and I love it, both your style and your sense of humor! I was wondering if you could tell me what color the blue paint is that seems to be in several of your rooms. We’re finishing our basement and I wanted a color similar to yours for the walls. Thanks so much and I look forward to reading more from you!

    • Thanks Amy! It’s Benjamin Moore Brittany Blue, but we had it color-matched to Lowe’s Valspar brand paint. Good luck!

  15. Kelly should the center panels be allowed to float(no glue) so they can expand, Just glue on rails and stile joints.

    • Thanks for your comment! We’re not worried about the wood expanding in this case because we just used plywood for the center panels.

  16. Was that 1/4 plywood and 1×3 maple you used?

  17. Hello! I just rediscovered your blog and I’m in awe. Fantastic job! I’m considering building a simplified version of these for my living room and I’m wondering how did you achieve the thickness of the counter top and the sides of vertical shelves (walls)? Thanks in advance!

  18. A tip….there are online cabinet sites where you can order just doors if you dont have the tools to make your own. I beleive you can you can order them in 1/2 inch increments….

  19. its odd to put all the effort into routing slots and then use pocket screws to attach the stiles. It wouldn’t have taken too much extra effort to rout the ends of the short boards to form tenons, then you wouldn’t have to deal with pocket holes.


  1. […] used to look like: Then we made a plan for the wall: And started building the cabinet boxes: And the doors: Then started installing: Added some snazzy moulding: And the coolest lighting system ever: […]

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