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How to turn an old medicine cabinet into open shelving

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Today we’re showing you how to turn an old medicine cabinet into open shelving. One thing that screams “1990’s” to me a recessed plastic storage compartment with a mirrored swinging door. AKA- the medicine cabinet.

These are great for hiding what you don’t want your guests to see, but are impractical in a lot of senses.

Especially when they are trapped in a corner right next to your main bathroom mirror.

This was the problem with the medicine cabinets in both of our upstairs bathrooms.

We couldn’t even open the medicine cabinet all the way because it bumped the frame of the mirror.

These mirrors were not original to the house.

They original construction had the large frame-less mirrors so the cabinet wouldn’t have bumped anything.

But the previous owner put in these framed mirrors that we love.

So, let’s show you how to turn an old medicine cabinet into open shelving.

If you want to hang floating shelves, here’s how!

Love this project? Be sure to check out all of our DIY building projects here

How to turn an old medicine cabinet into open shelving

Prep the Space

The first step was to remove the old medicine cabinet. This one had couple of screws holding it in and was otherwise held to the wall by several old layers of paint.

I unscrewed it and then used a knife to cut the edges away from the paint.

Master Bathroom Before - Charleston Crafted

This left a nice hole in the drywall. I painted the bare ring around the hole to match the wall. I needed to add a stud on one side to make the hole flush.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

Building the Open Shelving

Then I started building my open shelving. I won’t use measurements because your hole will inevitably be a different size than mine.

I don’t want to be losing sleep at night thinking that someone copied my cabinet exactly and then it was no where close to fitting.

My shelf hole was 3 1/2 inches deep, so I got a piece of 1″x3″ wood from Lowe’s.

I used my miter saw to cut 45 degree angles on the ends of the pieces and made the outside edges the exact size of the interior of my wall hole.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

I screwed the frame together and also added one piece down the middle for a second level shelf.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

This structure served as the frame of the open shelving.

I added a thin piece of 1/4 inch board to the back of the frame to serve as the backing and screwed that into place.

Then I had the whole shelving structure.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

I cut molding to serve as a frame for the open shelving. The molding covers up the edges of the rough drywall.

I picked up chair railing molding and cut it into pieces that would line up with the interior of my open shelving.

That way, it would later look like a deeper piece.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

I painted everything with trim paint to make it match the color of the doorways and existing trim.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

Since this was going to be facing out and there was no way to hide nail or screw holes, I used wood glue to attach the molding frame to the outside of the shelf box.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

Once it was good and dry, I caulked all the edges to make them look seamless and smooth.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

Installing the Open Shelving

Once that was done, I took the whole thing up to the bathroom and just popped it right into the hole.

Then I used wood screws to screw the sides into the wall studs.

When you do this, drive the screws a little past flush with the wood so you can fill it later.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

So then I took spackle and simply filled the holes, let them dry, sanded them down, and covered with one coat of the trim paint.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

Now the ugly mirror is gone and so is the hole in the wall.

The open shelving looks awesome, especially when accessorized.

How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted
How to turn old medicine cabinet into open shelving - Charleston Crafted

If you are trying to hide any personal items from guests and you don’t want to put them in the drawers of your vanity, this may not be the route for you.

But, if you are trying to spice up your bathroom and make it look a lot more modern, that’s how to turn an old medicine cabinet into open shelving!

 
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CHERYL

Monday 25th of May 2020

This is excellent! I recently bought a house and the bathroom has a medicine cabinet (hidden behind the door) and also a mirror that opens into thirds so the original cabinet is even more ridiculous. The hole in the wall goes all the way into the hall closet, if this works for me it'll be awesome.

The Best Over the Toilet Storage Ideas of 2020

Wednesday 11th of December 2019

[…] Looking for more simple bathroom storage ideas? You’ll love our DIY open shelving from an old medicine cabinet! […]

Des

Saturday 13th of April 2019

I have been trying to figure out how to do this for months, gearing up for a total demo of the bathroom and this is the one "fun" part I'm looking forward to transforming. Your tutorial makes it look doable! thanks

Sean

Sunday 14th of April 2019

I hope it helps! Share pictures if you do it!

Jeanine Stallings

Monday 4th of February 2019

Thanks for the tutorial!

Isabel Jimenez

Monday 17th of September 2018

Thank you very much. I love it!!!!! I will show it to my son and we will start working. Looks beautiful!!!