How to Create Budget-Friendly Storage Space with Kitchen Cabinets


A detached garage with a small shop area went up at the Blackwell residence in 2017. Everything you’ve heard at multifamily sessions or read on Property Management Insider and other industry publications is true about the pitfalls of today’s construction industry. There’s far too much work to go around—at least in Texas—for the amount of skilled workers available.

Like many construction projects, the dream three-car garage took longer and cost more than expected. Modifications, labor issues and a few detours along the way pushed the project to nearly six months. Some parts of the construction had to be redone because the work was wrong or not done too well. Honestly, the battle to get it built stained the excitement of the whole project. Finishing out the “ultimate” shop area with a tricked up workbench behind the car bays lost its luster before brushing the final coat of paint.

When the time finally arrived, building the bench myself didn’t sound fun, nor accidentally sawing off a hand or pounding a thumb with a hammer. With mounting labor delays and costs, the pocketbook and patience was already running thin. Paying an experienced carpenter didn’t sound good either, so the workbench stalled. But we must be thankful for the occasional epiphany.

During a recent visit at the DIY Big Box store, cutting through the cabinet section landed a double take. After scanning the various shapes and sizes of standard kitchen cabinets, I posed a “what if” question to the “cabinet man” who was kind enough to assist.

In minutes, we had plan. Six floor cabinets, one upper cabinet and a sturdy piece of OSB for the top would make a fine cabinet. All that was needed were some screws, a tube of Liquid Nails and sealer.

About $500 later and a refresher course on wood staining, the workshop has a nice bench and sturdy countertop for doing just about any handy work. Saws, drills, paintyou name itare stored below, and the overhead cabinet is perfect for tucking away drill bit sets, wrenches and socket sets. The shop is now organized.

storage space

Turns out, the idea isn’t that far out of the box. Standard kitchen cabinets work just about anywhere in the home (or garage). They can be a good-looking source of storage in living rooms, bedrooms, baths, laundry rooms and dining areas that install easy without the need of an expert cabinetmaker.

Builder offers several useful tips at blending ready-to-install cabinets in just about any decor. While the magazine focuses on single family home installations, the concept can be applied to apartments. In either setting, standard cabinets can be transformed into rather cosmopolitan fixtures by adding some nice trim or ornate pedestals. Here are three ideas:

1. Standard kitchen cabinets with drawers can be the base for a computer desk in the corner or along a way. Upper kitchen cabinets can provide storage for books, manuals and computer supplies.

2. A TV desktop can be centered among vertical cabinets minus the doors to create shelving books, pictures and odds and ends

3. Lower profile cabinets or a dining room credenza can be used to create a padded window seat (this idea may just wind up in the old Blackwell garage below the two big double-hung windows that replaced the garage door).

Multifamily operators can use a little imagination and certainly come up with many other options for using standard cabinets outside of the kitchen. Customizing with glass or trim can enhance the appearance so that the generic cabinet becomes something special. Meanwhile, residents get the look and feel of built-in storage for electronics, personal belongings, linens and many other things while operators aren’t out the costand timeto build custom shelving or cabinets.

The garage workbench went up over a weekend and staining took a couple of extra days. If not for the Texas temperatures hovering in the 90s, the project really would have only taken a day.

Now, the shop area is organized and attractive, earning several compliments from visitors. And, best of all, nobody lost a finger.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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