I Built That!

DIY Plate Racks: An Open Shelving Option for Traditional Homes

TV cabinet was refinished and topped with a vintage-style plate rack | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

It seems that open shelving in the kitchen is the hottest thing going.  And, honestly, I just love it.  But sometimes, the latest trends are hard to fit into existing decor.  This was the exact problem I had in my kitchen.

This, and the fact that the kitchen was also small and had very few cabinets.  So opening up this precious and much-needed private space didn’t seem like an option. 

IMG_3691Then, last spring, when the kitchen refresh got underway, one little spot surfaced that allowed me some kind of creative potential.  You see, a few years earlier, we had removed a builder’s grade desk and overhead cabinet unit from a small corner and installed a piece of furniture in its place.  During this refresh, I knew that this space….and this piece of furniture…. could be more than what it was now.  In fact, it was a total dark, dreary, and out-of-date hot mess.  One look makes it clear.  There was no place to go, but up.TV cabinet makeover "before" picture | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.comI also knew this space could be and actually needed to be opened up to make it lighter and brighter.A vintage-style plate rack adds open shelving above the chest | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.comSo, I buried myself in planning and pinning and drawing and shopping.  Only, after a few weeks, I was faced with a sobering reality.  The options I found, which were mainly plate racks, were too expensive and were never the right size.  By the end of April, the entire kitchen was finished….well….except for the big empty space over this blue chest.  It was so disheartening and, at this point, I didn’t know what to do.DSC_0266Number2Then one summer day ran into another.  Before I knew it, fall was here.  And, I still had a finished kitchen with a big empty space over the blue chest.IMG_2434That’s when I realized it was time to either fish or cut bait.  The way I saw it, there were two options. I either had to (A) find an economical way to get a plate rack up there or  (B) stop whining about it.IMG_3704

I chose option A.


And, here’s how it all came together.

Step 1:  Determine the size 

I bought a roll of brown paper from the home improvement store.  Then, using the estimated dimensions, a template was cut and hung to create a visual.  As you can see, it wasn’t anything high-tech, just a simple template to help find the right scale for the piece.  And, yes, the blue tape is recycled from painting.  🙂  It was perfect for this section of the project and another way to cut costs.

DIY Plate Rack - Use a template to help identify the correct size via TheChelseaProjectBlog.Wordpress.com

Step 2:  Build the frame and hanging cleat

Once the template size was confirmed, glasses and plates were laid out on the template to determine the space between shelves.  The frame on the left is the back skeleton frame.  The shelves will attach through the horizontal pieces and the sides will attach to the verticals.  But, first, please remember to counter-sink all of the wood screws (center picture).  Then, place this frame against the wall and attach strips of wood to the wall for the unit to hang on.  The strips were attached into the studs using extra-long wood screws.

DIY Plate Rack - Build the back frame and hanging cleat via TheChelseaProjectBlog.Wordpress.com

Step 3:  Build the front part of the rack

Then, remove the back frame from the wall and, using wood screws, cover with a piece of bead board.  After this, the shelves will be attached from the back using wood screws that are drilled through the back horizontals.

DIY Plate Rack - Add the shelves to the frame via TheChelseaProjectBlog.Wordpress.com

Step 4:  Add the sides, caulk the seams, and wood putty over the screw heads

Then the sides are attached to the shelves using wood screws.  If you look just below the caulk gun, there are wood putty spots where the counter-sunk screws (two screws for each shelf on both sides).  Seams that did not require sanding were simply caulked.

DIY Plate Rack - Secure shelves from the back, caulk the seams, and thoroughly sand via TheChelseaProjectBlog.Wordpress.com

Step 5:  Glue trim onto the shelf ledges and across the top

I just ran a bead of wood glue on some quarter molding and taped it to the shelf.  The tape easily peels away when the glue is completely dry.  The same process is used for the top.  A piece of scalloped molding is cut to size and glued into place.  A bit of caulk should fill in any gaps left by any of the moldings.

DIY Plate Rack - Shelf and Header Moldings via TheChelseaProjectBlog.Wordpress.com

Step 6:  Paint the unit and hang on the wall

The unit was given a couple of coats of paint, allowed to completely dry, and then hung on the wall via the cleats.  Wood screws inserted left, center, and right under each of the shelves secured the rack to the three wall cleats and the top and bottom of the frame into the studs.  Yea, that’s a lot of big wood screws.  Wood putty, a light sanding, and a touch of paint made the screw heads disappear.


And, the rack was finished just in time to make its debut filled with neutral fall accessories.


And cutting boards made from the leftover lumber.


Materials were used for this 36 inch-wide by 48 inch-high unit:

3 – furring strips for the back frame and cleats

12 feet of 1 by 6 pine for the shelves

12 feet of 1 by 8 pine for the sides – I had leftovers.

12 feet of quarter round molding for the shelf ledges

1 strip of scalloped molding – The entire strip has to be purchased and less than half was used.

1 sheet of beadboard 36 inches by 48 inches

Wood screws in various sizes – check with a home improvement expert for the correct sizes for your unit


Wood putty

Paint and brushes


And, that’s how I finally got my beloved open shelving, a lighter and brighter kitchen…….and rid of the big empty space above the blue chest.  🙂

Plate rack doubles as open shelving with simple fall decor

TV cabinet makeover decorated for Christmas | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com


For Pinning

DIY Plate Racks | An Open Shelving Option for Traditional Homes | www.thechelseaproject.com


See how the TV Unit became the blue chest:  Click here

TV cabinet makeover and reinvented as a kitchen cabinet | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com 


For an open shelving option in the pantry:  Click here

Custom-built wall unit alongside the custom-sized open pantry shelving | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com



More home building projects:

How to Build a Bookcase to Fit Your Space

How to build a bookcase to fit your space with easy directions.



DIY Sunday Showcase Party via The Interior Frugalista

Merry Monday Link Partty #75 via Intelligent Domestications

The Scoop #192 via Stonegable

#30DayFlip via Snazzy Little Things and Arts and Classy


***The directions contained in this post are approximates.

For information about a specific project, please consult your home improvement center expert.***

1 Comment

  • Reply DIY Vintage Plate Rack | The Chelsea Project April 20, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    […] DIY Plate Racks: An Open Shelving Option for Traditional Homes […]

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