Turn closet space into office space

Here's a plan to truly maximize household space

By Rick Campbell

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Access hatch
Cover the opening between the base cabinets with a removable panel to provide access to cables and wires in the back. The panel consists of a painted wood frame with grooves cut around the inside to accept a hardboard insert. Join the frame at the corners with biscuits and handholds recessed into the top and bottom rails to make the panel easier to remove.

I installed a standard forced air grill near the bottom to permit heat from equipment to escape. Cleats screwed to the base cabinets allow the vent panel to be held in place with Velcro strips.

Wall and ceiling panels
Melamine panels encase the top and sides to tie the unit together and hide the interior walls and ceiling. Before measuring for these panels, I screwed a 3/4″-thick melamine spacer board to the top of the hutch to provide clearance for the cabinet doors.

I cut holes in the top panel for three additional recessed low-voltage pot lights and ran the wiring for these lights, and the ones installed earlier, to standard household light switches located on one of the side panels. You’ll plug a cord running from the switch box into a standard grounded outlet after the unit is installed.

To prepare for the installation, I rolled back the carpeting and underlay to provide a solid footing for the unit and ran wiring for telephone lines, data connections and electrical outlets to the centre of the back wall so they could be accessed from the removable panel.

Next, I assembled the modules directly in front of the closet opening so it would be easy to see how they would come together and so I wouldn’t have far to move them. With a the help of an assistant, I pushed the unit into place.

I secured the side panels to the wall studs using three-inch screws with decorative cup washers under the heads. Use a shim behind the screws to fill any gaps between the cabinet and the wall studs. That way all of the pieces will fit nice and tight.

With the unit securely in place, I installed trim around the outside edge, followed by a bead of paintable caulking to fill any gaps in between the unit and the walls. I finished up by laying down new tack strips, rolling the carpeting back into place and trimming the excess to fit.

It took no time at all for our useful new built-in office to become the most popular destination in the house. It turned out to be a cost-effective solution to our household space problems and it has opened the door to the possibility of adding additional built-in cabinets and nooks in other underutilized areas of our home.

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