5x5 Storage Cubbies

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Make a room divider cubby system to organize an entire room. Free easy step by step plans.

This plan is designed by Ana, built by Tamara.

"Storage, Storage, Storage!!" That's what Ana called this piece, and she is absolutely correct. Second to Ana-white.com, my next biggest obsession is Pinterest.com, where I first saw this sort of storage piece. I have totally become addicted to that site too. The funny thing for me about finding inspiration online these days is that now I don't find a piece and think, 'oh wow, I'm gonna have to find out where to buy that and find a good deal.' Thanks to Ana and her wonderful DIY site, I look at things now from the perspective of, 'what would it take to build that?' And I LOVE having the confidence to know that I can actually build furniture!! Ana, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that gift. 

When Ana asked me for some projects that I would be interested in doing I knew this was one on the top of my list. I'm working on transforming my boys' nursery into a 'big boy room' and this is one of the first steps toward that process. The storage is incredible, the process of building is simple and the satisfaction of knowing, 'I actually built that beast of a storage unit' is awesome!

Here are few tips that may or may not help someone when doing this project:
-choose your boards carefully. Due to the size of these boards you are working with, you want to make sure you get really nice pieces. 
-measure, measure and measure again...I am still trying to get 'square' projects, but each project gets closer and closer.  
-for the shelves, I would suggest starting in the middle column and working your way out in order to maintain a nice and level flow across all five. On one of my rows I put one board on the left side, one on the right and started working my way inward, and it just didn't work AS well as working from the middle outward. 
-as suggested by Ana in the plans, I would anchor this piece to the wall. Mine doesn't rock and is very sturdy, but it will be in my kid's room and they are very tempted to climb  on it already. 

For the finish I used a soft blue with a flat latex base (sorry, I don't know the exact color it was an old one I had on hand). I primed, painted 2 coats of paint (sanded in between) and applied a clear coat to finish and seal it.

I hope you have as much fun as I did putting this piece together and I hope you enjoy the 'Storage, Storage, Storage' as much as I do! 
Dimensions are shown above.


Shopping List

12 – 1x12 @ 6 feet long OR 8 1x12 @ 10 feet long
10 – 1x2 @ 6 feet long
100 - 1 1/4” pocket hole screws
1 1/4” finish nails
Wood glue

Common Materials
1 1/4 inch finish nails
2 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
paint brush
Cut List

2 – 1x12 @ 70 1/2”
4 – 1x12 @ 69 3/4”
2 – 1x12 @ 72”
2 – 1x2 @ 70 1/2”
20 1x12 @ 13 1/2”
4 – 1x2 @ 69”
4 – 1x2 @ 72”

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Make sure you have a flat workspace at least six feet by six feet for building this bookshelf. Make all large cuts first, followed by smaller cuts. Drill all pocket holes prior to assembly. Use glue on all joints.

Mark top and bottom boards as shown in diagram, carefully measuring to make sure there is a 13 ½” gap between all shelves. Also drill pocket holes on both ends of top and bottom prior to assembly. It will be difficult to drill pocket holes once attached to the project.

Step 2

Attach sides to the sides, using 1 1/4” pocket holes and glue. Adjust the entire project for square by taking a diagonal from opposite outside corners, ensuring both diagonals match in length (see last step).

Step 3

Use 1 1/4” finish nails and glue to attach bottom support trim to bottom. Also nail through the sides into ends for additional support.

Step 4

Drill 3/4” pocket holes on each end of each shelf. Mark shelf locations on all sides and upright boards. Attach shelves with 1 1/4” pocket hole screws and wood glue. TIP: Alternate drilling pocket holes offset on each end so screws do not line up exactly when you go to place shelves. IF you do have a situation where screws bump into each other, just drill another pocket hole offset.

Step 5

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Brian (not verified)

Wed, 12/21/2011 - 04:50

My question is: What is more structurally sound...having the horizontal weight-bearing shelves be resting on the screws, or should the whole design be rotated 90 degrees so that the weight-bearing shelves rest on wood instead of only screws? I guess it wouldn't really matter in the end, as we probably won't be storing baby elephants on the shelves, but it's just a question I have. Thanks for the post!

amykelmann (not verified)

Wed, 12/21/2011 - 08:30

I second that thought....is there a good reason NOT to turn it?

In reply to by Brian (not verified)


Wed, 12/21/2011 - 09:07

I think your plan will be a lot more sound, Brian. This is probably strong enough as-is, but the added strength won't hurt and might help.

Another option is egg-crate construction. The tools to do that are a bit more advanced though, and you should check YouTube for some instruction on doing it.

In reply to by Brian (not verified)

Ana White

Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11:09

Hi Brian, this could be built either way, but the full vertical sides actually bear the weight of all the shelves, transferring the weight of the shelf contents down to the ground. The pocket hole screws are extremely strong and hold shelves up of much wider widths. Also, by going this route, all pocket holes are hidden to the underside. That said, there's no reason you could not go the other way. Hope this makes sense!

Happy Holidays! Ana

Brian (not verified)

Thu, 12/22/2011 - 15:29

I understand your comment, but I'm more interested in the strength of the wood instead of the necessary shear force to bust the screws. But like I said, I don't think much being stored on the shelves would cause an issue either way.

BTW...what's the weather in Alaska like? I need to travel to Anchorage for my job on Jan. 9. I'm pretty pumped about it.

Thanks again!

Ryan Griffin (not verified)

Wed, 02/01/2012 - 23:15

Actually it would be better to rotate this shelving unit. Ana mentioned that the holes would be visible, but not if hidden with the wood filler as suggested in the plan. In either case the weight will be transferred to the vertical pieces but, by rotating, it will prevent any gaps that may open along the perimeter of the individual shelves. Just open up the .skp file, rotate the unit, export a new .jpg and upload to your site ;).

If you are going to stain the unit, just insert the appropriate sized dowel and careful saw off the excess with a dovetail saw or a sharp chisel. Sand this smooth and stain away!



Wed, 12/21/2011 - 06:53

This project would be super fast, easy and strong with the Kreg jig. If anyone is planning on making this and hasn't yet invested in a Kreg jig, buy one. You will never regret it!


Wed, 12/21/2011 - 11:35

Plywood would be an excellent material for deeper shelves. You'll need a good plywood cutting jig, and you'd want a way to dress the front of the shelves too, because the edge of the plywood is unappealing. Solid wood would look nice, but heat-activated edge banding would also work.

Ryan Griffin (not verified)

Wed, 02/01/2012 - 23:23

I agree that plywood would make an excellent candidate for this unit. Instead of the pocket holes/screws, you could use a table saw or router to make dados for some added strength. Another option for covering the exposed edges of the plywood would be to face it out with some 1x stock. Kids are so rough on furniture, edge banding veneer may peel off over time.

The facing would look something like this...



Mon, 01/16/2012 - 18:21

about being able to use for scrapbook supplies, my husband said the same thing, that we could use ply and trim out with wood like we did in our livingroom. i would like to show you pictures but can't get them to load.

Lisa R (not verified)

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 12:55

Can anyone give a rough estimate on cost to build this?

In reply to by Lisa R (not verified)


Thu, 02/02/2012 - 04:36

Hi Lisa,

My rough cost for this was about $250 after the paint and everything. I will say this though, some of my materials cost a bit more than they do in the US because I live on a little island in the Bahamas and everything has to be imported. Hopefully this will give you a ball park though.

Good luck!

Guest (not verified)

Sat, 02/25/2012 - 18:42

I can't see it costing much more than 100. Those are basic boards sold at Home Depot or Lowes.

In reply to by Guest (not verified)


Mon, 02/27/2012 - 12:39

You're probably right about that...but I don't have a home depot or lowes in the Bahamas... the $250 was my rough costs for supplies there, as I mentioned. Definitely shouldn't cost that much in the US. Hope this helps.

Tausha (not verified)

Mon, 10/15/2012 - 19:53

I wonder how good this will look if you make it look like old barn wood by beating the wood and staining it? I'm thinking I will have to try it!!!


Wed, 01/29/2014 - 10:02

I am beginning this project. I can tell in both the picture of the blue cubby whole piece and in the diagram that the outide pieces (70 1/2in and 72 in) are thicker than 1 inch. Did you use 2x12 for those instead of 1X12?



Sun, 10/12/2014 - 17:45

I'm a real beginner with this stuff. If I wanted to leave the middle part open like this room divider would I need to change anything?  Also considering adding doors to the lower shelves for more concealed storage.