Numbered Cubbies on the Wall

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Plans to build a Pottery Barn Kids inspired Number Cubby Shelf. This shelf features eight small cubbies in a vintage paint finish. Free simple step by step plans use standard lumber and simple tools. Build this Number Cubby Shelf for under $10.

Since we are in the midst of the ultimate DIY project, one so overwhelmingly large it will consume hundreds of blog posts, I've been craving a little fun afternoon project to work on.  
These number cubbies from Pottery Barn Kids fit the bill, but the price - $99 - was not a bill I could see myself paying.  How about less than $9.99 and an antique finish?

This is what Grace and I came up with.  We used 1x2 and 1x3 furring strips because they are $.92 and $1.33 respectively, as opposed to a 1x6 and a 1x10 and because I liked the look of a planked front and back.  But certainly you could substitute the front and back for the 1x6 and 1x10 - but it's going to cost you a little bit more.
But I tell you, as cheap, cute and simple as this project is (or at least should be) it was one of those projects - you know what I'm talking about, where the nails don't do what you say, the batteries die, the wood splits, and then you realize your out of boards and the lumber store just closed.  Ugh, I just want to give up and start a different project . . . that sort of project.  You KNOW exactly what I'm talking about.
But I have a rule for myself that I follow.  I finish my projects.  I, Ana White, finish my projects.  So I stuck this one out and couldn't be happier that I did.
Easiest EVER Vintage Paint Finish
I also tried a ridiculously easy paint technique on the Numbered Cubby Shelf.  For this distressed vintage look paint finish, I first DID NOT do any sanding to the finished project.  You can even see on the end there where I pulled a nail out with pliers (hey, it wouldn't snap off like it's supposed to and I got impatient!) and all of the end grains that have not been sanded or filled.  I did scrape any loose splinters off with a scraper.
So I skipped the sanding and took the shelf outside and sprayed it with one coat of black spray paint.  Not even a good coat, but I did make sure that the spots I wanted to show black were sprayed well - corners, edges, the nail scar and so on.  I let that dry and then followed with a coat of white paint.  
While the white paint was drying, I printed out the outlines of the numbers 1 - 8 in Times New Roman, 3" tall.  I cut the numbers out and traced onto the Numbered Cubby Shelf, and then filled in the numbers with a black paint marker. 
Finally, I sanded lightly the shelf in areas that would likely see distressing. The shelf is solid wood, so I simply screwed through the back into a stud in the wall, but certainly, picture hanging hardware would work too!
Dimensions are shown above.


Shopping List

3 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long
1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long

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

4 - 1x3 @ 38 3/4"
2 - 1x2 @ 38 3/4"
9 - 1x3 @ 7 1/4" (One end cut at 45 degrees off square, long point measurement)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Miter Saw
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

I cut a scrap 1x3 to 4" length and used it as a block to help me space the dividers. Then I nailed the dividers to the bottom, spaced 4" apart. This part was a bit tricky, because my nailer requires me to push really hard (it's battery powered) so you may just want to mark screw holes, predrill, and attach with screws. Don't forget your glue.

Step 2

Now you still want to make sure the back is 4" spaced at the top. Attach the back boards to the cubby dividers and bottom with 2" finish nails and glue. As you near the top, use 1 1/4" finish nails because the miter cut will not give you enough clearance for the 2" nails.

Step 3

And now nail the front boards on, again, using the 4" block as a guide.

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.


Cherie Heltne (not verified)

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 07:39

I have been looking for something to organize my 5 kids homework supplies. This is perfect and will look great no matter what room I hang it in. Thank you for the instructions on the finish, it makes the piece. I agree that the planks fit the project better than the solid boards.


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 09:43

Hi Ana - this would be PERFECT for my classroom for supplies!! Can you tell me how to modify it and what the shopping/cut list would need to be to make it have 13 cubbies instead of 8?

Meg :) (not verified)

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 10:44

Ooh! Super cute! Looks easy to build! :)

This could easily be modified to be smaller, or larger. I'm even imagining First Initials instead of numbers and a longer back panel so I could hang coat hooks on the bottom. Hats & Mittens up top, Coat down below!

It's a great shelf as it is, or with some changes!! :)


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 11:09

Hi, Ana -- Found your blog a couple of weeks ago and I'm HOOKED! Thanks so much for your wonderful projects -- I have a couple of projects of my own started, based on some of your plans, and I can't wait to see how they turn out!

I see you include wood conditioner on your list of supplies. I have heard other designers (mostly on DIY Network) also say you can use water, since it also is supposed to open the pores of soft wood. What do you think?


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 11:24

Can't wait to make this for my son's room - it is so cute! Want to go get my lumber right now but I promised my husband I'd finish a few projects before I start another. I'm good at starting, not at finishing!


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 12:46

i will be making this for my sewing room! i usually have the next 5-6 projects laid out across my floor- but this way i can stuff coordinating fabrics into each bin and clear up my floor space! i'm so stinkin' excited!

Sydney (not verified)

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 14:05

It never ceases to amaze me how expensive stuff is at Pottery Barn! I like your version better, Ana.

Guest (not verified)

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 18:42

Sewing room, office, son's room for video games and the list goes on. Ana this is a really cleaver design. I love the numbers and the finish too.


Tue, 07/26/2011 - 19:18

I love it. So cute with so many uses. This is moving to the top icky to do list.

Ana White

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 12:15

Thanks everyone! Such a fun project, can't wait to see brag posts!

For those of you questioning the wood conditioner, it was an error on my part. All fixed.

Sunny E (not verified)

Wed, 08/03/2011 - 15:12

Love this project. I'm going to make a "writing center" for my girls, and this will be great. I modified a bit. I cut the 8' boards in half, so that I have room for 10 cubbies with 4' spacer like you did. Measurements worked perfectly!

I will number mine 0-9 because we homeschool math with the Math-U-See books, and they stress counting from 0-9 rather than 1-10.

Don't know if the boards are smaller in Texas, but I couldn't get a good fit with the 7.5 inch boards as the uprights. My two 1x3 and one 1x2 didn't come up high enough in the back to make a full 8". So I moved the 1x2 to the front for a taller box, then used a spare 1x4 on the back to make the back taller. So my back is 1x4, 1x3, 1x3 and front is 1x2, 1x3, 1x2. Will post when I get it painted. Next time I will cut the upright boards smaller so that crayons will fit better.

Guest (not verified)

Tue, 08/16/2011 - 09:43

Great project.
I built it last night. One comment though, I cut the divider boards at 7-1/4 inches, but this didn't seem to work out with the width of the front and back boards. The back calls for 2 3" and one 2" board (6-1/2 total width 2-1/2 + 2-1/2 + 1-1/2). the total height of the back is 8" including the bottom. Should the boards have been spaced apart 3/4"? Or should the dividers been cut different?


Mon, 09/19/2011 - 11:13

I built this project but noticed some differences in the plan.

I needed an extra 1/2 for the back otherwise there was a huge gap, and the measurements for the insides of the blocks were a little bigger than noted in the plan. Both were easy fixes and I love how my shelf turned out!


Tue, 11/15/2011 - 08:58

It's really nice of you to post your work. It's super helpful for a novice like me.
I have yet to build my first project, but I am pretty confident that I can do it!

Thanks a lot.
I really appreciate your hard work.

God bless you.


Sat, 07/28/2012 - 22:34

Ana, I love your site so much! I know this plan has been up for a while, but that is the beauty of It has just been waiting here for me to discover a use for it. My oldest girl is turning five this fall, and we are "officially" kicking off her first year of homeschooling. I'm going to modify this to make it large enough to store books and activities for each subject (like one giant magazine storage box). Can you say organized? Woot! If I ever finish my other projects, that is!

Jesi (not verified)

Fri, 10/12/2012 - 08:47

Ana, yours are SO much better than Pottery Barn's!