We are soon going to be converting our garage to a home office, and we are planning for one wall to be entirely cabinets and bookshelves. Our plan at the moment is for the base cabinets to be 18″ deep, and the bookshelves above them to be 12″ deep (or 11.5″, I guess — whatever the standard so-called 12″ board is). We would like the cabinets and shelves to look nice, but it is just a home office that few people will ever see but us, so we don’t want to spend too much money on it.

My plan was to buy stock base cabinets at Home D*pot or similar and install them ourselves, and then for my husband to build simple bookshelves above them. However, looking at the stock cabinets at HD today, I found that they only come in a 24″ depth, which is really too big for the space. Does anyone have an idea where I can get reasonably priced base cabinets in an 18″ depth? I thought about Craig’s List, but after looking at some of the posts there, it seemed to me like I could answer a lot of posts before I find what I’m looking for. We only need enough cabinets to fill a 12′ wall. Any ideas?

P.S. Has anyone used maple plywood for bookshelves? I was thinking about buying maple cabinets and then using maple plywood for the shelves above, hiding the seams with moulding. Is plywood in general sturdy enough for bookshelves? I expect these shelves to be LOADED very heavily since we have a million books!

You could try a mobile home supplier. Things seem to be smaller there.

We needed shallow base cabinets for a pony wall in our kitchen and wound up buying them from IKEA. We bought their upper-wall cabinets, and then attached IKEA adjustable feet on the bottom of them, stood them on the floor and anchored them to the wall at the top of the cabinet.

The IKEA system is great. You attach a long horizontal bracket over the studs ensuring it is level. Then the cabinets attach to the bracket with a clamp mechanism so the cabinets can be adjusted along its length. The legs then also can be adjusted to ensure the cabinets are level even with an uneven floor. You can even purchase a base pleat (kick plate) that clamp onto the legs for a more finish look. But with the description given and knowing IKEA is not the lowest price solution; I would again build the unit.

I’d check the Houston Habitat store, on 610 South. It’s used and new donated building supplies. The stock turns over very fast, but it’s SUPER cheap.

Take a look at upper cabinets. They are available18 inch. You can build a short base for the kick and to get them up off the floor and make a plywood or MDF top for them. If the upper shelves are less than 36 inches the 3/4 maple should work. To stiffen it you could put a maple 1 x2 on the front edge.

Maple Ply is a great product for beautiful bookcases – use it for all built-ins. Laminate strips for edges or edge molding for finishing.

Others have made good suggestions. As someone suggested, IKEA has a good selection of top cabinets you can easily modify for bottom cabinets but the depth can vary about 14 inches. 18 inches is not really enough depth for a desk but if that is your space limits then you must deal with it.

My other suggestion is to build the case yourself and then purchase the doors and drawers from one of the many suppliers providing those products on the Internet.

For heavy shelf loads – If you attach the shelves to the wall, make certain you use heavy-duty brackets on every stud usually 16 inches on center. Realize your wall is not designed to carry a lot of outward directed weight so if you load it down with books and depending upon the load, you might encounter problems. Be even more sensitive to the load if you garage studs are 2×4 – 24 inches on center. For a heavy load, I would build a bookcase resting on the floor and perhaps incorporating the desktop and bottom cabinets into one unit. Don’t forget lighting – I use under shelving lights.

Thanks, Gene, for your suggestions! (And thanks to everyone who weighed in on this — I really appreciate it!) Gene, your points about the weight of the book shelves are well taken. There will not be a desk incorporated into all this. My husband and I both have antique desks that we love, so we will keep those and they will be on a different wall. The built-in cabinets and bookshelves will be on a brand new wall. We are converting about 2/3 of our garage to the new office, and the remaining 1/3 will remain as is, and that will be our laundry room, not living space. Anyway, we are building a wall in between the new office space and the laundry space to separate the two spaces, and that is the wall where the cabinets/shelves will be.

So what I am getting at is that we can build that new wall any way we want to, to any specs. Do you think we should discuss this with our designer and see if we should “beef it up” a little? Maybe extra studs or … I don’t know, what would make that wall stronger? The county is allowing us to do this without engineering, so we do not have an engineering consultant. Our designer is mostly a drawer of drawings, I think, rather than much of a real designer, so I am not sure how much help he would be. Anyway, I would be interested in ways to make the wall stronger since we are building it from scratch. Alternatively, should we just make the drawings “normal” so that the county does not get too interested in this question, and then beef it up on our own time before we close up the wall?

As for the cabinets, I looked at the Ikea ones online and I don’t think they work for us, though only because our style is more traditional and the Ikea would look out of place. There are several used office furniture places down in San Francisco/Oakland, near us. I was thinking about looking through some of those places for some old wooden cabinets and file drawers in the proper depth, and then putting them together as a unit, maybe with moulding to hide the join lines. (I was thinking of having painted woodwork anyway instead of stained, so we certainly could just paint everything one neutral color.) The tops of the cabinets and file drawers might be problematic since they would all be different, but I was thinking of using a router or jigsaw to create a unified line all the way across and then installing a counter with a bullnose front on top to hide the routed cabinets tops. (I want a counter anyway, underneath the bookshelves.) I would be interested in criticism or additional ideas as to whether this idea would work very well, or ways to make it work better.