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The Guest Room Closet + Modifying Brand New Furniture

clothing rack | hangers | rug | velvet pillows | white coverlet

Friends, we wanted to share this post for a few reasons. One, it’s a closer look at the Tree House guest room’s so-called closet (and why it is how it is), two, it’s okay to modify existing furniture to fit your needs perfectly, and three, this is a simple step-by-step to applying plywood banding. Honestly, I couldn’t even come up with a succinct post title if I tried, so I’m hoping we can all just roll with the story?

The story began when we eliminated the closet in our guest room, because it created a big bump-out in the bathroom on the shared wall. We talked more about it in this home tour vlog, but in short, the closet had to go. Sorry, closet! Although that might seem silly to some, we know that Tree House is a place where we and our guests will be bringing along a suitcase for the week/end, and if anything, we would simply need a place for that suitcase to sit. A few hangers would be nice, too. And not far away, the master bedroom has a very big closet, and we plan on maximizing the storage in there for linens, beach towels, spare pajamas (and the list goes on).

All that to say, by nixing the guest closet, we were suddenly on the hunt for a place for all the suitcases to land. And so, the story unfolds with this adorable clothing rack! For months, we considered everything from a vintage tallboy to a storage chest, but during a late night search, I stumbled upon the Cameron and showed it to Scott, and we were ordering our guest room a tidy little rack 5 minutes later. But of course we can’t leave well enough alone, and we had already begun the discussion of modifying it with plywood shelves to perfectly fit our needs.

In our experience, clothing racks, in general, have always felt a wee bit flimsy, and our goal is that anything entering Tree House needs to be tough as nails. Strong. Able to withstand our nieces and nephews (so important). When the clothing rack arrived, we were pleasantly surprised! For starters, the finish is more matte than the glossy online photos, which would have been our preference anyway. And once it was assembled, it felt sturdy! That said, we knew that reinforcing the shelves with plywood would bring in additional level of durability, plus the plywood would mimic the finish of the rod, plus we were protecting the black metal from scratches (and in turn, we wouldn’t feel the need to ‘baby’ it). Win-win-win. Here’s how it looked out of the box:

Tools + Supplies for Shelving

4’ x 4’ x ¾” furniture grade plywood sheet
Table saw
Miter saw
Wood veneer banding (we used birch)
Edge Trimmer
Fine grit sanding paper/block
Household iron
Sheet of aluminum foil
Water-based polyurethane
4” Foam roller
Metal screws
Measuring Tape

What We Did

After a successful makeover with plywood + banding in Lucy’s nursery closet (a great budget project!), we felt confident recreating that look for Tree House. We purchased a 4′ x 4′ furniture grade plywood panel, and Scott ripped that down into two shelves that fit the depth of the clothing rack shelves. Using a miter saw, he cut those shelves down to the proper width. If you don’t already own these tools, your home improvement store should be able to make these cuts for you in-store if you have your measurements handy! Tip: We should have used blue tape along our cuts to prevent fraying. Plywood frays very easily, but we forgot that one step that we’re always preaching. 

All the freshly cut edges were sanded down, and a quick swipe over the surface of the plywood will have it feeling super smooth. We used a 220 grit sanding block:

This next step is necessary only for our specific clothing rack, but we did need to trim out a slight notch on all four edges of the shelves to accommodate the vertical supports. Although we could have cut down the shelves smaller overall, this hyper custom fit looks much nicer!

With our shelves prepped, it was time to add the plywood banding! We used birch banding to match closely with the plywood finish, and the goal is to choose banding that’s slightly wider than the thickness of the wood. In this case, our shelves are 3/4″ thick, so our banding is 7/8″ wide. The trick is to cut the length slightly longer than needed:

It’s nice to have two hands on deck for this part, since the banding can be a bit unruly(!), but using a household iron, we pressed the iron for 5 seconds along the length of the plywood edge. The glue on the banding adheres very quickly, so it’s important not to linger too long in one place! A piece of aluminum foil between the hot iron and banding will prevent burn marks:

Using a scrap piece of wood, we pressed it along our freshly glued edge, which helps to lock the banding into place as it cools:

Next, it’s time to trim! We use a knife first to cut the extra length …

… And that’s followed behind with an edge trimmer! We use this one, and it’s worth every penny for a veneer project. Although you might be tempted to buy veneer in the exact width you need, the look will always be much more clean if you can trim it to size after the veneer is applied. (Not to mention, I can’t imagine the headache of trying to get it aligned perfectly with an iron!) Tip: Practice a few runs with the trimmer on a spare piece of wood with veneer. After a few swipes, you’ll get the hang of it.

Once the veneer has been applied and trimmed, it’s always a good bet to do a final sanding. We used the same 220 grit sandpaper as the first round:

The last step in prepping the shelves is to apply a protective poly finish! We use and love Polycrylic in a matte finish, which still has a teeny, tiny sheen, and the water-based formula never yellows over time. Aside from protecting the plywood, the poly helps to give the shelves a wipeable finish, too! I used a 4″ foam roller to apply three thin coats, with a light sanding between each coat for better adhesion:

Finally it was time to add the shelves to the rack! We used sheet metal screws from the underside, which allowed the screws to bite through the rack and into the plywood. Each shelf got about eight screws along the edges with one (or two?) through the middle.

Adding the shelves did exactly what we wished – this thing is so strong! For the very final step, we added these anti-tip brackets, which were included with the rack:

We’re so happy with how it turned out! It’s the perfect perch for a suitcase and shoes (and blankets!), while still allowing our friends and family to unpack and hang a few items of clothing as well!

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  • Ellen from Ask Away Blog6.7.18 - 7:33 AM

    OMG I love how that turned out!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Allyson6.7.18 - 9:16 AM

    It looks so much better with the plywood shelves – if you hadn’t said anything, I’d have assumed it came like that!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.7.18 - 1:27 PM

      Hahah, thanks! It matches with the rod so well, and it just makes everything so much sturdier.ReplyCancel

  • Christina6.7.18 - 9:57 AM

    It’s so perfect I really thought from the earlier photos that it had come that way!ReplyCancel

  • romeogirl6.7.18 - 11:14 AM

    What is the tool attachments used for notching the shelves? BTW- beautiful project!ReplyCancel

  • martina6.7.18 - 1:00 PM

    It looks great! You guys are so inspiring.
    I am about to refinish my redwood dining table, the finish has started to peel. Can the Polycrylic be used on a project like that?ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.7.18 - 1:26 PM

      If the finish is coming up, you’d likely need to sand that down, re-stain or paint it, and then yes, Polycrylic would be perfect as a top coat. It’s so durable and never yellows!ReplyCancel

      • Martina6.7.18 - 2:43 PM

        Thanks! That was the plan but I don’t know what brands to use, and I like the finish you describe on the Polycrylic.ReplyCancel

  • Tara C6.7.18 - 2:40 PM

    I love the new shelves! The addition looks so good and will prevent scratches to the metal!
    Question: I recently built bookshelves using red oak and took the time to sand the wood to a buttery finish using my palm sander before applying my water based polycrylic coat. After I applied the first coat, all of the wood grain had raised again and the wood felt so rough! I was too nervous to sand the wood down again lest I remove all of the polycrylic or end up with a patchy finish. I sanded lightly and then did a second coat and called it a day since the shelves we covered in books. But how do I prevent this on future wood projects? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Lauren6.7.18 - 4:50 PM

      A great way to prevent that is to “raise the grain” before applying finish. Aka spray the wood lightly with water and then sand down the raised bits, wait for it to dry then proceed with your finish.ReplyCancel

      • Kim6.7.18 - 6:53 PM

        Thank you, Lauren! And Tara, definitely sand between coats of Polycrylic anyway. Just a light sanding with 220 grit will help the next coat adhere better. Just don’t sand after the final coat. ;)ReplyCancel

  • tia6.12.18 - 11:02 AM

    I don’t even need this but now I want it…lol.ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

Join us as we renovate and nurture vintage homes across Chicago + SW Michigan!

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