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How We Organize Our Workshop


The secret workshop behind our kitchen has been one of the best decisions we’ve made for our home. A long, long time ago, we had kind of sort of toyed with the idea of knocking down the wall that divided this small room from the kitchen. It would have allowed us to create a larger kitchen, of course, but we quickly agreed it didn’t feel right for this house. (Not to mention, the kitchen is not part of an open floor plan, so this had the potential to feel secluded.) Another option was to turn this room into a large walk-in pantry, but with our kitchen design already allowing for a large amount of cabinets, that felt silly, too.

Ultimately, we realized that this space was just the right size for an indoor workshop. Yes! Not having a basement for storage, a workshop made so much sense for our DIY-loving hearts, and by adding a pocket door, we could close off any mid-project messes. We completed this room more than a year ago, but our built-in shelves continue to be one of our most popular posts! As a result, we receive a lot questions on how we organized this room. But since calling this room done!, we’ve accumulated more paint, more tools and moremoremore. It has stayed relatively tidy despite our growing list of projects, but it was time to purge and re-organize. Here’s where we started a couple weeks ago:


Not bad, but the room had begun working against us. I could no longer grab spray paint without first sifting through and removing half of the cans, and stacks of spackle, paste and mineral spirits made a grab-n-go an impossibility. Most importantly, our habit of over-buying the amount of paint we actually need was quickly taking over shelf space. To remedy all these issues took less than one afternoon, and the room feels so much better! Here’s what we did.

I purchased a dozen of these empty quart cans, and Scott and I piled all our gallons of paint onto the workbench. We separated out the colors we no longer needed or used (such as the funny little nook’s first color – ha!), and for all the colors we wanted to keep, we assessed how full the cans were. We gave away more than 10 gallons of paint (tip: listing ‘free paint!’ on Craigslist will have someone knocking on your door in 30 minutes), set aside the mostly full gallons we did need, and the rest of the paint was poured into our smaller quart cans. The quart cans were labeled with the color, paint brand, store brand and sheen, and if applicable, we also noted which room in our home it corresponds to.


Nothing on the shelves was left untouched; we went through our stackable black bins and re-homed odds and ends that had made their way in, and we tossed empty packaging that hadn’t yet found its way to the actual trash bin. These bins have been perfect for corralling our smaller items, and each one has a role – caulk and guns, painters tape, putty knives and adhesives (from wood glue to epoxy to plumbers putty) all have a home.


The biggest change came into play with these mesh gliders. Game changers! Although they’re meant for kitchen cabinets, they worked like a charm in the workshop. Scott installed them on one of the lower shelves for easy access, and we’re no longer loading our arms with All the Paint Cans just to find the matte black spray. The second glider holds everything else – metal polish, wood putty, spackle and mineral spirits – all those loose ends we need within arm’s reach.


Underneath the shelving, we have two stacked gray bins. The top bin holds sandpaper (Gator Grit was so kind to send us their products to try out, and we couldn’t love them more; this is a favorite of ours!), and the bottom bin is for anything electrical – everything from outlet covers to speaker wire to foam gaskets. (And just to the left of these bins is our dog food storage – arguably the most important item in this room according to two somebodies. But seriously, best food storage, hands down.)


These black and yellow storage totes are true workhorses, containing our tiling supplies in one and all of our paint supplies in the other. They’re a little pricey, but they hold up to the weight like a champion. As you can imagine, our paint bin gets the most amount of love, and it’s been so nice having everything in one place. I think I reach into this bin at least 5 times a week. At least.


Now, the room looks like this:


These tiny tweaks made a big impact (isn’t that always the case?), and although it doesn’t look drastically different, the functionality of the room improved ten-fold! Here’s a quick side-by-side:

Before and After


The workbench side of the room was simply cleaned up, but it’s definitely the heart of the room! We use our paper roll for listing our weekend to-dos and sketching ideas, and the framed print makes us smile every time (more on that plus a free download right here!). The vintage workbench was scored at the Randolph Street Market a couple of years ago, and we still can’t believe how lucky we were to find it! It was made for this room. We like to think of all the stories it could tell.


We hope this helps to clear up any questions you’ve had about how we organize our workshop, but we’re all ears (eyes?) if you have any more! You can find the original workshop reveal here, and shoppable sources are linked in the thumbnails below:

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Stratton Blue | Trim: Behr Ultra Pure White

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  • This post makes my tidy-loving heart so happy. I want a lil workshop room!!ReplyCancel

  • Sammy [oh hello sam]11.18.16 - 12:13 PM

    I love it! I wish we had space for a room like this, when we finally buy our single-family home I will have to incorporate something like this!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan11.18.16 - 5:08 PM

    Oh i need to organize my tool/work area so bad. We have an awesome vintage work bench in the basement that’s actually too nice to be a workbench (it’s trimmed out and painted even) so I’m planning to re-purpose it for our laundry area. But since we’ve moved in I’ve just dumped paint and other jars/tins under it and all of the tools and project detris on top. The 12″ square peg board held a few tools and my sister made a temporary cardboard screwdriver organizer that was always missing half of my screwdrivers.

    I’m definitely using some of your ideas like a tote for painting stuff and a tote for electrical. I also need some hardware sorting drawers of some sort. We recently packed everything into cardboard boxes when we ripped out the ceiling down there and I refuse to unpack the boxes until I have some sort of system. I can’t find anything but to be honest, I couldn’t find anything before either. I’m so jealous of your work room but i know that I can make mine just as functional and organized. I just need to make it happen.ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.19.16 - 5:11 PM

      That workbench sounds beautiful – perfect for a laundry room! A for sorting drawers, we have these and they are AWESOME. Perfect for all those little items, nuts, bolts, washers, anchors, etc.ReplyCancel

  • gigi11.19.16 - 4:45 PM

    Doesn’t your indoor workshop smell of paint, etc?ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.19.16 - 5:09 PM

      Only if we’re working on something with paint or stain. Otherwise, lids are sealed tight! When we are working on small projects in this room, we leave the window cracked/open, and we close the sliding pocket door.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy11.21.16 - 7:01 AM

    Those black and yellow bins are actually pretty cheap! We found the huge size (32 or 64-gallon?) at Costco for $7. At ours, it was by the liquor, so instead of grabbing a box at the end, we…loaded up the entire bin. Zero shame.ReplyCancel

  • Emelia11.21.16 - 2:23 PM

    How do you store your caulk? I haven’t had any luck! It always hardens and then I just open a new tube. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.21.16 - 2:32 PM

      Oh, good question! We use these caps, and they are AWESOME. Such a simple little invention, and it works like a charm for caulk, constructive adhesive or any other similar tube. We bought those a few years ago, but before that, Scott would literally screw a short drywall screw into the tip to keep them capped. It worked well, but the screw would get rusty after a few months.ReplyCancel

  • DC3.30.24 - 9:50 AM

    FYI = The link to your very popular post about making the floating shelves is broken! I did a quick search and found them at another link on your site. ReplyCancel

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

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