How to Build Countertop to Ceiling Built Ins in the Kitchen

March 29, 2023

Building custom counter-to-ceiling shelving in the basement kitchenette. 

This is the last project I recently finished up in our basement kitchenette project -- it added so much character and function to this space!

I've been building this room from scratch for the past few months, and this was one of the fun DIYs that really made the whole space feel finished and so custom!

If you'd like to catch up, you can see a comparison of big box store cabinets and why I chose the unassembled option, our LVP flooring and some installation tips, and the butcher block countertop, sink and faucet installation.

When we left this room last, I had installed the DIY faux brass gallery rail on the picture ledge above the sink: 
gray cabinets black marble backsplash
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What you didn't see was that I stopped the ledge and tile about a foot from the corner on the left side of the room:
corner of butcher block

I had big plans for that spot!

We didn't install any upper cabinets on that left wall because I didn't want to close in the room too much. We don't need a ton of storage anyway, so I figured doing something fun (but still functional) would be a better use of the space. 

I've always had a curved arch detail in mind for this wall, and toyed around with a few ideas over the past few months. I figured the easiest way to implement something like that was to build something tall on both sides so I could add the arch in between. 

Our new counter to ceiling built ins were the perfect solution!

I wanted the picture ledge I built over the tile to butt up right against the shelving, so I had to build out this corner unit a bit. I made an "L" with two pieces of wood and secure one side against the wall:
building counter to ceiling shelving

The 1x3 board along the front is the decorative trim that the ledge runs into.

I nailed in scrap wood in the left corner so the 1x12 that became the side of these countertop bookcases could be nailed into those on one side and some scrap I placed behind the 1x3 on the other:
building bookcase on counter

These projects are always like a puzzle for me. I enjoy figuring out how to make them work, but that's most likely not how a professional would do it! 

And that is OK! Don't let that stop you from trying similar projects in your own home. It will come out just fine in the end with the proper finishing touches. 

From that point I started building these built in shelves like I do all of my bookcase shelves. Check out our dining room window seat bookcases to see how I build the shelving part of these built in shelving units. 

When the two sides and shelves were up, I installed some 1x2 select pine trim from top to bottom with a nail gun and then 1x3s along the front to finish off the shelves. 

Once the nail holes are filled and corners are caulked, they're ready for paint. Those are the most time consuming parts but make all the difference!:
gold wine glass holder

I found those gold wine glass holders on Amazon -- they're super easy to attach under the shelves. 

This light gray paint color is matched to our cabinets, here's the formula:

Each unit has four cubbies, but if you try this it out it can be customized for your needs! We keep some barware and a few decorative items on there -- they're not super big, just large enough:
DIY custom shelves on counter

I built one shelving unit (the one against the wall) in place, and the other I built on the floor and then installed into the wall (at the top and bottom behind the trim). 

After trying both ways a few times over the years, I much prefer to build these in place. I find the fit is much better that way. It just depends on what you feel most comfortable with:
built ins on top of counter

My plan was to install the backsplash tile on the wall between the two units and then build the arch, but when I hung the art in the middle, we quite liked it as is:
kitchen counter bookcases

So now I'm not so sure I'll do the arch...we'll wait and see. I am sure that I won't be tiling that wall -- I have a new idea in mind that I think will be really fun! 

I built the left countertop shelf right up against the end of the counter because eventually there will be a taller bar top/peninsula coming out from there. I'm working on that plan right now, but I'll share the full room reveal before that project starts. 

This is how this side of the room started last fall:
basement kitchen before

And here's how it looks now with the simple bar bookcases built up to the ceiling:
basement kitchen with counter built ins

You know how I love countertop lamps! I got this brown one here but switched out the lamp shade for one we had (it was so wide and took up too much space in that corner). 

We still have plenty of countertop space as the shelving units are only 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide. The pretty storage is great for a bar area like this. 

Now I kind of wish I had run lighting to the tops of each one, but we could still do that. The finishing details will be fun to figure out. 

This countertop shelving would also create a lot more storage in a bathroom, as long as you have the space. 

We've packed a lot of form and function into this little kitchenette alcove in our basement! This has been such a fun project -- I'll share the (almost) final reveal soon!

If you have any questions about this project, please let me know in the comments. :)

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  1. Sarah. You are so talented. I love your kitchenette. May I ask what the color is on the cabinets? It doesn’t look like a pure white.
    Thank you

  2. I love it Sarah! Such a sophisticated look for this space!

  3. Love the picture. Where did you get it?

  4. What a wonderful addition!

  5. Hi, thanks for the information. I always enjoy reading about your projects. I was wondering about the color of the basement cabinets, can you share the color? We are about to paint our existing kitchen cabinets. Thanks

  6. What color are the cabinets? I love seeing the LVP flooring you have especially because it is what I've picked for my house. I'm so excited!

  7. I would like to get more information on the lighting :)

    1. The lamp is from Target! (I have it linked up above under the photo.)


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!