Salvage-Style Bathroom Cabinet

Shabby chic is always trendy with DIYers. Perhaps it’s pride that drives us to spiff up something old and forgotten and transform it into a conversation piece. Or it could be that we’re a little cheap (and not afraid to admit it); we prefer to spend less on materials and get creative with what we find.

If you value this type of challenge and the resulting reward, this project is for you. Read on to see how we turned a castaway window into a charming bathroom cabinet.

Prep all pieces
The aged, retro look of this window makes it interesting, so we wanted to emphasize it in the cabinet design. But the piece needed to be cleaned up a bit. For starters, we removed the old hardware, scraped and sanded off the loose paint and trimmed a bit of wood from all sides to make it square. (Keep in mind that older windows may be coated with lead-base paint, so take appropriate precautions.)

Trim your window to square the edges and remove any unsightly marks. For safety, be sure to tape the panes of glass — if they break, the tape will help to hold the pieces together so you can remove them safely.

Next, we built a cabinet to match the window’s dimensions (see illustration in the PDF below). We cut the sides (A) to the height of the window and cut the top and bottom pieces (B) to fit just inside the sides with butt joints. To allow room for the back panel (C) to align flush inside the sides, we ripped the top and bottom pieces, removing 3/16 in., which is the thickness of the back panel.

Rip 3/16 in. (or the thickness of the plywood back panel) off of the top and bottom pieces. The sides are rabbeted to hide the plywood from view.

For added stability and to ensure that the cabinet would be square, we cut a 3/8-in.-wide x 3/16-in.-deep rabbet in the side pieces to accommodate the back panel. Next, we cut two adjustable shelves (D) to 5 x 18-7/8 in. and drilled 1/4-in. shelf-pin holes in the cabinet sides.

Create a rabbet in the sides by setting the saw blade depth to 3/8 in. and passing the piece through; then set the blade to 3/16 in. (shown in the photo) and pass the piece through again to complete the rabbet.

Build the cabinet
With all of the parts cut to size, assembly was a cinch. We used Miller dowels to join the sides to the top and bottom pieces because they are easy to work with and create a strong connection (though you could use standard dowels or screws instead). Before installing the dowels, we glued, clamped and added pin nails to all four joints to prevent them from slipping; then we drilled holes, applied a little glue to the dowels and tapped them in place.

If you have one handy, use a drill guide to create the shelf-pin holes in the side pieces. Be sure the holes are consistently spaced and drilled.

First tack the sides and top and bottom pieces together using wood glue and pin nails. Secure the sides with clamps. Then install the dowels as shown.

We fastened the back panel in place by applying a bead of glue and driving pin nails into the rabbets and the top and bottom pieces. Then we cut and installed part of the French cleat (see “Creating a French Cleat,” below, for more details) to the back of the back panel.

After a quick sanding to smooth all of the edges and joints, we applied a couple of coats of paint to the cabinet and the unfinished edges of the window. Next, we installed the hinges and mounted the window to the cabinet. To top it off, we added a decorative knob and a cabinet latch.

Use an awl to mark the screw locations for the hinges on the cabinet and window. Then install the hinges.

Finally, because this cabinet will be used for utilitarian storage rather than display purposes, we applied privacy film to the inside of the glass to keep items such as toilet paper out of sight.

Creating a French Cleat
One sturdy option for mounting this type of cabinet on a wall is to create a French cleat. It features two parts, one that attaches to the back of the cabinet and one that attaches to the wall. These pieces fit together like a puzzle when the cabinet is in place, creating a snug, secure fit that is sure to hold the cabinet safely in place.

To create the cleat shown in this article, start by cutting two 1x2 boards to 18 in. Then adjust the table saw blade to 45 degrees and the fence to 3/4 in. Pass each board through the saw. (See the photo and illustration within the PDF for a profile with measurements.)

Using screws or nails, mount the 3/4-in. edge of one piece to the back of the cabinet near the top with the narrow edge oriented downward.

To balance out the space between the cabinet and wall created by the cleat, attach an 18-in. balance strip (F) to the back of the cabinet along the bottom edge.

When you’re ready to install the cabinet, mount the 3/4-in. edge of the remaining part of the cleat to the wall with the narrow edge oriented upward. Be sure screw the cleat into studs or mount it with hollow-wall anchors in the drywall. Then hang the cabinet and stock it as you please.