How to create custom built ins with kitchen cabinets

If you’ve read TDC for awhile, you know how much I love a good wall of built ins. I think they create so much character without spending a ton of money. Thing is, there’s no need to build the whole thing from scratch. You can create a really custom look with basic, unfinished cabinets as your base for the project. 
There’s a little trick to it though! I have a go-to for almost all of the built ins and bookcases I’ve built over the years. Instead of actual bottom cabinets that you’d find in a kitchen or bathroom, I use the uppers only. 
This is for a few reasons — they don’t have the drawers that most lowers have (which makes it look more kitchen-like), they are cheaper! and they don’t take up nearly the space regular lower cabinets do. (Uppers are only 12 inches deep.)
The bonus is you can walk into almost any large hardware store and pick up what you need right there. These are the unfinished cabinets I usually use

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The other bonus is they come in a few different sizes — so for most walls you can find a configuration that works and just line them up to create the base for bookcases. 
You do have to do some prep to make them look custom — the first step to making kitchen uppers look like built ins is raising them up a bit. If you just install them on the ground they won’t look as built in. 
I use 1x4s and nail them into the sides around the bottom of the cabinets: 
How to make cabinets into build ins
Actually, the size of the wood will depend on the height of your current baseboards (or the height of new ones you may be installing): 
Make base for cabinets for bookcases
The center piece is for added support. To make these look custom I wrap the bottom with baseboards and this base pulls them up off the ground so that’s possible. You can read more about the steps for cabinet installation for built ins here. That post explains everything in more detail.

When you add the base and then some simple trim on the ends to dress it up, it gives it all a much more sophisticated look:
Using kitchen cabinets to build a bookcase
Of course the butcher block counter offers some nice contrast and makes it feel even more custom: 
Kitchen cabinets as base to bookcases
I added a wall of upper cabinets in our old loft that gave me SO much storage space for craft and office supplies: 
Loft office/craft room
family office space with built in storage
You can see more of that craft room/office/loft space here! 
This built in was in our dining room turned library and I’ve shared it a million times, I know. But we easily saved a couple grand by doing this project ourselves. The inexpensive cabinets make it a really affordable project!: 
DIY built ins with kitchen cabinets

It is truly the best combo of form and function — those cabinets are only 12 inches deep but they hold a ton! (Think of how much they hold in your kitchen.)

I used the upper cabinets that go over a fridge for our mud room bench:

Pretty DIY mud room bench with cabinets
And my first project with these was another project I did with my Dad for my son’s bedroom
Blue and red airplane room
I have Dad to thank for this idea — he’s the one who thought of it for this room and I’ve kind of taken off with it over the years. 🙂 
I used those same skinny, upper cabinets for the bases of my office built ins in our new house: 
Dark green built ins with wallpaper
Have you tried this trick to build custom built ins or bookcases? I’m thrilled with how they look in our home and I’m sure I’ll add more in the future! 
You can shop some of the items from these rooms here: 

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