Good news: my kitchen is almost functional! The cabinets are in, the countertops are finished and installed, and the sink/faucet works and is leak free! However, yesterday I got this depressing phone call from Lowes to inform me that my appliances had been delayed. Boo. So at the moment, my kitchen looks like this:
More important to this post, is this nice gap here:
This gap is 28" wide, and will ultimately house the dishwasher. However, my dishwasher (like most) is only 24" wide. That means I have four extra inches. Now, I could just stick a cover panel over the space, and call it a day, but since my appliances were delayed, and I have the time to build something, I figured I should probably make this space functional.
One of the many times I was procrastinating my life and browsing Houzz.com, I saw this awesome pull-out towel rack. I knew something similar would be perfect for this space, being next to the sink and all.
The towel rack in the picture above sits in an open alcove. Looking at the other pictures of this kitchen, there appears to be a similar symmetric gap (and possibly another towel rack) on each side of the sink, making the gap look intentional. Given that I only had one gap, I thought it would look strange if I left it open, so I designed my towel rack to have a front to it. This means that I can't put anything too wet on my towel rack, since there's not a lot of air to dry the towels back there, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
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The Towel Rack
- 3 1/2" piece of MDF, cut to 30"
- Two pieces of 1/2" by 17" plywood*
- Two pieces of 1/4" Plywood, 30" and 24" long*
- 1/2" and 3/4" wood screws*
- Wood Glue
- 2 Corner Braces*
- Paint that matched my cabinets
- Amazon Basics 14" Drawer Slides (One pair)
- Swivel Towel Bar
*A bunch of the things I chose to use because I had them around the house, similarly sturdy fasteners or wood could be used.
Step 1: Prepare the Front
I have Ikea Grimslov (off white) cabinets, so I chose MDF to make up the front of the pullout because I thought it was the best match for my cabinets texture-wise. However, I was a little concerned about the sturdiness of MDF; I was worried the towel rack would eventually fall off, or the connections between the drawer slide pieces and the front might come loose. So I wood-glued and screwed a piece of 1/4" plywood to the back to add support.
In order to get paint that matched the rest of the cabinets, I took an uninstalled drawer front to Lowes and had them make a sample-sized paint match. I then painted the piece. I really only needed to paint the front, but I decided to paint the back (and the pieces of plywood in step 2) as well to give the wood some protection from damp towels. I also added the knob at this point so that later I didn't accidentally attach something else (the towel rack, the drawer slides, etc) where the knob needed to go.
Step 2: Prepare the Sides
The ancient kitchen that I ripped apart a month or so ago had pretty grimy 1/2" plywood shelves in all of the cabinets. Thus, I had a nice stack of used-to-be-shelves sitting in the basement.
I cut two 3 1/2" pieces off (no particular reason for 3 1/2", they could have been 4" or 3" or something else, I suppose,) giving me two pieces 3 1/2" wide by 17" long. My drawer slides were 14", and the pieces really didn't need to be longer than that, but why make extra cuts when I didn't have to? My pieces therefore remained 3 1/2" by 17".
I sanded off the grime and then painted the pieces white, once again to add protection from any damp towels. Finally, on one end of each piece, I drilled Kreg jig pocket holes so I could later attach the pieces to the front piece.
Note: If you don't have a Kreg jig, because things are expensive, you might be able to still do this with only corner braces. Get super sturdy ones, and give it a shot. That being said, I've found my Kreg Jig super useful for all sorts of things that I didn't initially purchase it for (like installing the butcherblock countertops). And you don't need a fancy one; this one is only $20, and will get the job done.
The Amazon Basics Drawer Slides (and probably most drawer slides) separate into two main pieces, one which attaches to the side of the cabinet, the other which attaches to the drawer side.
I attached the "Drawer" piece of the slide to each of the plywood pieces on the opposite side from the Kreg jig holes, as shown below. I also checked that the drawer slide piece was level (with a level..)
Step 3: Assemble the Frame
I wanted the front piece to be flush with door of the sink cabinet next to it. In order to make sure that happened, I reattached the two drawer slide pieces together so that the entire piece of plywood was attached to the drawer slide. Then I held the front piece where I wanted it to go, and placed the plywood piece accordingly. I took down the front piece and marked with a pencil where the front of the drawer slide was.
I then separated the two drawer slide pieces, and attached the cabinet piece so that the front just came up to the line I had drawn. Before putting in the 2nd and 3rd screws, I checked that the slide was level.
I reattached the two drawer pieces to each other, which attached one of my plywood pieces to the cabinet side.
Then I held my front piece in place, and screwed my Kreg Jig screws into place. These were strong enough to temporarily hold the front in place while I repeated these steps for the bottom piece of plywood.
Step 4: Reinforce the Frame
As built so far, the towel rack frame operates properly. However, I (aka, my dad) had some concerns about long-term operability in two different places.
1) The Kreg Jig screws went through the edge of the plywood, which is the weakest part of the plywood. Therefore, it would improve stability if the joints were reinforced.
2) The two pieces of plywood were only connected by the front piece. They would operate better and be less strained if they were connected at the back end of the pieces as well.
I therefore reinforced the plywood to front piece joint using a single 1 1/2" corner brace on each piece.
I also added a 1/4" piece of plywood that spanned the length between the two plywood sides to help add stability. I attached it with wood glue and 1/2" wood screws.
Step Five: Add the Towel Rack
The towel rack I ordered came with absolutely no instructions, which was honestly fine since I wasn't installing it in a traditional manner anyway. Basically, there were two holes in the towel rack intended for screws, so I just screwed the rack into my front piece with some 3/4" screws and called it a day.
Towel Rack: $18.49
Drawer Slides: $13.99
MDF Piece: $6.08
Paint Sample: $3.68
Definitely more expensive than a traditional towel rack, but certainly cheaper than hiring a pro to come and install a built-in towel rack! And I used my little 4 inches effectively! I'll take it!