Shoe Cupboard

I observed that our current shoe storage (a narrow shelf in the inner porch) wasn’t working well. There wasn’t enough room for all the shoes, and the narrow porch/hall meant that they regularly got knocked off or were otherwise in the way. (Irritating and not very conducive to people care). I also observed that we had never in 2.5 years used the downstairs shower. Since it was full of extraneous shoes and other stuff (and we had 3 other showers in the house), it was unlikely that we ever would. We therefore decided to rearrange the space to turn the shower space into shoe storage.

Design brief: create a storage cupboard in the shower space, primarily for shoes, that would entirely replace the existing shoe storage.

I again used my own design process:


Discussing it with the other household members, and observing our storage needs over several months, I came up with the following list of requirements:

  • Must have a door (to avoid the dog eating any shoes).
  • Must fit four people’s worth of shoes (the toddler has small shoes now but they will grow!), including some quite tall/bulky pairs of boots.
  • Must have storage for other bits and pieces: gloves, hats, some winter waterproofs that are used only rarely.
  • Must have a couple of hooks for slings (baby carriers).
  • Preferably would include space for the charity shop box.
  • Preferably would have some space for wet/muddy boots to dry off before being stored.
  • Must be easily accessible from the hallway.

I also made a list of the specific things I needed to find storage space for:

  • Gloves for 4 people.
  • Winter and summer squashable hats for 4 people.
  • One big non-squashable summer hat.
  • Pair waterproof trousers (used very rarely).
  • Waterproof poncho in a stuff bag (used very rarely).
  • Knee protectors (used even more rarely).
  • Charity box (cardboard wine box).
  • 2-3 woven baby wraps and a buckle carrier.
  • Adult shoes: 4 pairs sandals; 2 pairs hiking boots; 2 pairs DMs; 2 pairs Converse boots; 1 pair work shoes; 1 pair (possibly 2 pairs) New Rocks; 1 pair (possibly) smart heels; 1 pair bike shoes.
  • Toddler shoes: 1 pair wellies; 1 pair boots; 1 pair sandals; bag of welly socks.

Resources and observation

The main resource was the existing shower space. This was hard to access, being hidden behind the door in the downstairs loo, and usable space was further reduced by the shower tray, shower, tiles, etc etc. Having stored things in it off and on since moving in it was clear that it wasn’t accessible storage as it stood. (Observe and interact)

Original hallway/downstairs bathroom layout. Note that bathroom door opens onto shower, making it difficult to access.
Original hallway/downstairs bathroom layout. Note that bathroom door opens onto shower, making it difficult to access.

Having made the first decision (below in Analysis) to have the space rebuilt (by a builder), once this was done, I measured it. (Observe and Interact)

Cupboard space measured in cm (with shelves and hooks as installed).
Cupboard space measured in cm (with shelves and hooks as installed).

As shown, it already had several pegs and a couple of shelves, as well as a box around the pipes, provided by the builder.

Other resources we had:

  • Lots of cardboard boxes. (Produce no waste; Use and value resources.) I observed that the shelves were just slightly wider than two wine boxes side by side.
  • Various tools and bits of scrap wood, including the former shoe rack. (Produce no waste; Use and value resources.)
  • Money to buy extra storage/hooks/etc if needed.
  • Paint for the inside (and other replastered bits) left over from previous decorating. (Produce no waste; Use and value resources.)
  • Spare floor tiles (Marmoleum) left over from previous project. (Produce no waste; Use and value resources.)


The first decision was that the need for easy access from the hallway, combined with the current design of the shower, meant that we could not simply repurpose the shower. We therefore decided to get a builder in (it wasn’t a job we felt able to DIY in terms of abilities or time (people care) to take the shower out, put a dividing wall in, and move the door round to the hallway. This took a while to organise but eventually happened at the end of July 2014.

Shower area walled off; plumbing removed; new door opening into hall. Shoes moved!
Shower area walled off; plumbing removed; new door opening into hall. Shoes moved!
Inside of tall narrow white cupboard, showing coat hooks.
A narrow, tall, white cupboard, with wooden shelf supports, a pipe box, and a pot of paint on the floor.
Bottom half of cupboard just after painting. Note shelf supports, and the pipe box at the back.
Full-length view from an angle.
Full-length view from an angle.

I considered zoning as a design approach:

  • For shoes, observation of previous storage solutions suggested that one shelf per person was the most effective / least argument-inducing solution. (An alternative would have been shoes of a similar height stored together but previous experience suggested that this was prone to mis-filing.) (Apply self-regulation and accept feedback)
  • Some of the things to be stored were needed very seldom. It would clearly be sensible to store those on the least accessible shelves — the highest shelves. (Use and value diversity)
  • Small things should be kept together, and in such a way as to be easy to grab and easy to put away. (Catch and store energy)
  • It was important that the shoes should be easy to access and easy to put away (Catch and store energy), and therefore that anything hanging from the walls shouldn’t stick out too much in front of the shelves.

I also linked functions (categories of things to store) and elements:

  • shoes :- shelves
  • hanging up things :- hooks
  • small things :- small containers of some sort
  • charity shop collection point :- large container
  • seldom used things :- high shelf (also good use of full height of space)

This all suggested a basic structure of shoe shelves, some kind of hanging wall storage for small things, and perhaps some hooks for seldom-used coats. An early idea sketch, before the building work was done, looked like this:

Initial idea sketch and questions (seen from above).
Initial idea sketch and questions (seen from above).

However, the width and the installed shelves once the cupboard was built meant that it made more sense to have shelves straight across the whole width at the back. (React to change), which in turn meant no full-height coat hooks. (This was fine as this was an extra beyond the original list of requirements). More generally, there were a few exclusions, limitations, and resources to consider now that I knew the dimensions of the cupboard:

  • There were more shoes per person than could fit on a single shelf (Observe and interact, so we needed at least one more shelf for less-used shoes. (This could also be useful for tall shoes.)
  • Toddler shoes would ideally be in some kind of container.
  • The shelves and pegs already put in created limitations. (They could of course be moved but it seemed a waste of energy unless very necessary.) (Use and value resources; people care)
  • The pipe box at the bottom could be extended into another shelf, but things kept here might be hard to access (Use edges and value the marginal).


Taking the various considerations into account (Design from patterns to details), I came up with the sketch below.

Design plan as presented to rest of household.
Design plan as presented to rest of household.

This had the following features:

  • Multiple shelves up to chest height for shoe storage, including one half-shelf which extended the ‘box’ to a full shelf. As this bottom shelf was low and hard to access, I planned to use a wine box cut in half to create two drawers, each with a cord handle (cord reused from waste packaging material) (Produce no waste; Use and value resources; Use small and slow solutions.). This also meant toddler shoes could be corralled into one of the boxes (zoning).
  • The shelves were placed to take account of the existing hooks (Use and value resources), and also to allow a DM-height pair of boots to be stored on each shelf.
  • The hooks could therefore all still be used to hang things, although two of them (on the side walls) had to be moved slightly outwards (Small and slow solutions).
  • Slings could be stored on the side hooks, and small seldom-used things on the back hooks.
  • A wall tidy hung along the left-hand wall (and possibly a second one on the right-hand wall) for items like scarfs and gloves (Use edges and value the marginal).
  • Space on the floor for the charity-shop box, and for drying wet/muddy boots before putting them away again (Integrate rather than segregate — keep boots where they should be regardless of their wet/dry state!).
  • A high (over head height) shelf for ‘deep storage’ of items very rarely used, possibly in a box to minimise dust (Use edges and value the marginal).
  • Battery-operated LED (minimal energy, Earth Care) motion-sensitive light.

I showed it to my partners (People Care) who agreed that it would work and fitted the aims.

I also needed to source materials to implement the design. My first consideration here was Earth Care. I wanted to reuse or recycle materials wherever possible.

  • I already had scrap wood (from previous projects and rescued from skips) in the garage, and found some more while walking the dog while I was working on the design. In the event this was enough for all the shelves.
  • I found a recycled bottle wall tidy.
  • We had flooring tiles (Marmoleum) left over from previous project, and glue ditto (actually for roof felt but it did the job).
  • We also had paint left over from previous decorating projects (in the event this wasn’t quite enough, and we bought some more white Ecos eco-friendly paint (Earth Care).
  • I found a low-energy LED light (Earth Care) which was motion sensitive (no fumbling for a switch, which made it more likely that things would be put away properly!) and easy to fit (People Care).


Implementation schedule as planned, and when it actually happened:

  • ✓ Paint! (J/P/d: Evenings 4-10 August.)
    • ✓ Plaster inside cupboard (2 coats Ecos white). Done 02.08.2014, J, 2 hrs.
    • ✓ Plaster in hall where walls replastered (1 coat sealant, 1 coat Earthborn white). Done 22.08.2014, P, 1.5 hrs
    • ✓ Plaster in bathroom where walls replastered (1 coat sealant, 1 coat Ecos white). Done ?.08.2014, D, ?
    • Hall ceiling touchup (1 coat Ecos white) (we decided this was unnecessary).
  • ✓ Gloss paint on doorframe. (1 hr.) Done ?, P, 1hr?
  • ✓ Floor:
    • ✓ Cut and stick down floor tiles. (2 hrs) (J: evening 11-13 August) Done 26.08.2014, J, 1 hr
    • ✓ Buy and fit sill of some sort to cover gap? (2 hrs?) Done 18.09.2014, J, 1 hr including caulking
  • ✓ Shelves:
    • ✓ Source wood for shelves. (Ongoing; check garage.) Done 04.08.2014, J, 15 min.
    • ✓ Build and install two main shoe shelves. (2 hrs) (J: weekend 30-31 August.) Done 05.08.2014, J, 1.5 hrs
    • ✓ Build and install bottom shelf. (1 hr) (J: weekend 30-31 August)Done 13.09.2014, J, 45 min
    • ✓ Build and install top shelf. (1 hr) (J: weekend 30-31 August) Done 13.09.2014, J, 45 min
  • ✓ Misc:
    • ✓ Move existing hooks as required. (30 min) (any time in August) Done 05.08.2014, J, 15 min.
    • ✓ Buy storage pockets, light, (? and extra hooks). (15 min) (any time in August) storage pockets and light done 02.08.2014, J, 10 min.
    • ? Build and install low hooks. (1 hr.) (evening week 1-4 Sept) decided against
    • ✓ Hang and label storage pockets. (30 min) (any time after paint done) Done 08.08.2014, J, 10 min
    • ✓ Install light. (30 min) (any time after paint done) Done 08.08.2014, J, 20 min
  • Admire!

Halfway done, with main shelves installed:

Small cupboard with 4 shelves of shoes and various other things hanging up.
Note cardboard boxes at bottom, and slings on coathooks.

The finished job!

Top shelf visible.
Top shelf visible.
This shows the extra shelf added level with the pipe box for the cardboard boxes at the bottom.
This shows the extra shelf added level with the pipe box for the cardboard boxes at the bottom.

It is doing exactly the job we wanted it to.

Assess and tweak

I ran into a few problems and changes during the process and immediately afterwards:

  • I chose not to put in low hooks in the end as it would reduce floorspace (instead I put more hooks in the airing cupboard door where we had been storing shopping bags).
  • The wall tidy fit better on back of door than on wall (and then didn’t get in the way of things hanging from hooks).

    Wall tidy hanging on door.
    Wall tidy hanging on door.
  • The light fell down! The provided sticky stuff wasn’t sticky enough. It needs to be reaffixed.
  • The floor glue more or less did the job, but the tiles were a bit warped after their time in the garage. I had to use some decorator’s caulk to fix a couple of gaps.
  • I may yet install a second tidy or a big bag for more hats/gloves, but will see how we do this winter first.


Despite the tweaks needed, overall it is a big success and has made life much tidier! No more tripping over shoes every time anyone comes in the door (therefore reducing wasted energy in picking them back up again).

Returning to this a year later (2015), I am still struck by how much of an improvement this fairly simple design has made in our daily lives (Use small and slow solutions). It is a strong contender for my favourite design of my portfolio!


Design process reflections:

Positive: The long period between having and agreeing the idea, and actually getting the building work done, meant that I was able to think ideas over, and to be certain what we actually wanted to store (Observe and interact). Very positive is simply that it has worked very well and solved the problem; these two observations are not unconnected.
Negative: I am not sure the wall tidy is precisely right; I may consider something different. I may have chosen too hastily (and based chiefly on it being made out of recycled bottles). (Update a year on: it seems fine now and stores everything we need it to.)
Interesting: It took me longer to get things totally finished than I initially planned; this was deliberate in that I had over-committed myself and chose to slow some projects down rather than run myself into the ground (Apply self-regulation and accept feedback).

Permaculture ethics reflections:

Earth care: Using almost entirely reclaimed / recycled material in fitting the cupboard out.
People care: Observing our needs carefully to create something that improved daily life for everyone in the household; and being realistic about what we could and couldn’t do ourselves.
Fair shares: Reusing surplus material helps reduce my footprint on the planet.

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