Towel Tower

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If there’s one place in the house that collects everybody’s stuff, it’s the bathroom. Towels, clothes, cleaning supplies, even laundry. But some fancy design work using a couple of refrigerator wall cabinets and some cool carpentry create a niche spot that can provide a central location for all kinds of different items.

 

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Overview

If there’s one place in the house that collects everybody’s stuff, it’s the bathroom. Towels, clothes, cleaning supplies, even laundry. But some fancy design work using a couple of refrigerator wall cabinets and some cool carpentry create a niche spot that can provide a central location for all kinds of different items. Suitable even for small bathrooms, this towel tower also adds texture and color to the space. And another added benefit to this project is the seating provided by the countertop top on the cabinet.
The beadboard backing for this project is made with painted 3/8"-thick tongue and groove pine, sometimes called carsiding. More advanced carpenters may prefer to make their own custom beadboard from hardwood and give it a custom wood finish.
The base for this project is an over-the-fridge size wall cabinet (sometimes called a bridge cabinet). At 15" high, it is within the range of comfortable seating heights. But if you prefer a slightly higher seat (and many people do), build a 2 x 4 curb for the cabinet to rest on.
To conceal the seam where the towel tower meets the floor, we trimmed around the base with base shoe trim, mitering the corners. We used the same trim stock to conceal the gap where the seatboard meets the tongue-and-groove paneling. Here, however, we added small miter returns to the ends of the base shoe.
Cutting List
Key
No.
Description
Size
Material

A
1
Over-fridge cabinet
15h x 30w x 24d


B
1
Seatboard
3⁄4 x 25 x 32*
MDF

C
8
T&G paneling
3⁄8 x 5 1⁄2 x 71 1⁄2"**
Pine

D
2
Towel hook backers
3⁄4 x 51⁄2 x 27"
Pine 1 x 6

E
3 lin. ft.
Crown molding
Cut to fit (w/miters)
Pine

F
12 lin. ft.
1⁄4-round molding
Cut to fit
Pine

* Finished size: requires slightly larger board for machining
** Length equals distance from top of seatboard to ceiling minus 1/2"

From: Complete Guide to Custom Shelves & Built-Ins, 978-1-58923-303-4

What You'll Need

Tools:

Pencil
Tape Measure
Sander
Caulking Gun
Circular Saw
Drill
Nailer
Router

Materials:

32 sq. ft. tongue-and-groove paneling
(2) 1 x 6 x 8 ft. pine
3 ft. crown molding
1/2 sheet 3/4"-thick MDF
12 ft. quarter-round molding
Towel hooks
Fasteners


 

Step 1

Install the Base Cabinets - Step 1

Begin by making the seatboard that tops the refrigerator cabinet. Cut a piece of medium density fiberboard (MDF) so it is 1" wider than the cabinet and a couple of inches longer front-to-back (make it about 26" if using a 24" cabinet as shown here). Mount a piloted ogee or roundover bit (or other profiling bit of your choice) into your router and shape the front and side edges. You’ll probably get a little bit of blow-out at the back edge, which is why it’s recommended that you make the workpiece a couple of inches too long. Once you’ve routed the profiles, trim the back edge so the front overhangs the cabinet by 1". Coat all faces and edges with primer and at least two coats of paint.


Step 2

Install the Base Cabinets - Step 2

Attach the seatboard with screws driven through the mounting strips on the cabinet top and into the underside of the seatboard. The back edge of the seatboard should be flush with the back edge of the cabinet and the overhang should be equal on the sides. Since this cabinet is small, it might be best to clamp the blank in location on the cabinet, then turn the cabinet on its back so you can access the fastener locations more easily.


Step 3

Install the Base Cabinets - Step 3

Install the cabinet in the project location. Baseboard and any other obstructions should be removed from the project area. Slip shims below and behind the cabinet as needed to make sure it is level and plumb. Attach the cabinet to the wall by driving 2" wallboard screws through the cabinet back at wall stud locations.


Step 4

Install the Paneling - Step 1

The backer board for the towel tower can be made from a number of building materials, while retaining the beadboard appearance that lends a bit of country style to this project. The easiest and cheapest product you can use is beadboard paneling: thin sheet stock that comes in 4 x 8 ft. panels. You’ll find a wide range of colors, patterns and qualities in the beadboard sheet stock, including some that is pre-sized to around 42" for installation as wainscoting. The cheapest material has a printed pattern layer laminated over hardboard. The better quality material has hardwood veneer over a plywood or lauan backing. We chose real tongue-and-groove boards made from pine. With actual dimensions of 3/8 x 5 1/2", the carsiding product we used has enough depth to create a convincing profile but is still relatively inexpensive.


Step 5

Install the Paneling - Step 2

Because it is very unlikely that the strips of carsiding will be exactly the same width as your base cabinet once they’re installed, you’ll need to rip-cut the outside boards to fit the project area (it is better to rip-cut both outer boards an equal amount than to take everything out of one of the boards). To gauge where to make your cuts, assemble enough boards to cover the width of the cabinet and lay them out on a flat surface. Mark the centerpoint of the middle board and measure out half the distance in each direction. Make rip-cut lines at these points.


Step 6

Install the Paneling - Step 3

Before ripping the boards, trim all of your carsiding stock so it is 1/4" to 1/2" shorter than the distance from the seatboard to the ceiling. Then, trim the outer carsiding boards to width using a table saw (make sure you are trimming off the correct edge, be it tongue or groove). If you have access to a tablesaw, use it to make the cuts. Otherwise, use a circular saw and a straightedge cutting guide. With thin stock like this, cutting a scrap wood backer board along with the workpiece will result in a cleaner cut. Make the rip cuts and sand the edges if necessary to smooth out the cuts.


Step 7

Install the Paneling - Step 4

Use a 4-ft. level to extend plumb lines directly up the wall from the outside edges of the seatboard. Then, mark the wall stud locations on the seatboard and ceiling with tape. Begin installing the carsiding on the left side, with the left trimmed board. In most cases, the tongue will be preserved on this board and should be oriented inward. Apply a heavy bead of construction adhesive to the back of the board and stick it to the wall. If it happens to fall over a wall stud, nail it in place by driving a finish nail (or, preferably, a pneumatic brad) through the tongue at an angle. The nails should be countersunk enough that they do not obstruct the groove of the adjoining board.


Step 8

Install the Paneling - Step 5

Continue installing boards until you reach the right edge. Use plenty of adhesive and drive several nails when you hit a wall stud. If none of the wall studs align beneath carsiding joints, tack the board that falls over a wall stud by face-nailing once at the top and once at the bottom. In most cases, you should be able to tack each board at the top too, nailing through the face and into the stud wall cap plate (this will be concealed by crown molding anyway). Note: The mounting boards for the towel hooks will help hold the carsiding in place once they are attached at stud locations.


Step 9

Install the Paneling - Step 6

Cut the towel hook backer boards to length from 1 x 6 stock. For a more decorative effect, cut a chamfer profile into the edges (or just the top and bottom edges) with a router and chamfering bit. Install the backer board by driving 2 1/2" deck screws, countersunk, at wall stud locations. Fill the screw holes with wood putty.
Install quarter-round molding around the bottom of the cabinet to conceal the gap where it meets the floor. Also install quarter-round to conceal the gap where the carsiding meets the cabinet seatboard. Make mitered returns at the end for a more finished appearance.


Step 10

Install the Paneling - Step 7

Attach crown molding to the top of the project, also making a mitered return to finish the ends of the molding.
Sand all wood surfaces and fill nail holes, screw holes and visible gaps with wood putty. Paint the project with primer and at least two coats of enamel paint. Finally, attach the towel hooks to the towel hook backers.


 
 

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