Before and After: A $300 Project Turns a “Doorway to Nowhere” into a Dreamy Mini Library

published Oct 9, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Closets & Storage
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: French doors painted white leading into an empty tiny nook.

Apartments in old buildings often go through a number of transitions over the years to make them more suitable for modern living, like updated kitchens, expanded bathrooms, and tweaked layouts. At the San Francisco apartment Kate Ellis-Hill moved into with her boyfriend, Jake Edmonds, one of the changes included walling off an entry that connected one bedroom to another.

“The French doors were walled up for privacy when the apartment was previously rented out by roommates, but the doors were left where they were resulting in a ‘doorway to nowhere’,” Kate says.

Kate wanted to take this awkward bit of space and make it more functional for her and Jake. So Kate called on her dad, David Hill, for help. “My dad is a carpenter who loves a good project, so we asked if he could help us convert the wall into a mini library,” Kate says. “The walled-off door was a waste of space, and we had a ton of books that didn’t fit on our other shelves. It was a perfect solution.”

The project took a couple weeks of planning, but just two days of actual labor. One tricky aspect was figuring out how to provide enough reinforcement for the shelves. “The backing that separates the rooms is thin and pretty flimsy so we couldn’t attach anything directly to it,” Kate says. Her dad decided the best solution was to create shelving with vertical supports, which would prevent the assembly from bowing underneath the weight of the couple’s library.

Our Best Renter-Friendly Transformation Ideas

We have the best renter-friendly tips, tricks, and hacks to transform your rented space into a home. Sign up to get 8 days of our best non-permanent Before & After content delivered straight to your inbox.

“I always love watching my dad figure out how to tackle interesting problems, and getting to work on something with him is always a lot of fun,” Kate says.

In the end, David was able to create sleek, minimalist shelving that perfectly fit the space for about $300 total. Behind the glass French doors, the now-filled bookshelves become a functional focal point.

“It’s become one of our favorite parts of the apartment, and gives purpose to a space that had none,” Kate says of the shelves. And the project taught her something, too: “There are so many things you can do with unusual or awkward spaces in your home,” she says. “I’m sure most people don’t have doors to nowhere, but this project helped me view things in a new light.”