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How to build a Showroom Quality Shoe Rack

by Lorenz Prem
published on January 12 2013 3:18 pm

The most requested item of furniture in my house is a shoe rack. Never wanting to build just any shoe rack I did some research to figure out what makes a shoe rack pop. What I have come up is a plan for a showroom quality shoe rack; a rack that finds the perfect balance between the need for storage and the need for presentation. Let's take a look at what it takes to build your own showroom quality shoe rack.


As always anypiece of furniture must be designed with the user in mind. The depth and height requirements change drastically depending on the shoe size and taste in shoes of the intended user. The depth of the cabinet is mostly determined by shoe size; the height by the style of shoe. High heels and shoes that cover the ankles require more space than flat bottom shoes.

If you want to design the rack for a generic user, a shelf depth of 13" will allow 98% of the population to use it. Shoe up to about size US 13/EUR 48 will find room on the shelf. The shelf should not be much deeper than that, because the empty space behind an average pair of women's shoes would get too large.

A vertical distance of 10" between shelves is a good compromise between storage density and look. Anything but knee high boots will find room on the shelves with enough room to spare to create that showroom style feel. If the shelves are too close together the rack looses its visual appeal. Empty space is important to distinguish the rack from storage shelves.

If you want to store shoe boxes on the rack, the shelves need to be a little deeper. Women's shoe boxes are about 13 inches long. Men's shoe boxes are 14 inches long. The exact dimensions are going to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. An interior cabinet depth of 12 1/2" - 13 1/3" is a good starting point. The tilted shelves are going to be slightly longer, depending on the tilt angle.

Boot storage is best located in a separate cabinet. Unlike display cabinets, boot cabinets have a flat floor. A simple cabinet box with the appropriate frame is best option for displaying boots. The size limitations in this project left no room for separate boot storage space.

The Design

From the woodworking point of view the shoe rack is a base cabinet with a face frame and the shelves installed at angle. The shelves have a lip that prevents the shoes from sliding off. Construction can be split into the building of the box, the shelves, and the top.

The Box

The carcass of the shoe rack is a cabinet box made from plywood. To simplify material purchase it is made from a single sheet of 3/4" plywood of your choice. Pre-finished or cabinet grade plywood (for a paint finish) are a good choice. The exact height and width of the cabinet is up to you. The rack can be built as a room-height 8-10 row shoe closet, or a 3-4 shelf half-height cabinet. The handy cabinet calculator will produce a cut list for your measurements.

The cabinet construction thread details how to build the box. The box can be fully assembled without having to worry about the shelves. The only difference between this shoe rack and a cabinet is that the face frame is flush to the sides on the inside of the shoe rack. Thisis required to provide clearance for the lip of the shelves.

The Shelves

The shelves are made from the same plywood used for the cabinet carcass. The angle at the back of each shelves should be cut after the front edge banding is applied. A square edge in the back is required for clamping. Don't forget that the shelves must be longer than the cabinet is deep. The shelves are installed at an angle.

The front lip is made from solid 3/4" stock. The lip should protrude ~1/2" above the shelf. Any more than that an the user's view of her shoes will be obstructed. Less than that and some shoes may slide off. The lip is attached to the front of the shelf with glue. If you have a plate joiner you can reinforce the joint with biscuits. If you don't a few brad nails or even doing nothing is a good option.

Once the glue dries the back angle on the shelf can be cut. The depth of each shelf determines how far the front lip projects beyond the front of the cabinet. While there is no limit on how large this distance can, at some point the bare plywood sides of the shelf are going to show. It's best to limit the depth of each shelf to a distance where this does not occur.

Shelf Installation

The shelves are supported by blocking on each side. This design drastically simplifies the build of the project. At this point the designer must choose the angle at which the shelves are tilted forward. A shallow rise of 2" over the 13" depth results in a pleasant viewing angle.

The brackets are made from 3/4"x3/4" square stock. Each is installed with glue and countersunk screws. Brad nails are a reasonable alternative, but will produce a considerably weaker shelf. A quick way to install the shelves is to draw a line representing the bottom of each shelf on each side of the cabinet. The top of the blocking must touch this line.

Once the glue dries the shelves can be installed on the blocking. Glue alone is enough to hold them in place. A couple of screws driven through the sides of the cabinet secure the shelf and help square up the rack.

Very long shelves should also be attached to the back of the cabinet to prevent them from sagging. Spearing glue along the back edge is a good idea, even if the cabinet is not very wide. Nails or screws driven through the back further firm up the assembly. The fasteners must be driven in at an angle to match the orientation of the shelf.

Required tools


The Top

The top of the cabinet can be made from any material you'd like. The diagram shows an overhanging top made from solid wood. It is attached to the cabinet with screws in an expansion slot (to account for wood movement). The top has a routed detail along the front edge.

If you want to, the cabinet will accept tops made from other materials. A popular choice is to attach a granite top that matches the the one in the kitchen. Your local granite dealer can custom-cut one for you. If you go this route don't forget to secure the rack to the wall to prevent accidents.


A high quality shoe rack is something every girl wants to have in her closet. Given the right choice of dimensions a relatively simple rack made from cabinet grade plywood will put many showroom quality shoe racks to shame.

At its core this shoe rack is a base cabinet with tilted shelves. A lip at the front of each shelf holds the shoes in place. A medium size shoe rack can be built from a single piece of plywood and a few board feet of 3/4" stock. This is probably the best project from scoring some honey-points with the girl in your life.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."