Your awkward space is unique to you, so you're going to need your own measurements. We went into our local Dunn Lumber, showed them a photo of the space (including the dimensions of the space) along with a few inspiration images, and they helped us draw up a plan that would best meet our goals.
Exhibit A: Our awkward space.
Exhibit B: Our potential solution.
We wanted to have a small desk for when I work from home, as well as something that would obscure the water heater without losing precious storage. With the help of Dunn Lumber, we ordered the materials we needed. We had the option to have Dunn cut our lumber, but we decided to use our own saw to cut the lumber on the day of the project. If you do decide to use your own saw, use all necessary safety precautions.
Cut your lumber according to your space. Our awkward space lived up to its name, so we had to make a lot of micro-adjustments to the 2x10s and 1x4s. In other words, no length of wood, whether for a shelf or a support, was exactly the same.
We also notched out space for the baseboard on two of the 2x10s. This took a little finessing. As per the usual, use all proper safety precautions.
Sand your wood. We used two different grits: 150 and 220. We started with the 150 to remove splinters, and we smoothed with the 220 to prepare for staining. This is potentially the most time consuming part of the project, so we recommend recruiting a few friends. We lured ours with chicken teriyaki, but pizza is usually a good choice too.
Because we're making a desk space in our closet office, we used a spade bit to create a hole in the desktop for computer cords, etc.
Once you sand your shelves and supports, stain and allow to dry according to the manufacturer's directions. We chose Daly's stain in Early American. We only used one coat to get our desired effect, and we wiped clean with a dry towel.
Using a level, a pencil, and a stud finder, mark for your studs. You'll want to have reference points when you're beginning to secure the supports to the wall.
We pre-drilled into our studs and then secured our shelving support with screws. We also added two screws in the corner for added stability.
Once all of the supports are installed, slide in your shelves. They should fit snuggly.
Now, you could stop here. These shelves are gorgeous on their own, and they'd be a great addition to any awkward space to create beautiful and simple storage. But we wanted to cover the water heater and a desktop. This is where the project gets complicated—and highly personalized.
If you refer back to the drawing, you can see we created an L-shape with 2x10s to cover the top and side of the water heater and serve as another shelve. We then created a false back with two 2x10s to cover the water heater with two 2x10s that serve as the false back the the shelving.
We created supports for the smaller shelves on the side wall, but did not secure the shelving in place. In the case we need to access our water heater, we simply remove the shelves and finagle the false back open to reveal the water heater.
Now for a shameless Dunn Lumber plug: if you have an awkward space, and you need help finding a solution, make an appointment at your local yard with PASS (Project Advice Scheduling System). PASS is an online appointment scheduler so that you can arrange to meet in person with a qualified Dunn representative about your project. We absolutely could not have completed the project without the help of the sales desk at Dunn Lumber.
We're very, very pleased with the final product. The shelving does exactly what we wanted it to do: obscure an unsightly water heater, but look good doing it!