English cottage plate rack: a pretty + simple DIY project for my kitchen

A pretty and organized plate rack filled with dishware.

See that cute plate rack up there? I built it!

I’ve wanted one of these plate racks for a really, really long time. Actually, I want the entire English countryside cottage complete with cob walls, border gardens and a thatched roof—but we don’t really have those in America, do we?

So for now, I’ll settle for the plate rack.

Plate rack DIY—a simple project to organize your kitchen while adding English country charm

Do you love it as much as I do? I am still gushing over it. I’m sitting at my kitchen table right now writing this blog post and I literally can not stop stealing glances over at it. I know I’ll eventually get used to it hanging there in the kitchen but at the moment I am just so gosh darned smitten.

I also can’t stop hitting play on this entire new Taylor Swift album and I’ve got lemon shortbread cookies baking away in the oven, so it’s a lovely evening all around.

Build a DIY Plate Rack—a simple project to organize your kitchen while adding that English country charm

I’m going to attempt an explanation of how I planned and built this beautiful plate rack. It’s not going to be a tutorial and I don’t have plans to share with you. Sadly for you, I drew my plans on graph paper and only I can understand them. Mostly, the plans come together in my head and aren’t something I’m great at explaining. My husband can attest to this fact—after many projects together he’s learned to just follow my directions. He knows it’ll all make sense and look pretty in the end.

A very organized English style plate rack hanging on a wall in the kitchen filled with plates and other dishware.

Starting the project: planning the plate rack

I always start a project by doing some searching on Pinterest, IG and Google. Inspiration photos helped me decide that I wanted the plate rack to be wider than it was tall. I loved the idea of pegs for mugs to hang on as well as a small shelf under the plates. A wide shelf at the top of the plate rack also seemed like a good idea. I knew I’d want to decorate and display some of my pretty vintage kitchen goodies up there.

Coffee mugs hanging on the pegs of an English style plate rack.

Next I figured out how much space I had to work with on the kitchen wall. I actually cut a large piece of paper to the exact dimensions I thought I wanted for the rack. Then I hung it on the wall to see how it looked. This was really, really helpful.

After deciding the approximate overall size, I just started sketching up plans on graph paper. Here are some facts and dimensions that I found helpful when designing my rack.

Tips for building your own English cottage plate rack

  • Dowels for plate racks are typically spaced 2″ apart. This should accomodate most dishes—but it’s important to measure the depth of your plates. For me, 2″ was more than enough.
  • Don’t forget that lumber sizes are nominal. A 1″x2″ board is actually 3/4″ thick x 1.5″ wide—so account for the actual measurements when planning.
  • Pegs for mugs are typically 4″ apart and this works for most standard size coffee mugs.
  • I used 3/8″ dowels, button plugs and shaker pegs to simplify the build—only one size hole to drill for everything.

Once I had my plans drawn up, I created a cut list and used our miter saw to cut the boards to size. All of the shelves, the rails for the dowels, and the backing for the pegs were the same length. This made the process very simple. Here is my cut list, for anyone who might find it useful.

Plate rack cut list

1×12’s: 2 pieces @ 30″ (sides of plate rack); 1 piece @ 36″ (top shelf)

1×2’s: 4 pieces @ 36″ (rails for dowels)

1×4’s: 1 piece @ 36″ (backing for mug peg rail)

1×6’s: 1 piece @ 36″ (small shelf above peg rail)

3/8″ dowels: 34 pieces @ 13″ (plate rack)

Tools I used to build the plate rack

Drilling holes for dowels + pegs

Marking a center line down a 1x2 board

I used a quilter’s ruler to make a line down the center of each dowel rail. Then, I made a mark every 2″ down the length of each rail. Using a small nail and a hammer, I made pucks where each peg would go. The pucks acted as a guide for the drill bit so that my holes were as perfectly aligned as possible. The prick punch tool works so much better for this purpose—sadly mine was packed away in storage somewhere).

Making pucks to act as a guide for the drill bit

To make holes for the dowels, I used a flat bottom 3/8″ drill bit and my cordless drill. I was careful to keep the drill straight up and down. This ensured each hole was neat and at the perfect depth. A drill press would have been really handy for this project. But since I built this plate rack in my apartment, a cordless drill is what I had to work with.

Dowel and peg holes being driller

I also quickly drilled the holes for the peg rail at this point. To mark the location of the holes, I made a line down the center of the 1×4. Then I made marks at intervals 4″ down the length of the board. Using a nail and hammer, I created pucks for each peg hole. I used the 3/8″ flat bottom bit to create a hole for each peg, taking care to drill to the correct depth by testing each hole with a peg as I went.

Dowel and peg holes being drilled

Assembling the dowel rails

The next step was to assemble the dowel rails. This may seem out of order, but I needed to use the dowel rails to test out sizing and spacing. I used my actual dinner plates to determine how far apart to space the dowel rails. It was important to ensure the plates would ‘sit right’ within the dowels before assembling the rest of the rack. It’s hard to explain, but maybe these pictures will help you understand. I told you this wasn’t a tutorial! Haha.

Testing the rails with an actual plate helped me figure out how closely I should space them together to ensure the plate would be secure (and look good).

Shaping the side pieces

Before assembling the rest of the plate rack, I wanted to give the sides some decorative curves. Otherwise, the plate rack would have looked like a giant box. On one of the sides, I carefully measured and marked where each shelf and rail would attach. Then, I roughly sketched some curved lines. I just played around with the lines until I was happy with how it looked.

Using a cordless jigsaw, I cut along the curved lines. Then I used the first side to trace the curved pattern onto the second side and cut it out. One both pieces were cut I clamped them together, making sure to line up all the edges. Next, I sanded along the curved sides to make sure they matched perfectly. I didn’t get photos of any of this… whoops.

At this point, I sanded all of the pieces down and gave them a quick coat of danish oil. It was much easier to do this while everything was still in pieces. It also meant I didn’t have to deal with dripping, weird drying patterns or tight spaces to work in.

Assembly using wood screws + button plugs

And finally, it was time for assembly! I didn’t want to use pocket holes for this project. The plate rack was designed with an open feel in mind. So I knew pocket holes would be visible no matter where they were placed.

Assembling the plate rack.

Instead, I decided to assemble with wood glue and wood screws. It was important to take the time to pre-drill and countersink each screw. Then I plugged all the assembly holes with 3/8″ button plugs. This gave the final project a really handcrafted feel and I LOVE it.

Button plugs give a handcrafted feel to this DIY project.

I didn’t take many photos of the assembly either. I was finishing this project around 10 p.m. on a Sunday night so it wasn’t an ideal time for photographs. A corner clamp was really helpful to hold the pieces in place as I pre-drilled and screwed everything together. I took my time to ensure everything was level and in the proper place before securing.

The finished product

Overall, I am pretty thrilled with how the project turned out! It’s certainly not perfect, and my kitchen doesn’t look like it belongs in a cob cottage. But, it feels a little warmer (and more organized) than it was last week, and I am really thankful for that small improvement.

English style plate rack hanging in a small kitchen.
Large kitchen display shelf

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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