DIY Built-in Bookshelf

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Need extra storage space?  Build a DIY Built-in Bookshelf in a day with these easy directions.

For some reason our house had a wet bar tucked in the corner of our living room.  I guess they were popular in the 80’s when our house was built??

We never used this space for anything except to store junk and the counter only accumulated piles of paper and more junk.  It always looked messy so I decided to turn it into a built-in bookshelf.  I really wanted a place to display pictures and add some much needed storage with baskets and bins.  I also wanted an area to store my laptop and printer.

This was the wet bar before and then after we completed our built-in bookshelves:

Look at all that wasted space!  And, we did not need a sink in our living room.  So now we have some much needed storage that displays pictures and looks so much better than a wet bar:)

Do you want to know how we did it?  It was actually pretty easy and we did it in a weekend.

The first thing we did was rip out the sink and cabinet.  We also had to cap off the plumbing from the sink with a PVC cap.

Then we could begin the fun stuff – using power tools to build our shelves.

Materials and tools needed to build our shelves:

Pictures courtesy of Home Depot
  • MDF cut to the length and width of the shelves – we created 6 shelves and cut each piece of MDF to 20 x 36
  • 3 pieces of 3 x 1’s cut to the length and width of your shelves for each shelf and to frame around the top near the ceiling
  • 5 pieces of 2 x 1’s for the front of each shelf
  • 4 pieces of 3 x 1 to frame around the front of the bookshelf
  • 4 pieces of 4 x 1 to create the base of the bookshelf
  • Nail gun and nails
  • If you don’t have studs, you will need a drill, drywall anchors, and screws
  • Finishing nails
  • Paintable caulk to seal the edges and cracks
  • White paint and paint brush and/or roller

Step 1:  Creating the base of the bookshelf:

  • Cut two pieces of the 4 x 1 the length of your bookshelf.  Then cut two pieces the width of the book shelf minus two inches.
  • We cut two pieces of the 4 x 1 to 36 inches and two to 18 inches long.  We used our nail gun to attach the wood to the studs.  Then placed our first piece of MDF.  The MDF was cut to 36 x 20.

Step 2:  Creating the shelves:

  • Determine how many shelves you want and the width you would like between each shelf.  Our shelves are 15 inches apart.  To figure this out, divide the total number of inches of space divided by the number of shelves minus an inch for each shelf.
  • Cut 5 pieces of the 3 x 1 to the length of your bookshelf.  This is the back support of your shelves.
  • Cut 10 pieces of the 3 x 1 to the width of your bookshelf.  This will be the side supports of your shelf.  You will need two for each shelf
  • We cut 5 pieces 36 inches and 10 pieces 19 inches.
  • If you have studs in your wall you can use the nail gun to attach these pieces.  We had studs in the back wall but didn’t in the side walls.  So we had to use drywall anchers and screws to attach the pieces of wood to the walls.  To do this, we had to predrill holes in the wood and wall so we could drill the anchers and screws to attach the wood.
  • Attach the back supports and each side support.  Then place your piece of MDF on the supports.
  • Repeat for each shelf.
Not so pretty, but it’s coming along.

Step 3:  Top of Bookshelf:

  • To frame the top of the shelf so it matches and looks uniform, we attached 3 x 1’s around the ceiling.  This was also needed to attach the frame around the front of the entire book shelf.

Step 4:  Framing the front of the bookshelf:

  • To give the bookshelf a finished look, we attached a piece of 3 x 1 along each side of the bookshelf that was 8 feet long.
  • Then along the top and bottom, we attached a piece of 3 x 1.
  • Along each shelf, we attached strips of 2 x 1 to the MDF using the finishing nails.

Step 5:  Finishing touches:

  • Caulk around the seams of the bookshelf to seal any small gaps and smooth out any imprefections.
  • We also had to spackle parts of the wall where the cabinet was attached because it ripped pieces of drywall off.
  • Paint the entire bookshelf and inner walls.  We chose to paint it white but I might paint the inner walls a different color so they stand out more.

The final step is to decorate your shelves with all your favorite books, picture albums, and photos.  I’m so excited to have extra storage for all of Connor’s toys and books.  I’ve also decided to use one shelf as a little home office instead of having to go upstairs.

It’s amazing how a little extra storage space and organization can make such a big difference.

I promise this was not a hard project at all.  If I can build a bookshelf, you can definitely do it.  All together it cost a little over $100 for all the materials and I couldn’t have gotten an 8 ft bookshelf with 36 x 20 inch shelves for less than that.

I hope this inspires you to build something!!  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.


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  1. Hey there… Loving your project! Looks great! stopping by from you like me friday… and a new follower too!

  2. Good work, turning a wet bar into a beautiful storage place. loved it a lot.

  3. They look great!!! Following now from a Tuesday hop! Have a great week,
    Heartfelt Balance Handmade Life

  4. Kara, your shelves turned out beautifully! They look so professional! Thank you for linking up to “A Little Birdie Told Me…”! You always have something wonderful to share!