Our DIY Built-in Bookshelves Project

Feb / 04

Our DIY Built-in Bookshelves Project

By / Jessica Leake / 0

With an office already overflowing with books (and a bookshelf in the living room threatening to collapse with kids’ books), I’ve been toying with different ideas of how to increase our bookshelf space while taking advantage of unused wall space in our living room.


And then I came across this post on turning Billy bookcases from Ikea into built-ins–“I could totally do that!” I said. “It’ll be easy!” I said. Well, it wasn’t too hard–not with so much help from both my dad and husband–but it was definitely time-consuming. The end-result, though: SO worth it.


This is a shot of the wall before, and I wish I had another picture to get the full wall–I left out the corner bookcase overflowing with books, but basically, it’s a boring wall with a mess of wires from the TV in spite of our attempt to hide my husband’s many gaming system connections with shelves.


The first thing I did was research cheap bookcases–Billy bookcases would have been perfect, but the nearest Ikea is in Charlotte, and I didn’t have the time or the inclination to make the trip. Shipping costs would have been more than the 4 bookcases I would need, so that was out.


But then I found these on Home Depot’s site: South Shore 5-shelf Bookcase.


It was perfect for what I needed: cheap and easy to assemble. So I ordered the 4 bookcases, had them delivered to the store, and we picked them up a week later. Once my husband assembled the first one (while I kept the kids literally off his back), he was able to put the second one together in about 20 minutes or so, and I finished the last two.


But that’s when we encountered the first problem: the baseboards and shoe molding. If we wanted the bookcases to be completely flush, the baseboards would have to go. I still wanted to use the baseboards, though, so we made plans to put them on the front of the bookcases. My dad’s the one who devised the platforms we’d build to raise the bookcases to the height of the baseboards (5 1/2″). The bottom front edge of the bookcases (essentially the bottom shelf) were 4″ tall, so we knew we had to build a platform 1 1/2″ tall.


I made a sketch of the wall (which I won’t post here because it’s ridiculous looking and discernible only to me), and figured out that we could fit two bookcases on either side of the TV. I also really wanted storage and a way to hide those hideous wires, so I found another post where tcabinetshe person had, in a stroke of brilliance, just used pre-made wall cabinets to add storage to their built-in bookshelves (post is here if you’re interested).


I found these 30″ wall cabinets at Overstock.com and knew they’d be perfect:


Based on the wall measurements, we realized we could fit two bookcases on one side of the TV, two cabinets side-by-side beneath the TV, and two more bookcases on the other side. We could have made one giant platform for everything to sit on except for one small snag: the cabinets, being wall cabinets, were designed to hang on the wall and therefore had no bottom edge to attach a baseboard to. Also, on the floor, the doors would drag, so they’d have to be elevated either way. Why not just use floor cabinets? They’re much more expensive.


So we knew we had to make 3 separate platforms: 2 for the 2 pairs of bookcases, and 1 for the pair of cabinets.


We bought all the lumber we’d need to make the platforms: a piece of 1/4″ plywood, several 2 x 6 boards, and big 2 x 12 boards for the cabinet platforms.



With my husband working long hours at the pharmacy all the time, my dad and I had to get started without him if we wanted it ever done! We channeled my woodworking grandfather as we cut plywood and boards and assembled the platforms.


My contribution was the incredibly important job of screwing stuff together–yay me!




Here’s what it looked like when we finished:








And, after watching a YouTube video of an interior designer assuring me it’d be super easy to remove the baseboards by simply prying them from the wall, I managed to do it:










Success! The platform and the removal of the baseboard allowed the bookcase to be shoved flush against the wall–perfect for what we’re going for (and for safety).











And here’s a shot of the platform from the front, with a bonus shot of Jude Baby giving Scout kisses.



This is how it looked when we got all the bookcases completed and mounted on to their platforms. Next up was putting together the two cabinets (I actually did that! But I had to call in Husband’s help to work on those European hinges) and building the platform for the cabinets–this was thanks to Dad, and it must have been cold that day, or else I was chasing kids, because I have exactly zero pictures of that process. But he built it in nearly the same way as he did the bookcase platforms, only he used bigger boards.





Probably one of the most inventive things is what Dad came up for (and Husband helped build) to hide the wires for all the gaming systems while still providing shelf space. I dubbed it “The Contraption.” It was basically a box with shelves, but the innovative part was the fact that they drilled holes at the top of the box and fed PVC pipes through the holes. The PVC pipes, once painted white, would hide the wires coming down from the mounted TV while being able to float to different shelf levels and feed right to each gaming system. Again, I failed at capturing the process of it, but here’s what it looked like installed:



The whole thing was looking pretty put-together at this point, but it needed trim, crown molding, baseboards, and shoe molding. Mom’s the painter in the family, so when we got everything mounted and installed, she went to work with extra white semi-gloss paint. We finally finished everything up, and here’s the final product:




We are SO happy with the results! The bookcases allow for the display of favorite pictures and breakables, there’s plenty of room for our books, and the shelves and cabinets have space for all of Husband’s gaming systems and games.