DIY Built-In Bookcase

When we were in escrow with our little abode, I remember showing people photos on our phones of the new joint and they would almost always comment on the little built-in we have in the Dining Room.

And sure, it was nice. But it was also a lot less nice up close in personal than it was in those photographs. Which is why we decided to do a little DIY built-in bookcase action over here.

Vintage Built In

It was old, and the door stuck, and it was our official junk collection spot for things we didn’t know what to do with in the kitchen. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

Plus, now that I’m all in hyper mama bear mode, I also started to think to myself that every time we opened those sticky, reluctant glass doors, we were probably risking exposure to lead paint and the likes.

Lead Paint on Built In

Anywhoo … I just didn’t want to risk it. Plus, the doors were a bit too kitchy for my taste. So one night over dinner, I said to Jay – let’s give that baby a makeover.

I wanted everything to look more built-in, so we decided to scrap the glass shelves that were in here before, and swap them out for solid wood shelves instead to create this little built-in bookcase.

Adding Shelves to Built-in

The good news was that we already had brackets mounted on the cabinet sides from the previous shelving, so it was easy peasy to get the new shelf in. We just measured, cut, and messed around with some different height options for a bit.

Since there were doors mounted to the sides of the built-in previously, we also had to come back through and add some putty into those gaps before we did our final round of fresh paint. Here it is, waiting to get a quick sand down in between coats of putty (I think we put on 2 coats, total).

Filling in Gaps with Join Compound

I can tell you, I’m already loving how simple this looks compared to the rather busy built-in view before. The panes of glass and everything, it made that corner of the Dining Room just look overly busy to me.

Here is a shot of it after we added a coat of Benjamin Moore Simply White.

Adding Shelves to Builtin

I’m really excited to accessorize this built-in bookcase now! I already found this fun serving tray at the thrift store for a few bucks last weekend. I think it would look awesome along with a little mini bar on that bottom shelf.

Brass Bamboo Tray

When everything is said and done, I see the built-in bookcase looking something like this! Stock that liquor shelf up, babbbbeeyy.


MMMMMM – T-minus 4-months until this mama can get her hands back on a Margarita. That excites me more than it should. 😉

Up Close and Personal

Although our built-in bookcase has been “done” for the past few weeks, there have been a few finishing details that were keeping us from officially checking this one off the list. Areas like this …

Installing Trim on Bookcase

And this …

Linen Backing For Bookcase

It was a looker from twenty feet, not so much from two. The good news was that all this trim was pretty easy to get up and done. For the most part, it was just a matter of grabbing the nail gun and gajunking a few right into place. Alas, as with any home renovation project, there were a few snaggles along the way as well.

First, let’s start with the easy stuff 🙂

Popping some trim along the front seam was super easy and super cheap. The stuff set us back around $15 for all the front facing trim. It was unfinished solid wood when we bought it, so we had to come through with some paintable caulk before we primed and painted it. We also put a bit of caulk on any nail holes we could see, to clean things up a bit there as well.

Adding Trim to Built In

We used half inch wood trim for all the bookcase facing and for any area where there was a seam we wanted to cover up (like the first picture). If you’re doing a similar project in your abode, I would just try a few different widths of trim and see what looks best, since I don’t think there is a silver bullet on the sizing here.

For the impact it made, I would have spent twice what we did! It really made our unfinished edges look so much more put together. Installing this trim was really just a matter of nailing it in (with a nail gun, if you have it – if not, start saving your pennies – these things make a world of difference for finishing touches!) and painting it. Sha-zam.

Here is how things looked after a coat of paint. Better, no?

How to Add Trim to Bookcase

Now on to the slightly trickier areas … like the few inches we had between the wall and the bookcase. Oye. Since we didn’t have anything to mount the trim to, our first step was to put in a spacer, if you will, that allowed us to actually nail into something.

How to Build a Built-in

The second part is where the plot thickens a bit. Lord knows how, but the space between the top section (by the ceiling) and bottom section of the built-in (by the floor), was totally not the same. More than an inch of difference. Aye carruba!!

So, we had to kind of improvise and cut the piece more or less by hand to the specific dimensions so it would fit. One thing I’ve learned, over time mind you, is that caulk can pretty much salvage any type of project like this where you know you won’t be able to get everything in there perfectly. At this point, we could only shrug our shoulders a bit and keep on a moving. (Note – it seems there is a point in every home renovation project where my husband let’s me know that a table saw would make the job much easier – this was one of those moments. If you have a table saw, it would work awesome for helping create a straight rip down the wood piece).

How to Rip Wood

Another area that was sorely lacking in the looking spiffy department was the top of the bookcase. Things were looking a wee bare up there if ya ask me.

Bookcase with Linen Backing

So, I’ve gotta be straight with you. Ever since we put up the crown in our kitchen I’ve been chomping at the bit to get some more of this stuff in my little home. Bedrooms, bathrooms, bookcases … you name it, I’m ready to grab my sword and knight some royals with a new crown around here. Alas, after we got the crown up on the first section of the bookcase – we were having a bit of a whomp whomp moment.

You see what I see? I see some hole-ly liscous gaps happening there. All of the open space was due to the fact that 1) our floor is in NO WAY even (leading to tops of bookcases that are in NO WAY even) 2) What can I say, if you’re looking at a spectrum from pro woodworker to novice feeble craftsmen, we’re on the latter part of that scale. Not highly trained = whoops moments every once in a blue moon.

How to Caulk Trim

A mantra for all fellow DIY’ers is this. Repeat after me. Caulk can cure. A la, this. Ah – YES – much better.

How to Caulk Cabinet Trim

So all and all, this built-in is pretty much ready for prime time. I’m pretty smitten.

Now when I look at the photo below of our basement, I pretty much want to chest bump this built-in while simultaneously giving it fifty seven high fives in a row. Yeah. I like it. A lot.

When Jay looks at the photo below of our basement, he sees a TV that is in dire need of an upgrade. I swear, I’ve genuinely never seen this man care so much about the proportions and aesthetics of our furniture. Truth be told, the hubby may have just earned his new big screen TV. 😀

DIY Built In Bookcase

And just for fun and games … here is a shot of the same area before. The best part is that this built-in only set us back $400 (price breakdown, here), vs. $1,200 for this guy at IKEA. Bam.

Basement TV Area

Psst! Looking for more inspiring DIY ideas? Follow along with the blog!


Back That Built-in Up

Sometimes you (I) get something stuck in my head and it’s just not going anywhere until that baby is up and running. Since we moved into our little abode last October, I’ve been wanting to install a built-in along the back wall of the basement. Ya know, something like this. O.M.G. Love at first pin, right there. Can we all just take a second to drool over that. Well a year later (almost exactly) after moving in, we are finally making good on our word.

It started when we were perusing the shelves at the depot and much to my surprise I spotted this little sign telling all DIY fa-reaks (like me) that there was a sale. Any time I see a neon sign splashed with a clearance sticker, my deal seeking radar starts to beep. Actually, it’s more like a 1920’s car – AAAROOOOGGAH AAAROOOGGAAHH. Let’s just say once I’ve got my eye on the prize, watch out person/child/grandma, I’mma coming through with some pep in dat step.

Home Depot Cabinet Sale

I turned on my highly persuasive Bill Compton vampire voice (True Blood, anyone?) … just do what I say, husband… you’ve forgotten the last DIY project, and how you swore you’d never pick up a hammer again, just load the cabinets into the cart and I won’t have to suck your blood. I must be part vampire, because into the cart those babies went. Hurtle #1, jumped. Look, he’s even smiling!

Home Cabinets Home Depot

So confession. The picture above was taken in May. Actually late April. It’s now October. Ohhh the shame, what bad DIY’ers we are. Every time we would schlep our booties down to the basement these cabinets would taunt us. So finally, one weekend when things were finally starting to slow down around here we decided to put on our big kid pants and tackle this project already. And I’m so, so glad we did. After a weekend of working away, we had this. Not done (by any means) but sweet mother of pearl, can you see the potential?!


Pre-demo or reno stage, I drew up a little sketch of what (more or less) I was hoping this little built-in would look like after. Symmetry and structure. The perfect way to balance out our back end basement wall and add some class to this joint. Holla.

Built-in Around TV

For reference, before we started this reno the wall of the basement was looking like this. Lacking something, no? Although I like the cabinet that the TV is above, it was just a super weird space. I think every person that has come through our basement stops to open the mystery door in the middle of the room. It’s actually rather comical to see their faces when they realize it’s just a set of pipes. Our water closet, if you will. No, it’s not the world’s smallest loo, it’s a closet to store our water line and meter. A bit much, if ya ask me 😉

Basement TV Area

Before we knew it, we had this. Hmm. I don’t think that’s an improvement. Hole in wall, check. Exposed water line, double check.

How to remove closet

After we took some time to clean things up, we started mounting all the cabinets we purchased up on the wall. After lots of hemming and hawing, we decided to just mount the cabinets directly to the wall, vs putting a support structure under them. Since we were able to find studs for every 36″ cabinet, it made the most sense structurally, and also allowed us to deal with a fairly sizeable dip in our floor (herumph). Level floors, ha! Nothing level in this house that’s for sure. 😉

Jay got his handy dandy level out and just made sure that each cabinet was perfectly straight across.

How to mount cabinets to wall

The two cabinets on the end were easy peasy. All we had to do is pop the level on and screw them into the studs on the wall. The middle two, had a few more complications. Like that big old water meter, for instance. And our electrical cords, for another instance. Not the end of the world, but it slowed down our cheetah like pace to that of, a tortoise, if you will.

How to drill holes in cabinets

So after Jay installed the first two holes for the power cord and the ethernet, it seemed like everything was pretty much under control, so I decided to go for a quick run. When I came back, I opened the cabinet door under the water meter to find this gaping hole where a wood base used to be. Not sure if Jay just got all cut-this-up-with-a-power-tool happy, or if it was actually “necessary”, like he claimed.

How to install cabinet around water line

Good news, the doors shut on the front. He, he. Jay said he’ll put down some type of wood panel after it’s all said and done to help cover the hole, but for now, we’ve got a rather large hole where the water meter goes. Not ideal. Still better than that closet. Can you tell I didn’t like that closet?

After we had all the cabinets installed along the base of the built-in, it was time to move on to building some shelving. When we were shopping around at Home Depot for our supplies, we noticed that the 4×8 pieces of wood were going to; 1) be the easiest for us to transport home and 2) be the most economical option. We purchased compressed plywood that was $9.98 a sheet. Since our room is 148″ across, we figured (5) pieces of wood would be sufficient to build the counter for the bookshelf, and the shelves.

How to rip wood

To get the right depth for the shelving (our cabinet base is 12″), we took each piece of wood and ripped it down the middle. After using a measuring tape and chalk line to get the right location, Jay just came through with his handy dandy reciprocal saw to do the deed.

After that, it was pretty straightforward to build each cabinet. The two long pieces on the left are the side panels, and the three smaller pieces on the right are for each of the shelves. One little, two little, three little shelves.

How to Build a Builtin

From there, we just aligned everything down on the floor and started building this baby! To give the cabinet more stability, we actually decided to use the counter as the bottom base of the shelves. Since nothing will be exposed from the bottom side of the counter, we decided to screw for this part for some extra strength.

How to construct a built in

To attach the shelves, we used a piece of bracket trim (which we glued, and nailed into place), and then just set the shelf right on top of that.

Now if you were going to store bowling balls on this cabinet, I’d advise using a more robust bracket system. We will just be putting chotskies and a few books along these shelves, so we deemed this support sufficient. Use the good judgement that God gave you to determine what would work best for you, though. 😉

Installing Supportive Brackets on Bookcase

From start to finish, this part of the project took about 4-hours of dedicated working time. Things that sped it up? Our nail gun, and having cabinets pre-assembled. Things that slowed us down? Cutting all the holes for the plumbing, electrical, etc. It definitely feels like progress down here now that the bookcase is up, but this project is long from done. Still to do:

  • Adding backing behind shelves and TV area
  • Painting (We’ll do Simply White by Benjamin Moore, like the rest of our trim)
  • Adding Crown
  • Drywalling the hole in our ceiling post cabinet removal

For now, I’m PUMPED to have some swanky cabinets adorning our TV. 😉