DIY Built-in Bookshelves To Elevate Your Room

As someone who is obsessed with home decor and styling, I don’t know how I went this long without a set of built-in bookshelves. Determined and overly meticulous, we built our own DIY custom built-ins that have transformed our sitting room. Here I’m sharing our step-by-step directions for these easy to build DIY bookshelves.

The space BEFORE

Materials

The amount of materials is based on the size you build your custom built-ins, but here’s what we used for our space.

Process

First we ripped out the existing baseboards in order to build the structure flush (I use the trim flush loosely in a home from the late 1800’s) against the wall.

One design element I really wanted to add was “library lighting”. You can absolutely complete this project without lighting, but since we had an existing outlet that we were able to split off of, this was a relatively easy addition. *If electrical is an area you’re not familiar/comfortable with you should hire a professional.

running electrical wiring to hardwire lighting for the DIY built in bookshelves

Next using the 2×4″ boards, we built a base off of the wall on the floor for the pre-built cabinetry to sit on.

I wanted a combination of closed and open cabinets for two very important reasons. One, for a space to beautifully style and two, for a space to hide the “stuff”. Using pre-made cabinets is a perfect way to save time and yield gorgeous end results, especially if you’re not a professional carpenter. We opted to use two 30″ wide UPPER cabinets instead of actual lower cabinets because they are a narrower. We left equal space on either side of the cabinets to run trim board up the wall for the “built-in” look.

Platform and base cabinets for the DIY built-in bookshelves

We screwed the cabinets to the back wall, connected each cabinet together and to the base.

Platform and base cabinets for the DIY built-in bookshelves

Using a 1×12″ board on top of the cabinets the length of the wall (attached by screws) we created our first shelf. Allowing this piece to extend beyond the length of the cabinets gave us another point to screw the side “wall” into later.

Platform and base cabinets for the DIY built-in bookshelves. First shelf added here above the cabinets.

Then using the 1×12″ boards, we built two 30″ wide shelving units. When constructing your shelves, you can opt for as many shelves as you’d prefer. Your shelves can vary in height from one shelf to the next to allow for different styling elements., We oped for 3 evenly spaced open shelves per unit (we built two separate units for a total of 6 open shelves).

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases

Instead of placing the shelving units directly up against the walls, we used maple underlayment as a backing to create a more finished look. Nail glue helped to keep the boards in place before finishing with the nail gun.

The completed unit was then lifted onto the 1×12″ board on top of the cabinets.

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases. First of two shelves

Not shown in the picture, we added thin strapping to the wall (since the walls are far from level) in order to secure the unit to the wall. We repeated the same process again to build our second shelving unit.

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases.

On the left side of the unit we used a 1×12″ to run alongside the base to the ceiling encasing the cabinets and shelves. The right side of our project abutted the wall and this step wasn’t necessary on that side.

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases.
Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases. Wiring for the library lighting
Electrical wiring was run off the junction box down alongside the unit to allow for a light switch to be hidden on the inside of the cabinet.

With the shelving units and wiring in place, we were able to finish the encasing of the bookshelf using the 1×5″ boards along the bottom and both front sides. A 1×12″ board was used for the top facing facade. Prior to mounting the 1×12″ board to the unit we measured and pre-cut holes for the light brackets to be wired. If you are not including lighting in your design this upper section could be used for another shelf by adjusting the width of the facade.

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases. Wiring for the library lighting
built in bookshelf, book shelf lighting, library lighting
Wired & mounted the library lights

The original crown moulding in the room was hard to find an exact match. However we found something very close and with a little creativity we were able to make it work. All connecting gaps in the trim were filled with caulk and any nail holes and/or front facing spaces were filled with wood filler.

adding crown moulding to a built in bookshelf

Using the electric sander we went to work smoothing out any of the rough patches on the wood as well as any spots the wood filler was used. Caulking is my favorite to work with as it elevates all projects by filling in seams and gaps. Sadly I didn’t get a photo of us caulking the seams, but rest assure EVERY inch of this cabinet that had a seam was caulked.

Painting

Finally, after the sanding and caulking were finished it was time to tape off the area and the lights and use our new paint gun!

Construction of the shelves for the DIY built in bookshelves/bookcases. Wiring for the library lighting

After one coat of primer and two coats of Chantilly lace we were done and in love with the transformation!

Completed DIY Built-in bookshelves painted Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace and wire for Library Lighting

Designing and building a DIY built-in bookshelf is relatively easy and the end results are so rewarding; it has completely transformed this room! Stay tuned for a future blog post on ways to style your built-in bookcase shelves!

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