A few weeks ago, I shared my newly renovated master bedroom. The response on the room has been beyond sweet and I am just so glad that so many of you seem to love it as much as I do! Today I thought I’d share how my husband and I built the bookcase that was featured on the back wall.
The idea for the bookcase started when I wanted to make sense of this wall- the window and old chimney and slanted walls made space planning around it tricky. So I decided adding a bookcase would be the perfect fit.
I wanted to do the bookcases on a budget. We bought $250 in materials to build this. The majority of the bookcase is made of laminated boards. Want to see how it came together?
diy built in bookcase
Here’s the base of the bookcase- it is built on top of the hardwood floors. The base of the shelves is made of 2×4’s and is elevated so that the bottom shelf sits flush with the top of the baseboards. To the right, a laminated board is screwed into the wall for additional support and aesthetics.
A 36″ long by 10″ wide laminated board was drilled into the base to create the bottom shelf. To the left of the board, we built a vertical column. This was built to be the exact width so that we could have two sets of 36″ wide shelves on either side of that column. To hold up the shelves, we used a thin piece of wood that goes under 3 sides of the shelf.
You can better see the base of the bookcase in this picture as well as the inside of the hollow column. The angled ceilings made this build a little tricky. The top of the column marks where the last board lays all along the top. Each shelf has a 14″ height between shelves. My tallest book was 12″ so it was built to accommodate those standing up.
Another tricky part of this build is that our chimney is super crooked! My husband and I decided that if we built the bookcase so that the shelves ended at the chimney, it would look less obvious. You can see how adding the base boards to the bottom of the built-ins made this look custom. You can also see how we kept making the column thicker so it’d be the perfect size to accommodate the two sets of shelves.
Finding a piece of wood that perfectly fit on the front of the custom column was tricky. We found one that was close enough and then added chair molding like a fame around the wood to really finish it off.
Side note, if I were to do these shelves again, I used a 4th piece of wood on the bottom of each shelf so you don’t see the support. It doesn’t really bug me in person, but it would make for a cleaner finished product if this is something you want to tackle.
The front of the column got a nice coat of white paint and looks like a million bucks! I spent HOURS caulking and painting this bookcase to give it a clean finished look. It made a world of difference, but was sure a lot of work!
Here’s the bookcase to the left of the chimney. This one worked nicely to be exactly 36″ wide. We built it the same as the other side. The window seat sits next to the bookcase. I bought that ready-made to save a little time not having to build it from scratch. Its technically a twin bench, but I needed a small piece to fit in the space we had.
Above the shelves, I installed 3 sconces. On this side, we drilled a hole in the back left of the shelves so we could plug in the sconces. I’ve since bought special plugs with a remote so we can turn on the sconces and fireplace from bed- #fancy. Figuring out how to incorporate the fireplace was a little tricky, but it is honestly one of my favorite additions (the ambience! The warmth).
prepping the contents of the rainbow bookcase
When the bookcase was FINALLY done and the paint was dry, it was time to fill in the shelves! I’d collected items for months and thought I’d share more about the three components of these shelves.
1- Books. I knew I wanted books in each color of the rainbow. Weekly, I’d go to my local thrift store and used book store and buy books with a variety of colors of spines. I was very picky which book I would buy.
My criteria was that it needed to interest me- so these are mostly home decor or crafting or travel books. A few are biographies of people who inspire me. Lots are vintage and I do look through them to inspire me. Which feels fun and fresh (though not as easy as Pinterest). I also tried to spend $2 or less per book unless they were really good or a color I didn’t have.
When I would go to the store, I wouldn’t pay attention to the dust jacket on the book- that would be coming off anyway. You might be surprised at how pretty some books are once those are off! I looked at the color of the spine and made sure that the book interested me AND it would look nice in the colors I needed. Red and blue books were easy to find. Yellow books were hard. Green books are mostly about gardening- lol!
A month before we installed the shelves, I put the books in rainbow order to see which books I had too many of and which ones I didn’t have enough of. I made a note and would look for those when shopping.
2- Accessories. To put my own spin on it, I added accessories and art to the rainbow bookcase that coordinated with the books on each shelf. I purchased 1-2 accessories of each color to break up the books. Want some ideas of what accessories work nicely on a bookshelf?
3-Art. Finally, I got art from Minted for each shelf. It was pretty fun to search their site for pictures I loved in a big variety of colors! This could be done by framing pages from a magazine, a card, or printables from Etsy. My tip is to keep the frame one color and style to add continuity. For budget and space reasons, most of the art is 5″x7″ or an 8″ square.
When the bookcase was done, I gathered all of these items and put them in rainbow order.
bookcase styling tips
elephant pink art / sconce / fireplace / fireplace medallion / pink poodle / pink globe / pink door art / red flower art / red owl / terra-cotta pottery / orange window art / yellow candle holder / yellow you are my sunshine art / yellow figurine / green planter / green plant art / bird art / mini succulent / mint landscape art/ mint pineapple / blue Greek art / blue bird bath / Charleston art / blue tray / purple amethyst / purple doll art / wood orb / brown barn art / box / black and white art / white typewriter art / hands bookends / bench / pink pillow (no longer available) / dog pillow / marble fabric on bench / shutters / room reveal and all other sources
To style the bookcase, I 100% used a formula which means anyone can do it!
On each shelf, I laid one stack of books on their side and one stack are standing straight up.
On top of the stack of books on their side, I put an accessory or piece of art.
Net to the books standing upright, I put an accessory or piece of art. I varied which went where.
And that’s it! It’s really that simple! Sure, most people will have more books, but this is a good basic starting point. On the top shelf, the sconce is above the art or books. Easy peasy!
So there you have it! How to build an affordable (and huge!) built-in bookcase and then style it. Is this project something you would do? Do you have any other questions about this room?
Edited- thank you to HGTV for featuring the DIY Built in Bookcase in their January 2020 issue!
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Cherelle @ The Inspired Prairie says
I’ve stumbled upon your blog over from a blog hop… and wow.. I LOVE your decorating style! It’s so fun and pretty. I wish my husband and boys would let me get away with having more pinks in the home lol.
Your built in shelves look great and I love the way you styled them !
This is beautifully done! Thanks for sharing!
Virginia | More to Mrs. E
I love the shelves and the beautiful bright colors you used to decorate them!
Crissy @ First Day of Home says
Love, love, love this project! Your formula for organizing a bookshelf has gotten my wheels turning. I’m going to reorganize my built-in bookshelf asap. Thanks for sharing a great project!