build your own bookshelf

build_your_own_bookshelfHey friends! We hope you are having a wonderful winter day and staying warm in the midst of this polar vortex. Jamin here today, because with the several days in a row of sub-freezing weather that we’ve had in the tropics of Alabama, Ashley has retreated to her sweatshirt and pile of blankets. We’re complete opposites in this area: I’m like, “this is camping weather” and she, from behind her hand warmers underneath five layers of anythingshecanfind, asks if I’ve been shorted a few brain cells. Either way, we both think it should be called the polar apocalypse. There was a run on the bread and milk earlier, and Chloe’s (the dog) drool froze to her mouth when she went outdoors for five minutes.


Since I couldn’t find anyone to go camping with me, I figured this was a great time to talk about those bookshelves we added to the playroom. That, and there was an ever-growing concern that Ashley might chop them up into firewood before we could shoot some photos. I enlisted the kids as bookshelf guards until this post was written. (Emerson isn’t effected by the cold.)


This entire system has provided über storage for our kids. We can actually see where all their toys are, and they know where to put them back. We also keep a good deal of our home school books in this space, so it’s just really been a game changer for our home in terms of organization and keeping it together without losing our minds.


Here’s what you’ll need:


• (5) 2 x 2 x 8

• (2) 4 x 8 sheets of 1/4 inch MDF

• (1) 4 x 8 sheet of 1/2 inch MDF

• (1) 1 x 4 x 6

• (4) 1 x 2 x 8

• (2) 1 x 3 x 8

• 14 feet of 1/2 inch quarter round trim

• (2) boxes od #10 2 1/2 inch wood screws

• caulk


• Drill • Impact driver • Miter saw • Scroll saw or jig saw • Belt Sander • Table saw • Nail Gun


Just like with the toy cubbies we shared the other day, we will need to start with our frame.

• Cut (4) 2 x 2 x 8’s to (3) 27 inch pieces and (4) 11 1/4 pieces.

• Cut (1) 2 x 2 x 8 to (2) 30 inch pieces

The best way to assemble this, is to think of building two ladders. At the top and bottom join (2) 2 x 2 x 8’s with (2) 30 inch 2 x 2’s using 2 1/2 inch screws. Do this in such a way that it makes your width 30 inches. (You will want to pre-drill your holes and use (2) 2 1/2 inch screws per piece.)


Next, place a mark at 15 1/4, 31, 46 1/2, 62  and 77 1/4 inches on both 2 x 2 x 8’s. These are your bottom marks, where the bottom of the 27 inch 2 x 2 will go . Attach the 27 inch 2 x 2’s between the 2 x 2 x 8’s with 2 1/2 inch screws. Once all are attached you should have a ladder looking piece and there should be 13 1/2 inches between the 27 inch 2 x 2’s.


Repeat the above process one more time.{I had some great assistants.}


Once both pieces (ladders) are finished join them at the top and bottom with the 11 1/4 inch pieces this should give you a depth of 14 1/4.


Now we need to simply ad the shell.

• Cut a 4 x 8 sheet of 1/4 MDF into a 30 inch 8 foot strip. and (1) 14 1/4 inch piece.

• Cut a 4 x 8 sheet of 1/4 MDF into (1) 14 1/4 inch pieces.


Determine which side of the piece will be your back and apply wood glue to the 2 x 2’s on the outside. Lay the 30 inch 8 foot piece of MDF down and nail it in with finish nails or a nail gun. Use 1 inch nails.



Do the same thing with the two side pieces.


• (1) 1/2 inch 4 x 8 sheet of MDF into (6) 13 1/2 x 30

You will now need to notch out each of these corners so that they will slide onto your frame and around your post. On all 4 corners simply mark in by 1 1/2 inches on both side. Using a straight edge draw a line in towards the center on all these marks so that they intersect and form a 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 square. Each corner should have this square. Cut the square out with a jig saw, scroll saw or handsaw.


Now check the shelves to make sure they fit and don’t need any sanding. Once you are satisfied simply line the frame where the shelves will go with a strip of wood glue, place the shelves down and nail them in place with some finish nails or a nail gun.



• from the 1/2 piece of MDF cut (1) 30 x14 1/4.

Place this on the top and check it’s fit and sand as needed. Now simply spread a little wood glue on the frame and place the shelf down securing it with finish nails.


Front Facing

• Cut (1) 1 x 4 x 6 to 30 inches

Attach this piece across the top of your shelving unit making sure it is flush on both edges. Attach it with wood glue and finish nails.

• cut (1) 1 x 2 x 8 to 30 inches

Attach this piece across the bottom of your shelving unit making sure it is flush on both edges. Attach it with wood glue and finish nails.

• Cut (2) 1 x 3 x 8 to 91 1/4 inches (If you are joining to our toy storage unit do the following, if you are not skip this step. On the piece that will butt up against the toy storage unit measure up 41 1/2 pieces. Then measure in 3/4 inches. You will need to cut out this section. In other words you will be cutting off a 3/4 inch strip going from the bottom up to 41 1/2 pieces. This will allow you to fit the pieces together snuggly.)

Attach the cut out piece on the side that will butt up against the toy storage unit and the other piece on the opposite side. These pieces will run vertical on the front and the outside edge should be flush with the frame. Attach it with wood glue and finish nails.

Shelf trim

• Cut (6) 27 inch pieces of quarter round trim.

Place all the trim on the from edge of the shelves and check for fit. Sand if needed. Once you are satisfied run a strip of wood glue down the edge of the self and frame and place the trim back down securing it with finish nails.

Side trim

• Cut a 1 x 2 x 8 to (3) 14 1/4 inch pieces with 45 degree angle cuts on both ends.

• Cut (2) 1 x 2 x 8 to 96 inches exactly with 45 degree angle cuts on both ends.

• From the left over 1 x 2’s cut (2) 53 1 /2 pieces with 45 degree angle cuts on one end.

If you turn the unit up on it’s side with the side that will not butt up against the toy storage facing up it will be easiest to attach this trim first. Simply lay the (2) 96 inch and (2) of the 14 1/4 inch pieces and check for fit and once satisfied attach it with wood glue and finish nails.

Then turn the unit on its other side and attach the other pieces in the same way.

If you are not attaching the unit to the toy storage you will need the following pieces for this step.

• Cut a 1 x 2 x 8 to (4) 14 1/4 inch pieces with 45 degree angle cuts on both ends.

• Cut (4) 1 x 2 x 8 to 96 inches exactly with 45 degree angle cuts on both ends.

Just attach them as described above.


Finish  your work

• Sand the over all unit.

• Use a paintable caulk to fill in any grooves, holes or spaces.

• Paint to your desire + enjoy!


We decided to use good materials because we know that these are classic pieces that we will use in different ways for a really long time. That being said, we’re always asked about the price of things… we try to keep it real, and affordable. Please keep in mind that you can do this in different ways with different sizes and materials for your own home. This was a custom size with our own chosen materials for ours. Our goal is to give you an idea as to the possibilities. The estimated price on these two shelves was $120. We hope this helps give you an idea.

This really is a simple project and one that can be knocked out in a Saturday. It’s a great space saver, sturdy and best of all, built by you. Just imagine the bragging rights.

Happy building!

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Responses to build your own bookshelf

  1. Sharon P says:

    Nice post, Jamin! The shelves are great, and your kids are so cute. Hope Ashley can come out of hibernation soon. Happy New Year to my favorite blogger(s)!

  2. Liz says:

    Could you possibly add a diagram of the “shell” with dimensions as well as the finished product with dimensions? Thanks and great job!

  3. laura says:

    I love your spaces so much! You always do such beautiful creative work and I love that you are such an expert DIYer. The shelves look great!!


  4. Britney says:

    Great job!!! What is the name of the paint color on the bright blue walls? I couldn’t find it listed on your Colors Used in Our Home page. Thank you!

  5. Amber says:

    These are awesome! I need to build some for our house. Quick question though, on your price estimate, was it about $120 to build both bookcases, or $120 for each one? Just curious.