DIY Bookshelves

by Chris on May 11, 2011

Disclaimer: This is a long post. With a lot of pictures. I venture to say it’s taking me longer to get this post around than it was to actually do the project. With the cabinet finally finished, I realized that my daughter really needed some more room for her books. I didn’t want to fill that pretty thing with all books, so I had to come up with something.

So here’s the something.

DIY bookshelves

I will admit that it’s the first project involving wood/nails/labor that I’ve done completely by myself. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out better than I expected.

DIY bookshelf

As the books were being placed on the shelves, my little one kept saying, “Hey! I forgot about that book!” “Oooh, I wanna read that one!” Mission. Accomplished.

front facing bookshelfDIY bookshelf

How about a tutorial for this oh-so-easy project? The first stop was to Lowes for some primed MDF strips. I spent more money with the primed version; However, I know you could do this for less money. I knew I’d be painting it light, so I didn’t want to worry about priming it. Worth the money, really.

MDF with wood glue

I drew a small bead of wood glue along the edges to be nailed and held it for a few seconds. It offered some support and kept things from shifting while I was nailing them together.

how to build bookshelves

I knew I wanted three shelves, and they measured out around 27” each. This meant I needed an 8 foot piece of each. I took the three pieces up to the wood-cutter guy (official name) at Lowes and had him cut them. Yeehaw! How easy is that?

how to make bookshelves

After painting them (including the exposed edges), my husband screwed them into some studs on the wall. I didn’t bother hiding the screws. Who’s gonna see them?

DIY bookshelves

Because the beauty of this project is really in the color of the books, I wanted the shelves to be as simple and streamlined as possible. Luckily, that was also the easiest to build.

front facing bookshelves

And of course, it wouldn’t be a success unless this goofball liked them. I think she approves.

green beanbag

Supply breakdown:

  • 8 feet, 1×6 (three shelves at @ 27” each)
  • 8 feet 1×4
  • 8 feet 1×2…………………………….Total of $28.00
  • Wood Glue $2.97
  • Nails/nail gun, paint—already had


Jessica May 11, 2011 at 3:30 am

ha! Love your daughter's picture!

Stella & Dot, Independet Stylist May 11, 2011 at 3:32 am

Love it! Nice to see you using a nail gun because to me…those seem intimidating!

- Brittany May 11, 2011 at 3:33 am

Love those shelves! They are so simple and clean looking. Thanks for sharing.

Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl)

Chelsy@ Sweet Pea Kisses May 11, 2011 at 3:44 am

I have the wood downstairs to make some shelves just like this! I'm so glad to hear how easy it was from you. I'm making some for books in my sons room and also for DVDs in the family room!

P.S. "If you take a mouse to school" is one of my favs!

Bec@littlelucylu May 11, 2011 at 3:50 am

We (well, mostly my husband) is in the process of making some shelves just like this for my daughter's playroom!
I LOVE the way they turned out!!!
~Bec :-)

Centsational Girl May 11, 2011 at 4:17 am

I loooooove these Chris, they are perfect for this space, how cool that you built them yourself, great tutorial, bravo girl!!!!


Letti May 11, 2011 at 4:54 am

love it!!!!

Kara @ Mine for the Making May 11, 2011 at 5:19 am

Love these shelves Chris! And for the cost…even better! Shelves can be so pricey! I love how the book covers are visible too! Nice job :)

Cap Creations May 11, 2011 at 5:40 am

Great job! Love that last photo of your girl!

Did you get my email about the giveaway?

RNSANE May 11, 2011 at 7:21 am

Having raised three SONS to adulthood, I am so envious of your delightful daughter. What a great job you did on the bookshelves. She should be quite proud of her room!

Marianne@Songbird May 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

That is one impressive nail gun. I still have to use a hammer and nails (my poor thumbs). I guess that's why I try to avoid nailing something together like the plague.
But your cute little shelves might just have convinced me otherwise.
Great project. And hooray for your girl loving the books again.

Jenny May 11, 2011 at 11:12 am

Nicely done! I need a solution like this for my daughter's room and I love how easy and functional this is! And the fact that it doesn't take up floor space is a major bonus. :-)

Jodi May 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

Love it! Great tutorial as well. Your daughter is gorgeous and looks like she is so much fun!

Speckled Lamb May 11, 2011 at 11:48 am

They are lovely ;) Thanks for sharing the how to!

Lisa May 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

I love the simple lines of the shelves and that picture of your daughter is the cutest!!!

Kathy C. May 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm

What a simple and great project! Love the model haha. :) Great job!!

Janell @ House of Fifty May 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Fabulous, functional and how pretty do all these books look on your new shelves! Great job! Janell

To The Moon and Back May 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm

love it!

Becky May 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Love this! About to work on a project and need thinner types shelving for my sons books and this works perfect, thanks for sharing!

Colleen May 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm

the picture of your daughter is priceless! love this project.

Bossy Betty May 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Adorable–both the project AND the model!

courtney May 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm

love these. and the books even look great against the blue wall!

Mindy@FindingSilverLinings May 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Great job!!! I agree with you on buying it primed. One less thing right?! Your daughter is awesome for posing!

Screaming Meme May 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I want some now…thanks for adding more to dos to my to do list! lol
If you get the chance come see my before and after…

Danielle (Life with the Hewitt Family) May 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I LOVE it! I am going to have to make some of these too!

Jocelyn May 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Those look great! I've seen this sort of thing before and will love doing it with my millions of kids books!

Heather@The Black's Best May 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm

What a great idea! I think I need to try this in my kids room…your daughter is adorable too!

kayla May 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Turned out great and very functional!!

Conspicuous Style Design Blog May 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Great job! I love that the children can see all of the books, too…makes them more enticing I think!

Michelle May 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thanks so much, Chris! Your post was particularly timely for me, as I was planning to make some similar shelves from ana white's site but was going to need to borrow a jigsaw from the tool library to do it. These are a little different than what I had in mind but so much simpler that I'm going for it. Thanks again!!

Lisa May 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm

These are great! Thanks so much for the detailed tute. I've been thinking about making something like this for the nursery.

Janice Fiori May 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Great Job!! I just saved the info as I hope to accomplish the same.

Jen@GarageSaleDiaries May 12, 2011 at 1:28 am

oh wow! i love your blog! and I just realized I am your 5000th follower!!!

Anonymous May 12, 2011 at 4:37 am

I love them! Thanks for sharing and providing the information to make them. I have a slight addiction to books…and am in desperate need of a way to rotate through them all. Perfect solution:o)


Winks and Daisies May 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I love these shelves. Sweet, simple and just perfect. Thanks for sharing!

hometown girl May 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

very cute! we could use some of those! hope all is well! susan

Katherines Corner May 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Looks great. Anything that encourages reading get s a smiley face from me.Hugs.
P.S. I have your lovely blog on my cottages page at Katherines Corner :-)

Heather @ REOlisticRenovation May 14, 2011 at 3:09 am

These are so cute! I totally need something like this. Cute picture of your daughter too. :)

Blissful Babe May 14, 2011 at 6:21 am

The photo of your daughter is just priceless! What a beautiful girl! And these shelves are fantastic! Sure wish I had a nail gun!! Thanks for the tutorial!

The Fifield Kail Family! May 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

This is so awesome! I can't wait to do this in my sons room it'll be so cool Thanks for all the great ideas. Have you seen Hallmarks new children's book there really good books. I went there today for the first time since December and they have a book corner and probley 50 books or so, we bought Watson the interactive squirrel and pip the monster they were outstanding. =)

Alex May 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

wonderful simple but a great WOW! impact! Love it and your daughter is super cute too!

Jennifer May 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Those are great! I love how those shelves show off the covers of the books, which can be so cool. It's like free art. You don't get to see the covers with traditional bookshelves!

Robin {keephomesimple} May 16, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I LOVE these bookshelves you made! I featured them on my blog. You can see the link Here:

BTW, I've spent so many hours this weekend looking through your blog. I think it's my new favorite. Thanks for being so inspiring. Have a great week!
~Robin {Keep Home Simple}

Barb May 17, 2011 at 1:15 am

What a great job Chris. I am beyond proud of you and all the wonderful things you do for your family. Olivia looks VERY pleased. What a good picture of her.Loved your flash gaget for your camera. What a difference in the pictures. Great buy. Love you very much!! Mom

Amanda Kuzak May 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

What a great project, you make it look so easy! I love the photo of your daughter in the end, I agree with her, 2 thumbs up!

Tara May 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm

These looks amazing. Great good! I just pinned it to share with my friends.

Laurie September 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I absolutely love this idea! I have been looking for a very narrow bookshelf for my son’s room and this idea is so much better. I’ll put my husband to work on it immediately!

Chris September 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Sounds like a great idea, Laurie! :)

Rachael November 6, 2011 at 11:56 pm

These book shelves look so nice, I made my daughter 3 of them for her room, super easy and they came out absolutely beautiful.

Kelsey January 2, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Hi I’m Kelsey (mama mazzone)
A new follower.
Love your blog and all of your design ideas!
These shelves look great! Thanks for sharing, I would love to do something like this in my girls bedrooms.

Vanessa January 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

I’ve been looking for easy bookshelf ideas and I think I found it! Thanks for sharing this idea!

The Southern Product Queen January 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

Such a cute idea, and love your blog! I would love it if you would link this up at my linky party as well! Here is the link Happy New Year!

Alida January 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Love the simplicity of these shelves! I just got a nail gun for Christmas and these are now on my to build list.

I would love to invite you to share this at my party going on now…


Lindsi B January 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

This is fabulous!!! Would you please share this with our readers for Fun Stuff Fridays?

Michelle January 26, 2012 at 12:10 am

I love your selves, they turned out great. I just wanted to share that some of the school teachers in the district I work for use rain gutters for book selves, which works well too. :)

Melanievp January 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Great Idea!!
I am a new follower

I am redoing my son’s room and this will give me extra room space. Now I can get rid of the book shelves. I going to share this idea with my cousin who has a 4yr old boy. I know she will love this idea.
Thanks for sharing your idea

Chris January 31, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Thank you, Melanie! I’m glad it could inspire. We all need some of that! Good luck!

Tracy February 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Just curious as to how you attached the front shelf. Did you use finishing nails and then cover them or just glue? I see that the back piece is nailed to the bottom but didn’t see how you attached the front. Thanks!!! Hoping to make them this weekend for my nursery!!

momoftwo February 20, 2012 at 12:34 am

Love those shelves! I’ve been really bummed about how to fit everything in my sons’ room…They are sharing right now and most days I’m overwhelmed with how to fit all their stuff in one room AND make it look good. This post has given me the inspiration I needed to get their stuff in order :) Thanks so much!

Nancy H February 25, 2012 at 10:41 am

Are nail guns expensive? Couldn’t I just hammer these together?

Chris February 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Oh yeah. You could certainly just nail them. No nail gun required! I got my gun for Christmas. I believe it was @ $150?

frank May 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I like this idea, its simple yet it looks great. I understand you used wood glue, have you experienced any issues with them? (ie. over time, due to the weight of books the shelves fell apart)

Chris June 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Not yet, Frank. They’ve held up wonderfully!

Hannah June 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I love these shelves and I really want to make them before I move into my new apartment next weekend. I’ll have to use a hammer and nails because I don’t have a nail gun but I don’t see in the pictures where you attached the pieces together? Are the nails visible in front? I’m not too experienced with these types of DIY projects but I would love some advice if you have it! Thanks!

Felicity June 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I love these shelves because they provide great storage while letting you see all the books. We are always forgetting what great books are lying around and this makes it so much more fun.

Christy June 24, 2012 at 7:23 am

I am doing this project this week!! I love it!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

Can you tell me, where did you find your super soft green bean bag chair? I’m having the hardest time finding one at a reasonable price.

Meridith July 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I just found your blog and am in love… I even let the kids drag out the bounce house so I can read back posts.

My big question is how your husband screwed these into the studs? I don’t understand, and my ikea spice rack book racks are held up with L-brackets that my 1 year keeps trying to rip off the wall. It’s time for me to do something new and I love these!

Chris July 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Ha! Meredith, that made me laugh out loud. :) If I can remember correctly, he used L brackets at the top of each shelf. We figured with those, the base molding, the crown molding, AND the trim molding, that sucker isn’t going anywhere. Hope that helps!

Kendra August 17, 2012 at 4:04 am

Love! Did you use nails for the front lip as well or did you just do wood glue?

Chris August 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Hi Kendra! I used small finishing nails–just to be sure. :)

Jessica August 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

You can do the same thing with the photo frame shelves at IKEA. They have black or white ones in two different lenghts for $9-$14. The front lip isn’t as tall though on those.

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