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Friday, August 2, 2013

DIY Modern Bookshelf

Happy August! Happy Friday! Happy Birthday to my brother! It's all kinds of stuff today. Woot! OK I'm not exactly thrilled about it being August already, but I feel like I make that complaint every month.  You'd think after 30 years I'd get used to how time flies, but nope.

Which brings me to today's project, time flew by since we built this & I didn't get to write up a proper tutorial. Until now! We've been working on the living room and needed a bookshelf to fit perfectly. So you know we had to build it:
Yep, that's a bookshelf. We wanted something with clean lines, something simple - the plan to go with simple was heavily influenced by the fact that simple = something we can actually build.  I'd never built a bookshelf from scratch, and after looking at 3 million ideas I decided the best plan was to just jump in and see what happens. Don't you love when you've had just enough coffee to make really big, daring decisions like that?  Luckily it worked out in our favor. Here was our  before situation, our horrible horrible before :

Oh wow what a horrible quality picture! Meh, it was a horrible bookshelf so who cares. Don't you just love how they are not even touching? Or the way they jut up above the windowsill, that was really special.  Oh, and you can't see it here, but the wobble... oh the wobble! These particle board beasts were an eyesore, and once we moved them away to paint the living room, we vowed they were NOT coming back.

If you want to make something similar, read ahead & here's what you'll need:

  • Wood. We used four 2" x 12" x 8' pieces of wood from Home Depot, roughly $12 each. You may need more or less depending on your design.
  • 2x2 - enough to make eight, 4-6" tall feet. Your call.
  • A way to cut the wood, or get it cut.
  • Nails - 1.5" without a head (scroll down if you need a photo)
  • Wood Screws
  • Wood Glue
  • Sander & fine sanding pads
  • Paint of your choice. We chose leftover grey from this room and did a color wash technique, sorta.
  • Good music
  • Stuff to put on the shelves. Books...

Step 1: Paint the living room. Green? Sure.
 Identify any problems before you start, so you can out-think them.  Here's ours, while hard to see, that outlet sticks OUT of the wall. Oh, old house...
So we just said, let's make the shelf start above. Great! So we're adding feet. 

First we measured our window, because we wanted it to be exactly the width. Then we cut our boards to that. For us, this was 6'4". Sand & do any clean up work on the pieces. These will be our 2 shelves. The bottom, the middle, and the top. 
Now let's focus on our feet. We cut 8 2x2's to the same size, making sure the height would clear our nasty outlet. We lined them up evenly on the  board, and traced their position with a pencil.  Then one by one, we glued them to that spot with a lil wood glue. Then we went and had a beer while it dried. Easy!
Once your glue has set & pretty much dried, flip it over and send a thin, headless nail down into the feeties:
I painted my hammer orange in a temper tantrum one day, because I kept putting it down where I was working, and then losing it. So I grabbed spray paint, and painted the hammer. Now I never lose it. :)

Keep hammering.
We're off to a great start! 

Then, with the feet in the air, line up where the supports will go and trace that spot onto the bottom of the shelf. Note, you can't put a shelf above a foot without tricky woodwork that I didn't want to do. 

**The height of our supports: We determined these numbers by taking the total height desired, and subtracting the height of the feet + the thickness of our THREE shelves. The number leftover we divided unevenly, since we didnt want them exact.  Our bottom supports are 17" tall, and our top ones are 12" tall.

Other note, this photo shows me putting them on the wrong shelf, imagine I was doing it on the one with feet to the left, because I did that after and didn't take a picture. 
Once the shelf lines are traced, drill some thin pilot holes for your screws:
Then lay the bottom shelf on it's side.  We used extra boards to create a flat surface, as we were working out back:
 The goal here is to line each shelf up on it's side, and attach from underneath with the unattractive screws.
 Line up with your pilot holes & have a buddy hold the shelf while you drill the screws up into it.
 See how gorgeous:
We chose to do four supports on the bottom shelf, so it was nice & sturdy for all the books. Once they are screwed in, set this aside:
Now because I don't want ANY screws to show, we are ONLY using them underneath each shelf. 

Now we'll do the same process to build the second shelf, but we'll attach the two later. This saves a ton of time & is way less of a paint then trying to get your drill in-between two shelves.  So here we go on the middle shelf, with the same technique.

Line your shelves up and trace on the bottom of the middle shelf, then drill your pilot holes...
Lay it on it's side, line the shelves up to the holes, and attach with screws. 
 You get the drill... get it? Drill, screws... ? Hm.
So now you have two shelves with supports sticking wildy into the air. It gets easier from here on out. Stack them:
Nail them together!  You may want to use a triangle to make sure the support is at an exact right angle to the shelf. I eyeballed it.. guess we got lucky.
See I think those are way more attractive than screws. If you're super clever, you could use a Nail Set to tap the nails in farther and fill with wood putty.  I was too lazy for that, they look fine to me. We're covering it with books after all! We did 4-5 nails per support. 

Take your last board, and pop it on top - repeat the nailing process, then bring it inside & try it on:

We were SO tempted to just leave it plain. I love it! I love the wood, the open sides... this came out surprisingly well. And it's STURDY too. I thought I was going to have to pop a few hidden L brackets here and there but it's fine. 

Here's where you can paint. We decided to do a whitewash to keep the piece very light feeling, and realized we had no white paint on hand. So we used some grey, because a trip to the store sounded horrible & we'd lose all steam.  

Heres the jist: We took half water & half paint, mixed it in a tupperware, and smeared it all over with a rag. Rocket science, I knooow. You can come back with a dry rag and remove the excess, but we liked how thick it was & just left it. Very, very simple. We did this while cooking dinner:

This kind of paint job dries really fast too, so we were able to set the shelf into place the same day we built it. If you want that added level of protection, here's where you can add a coat of Minwax Polycrylic, I'd suggest in Satin, to the shelf. We skipped it because it's only holding books and will rarely be used. Plus, we can always do it later....(yea right).

Get ready for picture-palooza! We put the shelf into place and started accessorizing.....

I find it very important to arrange books by color. You'd think "how will you find anything!?" Well, luckily my library is small compared to some, and I remember the way books look more than the name itself. Weird huh..
This isn't all our books honestly, we just didn't want to fill it up all the way. The rest went downstairs onto another, not so visible shelf. The pretty ones stayed up top...
Now here it is once we filled it up with decorative crap:
Cozy! I had all kinds of animal statues painted white from previous projects and thought they'd look great against the rainbow books.  When I felt it needed more I found some ugly ceramic statues at the thrift store & gave them a quick coat of white. Best trick ever. That cat on the lower left was really something before...
But I love cats, so he came home - no questions asked.

Some lighting, some plant life:

Those big floor pillows were there by accident, and have stayed there. I actually find them inviting, and I plunk down on them all the time to look for whatever book I need.  That crazy bright orb there is actually a white ball light from IKEA, as seen here with the paper crane chandelier:
That rocker has been in Ralph's family for a long time, so no paint jobs for it. Since we both love color & texture, we are toying around with a few ways to jazz it up without harming it at all. More on that later! The fabric on the cushion isn't attached, we're just "trying it on".. what do you think of it?

So that's the tutorial! The shelf was easy and costs us under $50. It's perfect, fits exactly as we need, and hides that crazy outlet.  We can still reach under there to plug things in too. 

If you don't think you can do this, I think you should try - it's a lot easier than you think. One step at a time. Plus, you can alter this design for any need. Higher, wider, whatever.  Just repeat the same process of attaching the supports from underneath first... and it's a simple stack & nail job after that. If you go too much taller I'd recommend some cross bracing, but those are easy to find at any hardware store. 

Have a fantastic weekend, if you build your own bookshelf, SHOW ME!!! I love to see what you're up to. 



For the pinners out there, so you don't have to scroll back up. See the good I do?

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  1. Wow, Jesse, this is gorgeous! I'm trying to figure out how my 5-year-old and I can build him bookshelves for his room- yikes. Love your blog- I'll be back soon to mooch around and daydream...

    1. Thank you! I just got a kreg jib and can't wait to try it out. You know what I saw recently actually, was someone used rain gutters in their child's room - painted fun colors, on the wall to hold books facing outward. Kinda neat!

    2. God, we did it! Thanks so much, Jesse, for your inspiration, though ours is comedy, really- looks like a 5-year-old made it! :) It was excellent fun, and we do need more shelves- can't believe I didn't ask for better tools for Christmas! Sawing by hand with our crappy old saw is one of his favourite things, but it sure did give us some wonky lines. Steep, steep learning curve. It's here- All the best to you!

  2. It was a challenging project, but so worth it.
    Thanks for the inspiration. :)
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