The Built Ins

When we were house hunting, almost every house we saw had a room we weren’t sure what we would do with. We didn’t really  need a “living room” and a “family room.” We also knew we wanted a basement if we could find it, and many times a basement doubles as a living room, and Tucker just doesn’t need his own sitting room, so what could we do with that third TV/hang out space? Two rooms on the same level of the house that served the TV/hanging out purpose was actually #1 on my Do Not Want list. As I think back, I think we only saw one house that met that criteria, and that house missed the mark on many things we did want. So I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to a) get creative or b) have a room we just weren’t going to use.

One thing I was definitely looking for was more storage. We did (finally) get rid of a lot when we moved. But we own a lot of books and things we might not read any time soon, but we definitely want to keep. So we (with some help from Pinterest) came up with the solution to build our very own custom built in bookshelves. Big, relatively-permanent project? Let’s do this! (Thankfully we have lots of family with expertise and tools, both of which we borrowed a lot. This project would have gone much less smoothly and, most importantly, been a lot less fun, without our wonderful families there with us!)

I got the inspiration from this tutorial, though I did not by any means follow it. Nor am I making this a tutorial because Paul and I are not experts on building built in bookshelves.

In that tutorial the people started with unfinished upper kitchen cabinets. I wanted to start with unfinished base cabinets because a) I wanted as much storage as possible, b) we had plenty of room for them and c) that eliminated the step of framing out the bottom. But mostly a.

We ended up getting ours at Home Depot. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menard’s all carry pretty much the same thing. In the end, Home Depot’s were the cheapest to start with and they were on sale. In the end we paid just under $300 for all 3.

The experts at work

The dogs ... hard at work ...


The counter for the cabinets was a bit of a challenge. No matter how we figured it, we’d have to piece something together. We weren’t going to be able to find a piece of wood large enough to cover the whole thing. In the end we got three poplar planks (we also used poplar for the facing) and Paul used the Kreg system (more on that later) to attach them all to each other and then he sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded … until it looked like one piece of wood!

The Counter

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room ... and the front room ... and the garage ...

The benefit of building these before moving in was that the great room could be a painting room … and the front room … and the garage …

We also decided on MDF for our shelving. The plan all along was to paint the whole thing white. MDF is already smooth and ready to paint, it’s going to be straight and level, it was strong enough for what we needed and the price was good. We used a Kreg system to attach the shelves to the uprights using pocket holes on the bottom and wood glue, which we puttied in and painted over – no screws showing! The Kreg ran us about $100, but it was worth every single cent, even if we never use it again. It was easy to use and made the project look professional.

More experts hard at work

More experts hard at work

Building the ShelvesHere it is with the poplar facing:

Plus FacingThen we painted every last inch of all of it! Once it all had a few good coats, we put it all together!

DSCN1560The next step was to touch up the paint, fill in some gaps with wood fill, and caulk all along the walls. We also installed crown molding around the top and baseboard around the bottom to match the baseboard in the existing room.

And voila!

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

Tucker likes to spend his afternoons in the library, sleeping in the sun.

We have hardware that needs to be installed on the drawers and doors, and we also have sconces that will illuminate the front of the shelves. The sconces involve getting an electrician out, so we’re letting funds recoup a bit before tackling that step of the process. Not to mention the fact that the arrangement of things on the shelves will be a work in progress for, well, ever.

Want to see my thoughts as they progressed through the project? Check out my Pinterest board here.

Everything turned out great in the end, but we ended up with a few, um, situations. Like ourfacing for the top being about 1/4 an inch short, and crown molding being installed at the wrong angle. In the end, we love them. They serve the purposes we need and they make that room a great introduction to our home.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s