diy: creating built-in bookcases

We’ve been dreaming for years about adding built-in bookcases on the main level of our house. Both of us love books, and we had boxes and boxes of books in our storage unit . . . just waiting for this project to be completed!

And we specifically wanted to add the bookcases to the wall below because we wanted to balance the living room. Directly opposite these new bookcases are two big windows, a window seat, and a glass door to our sunporch. There’s a lot of energy on that other side of the room, and we needed to bring some energy to this lonely wall.

John’s dad, Dennis, is a carpenter, and when he visited us this summer he spent days and days building these bookcases for us.

He worked so hard, in fact, that he was still putting the finishing touches on the bookcases about an hour before he left for the airport to fly home. What a dedicated dad! We’re planning to surprise him and John’s mom with a special trip soon as a thank you.

To start, he removed the moulding. I helped a tiny bit with this, but my father-in-law is much better than I am with a crow bar!

Is something supposed to happen?

Then Dennis built the frame of each bookcase.

The bookcase on the right partially obstructed a floor vent, which was the main reason we asked John’s dad to help us. We’d thought about cutting a space for the vent in the bookcase and letting some of the air blow onto the bottom shelf of the bookcase, but we wanted to build base moulding into the bookcase so it would blend in with the rest of the room. Plus, we worried that cutting the side of the frame would compromise the bookcase’s structural integrity. His dad had a great solution — block part of the vent but leave the other part open. I hadn’t even realized we could do that!

He used a plunge cutter to slice the moulding vertically, making space for the side of the bookcase. Then he used the circular saw to slice the metal vent, and he reattached half of it to the wall. The finished product looks amazing! The vent blends in so well and looks very professional. Most importantly, we didn’t have to sacrifice air conditioning in the living room.

After Dennis flew home, we finished the shelves and painted the bookcases and the entire room Snowbound by Sherwin Williams. The fresh white paint makes the room feel so bright, and the new bookcases bring coziness and personality to the room.

Decorating them was so much fun! I loosely organized based on color and added a bunch of fun knick knacks: an empty bottle of wine from a memorable date, an abandoned birds’ nest I found on the sidewalk during a morning walk, John’s childhood baseball glove, a crazy picture of us from a school function, and an antique typewriter. And I copied Gretchen Rubin’s idea of keeping kids’ trinkets in a glass apothecary jar. It’s personal, fun, and potentially useful when little ones visit! Now that our kids are aging out of the trinket phase, I’m finding it hard to part with all the little, plastic toys, and this jar is a perfect place to keep them.

After spending hours drooling over beautiful and very expensive picture lights, I decided to save some money and get inexpensive, battery-operated lights from Amazon. I spray painted them a darker gold and then used some Rub n’ Buff to create a deeper color. When they were dry, we screwed the backplates to the wall and attached the lights. Easy as pie, and no electrician needed!

We are so grateful to Dennis for these lovely bookcases. It sounds corny, but they bring me joy each time I walk into the room! He did an absolutely beautiful job.

We’re very close to the final reveal of this room! We need to finish painting the new board and batten you see in the picture above on the left. And we need to grab a few small finishing touches, including light bulbs for the chandelier. Hopefully I’ll have it all ready for you next week.

What home projects are you working on? I’d love to hear in the comments!


  1. mmsnana | 30th Sep 22

    I really like your living room and the bookcases are a wonderful edition. It gives the living room and library vibe. Your husband and you do an excellent job choosing furniture and building bookshelves.

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