Got tools? Need builtins? Build these custom eclectic modern wall bookshelves over the weekend for less than $150 – They are the perfect project for a beginner woodworker!
I recently completed a Living Room makeover for the $100 Room Challenge where I shared all kinds of DIY projects for under $100. Storage is essential in this room. We spend a great deal of time in here as a family with a variety of activities. Before the make-over, we had bookcases that held what we needed, but they weren’t exactly easy on the eyes – They were too narrow, too short, and just plain ugly.
I found a unit at West Elm, and was instantly smitten, with a perfect shelving design that hit all of the marks: eclectic modern, with a touch of mid-century, light, airy, and not at all ugly! The one mark it didn’t hit was budget or size.
So, I dusted off my saw, hit up one of my favorite people in the whole world, April at Uncookiecutter.com, and got busy designing a custom, cheap, easy-to-build solution, using plywood. April is so crazy talented that I knew if anyone could figure out how to build these plans, it would be her! We wanted to mimic the metal supports on the original. To do so, we painted 1″x4″s in a faux metal finish. If you’re interested in subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you can download a tutorial on how I painted the faux metal here!
These wall shelves are simple enough that someone with a basic knowledge of tools and building can make them in a weekend and should cost you about $140 for materials.
You will need a few tools though and of course, the plans. You can get them HERE.
Note: I have 8′ ceilings with crown molding. The shelves as suggested will fit directly under the crown. The plans base the center shelf width on the width of my door frame – be sure to measure your ceiling and doorframe, then adjust the plans accordingly.
Ready? Let’s get started making custom wall shelves for your room!
Build Custom Wall Bookshelves
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Tip on choosing wood: To keep costs down I used regular plywood and as much “common” wood as possible. To make it easier on myself, I used pre-primed trim boards for the open towers of each shelf unit – these are usually much straighter and they are already sanded and primed, which cut down significantly on time!
Cut your plywood or better yet, have your hardware store cut it for you. Be sure to ask them to check for accuracy. Having them make your cuts will save you so much time and effort!
Use your reciprocating saw to notch out the bottom of the 10″ vertical side pieces to ensure the unit will go over the baseboard and lay flush with the wall.
Sand any rough edges from all pieces.
Prepare your Wall
Measure the location for your open towers on the wall and remove a 4.5″ section of baseboard with your reciprocating saw where the open tower will stand, to ensure a proper fit. Remove a 1.25″ piece of 1/4 round from the area beside your doorframe on either side.
Drill Shelf pin Holes
Measure from the bottom of each 10″x 92.5″ vertical piece and the 4-1×4 pieces, marking your pin holes using the measures outlined in the plans.
To make fast work of adding the marks, I laid the boards out and I used a drywall t-square with a measuring tape to mark the hole location across all boards at the same time starting from the bottom.
Check for pinhole level against each piece. I found it easiest to stand all six pieces upright and place a level across all panels at the center of each pinhole mark. Adjust marks where necessary before drilling.
Use a Kreg jig pin holer to drill shelf-pin holes.
If you don’t have a pin hole jig – I somehow lost mine during this project – you will need a drill stop to ensure you only make an indentation rather than a hole straight through. You can make one by stacking two- 2×4 scraps together and drilling a hole through the center using a 3/8″ drill bit. Center your drill stop over the pinhole marks and use a 1/4″(6.15mm) drill bit to drill the hole.
Add Pocket Holes
Drill three-quarter inch pocket holes on one end of each of the smaller shelf pieces.
Add pocket holes to the eight-1″x4″ shelf supports.
Measure the distance from your ceiling to the top of the door trim you will be framing. Use this measurement for the top support to ensure that the shelves across the entire unit are level. My door frame sat at 9 15/16″ from the bottom of the crown molding – that is where I placed my top shelf support.
Stain and Paint the Pieces
Stain all shelves and the 10″ vertical side pieces in the stain of hope your choice. I’ve included the stain colors I used on my shelf in the supply list.
Paint your 1×4 sides as well as shelf supports. To simulate a metal finish as I did, download this guide I created for my newsletter subscribers!
Assemble the Open Tower
Use a framing square and clamps to assemble the long 1″x4″ piece and two of the 1″x4″ braces into a rectangle. Add two 1″x4″ center shelf supports, pocket holes facing up, using pocket hole screws and wood glue as outlined by the plans and the measurement you took above for the top support. I also added a third support and stationary shelf on the bottom to ensure I could secure the entire shelf properly to my baseboards. attach the open frame to the wall with a pin nailer to hold it in place. You will reinforce this at a later step.
Mark location of Shelves
Prepare to add the shelves by leveling them first on each side. To do this, Lean the solid side in place against the frame. Run each shelf through the open tower support and level against the 10″ vertical piece. Mark the location underneath with a pencil where the two parts meet.
Lay the 10″ vertical side down on the ground and attach a small shelf with pocket holes facing down at each marked line from the previous step. Attach a shelf support (1″x2″) under the shelf with a brad nailer and glue hiding the pocket holes.
Assemble Full Tower
Stand the 10″ vertical side up, and align on the wall. Connect the open tower and the vertical side by running the shelves through open tower shelf supports. Check for level then use the brad nailer to secure all shelves to all supports.
Build Second Tower
Repeat steps above (Assemble the Open Tower through Assemble Full Tower) to build the second tower.
Add Center Support Shelf
Attach 1×2 supports in line with your doorframe on the outside of each tower to support the center shelf. Slide the center shelf into place, on top of the supports and door frame, with pocket holes facing up, and use pocket hole screws to secure into a stud location. Secure to supports and door frame with brad nails.
Secure to the wall
Use the brad nailer to secure the 10″ vertical side to the door frame. Use 2 1/2″ screws to secure the open tower on both sides to the wall or trim.
Add Adjustable Shelves
Insert shelf brackets into the shelf pin holes on all four points. Slide a shelf into place on rest on top of supports. Secure shelf brackets with a 3/4″ wood screw to the bottom of each shelf.
Touch up any stain or paint as needed. Apply a thin coat of finishing wax.
Stand back and congratulate yourself, Master-builder! You did it!
Electic modern style, with a touch of mid-century, light, airy, within budget and not at all ugly! I’d say this wall shelving unit is exactly what this space needed!