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DIY Shelves: How to build stunning {but cheap} wall-mounted bookshelves

Got Tools? Need built-in bookcases? Build these eclectic modern DIY shelves over a weekend for about $150 – Wall-mounted shelves project perfect for a beginning woodworker!  

 

DIY Shelves

 

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 – or rather, wall-mounted shelves are essential! Enter this DIY shelves project!

DIY Built-in Shelves

I found a unit at West Elm, and was instantly smitten. It was the perfect modular shelving unit and 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 custom, cheap, easy-to-build DIY shelves, 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!

shelving units

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 DIY 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.

wall-mounted bookcases

Ready? Let’s get started making custom DIY shelves for your room!

How to Build Custom Wall-Mounted Bookcases and DIY Shelves

*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through a link, I receive a small commission at no expense to you. Thanks for supporting KnockitOff Kim!

Materials:

Wood

Download the plans HERE for a full wood cutting list. Remember to measure and adjust according to your room!

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! 

Other

Wood glue
1 1/4″ Pocket hole screws
3/4″  Wood screws
Sample size Behr “Black Suede”
Sample size Behr “Amazon Stone”
Rustoleum Metallic “Chrome”
Rustoleum Metallic “Antique Brass”
Broom head with stiff bristles, wire brush and/or coarse hair paint brush
Minwax Finishing Wax
Wood Conditioner
Minwax “Aged Oak” Gel Stain
Metal Shelf Brackets

Tools

Kreg Jig
Circular saw
90-degree clamp OR Kreg right angle clamp
Sandpaper
Brad Nailer
Drill 
1/4″ drill bit
Reciprocating Saw

Prepare your Materials

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!

wall mounted shelving

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.
Wall Shelves - prepare wood sand

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.
Wall Shelves - mark holes across all
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.
Wall Shelves - mark holes - make marks
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.
Wall Shelves - level shelf holes - stand upright
Wall Shelves - level shelf holes - level
Use a Kreg jig pin holer to drill shelf-pin holes.
Wall Shelves - drill stop and drilling 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.
 Wall Shelves - shelf pocket holes
Add pocket holes to the eight-1″x4″ shelf supports.

Wall Shelves - pocket holes 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

Wall Shelves - staining shelves

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.
Wall Shelves - staining painting
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

Wall Shelves - assemble 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

Wall Shelves - run through
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.

Attach Shelves

Wall Shelves - pocket hole attach

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.

Wall Shelves - connected shelves

Wall Shelves - brad nail

Build Second Tower

Repeat steps above (Assemble the Open Tower through Assemble Full Tower) to build the second tower.

Add Center Support Shelf

Wall Shelves - center 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

Wall Shelves - secure into 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.

Finishing

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! Now, oooohh and awwwhh over your gorgeous DIY shelves! 

floating shelves

Eclectic modern style, with a touch of mid-century, light, airy, within budget and not at all ugly! I’d say these DIY shelves are exactly what this space needed!

mounted shelving

diy floating shelves

wall unit

 

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