Building Faux Built-In Bookshelves



Building these faux built-in bookshelves from (almost) scratch was a labor of love.  We learned a lot and it took a very long time.  Despite the difficulty, I couldn't be more excited that we took this project on.

The living room is the first room you can see when entering our home.  While I had found a nice sofa and china cabinet for the room, the wall immediately in sight when coming through the front door was completely empty.  

The before pictures and backstory are necessary to fully appreciate the end result. On Valentine's Day, we did what any normal couple does, and went to my favorite thrift store, where I also found my Valentine's day gift (that we had agreed not to buy for one another). Two trunk loads later, we unloaded these beauties into our living room.  Josh was thrilled.  


Stunning, right?  To save us from getting into a very long, detailed post of how we took these bad boys from point A to point B, I've summarized below.  If you're interested in building these for your own home, contact me and I can give you more formal instructions.  

  • Built a header piece heighten the bookshelves
  • Wired picture lights using a remote control powerstrip inside the header 
  • Trimmed out the bottom and the sides where the bookshelves meet each other
  • Filled and sanded all seams and holes to give a smooth finish
  • Primed entire piece with oil based primer (water-based won't stick to laminate) 
  • Painted same color as the walls  (Sherwin Williams Alabaster) but in high gloss

Do you see how I was styling the shelves before they were even painted? I have a problem.

Pretty good transformation, right?  I'm not totally done with styling them-- I don't want to buy random new objects to fill out the shelves.  I prefer to collect things over time that are a little quirky and bring back memories.  Still, I'm really happy with them and LOVE styling each surface. I'll share some of my tips for styling in a later post.  Some of my favorite objects are my ginger jars, my dried wedding bouquet in the gold display case, my wooden clogs from a trip to the Netherlands with a sweet friend, and the Willow sculpture from my mom on our engagement.  


To soften the hard, straight edges of the bookshelves, I added a thrifted, curvy, white chair which makes for a perfect and cozy reading nook.  I painted the abstract and used gold leafing to repeat the bronze in the bookshelves. I'm not sold on the abstract, and have a mirror on the way which I think I'll use there instead.  Every room needs a touch of green and nature, and the fiddle fig tree is perfect. I'm excited to switch out the objects as the seasons change.  Right now, the shelves lean a little "summer" with the succulents and coral.  I can't wait to add some wool textures to cozy them up for fall. 


The very best part of the bookshelves, though, is the beautiful soft glow from the picture lights at night. They make the room so cozy. I turn them on every night, even when we aren't in the room. 


Bottom line:  you don't have to spend a lot of money to achieve a custom focal piece like these bookshelves. All it takes is a little creativity, a lot of elbow grease, and a big sense of humor. This project definitely challenged us, but ultimately grew our DIY skills.  What project have you taken on that stretched you creatively lately?