Built-in Library for (most of) Our Books

We have a serious book problem at our house. We both came into our marriage with large collections and an obsession with books. We stop at every bookstore and library sale we pass. Add to that an inability to get rid of any (I have so many college textbooks and anthologies that I just can’t bear to part with. What if I NEED them later?) and we quickly filled several bookcases and still had more in boxes.

Gordon decided that for my birthday last year, he would build a bookcase into an entire wall in our front room. He said it was boring once it was four feet tall, so he got distracted. But with my birthday this year fast approaching, he figured he’d better finish it so I couldn’t accuse him of stretching it out just to avoid picking a gift this year. It took late nights, many trips to Lowe’s, and the whole house smelling like stain for awhile, but our little library is now my favorite part of the house.

Before – empty wall in front room

Our front room is a strange hybrid of entryway and sitting room, so we have struggled for years to decide what to do with it. Turning it into a library/sitting area/music room is a good fit. Now when people come into the house, they will know immediately that we are drowning in books, that Gordon is handy with wood and oil paints (Bob Ross style), and that we have enough instruments for a musical petting zoo. We’re really nailing first impressions.

The process of building the bookcase seemed simple to me, since I wasn’t the one who had to do it. I just saw Gordon come from the garage with pieces of bookcase that he would attach to the wall. He says this is the process:

1) Measure the space you are building the bookcase into and draw up your planned dimensions.

2) Take out any baseboards that will be in the way

3) Buy thin sheets of veneer or plywood for the back of the bookcase. Cut them to fit, then attach them directly to the wall using liquid nails and actual nails where necessary

4) Build a 2×4 frame for the bottom of the shelf to sit on

5) Build the bottom of the bookcase to your design. Gordon built the whole thing in the garage and then just brought it in and installed it in the space. You’ll probably notice that your walls aren’t perfectly square. You can make adjustments as necessary. Gordon also cut out spaces for outlet extenders so we could still access power.

6) Build the top of the bookcase. Gordon built the top in two halves, then covered the adjoining edges with moulding. You can use shims to true up the edges to any not-square walls, then cover the outside edges with moulding as well.

7) Add any decorative elements you’d like (we chose crown moulding for the top and another piece of moulding to cover the 2×4 base on the bottom

8) Stain or paint the case to the desired color and add finish

I spent several hours carrying piles of books and games to the shelf from every other room in the house until I ran out of room.

Now we just have to figure out how to organize them. And buy more. We may need another bookcase.

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