I’m in the middle of giving my home office a makeover, and one of my biggest priorities for the room has been to add some built-in storage. It’s important to note that our home office sits at the front of our house and is basically the first room you see after entering the foyer. Thus everything in it is very visible… including the messy bookshelves that we had going on in there…
Our office also needs to be a very functional room for us. We store a lot of things in there and use the room for working and printing regularly, so we needed a way to store all of our stuff in a tidy and presentable way.
Enter the built-in bookcase! A built-in wall of shelving just seemed like the best way to contain everything in a neat and orderly fashion, plus built-ins can be a great aesthetic feature in a room.
We have a long alcove along one wall that was just screaming for built-in storage to be placed there. It measured 135” long by about 18” deep. Perfect!
I knew from the beginning that this was going to be a DIY project for me and my hubby because it’s quite expensive to have a contractor or carpenter install custom made built-ins. Honestly, they’re just a bunch of painted wood attached to the wall, so I figured we could build them ourselves.
There was only one problem with that… I really wanted drawers along the bottom of my built-ins. I knew that drawers were the best way to neatly store all of the small functional items we needed to keep in the room. So they really were a necessity, but they would also take a lot of time to build from scratch.
I finally figured that the best solution was Ikea! I could purchase some Ikea bookshelves that had drawers and alter them to become a custom built-in (I’ve noticed other people have done similar things so I’m definitely not the first to think of this). Not only would it save us the challenge of building drawers, but it would also save us lots of construction time and allow me to be able to do some of the construction myself, thus minimizing the amount of time I would need my husband’s help (if you didn’t read my ‘About’ page, my husband is not a big fan of DIY projects).
I considered purchasing Ikea’s BRIMNES collection, one of their cheaper lines of shelving with drawers. But I didn’t want to skimp on quality here so I went with their HEMNES collection, the only line of bookshelves they sell that is all solid wood, even though they were more expensive.
I mocked up lots of different arrangements on my computer trying to find the HEMNES pieces that would fit best in my alcove while giving me the aesthetic look I wanted. I finally settled on three narrow bookcases and two cabinets arranged symmetrically along the wall.
The two cabinets came with glass doors, but I decided not to use them. I had considered it, but it just didn’t give the look I wanted for my office. The glass doors made them look like a piece of dining room furniture.
I also tried to infuse a little design into the arrangement. I decided to place the three middle shelves closer together and planned to use narrower trim at their joints in order to make these shelves appear more like one large cabinet.
I liked this arrangement, but realized pretty quickly that I really wanted the built-in to extend all the way to the ceiling. I knew it would be a lot more work, but in the end it would look better. So I planned to cut off the tops of some HEMNES bookcases and use them to create a top row of shelving allowing everything to extend all the way to the top of my 9 foot ceiling.
But this arrangement felt a little too busy with all of the shelving. My solution was to remove the shelves from the top three middle pieces. Not only did that keep it from looking so busy, but it also created interesting niches at the top, and helped to make the overall three middle cabinets look more like it’s own unique piece with the two end bookcases appearing like separate pieces that flanked the larger middle section.
I started by painting the room a new color and realized that there was no point in painting the back wall of the alcove because it would all be covered by the built-in anyway. So I decided to save some time and money and just leave the back wall the existing color.
Then we removed the quarter round and some of the base trim from the floor in the alcove.
I spent a day assembling the three narrow bookcases and two cabinets (minus the glass doors) by myself, and set them in place.
Then it was time to make the upper row of shelves. I had purchased one narrow HEMNES bookshelf and one wider HEMNES bookshelf (which was the same width as the two cabinets I had used) with the intention of cutting them into the shorter pieces I needed for the top row.
There was about 30” from the top of my existing cabinets/bookcases to the ceiling of the room. I decided to make my top row of shelves 28.75” tall so that there would be a little breathing room at the top.
My husband was a big help with doing the construction for this. We started by basically cutting the top 28.75” off both the wide and narrow bookshelves. But I knew it’d be easier to cut the pieces down to 28.75” inches first and then assemble the top part of the shelves.
Once they were assembled, we realized we needed a base to set the top of each bookcase on. So we cut a scrap piece of MDF we had sitting in the garage to size for each shelf and used a nail gun to attach them.
We had two of the five top shelves done. I knew we could take what was left of the narrow and the wide bookshelves to make two more top shelves. We cut the legs off the bottom of both of them, and then turned them upside down and cut 28.75” off the top. We used scrap wood again to make a base for each shelf, and also for the tops of the shelves this time (since we had already used the two tops that came with the shelves). We now we had four of the five top shelves finished!
For the final narrow top shelf we used what was left of both the narrow and wide bookshelves we had. All of the side pieces were shorter than the 28.75” we needed, so we used braces, glue and wood filler to connect them to make the full 28.75” long sides. We used scrap for both the top and the base pieces again, and found some extra 1” x 2” wood boards in the garage to make the crossbars along the top.
We definitely put the hack in Ikea Hack!!!
But we now had all of the top shelves and bottom shelves made!
Then it was time to really make this into a built-in. We attached the top shelves to the bottom bookcases/cabinets with screws. Then we anchored everything to the wall with L-brackets.
Next came the fun part of trimming everything out!
We used a plain 1” x 6” board along the bottom of the shelves to cover up the feet. We then installed baseboard trim in front of that in order to match the existing baseboards in the room, and put the stained quarter round in front of the baseboard.
We attached crown molding to the top of the shelves along the ceiling.
We covered up the gaps between each bookshelf/cabinet with fluted casing trim.
Then we added 1/4” x 4” wood pieces horizontally to cover up the joints between the top row and bottom row of shelves. I wanted these pieces of wood to be shallower than the vertical casing in order to create some relief and a system of hierarchy among all of the trim.
And now with all of the trim in place it was really looking like a built-in…
We were almost done! I just had to add the shelves, and, of course, there were no holes to place the shelves where I wanted them most of the time so I had to drill new holes.
I also inserted the drawers and replaced the drawer pulls with these oil rubbed bronze bars instead of the black knobs that came with the cabinet.
Then it was just a matter of caulking and coating everything with a white high-gloss enamel paint. And finally, finally it was done!
While this project was a lot of work for us novices, it was worth it!! I successfully achieved the look I was going for… now I just have to fill it up with stuff!
WANT TO SEE MORE? You can see how I styled my finished built-in bookcases here.