I have been swooning over the Athens book shelves at Arhaus. Pottery Barn also has a similar shelving unit. However after seeing that I could essentially redo my bathroom or purchase the book shelves, I realized this was a DIY situation! As always now that I'm on the other side, I'm SO happy I chose to do it myself. I could customize the size and style and ended up learning a lot during the process. While it wasn't the easiest DIY, I truly think anyone with a little patience and persistence could make this. So if you want to, here's the how-to!
This is the first part of this series, since it was a large undertaking, I thought it made sense to break it down.
Just a note: I am NOT an expert. You should always take safety precautions when working with power tools. This post is not meant to be expert advice. It's just what worked for me. Always consult with a professional before starting a project.
Before I build anything, I spend a substantial amount of time just ruminating. I have a vision in my head, but I want to be sure I have a grasp on the process first. I've known that I wanted to add built ins to my living room for over a year now, but I'm so happy I waited. What I thought I wanted changed drastically and what I ended up making was not something my skill set could have supported a year ago. That being said, I am a beginner and if I could do this, I promise, you can too.
This was the shelving unit that I had my eye on:
Beautiful, right? Unfortunately it's also $6,000 (on sale)! In no way was I going to spend as much on a shelving unit as I could to remodel my bathroom, so it came down to doing without, or doing it myself (hmm maybe that should be my blog's tagline).
When I first started planning I looked at this Ana White plan to get a sense of what the structure should be. Having read it several times, I realized that the carcass for the sideboard in her plan was not unlike the carcass that I made when I built my coffee bar. So I went with what I knew and built a very straightforward frame using 1 x 12's. My wall is 7' long so I made this frame 5' long knowing I would be adding corner shelves on either side. I played around with how tall to have it, and landed on 36", 4' felt too tall. I'm sure there are cheaper ways to build (with plywood for example) but I have to use what can fit in my Escape.
I used pocket screws to attach the frame (I should have used liquid nails, but now I know better. If you make this I strongly urge you to do that). I then used 1 x4 boards and 1 x 3 boards to create a face frame. You could use regular screws if you don't have a jig, since they will be hidden by the wings.
So to break it down:
(2) 1" x 12" x 5' boards (cut from 6 footers- save the extra you'll use it) for the top and bottom
(2) 1" x 12" x36" boards (cut from a 4 footer- again save the extra) for the sides
(1) 1" x 12" x 30" for the middle support
(1) 1" x 4" x 5' board to frame top
(2) 1" x 4" x 3' boards to frame sides
(1) 1" x 3" x 5' board to frame bottom*
*For framing do whatever sizes look good to you.
Overall this first part was fairly easy because again it was similar to what I did with the coffee bar. It didn't require any angled cuts, just straight forward cuts screwed and nailed together, seriously anyone could do this part.
Now the tricky part, how to add the corners. I'm sure there is a better way to do it, but here's what I did.
I cut a 1x12 to the 36" height of the sideboard and used pocket holes to attach it to create an extension of the back. In retrospect, I should have just cut a giant piece of plywood to go the entire 7' for the back, but remember, I needed the materials to fit in my escape, so live and learn. This still worked.
Adding the "wings" created a triangle. Remember those extra pieces I said to save earlier? Each of those scraps can make two triangular pieces. So, I cut a triangular shaped pieces of wood and lined them up with the top and bottom of the sideboard and again attached with pocket hole screws.
Then I did nothing with this project for almost two weeks because...life.
Finally, it was time to create the top piece. I essentially created a bookshelf to go on top. Again I worked the middle first and then added the wings.
To create the book case, I again created a frame using 1 x 12's. I cut it to match the width of the sideboard. So it ended up being a 1x12x5' (cut from a 6' board) across and three 1x12x4' pieces coming down one on each side and one in the middle. By keeping it 4' I avoided additional cuts as these are stock pieces at Lowes. I then framed it with 1x4's and 1x3's to match the bottom.
I then added four shelves on each side. To do this, I cut a 1x2x12" for each side and attached to the book case with a nail gun.I then placed the shelf on top and pocket screwed it in to be sure it was extra secure.
I used glued edge panels for the shelves. I've never used them before, but since they were going to be painted it turned out to be a good way to save money. I saved approximately $5 per board by using them. I don't know that I would use them for the frame as I'm not sure how they react over time, but so far I'm happy with this purchase. They cut just like pinewood and I don't think you can tell the difference.
I really wanted to be sure the shelves were level, and the 1x2's allowed me to do that. I leveled them on each side, so that when the shelves sat on top they were level. It was easier to hold a small 1x2 piece than to try to hold a 3' wide shelf and keep it level while attaching it.
Once the shelves were attached, I cut 1x2 pine boards to 3' wide and nailed them to the front of the board. This created the illusion that the boards were inline with the face frame. It also gave me the look of a thicker shelf while only using the 1" thick glued edge panels, this saves money but is also much easier to work with.
Now that the center bookcase part was done, it was time to do the "wings." I essentially repeated my process from below. I attached a 1x4' board to each side with pocket screws and then cut triangles to create shelves at the same height as the center book case. I used the same process with the 1x2s.
Once all of this was done, I filled the holes with wood filler, including where the 1x2's met the shelves. Wood filler helps to fix cuts that aren't quite perfect, and since I'm just learning, I had a few of those.
Now that the book case was done, it was time to make it look pretty. In my inspiration pic, they used trim to elevate the look, I decided to do the same. I went to Lowe's without a plan, but ended up finding some great trim options.
I ended up purchasing three pieces of decorative molding. I thinner piece I used it to wrap where the sideboard meets the bookshelf. I thought this helped to make it feel like one piece as opposed to two separate pieces stuck together.
This was definitely a new skill for me to work on. I got a Miter Saw for Christmas and was happy to have a tool to make the angles, instead of just using my circular saw as I had in the past.
Figuring out the angle was a bit of a challenge for me as it wasn't a 45 degree angle. After doing some math and redoing the math and cutting a few test pieces, I finally settled on 22.5 degrees for the angle.
After wrapping the lower part, I used two pieces to cover the top part of the bookshelves. This served two purposes. One, it was decorative, but two it covered a big gap I had made when I was cutting the face frame. I used wood casing to cover gaps and top part.
Finally, in order to get it to reach the ceiling, I cut a piece of molding that was actually meant for doors. I really liked it because it angled up and had a nice "shelf" to the top of it it which I feel gave it a finished look.
I used the same process for these top two pieces as I did for the bottom.
The molding ended up costing me $49, $28 of that was for the crown molding for the top. While this added to the cost of this project, I don't regret it. I think it turned this from a homemade looking unit to something I could have purchased. It definitely gave it the finished look I wanted.
Once the trim was up, I went crazy with wood putty and filled in any and all holes and gaps.
After sanding and priming, it was on to the doors. I'll be documenting how I made those in another post!
Cost so far =
$237 for all supplies (lumber, screws, nails, wood filler, molding). Your cost could be lower if you could use plywood, or if you didn't go as fancy with the molding. I wanted to do the whole thing for $300, so so far the budget is looking okay (especially compared to $6,000)!
Next week...doors and lighting!
What's the biggest DIY you've tackled?
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