DIY (Cheap) Built-in Library Cabinets & Bookshelves #1

The Project

Since I bought my house, I've intended to turn a spare bedroom into a library. I plan on covering one wall with shelves. I want to have a row of cabinets along the bottom of this wall as well. Cabinets will hopefully provide a space for those oddball items that always end up in hopeless piles otherwise, such as board games, packs of printer paper, etc.

The Prep

This winter, the bamboo flooring went down in this room, and I painted the formerly day-glow purple room a rich dark red color. It seems like an old-fashioned library/study sort of color. My plan has long been to cover this back wall with the cabinets and shelves. I also plan to cover the long closet on the opposite wall into hide-able crafting/sewing supply closet (possibly with fold-out or roll-out sewing table), but that's another project. :)  

Painted wall.

Thrifty Decor Chick Project Thirfty Decor Chick's elegant project (not mine!)


I was initially inspired by a similar project on the "Thrifty Decor Chick (link)" blog. She used stock upper kitchen cabinets, installed on the floor as built-ins, with bookshelves built on top. My modest project, when tallied up, would cost around $1000.00 if I went this route. While this would not be bad at all for a wall of built in cabinets and shelves, my deep frugal streak wanted a cheaper way. After much thought (and looking at other people's cabinets), I decided that all you really need for built-in, wall-to-wall base cabinets are a box and doors. Since my project is wall-to-wall, I really only need the frame, front, and top of the box! My total width for this row of cabinets is 117 inches (297.18 cm). The cabinets will be 2 feet tall and about one foot deep. The other six feet to the ceiling will be bookshelves.

Frame and Fronts

While cheap is nice, I also want a pleasing appearance, and strength for holding books. For the front-facing boards, I decided to use poplar, which gives a nice, smooth paint finish. Behind those, the framing/supports are 2x4 pine and studs. This hidden area is a great place to use scrap, if you have it.

Frame of 2x4 pine and studs/scrap, with Yellow Poplar boards for the fronts.

There are also some stringers on the wall, level with the top of the cabinet front, for extra support. I plan on adding a few more 2x4 support posts to the interior before finishing. Tools: Table (or circular) saw, finishing nailer, drill driver, measuring tape, straight edge, level. You cannot possibly use your level too much! This is already long, so more on cabinet doors in the next post!