Check Out the DIY Bookshelves in This Home Office Makeover

Tracy Laverty

Article Posted By: Tracy Laverty

of Right Up My Alley

DIY Bookshelves in a Home Office Makeover

Bookshelves generally play two roles– functional and aesthetic. In this home office makeover, the DIY bookshelves add some much needed shelf space, and they certainly make the previously bare room look warm, comfortable and sophisticated.

These DIY bookshelves were created by Tracy Laverty and her husband Steve. Tracy is the author of the DIY and lifestyle blog Right Up My Alley, and this DIY bookshelf tutorial and home office makeover are part of our ongoing DIY Challenge series here on The Home Depot Blog. We pick a particular material– in this case, plywood — and challenge some of our favorite bloggers to come up with useful DIY projects or inspiration to share with our readers.

We’re so impressed with Tracy and Steve’s woodworking skills, and as you’ll see in the photos, the home office makeover resulted in a bright, elegant and well-organized work space.

Our home office has been in the same condition since the day the contractor finished building it; contractor-grade walls, no curtains, essentially the storage room where we put things that have no other home. As you can see in the photo below, it was also unorganized and ready for a revamp.

Home Office Before Makeover

Steve and I decided to build bookshelves and start working to get our home office to be functional and organized with a classic look.

Below are the plans Steve drew up after we looked at ideas and brainstormed what would work for our space. The great thing about building bookshelves is that you can customize the size and look to fit your style.

Plans for DIY Bookshelves

The DIY Bookshelves

Buy list for one shelf (we made two):

And it all fit in our minivan! The wood for one bookshelf cost about $155. The Home Depot will cut plywood for you (sometimes they charge a small fee per cut), so don’t worry if putting full sheets of plywood in your car is an issue.

Plywood to Make DIY Bookshelves

Tools and other items you’ll need:

Step 1

The first thing we did was to plan out the cuts for each piece of plywood. Since each sheet costs close to $50, it makes sense to think it through before you start cutting. For the two shelves we made, here is the cut plan:

Cut Scheme for DIY Bookshelves

Step 2: The Cuts

We ripped all of the plywood parts to width using a table saw with the templates as a guide. We then cut the pieces to length using a skill saw.

Then, we  cut a ¼-in. deep by ⅜-in. rabbet along the back/inside edge of the shelf perimeter pieces (two sides and the top) using a router. This cut allows the backing to be recessed into the shelf so you don’t see the end grain of the plywood when you look at the completed bookshelf from the side.

You’ll notice the shelves are ¼-in. less wide than the bookcase sides; that is because of the recessed backing.

Using a Router in a Bookshelf Project

Adding a rabbet is completely optional. If you’re OK with seeing the end grain of the backing, you can simply nail the backing to the back of the shelf. If you don’t recess the backing using a rabbet, just remember your shelves will then be the same width as the bookshelf sides.

The next step was to cut the slots (dados) for the shelf using a router. The shelves are ¾ in., so we used a ¾-in. router bit and made the dados ¼-in. deep.

DIY Bookshelf Project

Another way to add shelves without using dados is to glue and nail shelf supports (made out of the same 1” x 2” pine used for the shelf styles for example) directly to the insides of the bookcase sides. These supports would be the same length as the width of the bookshelf. The shelves would then be nailed to these supports.

We also added countersunk pilot holes for the screws that hold the shelves in place. Drill two small holes, 2 in. from either side, in the center of each of the shelf dados. Then flip the sides over and use a countersink bit. This allows the screw head to be recessed below the surface so you can easily fill it with wood filler before painting.

Step 3: Assembling the Pieces

Then put all the pieces together (this is the fun part).

Assembling a Bookshelf

We used glue and screws to hold it all together. You can also see the rabbet and where the backing will go.

DIY Bookshelf Project

The next step is to cut and add the backing. If you didn’t use a rabbet to recess the backing, then the backing will essentially be the same as the dimensions of the assembled bookshelf.

Step 4: Painting

Helpful hint: If you plan to paint the backing a different color than the insides of the case, I’d suggest adding the backing after you’re done painting (paint the backing and then add it to the bookcase). It is a LOT easier this way (don’t ask how I know…).

If you plan to paint the trim (stiles and rails) the same color as the insides of the bookcase, you could add the trim now. We decided to paint the trim a different color, so we primed and painted the bookshelf and trim separately and then added the trim after everything was dry. There are a lot of nooks and crannies when the bookshelf is complete so it is a lot easier to paint at this point.

We used a paint sprayer (for the first time ever!) to paint just about everything. We used primer followed by a coat of a neutral white for the insides of the bookcase and Ralph Lauren’s Nobel Grey for the trim and outside. Home Depot will also color-match any brand paint. I just have to say how excited I was Home Depot has Ralph Lauren paints back in their stores. There are so many great paint choices.

Step 5: Adding Trim

For the front of the each shelf, we used 1-in. thick pine trim, cut to fit (about 30″, but be sure to measure). Home Depot sells Select pine which is a better quality wood than normal pine. For a few dollars more, you won’t need to worry about knots in the wood and the boards tend to be straighter and higher quality as well; totally worth it for projects like this.

The stiles (two vertical pieces along the sides) are 2½-in. wide and were made by ripping a single 1-in. x 6 in. piece on a table saw. There will be a thin strip of wood left over which you should SAVE as you’ll use it later on.

The shelf rails are 1-in. x 2-in.

The top and bottom rails are 1-in. x 6-in. The bottom rail was ripped so the top edge is flush with the bottom shelf. We added an arch to the top rail by using that thin strip of scrap wood from the table saw and bent it to the shape we wanted and traced the resulting curve. This takes an extra set of hands with one person holding the strip of wood so that it crosses the bottom corners and the other person tracing.

Cutting Trim for DIY Bookshelves

It was hard to see the pencil mark on the wood so we covered the board with painter’s tape and traced the line on that. The tape also protects the face of the board when you cut out the arch. We then cut out the arch using a jig saw. Be sure to touch up any paint scratches and add paint to any newly cut edges, then allow it to dry.

Cutting Trim for DIY Bookshelves

Step 6: Nail It Down

When the paint is dry, it’s time to add the trim using wood glue and a finish nail gun.

First, we added the stiles on either side of the shelf.

DIY Bookshelves

We then added the rails in between the stiles. For the top and bottom rails, we used pocket holes for extra strength. If you don’t have a Kreg Jig, you can toenail (nail at an angle) the rail to the stiles.

Below you see the bottom rail upside-down showing the pocket hole.

DIY Bookshelves

We then added the decorative trim to the top. Then we filled in the nail holes using wood filler and touched up any paint we scratched.


Completed Bookshelf Project

The Home Office Makeover

Once the bookshelves were up, we added baskets and bins to organize magazines, papers and things.

We also built a chalkboard out of plywood (pre-made chalkboards can be found at Home Depot) a little while ago and hung it up with hooks below for containers to hold chalk. Our girls love to come in and draw us funny faces on there.

Home Office Makeover

I love my fiddle leaf fig, from The Home Depot. This plant is low maintenance only needing to be watered every few days (that’s my kind of plant).

DIY Book Shelves in Home Office Makeover

On the other side of the room I hung up an old shutter to use as a letter organizer and to hang quotes and inspirational images, which I’m sure will get covered with my little girl’s art work.

Repurposed Shutter Becomes a Letter Organizer

The Roman shades are also a DIY. All I have to say about them right now is thumb tacks and fabric glue are my friends.

Roman Shades in Home Office Makeover

DIY Bookshelves in a Home Office Makeover

You can see my inspiration board I made to help organize my ideas for the room. Steve and I love how the room and  bookshelves turned out. They are super sturdy and not too complicated to make. Buying bookshelves like the ones we were looking at are expensive, but going the DIY route will definitely save you money and make you feel such pride in your home.

Tracy Laverty lives in the countryside of Maryland with her husband Steve and four daughters. Along with being a full-time domestic goddess she likes to eat chocolate, run (due to previous passion), art history, and DIY projects. Her blog focuses on DIY, making her house a home, and things related to interior design. Stop by and check out her blog at Right Up My Alley.

See other DIY Challenge articles here on The Home Depot Blog, and follow our Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest for more DIY projects. Our Building Materials Department carries plywoodlumber, and just about anything else you need to make your home better.

Tracy received a Home Depot gift card to complete her DIY bookshelves project. The ideas and opinions she expressed are her own.