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DIY: The Bookshelf

I found the perfect bookcase. It's floor to ceiling, beautiful auburn wood, metal sides, simple... gorgeous. The only problem? It's $1,298.

Anthropologie Kalmar Ten-Tier Shelf

I just bought my first house, and I have an ever-growing list of things I need/want, and $1,300 is a lot to blow in one place. So, I came up with an alternative solution. I made my own.

Now I must warn you, I didn't mount my bookshelf to the wall. If you have small children running around, that's something to consider. I wanted a five-shelf bookshelf, but you could always do a shorter one if you want. This design is totally customizable, which is part of why it's perfect for me. As we continue to move in, I can put half of it in one room, half in another, have one side low, the other high -- whatever works. My design is also drastically different from the Anthropologie shelf above. I went for a more rustic vibe.

So I started with wood. You're going to need a handful of 2x4's. My wall is 10 feet long and I found 2x4's that are 8 feet long. However, I drive a tiny little Honda and would not be able to fit 8 foot boards in it, so I had them cut in half. Anyone at Home Depot (or similar hardware store) can help you cut them. I also wanted them halved so I could have more customization options.

I've outlined what to get at the store below, but the most important ingredient is obviously the boards themselves. I spent a lot of time doing this, sorting through the entire stack, to get the best ones. Then take them to the saw area and someone can cut them in half for you. The guy who helped me said that they never have perfectly measured 8 feet boards to begin with, so cutting them in half will leave some an inch or so longer. That can be incredibly frustrating when you're trying to assemble the shelves, so I recommend having them cut the same length.

Here's what you should get at the hardware store:

1. Purchase materials

What to buy:

Wooden Boards

  • For a five-shelf bookshelf on a 10 foot wall, I bought 20 2x4's for $3.68 each. (the photo above shows half the shelf)

Wood Stain

  • I have a variety of woods in my living room already, so I picked a wood that doesn't match completely but will complement the browns I currently have. Mine was Cherry.

Cinder blocks

  • I chose the smaller cinder blocks, but feel free to get bigger ones if you so choose.

Between the cinder blocks, the wood stain, and the boards, I ended up spending about $60 at Home Depot. Not too shabby, considering my love affair with this concept began with an item nearly 20 times that much.

2. Stain the boards

Take your boards home and stain them. I laid down newspaper and stained mine on the back porch. It only took one coat of stain for me, but feel free to do two or three to get the desired effect. I warn you now, this is a rustic design. The stain won't come out perfectly identical on each board. I like the imperfections and being able to see the grain of the wood. My boards also had writing stamped on them, and that shows through a tiny bit. I figure the tops won't be seen much, since they'll be covered by books, but if this isn't your style, I recommend spray paint. Spray paint is fun because you can do ANY COLOR and even mix colors! Super fun.

3. Clear your wall and lay down cinder blocks

I got enough cinder blocks to do three blocks on each level, so I put down three to span the length of the wall where the bookshelves will go.

4. Place boards on cinder blocks.

5. Build up to desired height.

I left off the two top shelves on one side so we could put the TV there, which allowed me to use the remaining four boards for a little shelf in my bedroom. While I still love the original concept I found, I like this shelving option because it's easy to put together, it's a cool rustic-chic design, and is a simple concept very few people use in their homes so it gives my living space something pretty unique.


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