Build this long, low bookcase in a day and use it as a room divider, to sit under a window or as extra storage on your staircase landing.
I had my local home improvement store cut my ¾” plywood to width to make it easier to carry home – and who wants to dance around with a 4’x8′ sheet of ply on a portable table saw (Danger Will Robinson, danger!)
I started by creating the shelf frame using 1″x2″ boards and pocket screws. You’ll see I built this upside down and on the floor; I made the frame on top of the ¾” plywood shelf to make sure that the top edge of the 1″x2″ would be flush with the top edge of the ply.
This how I actually built it – with the plywood underneath before screwing the frame together.
I added wood glue to the frame and then attached the plywood shelf with finishing nails through the front and back edge of the 1″x2″s.
I repeated this for the second shelf…. then remembered I needed to add pocket holes to either end of the shelves to attach them to the sides (facepalm). Not to worry, still doable (if a tad embarrassing).
The sides of this low bookcase are inset ¾”. I drilled pocket holes on the ‘bad’ side of the plywood – the side that will be the inside of the low bookcase. Before attaching the side to the frame boards, you need to offset the plywood by ¾” from the top of the boards. The frame from the top of your bookshelf will fit in here so it’s important not to forget. These frame boards make up the legs of your low bookcase, so two of them will have an angle cut at the bottom.
Attach your bottom shelf to the sides with glue and pocket screws. Check for square and level.
I had originally planned to have three shelves on my bookcase, but I later (after drilling pocket holes that would have been hidden by said three shelves) decided that they weren’t tall enough and went with two instead – leaving ugly pocket holes showing. Sorry guys, that’s how I roll – mistake, swear, kick something and then pivot.
Ugly holes and all, two shelves was a better plan because it allowed for books and decor items up to 12″ tall. With the shelves spaced at 8″ all I had room for were those small, smutty paperbacks – and I don’t have enough of those to call for an entire bookcase.
I built the top of my low bookcase the same way as the shelves with the base frame first, but the 1″x2″ boards were mitred at the corners to give a nicer finish.
I love how Jen’s plans took into account the expanse of the low bookcase; by including the extra 1″x2″ boards underneath each shelf, she’s all but assured that the shelves won’t sag over time and under weight. Kudos to the goddess of wood!
You could attach your backing at this point and be done if you like. The low bookcase is beautiful with its clean lines, but I decided I wanted to trim my baby out.
I bought trim the same width as my 1″x2″ boards so that it would cover it completely and attached it with wood glue and finishing nails.
A friend told me once that the best way to trim something out (with mitred corners) was to start at one edge and work your way around – don’t pre-cut all the pieces beforehand. This will give you perfect corners with no waste.
To trim out the bottom of the low bookshelf I had to add extra 1″x2″ boards along the bottom of the carcass or else there would have been a gap.
I glued and nailed the board in place and then attached my trim over top.
Isn’t it gorgeous?!
Lot of wood filler (I bought a crappy sheet of ply), but overall a beautiful piece.
I hesitate to recommend staining unless you’ve carefully chosen your wood, ply, trim and backing in the same species so that the stain will absorb evenly and consistently across the project.
I built this low bookcase for the landing on my stairs, so I knew I wanted it white.
Two coats of primer and two of paint and she’s done!
You may be wondering why I didn’t go with a low bookshelf that filled the entire space or looked built-in?
Because we have a fairy living at our house and I couldn’t block her front door:
Actually, my girls are too old for fairies anymore, but I wanted to keep the front door (it’s cut right into the drywall) for memories sake.
The top is large enough that you could create a gorgeous collage of picture frames of friends and family, and don’t even get me started on how pretty this is going to be covered with Christmas decorations.
This is the view as you come up the stairs:
and this is the view as you are coming down:
I actually have a LOT more books to go on my low bookcase, but I wanted a few styled and pretty photos before it was filled up. (Thank you Tara!)
I wonder; if you didn’t put a backing on it and instead either left it open or placed a divider in the middle, if you could have a double-sided low bookshelf which would be pretty as a room divider.
For the measurements, cut list and free building plans, head over to Jen Woodhouse’s “DIY Low Bookcase” post.
Want to see more Jen & Shelly (our Hollywood name is Jelly) projects?
- Wall-mounted plate rack
- Outdoor bench (perfect for Amazon deliveries)
- Pottery Barn inspired wall organizer
- DIY garden gate
- Folding lap desk
- Ping-pong table
- Rustic-industrial side table
- DIY side table/small bookshelf
- DIY upholstered ottoman/footstool
- Pottery Barn inspired nightstand
- Acrylic wall calendar
Have a great one!