Friday, November 15, 2013

Build your own Pottery Barn Bookshelf

As we get closer to the holidays and more importantly, time off from work, I start itching to make things. Cookies, knitted scarves, giant foam reindeer for my front lawn (thanks a lot, Pinterest)! And so, we take a break from our regularly scheduled food posts to talk about my other true love (besides Doritos and Little Man), DIY'ing! The only problem is, I like to think of myself as an optimistic creative. That means I'm generally unconcerned about (and terrible with) silly things like measuring and making sure things will actually hold together. I'm convinced that with enough glitter, hot glue, and good cheer, things will always work out. Except when they don't. That's why, I've gotten smart about my crafting. I've roped in an apprentice who is psychotic about things like measuring and cleaning up. Enter, the Hubster.

As we enter another holiday (read crafting) season, I think it's the perfect opportunity to share something we made last year. See, I saw this bookshelf on Pottery Barn's website and knew Little Man had to have it. I mean, how was he going to learn how to read and develop a lifelong love of books if he didn't have a $150 bookshelf? But something about those curved sides bothered me almost as much as the fact that they insisted on calling the darn thing a magazine rack when it was so clearly a bookshelf (it's even holding books in the darn picture)! Plus, it felt a little on the small side, especially since I totally intended on there being at least one giant Where's Waldo book on that shelf. So I told the Hubster we were going to make one. He took one look at the vague bookshelf tutorials littering the internet and said he'd rather give me $250 so we could be done with it. Apparently, $150 was for the bookshelf and $100 was so I could get over being bothered by the curved sides. And as tempted as I was to take his $250 and run, I knew those curved sides would haunt me forever.

So I convinced him we'd make a bookshelf. For Little Man. For the love of reading. And for a slightly neurotic woman who likes straight lines. Plus, the concept seemed rather simple. Build a squarish frame. Put a back on it. Put some shelves in. Screw in some dowels to hold the books in and TADA! Except well, not so much. A project like this requires a LOT of measuring. Apparently, the shelves have to be slightly smaller than the inside of the frame so the actually fit. Same with the dowels. Oh, and you can't just screw in the dowels because they split? Plus you gotta sand things? What the?!? But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

One fine Saturday morning, we found ourselves at our local Lowe's. There, the fine gentleman helped us pick out pieces of wood (and cut them all to size, thanks fine gentleman!), all the screw doodads, and most importantly, the stain, because when you make your own things, you get to pick your own colors. And I love color. But this isn't a post about color. It's a post about building a bookshelf to mount on the wall so you can decorate your child's room (or your room!) with books. It's also awesome when they stand in front of the bookshelf and tell you what book they want to read. It totally makes up for the fact that you almost drilled a screw into your hand. Totally.

So we bring home all our bookshelf things, spread them all out on the floor of our living room, realize we got the wrong kind of screws, go back to get the right kind of screws, come home, remember that we were also supposed to get wall mounting gear, go back. Well, you get the point. Don't be like us. Make a list for god's sake. But anyhow, once we got all the gear, it was staining time. Now if you've never stained light wood to a dark color, take it from me. It requires a LOT of stain. And a LOT of patience for the stain to dry. By the end, you will look like someone dipped random parts of you in stain. Heck, there was stain in my hair. In hindsight, I should have just agreed to a natural wood-colored bookshelf. Or even a brightly painted one. But I really like the rich, dark color of stain. And well, remember the curved sides? So yeah, just accept upfront that staining the darn pieces will take a while.

Once all the wooden pieces are stained, I recommend laying them out and fake building the bookshelf so you can make sure all the wonky pieces (i.e., the pieces with your fingerprints because you zero patience watching stain dry) are facing inward or on the bottom. Then, you build the outside perimeter of the bookshelf. And yes, you need an accomplice because you cannot do this part alone. Don't try it. You may end up almost screwing a screw in your hand. Not that I would know.

Next, you'll screw in the shelves. If the shelves don't slide in with gentle pressure, you will need to sand the sides until they do. Do yourself a favor. Invest in a crappy electric sander because even the crappiest electric sander is better than having to sand the pieces manually. And no amount of moisture can save manual sanding hands. Once your shelves are screwed in, it's dowel time. Dowels, unlike shelves, cannot be screwed in with reckless abandon. Something about the dowels being too narrow and the wood splitting, blah, blah, blah. So yeah, you basically need to drill a screw in slowly and carefully until the dowel is attached to the sides. If the dowel looks bowed, just twist it gently until it straightens out. Finally, you'll screw on the back. You may find that even after all your meticulous measuring (or honestly, someone else's meticulous measuring), the back is slightly too big or too small. That's okay. No one will ever notice once it's on the wall. And if they do, feel free to remark, "Really? Are you sure? When was the last time you got new glasses?"

So there you have it. One fancy shmancy Pottery Barn knock-off bookshelf (which is definitely not a magazine rack). Gorgeous straight sides with nary a curve in sight (though really, if crown moulding and curved sides tickle your fancy, you can totally find and use those pieces in the wood aisle of your local Home Depot or Lowes). Also, feel free to alter the size of the shelf to fit your wall space. I'm currently contemplating a giant bookshelf that will basically cover the entire wall of Little Man's play area (but don't tell the Hubster because I think this might kill him). Mount your gorgeous shelf on the wall, fill 'er with Curious George and the Berenstein Bears, and pat yourself on the back every time you walk by. Oh, and start pinning pictures of your next craft project because holiday days off are just 'round the corner. Happy crafting, y'all!


  1. I love it. We don't do many DIY projects because, well, the power screwdriver is not our friend. But, I love the books that are on your shelves. We spent years reading many of them to Dudette. In fact, that One Fish Two Fish was the only book we took over to Armenia with us when we finalized the adoption. That one's in her hope chest. :)

  2. Oh. My. GOSH. You not only can make amazing dishes you're handy with a saw and paint and stuff?! That is so impressive and professional. But no, I will not dare touch trying this because I have difficulty using a screw driver-- shall just enjoy your bookshelf vicariously through your pictures :) If you ever get a lot more books I recommend this: We have it because I have collected far too many books than any one child should have [left overs from my days as a teacher] and it works well.

  3. Oh wow .. I always wanted to make a shelf like this at home.. Great tutorial !! very inspiring :)

  4. Awesome Book shelf!! I Admire your patience too.. I love DIY projects. Have never attempted anything as huge as this one of course. Doubt whether my hubby dearest will give in to this wish.. Probably just like yours, hand me over the money or order it online !!!!

  5. This is great! Those shelves are so expensive at PBK, and I know you get so much more satisfaction from making it at home. I can't wait to give this a try for Lucy's room!

  6. That is sooooo neat and beautiful. DIY projects are the best. I agree, holidays just gives us so much more enthusiasm and time to get creative and busy with a lot of stuff.
    Those books are so cute, I remember reading Curious George and Cat in the hat a million times to my little one, I miss those days.
    Enjoy your holidays and honestly that is a absolute neat job.

  7. you are creative wish to have something like that on my study room

  8. I bow to you, girl. Never in my dreams would I think of building my own bookshelf. Maybe my own bar, because you know, priorities. I kid, I kid. Awesome job Azmina! Really impressive.

  9. This looks so great! I personally am a fan of the simpler lines of yours compared to the PB Kids one, and it looks a lot easier to access books from yours as well. And yeah--stain gets EVERYWHERE (my husband stained a bunch of older solid-wood side tables to turn into a wine rack/bar and there are still stains on our balcony outside).

    Your DIY board is making me want to go to IKEA now and hack all of the things, even though it's completely impractical with the cold weather.

  10. Very cool and creative, easy to make and very useful, thanks!


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