I love the look of a custom built-in. What really separates a free standing bookshelf from a custom bookshelf to me is the trim work and moulding that is added. We have done a few DIY home projects and this is one of my favorite to date.
This DIY built in shelving project was one that we added in our playroom to maximize storage space for toys and board games. Check out the straightforward process!
DIY Built in Shelving for a Playroom
When we purchased this house, the room off of the living room had media shelving along one wall.
This is the room that we use for our playroom, and with the shelving being only about 9 inches deep, baskets and board games hung over. I wanted this space to really fit everything and also be fully accessible for the kids – so we built exactly what we needed!
When researching this project I had initially decided upon doing an Ikea hack built in where you place the Ikea bookshelves along the wall and trim them up. This sounded like the easiest option, but after further consideration I wanted extra deep shelves that Ikea bookcases didn’t allow.
In making a custom build, I was able to measure our deepest board game and our tallest toy, and build shelves that would exactly fit those items. This made me SO happy 🙂
Planning the DIY Built in Shelving
When planning the space that you want to fit the shelving into, take basic measurements such as width, height and depth. Then, start sketching!
Putting a pencil to paper is still my favorite way to plan a project like this. I wanted the shelves in certain spots to fit exactly what we needed, so my bottom shelves have more space between them than my top shelves.
For us, the bottom shelves have baskets of toys and large toy towers, and the top shelves contain stacks of board games.
When planning, consider the style of trim that you like, including baseboard and crown moulding for the top of your built in shelving. Trust me, these will be what really make these look spectacular.
What you need to make the built in shelving
- MDF boards (Home Depot will rip these to the lengths that you need)
- Nail gun
- Miter Saw
- Table or Circular Saw
- edge tape
- Plastic wood
Framing the built-in shelving
For this project, we kept the back wall open so anchored the side walls of the bookcase to the back wall with brackets.
In order to frame the bottom of the bookcase, float the bottom shelf up a few inches so that you can add baseboard in the front of the bottom shelf, making it look custom.
We chose to encase the top of the shelving with a box, so didn’t place a top on the unit, instead went all the way up to the ceiling with the side walls.
Add the shelving to the built ins
Rather than adding pocket holes and floating the shelving, we went with an easier option by placing 1″x1″ square dowel rods as brackets for each shelf.
Cut the dowels to the depth of the unit with the miter saw. Cut two per shelf you are adding.
Measure the height of each shelf, and using your level and nail gun, attach a dowel to the inside of each wall board where the shelf will be placed.
Cut the MDF plank to the width that you need for each shelf, then place the shelf on the dowel brackets.
Continue adding dowel brackets and shelves.
To make a box like we did on our shelving, place a board across the top of the unit, and then a board on each side of the unit. Ue the nail gun to secure all of this into place.
You should now have a basic bookcase frame with shelving and a box around the top!
Add the finishing touches
This is where the moulding and the trim work comes in and really makes the project pop.
Add baseboard to the bottom of the cabinet, wrapping around the sides but cutting the edges with a miter saw at a 45 degree angle.
Add moulding to the sides of the bookcase, we chose a thick reed moulding that has a nice look to it.
Add crown moulding around the top of the built in wrapping around the sides as well.
Use edge tape on any exposed shelving fronts by ironing on to the wood according to the directions, this is such a great hack that allows you to use particle board for this project.
Once all of the wood is nailed on, use caulk on any seams where the wood meets the wall, and use plastic wood filler to fill in any nail holes or patch up seams where moulding meets each other.
I added some peel and stick shiplap wallpaper to the exterior walls of this project to give it a little extra pizzaz.
Ta-Da! Your built ins should be complete!
We opted to add a little window seat in between the two built ins, my kids love this space to read!
Psst, check out that DIY Wall Sconce for under $10!
Have any questions about making your DIY built in shelving?
I wish I had taken more detailed process photos of the step by step of this project, but I wanted to give you a general idea of how to build these!
If you have any questions at all, leave me a comment here or DM me on Instagram and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!
Like this? Check out the DIY Built-ins from stock cabinets that we did in our living room around the fireplace too!