How to build a half wall bookcase

July 13, 2015

Learn how to add a built in bookcase on a half wall. 

We have this corner in the living room near our front door with a half wall into the foyer. I've place a few things there throughout the years, trying to make them work. First a chair, then a desk with a chair, then a tall bookcase

All looked pretty in that spot -- I've just had a dream for that area for awhile that I knew would work even better: 
square molding on walls

I've had this photo saved for some time to use as my inspiration: 
half wall with bookcases

Swoony. I don't think that's a word. Whatever. 

When I highlighted Bre from Rooms for Rent a few months ago I loved her half wall with the bookcase as well: 
half wall with built ins

So three guesses as to what I decided to do. ;) 

Duh, built ins. I laugh sometimes because when we move someday we'll have no furniture. I'd build in ALL THE THINGS if I could. All of them. 

The first thing I did was take the box molding off the walls so I could get the bookcase flush: 

Taking out our baseboards is a total pain in the butt, especially after we had the hardwoods installed, so I was determined to not remove those, and I've succeeded. ;)

OK, so as a disclaimer -- I don't do things the way a professional carpenter would do them. I wish I had the skills and the tools and mainly the patience to do that, but I don't. The way I do things work out beautifully in the end so I don't worry about that. My goal is always to show you that things can be done even if you don't do them perfectly.  

Part of the joy I find in doing DIY projects is figuring out things along the way -- it's always a puzzle to me and I LOVE when I hit an obstacle and need to figure out a way around it. Like not removing the baseboards -- that worked to my advantage. 

I took my measurements and got a few 1x12 boards in basic pine. I built a box in the size I needed -- I don't make mitered cuts on the boards, I just put them flush and use screws to build the box: 
building a bookcase

All those screws will be hidden, so no worries. I added the middle shelf and then put it in place to start figuring out the height I needed to add to the bottom to make it flush at the top:

built in bookcase half wall
This is where the baseboards came into play. I used those as the height I was going to raise it up for two reasons -- I could set the bookcase right on top of them for a little added support and I didn't have to remove them. Also, I wanted to make sure the bookcase was the exact height as the base (as much as possible) so I could wrap baseboards around the bookcase and they would match up. 

The next step, after I was sure of the height, was to add supports under the shelves -- I just used scrap wood: 
half wall bookcase

The holes will be filled and after they are all painted you don't even notice the supports, but you'll want them for support: 
DIY bookcase

That's another part I love about figuring it out as I go -- I love using up the scrap wood in the garage. It's also why I never throw any away. :) 

I installed the supports into studs and then pushed the bookcase up against the wall and secured them with screws from the top too. I make sure my screws sink so they can be filled in the areas I'll be painting. 

The bookcase is supported by the baseboards a bit on the back, but of course you need more than that. I cut pieces of wood to the height I needed then tapped them underneath and secured them to the bottom shelf: 

I did that a long the back too, but then attached those pieces into the baseboard. Since our base is industrial strength (the reason I hate taking it out), it is totally secure. 

One thing to note -- always make sure to use a drill bit to put a hole in your wood before screws. Most times if you just start screwing into the wood it will split. I predrill where every single screw will go. 

Here's an idea of how it looks from the side -- you can see all my screws that secure the pieces together: 

Remember, this will all be hidden. Again, a carpenter would use much more beautiful methods of putting this together, but I knew I wanted to make that all look like one wall anyway, so I knew it would all be covered. 

That's where I leave you today -- can't wait to show you the rest! I love how the end of it came together! The half wall and the bookcase look like one big piece and that was my goal. 

The top of the half wall is gone and replaced with one larger piece -- I absolutely love how it's come together and I can't wait to show you! Just have a bit more to do. 

I absolutely love adding elements like this to our home for so many reasons. It adds to the character for sure and you know I love that. And it really makes what was an awkward space so much more useful. Yes, our "library" built ins are not far away but we always need more space for books, and I can't wait to accessorize this too! 

And bottom line, I just love adding areas like this that add some interest to our house. Do you have half walls like this in your home? Years ago I considered just taking it down but I do love the little separation it gives us so we have an actual foyer. 

If you have any questions please let me know! I'll answer them here or I can add more detail in the next post. 

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  1. I big giant LOVE this! It's going to look awesome! We are in the middle of building a built in bookshelf/cabinet in our living room. Built ins are a beast to build and paint, aren't they?! But, man, so worth it in the end! Your finished living room built in inspires me to keep on painting. ;) Can't wait to see your half wall bookshelf reveal!

  2. I have a similar project that will be my next after the kid's bathroom is done (and they go to school). I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to do it right now, so I can't wait to see how you finish it!

  3. Katy | kelfleindesign.comJuly 13, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    I can't wait to see the finished built-in! I too love built-ins and am counting down the days until I can build some in my own house. I know exactly where they'll go; just gotta convince my husband!

  4. I absolutely love that..the fact that you're not a professional and still take on these projects inspires me. I start thinking it thru and then can't put all the pieces together and then quite before I even get started..I like how you refer to it as a puzzle. That helps me...because you kinda figure it out as you go. And it works. That's neat.

  5. OMG I cannot wait to see how it turns out. I love everything you do, not in a creepy way, lol. Just you are my blog mentor from afar!

  6. I love built ins because they remind me of the character of older homes. Can't beat it. The only thing I hate is that they create more areas to dust! Can't help myself, when I think of something I will decorate with, I also think of how much work it will cost as well. I love my office/craftroom shelves, but I hate to dust them. I love the molding put up around the room and in the bathroom, but I hate to dust that, too. Ah well. Even beauty in décor takes work, ha! Can't wait to see the finished project!

  7. Can't wait to see this project finished - love built-in's as well!

  8. As I read this, the carpenters are building our new shelves in the great room. I've been planning them for four years. If I had your amazing skills, I would be building my own. You go, girl!

  9. I can't wait to see how this turns out! I know that when my husband and I build our home, built-in's are a must, they just give a home so much character :)

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  10. Good for you for working in the summer! I'm such a slug at this time of year and I have finally come to terms with it. This year I planned on keeping my expectations low, and wouldn't you know it, I painted my dining room and added new window trim. Now I'm good for the next two months:)

  11. Don't you love it when our pets jump in to help?

  12. Love the new bookcase and cat decor!

  13. It's going to be great! Stop making me want a half wall bookcase!

  14. Oh yes ma'am, this is going to look amazing!! you are so talented to figure it all out on your own!!! I'd barely be able to sketch it for a pro!


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