Built-In Bookcases

Several people have expressed interest in our bookscases, so I thought I would give some details.

We now have three areas in our house with built-in bookcases. I discovered that it wasn’t really any more expensive and sometimes even less so to get these made out of drywall. (Note: custom bookcases made out of wood are an entirely different, and very expensive, story!) First you need to find a section of wall that would work.


In this picture, you can kind of see from where the plant is at the top that there was a useless niche in a bedroom that wasn’t good for anything. (That space went all the way down to the floor.) We hired an itinerant construction worker/handyman. He bought framing, drywall, sheet rock, joint compound, and paint. It took a few hours a day for a week (because he would leave portions to dry and come back the next day). We left the top without shelves because no one could reach anything up there and because then I could put a silk plant up there so I would have yet something else to dust. With labor and parts it came to around $250, with most of the expense being for labor. That was a little high, but I thought in this case it was justified because we could not have found a bookcase with the same dimensions as that oddly-shaped space, and it was just being wasted. Notice too how seamless it looks, i.e., as if the shelving had always been part of the wall.

This next photo shows you another useless (to us) niche, now devoted to big reference books along with a seating area so we can sit and peruse the books, although some of them are currently residing on the couch! (I found the “tapestry” rug at an airport gift shop and I ordered the cushion online from a place where you can specify the exact color and dimensions of any cushion you want.)


Finally, many of you have already seen pictures showing the shelves in our hallway, which was previously just a total waste of space (and still is, except for the bookshelves!). Since this photo was taken, I also added two glass shelves inside the larger drywall shelves to make yet more space for books! (You can see how the glass shelves look because there are two in the bottom middle section of this picture.) It’s a nice inexpensive way to break up the look a bit. We used a glass dealer but you can also get pieces cut for you to your specifications at Home Depot or Lowe’s.


None of this was as expensive as it looks like it might have been. And it looks better than the higgledy-piggledy collection of ersatz wood shelves we have collected over the years.

The key is finding the handymanperson! I found the one we used by asking a neighbor. But local newspapers and/or Craig’s List should also carry classifieds for handy people.


About rhapsodyinbooks

We're into reading, politics, and intellectual exchanges.
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84 Responses to Built-In Bookcases

  1. Sandy says:

    I am in total envy of all those bookshelves. And what a great idea! Most of the free-standing ones are crappy looking, unless you spend serious cash.

    Your giveaway are excellent ones! I loved Testimony and Never Let Me Go. I would, however, like to throw my name in the hat for The Gargoyle. I avoided it for awhile, becuase EW said it was one of the worst books of 2008, but so many people liked it, I think I have to read it! Thank you!!! rnawrot at cfl dot rr dot com

  2. Angela says:

    I love those bookshelves!!! When we find a house that we know we will be staying in (at least for a significant period of time) I really would love to do something like that. We have boxes of books we never got unpacked in this apartment because we don’t have the shelf space.

  3. Julie P. says:

    Don’t enter me, but I wanted to stop by and tell you that the shelves are beautiful!

  4. Jenny says:

    Loooove the bookshelves. I’d like to be entered for The Gargoyle & Testimony – bastet57 (at) gmail (dot) com.

  5. I love your shelves. They look like frames surrounding pricless art or ,in your case, other special treasures. (Don’t enter me in the contest. I need to clean out too.)

  6. Steph says:

    I have too many books as it is to enter your giveaway, but I wanted to simply let you know that I love your shelving concept and think it’s both striking and clever. It really makes everything look so streamlined and lovely – should we ever own a home someday (as opposed to renting), I will certainly keep this idea in mind!

  7. bermudaonion says:

    I am totally jealous of your bookshelves. Please enter me for Feather Man.

  8. caite says:

    No entry for me either, but I to just wanted to say I love those bookcases too. I have an odd shaped niche that I need a bookcase for, but since I am going to build it myself, it is not done yet…lol

  9. pearl says:

    Your bookshelves are lovely. Feather man would be wonderfuf to read. Thanks for this giveaway.

  10. Lisa says:

    I’m hyperventilating a little bit with love for those bookshelves!

    Never Let Me Go has been on my wish list for a while so please enter me for that one. Thanks!

  11. Jonnie H says:

    Your shelves are beautiful! I would like to be entered for Testimony and Never Let Me Go please.

  12. Tina says:

    oooooo……the hallway idea has my fingers twitching to call the carpenter. 22 more feet of shelves….hmmmm.

    Great post and gorgeous shelves. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.

    And now, like I need more books, please enter me for any of those…I’ve not yet read any of them and welcome the opportunity.


  13. Darlene says:

    Don’t enter me for the giveaway. I just wanted to say that those bookshelves are just amazing! I’m so envious. I especially like the idea of bookshelves lining the hallway-great idea.

  14. Such gorgeous bookshelves! I’d love to do that someday. You must be so pleased every time you walk by them. I certainly would be!

    I would love a chance to win your copy of Testimony. I’ve been really interested in that for a long time now (relatively speaking, of course). 🙂

  15. Joanne says:

    Those are really great bookshelves! Would love a chance to win The Gargoyle. Thank you for the great opportunity!

  16. Megan says:

    Your bookshelves absolutely make me drool, Jill! They’re so gorgeous. I always admire them in your avatar, and now? Loving the full shots!

    I’d love to be entered for The Gargoyle and Never Let Me Go, if I I can be so greedy! I’ve looked at both before but haven’t gotten them yet!

    Thanks so much 🙂

    writing.meg [at] gmail.com

  17. Janel says:

    I love your shelves, but I don’t think my hubby would be pleased about cutting into all of our plaster walls. They tend to crack and chip, unlike drywall.

    Anyway, I’d love to be entered for Feather Man. Thanks!


  18. Nicole says:

    Your shelves are gorgeous and from what I can see your home is lovely. I need to get on some new shelves right away. Everyone is putting my stacks to shame.

  19. Kat Bryan says:

    Your bookcases are really nice. I have 2 where windows going to what is now a porch were closed in and shelves made. I could use a couple more, too.

    I read Testimony and it was intrigueing. Please enter me for The Gargoyle or Feather Man .

    winterset AT peoplepc.com

  20. gwendolyn b. says:

    Those bookcases ARE absolutely gorgeous!

    I would like to read THE FEATHER MAN. I’ve heard it’s not an easy book, but I’m up for it. Thanks for the chance!

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  21. KyleeJ says:

    The Gargoyle would be my top pick!

    kylee.journal AT gmail.com

  22. gwendolyn b. says:

    Here’s my Tweet: http://twitter.com/ASeaOfBooks/status/4662165217

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  23. Kate says:

    I love your bookcases. I am in such awe of them.

    I would love to be entered for The Gargoyle and Testimony.

  24. Kate says:


  25. Wow I’m so jealous of your shelving. I live in my parents house, and they would NEVER let me do something like this. I barely have room for the books I have now. Luckily we may be moving in with a friend that has a HUGE bedroom for us. I’ll have tons of room for all my books.

    I’d love Never Let Me Go & The Gargoyle!

    I tweeted about this giveaway – http://twitter.com/jennilovevirgo/status/4662290573



  26. Your shelving idea is absolutely brilliant! We have some useless corners, so I’m going to keep this post up to show the huz. As to books, I’d like to read Feather Man.

    bookfoolery at yahoo dot com

  27. I twittered about this giveaway. I tweet as “Bookfoolery”. I think you know me. 😉

    bookfoolery at yahoo dot com

  28. diane says:

    What fabulous bookshelves. Wish I had those. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Carey says:

    What fantastic shelves! Your idea is such a good one, they look great! I agree with you about the double-shelving but sometimes it is that or the floor.

    I would love to be entered for Never Let Me Go & Feather Man.


    thetometraveller *at* yahoo (dot) com

  30. Belle says:

    I am in absolute awe of your ability to find a construction/handyman to do such beautiful drywall work for you! Your bookshelves are gorgeous, and I love the little reading nook.

    I wish you lived close by – you could give me his name. We have SO much drywall still left to do as a result of an ambitious renovation we started nearly ten years ago. The house is so dusty all the time because we have drywall that hasn’t been mudded yet, and parts of the framing still uncovered, and, and, and …

  31. GMR says:

    Alrighty…first of all let me catch my breath from the wondrous bookcases! (LOVE THEM! WANT THEM FOR MY OWN!) Ahh….that’s better. =0)
    Alas, I don’t have that much free wall space thanks to an open floor plan…lucky you!

    Out of the books shown, I would like to enter for The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, please!

    Off to earn some extra entries (happily of course!)….


  32. GMR says:

    +1 – tweeting! (@GRgenius)
    Tweet link: http://twitter.com/GRgenius/status/4662582646

  33. GMR says:

    +1 – adding to blog sidebar!

    Thanks again for the great contest!


  34. Melanie says:

    When I buy my own house, I’ll definitely keep this in mind! I love ’em! Out of the books shown, I would love The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.


  35. Eva says:

    I loved seeing the pictures! And those bookcases look awesome! 🙂

  36. lisamm says:

    I’m not entering the contest but I just wanted to tell you that I have major book shelf envy right now!!!! I have no place to put my books- they have overflowed the few shelves I have and are in stacks on my dresser, counter, and mantel.

  37. Rita K says:

    Love the photos of your shelves! I am going to make Mike do new shelves for me – as we have to leave ours. He will probably just build in Ikea shelves again like he did in the basement.

  38. karen k says:

    I LOVE your bookshelves…LOVE THEM!!
    Please add my name to “FeatherMan” Thanks.

    karen k

  39. Alyce says:

    Your bookshelves are awesome! I know that my husband and I would love to have built-in bookshelves in our house, but our house is just too small for that right now. We’re planning to do something like your shelves in our next house though (when we move – probably a few years from now). No need to enter me in the giveaway.

  40. Bumbles says:

    You know, when we had an addition built on our house a few years ago my original design called for Andy and his boss to create built in shelves along a wall in our living room to house our fish tank and books. That never actually got built. And I’m glad it didn’t because otherwise the big chair I like to read in would not have had a spot to fit into the room! But when we get around to completing some renovations elsewhere I will get those built-ins come hell or high water! Your post shows how simple it can be and the reward it provides.

    Unitl then, please enter me in your drawing for the Ishiguro title. I’ve heard wonderful things about that author.

  41. Pingback: West Of Mars — Win A Book! » Blog Archive » A New Shelf to Raid

  42. No need to enter me, guys. I’m dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I’ve got this posted at Win a Book for you.

  43. Teresa W. says:

    I’d like to be included for The Gargoyle! tWarner419@aol.com

  44. Jessica says:

    Books, bookshelves the way to a girls heart. So awesome and all four books are great so I’ll just put in order preferred but really any would be fantastic.

    The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson – paperback advanced copy
    Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro – paperback
    Testimony – Anita Shreve – paperback
    Feather Man – Rhyll McMaster – paperack


  45. Mark says:

    Yes, I would be interested in The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson. Thanks and love the bookshelves. Green with envy!

  46. Gina says:

    I LOVE your bookcases and am very jealous! Please put my name in the hat for The Gargoyle. I have a Mt. TBR also but this one is on my wish list 😉

    bookdragonslair at gmail dot com

  47. Jenners says:

    First of all, the phrase “itinerant construction worker/handyman” (in my mind) equate to “serial killer.”

    Second, I need to identify areas of wasted space and convince my husband to learn how to drywall. I have no problem finding this space … it is just convincing HIM that it is wasted.

    Thanks for sharing the story behind these awesome shelves!!!

  48. I would LOVE to win Never Let Me Go!


    I’m tweeting about this!

  49. etirv says:

    I would like to be entered for Feather Man and The Gargoyle, thanks!

  50. Stephanie says:

    I am interested in Never Let Me Go-it’s pretty high on my wishlist but I’ve never gotten around to buying it.


  51. Aarti says:

    I don’t need to be entered in the giveaway, but your bookshelves are fabulous! What a great way to use dead space in your home- it really adds a homey feel, and a lot of color, too. Good work 🙂

    And I’m glad you enjoyed the uncomfortable literary summaries. I’m not clever enough to think of many by myself, either, but I enjoy other peoples’ wit!

  52. Haley says:

    I would love to win one the gargoyle! enter me plz

    +1 i tweeted at twitter.com/haleymathiot

    +1 posted at http://haleymathiot.blogspot.com/2009/10/contests.html

    haleymathiot at yahoo dot com

  53. amandasue says:

    I’d love a chance to read “Never let me go” Thanks! And I LOVE your bookshelves there really neat!

  54. softdrink says:

    I live with a contractor, and one year he offered to make me bookshelves for my birthday. Did it ever happen? Nooooooooo.

    I’ll volunteer to give Never Let Me Go a good home. And I’ve got space on a bookshelf!


  55. Ti says:

    I would love to give Never Let Me Go or The Gargoyle a home.

    What I love most about the shelves is that they are staggered. It would be too much if they all lined up. I think they are awesome and it’s so wise to use dead space like that. I have a lot of nooks in my home that could be made over too.


  56. Pam R. says:

    Love the bookshelves! They look awesome!

    I would love to be entered for The Gargoyle and Never Let Me Go please. Thanks!

    melacan at hotmail dot com

  57. Trish says:

    No need to enter me in the drawing, but I wanted to say again that I LOVE these shelves. Such a clever use of space and so clean looking (I have bookshelves and they are double stacked, so I’m drooling over yours).

  58. Elaine R says:

    I’d like to be entered to win Never Let Me Go, Testimony or Featherman. I have already read the Gargoyle book.

  59. I’d love to win ANY of these!

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

  60. Jennifer says:

    I am in love with those bookshelves. In love.

    I would like to win Testimony by Anita Shreve.

    jennsicurella at verizon dot net

  61. Marie says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I LOVE your bookshelves! No need to enter me- I have all the books I can handle for the moment! 🙂

  62. Ali says:

    Good job with the bookshelves! Now, let me go wander through my house in search of usable wall space…. (no new books allowed, here, so don’t enter me for the contest–but, thank you!)

  63. Great bookshelves…those are gorgeous. No need to enter me in the giveaway.

  64. Those are really beautiful bookshelves. Thanks so much for sharing!

  65. Sarah Emmerson says:

    Please enter me in the giveaway for Never Let Me Go. Thanks!

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  66. Michele says:

    The shelves are stunning, m’dear! I love them!

  67. Lisette says:

    I would love to enter for Gargoyle and Featherman. 😀

  68. Lisette says:

    Put it on my sidebar 🙂

  69. Robyn says:

    Love your book shelves! I would like to win Testimony or The Gargoyle. Thanks!

  70. Carrie K. says:

    Oh, I’m so drooling over your shelves!

    I’d love to win Never Let Me Go. Thanks for the giveaway. 🙂

    nnjmom at yahoo dot com

  71. Carrie K. says:

    I blogged about your giveaway here:


    Thanks again!
    nnjmom at yahoo dot com

  72. Pingback: Shelf Cleaning - Winner’s Choice of Book Giveaway - Ends - 10-29-2009

  73. Trisha says:

    I have to agree with Jenners when she says that “the phrase “itinerant construction worker/handyman” (in my mind) equate to “serial killer.” I think I’ve been watching too much Criminal Minds lately. 🙂 I do so adore your bookshelves though.

    I’d like to be entered to win any of the books; they all look interesting to me.

    + eclectic.eccentric@hotmail.com
    +1 Twitter

  74. Kristi says:

    Beautiful bookshelves – very jeolous!!! I would love to be entered to win Feather Man or The Gargoyle.

    kherbrand at comcast dot net

  75. Tara says:

    Cool bookshelves! Thanks for showing them. ( I am not entering the giveaway.)

  76. Wow, those bookshelves are gorgeous! Please enter me for either Never Let Me Go or Feather Man. Thanks for this giveaway!


  77. Elizabeth says:

    I would love to win The Gargoyle!


  78. Sarah Emmerson says:


    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  79. Benita G. says:

    Your shelves are absolutely fabulous.

    Please enter me for Feather Man and Testimony.

    Many thanks.


  80. I built this bench a little while ago, I couldn’t find untreated 4×4’s so I glued 2×4’s together and planed them down a little, then adjusted the stretcher lengths to suit.

  81. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » Bookish links for Saturday, October 10, 2009

  82. Pingback: If I Was A Hoarder… | Life … With Books

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