Tyler built a living room bookshelf


This post is all about how to make a Living Room Bookshelf using reclaimed materials.

living room bookshelf

Published February 6, 2022
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In November 2019, we boxed up all our books and moved to a different house. When I say we “boxed them up”, I mean we had a dozen boxes of books. No lie. We, as a family, legit love to read. It was shocking, once they were on the shelves, at the sheer number of books we own that are not kids’ books. Because the kids’ books are in their own rooms.

Since we moved, a great majority of our books have been left in boxes, sad in the basement. Before we moved, we staged the house and had to minimize the number of books on display. It was beyond weird looking at those shelves not bursting with literature. As this was a 90’s style house, there were no actual living room bookshelf.

At our old house, we had found these built-in cabinets at our local Habitat Restore. The Restore is a local remodeling second-hand store that gets building materials from businesses that have overage from projects, or homeowners who remove cabinets and such. You can find couches, sinks, appliances, rugs, paint and more at the Restore. Tyler did have to cut them down as they were about two-to-three feet deep.

We only needed them to be eighteen inches or so deep, so that was a few days project modifying them to be perfect. As they were braced to the wall, we decided to leave them with the house and use it as a selling point for the house. I loved these bookshelves and am always on the lookout for a similar deal.

old living room

Planning our Living Room Bookshelf

When dreaming of what our living room bookshelf will look like, Tyler and I drew out and imagined many scenarios of what we would love to have on our walls. Should Tyler make built-ins? Do we have cabinets on the bottom or no cabinets? The options were actually endless.

living room plan

The first step was to get rid of the greige walls. I finally got the ok to paint! Mind you, we were in isolation suffering from the plague, but we got to paint! I was so ecstatic when we finally decided on a color choice. One that will complement the bold color choices in the kitchen, and still be subtle enough to not be just white.

We did not want white walls. We wanted something with a hint of color that feels warm and inviting, while still being light enough for the large space.

living room

Painting the ceiling

On the ceiling we went with a flat ceiling white. No big show of color or boldness there. And let me tell you, the flat helps to cover up the swish of the 90’s texture plastered on the walls. Painting the ceiling took one full day.

With the living room and dining room still being used, there had to be a few creative ways to get to the ceiling and avoid paint splatters on our belongings. Painters’ plastic for the win! I laid a sheet of plastic on our furniture and kitchen table and an additional sheet of plastic under my tarps to prevent any bleed-through from the fabric tarps. Trust me, that can happen with carpet.

living room bookshelf

While I got to work on the walls, Tyler was hard at work figuring out the sizes of the living room bookshelf. We did not go out and buy wood for the shelves, as wood prices are just ridiculously high right now. We did, however, used reclaimed bi-fold closet doors that were somewhat solid wood. These doors were so long and heavy, that we knew if we cut them in half, they would be absolutely perfect for shelves!

The only bad side was they had rough edges and holes from where they were bolted to the floor. Bondo for the win! That fun job was all Tylers, but after they completely dried, I got to sand them and paint them.

bookshelf work

Installing Brackets to hold the Living Room Bookshelf

Tyler then had to outfit the walls with mounting brackets for the shelves so they would hang and look like floating shelves. He ripped down strips of wood for this and routed out the back and one side of the shelves to match the depth of the wood and dry fit each shelf.

Originally, Tyler bought 12-to-18-inch bolts that would have helped to brace the shelves to the wall with an additional amount of strength. However, when we had one on it actually was not any stronger than without. See that wall color? It is just gross.

living room studs

Once Tyler had all of the mounting brackets on the wall, I went about priming the walls. I did one coat of primer and two coats of our wall paint. We chose Scalloped Shell as our color. It was subtle, light and yet not a white. It went well with our cabinet colors and complimentary to the chocolate brown shelves.

Enjoy Ethel cat on the couch, next to the white fireplace and our new wall color!

living room primer

We used General Finishes Milk Paint in Dark Chocolate. As the shelves were already a dark color, there was no need to prime them ahead of time. After two coats on all sides, waiting 24-hours between each coat, and an additional 48-72 hours of drying and curing time, the shelves finally got installed.

Tyler started on one side, placing one shelf at a time and drilled pilot holes through the top back of the shelf into the wood mounting brackets. Once the pilot holes were drilled and inset, he ran a bead of wood glue on the inside of the routed-out area. Then he set the shelf onto the bracket.

Then, he screwed the shelves to the mounting brackets and viola, sturdy and mounted shelves! It took a night to get them all in place, but they looked awesome and will literally go nowhere. The shelves were actually glued and screwed to the wall.

install bookshelf

Once the left side shelves were up and screwed in, the right side went in.


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Living Room Bookshelf and a clock

We also hung our Africa spool clock from our friend Nickie who painted the spool. She made clocks and sold them to get funding to adopt a boy from Africa. It was a blessing to help them with the adoption of their son! The clock is our inspiration for the room, with the wall colors matching and our cabinet colors quite similar to the clock ones.

install clock

The next few days I spent painting the living room bookshelf with the General Finishes Satin Topcoat. This takes 24-hours to dry between coats and is recommended to use two-to-three layers of topcoat. So, on two separate days, because I am not a patient painter, I applied a layer of topcoat with my favorite 2-inch angled brush.

And now, today, after waiting an additional four days to have the topcoat dry, I got to place our books on the shelves and get them out of their boxes! What happy little books they are.

We love the final look of our living room and dining room! Finally, the greige walls are gone, the ceiling has a fresh coat of white paint that limits the details of the 90’s texture, and the bookshelf wall is just amazing utilizing reclaimed materials! It is also so exciting to finally decorate our fireplace mantle without the television above it. Oh, simple joys. We also used this brand of paint in the color Patina Green in our Kitchen on a remodel we are still working on. Check it out!

fireplace living room bookshelf
finished living room bookshelf

This post was all about how to make a living room bookshelf.

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