If you’re like me and you have a habit of occasionally reading and getting angry, as most people do, you’ll know that “bookcases” sold in stores exist only for storing a small pot of flowers and a couple CDs. Trying to store actual books on them is an absurd idea, as you will no doubt see here.
It is almost always true that the older something is, the more it was built to last. So vintage or antique bookcases are always superior, and often more beautiful, but not always affordable. It may also happen that the place in which you’d like to store your books is not ideal for a bookcase. So this, Strangers, is why I built my own, and why you should consider doing so too.
First of all, this shelf is built right into the wall, instead of being a standalone book case. So to give it a more “complete” look as opposed to something just floating (which is still not at all a bad choice) I covered the wall where the shelves would be with an accenting wallpaper, which came in a little roll at Walmart. Our living room is a beautiful grey-blue, so for the wallpaper I chose a distressed silver damask. I would also love to make a second accent with this above the mantle, but that will be for another day. The exact height of the paper doesn’t really matter. I matched mine up with the light switch and thus is looks somewhat like a back splash. You may want to get some help with this, because putting it up is very awkward. Consider it a team-building exercise.
Next up, the brackets. To know how far up the shelves need to be from each other, measure with your largest book. That way you’ll know that all of your books will fit and won’t have to be placed front end down, because that’s annoying and you can’t easily see what the book is that way. As far as horizontal distance, we placed each bracket more towards the center than on the absolute edges of the space to prevent bowing of the shelves. The longer your shelves are of course, the more brackets you’ll need. You can get these at different price points from Home Depot, but years ago I used beautiful wrought iron bird feeder hangers that cost just $2 each, so keep in mind that improvising is totally ok here. Remember also to use a level.
For our own shelves we salvaged what was left of the old bookcase, but barring any available scrap you can get some small sturdy shelf boards from Home Depot or even better just cut some solid wood to size and stain it the shade of rich mahogany, or whatever color you prefer. You don’t absolutely need to secure the boards to the brackets. We didn’t. You’ll see here that although we used a level, the boards appear to be slanted. This is because the actual house is slanted, so what can you do.
Because our baseboards are quite high and we didn’t want to ruin them with holes, we used the baseboards themselves as a support system for the bottom shelf. To prop up the remaining corner we piled beautiful yet totally useless old dictionaries to the correct height. If your house is similar to ours in this way you can do the same thing, and use anything you like here, like a pretty dowel or a skull.
Speaking of skulls, no spooky library is complete without one, so among some of the decorative features I placed on the shelves is a beautiful skull candle. The wax inside is red so it looks like it’s bleeding when you light it, but we thought it was just too pretty to burn. Don’t overdo the decorations though, this is a place for books after all. If your decorative items are heavy and unbreakable enough you can use them as book ends. Just to be sure though I used some cheap standard ones I got from Staples. You’re going to need book ends if your shelf doesn’t have sides!
Creating shelf space in this way doesn’t have to be just for books, and is ideal for small spaces. We did this for night stands, and you can also put a very long shelf on the wall behind your couch to act as a console table or end table. You can even create a lovely little surface by lining an old drawer with beautiful wall paper and hanging it vertically on the wall as you can see in this lovely example. Of course once I do this I’ll probably still fill it with books.