For this DIY project, you’re going to have to use your handyman – or woman – knowledge and skills. This is a step-by-step project that will most likely take you more than a single day to complete. Follow each step carefully to ensure a safe and steady finished bookcase with built-in cabinets.

Take Measurements

Before you do anything, you need to write down your measurements. Make sure to measure wall to wall and floor to ceiling, and include any windows that may need to be built around.

Once all measurements are taken, go to the drawing boards. You’ll need to determine what measurements work best in your room, how many shelves you want and where you want them, especially if you have windows involved. Depending on the room, you may want to base your design on some inspiration.

Cut and Frame

Once you have your measurements, it’s time to take a trip to your local lumberyard or hardware store. You’re going to need:

  • Plywood
  • Wood screws
  • Cabinet screws
  • Wood glue

When you have your supplies, cut the wood based on the measurements you took. Use a ruler and carpenter’s pencil for fast measurements and accurate cuts. Frame out and mark which pieces of plywood are the sides, cabinets and shelves.

DIY built in bookshelves with cabinet on bottom

Build Cabinets

You want to build this project from the bottom to the top, starting with the cabinets. Square off the bottom of the cabinet and make sure the sides are clamped together so you can put the cabinet screws in correctly. Before you put in the screws, double check the measurements and that all sides are flush with each other so no space shows between the connected plywood.

Before you put the framework and doors on the cabinets, you need to choose a cabinet hinge. Once you have the correct type of hinge for your cabinet, consider the pulls you want for your cabinet. Choosing these design details is the fun part!

Attach Shelves

Now that you have the cabinets secure on the bottom, start to build up. Begin by assembling the sides of the cabinets, and make sure each piece of plywood is flush with the other. This is where you will need to be careful with the wood glue and nail in the sides correctly.

Once the sides are ready and the wood glue is dry, you can attach the shelves. Make sure your measurements are accurate to your design. If you want even shelves, make sure the distance is equal between all shelves. If you want extra space in a few areas of the shelves, you will need to adjust your measurements accordingly.


By now, you should have your cabinets assembled and shelves above the cabinets. Once your glue is dry and you’ve checked that the shelves are secure, you can choose a finish. Wood stains are great for a natural look, or you can choose an indoor paint color for a brighter finish. Allow all glue and paint to dry before you use your shelves and cabinets.

We personally prefer lighter wood shelves with a dark grey paint for the inside of the bookshelves.

This project is easy to accommodate depending on the style of your room and the type of design you desire. By following each step, you’ll end up with a custom-built, DIY bookshelf and cabinets to enjoy in your home.