DIY Bracket Bookshelves

By Kate Riley May 2, 2011

Hey there, hope you all had a great weekend!  We spent most of Sunday helping my parents move their things onto a moving truck, and since they’re downsizing, they graciously donated some bookcases to our Alma Project.  I’ve been scouring Craigslist for weeks without any luck, so how fortunate to score some sturdy freebies from my folks!  Now we can build that entertainment center we’ve been planning for so long.    

I also managed to squeeze in an hour to put the finishing coat of paint on a simple project I started last week.  My little girl is at that age where improving her reading ability is priority number one, so I wanted to build her something that would keep books front and center in her world.  These inexpensive bookshelves are made from basic wood brackets and dowel rods found at a home improvement store, and they cost me about $15 each. 

cg bracket bookshelves 1


If you want to replicate the project, here’s what you’ll need for each shelf:  2 basic 6” x 8” wood shelf brackets (I found these at Home Depot), ½” thick wood base cut to chosen length; 2 dowel rods; wood filler; wood screws; power screwdriver and drill bits; wood glue; primer and paint.  Decorative appliqués are optional.


supplies for bracket shelves

First, remove the hanging hardware that comes with each shelf bracket and drill a new hole for your nail with a drill bit on the opposite side of the bracket.  Rotate the hardware to the opposite side and screw it back into the wood bracket.  (Rotating the hardware allows you to hang the shelves once they’re finished.) 

bracket rotation

Next, determine the position of your dowel rods, and use a drill bit to create a hole for them.  Drill two holes in each bracket with the proper sized drill bit, being careful not to drill all the way through the bracket.  Use wood glue to secure the dowels (cut to the proper width) to the holes drilled into the brackets (not pictured).  Once the wood glue is dry and dowel rods are secure, drill small pilot holes, then use wood screws to affix the brackets to the wood base. 

drill and screw together

Use wood putty to fill any seams, and sand edges when dry.  Use wood glue to attach the decorative appliqués (optional).

sand and appliques

Prime and paint bookshelves after assembly.

bracket painted


cg bookshelf


Cost:  Brackets $2.50 each; dowel rods: $0.85 each; wood board $1.50 a foot; appliqués $5.00.  Total cost = approximately $15 each (including appliqués, not including screws, wood glue, wood filler, primer & paint). 

cg bracket bookshelves 1


I love the idea of rotating the books on the shelves to entice my girl to pick a few new books everyday.  It seems to be working . . .

cg reading corner


The best part for me is my growing girl now has a reading corner to call her own, and a place I can send her everyday to improve her skills and encourage a lifetime affection for books!  

I do have plans to say farewell the pastel pinks in this space, but a new color palette will have to wait a few more months.  These days, I’m just so happy she’s becoming such an avid reader.  smiley_thumb6




  1. I’ve been longing for so long to DYI a bookshelf for my twin daughters’ school books. But my husband is busy at work. I dont have time to do it myself coz im also busy at the store.

    Maybe this weekend i can convince my husband to do this.

    Thanks for this DYi. You surely made my day.

  2. My youngest (now 12) is also an avid reader. She goes through a new series books every two days. It’s expensive and wonderful. Kindle, here she comes! I love your daughters special space. Its beautiful.

  3. Love this idea and I can’t wait to try it. I, also, love the paint color on her walls. What is it? Thank you!

  4. Wow, this looks so simple. It’s so great to see kids reading rather than playing video games. Way to go!

  5. Probably making some of these today! We have soooo many books, and I love your idea for rotating them to encourage interest. Thanks so much!

  6. Thanks so much for this! I’ve been asking my husband to build our kids bookshelves for their books but he kept telling me he needed a guide or plans and this is perfect!! I will show him this and hopefully he can make them for us!

  7. I’ve been debating which type of open bookshelves to do in my kid rooms – these are fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing it with us all.

  8. These are so cute!

    I have never picked up a drill or a saw in my life. I can sew like a champ, but I’ve never made anything from wood. What basic equipment do I need to buy (drills, saw, screws etc)? Did you teach yourself how to do things like this? Have you taken any classes? Did you pick up a book to learn or did you find the info. on the internet?

    I would love to be able to make things like this, but I don’t have a clue where to start. To me, sewing is simple because you follow directions on a pattern, but this intimates me.

  9. Hey Denise, yep I taught myself how to do it all, including using a compound miter saw to cut the wood, but you can also have your wood cut and several home improvement stores like Lowes or True Value.

    Lesley, the color on her walls is a pale green, it’s Ralph Lauren’s ‘Thistle’ but HD no longer carries RL paints. I’ve heard that they still do carry the formulas though!

    ~ Kate

  10. I am so excited you posted this! I have been wanting to do this in my little boy’s room, but didn’t want to spend the money for the pricier models. I am heading out to Lowe’s in a little bit! I’m writing down everything you used, and thankfully hubby went out and bought a miter saw for a project last week. I’ve been following you for a couple of months now (from the sidelines), and you have inspired me to be crafty. Seriously. I saw stuff on your site, and thought, “I can do that.” We went out and bought our first craigslist purchase a few weeks back, and worked on it. I’m so excited. It turned out awesome, and the before and after is remarkable. (to me) I’m going to post it later this week after we move it upstairs…or maybe I should just post it? :)

    Hope you have a great week.

  11. These are the first bookshelves I have seen DIY project I’ve LOVED !!!! I am in love with the decal on the side, what a cool way to dress them up so chic!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE

  12. Those are cute. The model is cute too. :o) We did something similar to this in our daughter’s room, but on a larger scale. I too, wanted the forward facing bookshelf for the ease of little hands and they take up so much less space than a traditional bookshelf. I found the one I wanted at Potter Barn. Hahahahahahaha. Needless to say, we made it instead. You can see it in her room here:

  13. Beautiful! I’m going to bookmark this for the playroom redo I’m working on. I have a bookshelf in there but I like this idea much better! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Just a tip – to make sure you don’t drill too deep (for the dowel rods), wrap some painters or masking tape around the drill bit so you know exactly when to stop plus the bit won’t be able to go any further.

  15. Love this! Is that wood already precut or did you cut the sideboards of the bookcase yourself? I know the wood applique is separate? Would love to try this but I have no experience cutting wood! Thanks for the amazing inspiration with this and your whole blog:)

  16. The magic when beginning reading changes to reading. A very special time. Very special shelves too. Thanks for the clear directions.
    – Joy

  17. Is there anything you can’t do?! ;) I am always so impressed by the fabulous projects you come up with. The shelves look fantastic! I love the decorative elements. I see some of my girls’ faves on those shelves. They also love Fancy Nancy, Madeline (we also have a few of the movies, which are cute), and anything Little Golden Book. ;) She looks so peaceful reading her book! If only we could freeze the clock, right?? :)

  18. love it!! I like how the books are all held — it’s so darling and getting little ones to read is a huge plus! :)

  19. Hey Tina, I cut the wood myself at home, but Lowes will cut it for you for free!
    ~ Kate

  20. You make it look so easy! I definitely want to try this for my boy’s rooms. Thanks!


  21. Kate – I love, love, love your blog. It’s addictive. I’m so glad I happened to be watching Nate Berkus the day you were on. Many thanks for the information about the paint. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! Love it. Lesley

  22. Kate, what a super project! I am reading teacher, so I love seeing how you are encouraging your daughter to read. I saw two of my favorite books, Owl Moon and Charlotte’s Web. The reading corner is a great idea! Keep books everywhere for her (and you) to pick up and read.

  23. I love these little book racks! What an inviting reading nook. I wish you had a pic of the dowel assembly. Cute project.

  24. lovely! Such a good idea to have the books face-forward. It’s much more appealing to young kids.

  25. Fabulous project Kate!! Super sweet to boot.

    Dreamed last night that you were on Nate again. Why I dreamed YOU were on there and not me, I have no idea, LOL!!! (Ok, maybe I do know.)

  26. Love these, Kate!! I need to do this for my girl…thanks so much for sharing the how-to!

  27. Amazing!!!! You always come up with awesome ideas, that’s why I keep coming back to your blog! keep up the great work!!!!

  28. That is such a great idea! I’ve been ready to redo my daughter’s room for a while and include her own little reading nook – these would be perfect! Now, if you have any ideas how to prettify a tortoise cage, I’d be most appreciative (it doesn’t quite go with the decor I had in mind!)

  29. Ive had this project in mind ever since I saw one similiar in the pottery barn kids catalog. Thanks for the step by step. I’ll add it to the long list of projects I want to get to. :)

  30. Wow Kate! I have been following your blog but had to come out of “lurkdom” for this one. I love how we’re now able to give our children everything they need without breaking the bank. Her room is soft and pretty and this reading corner is such a great space for peace, love and feeding her curious mind. Bravo Kate!

    Your daughter is a beauty by the way… stay blessed.

  31. I absolutely love this!! I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with a blank wall in my newborn’s nursery and this is perfect!

  32. LOVE this!! Great tutorial too! I will definitely have to try and make this for my daughter’s room. Maybe it will teach her to take better care of her books! :0)

    P.S. I’m a new follower!

  33. I love them! I did something similar in Eli’s room with supplies from Hobby Lobby. Mine definitely looks “boyish” compared to yours. :)
    They look great in her room, and I bet she just loves them. :)
    Hope you are doing well!

  34. I am totally working on a similar project for my little girl’s room! The front facing books definitely make it easier for her to make her reading selections . . . she is only two and LOVES to read. Definitely her favorite past time. Great job and I love the carved wood detailing.

  35. I am so excited to see this project! The shevles look so nice! We do something similar with our books.
    I am working on shelves in each of the boys rooms so we do seasonal and holiday favorites for our swapping out.

  36. I’ve seen a bunch of these around, but this is my favorite yet. Love the simple construction but beautiful look!

    I just wanted to let you know that I am featuring this on Sassy Sanctuary tomorrow. Thanks!

  37. Absolutely adorable. Great Idea and Thank you for sharing in detail. I am building one for my 5 year old son.

  38. We used your tute and made these over the weekend! We used the larger size bracket just because we thought.. more bracket = more storage.

    We were a little stumped, because we assumed the bottom board would be a standard width to fit the bracket, so what we ended up doing is buying a board that was close to the width of the bracket, and then cutting the bracket to fit the board. Somehow my husband convinced me that this was easier than cutting down a large board.

    It was a fun little project. Thanks!

  39. Thanks for the inspiration Kate! I made one of these for my friend’s daughter. I painted her name and some ladybugs, butterflies, and flowers on the front edge to make it personalized for her. It turned out very cute!

    The previous commenter mentioned the bottom board not being the same as the bracket size. I too had this problem, so I ended up joining two 1 x 3 boards for the base and it was nearly the perfect size.

  40. I love it!!I am totally working on a similar project for my little girl’s room!We used your tute and made these over the weekend!The shevles look so nice……………..

  41. I’m curious where I can find decorative appliques like the one you used.

  42. I love these! My husband and I are new at DIY but plan on making these! Can you tell me how long your shelves are? Thanks!

  43. These look so nice!!! I have a small spare room in my house and I’m turning it into a mini library for the kids as they have so many books and I can’t wait to fill the walls with these bookshleves!!!!

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