Lately I’ve been focusing most of my project efforts toward my master suite, but I’ve taken a little break from that to spruce up the playpen a bit. It takes up a big corner of our living room so I’d like for it to look a little nicer and more put together. Or at least as nice as a toddler’s play area can look. I’m thinking we can do better than a big, empty, gated area with 5 mismatched baskets of toys sitting against the wall. My parents helped at Christmas by gifting her a little table-and-chairs set and a cute little armchair, so I’m following their lead and adding a couple more furniture pieces to the mix.
The first thing I wanted to do was to get all her books organized. They had been living in a basket forever, but as she acquired more and more books they began to overflow everywhere. Plus, my daughter loves to pull them all out and throw them everywhere to find the one she’s looking for, so I want them to be more easily accessible to her. (P.S. – After having lived with the bookrack for a while, I’ve found she still likes to take all the books off and throw them everywhere. Who saw that one coming?)
In my search for a good storage solution I came across the Pottery Barn Kids Madison bookrack. It’s really cute, but I was not digging the $169 price tag. I was able to make something that looks pretty similar for about $35, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
1: 1”x6”x8ft pine
3: 1”x4”x8ft pine
1: 1”x3”x8ft pine
2: 1”x2”x8ft pine
1-1/2 inch pocket hole screws
Regular 2-inch wood screws
Paint or stain
Orbital (or other type) electric sander
Router with decorative bit for base molding (optional)
Kreg pocket hole jig
Brad or finish nailer (optional)
**I used the jigsaw to cut curves on the vertical side pieces and the shelf fronts, as well as the cutout on the bottom of the molding. If you don’t have a jigsaw, you could leave the sides flat on top or cut them at an angle, and leave the shelf fronts and molding straight. **
- Cut all pieces to length. (See diagrams below) Cut two 42-inch pieces from the 1×6. Cut three 31-inch long pieces from each of the following boards: two of the 1x4s, the 1×3, and one of the 1x2s. Cut one more 31-inch piece from the second 1×2. Then drill 2 pocket holes on each end of three of the 1×4 pieces and three of the 1×2 pieces.
- Cut curve details on the vertical side pieces. Draw the curve detail on the side of one piece. Clamp together the two side pieces, lining up the bottom ends. Cut out the curve with the jigsaw, then sand smooth.
- Make curved cutouts on shelf fronts. Decide how low you want the curve to dip, then hammer a finish nail into the piece that far down, right at the midpoint, leaving about an inch sticking up. Then hammer a finish nail near each top corner. Use a thin, flexible piece of wood or plastic to run between these nails, and traced that curve. Then cut along the curve with the jigsaw. Use this piece to trace the curve onto the other two pieces, and cut those out as well. Sand well over the curves to smooth them out nicely.
- Build shelf assemblies. Attach the shelf to the shelf back using wood glue and screw them together from the back. Next, glue the shelf front onto the shelf. I used a few brads here for extra strength. Instead, you could use pocket holes in the shelf bottom if you don’t mind having a bunch of large holes to putty.
- Attach shelf assemblies to bookrack sides. Using glue and pocket holes, attach all three of the shelves as well as the upper cross pieces to one side first, then the other side. Line up the back face of the shelf with the back edge of the side. Attach with pocket hole screws. Repeat for the other two shelves. Attach the little cross pieces with 2.5″ between the top of the shelf front and the bottom of the cross brace.
With the shelf laying on its side and the shelves up in the air, apply glue to the other ends of the shelves and lay the second side on top. Attach with pocket hole screws, double-checking measurements to make sure the shelves are positioned properly.
Once all three shelves have been attached with pocket holes, countersink a couple screws through the side and into the end of each shelf. Instead, you can use pocket holes in the ends of the shelves to screw into the sides, I just preferred having smaller holes to fill. If you go that route, drill the pocket holes in the shelf bottom before you make the shelf assembly.
- Attach the filler piece below the bottom shelf. You’ve probably noticed that the front edges of the shelves are set back ½ inch from the front edges of the side pieces. To fill the gap between the bottom shelf and the molding we’ll be using, attach the leftover 1×2 piece (the one without pocket holes) underneath the bottom shelf, making the front flush with the front of the bookrack sides. Just glue it to the bottom of the shelf and secure with nails or screws. (I used a scrap strip of 1/2″ plywood here that I already had on hand. If you have scrap wood you can use, you don’t need to buy a whole new 1×2 just for this.)
- Make and attach the base molding. I saved this until the end so I knew the exact width of the bookrack and didn’t cut anything too short in the beginning. Measure the width at the bottom of the bookrack from outside face to outside face. From the remaining 1×4, cut the front molding piece with both ends at opposite 45-degree miters. The short face should be the length you just measured. Next, cut two pieces with one straight edge and one 45-degree edge, measuring 5 ½ inches from straight edge to inside miter (the width of the vertical side piece). If you want to use a decorative router bit and add some detail to the molding, do that now. Then attach the molding to the bottom of the bookrack using glue and brads/finish nails.
- Make cutouts for your baseboards. Measure the height and depth of your baseboards, then mark these measurements on the sides of your shelf at the bottom back corners. Cut these out with a jigsaw. This will make the bookrack much easier to mount to your wall.
- Make cutout in the front molding. Mark the width and height and draw the cut lines. I used a 1-½“ hole saw drill bit on the corners to get the nice rounded edge. You can do this with a jigsaw too, but I figured this was easier. Then use a jigsaw to make the rest of the cuts.
At first I made the edges of the cutout perfectly vertical and I didn’t like how it looked, so I went back and cut them at an angle. Sand the cut smooth.
- Finishing touches. Fill holes with putty. Once the putty dries sand it smooth, then stain or paint to your heart’s desire. I combined several sample-size cans of different light green paints that I had on hand, and painted mine with that.
Once it’s all finished, stick a few screws through the shelf back pieces and into the studs in your wall. I personally wouldn’t trust drywall anchors for this application. Since the bookrack is so shallow easy to tip, it really needs to be strongly secured to a wall.
Here she is, all finished up! Isn’t she pretty?!
If you love this bookrack but can’t find space for it, check out the modified wall-mount version here!
If you have any questions at all please let me know, either by comment or email! Thanks for reading :).