Bonding over a Bookcase

In late January of 2010 I casually emailed my dad a link to a DIY bookcase online… we needed some storage and personality in our drab den and it seemed like the perfect upgrade. The “puzzle bookcase” was designed by Crate and Barrel and we loved it… thankfully I found the plans on Knock-Off Wood so we were able to use her design as a starting point. We discussed the plans and did some redesigns and decided it was a project we would take on together.

The den before: (the “panorama” effect didn’t quite work since my photos were exposed so differently they couldn’t be fixed in Photoshop… or at least, not quickly!) But you get the idea… big, bland wall.

Den Panorama - BEFORE

One of the changes we made was to take the plans for a 6’-tall, 4.5’-wide bookcase and we stretched it a little… The finished product sits at 7’ tall and 5’ wide. As a sidenote – when an engineer and a math teacher do blueprints together, you can rest assured there will be some debates, discussions, changes, and “oops” moments. I think our final bookcase ended up a few inches shorter than 7’ due to some, um, mistakes with the estimation. Oh well, only we know exactly where we went wrong!

We started during the brutal cold of February… we took the boards and cut them all to size in dad’s workroom… then we stained each board – front, back, front, back. Whew. Each coat took a separate trip up to the lake so this part took months – especially considering I didn’t paint every time I visited! So much for a weekend project, haha!

We made a lot of observations along the way (yet not many photos, oh well).

First off, we used this Minwax product called Polyshades. It’s a stain and polyurethane combination that we found to be a little thick for our use. As we painted a flat side, if we weren’t careful it dripped down to the bottom and globbed underneath. Next time we’d use a regular stain and then do a single coat of polyurethane at the end to seal it all.


Color: Bombay Mahogany – perfect for the super dark furniture I love!



And… work outside. That stuff was stinky. (My parents live on a lake and replaced their dock/boat cover a few years ago… they were wise enough to move the old cover to the side yard where they do outside projects – it was the perfect spot for us to work without worrying about leaves falling on the painted boards)


By this point I knew I was pregnant so we took every precaution and I wore this fabulous mask. It was exactly as comfortable as it looks, I promise.

See, gloppy:


Also… we didn’t realize until the very end of the project that the thick stain adjusted the thickness of the boards by a tiny bit… enough to ignore when we were working with the boards at first, but later it was more complex to use the router and attach the boards in our desired method. We found ourselves scratching our heads over this issue more than once!

Rather than just attach the boards at 90-degree angles with nails as the original plans called for, Dad insisted we go with a more professional method and router out grooves for the boards to slide into. This added months to our project, but turned out to be a great addition to the beauty and durability of the bookcase.


It took us a while to put it all together and get it over to my house. Mom and Dad finally brought it over in late October and it’s perfect! It took a few weeks for me to get it properly accessorized, but I was able to shop my house and do just a little bit of picking at Hobby Lobby for some frames and accessories. After putting it in place we touched up the routered corners with a sponge-brush and some leftover stain. You can really see how finished this helps the bookcase to look.

 2010 12.13_0015And… for the final view! (Scroll back up and check out the “before” to see how drab the room was… we also lightened the wall color before putting up the bookcase.)

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We moved the TV to put it on an angle.

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This beautiful clock is a Rodgers antique given to Bronce by his dad. We’ve been looking for the right place to show it off and love it in this shelf of the bookcase.

On the right (next to the brassy “R”… which I’d like to paint. Silver, maybe white… not sure yet) is a beautiful vase we bought in Athens, Greece, last Spring.

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I’ve been needing a place to store my scrapbooks where they’re accessible and we’ll actually look through them from time to time. The bottom two shelves of the bookcase have these rattan baskets that hold the scrapbooks upright. I invested in these inexpensive linen books to they are all the same style – love them! 2010 12.13_0019



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