Deep Blue Built-In Bookshelf



This was one of the most intense yet satisfying DIY projects I’ve attempted to date. I built it as a surprise for my son, who has been out of town for medical treatment for several months. As much of a bummer as it’s been to have my family living out of state for a bit, this gave me the perfect opportunity to do a larger scale project in his room during the weeks that I was back in town for work.

In a nutshell, this bookshelf is comprised of 3 hacked Ikea RAST cabinets for the base drawers ($35 each), a few primed 1×12’s from Lowe’s ($20 each) and a gallon of Valspar’s “Pitch Cobalt” paint ($30).

The trickiest part for me was finding a good product for the base drawers. I really wanted to have pull out drawers, but I didn’t want to to spend the money to mess with actual kitchen cabinets.


After looking around for far too long, the price and all-wood construction (read hackability) of the RAST cabinets won me over. I cut them to just under the standard chair height of 18″, which gave me two solid drawers and a little extra space at the bottom.


Once I attached the 1x15ish window seat board on top of the drawers, the height of the seat was almost exactly 18″. With all three cabinets united into one piece, I screwed them into the wall.


The next step was creating a solid frame for the shelves and columns to fit inside. I used the same 1×12’s as everything else, making sure I hit as many studs as I could on each piece.

*NOTE: An unexpected project that sucked up some time was repairing the ceiling corner drywall. I ripped out the crown molding , which left visible damage in several spaces. Since I wasn’t going to cover the bookshelf backing with paneling and it was going to be visible inside the upper shelves, I used vinyl spackling to patch & smooth the area.

6 Next, I used a Kreg pocket hole jig (bought it for this project…such a great tool) to attach the shelf columns to the frame and window seat. I made sure to screw them on the least visible sides. I also started painting everything, since access would get trickier from this point forward.



This is when the project started getting really gratifying. I drilled holes for shelf pins, then cut all the 1×12 shelves and dry fit them before removing & painting each one individually. Once the shelves were in place, I installed 1×3 facings on all the vertical columns to cover the transitions and give a more unified look.


Here’s where I made a bit of a strategic mistake. As a first-time pocketholer, I underestimated the plugging process and waited too long to tackle it. I really should have glued/cut the plugs right after I installed the columns, as I would have been much easier to access & would have saved some repainting. But alas, I got it done and I learned how to use a flush cut saw in the process. Definitely takes some finesse in tight spaces.


NOTE: I saw online that some folks use an oscillating tool to cut down the plugs before sanding. It wasn’t any quicker than the flush cut saw for me & I had a hard time NOT damaging the workpiece using that method, for whatever it’s worth.



One of the last steps was building the two small 7″ drawers to go between the 3 base cabinets. This was a little tedious but really fun for me, as I used nothing but recycled pieces from the unused bottom RAST drawers and frame pieces. The drawer front was the original bottom drawer front, turned on it’s side and resized. I used the same pull-out hardware, with the only difference being that this drawer was almost twice as deep as the originals. It took some experimenting, re-drilling & wood glue, but in the end I was able to make 2 skinny deep drawers out of the 3 leftover bottom drawers.



The finishing touch on this bookcase was the lighting, and this was another tricky one to shop for. I tried Ikea first, as I knew they had lots of puck light options. Unfortunately, though, the little LED kit I bought wasn’t even close to powerful enough for lighting up the whole wall. In fairness, I think it’s really only meant for lighting up individual shelves. I ran into the same problem when I tried shopping puck lights at Lowe’s…that is, until I wandered into track lighting & found this wonderful little power feed cord. Basically, it allows you to run high-powered track lights off of an outlet (vs. a typical hardwired ceiling box, which I didn’t have in this location). So I was able to run the 10′ cord behind the cabinets, up the hidden side of a shelf column and to the ceiling, where I installed a simple 3-light track system. The final step was installing this touch-activated on/off switch beside my son’s bed, so that he can control the lights easily.


All in all, this took me about 9-10 solid evenings to complete. That said, I could probably cut the time in half if I did it again, since I made it up a bit as I went. Experience would eliminate several trips to the store and lots of time standing and thinking. Also, a dedicated painting partner would be a game-changer. Hope you enjoyed!



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