Closet Bookshelves: The Project That Wouldn’t End

We finally FINALLY finally finally finished the built-in bookshelves in our office’s closet. We started this project before I got pregnant with Janella (first child) and finished it just a few days after Sienna’s (second child) birth. Three cheers for extreme procrastination!

Actually, it wasn’t entirely procrastination that severely delayed this project. There was a lot of roadblocks, which included mistaken measurements (me), frustrations with drilling in anchors into walls (Nick), constant changes to the plan (me), and diaper changes (Janella).

But it’s done.

And now I’ll tell you about it. First, a warning. The photos in this post aren’t the best. The closet is tiny and the lighting in there is bad. Oh, well.

We started here:

office closet before

The closet was a nice size, but it was not functional for us.

After we decided to turn the closet into a mini-library of sorts, we painted the closet the same teal as the office. In hindsight, we should have waited until after the shelves were installed to paint the closet, because I had to do LOTS and LOTS of touch-ups afterwards.

bookshelves chalk lines

You can see the chalk marks below the original shelf. At first, we thought we would work with the existing shelf but then decided to rip it out. See what I mean about constant changes to the plan?

The old shelf. Notice the sloppy paint job? Sexy.

bookshelves closet shelf

Tearing down the shelf was fun. I did it all by myself by using these tools.


And then:


Yep, we really should have at least painted it after we took down the old shelf. This project had a lot of “I should’ve done that, IDIOT!” moments. Hence why it took 1,000 2 years to finish.

We re-measured where we wanted to put the shelves and then drilled in the shelf supports.

supports for bookshelves

We used these anchors to hold up the supports. They work well but they definitely gave Nick several aneurysms. Sometimes it’s hard to get them to “open” and lock against the drywall, but now the shelves feel so sturdy that we’re glad we used them.

In the middle of this project, I took a short video of the closet to better show you how everything looked:

Here’s a rough drawing I did on iPages to show you the whole progression of how we built the closet bookshelves.

 closet bookshelves progression

1. The blank slate we started with. 2. The supports on the back and longest wall. 3. The supports on the other three walls. 4. The shelves on the back wall. 5. The shorter shelves on the right wall, along with the small supports we drilled underneath (see arrow) the shelves to support the shorter shelves.

The primed plywood shelves on the longest wall were securely held up by the supports on all three sides, but we needed extra supports for the shelves on the other wall. Dad Vita suggested that we add bottom supports in the corner to help hold up the shorter shelves, and so we did.


We held them together with clamps and then drilled them in from underneath.



Then we put in the shorter shelves and drilled the supports into them as well.

When that was done, I filled all the holes left behind when we drilled into the wall. I used wall putty for this step and sanded it down. After repainting the areas white, the holes were completely covered up.

Then I went to Home Depot to find the right trim to finish off the edges of the plywood shelves.


This was the best trim that I could find. It’s actually for door frames, but it was the perfect size for our shelves.

I borrowed a nail gun from our generous friends (Thanks, Brooke & Brian!) and got to work. It was my first time using a nail gun and I had a hard time getting a handle on it at first! I practiced on some scrap wood and did a better job from there.

Nail guns can be scary. But also cool.

See how the trim covers up the edge of the top shelf, while the second shelf still has the plywood edge exposed:


I’m really glad I went ahead and bought the primed trim. It cost me only a couple of bucks in total and saved me many hours in work. I mean, if I bought the unprimed trim, it probably would have taken me another year to finish this thing.


I used a plastic miter box and saw to make the cuts. The cuts weren’t perfect…


…but no worries. I covered them up with wall putty. I just stuffed it into the cracks and let it dry. Then I sanded it down for a seamless look. Here’s how it looked before painting.



Next, I had to address the large gaps between the shelves and the walls.


I grabbed a tube of caulk that had been hidden in our supplies closet, waiting and waiting for its chance at the spotlight. But procrastination bit me in the butt… as usual.


Did you know caulk expires even if you haven’t even opened it? Now you do.

Caulk is awesome at covering up small gaps.


After everything was caulked, I painted the shelves and trim and supports WHITE. Two coats covered everything up beautifully. Then I had to touch up the teal walls… and then I was done!






It’s really sad how my camera can’t capture all of its glory… Here’s another short video for a better view of the space.

We’re currently organizing all of our books on the bookshelves. It’s amazing just how much the bookshelves can hold! Once we’re done with organizing all the books and other stuff, I’ll share photos.

It feels SO good to finally check this one off the list. It was a lot of fun caulking up a storm while pregnant. And I’m not being sarcastic… I caulked during my first pregnancy, too! Other pregnant ladies might clean their kitchen floors or organize baby clothes when nesting, but apparently I caulk instead of cleaning. Sounds about right.

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7 Comments on “Closet Bookshelves: The Project That Wouldn’t End

  1. When your kids are older—ya need to set up a business doing these. You’re both so professional-like!!! kudos for your perserverance!!

    • That would be fun! But given that it took me years to finish this, I’m not sure if anybody would hire me… But thanks for the kind words!!

  2. Wow looks fabulous!! Looks like you bought brand new shelves and plopped them in there- I know, I know- there was a lot of work involved in making it look so…effortless! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing the books in there!

    • Haha maybe we should have done that! 😉 The book arranging is taking longer than I thought it would… (what else is new, right?)

  3. What a transformation!! Honestly I’m always amazed when I read your latest DIY. Beautifully accomplished!!

  4. Pingback: Happenings | What the Vita

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