How to Build Your Own Living Room Shelves

Building your own living room shelves can be a fun and easy project, but more importantly, these shelves can be custom designed to fit any particular space and made from your own choice of wood. Additionally, the pride of ownership attained from doing it yourself adds to the savings gained by building your own shelves, rather than buying them.

Materials You Will Need (all measurements are for Oak Hardwood, unless otherwise specified, in inches)

  1. Two stiles 3/4x1-1/2x76
  2. Top rail 3/4x3x36
  3. Bottom rail 3/4x4-3/4x36
  4. Two Sides, plywood 3/4x11-3/4x72
  5. Top and bottom, plywood 3/4x11-1/4x36
  6. Two Finished sides, plywood 3/4x12x76
  7. Top, plywood 3/4x13-1/2x40-1/2
  8. Back, plywood 1/4x36x72
  9. Three Shelves, plywood 3/4x10-1/2x 36
  10. Shelf edging 3/4x1-1/4x36 (as required)

Ready-made moldings (Optional)

11. Colonial base 1/2x4-1/4x96

12. Quarter round 1/2x3/4x96

13. Cove 1-1/8x1-1/2x96


  • One box of 4d and 6d finishing nails
  • Shelf standards
  • Shelf supports
  • Wrap around hinges
  • Woodworkers glue
  • Putty or wood filler
  • Sandpaper, 80 to 220 grits
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Varnish

Step 1. Build the Face Frame

Begin by cutting out the face frame stiles, and the top and bottom rails from Oak hardwood. Butt joint the pieces together or use dowel joints. Once all the face frame pieces have been cut, clamp and glue them together carefully. Remove excess glue and finish sanding the frame.

Step 2. Router Tracks and Install Shelf-Standards

Cut out the sides, top and bottom from a single sheet of Oak plywood. Measure along the insides of the sides and mark the locations for the shelf-standard grooves, approximately 1-1/2 inches from each edge and also down the length of each side. Using a router and router guide, hollow out a groove along the insides of the carcase sufficiently deep enough to house the shelf-standards for each side. This can easily be done with a 5/8 inch straight router bit.

Step 3. Assemble Carcase

Dry fit the top, bottom and sides of the carcase to make sure they come together to form a square box. Apply glue, clamp pieces together and measure diagonally to insure the box of the top, bottom and sides is square. Once glue has dried, drill countersunk holes and screw pieces together for greater stability. Place the face frame on top of the front edge of the carcase and check for a good fit. If fit is satisfactory, apply glue to both the carcase edges and the face frame, clamp and screw into place.

Step 4. Attach the Back

Use a router, carefully router a ¼ inch groove around the back of the carcase. Measure the inside area and cut out a corresponding square from a sheet of ¼ inch plywood. Dry fit this back piece until it fits snugly, then clue, and using brads, secure the back into the carcase top, sides and bottom.

Step 5. Install Shelves

Cut out three shelves as per measurements already provided. Affix shelf edging along front of shelves. Place shelf supports as desired and mount shelves as desired.

Step 6. Finishing the Project

Sand all pieces with 100 grit sandpaper, wipe with a dry cloth and then finish sanding with 220 grit sandpaper. Apply a 50-50% solution of varnish and mineral spirits, sand with 220 grit sandpaper and then apply final coat of 100% varnish final coat.