How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool

A footstool with a built-in bookshelf.
What You'll Need
(3x) 6’ lengths of 1x8” pine boards
Saw (miter, circular or handsaw)
Table saw
Router w/decorative bit
Pocket hole jig/screws
Clamps (straight and 90-degree)
Wood glue
Wood fill
Sander/sand paper
Wood stain/seal
Brush for stain
As ALWAYS: Safety goggles

We have a friend on the move. Because of circumstances out of her control, she’s had to bounce from brief sublet to brief sublet, meanwhile most of her furniture remaining in storage. Because her most recent place was more than minimalist, we loaned her a high-back sitting chair so she had somewhere to relax. The only problem with the chair, though, is that it really needs a footstool, and we didn’t have one to accompany it. So I decided to build one. Because our friend is a bibliophile, of course I had to integrate bookshelves into the design.

Step 1: Begin with the Software

The footstool was intended to be comfortable, so I knew it would need a pillow on top. My wife used her keen design eye to select something suitable for our friend. The dimensions of the pillow defined the scope of the footstool. I knew it had to be around 17x17 inches square on top. And the pillow was 6 inches thick, so I took that into account for the overall height.

I sat down at the drawing board and created a design that matched the overall dimensions and would work with easy to find 1x8 pine. The whole thing was to be assembled with pocket holes, so that factored into the style of the piece.

Step 2: Measure, Cut and Shoot the Pockets

With my somewhat over-engineered design in hand, I took it to the shop. A circular saw made quick work of the cuts, leaving me with a stack of boards in need of pocket holes. But I didn’t even measure or cut for the bookshelves. I knew there would be small variations in the space they were to fill, so I deliberately waited until most of the piece was built before tackling the shelves.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, pocket hole jig, nico rosso

This was where the puzzling started. All the pocket holes had to be planned out so they’d be invisible once the piece was assembled. After thinking and marking and double-checking, I drilled all the necessary pockets.

Step 3: Join It

The puzzling continued as I assembled the piece. Things had to come together in a very specific order because most pieces were joined to at least two others. I used wood glue and the pocket holes to bring it all together. The 90-degree clamps came in very handy here.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, joining, pocket holes, nico rosso

Step 4: Now the Shelves

With the bulk of the piece built, I could now address the shelves that spanned the legs.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, joining, pocket holes, nico rosso

And it was a good thing I waited. Each shelf was slightly different in length. Using a table saw, I ripped the boards down small enough to make the shelves.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, joining, pocket holes, nico rosso

Using the table saw and a shooting board, I cut the pieces down to the very specific sizes determined by the leg span of the stool. The boards were joined again with wood and pocket screws. The same method attached the shelves to the footstool. I attached them at a slight angle, so the books would be tipped to the inside and never fall out.

Step 5: The Rubdown

Now that the piece was completely together, it was time to pay attention to the details. Using a router with a simple ogee bit, I cut a decorative bevel on the top of the stool. After that, I used wood fill and went over any gaps or flaws in the boards or joinery.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, joining, pocket holes, nico rosso

Once that was dry, the sanding started. I went through a couple grits, making sure everything was nice and even and smooth.

Step 6: Stained

I picked a grey stain/poly as a nice modern neutral. It wasn’t quite as deep a color as I wanted, so I ended up doing about six coats (sanding between each). But I didn’t mind the extra work, because I knew this piece would be at foot level. Kicked, shoved and put to use under tired heels.

How to Build a Bookshelf Footstool, table saw, Nico Rosso

After it was completely dry, made a surprise delivery to our friend. She was more than pleased, and immediately took advantage of the new shelves with some paperbacks. Now I can rest easy, knowing she can rest easy with her feet up and a book in her hand.