How to Build Built-In Bookshelves around a Window

What You'll Need
Miter Saw
Paint or Stain
Headless Nails
Measuring Tape
Spirit Level
Wood Panel (optional)
Decorative Moldings (optional)

Built in bookshelves are an excellent way to add character to your home as well as providing excellent storage for books and other ornaments. Bookcases are a highly flexible piece of furniture and can easily be customized to fit your needs and the space that you have available. A bookcase around a window offers extra character and can maximize your use of previously unused space.

Step 1 – Plan and Measure

The type of wood you use will have a significant impact on the cost of the project. Using solid wood such as oak will give you strong shelves that won't sag over time but is quite expensive. MDF is an excellent option if you intend to paint the bookcase as paint adheres to the surface very well. Measure the height and width of the window and surrounding wall area you will cover with the bookcase then add on the number of shelves you require. When purchasing the wood, add an extra allowance for mistakes and wastage. Many hardware stores will accept the return of uncut wood as long as you keep your receipt.

Step 2 – Cut Vertical Braces

First, cut the vertical sections of the bookshelves to the correct height. For a seamless appearance that surrounds the window without visible support for the shelves, you can make a dado cut at the required intervals so that you can slide the shelves into position. For this design, the vertical supports must be made from thick enough wood to support the weight of the shelf without splitting. An easy shelf support method is to use wood to create a lip that the shelf will sit on. For wide shelves, it is recommended that you also add a rear support attached to the wall along the length of the shelf. If you want adjustable shelves, you can purchase metal tracks and clips from a hardware store.

Step 3 – Cut Shelves

Cut the shelves to the correct size. It is better to cut them a few millimeters too wide then sand them down to the correct size rather than having them too narrow for the space. If you want to add a rear panel to the bookshelves, it is recommended you add it at this point using thin, headless nails. An open back to the bookcase can provide an interesting canvas especially if you use lighting to accentuate features.

Step 4 - Wall Mount

Attach the assembled bookcase sections to the walls on either side and above the window securely. Positioning each section flush with the next will give an integrated appearance. As a future project you could build a window seat with built in bookcase to complete the effect.

Step 5 – Finish

Use paint or wood stain to achieve your desired finish with masking tape to protect the walls. Sand the bookcase down after the first coat then apply a second. Wait until the second coat is fully dry before you begin to place books onto your new shelving unit. For an extra decorative effect, you can also attach moldings to the edges of the bookshelves and paint or stain them to match. Another attractive idea is to integrate window shutters that blend into the bookcase while open.