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I know I’ve been doing a ton of outdoor projects lately, but I haven’t forgotten about the inside as much as you might think. In fact, I’ve still got a very LONG list of projects I’m trying to plan in the right order so that I don’t go nuts from my whole house not having anywhere to put the stuff that is supposed to go in one room but can’t because it’s full of stuff from that other room that’s full of stuff from a different room and all of them are mid-project.

Basically, Thursday.

For now, I guess I’m just kicking around ideas and could use your input (like you did for me here and here). Lately, it seems like everyone is either just completing or just getting started on a new built-in project, and I think I could use a few of them in my house — especially the primary closet, the entryway closet, and the living room. But what I wonder is, will the effort be worth the cost of labor, time, and my wallet? Should I go with pre-made bookshelves and built around them to make them look built-in, or is the quality difference worth the extra labor of building straight from plywood (I already know what some of my hardcore builder buds will say about that!). I found a few great examples online during my search for answers, so for today, I’m just going to break down my thought process so that I can get back to the to-do list. Writing these things down strangely help by letting me focus, and your insight could be useful too!

(By the way, if you want to pin one of the projects below, please go to the original source and pin from there!)

ridiculously good built in ideas

1. I love the idea of adding a reading nook upstairs, kind of like this one from Just Call Me Homegirl. In truth, I don’t get much of a chance to read until I’m on vacation (unless you count blogs and Facebook articles, I suppose… I read a lot of online articles), but I also secretly wonder if I could Field-of-Dreams my way into a good habit; if I build it, the reading will come, right?


2. Speaking of books, I have been eyeballing the wall that separates my living room from my dining room as the perfect spot for a wall of built-in bookshelves. Now’s the time to start figuring out if I’m going to pull the trigger or not, because I also won’t want to do the crown in that room twice (or undo previous molding work to get it all to match). If I were to add them, I’d work in the crown around the top, sort of like Ciburbanity did on her Billies.

building billies-ciburbanity

The general idea would be to have two larger bookcase openings flanking either side of the large doorway between the living and dining room. I’d show you some pictures of what I mean (click here just to see the living room in general), but it’s a huge mess right now from closet makeover madness (I’ll get to that a little further down). Place of My Taste did something similar below, and I think what I like so much about it is the way the shelves are broken up with vertical dividers… it keeps the eye moving, ya know?


Shine Your Light Blog added a wall of buit-ins that almost exactly mimic my thought process on this. I want to incorporate the space between for the door opening in order to make it all look like one purposeful unit. (She also did a comparison of using Billy bookcases from Ikea versus DIYing the whole thing out of plywood, so it’s worth a read!)


3. Finally, there’s the downstairs closet near the entryway. I haven’t really shown you any sneak peeks of this yet (and won’t for a couple of weeks), but I’m taking some heavy inspiration from mudroom pictures. I’m kind of on board with the ease of building a bench-like area that could house baskets, like Little Red Brick House did here…


But I also LOVE the way Brittany (Pretty Handy Girl) created more of a hidden storage space near her windows. I just got some chest hinges delivered from National Hardware (as you might recall from this post, they’re a sponsor of mine this year, so I’m trying to really put it to good use and get a bunch of hardware tasks done!), so I’m thinking of going this route to better use the floor space that’s being wasted in the entryway closet (I don’t want to take off the door, but I also realized how little I hang coats in there but still use it for other storage).


But, here’s the part where I get you guys to chime in, because I’m still not really decided on anything yet and want to do some more brainstorming. What do you think of built-ins in general? Have you been wanting to put them in or are there some you’re anxious to rip out? I’m all ears.

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  1. I made built-in bookshelves and a window seat in my daughter’s room and I love the results. She’s an avid reader and was overflowing her old bookshelves. Making them from scratch really let me customize the dimensions to fit perfectly and not waste an inch of space. Pre-made bookcases would have left a ton of wasted space and cost more in the end. It wasn’t as expensive as purchasing pre-made ones that are made of inferior wood. I can stand on her built-ins and they aren’t going anywhere. I used 1 x 12’s instead of plywood. If the dimensions fit or you already have a few Billy’s sitting around that you want to use, go that route. Otherwise, I vote from scratch.

  2. My two cents about the Billy bookcases (or any other less heavy duty shelving) used for actual books – I wouldn’t do it. I’m a Librarian, and I’m a book hoarder. They just won’t hold up for more than a couple of years, if you are filling the shelves with books.
    If it’s some books, plus a lot of lighter weight decorative objects, then you would be fine. There’s just not enough support for the whole shelf with them. My company bought fairly heavy duty commercial wood (or wood like) bookshelves (but office use, not really library use) for us to add to our existing ones, and they flexed pretty quickly. I think, though, that having shelves with middle support as in one of your photos above would be great!

    1. I was a homeschooler, and I’ve been a book collector for decades. Our Billy bookcases (short and tall) have been going strong, double-stacked with both hardbacks and paperbacks, for more than two decades now. I don’t know why Ikea gets such a bad rap, because we’ve been pleased with everything except our (cheap) dining room chairs. Now that we have daughters on their own many things have been passed on because they’re still going strong.

      1. I’ve had them collapse; I’ve had friends have them collapse-normal every day use with a reasonable amount of books on them. I believe that back in the day they may have been made of studier material or have better integral support, but that really isn’t the case with the more modern version. I’m glad that yours are going strong.

  3. I love built-ins! My current house has them in the den. I’m planning to put a wall of them in the dining room of my rental, which I hope to move into one of these days, to make a dining/library. You won’t be sorry. You can put books, vases or collections. It will be GREAT!

  4. Love built-ins WHEN they are placed well and improve the function of a space! Sometimes they are just one more item that takes up space and serve no useful purpose except to create more to clean!

  5. I love the look of built-ins. May sound weird but they make feel feel like I’m nailing the adulting thing. I no longer have cheap cardboard backed bookcases and posters taped to my wall. Now I have bulit-ins and picture frames!
    I’m working on getting the trim complete on a Billy bookcase hack in The dining room. Our bookcases didn’t go all the way to the ceiling so we don’t have to worry about matching the crown perfectly.
    Good luck!

  6. I vote for making them yourself. Using the Billys would result in a very nice finished project, there’s no question there. Building your own will cause more swearing, there’s no question about that either. But in the end, isn’t life about challenging ourselves? Can’t wait to see what you do, either way!

  7. In my view, built-ins can be great, but when they’re in, they’re in. There’s no rearranging the room. Sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes it definitely isn’t. I like the airy look of wood board shelves on brackets on standards attached to the wall (at studs). Not a big time or money investment, moveable with not too much effort, more built-in looking than a standalone bookcase, and sleek and not a space hog. For an entry, it really depends on the layout and how much space there is. Window seats almost always seem nice and cozy though!

  8. Great post Sarah. I am glad to have found a couple different ways to keep my books currently I have them straight above my office chair and I’ve been looking to re-adjust the book-shelf (probably a weekend DIY) so that they don’t fall over my head everytime I stand up. Our builders were hopeless.

  9. I love the reading nook with built in shelving and the bench storage is fantastic! Thanks for the great idea.


  11. I love built-ins for otherwise wasted space, and bookshelves (‘coz we have a tonne of books). For other areas, like a room divider, I’d go with easily moveable construction.

    We make our own shelving, for the most part. It looks more finished, and you can customise everything to the nth degree. Otherwise you buy a set of shelves just to discover that cool piece of bric-a-brac JUST won’t fit.

    I love mudrooms. Only discovered such a thing existed sort-of recently on pinterest. It’s definitely an addition to our house when we build in downstairs!!

  12. Do you live anywhere near a state university or state capitol? If so, then check to see if there is a “property control” department associated with them–there often is a property control, and they often are tasked with fixing or getting rid of old university/government furniture. Locally, the property control is open on Wednesday mornings to the general public. One can get wicked good solid oak bookcases because everyone is going paperless and getting rid of books–and they are about the same cost as a Billy bookcase. That would be my first pick if I wanted to convert bookcases to build-ins.

    Billy bookcases are okay with paperback books, but they do sag under the weight of old-fashioned hardbacks (heck, I have a much sturdier bookcase that sags under my heavy books). There are slightly heavier-duty bookshelves for sale at Lowes and Home Depot and so forth, though they are a bit more expensive. On the other hand, a bookshelf is an easy thing to make, especially if it is going to be attached to a wall to give it stability.

    If the next person doesn’t like your built-ins, they are easy to remove (I’ve removed a few)–and if you like them, you should put them in. It’s no more damaging to the wall than hanging something heavy. When they are painted the same color as the wall or stained the same color as the other woodwork in the room, I think they are elegant.

  13. I absolutely love built-ins! They give you extra storage without taking up valuable space. Plus, they make any room feel homier.