A Multi Purpose Solution For a Small Living Room | DIY Bookshelf

Heather Cammack
by Heather Cammack
3 Materials
3 Hours

If you are surviving with a small living room, then you know how difficult it can be to keep things organized. So how do you make your small space work for you? I decided to go vertical with my storage options and you can too with this easy and attractive bookshelf tutorial.

Check out the Full Tutorial On the Video


Start by measuring the area where you want to put your bookshelf to determine the dimensions. I used the height and width of this wall in my living room for my bookshelf. I also measured the height of my couch since the bookshelf will be going behind the couch. I will have a shelf even with the back of the couch. Placing the bookshelf here will keep the couch from rubbing against the wall and smashing our internet box which is stored behind it.

Place The Shelves

Cut out two identical side pieces from 1x12 lumber. Then cut out shelving pieces that are all the same length. How many you cut out will be based on how many shelves you want your unit to have. I went with four.

Run a measuring tape along your side pieces and mark where each shelf will go. I spaced my shelves based on my own storage needs to accommodate both baskets and books.

Hold the shelf boards in place at your markings, and use 3.5 inch screws to attach the shelves to the side pieces. Screwing through the side piece into the shelf. You will be making a shelf sandwich between your side boards.

X Brace

Once all of the shelves are in place, flip the entire bookshelf over. For a large shelf, you need some sort of added support and bracing to keep things from getting wobbly and to strengthen the shelves so they don't bow.

I used 1x6 boards in a X shape on the back of my bookshelf as a brace. This gives the bookshelf a nice farmhouse look too, so bonus!

I laid my first board in place and traced along the edge of my bookshelf to find the exact angle needed. Go cut out these angles and screw the first board down to the bookshelf.

Do the same thing for the second X board only this time you will have to cut out a section where it intersects with the first board. I used the same tracing method to mark out this spot. I simply screwed the ends into the first board at this intersection. Be sure to drill pilot holes so the board doesn't split.

Screw through your X boards into the back of the shelves. Again, this will help those long shelves with a boost of strength and keep them from sagging.

Finished Bookshelf

After my X was finished, my husband and I wrestled this beast into our house. It fit perfectly behind the couch. I finished off the unit with a whitewash and water based poly. You can see more about that in my video or blog.

I kept the decor pretty minimal because we do have a very small living room and I didn't want to overwhelm the space. However, I'm sure we will find more ways to fill this thing up over time.

So don't forget that bookshelves aren't just for libraries. They can be put to use in many different ways. They can protect your wall, hide your cords and create vertical storage in those tight spaces.

Resources for this project:
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Heather Cammack
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 4 questions
  • Jessie Jessie on Jul 17, 2020

    So, you have to climb on the couch every time you want a book? Maybe add another lower shelf to increase use of the space. Great idea but not much storage for the space used.

  • Patti Barrett-Day Patti Barrett-Day on Jul 18, 2020

    Lovely, but do you have to stand on the couch to get a book?

  • Stacey Stacey on Jul 26, 2020

    Did you secure it to the wall ad well?

Join the conversation
2 of 33 comments
  • Doris Schroeder Adamy Doris Schroeder Adamy on Jul 19, 2021

    Nice idea, but think I'd put the books on the next shelf down, as they look really heavy lined up across the top. Also, the 2nd shelf has more support toward the center, so it won't sag as much from the weight of the books. Better still, I'd put a few books, a basket, decorative items, plants, etc, spaced throughout all of the shelves, so the effect would be more aesthetically pleasing. Great way to fill a blank wall and gain storage, though!

  • Scott Scott on Oct 21, 2022

    I love this idea. I have been planning on making a low shelf for behind the couch. More of a ledge. This is great for pictures and decorations.