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Build Bookcases with a Window Seat

Project Overview

Build Bookcases with a Window Seat

Create architectural interest in a basic builder room with DIY bookcases and a window seat. The unit is built in three sections fitted to look like a custom built-in unit. The window seat is simply a version of the bookcase laid on its side. Our units are constructed from oak, and we added to the built-in look by papering the bookcases to match the walls. Note that the materials list covers one bookcase measuring 96"H x 24"W x 20"D. For a bookcase with different dimensions, adjust the cutting measurements given to fit your space. You will need to increase your supply list to build a second bookcase and the window seat. The window seat sizing will be determined by the width of your space under the window.

10 Steps

  1. For this project you'll need to create a cut list
  2. Cutting rabbet for back
  3. Attach shelves
  4. Cut plugs
  5. Attach facing
  1. Attach shelf fronts
  2. Finishing
  3. Wallpapering
  4. Apply back
  5. Constructing the window seat
Show all steps »
For this project you'll need to create a cut list

Step 1

For this project you'll need to create a cut list

The finished size of our bookcase is 96"H x 24"W x 20"D. Bookcase sides: from a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2" oak veneered plywood cut two 19 1/4" x 96" pieces for the exterior and two 18-3/4" x 95" pieces for the interior. Top/bottom and shelves: from a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2" oak veneered plywood cut two 19-1/4" x 23" pieces for the exterior top and bottom and five 18-3/4" x 18-1/2" pieces for the interior top and bottom and three shelves. Cabinet back: from a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2" oak veneered plywood cut a 23-1/2" x 95-1/2" piece. Gable caps: from the 1" x 4" x 10' oak cut two 3" x 36" pieces. Top cap: from the 1" x 4" x 8' oak cut a 3" x 14" piece. Bottom cap: from the 1" x 6" x 4' oak cut a 4" x 14" piece. Shelf edging: from the 1" x 4" x 8' oak cut three 3/4" x 14" pieces. Spacing battens: from the 1" x 4" x 10' pine cut four 1-3/4" x 94-15/16" pieces.

Cutting rabbet for back

Step 2

Cutting rabbet for back

Using a trim router with guide and a 1/2" double fluted bit, rabbet the back of both exterior gables and the top and bottom panels to accept the back of the cabinet.

Attach shelves

Step 3

Attach shelves

Attach the shelves to the interior side pieces with carpenter's glue and four countersunk #6 1-1/2" woodscrews. Glue and clamp the battens to the front and back of the inner and outer side pieces. Finally, screw the exterior top and bottom panels to the top and bottom of the inner side pieces and the outer side pieces.

Cut plugs

Step 4

Cut plugs

Use an off cut of either 1" x 4" or 1" x 6" oak and a 1/4" plug cutter in your drill to produce oak plugs for exposed screw heads along the top and bottom of the outer gables.

Attach facing

Step 5

Attach facing

To attach the solid oak facing to the body of the cabinet, create equally spaced slots in the back of the facing using a biscuit joiner. Now use a trim router with guide and a 1/8" slotted bit to rout a channel in the outer and inner gable faces and across the outer and inner top and bottom to accept biscuits. Offset the biscuits and channels 1/4" from the veneer faces to allow for any warping due to swelling biscuits. Glue and clamp oak facing to the body of the cabinet.

Attach shelf fronts

Step 6

Attach shelf fronts

Fix the 3/4" oak facing to the three shelf fronts with glue and 1-1/4" 18-gauge brad nails. The top of the facing should be flush with the top edge of the shelf.

Step 7


Fill all brad nail holes and sand with a random orbital sander using 120 grit, then 220 grit sandpaper. To finish, stain with two coats of gel stain and seal with two coats of fast drying polyurethane, sanding lightly between coats.


Step 8


To wallpaper (optional) begin at the back and wrap around the front and into the openings. Trim to fit.

Step 9

Apply back

When polyurethane or wallpaper glue is dry, glue and nail the back of the cabinet on, using carpenter's glue and 1" 18-gauge brad nails.

Step 10

Constructing the window seat

The window seat is cut and constructed in the same manner as the bookcase. Measure the space between your two bookcases and cut the inner and outer top, bottom and side pieces to fit. Cut the divider pieces to your desired height. Note that window seats are not usually more than 18" high. Remember to allow for the depth of your chosen cushion. You will not be applying a 3" solid oak facing to the ends of the box – they will butt up against the sides of the bookcases and be finished with a shelf facing piece. The vertical shelf facing pieces should be flush to the outer side edges and centred over the inner uprights. Finish the seat with a box cushion, sized to fit. For your convenience, The Home Depot In-Home Decorating Service can make a custom cushion in a stylish covering of your choice.

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Project Details

Skill Level: Expert

Time: 5 hours

Before you start, read this »

Due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, The Home Depot® assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries suffered, or losses incurred as a result of attempting to replicate any of the home improvement ideas portrayed in this website Before beginning any home improvement project, review it thoroughly to ensure you or your contractor can finish the project and if any doubts or questions remain, consult local experts or authorities. Because codes and regulations vary greatly, you always should check with authorities to ensure that your project complies with all applicable local codes and regulations. Always read and observe all of the safety precautions provided by any tool or equipment manufacturer, and follow all accepted safety procedures.


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