Build Your Own Bookshelf

One day, I hope to have a bigger house with a room just for books; a library if you will. In the meantime, we have quite a collection of books and not many obvious places to put them. The solution took care of another problem we had been trying to solve. Having a breakfast bar was a fine idea in theory, but its a bit too crowded in here for stools. I realized we could use the space under the bar as a nook for our bookshelf! Once I got Josh on board, the search began. This very specific space required a bookshelf with very specific dimensions.  I religiously looked on Craigslist for a bargain, but it was proving to be a challenge too specific for the luck of the CL draw. And have you seen how expensive new bookshelves are!?!?!?!?


The answer? Make your own bookshelf of course. No experience building furniture? No problem! One treacherous trip to Philadelphia Salvage Co. and back during a snowstorm and we had the materials we needed to build our own bookshelf with zero carpentry skills. Why spend a couple hundred or more on a bookshelf when you can make one out of a variety of found objects (aka other people’s trash). We spent just a little over $100 and had the whole thing put together in about one hour. Most of the money was spent on the wainscotting because it is made of a really nice wood. This cost could be cut dramatically. It was easy, and we think it looks great!


Make Your Own BookshelfIMG_0012

What we used:

  • 12 pieces of old church wainscotting
  • two matching pairs of drawers
  • 6 bricks
  • sander
  • wood glue
  • tung oil
  • old cloths

What we did:

  • Using old wainscotting made this project really easy. The pieces were cut to fit together already, so first we found groups of three that fit together, lined the sides that fit together with wood glue, and fit them together in groups of three.
  • Next we sanded the side of each set of wainscotting/shelves  that would be facing up (we starting doing this one plank at a time and then realized it would be much easier to sand them once they were fit together).


  • Then we wiped down each shelf to clean it of any remaining dirt, dust, and grime.
  • Lasty, we rubbed each shelf down with tung oil.
  • While the tung oil was being absorbed by the wood, we sanded the fronts of the drawers to make them smooth and uniform in color (some of them had been very scratched).
  • Then I washed each drawer with warm water and dish soap to rid them of other people’s dirt and dust from the sanding.
  • Once everything was ready we put together the pieces. The wainscotting fit in nicely with the edges of the drawers, and we didn’t even need to nail anything together. The bricks added some weight and now it is rock solid. If we kept a dictionary on this bookshelf, we’d have to remove the word wobbly from it because it’s so sturdy!
  • Then we filled the shelf with books Clearly we still need more bookshelves (even though we got rid of THREE BOXES of books as we sorted through our collection) but this was a major improvement.


We wandered around Philly Salvage Co. for some time before we found things that would fit together in the needed dimensions. In fact, we probably spent more time looking for potential bookshelf parts than we spent putting it together back at home. As the snow piled up outside, Josh and I would call out and run up to the other with a new idea which we then tested and discussed for flaws. Call me crazy, but it was my idea of an ideal adventure. Especially because it ended with a funky, cheap and useful product!


Death By Rosé in the Afternoon

We turn to literature for the perfect cocktail to sip while putting books in your new bookshelf. Although I have not read a lot of Hemingway, it is on my to do list along with clean out the dryer, learn how to knit and finish paving the backyard. One of his signature cocktails, according to Flavorwire, is a Death in the Afternoon. Flavorwire pairs it with Alice In Wonderland in their 10 Great Novels and The Cocktails You Should Pair Them With article. I love the idea of pairing a book with a cocktail.  Obviously.

shot glass

And why not? Unpacking and placing our books on our new shelf was a bit of a trip down the old rabbit hole.  Some were rescued from my grandmother’s place in Washington Heights after she died. When I see them I can’t help but think of the smell of her apartment which was infused with decades of Egyptian cooking. Others were from our more idealist college days bringing back memories of hazey theoretical conversations and talk of social justice. A few survived our travels in South America and bring to mind taking refuge from it all in various beautiful old rooms full of books in a language I was still learning to decipher. And some have even survived the long journey from high school. Unlike a good book, the absinthe in this cocktail doesn’t actually have hallucinatory properties, but it will leave you in a great frame of mind. I adapted the recipe to use bubbly rose because I thought the floral notes in rose would pair well with the Absinthe. As if anything really pairs well with Absinthe…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset


  • 2 oz Absinthe
  • 4 oz Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine

Hemingway’s instructions (from

Add iced Champagne to a jigger of absinthe until it attains “the proper opalescent milkiness,” then proceed to drink three to five of these cocktails in one sitting. I suggest playing with the proportion so see what balance works best for you. I put one shot glass of Absinthe and filled the glass the rest of the way up with bubbly. All I have to say is that Hemingway must have had quite a bit of fortitude to have made this his go to. If you are into Absinthe you are going to love it. If not, maybe just add a splash to your next glass of champagne for a kick on a sunny afternoon.

death in the afternoon



About hoochandhome

home improvement, one cocktail at a time
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