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©2003-2019 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

Mahogany bookcases "to fit"

Some musicians needed bookcases to fit in the corner between the piano and harpsichord. Natural (unstained) mahogany was selected as the wood best suited between the two instruments. These were built as two separate bookcases for future flexibility. Each was 54 inches tall, 36 inches wide, and just under a foot deep. The top overhangs the edges by about 1/16 inch. The base is slightly smaller to accommodate at least small baseboards.

I don't often get to see the bookcases after they are in use - I am pleased with how these look. Mahogany plywood was used for stability, but the edges were solid mahogany rather than veneer, to withstand possible "collisions" by one of the customers as she grows up.

$850 each, $1,600 for two
(in most furniture woods)

Library Bookcases

These are three separate bookcases made from furniture grade walnut plywood, with solid walnut trim and doors. With the doors, they are sometimes called "library cabinets" rather than "bookcases." Each cabinet is 36 inches wide, - these are taller than most - about 93 inches overall. Normally 5 adjustable shelves would be provided with each "8 foot" bookcase, four above the fixed shelf, and one behind the doors, but the client ordered extras. The crown moulding is on the front of all three units, and on the ends of the two outside units.

They are installed on a diagonal wall at the back of the living room, visible as you enter the front door, thus providing a focus and warmth to the whole house.

The door edges are tapered, so they can be opened without knobs, or knobs can easily be added.

These are two separate bookcases, similar to the above, but a more common 80 inch height (almost 7 feet), and fixed shelves. A smaller moulding is used at the top, allowing the top to be used for display and storage. The fixed shelf that defines the base section is 30 inches above the floor.

They looked great as they were installed in our customer's living room, even though the photography could be better

"7 foot height" $1,600 each, $1,500 each for two or more.
without doors: $1,375 each, $1,300 each for two or more
Add $60 for "8 foot" height and extra shelf; additional shelves $35 each

Narrower bookcases are on either side of the electronics cabinet in this entertainment wall. Each bookcase is 24 inches wide and 80 inches tall. The units are 16 inches deep to go better with the deep center entertainment unit. Solid walnut raised panel doors cover the lower section, which extends to 30 inches above the floor. The shelves in this unit are adjustable. A small top moulding was used to match the bookcases above, but a larger crown moulding would normally be used.

$1,600 each, $1,500 each for two or more
$1,600 each, $1,500 each for two or more in normal depth (same as above)
without doors: $1,375 each, $1,300 each for two or more

Walnut barrister-style bookcase

The classic barrister bookcase is a modular unit one shelf high, but with a unique glass door that tips up and slides into a groove above the books. They are often built from oak, or more specifically, quarter sawn white oak. Construction is straightforward, because a pin can be put in the end of the doors, and a groove in the side of the cabinet. A separate base and optional crown allow any number of shelf units to be stacked. The cabinet below has barrister doors on the three upper shelves, but has other characteristics that make construction very complex.

3374 3377 3379

This bookcase is made from solid walnut hardwood - no plywood. The wood for each of the raised panels was painstakingly selected, and most panels are wide boards, not multiple boards glued together. Part of the complexity was the requirement that there be a single end panel for the upper and lower parts, not one for each shelf. This enhanced the beauty, but complicated construction tremendously - it precluded the use of a groove to manage the door storage and hinge.


<-Even the back consisted of raised panels in a shiplap configuration, "nailed" in place as required by tradition.

->The feet have vertical grain, with horizontal "aprons."


$3,150 in current design
$2,450 in traditional design, all solid wood
$1,850 with some plywood

Simple Pecan bookcases


Be sure to see the pair of simple Pecan bookcases built as part of a living room set with table, desk, and bookcases. The two bookcases were designed to go on opposite sides of the same wall, with trim on the front and one side. When this client moved, they were excited that the bookcases could be reversed, left to right, and be placed against each other, as a wider bookcase in their new home.

$1,175 each, $1,100 each for two or more

Economy bookcases

We are often asked about the price of bookcases. The answer is unsatisfying - "it depends." To help establish a starting point, we have designed an "ordinary" bookcase that we can build for you for $750. It uses good materials and construction techniques, but the details are chosen to make best use of the material, and to minimize the construction effort.

Of course, we would like to build a nicer bookcase for you. Adding even an inch to the width will add another sheet of plywood to our material cost. We prefer to use some trim, like a crown moulding on the top. Doors are great to hide the clutter. Using a nicer wood ... well, here we go!

If this is too expensive, we suggest you look for used furniture. The cheaper bookcases we have seen (and occasionally bought for ourselves when we needed something instantly) generally used man-made composition material that warp and sag substantially over time when used for books.

Construction details for library bookcases

Solid hardwood raised panel doors with European hinges cover the lower section, or a flat panel with veneer can be sued instead of the raised panel in the door, or other door styles. As common practice, the top of the enclosed section is 30 inches above the floor. With kick space and framing, the door opening is just over 2 feet high.

Furniture grade plywood is used for the extra strength and stiffness. Solid walnut is attached to all the horizontal edges, with veneer or hardwood on the vertical edges. Solid hardwood, about 1%frac14, to 1&frac1/2; inches tall, is added to the front of the shelves for appearance and strength.

Inside the enclosed section, a fixed or adjustable shelf can be installed. That shelf can be made slightly narrower, so that a tall item can be placed in front of the shelf. (With a fixed shelf, the narrower design is recommended, but a full-depth shelf is recommended for adjustable shelves, so the shelf doesn't slide on the pins.)

The shelves of the wider unit above are all fixed, with 15 inches clearance for the bottom open shelf, 9 3/4 inches for the next two shelves, and just over 8 inches (for paperbacks) on the top shelf. This cabinet is just under 12 inches deep. I recommend that adjustable shelves be used instead of fixed shelves.

In the narrower unit above, the only fixed shelf is the one that encloses the bottom section, just above the doors. All the other shelves are adjustable, on brass pins. This cabinet is 16 inches deep, to blend better with the entertainment center.

The top of these cabinets are flat, with the crown moulding extending slightly above the cabinets. For the side-by-side cabinets, a bracket can be screwed to the top fastens the two cabinets together for extra stability, or the cabinets can be used independently. Ceramic tile floors are relatively uneven, so the cabinets may need shimming, and may profit from being tied together.

There are a total of 6 storage surfaces, plus the top of the cabinet itself, in each of these 80 inch bookcases.

Designing your own bookcases

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We primarily serve Austin and the Central Texas area, but travel to the DFW area periodically and are glad to serve the Garland, Plano, Dallas, and other North Texas areas, and are willing to ship anywhere.