Pottery Barn-inspired Bookcase

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Project by threetee posted 01-21-2008 08:10 AM 7471 views 11 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My first standalone furniture project is nearly complete. The piece is a painted bookcase, designed to match my daughter’s Pottery Barn bedroom set. This project came about because my daughter’s bedroom set didn’t have a matching bookcase, and her books didn’t look so hot stacked up on the floor. I had been itching to try some standalone furniture after designing and building a fireplace surround, so this gave me a perfect opportunity.

First, using Google Sketchup, I created a design for the bookcase that mimicked the look of the existing pieces in the set.

Existing dresser:

Sketchup model:

.skp file

The main design elements were the slightly recessed panels on the side, the elliptical profile and decorative edge on the feet, and a chamfered detail on the top. Sketchup made it easy to duplicate these details precisely, making the piece match perfectly. This was my first attempt at modeling with Sketchup, so if there are any glaring errors, then I have a built-in excuse.

After creating the model, I acquired all materials. Because this piece was going to be painted to match the existing furniture, I was able to use some pine boards I had left over from a previous project for the shelves, top and cleats. For the frame uprights, I used fir 4×4s from Home Depot that I cut down to 2”x2” square. I ended up regretting this choice, because the fir was full of resin, and its grain pattern made it difficult to join near the edge without splitting. I also had a tough time cutting it down to 2”x2” because my table saw’s 10” blade was not big enough to cut through the entire width of the 4×4 in one cut. I had to cut partway through, then turn it over and cut through from the other side, which resulted in the blade pinching the workpiece and lots of saw marks. I was able to sand them out, but so much sanding made some of the uprights not perfectly square.

After cutting the uprights to size, I routed 1/4” wide, 3/8” deep dadoes in each one so they could accept the 1/4” plywood I used for the sides and back of the case. The dadoes were inset by 1/8” to duplicate the look of the dresser. To route the dadoes on the uprights, I used the plunge base of my router along with a router edge guide. I then cut the remaining frame pieces and cleats to length, and routed the through dadoes on the frame pieces using the same router mounted in my router table.

To cut the decorative arcs in the bottom frame pieces, I ended up using two methods. For the shorter pieces, I made a trammel jig by screwing my router base to one end of a long piece of scrap plywood. After doing some algebra to calculate the right distance, I nailed through the other end of the plywood to create a pivot point, and used the jig to cut a nice sweeping arc with a straight bit in the router. For the longer pieces, I used the ‘nails and string’ method to scribe a line onto some scrap plywood. I then cut along that line with my jigsaw and smoothed the edges to create a template. I clamped the template to my workpiece and used a flush trim bit with my router’s plunge base to cut the arc on the workpiece.

After cutting the curved pieces, I cut the shelves to size and shape with my table saw and jigsaw. I was then ready to begin assembling the frame. I used pocket-hole joinery almost exclusively, mostly for ease of construction, but also because the pieces were too small to use biscuits. After priming all the pieces, I used my pocket hole jig to drill pocket holes in all the pieces that would be joined, then put on two finish coats of paint on each piece. I then joined the frame pieces for each side of the case…

...and joined the two sides to each other. I then test-fitted some shelves to make sure everything was lining up properly:

After attaching the remaining frame pieces, cleats and shelves, I sanded a pine board, cut it to the right overall dimensions for the bottom half of the top piece with a 30-degree angle on the edges, and clamped it to the top of the case. After tracing the outline of the case onto the underside of the top piece, I removed the piece and traced another line, inset by 1” from the line I traced. I then cut along this line with my jigsaw to cut out the inside of the top piece. I did this in an attempt to minimize the weight of the case top in an attempt to prevent it from becoming top-heavy. After doing this step, I attached the bottom half of the top piece to the case with countersunk screws going into the top of the uprights:

And finally, I cut the top half of the case top to size, rounded the edges, and attached it to the top with screws coming up through the bottom half of the case top. A couple more coats of paint, and here’s the bookcase in its current state:

All that is left now is to route the edges of the decorative pieces to go above the feet, turn the feet themselves, paint them all up and attach them. But because I couldn’t wait to see the piece in the room, here it is in its new home with its proud owner:

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5 comments so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3903 days

#1 posted 01-21-2008 11:32 AM

Nice job. Looks like it was made for the set (which, of course, it was).

View Critterman's profile


600 posts in 3839 days

#2 posted 01-21-2008 12:59 PM

Looks great and matches well, nice work.

-- Jim Hallada, Chesterfield, VA

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#3 posted 01-21-2008 04:42 PM

Nice project. It is a good start. I am sure that there are additional pieces that you daughter needs to round out her bedroom furniture- nightstands armoire for the television to mention a couple. Just a few suggestions to get you some more shop time.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View John's profile


341 posts in 3827 days

#4 posted 01-21-2008 09:47 PM

Nice project – welcome!

-- John - Central PA -

View relic's profile


343 posts in 3965 days

#5 posted 01-22-2008 12:27 AM

You scratched that itch good. The book case matches real nice.

-- Andy Stark

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