Fake a Built-In With Prefab Cabinets and Bookcases

With the clever use of ready-made bookshelves and kitchen base cabinets, you can get the look of a custom built-in bookcase at a fraction of the cost.
White Cabinet and Shelf With Red Wall

White Cabinet and Shelf With Red Wall

With the clever use of pre-fab bookshelves and kitchen base cabinets, this storage area has the look of a custom built-in at a fraction of the cost. The black-and-white backing of the bookshelves is an eye-catching contrast with the red walls.

Materials Needed:

  • kitchen base cabinets
  • 8' sheet of 3/4"thick paint-grade plywood
  • ready-made bookcase (either tall or short)
  • measuring tape
  • screwdriver or drill
  • level
  • sawhorses
  • pencil
  • circular saw
  • decorative molding
  • liquid bonding adhesive and caulk gun
  • nail gun
  • brads
  • belt sander (or orbital sander)
  • tack cloth
  • 2" angled paintbrush
  • roller handle and cover
  • paint pan
  • quart of semigloss paint
  • 2" wood screws
  • putty knife and wood putty
  • sanding block
  • wallpaper, wallpaper paste and wallpaper smoothing tool (optional)

Take Proper Measurements

Use a measuring tape to determine what size built-in you need. Referring to these measurements, purchase ready-made kitchen base cabinets and bookcases. Place kitchen base cabinets in the proper location then measure to determine the dimensions needed for a plywood top (Image 1). Note: Kitchen base cabinets don't come with a top surface because the countertop is installed separately.

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Cut Plywood Top Surface

Referring to measurements, mark then cut plywood to size (Image 1). Tip: Use a level as a straight edge to create a perfectly straight line (Image 2). Place cut board on top of kitchen base cabinets to ensure a proper fit (Image 3).

Sand Plywood and Paint

Before painting plywood top, use a belt sander (or orbital sander) to smooth any rough surfaces (Image 1). Next, use a tack cloth to remove dust. Then apply several coats of semigloss paint, allowing the paint to fully dry between coats (Image 2).

Secure Plywood Top to Kitchen Base Cabinets

After allowing at least one hour for paint to dry, attach plywood top to kitchen base cabinets with 2-inch wood screws installed through the bottom of the plywood top (Image 1).

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Assemble Then Attach Bookcases

Assemble ready-made bookcases following manufacturer's instructions then place them on top of the kitchen base cabinets. You can leave the bookcase back panel as-is or add a little designer flair by painting it a different color or covering the panel in wallpaper or fabric.

Attach Molding and Paint

Based on dimensions of bookcases, measure, mark and cut trim molding to size, mitering the corners. Next, use a caulk gun to apply liquid bonding adhesive along bookcases' faces before attaching trim and securing it with a nail gun (Image 1). Patch any holes with wood filler and a putty knife. After approximately one hour, use a sanding block to smooth dried putty then paint trim to match bookcase (Image 2).

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