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.

BPF_original_fake-built-in-cabinets_step-1a_4x3

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).

BPF_original_fake-built-in-cabinets_step-6_4x3

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).

Next Up

How to Clean Wood Cabinets

Grime and grease don't stand a chance with these tips for cleaning wood cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom.

How to Build Oversized Garage Storage Cabinets

Say goodbye to clutter for good with the addition of extra-large garage cabinets. Inexpensive and easy to assemble, this DIY storage solution is a perfect weekend project.

The 10 Best Bookcases and Bookshelves on Amazon

Boost the storage and style in your home with the best bookcases on Amazon — all under $250.

The 10 Best Wall-Mounted Storage Solutions for Small Spaces

Put your empty walls to work with these space-saving floating shelves, cubbies and cabinets.

11 Best Garage Shelving Ideas

Functional and practical, these storage solutions will transform your garage from messy to organized.

Building a Cabinet Shelf

Learn how to fix a broken shelf with these step-by-step instructions from Don't Sweat It host Steve Watson.

How to Build Recessed Bookcases

This attic was updated with bright color, sparkling white trim and built-in bookcases that are often found in houses of similar age.

Upgrade a Bookshelf With Cane Webbing

Cane furniture is hot in home design, but it can be pricy. Give your basic, open-back bookshelf a trendy new look with this easy how-to.

DIY Painted Animal Bookends

Transform everyday materials into sturdy, colorful bookends to dress up your bookshelves.

How to Build Bookshelves Around a Fireplace

Gather storage space around your hearth with these step-by-step instructions.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Zillow Gone Wild

11:30am | 10:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

12:30pm | 11:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

1:30pm | 12:30c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30pm | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30pm | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30pm | 4:30c

House Hunters

6:30pm | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Vacation House Rules

8pm | 7c

Zillow Gone Wild

9:31pm | 8:31c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

10:31pm | 9:31c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

1:30am | 12:30c

Vacation House Rules

2:59am | 1:59c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.