With simple lines and straightforward joinery, this project yields ample shelf space (and drawers to boot).
This large case-on-case shelving unit is adapted from similar pieces I’ve seen in private libraries and in stately homes. I also dug up a few pictures from the Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction sites, where the form is referred to as a “bibliotheque” (also the French word for library).
Those examples, however, all feature intricate mouldings and fancy corbels and are more adorned than would look right in my less-than-stately 1895 home. I do, however, have 10′ ceilings and an embarrassment of books, so while I didn’t want fancy, I did want big. So I reconceived the form in a Shaker-on-steroids style – the piece is just shy of 50″ wide x 90″ high. It will fit in a room with standard ceiling heights, but in case I ever needed to use the top and bottom separately, I installed a solid top for the bottom case so it can stand alone (and with the addition of a cushion, it would make a handsome hall bench).
The size did have me fretting about stock costs, so I culled the “shorts” bin at our local lumber store for lower-priced cherry, and found a nicely figured wide piece for the drawer fronts, as well as sufficient stock for the lower case and all the shelves. The shelves are made of some rather homely boards, but because I added a lip to the front for strength and appearance, you can’t actually tell – unless you remove the books and take a close look. I did have to go to the regular-price rack for the upper-case face frame and sides, but I saved money by using poplar for the backboards, which I painted to match the trim in the living room.
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