Built-In Shelf and Bookrack from an Old Window Opening

What do you do with an old window opening when you add onto a house? Turn it into a bookshelf!


This feature is one of my favorite features in our home, but I can’t take all of the credit for this one.

This was taken when we were doing our final walkthrough before closing, so September 2009. I liked the idea of this bookshelf (although a bit narrow), but didn’t know the why behind it. Quirks of an old home. :)


The day we closed, we ripped out the gross, fake wood paneling and had an aha moment concerning our little bookshelf.

The previous owners added onto our house in the late 70s. The bedroom had two windows, and because they were adding on, one was removed. It left a big gaping hole in the wall. The walls in the original part of our home are plaster and hard to patch, so the opening was made into a built-in bookshelf.

Here is when we discovered the bookshelf’s former life as a window opening:


There were adjustable shelves on there when we moved in and the space was great for normal, big people books (think romance novels). But the narrow depth meant that little kid books were always falling off and it stayed empty. And sad. Wah wah wahhh.

November 2009:


To update things, I painted the whole bookshelf white last fall. (I was pregnant with Adam at this point)


And to improve on their brilliant idea, I cut poplar strips down to size, painted them white, and had Doug nail them into place while we were borrowing the nail gun for the wood floors.
(a big thank you to, Doug’s mom & dad!)


The style of the book rack (or according to Pottery Barn Kids, bookrack) allows for easy kid clean-up because they books don’t have to be arranged just so. I don’t care if “Everybody Poops” is displayed prominently. If my kids (3 and 2) are the ones cleaning up the room and not me, so be it. ;)

POOP! *giggle giggle*

It totally transforms the whole bookshelf and the room. I would say it was quick and easy, but really, the transformation took a year. It SHOULD have taken a small part of the weekend…


I did some staging on the top shelves that they can’t quite reach.

top shelf: a vintage little people train (my mom got it at a garage sale when I was little!)


next shelf: mason jars filled with goodies, yellow Target clock, a vintage Little People ball game &  school chalkboard (garage sale finds), and this robot from Home Goods’ toy section.


next shelf: bins from Dollar Tree, a nickel piggy bank from when Doug was little (from his grandma), and the remnants of our board book collection. The ones that survived two kids. Barely.


I’ll answer some questions you might be thinking that are completely unrelated to this shelf.

Do all three of your kids sleep in one room?
Yes. You can see more pictures of that here, and here.


Do they actually, ya know, sleep?

Yes, they sleep pretty decent for the most part. The secret is staggering bedtimes. Adam takes a nap in the morning. If Ben is going down for a nap, I’ll put Adam down about 15-30 minutes before. Lily doesn’t take a nap anymore. Sad face. But it’s better for her and she’s a much happier kid.

When it comes to bed time, Adam goes down, then Lily and Ben 30-60 min later. I used to stagger the older two for bedtime, but not anymore. The other secret is black out curtains. If you don’t have them in your child’s (or your) room, GET THEM NOW. I’m not joking. GO TO TARGET.COM and ORDER THEM NOW. They’re worth every cent.

Here’s a whole post devoted to our daily schedule if you’re curious.


For more projects and before and afters of the room, check out our kid bedroom progress.

I always say this room is done, but this room will never be done. I think it has the most entries on here of all of our rooms. I want to paint the trim. And that was probably the 43rd time I announced that on this blog.


What are your favorite features in your house?


  1. says

    Looks awesome! I love that top shelf staging. So vintage and rad! I’m always adding to kids room too:). Quinn rarely naps now too! We have a shelf like that in our front entryway that definitely needs a makeover.

  2. Ashleen Moreen says

    Wow, fabulous! I will do the same when my baby will come out hmmm so excited. Kids will surely love to sleep if this is the kind of room they have.

  3. lori says

    I’d LOVE to see a floor plan of your house! : ) It seems like a neat layout! : ) The shelf looks so much better painted white!

    Off subject, but would you be able to do a post on childproofing? Do you use baby gates at your house? How do you watch 3 kids from getting into things? Thanks so much!!!

  4. says

    That was a really good idea to make good on an unwanted window. Because the back of the opening faces an interior space, insulation is not essential. However, you may want a little for a sound barrier.

  5. LoriW says

    *gasp* I. Have. That. Train.

    It never fails to make me do a double take when I see someone have the same toy I have in their house.

  6. says

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail
    on the head. The problem is something which not enough men and women
    are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I found this during my hunt for something regarding this.

  7. says

    I love this- we had a similar situation when I was growing up. :) ALSO OMG- I had that circus train on the top shelf when I was little!!! One of my favorite toys!

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