Built In Bookshelves with Desk in Home Office

Considering built-in bookshelves with desk space? Get all the details on designing one for your home office space!

agreeable gray bookcases in home office with built in desk

In March of 2020, my husband – who had always worked at an office – began working from home permanently. And it was immediately evident that our home office (the smallest spare bedroom) could use some major work. So we decided to add some built-in bookshelves with a desk to one wall, and I’m so glad we did.

It’s been well over a year since we added these, and yes, I’m just now getting around to sharing about them… But at least I can now honestly say that they have really been wonderful.

light gray bookcases filled with books and photographs

We’re still putting the finishing touches on this office, but the built-in cabinets, bookcases, and desk were the best way to start. That plus plenty of light has made this a wonderful home office.

Benefits of Built In Bookcases

Although built-in cabinetry and bookshelves require a certain commitment and remove a certain amount of flexibility from your home, I think the benefits can far outweigh the costs when doing them right.

wall with built in desk and cabinets with bookcases to ceiling

Here are just a few benefits of built-in bookcases:

  • storage – shelves, cabinets, and drawers
  • elegance – with a good paint job and crown molding, floor to ceiling bookcases lend presence and beauty to your space
  • efficiency – the simplicity of built-ins feels less busy that the equivalent amount of storage when using freestanding furniture and usually takes us less floor space

Our Office Built Ins

Designing the Bookcases

I wanted the following:

  • lots of bookshelf space
  • cabinets with cabinet doors to hide printer and office supplies
  • a modest desk with a reasonable workspace in the center
  • a focal point for artwork
built in desk with bookcase surround

Designing Built-in Bookshelves with Desk

The room is barely 10′ wide, so our space was limited.

Tip: if you are considering designing some built-in bookshelves, think of the wall in vertical columns. Even if you want different things at different heights, it will be more visually appealing if you have uninterrupted vertical lines.

built in bookcase in small bedroom with desk

We wanted the built in desk to be centered on the wall space, and we decided 48″ was basically the minimum width for a truly functional and comfortable desk top. That gave us room for two 3′ bookshelf sections on either side of a 4′ desk section in the center.

Since at least 2′ is needed for leg room for comfort, we were able to add 1 ft drawers on either side of the desk leg area.

Because the room is small, we wanted the shallowest built-ins we could use functionally. We decided 18″ would work for office equipment without crowding the room. The desk, however, we wanted to be 20″ deep for working space.

built in desk with pictures and sconce above

The set of shelves only needed to be 12 inches deep since we actually planned to use them for books. And we added a bookshelf across the top of the desk space for maximum storage. This also created a small nook for a sconce above the desk and artwork.

Building Home Office Built-Ins

We decided to have custom cabinetry built as we were having trouble finding the sizes or depth we needed in stock cabinetry at the time. The cabinetry was beautifully made and was delivered and installed as unpainted wood (and plywood). The carpenter installed it all and added the crown molding and baseboards.

The plan was to paint it myself, but life was getting away from us, so we hired the painter who did the exterior of our home to paint it in Agreeable Gray (see more about why I love this paint color here). I love how it looks in the natural light from the large window against the oak floors.

build in cabinets and desk in home office

I finished it off with classic hardware: these gorgeous unlacquered brass handles and these unlacquered brass knobs.

SW Agreeable Gray cabinets and built in desk with unlacquered brass knobs and pulls

Styling Built-In Bookshelves

We try to keep the desktop mostly clear of decor and clutter. My husband actually has a large computer desk in the office, as well. This built-in one serves as a secondary desk when I or my kids need to join him. Or sometimes he uses it when he needs a clear space away from his computer.

The bookshelves, though, we fully loaded… Mostly with books.

built in bookcases in home office with brass knobs and lots of books

Plus a few picture frames and momentos.

I let my husband choose the artwork: his alma mater and his two favorite sports facilities. And my wedding portrait 😉 .

Ultimately, I feel like the simplicity of the bookcase design allows for the busy-ness of the books and accessories we love. It keeps his office feeling put together, refined, and useful, while minimizing distractions. I’m excited to share the other elements of the room with you soon!

Built In Bookshelves FAQs

built in desk and bookshelves painted agreeable gray

How much does it cost to have built in bookshelves built?
This varies greatly, especially these days when the cost of lumber is so high. I think you will likely pay a minimum of $3,000 and much higher for high-quality craftsmanship.

How do you build built-in shelves and desks?
We actually have a similar tutorial coming soon for another spot in our home… so hold please on that one.

Do built ins add value to home?
They definitely can! Just be sure to consider the functionality and flexibility of potential layouts in a space when designing built-ins. Don’t limit your home (for example, leaving a technical bedroom without anywhere to put a bed) if you can avoid it.

I hope you enjoyed seeing our office storage solution! Would you ever consider a custom built in bookcase? Be sure to pin it for later!

built in desk surrounded by bookcases

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  1. Would love to have a supply list? I have checked LTK and your blog under shop my home and can’t find it? I’m interested in rug and hardware. Looks great!

  2. Beautiful! How high are your ceilings? How high above the desktop is the uppershelf? Your built-in is spacial and balanced!

    1. Thank you! The ceilings are 9′, and there is about 4.5′ from the desktop to the shelf above. I hope this helps!

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