Apartment Guide Editorial Team
DIY bookshelves

If you're in serious need of a storage solution in your apartment, you only need a few wooden crates, some paint and hardware to build your own bookshelf!

What's great about this project is that you can customize it, making it as small or as large as you like. Since I have no bookcases in my place, I decided to fill my entire wall. Four stacked crates would also work just as well.

DIY Crate Bookshelf Materials

Materials Needed

  • Wooden crates (Quantity depends on how large you want your bookshelf. I bought my crates on sale online at The Home Depot)
  • Cordless drill
  • Screws (32 3/4-inch screws and 12 1 1/2-inch screws)
  • Newspaper or a tarp
  • Sandpaper
  • DIY Chalk Paint (optional): One batch: 1 cup water + 1 cup Plaster of Paris + 3 cups paint
  • 1 paint brush (optional)
  • 1 mixing cup (optional)
  • Spray paint (optional)



Get started by laying out how you want your bookshelf to look. Anything would work, but I set up my bookshelf so it would fill up my entire wall. I also made sure most of my books would fit (since having somewhere to put them is the whole point):

DIY crate bookshelf with books and without books

Before you begin, prepare your workspace by placing a tarp and/or newspaper on your floor. Since you’ll be painting, it’s important that you do this in a well-ventilated room with plenty of space.  Also, if painting or staining, wear a mask to avoid breathing in any harmful fumes.

Once you have an idea of how it should look, remove any labels from the crates and sand down any rough areas. If there are any damaged or missing slats on the crates, make sure to fix that now.


I chose to make my own chalk paint, but you can use any paint you wish. I used white paint that I already had available, but you can choose to stain your crates or leave them as-is. Chalk paint is terrific for a small project like this one, because it doesn't require sanding or priming, and it leaves a matte finish. It's also very easy to mix with any color paint.

Tip: Mix your chalk paint in batches. To paint 4 crates, first mix one batch for 3 cups of paint: 1 cup water + 1 cup Plaster of Paris + 3 cups paint. I mixed my paint in batches to avoid wasting any paint.DIY Chalk PaintTip: Painting is very time consuming for a bookshelf this large. Cut your project time in half by opting out of painting or staining.

Paint DIY Crate Bookshelf


Once the paint is dry, arrange your crates on the floor for assembly. I began assembling the two bottom rows of shelves on the floor, and then I proceeded to stack and attach each row of shelves upright against the wall. If you’re looking for a more permanent shelf, you could also screw or nail them directly into the wall – the great thing about these shelves is their flexibility.

Back to mine. I drilled 3/4-inch screws on the top and bottom of the inside of the crates, usually using about 8 – 12 screws per crate. On each row that contained 3 crates, I used four 1 1/2-inch screws to attach the middle crate to the crates on either side:

Screws in DIY Crate Bookshelf

I spray painted all screws with spray paint I had on hand so it would match the white and gold decor in my living room.

And here's the finished product!

DIY Crate Bookshelf Finished Project

More storage ideas:

Photo credits: Cristina Cheatwood; Apartment Guide

Header Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash



About The Author

Apartment Guide Editorial Team

The Apartment Guide Blog is your premier source for all things apartment related. From your initial search to your next move and everything in between, we’ve got you covered with all the tips, tricks and advice you’re looking for. We also sprinkle in a little industry news like rental trends and city lists from time to time if that’s your thing.