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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

10.02.2000

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get handy: 
b
uild a basic Bookcase |
  1 2 3 4

I've got a deep-seeded distrust of any person whose house lacks books. Yeah, I know Iím a snob, but hereís the truth: while I can understand (though just barely, mind you) how a person could live without a computer, a TV, a VCR, maybe even a stereo, the notion of a life without books simply boggles the mind.

So Iím of the firm opinion that a person can never have enough bookshelf space. No matter how big my living space may be, I constantly feel like Iím running out of room to stash that beloved book collection, which, between my grad student boyfriend and my bookworm self, seems to expand at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, good-quality bookcases are outrageously expensive, and a good-sized one can set you back a couple of hundred dollars, easily more. Heck, even those flimsy white-veneered chipboard bookshelves that you get at Home Depot Ė you know, the kind whose shelves start warping from the mere weight of paperbacks within a couple of months of use Ė cost a ridiculous $80 or so. Yes, I own one too, but letís face it: they look even cheaper than they are,  and only seem like a bargain in comparison to the alternatives.

Fortunately, you donít have to be a trained carpenter to throw together a perfectly practical, simple and sturdy bookcase. The best thing about making your own bookshelves is that you can custom-fit them to your needs Ė make a tall skinny bookshelf for that un-used little space over in the corner, put together a low, long one to go under a big window. If youíre short of square footage in your apartment, youíll definitely want to make shelves that reach up to the ceiling, as they make excellent use of that frequently neglected vertical space.

One thing you'll want to bear in mind is that books are heavy, and shelves will bend. Using expensive hard woods rather than cheap, soft pine would, of course, reduce the warping problem, but there are other, more affordable solutions as well. First, keep those bookshelves narrow. If you need a whole wall of bookshelving, make several narrower bookshelves to fill that space rather than a single super-wide one. Secondly, flip each individual shelf from time to time to correct for the sag caused by the weight of the books.

Ready to start playing with tools? Our directions for a very basic, no-frills set of bookshelves Ö

this way please 

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