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How to Build Quick and Affordable Shelves

There may be Christmas tunes playing right now. Am I the only one?

Our new house has some funky living spaces. First, when you come through the front door, you walk right into the only official living space in the house. This does not work for me. I’m not the kind of person who needs a formal sitting room or big vaulted entryway, but I’m not a fan of walking right into the TV room. Here’s how the real estate listing showed the room and how we have it for now, until we tear a wall down.


Second, the house is officially four bedrooms, but the 4th bedroom is a large room on the main floor that should clearly be the family/TV room. Since it wasn’t designed as the TV room, the space is awkward because it has a closet and doesn’t naturally fit couches or a TV.

We’ve made our existing couches work for now, but the only place for the TV is along a looong wall that drowns out our small table that was functioning as our entertainment center. I was ready to throw my hands up with this room and accept that for now, it would be functional and I’d worry about designing the space after I dealt with the rest of the house. 

An aside, the minute I give up on something, I end up diving into it full force. e.g. after years of freaking out about taking fish off the fishing hook, I declared one summer during college I was giving up on fishing. Then, I went back to Bozeman for school—where you can’t not fish—a month later and took up fly fishing like it was my job. This happens over and over. So, as soon as I gave up on the TV room, I figured out a plan for the entertainment center, which turned out to be a college throwback solution.

Cinderblocks! I know, you’re thinking one of two things: are you a 20 year old guy? or, you have a job, buy a real piece of furniture. But here’s the deal, since the space is a little funky and we’re still figuring out the best set up, I don’t want to commit to a large furniture purchase. And, I like the rustic, industrial look of using building materials in decor. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got up my sleeves with a whole stack of metal pipes.

I measured the wall length and ran to Lowe’s and picked up some simple cinderblocks and headed to the shelving section. At this point my cart was crazy heavy and I was getting some weird looks as I tried to maneuver 252lbs (I looked it up, #nerdalert) of cinderblocks around the store.  I found these boards that look like a patchwork quilt #love.


I spent at least an hour detangling all our cords. Taz was a big help.


I defrosted bacon for dinner. #multitasking


Ahhhh! That feels better.


Then, I threw together the bookshelf. It took 30 minutes to carry in all the cinderblocks and under 10 to set up the shelf. I tried really hard to hide all the cords, but totally failed, so no tips on that today.


Once I get this room painted and commit to the decor, I plan to whitewash the cinderblocks and stain the boards to bring out the patchwork pattern. We’re just to the unpacking point where I’ll break out all the things I style bookshelves with. So for now, here it is!



Love this wood grain! Can’t wait to stain it.


Have Lowe’s cut the boards to the length you need in the store. This saves you a step at home.
Use unfinished shelving boards to keep the price down.
Keep the space between cinderblocks to under 3 feet so your boards don’t bow. Or, stack books under the longer span if you want less blocks.

Project Cost: $98

I’ve seen some great cinderblock projects out there. Have you used them in creative home projects?