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Cool Bookshelf Ideas: DIY Bookshelves From Recycled Materials

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Alyssa is an environmental scientist who enjoys writing about environmental issues, sustainability, animals, and travel.

Using recycled materials to create bookshelves is a cool, environmentally friendly project anyone can enjoy.

Using recycled materials to create bookshelves is a cool, environmentally friendly project anyone can enjoy.

Wooden Ladder

Have an old wooden ladder in that shed that's no longer being put to use? You could have yourself a free bookshelf with just a few nails and a hammer.

Flipping the ladder on its side, it acts as a horizontal shelf, whereby the two side poles support the books, and the rungs act as built-in bookends. The older the wood, the better. This will surely transform any room into a vintage-classic space.

A great place to find ladders such as these are yard sales, antique/thrift shops, or just along the side of the road. If you really can't find a used ladder, there are plenty of newer options that you can distress yourself.

Old Books

A variety of shelves can be made by using old books. The first is a concealed shelf, whereby the book itself acts as the support. Using just a wall bracket and some screws, a hardcover can cover the bottom bracket, and more books can be placed on top.

Another option is to gather about a dozen of your old and unused books. Using a piece of wood and two wall brackets (similar to that of the first shelf) along with elastic webbing, a shelf can be made. Simply staple a piece of the elastic on the wood using a staple gun, and slip the book into the elastic. Repeat this for the other dozen or so books, lining them up next to each other. This will create an inverted bookcase, with the wood acting as a shelf and the books seemingly floating underneath.


Suitcases and Old Trunks

Have an old suitcase of ancient trunk lying in that attic? If these have a solid, flat surface, they can be flipped to one side and easily nailed into the wall, acting as a shelf. Or, these can be opened, and the interior can act as a shelf, one tall one; with added planks of wood on the interior, several shorter ones. At the same time, these can be left at ground level or placed on the wall for a vintage feel.


Wooden Drawers

Wooden and worn drawers make the best shelves to hang on the wall. Handles on or off, these can be flipped so that the inside acts as one large shelf. At the same time, the top acts as a second layer of shelving. These are simple to screw right into the wall and can be picked up for just dollars at a thrift store.



While most of us don't have unused and unwanted pianos just sitting around, these can make neat bookshelves when tilted to one side and hollowed out. Just add a few wooden shelves of your own, and you've got yourself a decent-sized shelving unit that will be the focal point of any room.

Old and Unused Wood

If you're the creative type that can work the saw, anything's possible. Using old wood alone, shapes can be created, and words can be spelled to not only act as a decoration for any room but second as a shelf. Popular right now are the branching bookshelves made to look like trees that act as shelving.



Another idea for the handyman in all of us, this shelf utilizes doors as the bookends to a shelf. Sawed in half, these two parts act as the edges, holding the books in. These doors can be left in their original state, old, worn, and wooden, or painted to any color to match the interior.

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Shadow Boxes

Shadow boxes can be used for a variety of sorts. When the glass is taken out, similar to the drawers, they act as the perfect empty interior for a bookshelf. Wooden planks can be added to provide extra spacing; some of the boxes can be left as-is for a tall space. A similar look can be attained with a solid wooden frame and extra wood. Connecting the frame to four pieces of wood, one on each side creates a hollowed box, resembling the shadow box shelf.


Industrial Pipes

These seemingly ugly pipes can be utilized to create a rustic shelving unit. With or without a wooden plank for book support, these will act as useful shelves in a place somewhere you may have never considered before.


Bricks and Concrete Blocks

This requires little assembly. Stacking two sets of bricks or concrete blocks at a desired height and length will provide the support for a wooden shelf. Simply alternate these bricks or blocks with a wooden plank.

Anything Can Be Repurposed

Almost anything you can think of can be recycled and reused for another purpose. When it comes to bookshelves, anything is possible. Some scrap metal, old wood, trunks, bricks, you name it, can all be stylishly used to create a brand new vintage bookshelf.

Some places to check out similar ideas include Etsy and Pinterest. With some creativity, you can come up with your own unique idea to share with the world. These images below can serve as inspiration to concoct your own recipe for bookshelf success.


Alyssa S (author) from USA on August 25, 2015:

Thank you everyone for the great comments!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 12, 2015:

I love all of these ideas, which are pretty clever. I've seen the tree design on Pinterest a few times. I love the piano design, too. Voted up for awesome!

Arco Hess from Kansas City, Kansas on November 07, 2014:

A lot of those are pretty amazing. The ladder idea is awesome. It would be fantastic in a rustic living room.

VAMA Divani on June 28, 2014:

Love this ideas :) I live in Tuscany, Italy and run a small family-owned company producing sofa... quite inspiring for our showroom ;)

Michelle Ascani from Deep in the Heart of Texas on June 19, 2014:

I am all about the DYI

Jennifer Kessner from Pennsylvania on March 30, 2014:

Great suggestions. Thanks for sharing!

Alyssa S (author) from USA on March 30, 2014:

Thanks, the piano would definitely look awesome, it's just a matter of having one to use!

Melinda Longoria MSM from Garland, Texas on March 30, 2014:

Very cool ideas! I especially loved the old piano & the tree bookshelf ideas.

Alyssa S (author) from USA on March 30, 2014:

Thank you! They're pretty handy ideas and super inexpensive. Good luck!

Jo_Goldsmith11 on March 30, 2014:

Wonderful ideas. Interesting and engaging! Shared and Up.

I will apply some of these helpful tips when I re decorate my office space. Take care :-)

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