Thursday, May 2, 2013

DIY Tree Bookshelf

So it's finally time to shake off my lazy bones syndrome and get busy on Olivia's playroom again. Remember when we built that fantastic storage plus reading nook back in November & I didn't know what I wanted on the walls???? Guess what? Five long months later, I figured it out! I tossed around ideas like black and white canvas portraits of Olivia, or framing her artwork in crisp white frames, but decided I already had those in the dining room. So it was time to get creative. I wanted something just as awesome as those built in's & something unique, like Olivia!! Over those five months I was able to see how Olivia "lived" in there. What she played with most & what toys needed to be more accessible. I came to realize the kid loves babies and books!!! Her books were shoved in one of those cabinets and stayed in complete chaos because she was constantly getting into them. So we decided she needed a bookshelf. I thought about floating shelves, then had visions of her hanging on them. Scratch that, next idea. Shelves made from wood pallets or the "spice rack" shelves as seen on Pinterest, but those didn't really go with the white and pink theme, or the "unique" factor I was looking for. I was about to give up and just head to Ikea to buy a floor bookshelf, when I ran across this image on Google:

I was in LOVE. Isn't this an amazing piece???? I'll give you a moment to swoon. Ahhhhhh. IT'S SO PERFECT!

However, the price tag of $850.00 (available at Nursery Works) resulted in my jaw making a huge THUD as it hit the floor. There's no way my dear sweet husband was going to let me spend that on a freaking tree. I was so sad, because once I saw this tree, I knew nothing was going to compare. I HAD to have it, this was my WOW factor. 

After looking around some more, and coming up with nothing as awesome, I picked up my jaw & presented my idea to Mr. Awesomepants, being fully prepared for the "look", the one that says "Lady, you are off your rocker." But instead, he responded with "I won't buy it, but I'll build it." YAAAYYYYYYYYYYY! Happy dance time!!! 
Now, how the heck are we gonna do it? Mr. Awesomepants already had a plan, as he usually does. The tree above is metal, and we were wanting to use wood. So here's what we (he, whatever) decided. 
Buy 4 or more large sheets of 3/4" MDF and cut the tree out of each one, then glue them all together. That would make it solid and deep enough to hold her books. 
Once we bought the MDF (at Lowe's for about $35 per sheet), I pulled out my projector and hooked it up to my computer to display the image of the tree on the MDF to be traced. I found an image that was "straight-on" of the tree, instead of an angled picture like above. Once that was done, he got to work cutting. 

After he cut one sheet, I took that piece to trace onto the rest of the MDF sheets. It took him about an hour to cut each one, using a jigsaw. He cut four and we decided to test it out. Just our luck, a standard size book wasn't going to hold with just 4 sheets. Boo. 
Now, we are still in the process of building this beauty, so we're thinking about 2 more sheets will do it. So that means $70 more in materials then another $20 in PINK paint was putting us at an extra $90. Luckily, I'm all about pinching pennies, a reason Mr. Awesomepants picked me ;)
We had HUGE square pieces of MDF leftover after cutting. I put them all together and they made another whole piece of MDF. YAY! So I traced it out over those pieces and instead of gluing them to each other, I will glue them to a tree that's already been cut. That "puzzle tree" will become an inside piece, and you'll never know the difference. $35 SAVED! 
Check back soon, as we will be finishing this project in just a couple more days!! In the mean time, here is what a cut piece looks like! If you have a good eye, you probably noticed we made ours just a little taller, so that her PB chair will fit nicely underneath the tree. 

UPDATE: May 2, 2013
Alrighty, so last night, I glued all 5 of my pieces together, including my "puzzle" tree. Guess what? It's still not deep enough. Blah. So I headed back to the garage (and our back porch) to sift through our scrap pieces. I found enough pieces to make 2 more trees! Yay! So that will make 7 trees total & 5 1/4" deep. Fingers crossed that this will finally be deep enough! If you are following this post to try to make your own, I really encourage you to buy 4 pieces, then use scrap pieces for your middle trees, it's a good way to stretch your dollar. Now, if you are planning to make this for standard, novel size books, I really think 4-5 would be fine. But kids books come in such crazy sizes. Anyway, here's picture of the "progress" we made last night:

Yes, I am in my living room! We tried the whole, work outside thing & that was a bust. Princess Olivia is stuck up mommy's rear end, unless Shrek is on! So I laid a big sheet down, turned Shrek on, and got to work!
Back to the tree: here are my 5 pieces glued and clamped together. We used regular wood glue and left it clamped for a little over an hour, and it was completely dry.

UPDATE: May 5, 2013
I finally got Mr. Awesomepants to work on the tree today. He says this is his least favorite project, & honestly I don't blame him!!! It has definitely been a learning experience, lots of trial and error. I hope that you all are learning from our experience. We cut out one more "puzzle piece" tree today, and FINALLY, that made it deep enough to hold her books! WOO HOO!!! We were so excited. NO MORE FREAKING CUTTING!!!!!! Ok, one more cut. He cut out a little notch on the bottom so that it would clear the base moulding and sit flush on the wall. Genius. 

 Finally, it was time to move on to the next step: Sanding.

Here's what it looked like. Needless to say, my tree needed a little work. I sanded for about 10 minutes & decided that was going no where fast. Plus, my sander wasn't going to be able to get into the little angles, which meant, not everything would be smooth & flush. Grrr. So, I called in Mr. Awesomepants for a little brainstorming. HAHAHA ok ok in reality, I went and took a shower & told him "FIX IT." By the time I got out, he had done just that :) Love him.  Off to Lowe's we went. 

Spackling. DUH! ($8.00 at Lowe's) At first, I was just going to fill what needed to be "evened out". But as I went on, I decided to just do the whole tree. Why not? It will guarantee that it's all the same & I won't have to worry if the paint will look different on each surface. Once it dries, it's time to do a light sanding & then paint!! I see a light at the end of the tunnel!! 
If you are going to attempt this, be prepared to put $900 worth of labor into this project!!!! Thank God for Mr. Awesomepants. 

UPDATE: May 7, 2013
Sheesh. Are we ever going to get this done???? For the past few days we have been helping my best friend make some custom barn doors for her kitchen. In between, I swear I have been trying to give my poor tree some attention. Here's a quick update picture. I'm ALMOST done covering it in spackle! Stay tuned, I promise I'm going to finish SOON!

You can see one of the areas that I haven't finished yet, compared to the spackled section, and what a difference!!! We ended up needing to buy the LARGE tub of spackle to cover the entire tree, so don't even waste the money on the small container, it only covered a few branches. 

UPDATE: MAY 12, 2013 (Happy Mother's Day!!!)

Oh. Em. Gee. It's been almost a week since my last update on the tree! I finally got the entire tree covered in spackle, and started sanding it smooth with a fine grit sand paper. Apparently, I didn't do the greatest job, as far as sanding, before I started with pink paint, and it looked like CRAP. I don't do well when things don't go my way, so in stepped Mr. Awesomepants to fix my mess up & keep me from jumping off the ledge. But first, here's a picture of my mini helping :) 

He sanded REALLY well, added more spackle where needed, and sanded some more. During the process, we realized that it wasn't going to be PERFECT. Unless we re-thought the entire tree. And I wasn't willing to do it. So we decided to go with white paint, as it would hide the imperfections better than the pink. 

Finally! We are DONE. Well, okay, not completely. It's not attached to the wall. I'll show you how we are going to do that tomorrow, because that's when we'll figure it out! ;) I hope you all had a FANTASTIC Mother's Day! I know I did!!! 

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering.... Our recommendation is saving your money and time & buying the darn tree!!!! This thing was a pain in the rear end!

UPDATE: May 13, 2013
It's attached! Woo Hoo!  We used these brackets, attaching it to the back of the tree, and then into the wall. Be sure to drill it into a stud for maximum stability!

The moment you've all been waiting for!!!! Here's the reveal!

So??? What do y'all think??? I think it looks fantastic, and you can't even see the brackets where we installed it. I used my handy Silhouette to print out stencils for the cute little birds. I painted them on, but you can use vinyl as well. 
So all in all, I couldn't be more pleased with the final product. The total cost for this project was about $160. That included 4 sheets of MDF, the spackle, hardware & paint. Pretty darn good compared to the $850 to buy it, but I think that your time & labor is worth something, & trust me, we put way more than $850 worth of labor into this tree. If you've got the time & the patience, I say go for it, and send me some pictures too! Just be warned, this is NOT an easy DIY. I appreciate you all being patient & sticking it out with me!! That's a wrap on the Tree Bookshelf!


  1. You both did very well!!! Your hubby's poor expression is understood but you should feel gratified now that it's done and you built it yourselves.
    Great job you two!

    From a fellow husband, Dad, and builder oh, almost forgot self proclaimed McGuyver, and Tim the Tool Man Taylor.

    Sean Rasmussen
    Campbell River, BC, Canada

    1. Thanks very much! Projects like these really show you how strong your marriage is!! HaHa!!

  2. wow , this is just awsome. I saw a book shelf similar one on overstock and told my husband that we are not spending 800 bucks but try to build one ourselves ! Did not have a clue where to start when I said that but the above is a great help ! Thank You so much !

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! If you decide to build this tree, I'm here to answer any questions!!!

  3. very nice very nice article, we are making the production of this product in Turkey.You can also use CNC router machines Of course, such a more enjoyable this method, Greetings from Turkey :)

  4. My wife saw this tree online like you did and like your husband I told her it was priced a little high for our budget. I got online and started doing some research and found your post. I’m in the final stage of putting spackle on but that has been a long process of putting it on then sanding so on and so forth plan on doing another coat or two then get to paint! You are sure right on the time though I have a lot of hours in on this project!!

    Thanks for the steps came in handy (and the spackle idea)

    1. I'm so glad it's going well! And yes, it's a pain in the neck project!! Buuuuuut, you know what they say: "Happy Wife, Happy Life". I'd love to see how it turned out!! Feel free to post a picture of your finished product on the fb page, or send it via email to

      Stay strong! The finished product is worth it!!