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Ah! That photo is totally unclear, sorry. We never installed the little plinth; what you're seeing in the step 5 photos and earlier is actually all the individual adjustable shelves for each bookcase stacked on top of each other. We used them as spacers, to make sure the base of the bookshelves were the right width apart, since we didn't have the real base installed. They're not actually attached to the bookcases in any way, though. We just slid them out and hung them using the little ikea shelf pegs once we were done screwing the bookcases into place.
I think you're right, especially considering labor costs of hiring a contractor. And it would probably have taken a lot longer to finish. As it was, we knocked the whole thing out from beginning to end over a 3-day weekend and had a ton of fun doing it.
IKEA hack: Built-in cabinet...View Instructable »
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