Introduction: Quick and Easy Forward Facing Book Shelves

If like me you have children, and therefore have lots of children's books, you probably have the same issue I had where half of the books don't get picked off the shelf because the children can't see what they have. The answer is forward facing bookshelves so that books face forward and are much more likely to be picked up and read rather than sat collecting dust.

This project is a really simple way to build your own forward facing bookshelves with very limited tools. I did use a table saw in this project to make the most of some scrap plywood, but you can very easily buy the pre-cut timber from your local DIY store at the correct size.

There is a similar system available from IKEA, however when building it yourself you have full flexibility of making it fit your wall space.. and who wants to buy from IKEA when you can make it yourself?!



  • Length - configurable to fit your wall space.
  • Thickness - I used 18mm (approx 3/4") as this is the size of the scrap I used but you could use larger or smaller.
  • Width - I used the following for each shelf.
    • 2 lengths of 50mm width
    • 1 length of 100mm width

NOTE: It is important that the back edge (the 100mm width) is larger than the smaller front edge (50mm width) so that you're able to fit a tool in to put a screw through it to screw it to the wall.

Wood screws

Edge banding (optional)

Screw Cups

Step 1: Cut Your Wood

As mentioned in the first step, I used some scrap plywood ripped down to size. You can very easily use length of a pre-cut thickness from your local DIY store.

To cut the boards to the correct length, you will need 3 lengths per shelf.

  • 2 x 50mm width
  • 1 x 100mm width

The length of mine was about 1200mm. To cut the length, you could use an electric chop saw or a hand saw.

Step 2: Screw It Together

The three pieces are assembled as shown in the image with the three sections making a 'J' shape.

I found it easier to clamp these together whilst screwing, but you could manage without clamps if you don't have them, it will just be a little more fiddly

I drilled a pilot hole for each screw to avoid splitting. This is essential if using plywood as screwing into the end grain with no pilot hole will always cause the laminated plywood sheets to separate and split.

I also countersunk the heads so that the screws were flush once screwed in place.

Step 3: Optional Step - Add Edge Banding

If you are using a cheap plywood, I find edge banding gives a nice edge to paint, otherwise the paint will soak into the cut edge leaving it looking a bit rough.

You can use any type of edge banding. I opted for a pre-glued iron on real wood veneer. Real wood paints much better than any other type. Using a plastic type of edge banding will no doubt give you trouble when painting as the plastic will repel the paint.

I went the extra step and cut the ends at 45 degree angles to make it look even fancier should anyone be looking with a keen eye!

Once Ironed on, trim the edges back with a knife. Try not to cut too close as you can easily slip and cut into your frame. I like to leave a small lip and sand this back flush with a finer grit sandpaper, around 120 grit.

Step 4: Paint

Before painting you may wish to fill in your screw holes with a filler. This will ensure you have a smooth finish when painted.

I used an 'off the shelf' wood filler which I mixed as per the manufacturers instructions into a paste, filled in the holes, waited for it to dry, then sanded back with a fine grit sandpaper.

Once dry I used a roller to paint a water based undercoat, then a water based white satin finish coat of paint. Small rollers are great for flat surfaces like this as you don't get brush strokes. You do, however, need a brush to get in to tight space inside the shelf.

I like using a water based pain as clean up is much easier than with an oil based paint (just use soap and water), and you'll find that the paint won't turn yellow over time as most oil base gloss paints do.

Step 5: Fix It to the Wall

I fixed mine to the wall with 2 screws going into 2 wall plugs which were covered with a white screw cap to hide the screw head.

I drilled a hole at each end of the shelf in advance. This hole was bigger that the thickness of the screw so that the screw could pull the shelf in tight to the wall and not bind on the shelf itself.

I marked the holes on the wall, drilled them out using a masonry drill and bit, then inserted wall plugs and screwed in tight.

For best results its best to use a spirit level to make sure you're putting the shelves up level.

Step 6: Fill It Up With All Your Books

The last step is the most rewarding, filling it up with all of your children's books.

I installed 2 shelves and found they couldn't hold all of the books we had, but there was enough space for each shelf to have 2 rows of books (taller books at the back, and shorter books at the front).

I like to rotate the books on the shelf every so often so that "new" books appear and make it more interesting for the children.