DIY: Building bookshelves from pipes and boards

King David in the library

Ever play the game Clue? You know — an oddball cast of characters, various weapons and a whodunit mystery. Well this is similar, except it’s King David in the library with an antler and a 20-pound dictionary. Oh, and there’s a lead pipe in this tale, too. Well, maybe it’s not lead. There are pipes, though. Plenty of ’em.

pipe bookshelves

Who knew regular old black pipes could transform a boring wall into an industrial-style library?! I suppose the answer to that is Restoration Hardware. I was inspired by photos in the company’s catalog, shocked at the prices, and jubilant when my husband agreed a do-it-yourself project was indeed, very doable. First I removed wallpaper and painted the wall — and yes, you can paint over old, stuck on wallpaper. I did!

To begin your bookshelf building process you’ll need to measure the wall, and decide on the width, height and depth of your shelves. Then you’ll need to head to the hardware store and purchase black iron piping and boards.

black iron pipe and floor plates

My shelves are 10″ deep. To make them we used:

  • 10″ black iron pipe to support the shelves
  • multiples lengths of black iron pipe to build floor to ceiling supports
  • floor plates to attach pipes to the wall
  • 1/2″ to 3/4″ adapters screwed in at the base of the pipes (against the floor) to level everything because the floors in this old house are uneven
  • T’s to fit the pipes together at each shelf level
  • 3/4″ cedar boards, roughly 9 1/4″ wide (depth of shelf) with the smooth side up

If you look at the photo, above, you’ll see that the round pieces are the floor plates. They attach to the 10″ shelf pipes and the wall. The pieces on the left of the photo, above, are the T’s. And the photo, below, shows the adapter piece that can be screwed up or down on the end of the pipes to keep the shelves level even though my floors are not.

black pipe and adapter for building bookshelves

One word of caution about these pipes: they’re very greasy. You’ll want to wear gloves when handling them. You will also need to wipe them with an old T-shirt or rag and some degreaser before installation. Painting is also an option, but I like the natural look.


The cedar boards are simply resting on the 10″ pipe pieces that extend from the T piece to the wall. You can see the circular floor plate, above left, that attaches to the wall for stability and support. If you have loads of books, you might consider a thicker board. As you can see, my bottom shelf is slightly bowed. Rocks on shelves don’t help the situation. That’s not just any old rock, though. It’s a piece of the Berlin Wall and I carried it home in my pocket! But that’s a story for another day.

Now seems a good time to say: “My name is Jennifer and I am a book-a-holic.” I love dusty old book jackets, worn leather covers and frayed cloth stamped with gold. Old books are individual pieces of art, inside and out. Electronic devices are cool and handy, but there’s nothing like the weighty feel of a book in your hands. There’s something so very satisfying about turning pages into new adventures.

favorite old books

This place is my new office space. It was getting a little crowded with me, my laptop and three kids in the room we use for TV viewing, school work and the like. I’m happy to claim a little corner beneath the bookshelves.

vintage typewriter

It’s where I sit at a modern keyboard with a view of trees and the woodpile. I spend hours writing something or other for hours every day. I do it at my grandpa’s desk. I get a whiff of childhood memories every time I open a drawer. And truth be told, they’re looking over my shoulder while I work …


… posing beside their vehicles. My family has always appreciated a good, reliable automobile! But I don’t cruise around in the latest and greatest. Instead, I drive a big ol’ gas guzzler with over 200,000 miles. We don’t own new vehicles. My husband would probably say it’s because we have several hay-burners in the barn.

hold your horses

But I had him riding one of those hay-burner horses just the other day — for approximately three minutes.

It’s the little things, you know.


Little things, family mementos, thrift store treasures, vintage finds, photographs, and items that evoke memories, traditions and loving security. Those are the things that make a house feel like home. And no matter the colors or textures or paint schemes, new black pipe bookshelves or dusty old books — the VERY BEST parts of any home are the people who spend hours within its welcoming walls.

And really … level floors are overrated!

Welcome to anyone visiting from Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us Wednesday Link up!




Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    rebekah April 29, 2014 (5:07 pm)

    Looks lovely and cozy!

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer Kiko April 29, 2014 (8:51 pm)

      Come sit and read any time!

  • comment-avatar
    Nanny April 29, 2014 (7:09 pm)

    Love it! and I’m glad the desk has a new life too!

  • comment-avatar
    Connie April 29, 2014 (8:45 pm)

    So that’s where the desk went. I noticed an empty corner when in Mom’s the other day. Love the room.

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer Kiko April 29, 2014 (8:50 pm)

      Thanks! It’s so cozy I’d rather read than work, which may become a problematic distraction! 😉

  • comment-avatar
    Sal April 30, 2014 (6:47 am)

    Just perfect!

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer April 30, 2014 (7:02 am)

      Thanks, Sally!

  • comment-avatar
    MAC April 30, 2014 (12:42 pm)

    Beautiful! I noticed what was on your computer screen and if it is what I think it is, it makes me laugh!!

  • comment-avatar
    Nancy May 28, 2014 (11:14 am)

    wow! That looks terrific!
    Don’t know where to find the black pipes…no one around here sells black….I have used the galvanized and painted them….
    You guys did a great job! Kudos!