DIY Giant Shelves for the Basement

Simple, modern DIY shelves for game storage made out of birch plywood

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I feel a little…slow motiony about house stuff lately. Like, for example, these shelves. I posted a picture of the almost finished shelves on Instagram like two weeks ago, and then it just took forever to get them all the way finished. (And then actually writing the post is taking me ANOTHER forever). Incidentally, the same sort of thing is happening with the kids’ school stuff and with cleaning my house. Apparently I’m hibernating this winter or something.

The good news is that I’m very fidgety and impatient, so it’s likely we’ll pick up the pace soon.

And, anyway, we made these big old shelves!

The basement is approaching finished, but I’ll stop myself from making any grand predictions about when we’ll be able to call it for real.

We put these shelves together pretty much the same way we put the one in Abe’s nursery together, and obviously these are super customized, size-wise, for this exact space, so I won’t give you the full plans or fancy diagrams or anything. But a general run-through on the process:

Planning: I’ve mentioned before that our original plan called for shelves on a different wall, behind the game and foosball tables. But once we actually had those tables in there, it was clear there wasn’t going to be enough space there. But this space under the projector screen was just hanging out doing nothing at all! We’d been thinking of painting and reusing some old shelves that we already have, but they’re too tall to go under the screen, so new shelves it was.

We opted to use the same Purebond birch plywood that we used for the game table. For the shelf in Abe’s room we used whiteboard planks instead of plywood, but I wanted to get the same look for the shelves as for the table here and we wanted extra deep shelves since we had plenty of space for it.

Dimensions: We decided to pretty much make these things as big as we could. We have a lot of games. We’ll probably have more eventually. So they run the entire length of the wall under the projector screen and go up to just a few inches under the bottom of it. We decided on doing three separate shelves so that they can be moved around more easily and could potentially be used somewhere else if needed someday. Ultimately, we ended up with 3 shelves about 4 feet long, 28 inches tall, and 15 inches deep. The design is super simple, partly because I wanted a streamlined look, but also because there are no vents or anything to work around, so it was fine for them to sit right on the floor.

Putting them together: Dave used the *Kreg Rip-Cut to cut the plywood down to size and then sanded the edges. Then he joined them together with the *Kreg Jig (using 5 pocket holes on each side). We offset the shelves a little just to make them look a little more…interesting? I guess. For the backs, we bought this tempered hardwood at Home Depot; it has a rough, textured surface on one side, but is smooth and paintable on the other. I painted the smooth side black (which doesn’t really show up very well with the dark walls; it kind of just looks like the shelves don’t have backs (which probably would have been fine; they’re pretty sturdy shelves)) and then we attached them with screws (we cut a hole for the outlet first through the back of the middle shelf).

Here’s the view of the backs (you know, FROM the back):


Just like with the table, I finished it with just a couple of coats of polycrylic, so in love am I with the look and the grain of this plywood (although this batch isn’t as beautiful to me as the sheet we used for the table).

Then, once we had the shelves in place, we screwed them all together so they’d be flush and stay put. There are shims on one end, because our floor isn’t level in the basement. Maybe your floor is level and you won’t have that problem.

There was something else I was going to say here. About these shelves we made. Hmm…..well. Let me know if you think of something I didn’t say.

ETA: oh! I remember now! I was going to tell you how much it cost to make these. We used 3 sheets of 4×8 plywood (the dimensions of the shelf were somewhat determined based on using as much as possible of 3 full sheets without needing a 4th) at $50 each. Then the boards for the back was around $7 (we just needed one of these, cut into 3 sections). Plus a bunch of Kreg screws and the polycrylic (which we already had on hand)….so well under $200 for the whole thing.

Then I took pictures of them. Here’s what it looks like when Abe helps (slow shutter; fast baby):


diy modern birch shelves diy birch shelves

Then I put all the games on them and some stuff on top to make them look pretty. I’m probably still tinkering with that part. I think maybe it just looks….busy right now:

display on top of birch shelves basementshelves06s basementshelves07s

Gus got me those little penguins for Christmas, and I ordered the agate that I’m using as a bookend from Urban Outfitters.


The little baskets are holding card games; we picked those up at Ikea.

Make these modern shelves for game or toy storage from birch plywood: simple beginning woodworking project!

Linking with:

Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Feature Friday


DIY Giant Shelves for the Basement — 24 Comments

  1. Please take down this post. As soon as my wife sees it she will be asking for the exact same thing in the kids playroom – which I promised her 2 years ago.

  2. Plywood for the win in the game room again!! Love how you styled/organized the giant shelves too! Sidenote headbandz is so hard to play with Ramona. Impossible really.

  3. Just awesome Gretchen!! They are the perfect size and color for under the screen!! And completely finish off that space! A job well done to you both! And no worries I have been hibernating too! Have a great week!

  4. These look great, Gretchen. They really tie into your table and they have so much great storage. I like that you can see all your games and stuff.

  5. hahaha I love that picture of Ghost Abe. And Gretchen, your house looks like such a fun place to live! Seeing a bunch of shelves filled with games and all sorts of goodies makes my insides feel tingly. Nice work!

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