Easy How to Build DIY Arched Bookshelves: Step By Step Guide

January 24, 2024

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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My daughter has been asking for bookshelves in her bedroom since early last year. Seeing the Ikea Furniture Billy Bookcases, turned DIY arched bookshelves, all over Pinterest, I was in love. I knew just the style to build for her room.

But how difficult would it be to make an arched bookcase? I’m not going to lie, that arched top had me putting this project off as long as possible. Until one day, I finally decided to just go for it!


What’s the worse that could happen? Not drawing and cutting the perfect arch? Yep! That was the worse thing! But actually for my very first time building this arched cabinet, it wasn’t terrible. I actually am very happy with how well it turned out.

Instead of following the Ikea Billy Bookcase hacks I had seen on Pinterest, I started from scratch and built my own built-in bookcase. Or shall I say, a bookcase with a built-in look. Exactly the style my daughter was wanting in her room.

Be sure to check out the video below to see how easy it was to build these modern style DIY arched bookshelves….

Easy How to Build DIY Arched Bookshelves

(This DIY arched bookshelves tutorial is based on the following dimensions: 93 1/2″ tall; 10″ deep; 28″ wide) 

(Amazon Affiliate Links Included)

Materials Needed:

Tools Needed:

Step One: Cut the side panels & shelves

Cut the side panels:

For your first piece of plywood, you’re going to cut your side boards. Using your table saw (or a circular saw), cut 2 side pieces at 93 1/2″ x 10″. You will now have two sides that look like this…

Side panels for DIY arched bookshelves

​Cut the shelves:

Using your table saw, cut 8 shelves at 26 1/2″ x 10″….


NOTE: If you don’t have access to a table saw or a circular saw, Home Depot will make your cuts for you. Simply give them these measurements and they’ll make all of the cuts you need. 

Step Two: Drill pocket holes in all of the shelves

Next step, using your Kreg Jig, you’re ready to make all of your pocket holes. As I like to say, pocket holes for days. 🙂

Drill 3/4″ pocket holes on both ends of each shelf. You’ll want to drill 3 sets on each end. It’s a lot of pocket holes, but will ensure a strong shelf in the end.

When all of the pocket holes are made, your shelves will look like this…

Plywood sheets with pocket holes for diy arched bookshelves

NOTE: If you’ve never used a Kreg Jig before, here is an excellent tutorial to show you how. They’re so easy to use! And well worth the purchase. I use my Kreg Jig in most all of my furniture building projects. Here’s the link, if you need to pick one up. 

Step Three: Cut guides for shelf placement

​It’s a good idea to make guides to know where to place each shelf. This makes for an easy way to ensure that all of your shelves are straight and level. Here are the measurements for the guides you’ll want to cut. I’ll tell you how to use them, in the next step.

  • Guide 1: 4″
  • Guide 2: 14″
  • Guide 3″ 12 1/2″

To cut the guides, simply cut a piece of scrap wood to the lengths above. The width of the guide doesn’t matter. Something around 2 inches is good. You’ll need to cut two guides for each measurement.

Guides for shelves

So when all is said and done, you should have two guides at 4″; two guides at 14″ and two guides at 12 1/2″. Now let’s talk about how we’re going to use these guides.

Step Four: Use guides to place shelves for DIY arched bookshelves

As shown in the picture below, place your two 4″ guides at the bottom of your side panel. Make sure they are flush with the ends of the side panel. Use clamps to hold them in place.

Attach your first shelf using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. You now have your first shelf in place…

2 plywood sheets pocket holed together

You’re ready to place your next shelf. For this shelf, you’ll use the 14″ guides. I didn’t want this to be a small space. Rather, I wanted to be able to add taller baskets on this shelf.

Plenty of storage is what I was going for. So, I spaced this shelf a little farther apart from the bottom shelf.

Place your 14″ guides against the shelf you already attached. No need to clamp them this time. Add your next shelf. Make sure the guides are straight and flush against both shelves…

Side panel with shelves and 2 guides for diy arched bookshelves

Attach using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. You now have two shelves placed and it should look like this…

One side panel with 2 shelves attached for diy arched bookshelves

Now you’re ready to place your middle shelves. And you guessed it! We’re going to use the 12 1/2″ guide for all of those. Following the same steps as above, attach four more shelves.

Attach each of the four shelves using the 12 1/2″ guide and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. When finished, you should have five shelves attached…

Side panel with shelves attached for diy arched bookshelves

Arched bookshelves can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room. While DIY projects can be fun and rewarding, it’s important to remember that these bookshelves require precision and attention to detail to achieve the desired effect.” – Emily Henderson, Interior Designer

For the last visible shelf, you’re going to use the 14″ guides again. I wanted the top shelf of my DIY arched bookshelves to be tall enough to place large decorative pieces on. Once again, attach this shelf as you have all of the other shelves…

Side panels; guides and shelves attached

​Although we’ve attached our last visible shelf, we have one more shelf to add. This shelf will be hidden behind our crown moulding. To place this shelf, you’ll use the 4″ guides. Which should take us to the top of our side panel.

Making sure this shelf is flush with the top of the side panel, attach using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Your bookshelves should now look like this…

Side panel with shelves attached

Step Five: Attach the other side panel for the DIY arched bookshelves

This step takes a little bit of muscle or two people. 🙂 Lay your remaining side panel flat on your work space. Flip your partially built shelving unit on top of this side panel…

DIY arched bookshelves: side panel with shelves attached and being turned on their side by a girl

Line it up straight with the side panel…

A girl standing next to diy arched bookshelves

​Now you’re ready to attach all of the shelves to the other side panel. Be sure to follow the same steps as above. Using the guides is key for straight, level shelves…

Side panels; guides and shelves attached for diy arched bookshelves

Step Six: Attach the back panel and bottom piece

​For this step, you can go about it two different ways:

  1. Cut to fit. Cut the back panel to the exact dimensions needed to fit the entire bookcase. Measure the bookcase and make your cuts.
  2. Piece the back panel together. I ended up having to do it this way because, I didn’t have a plywood sheet large enough to fit the dimensions needed. So, I had to cut each piece to fit with each shelf.

Use a brad nailer to attach. Here’s how it looked a portion of the way through…

diy arched bookshelves with a thin piece of plywood backing

To give the bookshelves more of a look of built-ins, you’ll want to add a trim piece to the bottom.

Cut a piece of plywood to fit below the bottom shelf and in between the side panels.

Attach using 1 1/4″ wood screws from the outside of the side panels. This simple touch will give your DIY arched bookshelves a more finished look.

Step Seven: Make your DIY arch bookshelves arch

Now, you’re ready for the part that was giving me anxiety through the entire project. How to make the arch. Here’s how I did it…

  • Cut a piece of plywood to the following dimensions: 28″ x 21″
  • Find the center of this piece (14″) and mark it. Draw a faint line down the center of the board.
  • Measure in 1″ from the sides and bottom. Mark it and attach a nail in each spot. (As shown below)

Nails driven into a piece of plywood

  • Determine how far down you want the top of your arch to be. Attach a nail, in the center of the board, at that measurement. I went about 6 inches from the top…

Nails driven into a piece of plywood for diy arched bookshelves

  • Weave your long metal ruler inside the two bottom nails and outside the top nail. It should now look like this…

a metal ruler bent on a piece of plywood between nails

  • ​Draw your arch with a pencil

An arch drawn on plywood

  • ​Cut out your arch, using a jigsaw

And that’s It! You now have an arch! While it might not be completely perfect for my first try, I was quite pleased with myself…

An arch cut out of plywood for diy arched bookshelves

​To clean up any of the rough edges, be sure to run your orbital sander over the arch.

Use 1 1/4″ wood screws to attach it to the top of your bookshelves…

an arch with a wood screws container on top

So, what do you think? It wasn’t as hard as you thought it was going to be, was it? Actually pretty easy.

While our built-in bookshelves look amazing as is! We need to get rid of all of those rough plywood edges. For this step, I like to use edge banding.

Step Eight: Attach edge banding and do finish work

Edge banding is so easy to attach. All it takes is an iron and a block of wood. Follow the directions on the packaging of the edge banding and you’ll have all of those rough edges covered up in no time.

A girl ironing on edge banding

Once all of the edge banding is attached, you’re ready to fill in all of the nail holes with wood filler.

​Let the wood filler dry and then sand the entire piece with a 220-grit sandpaper.

It’s a good idea to place your bookshelves in their new home, before painting them.

With some help, I moved the bookshelves upstairs and into my daughter’s room. Not even painted yet, and I love how they look!

Bookshelves in a bedroom

Wanting to surprise my daughter before she got home from a weekend trip, I hurried up and painted them. Added a couple coats of poly for a smooth finish. And finally stepped back and admired my work!

I absolutely love how they turned out. My only regret is not building a second one at the same time as this build. It would have been nice to flank the windows with DIY built-ins on both sides.

And isn’t that Shade Grown paint color from Sherwin Williams absolutely stunning! It’s the perfect color!

I still have one last step to finish on these new shelves–adding the crown molding to the top. 95% club here! I’ll get to it eventually! 🙂 Here it is, before my daughter styled it….

Bookshelves in a bedroom painted green

And here it is with all of her fun decor! And the crown molding added 🙂 ….

DIY arched bookshelves in a teenage girls bedroom painted green

Want to build the nightstand in the picture above? Here’s the link!

Adding a candle always brings an extra cozy touch! I recently found a new favorite candle company called Moment At Home. I’m adding these candles all over my home. And Lauryn’s bookshelves are no exception.

The scent of their candles are so good. The aroma fills the space before you even light a match to it. Warm Casmir Reverie is the one I can’t get enough of right now. It has a scent that is cozy all year long.

Now I’m on the hunt for more places to add these beautiful, focal point bookshelves. I have my eye on a spot in my living room. I’m thinking of adding some pole wrap behind each shelf for that build. Gorgeous!

Also, eyeing the back wall of my theater room. We need some built-in cabinets down there. So, adding cabinet doors to the bookcases is a must in that living space.

DIY Arched Bookshelves FAQ’s

How much will it cost me to make this DIY arched bookshelf?

The arched bookshelf can be built for less than $100. Save money by using a very thin plywood sheet for the backing. If you want to cut cost even more, you can forego the backing plywood sheet altogether.

What skill level is the DIY arched bookshelf?

The DIY arched bookshelf is a very easy build. Great for a beginner. If the thought of using a table saw or circular saw is a little intimidating to you, have Home Depot cut your large sheets of plywood to the dimensions needed.

Can I make this bookshelf without the arch?

Yes. I have a very simple tutorial on how to make a floor to ceiling bookshelf without an arch. However, don’t let the arch scare you. It’s actually much easier than it might look.

How long does it typically take to complete this DIY project?

This project can easily be finished in a day or two, depending on your skill level.

What type of paint finish is recommended for a smooth, professional look?

For a smooth, professional look on your DIY arched bookshelves, it’s best to use either a satin or semi-gloss paint finish.

Satin offers a subtle sheen, striking a balance between matte and glossy, giving your bookshelves a sophisticated appearance.

Semi-gloss, on the other hand, provides a more pronounced shine and is exceptionally durable, making it suitable for high-traffic areas.

Your choice between the two depends on your desired style, with satin offering elegance and semi-gloss adding a contemporary touch.

How can I incorporate built-in lighting into these bookshelves?

It’s amazing how much you can elevate a space with the right lighting. These cordless puck lights are a great option for lighting throughout the bookshelf. If you’re looking for something simple and decorative, this accent lamp would be a beautiful addition.

Amazon Affiliate Links Included

So, what do you think? Are you ready to build your own built-ins? Maybe in a family room, dining room, or home office? I hope you found this step-by-step instruction tutorial to be helpful. And as always, let me know if you have any questions in the comment box below.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

Be sure to Pin This Post to your Pinterest Board for later…


More Great Shelving Posts:

Easy How to DIY Floating Shelves

Easy How to Build Floor to Ceiling Bookshelves

Build Lower Profile Floating Shelves Fast and Cheap


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