Here are the problems that led us to build built-in bookshelves in our sunroom:
1) Our bookshelves were yucky old particle board shelves from IKEA.
2) We have lots of books.
3) We watch TV, and our TV took up a large amount of space in our small sunroom in our small house.
4) Professionally-built built-ins are expensive. Like, old Porsche expensive. I can't get behind that.
I started researching doing a built-in project myself. I looked at a lot of books, and Becca and I went through a lot iterations on the plans we drew up on a large piece of drafting paper. I didn't find any design I really liked until we happend to TiVo an episode of The New Yankee Workshop in which Norm Abrams builds some Georgian bookshelves. I reasoned that those bookshelves could be built and then joined with common crown molding and baseboards. So I copied the plans from watching the show (I ordered the blueprints but they never came).
I figured that I could buy a table saw, an air compressor, a nail gun, the materials, and a big LCD TV for less than half of what it would cost to hire a carpenter. And I would get a light coating of moisture-absorbent sawdust in my basement, which is nice.
We decided to build the units from 3/4" hardwood plywood, with solid poplar edging. We also decided to paint the shelves white, even though the wood on the shelves would have been beautiful stained. The shelves are in a sunroom, and all of the trim around the eight windows in that room is painted white. We also decided the make the backs of the shelves from solid wood rather than from beadboard. This give the shelves a pretty plain, simple look that matches the house's other detail.
First, we had to tear off all of the old paneling in the room. The plaster underneath had some holes, but we didn't care because it would be covered up. I built the shelves as independent units in the basement and then brought them upstairs to be joined. The exception to this was the center unit, which was too large to get through the door. So I built that in the sunroom. The pillars of the bookshelves are 1.5" thick, or two pieces of 3/4" plywood sandwiched together. So where two units met, each of the units was only one piece of plywood thick. The shelves are about 10" deep. I drilled many little holes for shelf pegs using pegboard as a template. The underside of each shelf has four slots dadoed into it to accomodate the pegs and keep the shelves from sliding out. The poplar edging was nailed on using my pneumatic brad nailer, and then the hole was puttied over.
The crown molding and baseboards tie the whole thing together nicely. We found millwork to match our existing baseboards.
Becca and our good friend Heather primed and painted the whole thing over the course of two days. It is quite simple looking. We were tempted to get fancy and put nice millwork on the edges, but the simple look really matches the house.
The place for the holy TV is reinforced to carry its weight. The wall behind the TV is 1.5" thick, and it the whole thing is screwed into studs behind the shelves. The TV is AWESOME. And because it is only 5" think, it doesn't intrude into the room the way the old TV did.