How to Build a Modern Dresser Bookshelf Combo

Friday, March 3, 2017 -
How to build a space saving modern dresser bookshelf combo with free building plans

Remember my boys' shoe storage nightstand? A.K.A. The most useful piece of furniture I've ever built. 

Well, she now has a big brother. My sons' bedroom is teeny tiny (10 x 10) and space is a premium. I've had to get creative coming up with furniture that maximizes space (like their modern bunk beds) and storage (like their nightstand). I decided to create a dresser/bookshelf mash-up to limit the number of large pieces taking up floor space and while I was at it, I figured this would be a great opportunity to share some of my furniture finishing tips and tricks. 

Staining and sealing wood is kinda my jam. I've actually made a few different staining videos for my YouTube channel. I usually am looking for going for a professional "store bought" finish for my homemade furniture. Technique plays some part, but it's really all about the kinda of products you use! I have tried just about every kind of stain and sealer out there and I keep coming back to the same combo: non-grain-raising stain, wood toner, and lacquer. 

*This post is sponsored by RPM Wood Finishes Group and contains affiliate links. All opinions are uninfluenced and my own.

Materials List:

Cut List:
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 73-3/4" x 20" (notched according to diagram)
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 16" x 29-3/4"
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 20 x 29-3/4"
  • (1) 1/4" plywood @ 30-1/4" x 73-3/4"
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 15-1/2" x 18"
  • (3) 1/4" plywood @ 17-5/8" x 34" (approx.- measure opening before cutting)
  • (6) 1 x 10 @ 18-3/8"
  • (6) 1 x 10 @ 31" (approx.- measure opening before cutting)
  • (21) 1 x 1 @ 35-7/8"
  • (36) 1 x 1 @ 11-7/8"
  • (2) 2 x 2 @ trapezoid cut at 15 degrees off square - 9-7/8" short end to short end
  • (2) 2 x 2 @ trapezoid cut at 15 degrees off square - 13-7/8" short end to short end
  • (8) 2 x 2 parallel, cut at 15 degrees off square, long end to short end

1. The first step is to cut your pieces down to size. Cut everything except the drawer box pieces, TRUST ME! Below is the cutting diagram for the top and bottom pieces. 

2. Before you start to assemble the pieces, apply iron-on edge banding to raw plywood edges. You may want to stain and finish the pieces at this point. If you use a *Non Grain Raising Stain and *lacquer routine like I did, your pieces will dry quickly, but make sure they have had plenty of time cure before you bang them around too much. 

3. Align the 16" x 29-3/4" plywood panels along the edges of the bottom panel. Attach together through 3/4" pocket holes, using wood glue and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws. 

4. Align 20" wide panels along the outside edge of the center protrusion (the 36" wide section). Attach through 3/4" pocket holes, using glue and 1-1/4" pocket holes. 

5. Place the dresser top on top of the cabinet frame. Attach through 3/4" pocket holes, using glue and 1-1/4" screws. 

6. To be able to get all the pieces you need from one sheet of 1/4" plywood, use the cutting diagram below. 

Pre-drill holes approximately 8-10" apart, around the perimeter of the 1/4" backer board. Attach panel to the back side of the cabinet frame using 1-1/4" screws. 

7. Attach trapezoidal center rails to pairs of legs, creating two 13" long leg sections

 and two 17" long leg sections. 

8. Flip the cabinet over, exposing the bottom panel. Apply wood glue and attach 13" legs 1-1/2" from outside edges and front and back of cabinet, using 2" wood screws. Attach 17" legs flush to the edge of the center protrusion and 1-1/2" from the front and back of cabinet. 

9. DON'T BUILD YOUR DRAWER BOXES UNTIL YOU ASSEMBLE THE CABINET FRAME! Measure the width of the center cabinet opening. Add 1" to get the final width of the drawer boxes. Follow this tutorial to build three boxes, approximately 34-3/4" x 18-3/8" x 9-1/4". 

Once the drawer boxes are built, evenly space boxes in the center cabinet opening, and install with 18" drawer slides. 

10. Apply stain and finish to the front side of the drawer boxes. I guess if you're really fancy you could finish the whole box, but only the front panel will be seen. 

11. Just like the door from my Shoe Storage Nightstand, use 1 x 1 dowels (actually 3/4" x 3/4") to create three, 35-7/8" x 9-3/4" drawer faces. 

Since the faces are made from so many pieces that are the same length, I highly recommend setting up a stop block on your saw or bench so you can make repeated cuts quickly.

Working quickly, alternately stack 35-7/8" long dowels and 11-7/8" dowels, spaced 11-7/8" apart. Once in place, use a scrap block and a *speed square to line everything up. Clamp the boards together and wipe off access glue. Once the glue is fully dried (usually overnight), sand or plane the faces smooth.

12. Attach the drawer faces to the front side of the drawer boxes, using 1-1/4" screws driven from the inside. There should be 1/8" gap between between each drawer face and between the faces and the cabinet panels. 

13. In the open (bookshelf) sides of the cabinet, drill holes for shelf pins, following the directions on the package. Some pins sit below the shelf and some hold the board centered. 

14. Place the shelves on the support pins and that's it! 

It's amazing how a couple coats of *wood toner and *sprayed lacquer can transform cheap pine plywood. Not only does it look good, but lacquer dries in a fraction of the time of other sealers like polyurethane. Good news for my impatient self. 

This piece is heading to my boys' room, but I kinda fell in love with it staged as a modern entertainment center or credenza. This spot normally sports a mid-century dresser, but I really like how the bookshelves display all my pretties. 

What do you think? Ready to build your own? Check out the Mohawk Consumer Products Amazon store and stock up on the good stuff! Pin the image below to save the idea for later. 

How to build a mid-century modern dresser with bookshelves

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  1. This dresser and the shoe storage nightstands are gorgeous!

  2. This is truly incredible. Sorry if I missed it, but did you use edge banding to finish your plywood edges?

  3. Ugh, nevermind! I see it is like, the first thing you said. Love this!

  4. Gorgeous piece of furniture! Thank you for sharing it.


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