Easy A-Frame Ladder Bookshelf

Very recently, I came to the horrifying realization that Señor Hess’ and my humble abode had approximately zero bookshelves. ZERO. That is far too few bookshelves for, well, really, any basic human life form, but especially for someone who proclaims to love reading and also oh yeah that’s right be WRITING A DANG BOOK. #naughtyauthor Obviously the situation had to be rectified.


I started shopping around at my beloved antique stores and flea markets for the perfect antique oak bookshelf. And I found several. And do you know what? Those are hella expensive. So girlfriend decided to put her DIY pants on and get to work.


I’m sure you’ve all seen the ladders-turned-bookshelves-and-other-storage-items crafts on Pinterest. I personally have several pinned (insert shameless plug here). I needed shelving, this appeared to be a cost-effective way to acquire said shelving and they looked easy enough to do…and so it came to pass that Lindsay spent her weekend crafting her very own DIY ladder bookshelf while referring to herself exclusively in the third person.


Here’s what you need and how to do it.


A-frame wooden ladder
Aunt Linda and I found mine in Canton for $20 and it quickly became one of my favorite Christmas presents. That’s the beauty of picking out your own gifts, we do it all the time. Be sure to find a ladder that has back rungs opposite each step, or else you won’t be able to place a shelf. Turns out many vintage ladders don’t have those back rungs. Be careful. Don’t let your books fall down.


Shelves and a few other things
Including but not limited to: wood stain, paint brush, drop cloth, wood glue and these androgynous-sounding things called “shims” (not a joke…this is a real term used in Home Depot) which will take care of any leveling issues. My shelves measured in at 3.5’, 4’, 4.5’ and 5’ going down (tee hee hee) for a pyramid look. Now, the nice people at Home Depot will be happy to cut the wood for you, assuming a) that you buy it from them first, and b) that you stop joking about the hermaphroditic shims. No, that was not my most politically correct moment. Thank you for noticing.



Shelves, wood glue and shims lurking in the background


Minwax wood stain in “Honey” – about $7


My first step was to attach the shims to my shelves and level them, using the wood glue. Be careful, because if your cats are around they will absolutely want to eat it. I kept telling them glue wasn’t good for cats, but they wouldn’t listen.


Note: If your ladder is magically perfect and level, you may not need this step.


While the wood glue dried, I set to work staining the ladder. You’ll want to either do this outside (I personally didn’t because #bugs) or in the garage. If you’re doing it in the garage, please be sure that the garage door is in fact open. There will be no asphyxiation on my watch, thank you very much. Lay down the drop cloth so your husband doesn’t murder you for staining the garage floor, and set your ladder atop. Visit United Garage Doors to learn how to do it properly. Now get to work.







By the time I finished staining the ladder, the shelves’ glue had dried and they were ready to be stained. So I went merrily on about my business getting high on wood stain fumes staining wood and giggling senselessly. Full disclosure: at this point in the process it’s safe to say that I was wearing just as much wood stain as the ladder and shelves were. Some of it may or may not still be on my body.  I leaned the shelves up against the ladder to let them dry. Give them plenty of time, like more than two hours. Overnight is best, if you’re patient enough. Try really hard to be patient enough.



Our garage is a mess. Sorry, but people live here.


The color of the stain up close


Now is the most exciting part because IT STARTS TO LOOK LIKE AN ACTUAL BOOKSHELF FROM PINTEREST. Also no, I don’t know how to take pictures when the sun is involved. Please ignore the darkness and general horribleness of these pictures, and send money for photography classes.





NOW YOU GET TO PUT IT IN YOUR HOUSE AND PUT STUFF ON IT. I ended up taking the top shelf off, mostly because the ladder already had a rest there and the shelf wasn’t looking cute.






And since I know you will ask, here’s a picture of the desk that got cut off. And also some pictures of my cats (Maverick was less interested in being a photography subject than Fancy…sassy little jerk).







And there you have it! DIY a-frame ladder bookshelf. Easy, relatively inexpensive DIY a-frame ladder bookshelf.

—The Wife in Training




    • Reply February 9, 2015

      Lindsay Landgraf Hess

      Oh sure no problem. I’ll trade you for the kimono.

  • Reply February 9, 2015


    So while you’re over there giggling about shims, you can find me giggling about the following: titebond, WOOD finish and WOOD glue. Don’t ask. It just comes natural.

    Also. MAKE ME ONE. My birthday is next month!

    • Reply February 9, 2015

      Lindsay Landgraf Hess

      WOOD. Tee hee hee. …..I’m twelve years old.

  • Oh that turned out so amazing I love it!! I’ll haveta keep this in mind when I actually have my own place without rando roommates one day. #collegelife

  • Reply February 9, 2015


    HOLY AMAZING, BATMAN. I’m impressed not only by your DIY skills but also your decorating skills. How did you figure out all the right stuff to put on your bookshelf? COME HELP ME WITH MY DECORATING SKILLS PLEASE.

  • Reply February 9, 2015


    I love love love this! Maybe I can convince David we need to replace our old Wal-Mart bookcase for something cool like this!!! Come over and help me convince him!

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