4 Cubby Bookshelf or Nightstand

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How to build a cubby bookshelf. Free easy plans with diagrams, cut list, shopping list and project video.

10 Reasons Cubbies Rock

You don't need bookends.
Everything has a place.
Clutter looks like it's on display.
Removing an object means disrupting only that cubby - not the entire bookshelf.
My five year old can be organized.
They are sized just right for baskets, bins, and buckets.
Display the pretty, disguise the ugly in coordinating containers.
They tidy up any room of the home.
They make Mama happy.
Cubbies are fun to build!!!

Thank you everyone for the positive feedback on the 9 Cubby Bookshelf I posted last week. Today, I am sharing a smaller version, more suitable for perhaps under a window or as a bedside table or in a child's room. I also love how Pottery Barn Kids lined up a few of their sold-out Morgan Cubby Bookshelves to hold books and toys in. The top becomes a great tabletop for a lamp, photo frames, or even more storage.

The 4 Cubby bookshelf is smaller, so by default, is going to be easier and faster to build. The construction steps are pretty similar, so I went ahead and added the video of the 9 Cubby Bookshelf if you would like to watch.

I'd also like to add a 6 Cubby Bookshelf Plan if anyone is interested. And of course the 4 Cubby plans follow! Enjoy!

Dimensions are shown above.


Shopping List

2 - 1x12 @ 8 feet long
3 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
Optional 2 1/4" base moulding (5 feet)
Optional shelf pins for adjustable shelves
Use either 1 1/4" pocket holes (with Kreg Jig) or 2" countersunk screws (with countersink bit)
Jigsaw is for decorative cuts
Mitersaw is for mitered corners on decorative base moulding

Common Materials
1 1/4 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
Cut List

2 - 1x12 @ 31 1/4" (sides)
1 - 1x12 @ 28 1/2" (center divider)
1 - 1x12 @ 30 1/4" (top)
1 - 1x12 @ 28 3/4" (bottom shelf)
2 - 1x12 @ 14" (shelves)

2 - 1x2 @ 30 1/4" (top)
4 - 1x2 @ 30 1/2" (sides)
2 - 1x2 @ 27 1/4" (bottom)
1 - 1x2 @ 27" (back, center - optional)

Cutting Instructions

Mark your boards because it will be very easy to mix up boards on this one!

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Miter Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Start by building your box. You can either use 3/4" pocket holes and 1 1/4" pocket hole screws or 2" countersunk screws and glue.

Step 2

Shelves can be added fixed or added with shelf pins as done in the video. The side notch outs are optional, and you can actually do this later on as well.

Step 3

Add back face frame.

Step 4

And then the front face frame. If your shelves are adjustable, do not nail to shelves.

Step 5

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Guest (not verified)

Mon, 03/19/2012 - 05:38

I would be interested in seeing a 6 cubby as well as doors. I am looking to make something to replace an ugly hutch and was hoping for something about 35" high, 17" wide and 9' long (but can make multiple ones). This or the 6 cubby might work if it had doors.

Dr Watson

Mon, 03/19/2012 - 08:04

Thank-you. My partner loves cubby shelves, and keeps wanting to buy the retail, paticle-board versions. With your plans, I can convince her that doing it ourselves will provide higher quality and value. I was excited to see the 9 cubby version, but I knew I'd have to modify a build of it to be smaller. I'd certainly have interest in seeing a 6 cubby version of these plans as well.

Sammi (not verified)

Mon, 03/19/2012 - 16:17

Thank goodness! I was this close to making a trip to buy a similar one but made of that modular particle board stuff. Hopefully I can convince my hubby to assist in the build.

Mary B Robinson (not verified)

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 17:22

Hooray - I also want a 6 cubby shelf - it will be perfect for what I need!



Mon, 03/19/2012 - 19:28

I love love love all the cubby plans! I would love to see plans for an 8-cubby shelf, especially one that could be upright or on its side depending on changing needs. I know you already have a 6-cubby shelf plan somewhere on the site. Would this new one be very different? It seems like each cubby hole is a little bigger in this batch of plans than in the older batch, right?

Adam (not verified)

Sun, 03/25/2012 - 21:58

So, a 1x12 is 11.25" wide, and I'm only finding baskets around 13.75" deep. Is there someplace you can find baskets that aren't as deep, or do they stick out from the front of the shelf by a couple inches? Does it look funny? This is just what I'm getting drawing it in Sketchup. Also, I'm drawing a 12 basket unit (4 wide by 3 tall) to go under a bar height counter that we don't use as a bar.

In reply to by Adam (not verified)


Thu, 06/28/2012 - 18:47

Pottery Barn Kids has some cute baskets in three colors - "Sabrina" is the name. They are 12x12 at the top, and I believe 9.5" at the base. They are pricey, but well made, and you can get cute liners...

Marrie C (not verified)

Sun, 05/27/2012 - 17:39

Hi love this design of the cubby storage. I had my own go at it, made it smaller for shoes, I am very pleased the way it came out, not perfect, but functions for what I need it for. The next one will be more like the one you made, with bigger cubbies. Love your site!!!


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 16:21

I had a tight space in the girls room. This plan worked out well with 4 inch boards for a shallow cubbie shelf. It holds small books and CDs.


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 16:22

I had a tight space in the girls room. This plan worked out well with 4 inch boards for a shallow cubbie shelf. It holds small books and CDs.