How To Keep From Falling Down A Staircase

The alternate title for this post could have been ‘Building Another Bookcase’, but where’s the fun in that?

Let’s start with the finished product and get it out of the way.

When we first added the second floor, I was totally all about a long row of pretty, white pickets and a monstrously beautiful newel post at the top of the stairs.  But then a couple things popped into my brains:  1. I have a pretty good fear of heights and I just didn’t like seeing the drop all the way down to the first floor.  2. It wasn’t particularly original or practical to do the picket thing.  The beauty of choosing to do all of the interior trim work ourselves means we can do whatever the heck we want (within building code, of course).

John wanted to do a regular half-wall, but he knew I wasn’t going to be down with that.  It needed to be special and meaningful for our family and considering our massive book collection, the bookcase wall idea seemed like a total given.

We did this particular project quite a while ago, so my photos are pretty sparse, but I did manage to get a few.  We began with a safety hazard.

That’s it.  Just a couple 2×10’s nailed up.  Scary.  The boys weren’t allowed to go up there without one of us, so I didn’t have to worry about one of them taking a nose dive.

John then built some bases out of 2×4 lumber and screwed them into the floor.

And this is where the picture taking practically stopped.

Wop. Wop.

Just to give you an idea, we built the frame of the bookshelf and I made a counter-like top out of PureBond plywood, which sanded and stained beautifully.  I then put pine planks on the back of the unit and stained those, as well.

 Nevermind that side bit of trim, I was testing out ideas for finishing the sides.

The next step was building shelves and I did them exactly like the sunroom/family room unit.

Finished with a couple coats of paint and a whole whack of caulk.

And this is what she looks like right this very moment.

Taken at night.
With a camera phone.

Yes, I know, I spoil you.

Apparently, I kinda gave up on styling the bookcase once I got to the end.  Looks like I was just shoving books in there.  Which is probably exactly what I was doing.  I love all of the color and texture that it lends to an otherwise neutral hallway and yes, books are decorations to me.


12 thoughts on “How To Keep From Falling Down A Staircase

  1. I am so glad to have found your blog, in particular this post! I want to make a bookcase railing and with no building skills, was stumped as to how to start. I now have a better idea of putting it together, thank you! Mine will serve as a railing and will go between two columns. Question for you though; if I were to add pocket holes to attach each shelf, do you think it would be sturdy enough to not put a backing on it? My hope is to be able to see through it, so as to not block the light/view.


  2. Hey Mel! I LOVE your idea!!! I think the pocket holes are a fine idea, but you'll have to install them *as* you build the unit, instead of after. It would suck lots to have to cram yourself and your drill into each section to attach the shelf. For my shelves, I used quarter round trim as the main shelf support and made sure to add a bullnose front to each shelf for stability. I think that if you were to use a better wood (poplar, 3/4″ plywood, etc), make the shelves less than 24″ wide and add a bullnose, you should be TOTALLY fine. When you're done, send some pics to me!


  3. Thanks for the info.! bullnose? not sure what that is, will home depot point me in the right direction? Yeah, the quarter round sounds like a much easier application than pocket holes, and I'm all about the easy 🙂


  4. Love, love, love the bookcase wall. This one and your other one, also. Your instructions make it simple enough that even I can supervise someone else building it. Ha Ha. I do have questions: How deep are the shelves and how tall is the wall. Thanks so much. Keep up the great work. I am so impressed by how young you are and how much that you have accomplished in your home. Thanks, Tammy


  5. Hi Carol, We'd love to do this! I'm wondering what the dimensions of the shelves themselves are, specifically how deep. Those look like some pretty big books! Does it take up too much of the hallway?


  6. Hi Carol! This is such a stunning project. I have a couple of questions for you. My sister and I are wanting to get my mom's house finished for her. She has done so much for us and sacrifices everything to make everyone else happy but she forgets about herself. She does not currently have a railing at her house and she saw this on pinterest and fell in love. we are going to attempt to recreate. is there any way you could post or email me a material list? Also, She just had laminate wood flooring placed last year. would we need to tear it up in order to build the shelved railing? I am ecstatic about this project and feel so fortunate to have come across such great talent =) thanks in advance!


  7. Hi Carol!! I have a huge favor! I adore this railing as does my mama. She came across this on pinterest and fell in absolute complete love. They have had no railing on their stairs for like 3 years now. I have 2 boys and it's stressful when they come to visit because we worry about the railing. My mom puts everyone else's happiness before her own and we want to get this railing done for her. Is there any way you can post or email me a material list?? Never built anything in my life aside from a birdhouse kit when I was younger and that was just nails in a board lol. I appreciate any help you may be able to give =) thanks!


  8. Can you please post a picture from the stairs, looking at the back of the shelf, specifically the molding/finishing on where the shelf meets the floor. This is awesome, just trying to see how to make it work! Thanks!


  9. I love that you built your own bookcase for this! I am very close to starting a project of building a bookcase railing to hold shoes by the front door and was trying to decide if I should build my own bookcase or simply buy a bookcase and attach it to the floor and wall. After reading your post, I'm definitely leaning towards building one on my own.


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