How to Build a Bookshelf With Your Husband

Step one. Go to Ikea and build one of theirs. It’s probably easier, faster, and way less frustrating than what we did.

Step two. It will NOT be as awesome as ours. Good things come to those who wait, scream, yell, and then go to bed in tired and terrible impatience, just to get up and do it all again the next day.

Step two. Clean your window boxes. Window boxes? Yes. Window boxes. We had a great idea. Build beautiful pine window-boxes. So we can plant them to decorate our wedding hall and save money on flowers. Then we can reuse them to build a beautiful mid-century bookshelf after the wedding. We used pine planks, finishing nails, and chocolate brown waterproof stain to build 12 beautiful window-boxes which we then planted with alyssum, cosmos, pansies, forget-me-nots, geraniums, delphiniums, and violas, and bordered our dance floor with them.

Step two. Wait two years. If you die in the between time, use the pine boxes to bury yourself. If not in a cemetery, in the giant pile of window boxes that is now sitting unused in the middle of your tiny rented flat.

Step two. Use Murphy’s Oil Soap. It works very very well. We put all the window boxes in the kitchen, swept out all the dust, dirt and hay with a tiny whisk broom and dustpan. Pour a very liberal half cup in a gallon of hot water. Take a microfiber cloth and start wiping down. It made our boxes come out looking brand new and freshly stained.  

Step three. Come up with a design. Actually, come up with ten designs of how to stack them. Show each one to your husband only to have him say, “I don’t like that bit.” Don’t waste your time with blue print websites though. After spending hours on blue print websites trying to learn them, I went back to Microsoft word. I inserted a rectangle into Word, made it the right proportions, copied and pasted it eleven times, and voila, in Word, you can move shapes, flip them, rotate them and generally move them wherever you damn well feel like. You can even adjust the screen size so you scale the measurements for when you are assembling the pieces.

Step four. Play Giant-Jenga-With-Hazards—I mean build the bookshelf—in your kitchen. Don’t leave your husband to do the work he knows how. Get in his way at every point possible, with methods he should try because you know better. Even better, insist that he freeze in awkward positions while he is using a screwdriver so you can take photos for your blog. Also, because his bum is very nice and round, and you like it.

Step five. Buy dinner. Justify the extra expense outside your budget because you worked so damn hard at arguing and holding things in place for the whole afternoon.

Step six. Let the entire project gather dust for six months while you try to track down a set of sixteen-inch mid-century tapered dowel legs. Give up. Set your husband the task of making some.

Step seven. Get the entire thing done, realise you need to make just one more cut, and call a friend to bring you over a handsaw in the middle of the night.

Step eight. Paint the sitting room, buy a chair, plug in a lamp, put out the rug. And fill the shelf. Sit and admire the shelf for two hours from the sofa because you like it so much but also because you are too tired to move.

Step nine. The window-box-jigsaw-mid-century-brown-wooden-bookshelf is perfect. It stands out nicely against our periwinkle-blue study room walls. It’s a little eccentric, super stylish, quite a bit practical, and fits the things we need it to. If you want your own, look at the picture and take some inspiration from it. Or build an identical one. If you need a practical list of instructions though, take a picture of this one to someone who has actual know-how. And go from there. There’s definitely an easier way to make this shelf, and it doesn’t start with: Make twelve identical window boxes. (We only ended up using nine, anyway.)

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