Design, SketchUp
Comments 3

The evolution of a bookcase design

The final design of the Scott Bookcase, a project I completed over a year ago. Getting to this point meant working through four different design options.

I have been contemplating video for my blog. Specifically, I am thinking about a slideshow type video with me narrating the construction of a past project which I called the Scott Bookcase. Why? I really don’t think a visitor to my blog is going to take the time to page through all of the posts of that project or any of my projects for that matter. But a brief video might be the trick.

A key part of building the Scott Bookcase was the design process which involved a few meetings with the client along with some emails being exchanged. I am not sure if the video will ever come to pass, but I can at least preview what I plan to say in this blog post. So, here is an overview of how the design went down.

The initial client meeting
The client, a friend of mine, called wanting a bookcase, probably painted, which would reside along a wall in his family room. The size was to be seven feet tall and six feet wide. The house is traditional in nature; various moldings trim out the rooms, so the bookcase needed to have the same feel.

I met with my friend and his wife in their home and instead of using my portfolio of finished pieces, I simply brought my laptop and the three of us brainstormed a little. Being able to connect to my blog where I have a selection of my finished projects was very beneficial. When an idea would pop up, I was often able to go to one of my completed projects, or a specific blog post, to discuss how the idea would impact the bookcase design.

After my planning meeting, I had enough information to begin the design process which initially included two options…

The first option

Of the four designs, this is my favorite; nice proportions between the upper and lower sections.

For this project, I wanted to stay away from bracket feet due to the complexities of making them. I have always wanted to make a project with bun feet. This would have been my first.

One possible design change would have been a smaller cornice molding. I mulled this over thinking such a molding might have offered more balance.

The only real problem with this design was the width of the lower case – not wide enough for the bun feet. They look too close to each other.

I really like the look of this bookcase, especially the front view. I wanted to include something different for the base; different from the baseboard style element that I had used several times before (here and here) and I didn’t want to venture into bracket feet due to the complex nature of fabricating them. My client was very agreeable to making the bookcase as easy to construct as I wanted it to be, so considerations like this were very agreeable to them. The bun feet which I liked was not to their liking, so this design was scrapped.

Design #2
The basic difference between this design and the first one is the width of the top case, which is wider, and the base design.

Nice overall, but a little boxy in feel.

This is the basic baseboard design I use: straight stock topped off with base cap molding. Over the years I have used base cap repeatedly in my projects.

Nice waist molding and here you get a good view of the panel look of the sides.

Stock crown molding finishes off the top.

My client was ready to go with this design option, but I wanted to get away from the boxy look. I offered this design thinking the simplified look would be easiest to build and the base moldings are a nice alternative to the bun feet in the first design. But, I felt that this option missed a visual hook; something the makes the piece a little more interesting to look at.

I told my clients I would meet with them again and offer a tweak to design #2.

The third, over-the-top design
As I thought about the third design, my imagination really got the best of me. I began visualizing this bookcase as a showcase piece; something that would be a great portfolio builder. This design would be a win-win for me and my clients: a portfolio enhancer for me and a great bookcase for them.

This design is definitely masculine in feel.

All of the moldings that wrap this piece would have taken forever for me to cut.

I do like the way several of the design elements wrap around the columns, like the crown molding.

The original hand drawn illustration included not only a front and side view, but a view looking down from the top as well as up from the bottom. These additional views helped me organize the various parts needed to make this design. But the additional views also indicated how complicated and time consuming this project would have been. This option was never presented to the client and remains only a design idea.

Design #4
This is what the clients finally approved. It merges some elements from the previous designs as well as a couple of new ideas.

hown in the white color the piece was finally painted, this design features a more noticable difference between the upper and lower sections.

Here, I went in a slightly different direction for the base molding. The two-part molding design forms sort of a ogee profile.

The waist molding is built up from two moldings.

The overall shape of this design was borrowed from a project featured in Glen Huey’s book, “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime.” I had always wanted to make something with this profile and my clients were ultimately very pleased with the results. If I had it to do over, I would probably make the lower case a little taller.

For those of you that do custom work, how does this kind of design consultation compare with yours? In the future, I hope to actually fire up SketchUp and do some brainstorming on the basic shape of a project right in front of the client. I don’t know how practical this would be, but it seems to me this would go a long way towards pulling the client into the design process.

This entry was posted in: Design, SketchUp


During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Lookin good Jeff. I think your back and forth to get the right design is great! I would offer a couple things to address your question. I have found there to be a fine line offering too much in the form of drawings and changes without a signed contract. Use your own gauge and do what feels best to you. Every case is different, but I now have it in writing that BASIC drawings are only available until after signing. I've gotten burned a couple times making crazy drawing to impress the client in order to get the job, only to loose out. Again, it's a fine line I think.

    Also, I've had great luck using the computer in projects with the clients. I have however been humbled by my Sketchup skills on a couple occasions when I was under the eager eyes of the client. Then I looked like a dumbass who just got a fancy new shiny toy. Ooops. 🙂 But yes, by all means, making mods in front of a client is both a great way to keep them involved, but also can get a few “That's cool” points.

    Hope your vacation is great!

  2. While reading your comment, I had a visual of what an embarrisssing moment it would be to stumble with SketchUp right in front of the client. 😮

    I need to explain something. When this project got underway more than a year ago, I used drawings on graph paper and was learning SketchUp at the same time. The last design was presented to the client only via SketchUp. The first two designs were presented by way of graph paper drawings – these SketchUp illustrations in the post were completed in the last two weeks, for the purpose of the video I plan to complete.

    I was hoping you would comment on this since I know you have a lot of experience in this. Thanks.

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