How to Design a Bookcase & Header Over a Bed

Updated February 21, 2017

The space beside a bed and over the typical headboard section is significant for storing books and media equipment. Planning this space wisely will create a nice reading space before bedtime and keep the room neater. Using just a small space on either side of the bed takes up little floor space, but it yields several shelves for placing art objects, books and baskets for storing personal items. Plan the area as somewhat of a well-organised wall unit, which will likely become the room's focal point wall.

Measure the width of the bed space and usable wall area. Use these measurements to plan the wall unit on paper. Allow 36-48 inches on both sides of the bed for a bookcase. Plan to build each bookcase 6 feet tall with a top connecting shelf. Build this shelf to reach the entire width of the unit from left to right to unify the structure.

Sketch the bookcase unit with all surrounding bed space on graph paper. Use one square of graph paper to represent 4 inches. Draw bookshelves reaching from top to bottom of each side unit. Plan to space the shelves 12 inches apart on both sides of the bed. Design an additional shelf under the main header shelf to reach across the bed. Create this shelf to hold books or art objects across the bed space itself.

Plan to construct the whole wall unit structure 18 inches deep from front side to the wall. Allow this much room, so books and other items will not tumble out easily. Use 1/2-inch plywood to form a back wall for the entire unit, tying the whole unit together. Cut the plywood, when you are ready to construct the unit, with a circular saw. Buy premade boards to form shelves or cut them from plywood. Use wood screws installed with an electric screwdriver to fasten the plywood back to all shelving.

Glue wood trim across shelving front edges. Cover rough edges of plywood in this manner, if plywood is used for actual shelves. Install wood trim on shelves to form a small lip to keep books or art objects from tumbling out the front. Plan to install wood trim or crown moulding across the very top edge of the wall unit.

Paint or stain the unit. Paint the entire structure to match the wall, or stain it to match the other wood furniture in the room. Use high-quality paint and apply it in three separate coats, allowing each to dry for eight hours before adding another coat. Stain the unit with a stain product that includes polyurethane as part of the mix if you will use stain. Brush on three separate coats of stain, allowing each coat to dry for 24 hours before adding another coat.


Use particle board or recycled material to built the unit as other options. Cover the unit with fabric or vinyl material using a staple gun. Be sure to glue on fabric trim to cover any staples, especially if constructing the unit in a child's room.


Never store heavy objects or heavy books in the middle shelf across the bed in a child's room. Something may fall and injure a child. Place soft stuffed animals in this space instead.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tools
  • Sketch pad
  • Graph paper
  • Shelving boards
  • 1/2-inch plywood
  • Circular saw
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Wood trim
  • Glue
  • Paint or stain
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Judi Light Hopson is a national columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. She is founder of Hopson Global Education and Training and co-author of the college textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress. She holds a degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University, and has been a professional writer for 25 years.