build a perpendicular bookshelf for an entry partition
Photo: Susan Seubert
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Build Perpendicular for an Entry Partition

Built-ins can designate activity zones within a multipurpose room and create a feeling of intimacy, all while maintaining the spaciousness of an open floor plan. Here, the job is done with a column set over an open bookcase that suggests a division between the living room and entry hall. In the early 20th century, such partitions usually came in pairs and were placed on either side of a passageway. These colonnades were so common that they were sold through builder's catalogs as mail-order kits. Today, you can find a recycled set at your local salvage yard or build one from scratch. To make a square column—such as the one Portland, Oregon, designer Martha Kerr fashioned here to pick up the detailing of the nearby newel post—create a hollow box by securing four poplar planks together with finishing nails. No need to miter them: Just make one pair 1½ inches narrower than the other to accommodate the overlap. (For round columns, order inexpensive paint-grade pillars and decorative capitals for the tops from an online supplier such as To mimic the paneled look of the bookcase below, overlay cabinet doors (Decore-ative Specialties is one source) onto the smooth back and end of a ready-made unit. For a seamless transition where the built-in meets the wall, raise it on plinths, and cover the open bottom with the same baseboard moldings used elsewhere in the room.

TOH Tip: Consider hiding structural supports for a bearing wall inside hollow columns to open up your floor plan. Keep in mind that if you do, unlike with the decorative divider shown here, the column would have to continue down through the bookshelves and thereby eliminate some interior storage space.
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