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Not So Ordinary Raised Ranch

***At the bottom of this post are updates about many of the concerns people have about this post on social media. ***

When my husband and I started looking for homes I knew I didn’t want a raised ranch, but here in NY they are pretty much the norm. I thought that they were all the same, predictable and just blah.

Well of course when my husband found our home online and we went to see it, I had to change my mind. It was in the perfect location, on a dead end quiet street, 2.8 acres, great school district and in good shape.

So if we were going to buy this house, it was going to be my mission to make it my own and not the boring cookie cutter raised ranch.

After we closed on our home, I began making a HUGE master to-do list and my “built in bookcase half wall railing” was one item I couldn’t wait to get done.

At the top of the stairs was a typical raised ranch iron railing. I hated it. I felt cold, uninviting and not to mention that people walking up the stairs had a great view of any dust or or dirt that might be on the floor.

I called my favorite Dad, and my favorite figure-outer, my Mom and “we” got to work.

I had no plans or how-to’s that I could find, so my figure-outer, figured it out.

Here’s how we did it…and sorry for the lack of pictures during the process, my son was only 4 months old when we did it so the focus was keep him occupied while the construction was going on!

First thing to do is measure how deep/tall you would like the bookcase and adjust these plans accordingly.

After we removed the railing the main concern was how we were going to make sure it was sturdy.

We made 3 boxes out of 2×4’s (4″ side on the floor) and secured them to the floor with room in-between and on the ends to fit a 2×10.

Cut 4 – 2×10’s the height of the bookshelf and fit on the end and in-between the 2×4 boxes and secure.

Here is a birds eye view of the plan.


Cut 1 2×10 board to place on top and secure to the 2×10 vertical boards.

To finish off the top we used a 1×12 the cut to the length of the shelf and also a 1×12 cut to height to finish off the end.

We then added the shelves. 1×10’s cut to length and used shelf pins to set the shelves on for the desired height.

For the molding to add the finished look it was:

1×4 – across the bottom and 4 vertical “posts”

1×3 – across the top (2×10 board)

1×2 covering shelves across

bookcase front

For the back, there was wainscoting coming up the stairs which I hated. So we took that off and were pleasantly surprised that there was sheetrock underneath. So we just added another sheet of sheetrock to the back of the bookcase, taped, primed and painted! There you can even lay down the drugs. We also cut a hole in the wall that led to downstairs where our wood stove is. There was a lot of  heat that got trapped in that corner and the pass thru now lets so much heat upstairs. It’s great!

Since this post we made over our entry way. It came out so great!

You can see the entry way update here.

bookcase back

For the bookcase I decided I wanted to paint the back of the shelves the same as the wall color to give it some dimension and make it stand out. I painted the shelves and moulding white, and stained the top,

I’m in love! What do you think?


This post has gained a lot of attention and a ton of comments on social media.

I wanted to address some of the questions and concerns many people have had.

Loss of light: Our living room has a huge bay window, 6 recessed lights, a lamp, and sliding glass doors in the dining room. We actually didn’t notice any light difference when we built the bookcase. As for the stairs, our door has a glass pane, a side window and a window. So it’s fairly lit as well. You can also see the other side of the bookcase here.

Children Climbing: I figured I would teach my children not to climb on it. In our opinion this was much safer than the railing. Which was way too low, and too high off the ground. I also grew up in a raised ranch and we had just a half wall in the same place and a couch pushed up to it. I never climbed on the couch to the wall…and my husband also grew up in a raised ranch but with the railing and he tells stories about how he would walk on the OTHER side of the railing! Call me naive but I prefer this option. Maybe down the line I will put doors on it but right now, I love it the way it is. Update: My little guy is almost 4 years old right now and has yet to even attempt to climb the bookcase.

Closed off the room: Take a look at the photo’s below of the other side. I think it’s open and cozy.

*These are the most up to date pictures. We have since also redone to the floors.

Bookcase as railing

If you’re wondering what I did with the railing when I took it down you can find out here!

Also if you want to see what the other side looks like now take a look here!

To see all of the project an sources for the living room you can find them here.

Or to see all of the other rooms in the house take a look here.

If you’d like to see more if my posts don’t forget to follow me!




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We have recently painted our whole upstairs as well. It is no longer “Perfect Greige” by Sherwin Williams, it is now. SeaShell Gray by Valspar.


Friday 25th of June 2021

Does the shelf wobble at all on the right side toward the top of the stairs? We're trying to figure out how if/how you remove the wobble.


Monday 28th of June 2021

Not at all. The frame is screwed right into the floor joists and there is a solid piece of sheetrock going down the entry side.


Wednesday 29th of April 2020

What size screw did you use to attach the 2x4 to the floor.. Also to make the box for the floor what size screw did you use to attach each 2x4 together since they were on their sides. Probably at least a 4 inch screw?

Aurora Boston

Friday 17th of April 2020

Can I say what kind of a hero you are to me right now?! You and I have similar stairways in our split levels, so seeing how your bookcase looks helps confirm that yes, this bookcase will look AMAZING in my soon to be dining room. We already have a "wall" built on the stairs instead of any banisters, which is what I was planning on doing to help open up the room. Then I saw this. GIRRRLLLL. THANK YOU!


Friday 17th of April 2020

Thank you so much!! That’s why I share! To help inspire others!


Monday 13th of April 2020

I LOVE this, I love the entire room you did a GREAT job with this classic split level that is NOT in style at this time but will make a comeback, someday.

Wrought iron had been the rage back in the day exterior, interior it had been wrought iron.

This bookcase adds dimension and "cozy" to the room and your other furnishings are perfect you have updated this classic split level to a much sought after "today farmhouse country" look.


Y'all dont be so hard on the classic 1960s split level see here what can be done you have hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, much of the classic split level home remains the greatest to send kids, young adults "down to the rec-room level' for TV, a pool table, etc., and away from adults is one thing the popular 'open plan" does not provide.

NEVER count out the classic 1960s split level, or classic 1950s ranch.



Tuesday 31st of March 2020

How do I do this over carpet? My railing leads to the basement and the carpet wraps around the edge under the railing. Thank you for this inspiration.