How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile

Getting my “She Shed” together has turned into a year-long project: from installing insulation & drywall, to putting in wood flooring ~ it has given me a run for my money!  But once all the hard stuff was done….the fun part of decorating came in.  I knew I wanted a tall bookcase, that could also double as a potting station for plants.  I didn’t want just any bookcase though.  It had to have plenty of storage space for books & plants, but I also wanted to incorporate these amazing, rustic Italian tiles I’d found long ago.  Here, I’ll explain step-by-step “How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile.”

How to Create a Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

Adding rustic, Italian tiles to the top of this bookcase gives SO much extra character to my She Shed!

On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate this project of installing tile a “3.” It really wasn’t hard at all! If I can do it: you certainly can too. And if you’re looking for a large bookcase with lots of storage ~ this is the exact one I bought!

My Bookcase!

Talavera Tile

Long Bookcase

What I Used for this Project:

  • A bookcase, or some other piece of furniture with a flat top, to install tile on;
  • Pretty tiles that match your decor;
  • Gorilla Glue (to attach tiles to bookcase);
  • Caulk gun (to spread the Gorilla Glue);
  • Grout (white, grey, cream ~ whatever works for your project);
  • Plastic spacers for tiles;
  • A grout float (the thing that spreads the grout evenly over tiles & gets into cracks);
  • A large sponge (to clean up the grout).
  • **Optional: A wet tile saw, if you’ll be needing to cut tiles. I specifically designed mine not to make any cuts ~ but if you do need to, you’ll need a tile cutter or saw.

And That’s It!

Grout Float

Pre-Mixed Grout

Wet Tile Saw

How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile:


  • Step 1: Decide on Your Bookcase + Tiles ~ Decide which bookcase or shelf you want to add tile to, & then decide which tiles you want to add to it. You could add Moroccan tiles, Mexican tiles, beautiful blue & white tiles from Portugal….or more rustic ones, for a French Country look. Choices are endless here! Decorative tiles can be found at your local home improvement store(s), on Wayfair (which is where I found mine), or on Amazon. 
  • Step 2: Decide on Your Layout ~ I knew I wanted my tiles to “hang over” the edge of my bookcase, in order to create a larger workspace.  Another reason I did this is so that I didn’t have to cut any tiles! Take a look at your project, & see if you’ll need to use a tile cutter or not, or if you can make it work without one. Then, once you get the layout you like….
  • Step 3: Buy Your Supplies!  Get your grout, Gorilla Glue, caulk gun, tile spacers, grout float (to spread the grout), a large sponge, & large container to hold water (to wring out your sponge in).  
  • Step 4: Once Your Layout is Set, Add Tile Spacers ~ Take the layout you’ve decided upon, & add plastic spacers so that tiles are evenly-spaced. 
  • Step 5: Gorilla Glue Your Tiles On!  This is the point of “no return,” so really make sure you want to do this! If you do, very carefully remove one tile at a time from the spacers, add Gorilla Glue to the back of the tile with a caulk gun (you don’t need a lot, & don’t put it right near edges), & then carefully slide it back into place ~ being sure not to move the spacers. Keep doing this for all your tiles! 
  • Step 6: Let the Glue Set for 24 Hours…then Grout!  Let the glue set overnight, then come back the next day & remove your spacers: you won’t need them for the grout part. Either mix your grout, or if you’ve purchased pre-mixed grout ~ simply open it up & get going! Use a grout float to spread grout evenly over the spaces between your tiles. Try to get most of it right near the “cracks,” vs. all over your tiles. 
  • Step 7: Wait 20-30 Minutes….then Come Back With Sponge & Wipe Off!  Read your grout’s instructions, but mine said to wait about 25 minutes, then return with a sponge & start cleaning off the excess. If you don’t do this step, your tiles will look really messy, with extra grout all over them. 
  • Step 8: If You Don’t Like Your Grout Color, Change It!  I originally bought grey grout, thinking it would look good with my tiles. But it turns out: I wanted more of a contrast, so I bought white grout instead, & repeated Steps 6 & 7 one more time, filling in the parts/little cracks I’d missed the first time. And it came out exactly how I wanted!

Pro Tip: If you left your grout on too long & are having a hard time removing it from your tiles: just add vinegar to water, & that will get the grout right off!


Photos of the Tile-Grouting Process…

How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

First, I simply placed the tiles on top of my bookcase to see if I liked the look…

How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

And I did ~ so then I put little plastic spacers between tiles. You can also see: I let my tiles hang about one inch off of each side to create a larger workspace.

How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

Then I mixed my grout (with a pencil)!

How to Add Tile to a Bookcase, Girl Who Gardens

Originally, I went with grey grout ~ but didn’t like the look.

How to Add Tile to a Bookcase, Girl Who Gardens

So I changed to white grout ~ & liked the contrast much better! I also changed to a smaller tool, to really focus the grout right where I need it: in the cracks.

How to Create a Custom Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

And voila! The finished product is exactly what I wanted: more character & charm.

How to Create a Bookcase with Tile, Girl Who Gardens

And yes…I’ve also added a brick wall since staring this project! #neverendingprojects

How to Add Tile to a Bookcase

If you like the brick wall I’ve added to my “She Shed” ~ I’ll be writing about it soon!  That project was a little more complicated than adding tiles to the bookcase….but do-able : )

xoxo Noelia

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