Make a Box With Faux Book Spines to Hide Stuff Inside

Do you have book shelves begging to be filled with books but you don't want to spend tons of money on a bunch of books that maybe look good, but no one will ever read? Would you rather have extra and hidden storage space? These boxes are inexpensive and easy to make and you can use what ever book titles you want!

Note: Click on any image to enlarge.


  1. Decide on box size(s) and how many you'll want to make. Let's say you want to make a single box for each of the 12 cubbies in a cube-Build Cheap Closet Shelves. Determine the height, width and depth measurements for the space(s). Another thing you'll want to consider is what colors the book spines will be. Consider going with all browns and black or gray shades that coordinate with just about anything and would also look like antique books. But don't be afraid to go more colorful - this could result in a really modern or fun look!
  2. Taking the shelf space measurements you wrote down in the step above, subtract about 1/4 or 1/8 inch (6.35mm or 3.17mm) from the height and width dimensions. This will allow wiggle room for the boxes to easily slide in and out of the shelves. The depth measurement can also be adjusted so your 'books' sit further back on the shelf and not right up to its edge, especially if you plan to make the 'book' spines more three dimensional. Reduce the depth by about 1/2 inch (1.27cm) if you want a bit of a ledge and know you will make some spines more three dimensional than others.
  3. Plan out the dimensions for your boxes and determine how to minimize waste when cutting the Make a Simple Foam Christmas Ornament core boards. The dimensions used in this example are shown here. (Keep in mind the depth of the foam core as well - two panels equal about 1/4 inch (6.35mm) in this case.)
  4. Using a yard-stick or other long ruler, measure out and mark the foam core boards with a pencil. Be as precise as possible so that all the edges will line up and result in square corners. 
  5. Use the X-Acto knife to cut the foam core boards. Be sure to have a cutting mat placed below the board and use the edge of the ruler as a cutting edge guide if you're not good at free-hand cutting.
  6. Once you have all five sides of the box cut out, use the duct tape to connect the four sides to each other and then add the bottom on last. Use the X-Acto knife to get clean corners and cuts on the tape.
  7. Use the dimensions of the front-side of your box and cut the thinner poster board to this size. This will become the base for attaching the book spines to.
  8. Now comes the fun part! Pick out which titles you want to be displayed together on each box front. They can be themed or completely random. For authenticity, try finding out the page count of each of your titles so the book thickness will be realistic - otherwise you could end up with a very "abridged" version of War & Peace! See the "Tips" section for more ideas on selecting book titles.
  9. Measure and draw out a template for each book spine on the poster board fronts so you can plan everything out. Don't make any books skinnier than 3/4" (2cm) though as smaller sizes become increasingly difficult to work with the later steps. Try to plan out how the actual spine should look so you have a nice variety of styles and fonts across the books. (Search online for images of "Buy Rare Books spines" for design ideas.)
  10. Plan on one book in the center of the box to be 1" (2.5cm) wide and make it about 1/2" (1.27cm) shorter than the others. This allows you to have a finger hole to pull the box out of the shelf. This is essential if you're making them fit snug and won't have a way to grasp the sides of the box.
  11. Once you have your plan in place, select which papers you want to use for each book spine. Try to pick colors that go with the title (a black cover for Draw Dracula makes a lot more sense than a pink one!).
  12. Measure out the width of the first book on the scrap-book paper adding about 1/4" (6.35mm) on both sides that will get folded under to glue to the poster board. Cut out this shape.
  13. Using a ruler held against the back of the piece of paper lined up with the fold line, press down on table to get a straight crease across the strip. Repeat this step for the other fold.
    • Now use your fingers to crush the Fold an Ace Flyer Paper Airplane as flat as possible.
  14. Draw out your title design on the folded paper.
    • Then go over it with pen or marker to finalize it. Be careful not to smudge the ink and give it a minute to dry before touching again.

  15. Apply glue to the backs of the folds and apply to the poster board front panel aligning the outer edges as best possible.
    • At this point you may want to place a Make a Homemade Paper Weight or two on top to keep the paper from lifting up (you can use the duct tape rolls for this).

  16. Begin working on the third book by skipping every other book and glue them down as you finish them.
  17. Go back and do the remaining middle books. For these you may may want to cut your paper a bit wider than the space left so they curve out a little and give you a more three dimensional effect on the spines. Keep gluing them until all the books are done.
  18. Once all the glue is dry, attach the faux book to the box you made earlier by gluing it on. Don't get stingy with your glue here, you want this to stay put!
  19. Cut out the finger hole in the foam core board above the short center "book." Be very careful with this step so you don't ruin all your work on the book spines.
  20. Your finished box should fit perfectly into your shelf space and easily pull out using the finger hole/notch.


  • Your book titles could all be written by/about your friends and/or family! What would they title a book about their lives, be it fact or fiction?! This is a great opportunity to be funny!
  • The pencil lines will eventually smear onto your fingers and over the papers. This could be a desirable look though, giving them an aged appearance. But you may want to wash your hands periodically if you don't want this.
  • Try grouping books on each box by a common theme. Or go completely random, alphabetically, Dewey decimal system, or any other sorting method you can think of.
  • Search for "greatest books of all time" or other similar search terms to find lists of all the great classics. Using the NY Times Bestseller list could also be a great resource for newer titles. You can also use details from Amazon to get the hardbound page counts so you can have realistic thicknesses to your books.
  • The foam core boards and duct tape should hold together enough to place almost anything into (except maybe rocks and bricks), but as they are made essentially of paper, don't expect these to hold up to the potential tortures of kids for very long. If you need a sturdier solution, try making the boxes of wood instead and maybe using molding trim for book spines. This could also be done to the fabric cubes you can buy in stores and apply leather or vinyl book spines to them!
  • If you don't want to use any specific book titles, you could make up words or symbols, or mix foreign languages, especially Latin, to get "wording" for your book titles.


  • Use extreme caution with the X-Acto knife - they are very sharp!
  • Be sure to use a cutting mat whenever you're cutting anything to protect your work surface. A cheap and easy alternative is a flattened old cardboard box.

Things You'll Need

  • Black-on-black foam core board (20" x 30" / 50-75cm was used in this article's example and 1 sheet per box)
  • Black poster board (2 large sheets were used for the 12 boxes in this article)
  • Black duct tape (this article's example used 2 rolls for 12 boxes)
  • X-Acto knife and cutting mat (extra blades too)
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Gel pens or markers (preferably in gold or silver - black is good too)
  • Scrapbook papers in various colors and textures (shades of brown and black - used 15 sheets for my 12 boxes)
  • Standard ruler
  • Yard-stick or other long ruler
  • Glue (recommended: Elmer's No-Wrinkle Dual-Tip Glue Pen - this example used 2 tubes for the 12 boxes)

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