The inau­gural project to fea­ture on Every­day Mod­ern came to me whilst shop­ping for my first stu­dio apart­ment in the big city.  Dri­ving across the empti­ness that com­prises cen­tral Wash­ing­ton between Spokane and Seat­tle, I obsessed about find­ing a way to not only house my ridicu­lously over-sized col­lec­tion of books in a 500 square foot apart­ment (that also needed to serve as a home for two humans and two grey­hounds), but also cre­ate a sense of divi­sion within a one room dwelling.

After count­less hours and sleep­less nights, I had men­tally woven together plumb­ing pipes, fenc­ing parts, and OSB to cre­ate a Bomb-Proof Mod­u­lar Shelv­ing Sys­tem.  This shelv­ing sys­tem would house all of my books, and grow with us; leav­ing just that one other thing that I needed to do — build it.

Since I first con­structed this shelv­ing sys­tem over three years ago, I have had a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ver­sions resid­ing in my apart­ment.  This post will focus on the Wall Anchor con­struc­tion (using OSB shelves or melamine shelves), to see the Ceil­ing Anchor con­struc­tion, kindly visit this other post.

Your first order of busi­ness will be to get the stuff, all of which you can find at your local Home Depot (and no, to date, I haven’t received an endorsement…).

Tool Belt:

  • A Buddy
  • Screw Gun
  • Cres­cent Wrench (and one for your friend)
  • Ham­mer
  • Level
  • Skil Saw
  • Clamps
  • Hack Saw with a blade to cut pipe
  • Foam Sand­ing Block (to sand down any rough edges on the OSB, not needed for Melamine)

Required Avail­able Funds:

  • 6 Shelf Wall Anchor (melamine): $269.84
  • 6 Shelf Wall Anchor (osb): $237.70

Shop­ping List:

  • 2            1 ¼“x10’ Gal­va­nized Plumb­ing Pipes (have these cut and rethreaded so you have two pieces that are about 20″ and two pieces that are 100″ – but, if you have stan­dard 8′ ceil­ings, you should have the longer pieces cut and rethreaded to be 74″)
  • 1–2        1  5/8“x8’ Alu­minum Fence Post
  • 4            1 ¼” Gal­va­nized Plumb­ing Flanges
  • 2            1 ¼” Gal­va­nized Plumb­ing T-junctions
  • 2            1 ¼” Gal­va­nized Plumb­ing 90 degree elbows
  • 4            1 ¼” Gal­va­nized Plumb­ing Nip­ples (If you want your shelves closer to the wall, use 8″-10″ nipples)
  • 12          1 ¼” Elec­tri­cal Con­duit Strap
  • 12          Adjustable Wood Adapter Fence Clamp*
  • 1            4’x8’x3/4″ OSB OR 3- 8’x11 ¼“x3/4″ Melamine Shelves (aes­thetic is totally up to you – use OSB for a more indus­trial look, and melamine for a cleaner min­i­mal­ist look)
  • 1            Pack­age Pain in the Ass Melamine Iron-on Side Strip­ping (not needed for OSB)
  • 24          #10 Pan-head Sheet Metal Screws
  • 16          Lag Screws (or some other bomb proof method of anchor­ing these to the wall, this will depend on what your house is built of, just make sure the screws fit through the holes in the flanges)
  • 2            2“x2“x3/4″ Wooden Blocks to sup­port the 1 1/4″ gal­va­nized pipe**

* Can be found in the alu­minum fenc­ing sec­tion of the store
** I cut mine out of some scrap OSB – they hardly show, so they don’t have to be fancy style.

Things Organized Neatly layout

Get Down to It:

Now that you’ve acquired all of the nec­es­sary goods to pro­duce this mod­ern won­der of shelv­ing excel­lence, it’s time to get down to business.

Exhibit A — this is what the end of Step 1 looks like.

Step 1:  Gather up all of the gal­va­nized love­li­ness that com­prises your plumb­ing parts.  Con­nect the 90-degree elbows to the tops of each of the longest 1 1/4″ gal­va­nized pipes and con­nect the t-junctions to the bot­tom.  Next, grab your nip­ples (yeah, I went there), and con­nect a nip­ple to each of the 90-degree elbows and t-junctions (see Exhibit A), and then put a flange on the other end of each nip­ple.  Fin­ish up with Step 1 by con­nect­ing the 20″ 1 1/4″ pipes to the bot­tom of the t-junction.  This all makes a lot more sense if you just take a peek at the photo.



Exhibit B — these pipes are struc­turally mounted to the wall and can oblig­ingly sup­port the weight of a pole dancer

Step 2:We have now reached the point in our rela­tion­ship where peo­ple get all law­suit happy, so all I’m going to say is find a way to attach these flanges to your wall in a struc­turally sound way.  The pipes need to be spaced apart just a hair wider than the width of your shelf.  Insert legal jar­gon here — Every­day Mod­ern and it’s affil­i­ates does not assume respon­si­bil­ity for the injury or dam­age to per­sons or pre­cious things because the book­shelf fell down from lack of struc­tural inge­nu­ity on the part of the builder.  Said builder under­takes this project with full knowl­edge that if they fail to take respon­si­bil­ity for the anchor engi­neer­ing, they will likely die because the book­shelf will inevitably top­ple over on top of them.  On that cheery note, we move on to Step 3.

Exhibit C — shelf to bracket consociation

Step 3: Begin by dis­as­sem­bling the fence brack­ets.  You will need only the L-shaped bracket and the nuts and bolts, (you can just throw away the C-shaped part, or save it for later cre­ativ­ity!).  Attach the L-shaped brack­ets to both ends of the shelves.  For your con­ve­nience, there are handy pre-fabricated holes in the brack­ets, so just drill the screws in and you’re cook­ing.  When you get the brack­ets attached, test to make sure the shelves fit between the pipes.  Once con­firmed, pro­ceed to attach all brack­ets to all shelves — this will make it way eas­ier when you’re con­tort­ing your­self into downward-facing-dog to get all of them mounted on the poles.


Exhibit D — this is a one-shelf mod­u­lar system.

Step 4: And now the moment that we have all been bat­ing our breath for: mod­u­lar cus­tomiza­tion!  Deter­mine how high you want your first shelf, and cut a piece of fence pipe to that length.  Once you’ve got your cus­tom cut pipe, lower the first shelf into posi­tion, and cen­ter the fence pipe under the shelf for moral and struc­tural support.

Exhibit E — shelf hard­ware mount­ing detail

Now is the time to kindly request assis­tance from your anx­iously wait­ing buddy. Politely ask them to grab one of the elec­tri­cal con­duit straps and a cou­ple of the fence bracket nuts and bolts that we set aside ear­lier.  They should bolt the clamp around the pipe and through the shelf bracket, while you per­form a series of awe-inspiring pilates moves to keep the shelf level and the fence pipe plumb amidst the hor­ri­bly exe­cuted wrench­ing from your buddy.  It should look some­thing like Exhibit E now.  Be sure to keep an eye on your level, you may find it use­ful to gen­tly tap the shelf into level using a ham­mer.  Your friend should tighten the nuts on both sides of the shelf as far down as they can.  You’ll notice that the con­duit clamp starts to get a lit­tle dis­fig­ured, but that’s okay.  After three years and five dis­as­sem­blies, my con­duit straps are still hold­ing strong in their amended form.


Exhibit F — F is for Finished!

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 until you’re fin­ished.  Make sure that you keep the fence poles as close to cen­ter as pos­si­ble and this will allow the weight of the shelves to trans­fer to the floor and pre­vent ass-sag, (you’ll notice that one of the poles is slightly off cen­ter on the exam­ple photo and that is to accom­mo­date an antique wooden box of draft­ing sup­plies that we keep on the shelf (this hasn’t really seemed to be an issue as far as struc­tural integrity goes, but if you’re wor­ried, just keep them all centered).


Step 6: Share this lovely project with all of your friends, for good­ness sakes, you just got  an awe­some free how-to.  Oh, and please feel free to re-publish, but give me credit for my work when you do!