I needed to change things up in the living room. I was getting pretty bored with the old arrangement. So, I built a new modular for the shelves that I had done previously…
…and turned the shelves into a corner unit. I found some old tables in the trash, sanded and refinished the legs.
Here is the result…
A friend of mine from college recently moved to Brooklyn for law school. If there is one thing I have come to realize, it is that law students study hard and acquire lots of reading material along the way. So, my friend’s apartment isn’t that big, a typical “railroad” style in Bushwick. Her kitchen is also the dining room , the study and, the entry way. A few months ago she had asked me to build her a set of shelves for all of her law books as well as make a little space that she can do her readings and papers. I sketched out a few designs for her and she was pretty excited.
Below are a few of the initial drawings…
We wanted to keep the budget flexible, and I also wanted to experiment with “Oriented Strand Lumber.” It is extremely inexpensive (about $14.00 for a 4’x8’ sheet) has a great surface texture (especially when you put a gloss or satin on it) and, the best part is that it comes with information about the type of wood, installation methods, manufacturer, and so on printed right on the surface of the board almost like newsprint. In that, I saw a bit of an opportunity to use the information of the print and integrate that into the design of the shelves and desk.
One of the most important things about this project was that the shelves had to be fairly modular so that we could disassemble and reassemble them easily when it came time to move and install them into her apartment.
The desk was the biggest challenge because I wanted it to be fixed to the shelving unit, as well as fold down when she wasn’t using it for studying or anything else. I took the same width that the shelving units were, and made that the overall width of the desk so that it could fit inside the vertical boards along with the rest of the horizontal shelves. This also allowed the printed board to be a horizontal graphic when the desk was folded down. I measured overall desk dimensions from other examples I had in my apartment to make sure the surface of the desk was not to high to work comfortably on, but also looked proportional with the rest of the shelving unit. It also had to be short enough to fold down flush against the unit. I used a 1 1/8” wooden dowel for the pivot connection of the desk and bored it into the vertical members so that the dowel could be pulled into the frame and locked when the shelves were finally assembled.
This meant that the legs of the desk had to be removable and somehow rest on the edge of the desk when it was closed. I used angled cut wood for each of the two legs as sort of a way finding system for attaching the legs without any instruction.
Once all of this was completed the whole thing was assembled into two units that were connected with purple (her favorite color) shelves that interlocked with one another. This was so that the shelves could be broken down into two units and could be next to one another or separate depending on the need in the space.
Finally, I attached a small reading lamp with a light socket I had left over from another project and the whole thing came together.
Since I graduated I have had all of these left over scraps of wood, paper, stains, spray paints, and so on. The bulkiest items were a set of wooden frames I made with Anthony Morin in the Woodshop at school for a site model project that never really came into fruition. I have about 12 of these frames, well now 6… and, I finally decided to do something with them. The project was a to build a set of flush living room shelves to hold all of the bric-a-brac, magazines, books and, piggy banks (I collect piggy banks for some odd reason). I set my budget at $20.00 and one weekend I just laid all of these frames and wood scraps in the floor of my living room. I arranged them for probably three hours before I found an efficient and visually pleasing arrangement. As I was screwing the pieces of the wood together I started lifting certain segments of them off the outer frame by an inch or two. The intention was to….
1) Make the flat wall in our living room convey some sort of depth.
2) Maximize the usable area and space between the wall and shelves for some of the larger books and magazines that I needed to store.
Eventually, the whole shelf was screwed together and standing upright in the center of my living room floor. It was dark by now, and the sweat from this seemingly simple project was running down my face. I decided to give the rather inexpensive wood a rich look with a Walnut stain. This also allowed me to sit down for a moment a do just a simple meditative and repetitive task to help cool off. My thought was the darker the wood the more it would appear that the shelves were smaller in an already pretty small space. When they were all stained and finished it was then I realized that the walls in my living room had to have been made out of some child’s left over play-dough from the 1940’s. No nail, screw, or fastener was going to suspend this heavy shelving unit above the floor in my living room. A little bit of panic set in, as I scrambled to figure out what I was going to do with this giant heap of screw together scraps in my living room.
I remembered a few weeks back I had found an old particle board dining table with nice stainless steel legs. I took the legs off the table and screwed and fastened them to the bottom of each shelving unit (a total of three legs). This ultimately became the load bearing support for the shelves, and all I had to do to secure the shelves further was make a few pin connections into the wall for sheer strength only. This was done relatively easy with some small “L” shaped brackets screwed to the back of the shelves and then into the powdery walls of my living room.
When the whole thing was upright and fastened to the wall, I realized it looked a bit sparse and monotone. In the moment I grabbed three unfinished frames and slid them over the already stained and mounted frames on the walls. It was probably one of the best aha! moments I have had in a while. Not only did the light wood frames contrast beautifully with the Walnut backing it required no hardware, hardly any work, and it increased the overall depth of my shelves by 3 1/2″ inches.
The whole project took about 5 or 6 hours, and was totally worth it. I like the idea that a wall can be a usable cavity and that outside furniture is not really necessary with the right planning, tools, and materials… in this case scraps!