We’ve all been there … walking some lonely aisle of despair (with 3,000 other people) within IKEA looking for the Ekby Järpen floating wall shelves. Everybody knows that if you’re cool, really cool, you have floating wall shelves. Except there’s a problem with floating wall shelves that you buy for $9 … they don’t hold up anything other than some dusty beanie baby collection.
The Ekby Järpen shelves are 31 1/8″ long and 7 1/2″ deep and are rated for 22lbs. First off, 7 1/2″ deep?!? … Like I said – Beanie Babies!! And 22lbs comes out to 0.09lbs per square inch (maybe Beanie Babies might be pushing the load limit after all). Bah! You and those 3,000 people don’t really want those floating shelves after all, but you do want floating shelves … what to do?
Luckily, I apparently like to write informative architecturally charged blog posts in my spare time, because I’m going to show you how real floating shelves are done.
This is a workspace currently under construction in one of my Dallas projects. The room is designed for one person to use and is 17′ long and 7′ wide. There will be a 24″ deep continuous work counter along the 17′ length and the 36″ deep worksurface at the end down by the wall-to-wall window. Opposite the 17′ long work counter is a big blank wall that will be covered in an erasable marker surface which is coating steel plates – so it also works with magnets. We have the same surface in our office and it’s super flexible. We use ours for holding up drawings and for writing down workflow and deliverable schedules – the homeowner might be writing down workflow schedules … but I doubt it.
In order to get the wall shelves in place, you need to do a little early planning – unless, of course, you wanted Beanie Baby shelves. What you are looking at in the image above are steel angles that have 12″ long by 1/2″ square steel tubes welded to them – and then assemblies are bolted to the studs. TO keep people from ripping their faces open, there is a piece of rubber foam slid over each 1/2″ square tube, folded back over itself at the end, then wrapped in pink duct tape – presumably to make them really obvious.
This should make my oddly worded description a bit clearer.
And the steel tube is continuously welded to the steel angle, which is then attached to the stud framing. The steel tubes are spaced 16″ vertically – ultimately there will be three shelves stacked up above one another on the wall.
I thought I would also show the “floating” countertop at the end of the room. Similar concept – steel brackets attached to the wood framing – with similar results. The counter will seem to float at the end of the room but better yet, there won’t be anything down there to bang your legs on. I am not a fan of counter supports that go down to the floor – who is?!?
See? Nice and easy supports, bruise-free shins.
So a bit of time has passed and the drywall has been installed and tape, bed, and floated out. I’m glad I wasn’t around to hear what the drywall guys had to say about me when they got to this room … I’m sure it wasn’t kid-friendly language.
A bit more time and we know have cabinets and the counter in place. Basically, this is a home office and as such, the cabinets are mostly lateral filing drawers with a few drawers serving backup duty. The end of the cabinetry, down by the window, is the main workspace.
Yes, I got down on the floor for you in order to get this picture. You can see the 4 support brackets for the countertop. They are only 1/2″ thick so the chances that you would bang your knee on them is fairly small. Most desks have a 3/4″ thick counter with a 1 1/2″ turn-down edge. Ours are only 1 1/4″ so this is slightly less (1/4″) than normal.
Now you can get a good feeling for the layout of the workroom. The wall on the left is where the steel eraser board will get mounted.
Time to stop messing about – let’s get some floating shelves installed … all the hard work has already been done, right? Nope – that would be wrong. Now it’s time for craftsmanship and execution. First, it was time to pull off all the protective wraps … which was easy – they just slid right off.
Now for the shelves. There are three of them and each measures 12″deep (proper depth for books and binders, extremely generous for Beanie Babies), 2″ thick, and 16′ long … in one continuous uninterrupted piece.
The thickness was 2″ because the assembly is 3/4″ plywood on top and bottom with a 1/2″ middle panel that creates the gap to accommodate our 1/2″ square steel tube supports. These shelves are white plastic laminate – I don’t like painted wood bookshelves because sliding things on and off the shelves will scrape and mar the paint surface.
Here is a look at what a 16′ long shelf looks like – held by Kirk on the right, and Will on the left. Kirk and Will were responsible for doing our install and luckily for me, they were in good spirits because this was not going to be an easy installation. Do you know how hard it is to navigate a 16′ long anything through a house? It’s basically impossible, so we had to do something a little unusual … we came in over the neighbor’s fence and through the office window.
It was easy because I didn’t have to do it. I’m also quite sure that these guys were on their best behavior with the architect watching their every move AND TAKING PICTURES!!
It only took about 10 minutes to get these three shelves off the truck and in through the window … which was nothing compared to how long the next bit took …
Leveling all the steel posts. Each was measured and slightly tweaked to bring everything into the same plane. There are 21 of these posts altogether so this next bit took about 45 minutes.
This is Will’s arm, and he is holding a sheet of 1/4″ MDF, which will be used as a template to scribe the end of each shelf to the wall.
Once the MDF sheet has been marked, Will took a planer to it and shaved down the edges so that he can use this piece to transfer the final angle to the shelf’ Since this room has a level 5 drywall finish (like most of the house) this entire process will be done for each shelf on the chance that the mud thickness varies between shelves.
If you look closely at the white shelf above, you can see the pencil line that indicates about 1/16″ will need to be removed from this shelf.
Will at work – this was some finesse work because so little had to be taken off.
Now it’s time for the moment of truth – the shelves start to get slid onto the metal tubes.
And out comes the level again. Sure, why not? We’ve come this far.
Despite the fact that there is a lot of nice light that comes into this office, the bottom floating shelf has a continuous LED light strip along the front edge. This will ensure that the work surface is well lit along its entire length.
The shelves are 16′ long and the room is 17′ long … this is where the extra 12″ went.
And here is the almost finished image. The marker board wall isn’t done, the floors haven’t been finished, electrical and lighting haven’t been completed, and the walls haven’t been painted. Okay, so there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before this room is completed.
The takeaway from today’s post is that something as simple in their appearance as floating shelves is anything but simple. Sure, you can go stick a 31″ long Swedish made shelf that will kinda work – as long as you aren’t really holding anything of size or substance – or you can do a whole lot of work and have a bunch of your friends over to lay upon your floating shelves (like this).
Totally worth it.