Massive Wall of Floating Bookshelves — How To Install
How we transformed a living room with all bookshelves — as in floating. bookshelves over 56 linear feet of wall mounted bookshelves!
A bit of background:
Our daughter and our new son planned a small isolated pandemic wedding for Thanksgiving weekend 2020. We all know the story of the rising Covid rates with no vaccines yet. They decided they couldn’t risk our health and rescheduled for this last Thanksgiving. Those Wedsgiving posts are on their way . . .very soon.
In the meantime they found the perfect historic rowhouse in DC.
Well, almost perfect — it just needed an injection of their personalities!
We, Hubs and I, drove out in April to begin said injection.
This was their dining room about 4 weeks after moving in, the day we arrived.
All those boxes? Books, and more books! And that is maybe a third of them.
That trip we installed and painted this dining room wall. You can read about this feature wall here.
At the same time, we began work on their living room wall and that mountain of books.
Jon is Jewish, so not only do we have a wonderful new son, but also exposure to some wonderful new-to-us ancient traditions that they are modernizing for their lives together.
One of these is a Ketubbah. Here is a lovely explanation of its origin and modern interpretation.
In general, Katie & Jon explained it’s a contract/promise between them. It’s their shared vision of what they aspire their married life to be.
More on their ketubbah in the coming Wedsgiving posts. But in their Ketubbah they promised ” . . . our home will be filled with music, laughter, and towering piles of books . . .”
Yep, for these two, books rank right up there with music and laughter!
This is how the living room looked the day we arrived.
So much potential! But . . . so much work ahead.
The day their offer on their home was accepted, they sent me a walkthrough video and measurements, asking if we could turn this wall into a library wall.
Well, more like a bookshelf wall because it needed to include the TV and a bit of closed storage.
“Oh, and we really don’t want a lot of heavy woodwork, nothing like traditional built-in’s”.
WHAT? Yes, they wanted wall mounted bookshelves of some kind.
They found a few pictures. Nothing that really had it all.
After a week of back and forth, what they envisioned were floating bookshelves. LOTS of floating book shelves. Oh, and not box style floating shelves (too thick),
They wanted solid wood slab floating shelves. Oh, and NO brackets or hardware showing.
They were not going to make this easy on me, were they?
The Hunt Began for Floating Bookshelves-
It didn’t take long to realize we needed custom.
We needed Etsy!!!
You’re thinking Etsy? Isn’t that the crafting marketplace? Yep, but all variety of crafting and at all levels.
Check out this assortment of possibilities! Amazing, right?
The third seller I contacted, JThomasHomeGoods, was a perfect fit for this project! Josh was great to work with, beautiful product, reasonably priced and located on the SW side of Kansas City, just about 30 minutes from us! Kinda crazy, right?
I was hoping to find someone more or less on the route from KC to DC, that we could stop and pick them up on our way. This was so much better! I never thought I find a craftsman making exactly what they wanted in the KC area!
These walnut shelves were the winners!
Now For the Lay Out of the Floating Book Shelves –
Hello, Canva, my friend!
If you don’t use Canva, well, why the heck not?
It’s easy to use and free. Yes, I have a paid version which is worth it for the daily workout I give it. But if you just need it here and there, the free version should serve you well.
Katie had found the Ivar pine cabinets at IKEA and wanted to use those as a bottom layer of floating closed storage with a walnut countertop also from JThomasHomeGoods.
I sent K+J, a file with twelve proposed versions (created in Canva) of how the shelves could layout and still have some closed storage.
Now the question was three or four of the double door Ivar’s? The winner, three.
This is option 8 of the twelve we started with. Personally, I think the cat and the banana bookend sealed the deal.
A couple of weeks later, we were vacc’d and the shelves were ready. Josh and his crew loaded all the shelves and hardware in our Highlander and strapped the countertop on the rooftop luggage rack. We were off the next morning to DC.
I know this is probably not the project top of mind for you at this moment.
I get that.
But maybe for when the time does come, save it to your
Floating Shelves Board
or Book Shelf Board
or Home Library Board
or Organizing Board
or Book Lover Board
Wall Shelves Board
Pin it wherever it makes sense to you.
The cabinets finally arrived and I returned in August to install. The details of the closed storage part of this project are right here.
Now To Install These Wall Mounted Bookshelves-
Initially, Katie & Jon would have liked the top three rows to just be single slabs. But not to be — just one more thing the the pandemic interfered with. We ended up loving the little breaks of air in there. But in all honesty, it made the installation a bit more stressful.
When lining up shelves that close together, it was all the more important that the heights be exactly the same. Just the kinda thing Katie & I obsess over, so we made a good installation team while Hubs caulked and painted the big green feature wall. And Jon was in the midst of a large project at work, so he jumped in between zoom calls when he could.
Working from our design diagram we taped out the general placement of the cabinets, tv and each row of shelves.
Then we refined those lines and shelf placement with a laser level and tape measure.
And we tried to find and mark all the wall studs available to us.
Having never done this before, we decided the first shelf should be:
- a shorter shelf
- at the easiest height
With a lot of measuring, marking and drawing on the wall, the first bracket was up and secure.
This was so gratifying when it slid on and the placement was just as we wanted.
Not shown, there are a couple of small holes in the underside of the shelf very close to the wall. These are where we inserted the supplied screws and tightened it against the steel rods of the frame. Perfect!
We were feeling more confident, but wanted to make sure we could align two shelves just right before we took this show up the ladders.
So next we installed the second shelf lining up right below the first. This was our opportunity to refine how we worked out the measurements to get the shelves exactly as we wanted them.
NOTE: Those wall anchors we started with shown here, were not doing as well as we hoped. So we switched to a different wall anchor system that worked much better for us and these walls.
I am working on a very detailed video of the steps we used in measuring and calculating for each bracket placement. If this would be helpful for you, please check back or even subscribe so you are alerted when that video is available.
Phew, working slowly we have the thirteen hardest shelves installed. Six smaller ones left to go!
Those blue swatches? Sample colors of paint for the cabinets to be floating there.
Our work is done for this trip.
Those Ivar cabinets? They seemed to be one of the first supply chain fatalities. They were not available pretty much throughout the US at that point.
Spoiler alert: they were in and we installed them when I was out for a solo trip in August. Stay tuned for the final installment!
SIDENOTE: Do you notice six lonely-looking books on the shelves?
They were not really lonely, they were ceremonial!
Jon’s parents managed to make it into DC for our last night there. We enjoyed the first dinner party in their new dining room. Then after delicious food, wonderful wine and great conversation, we each chose a special book from their collection and had a silly ceremony of “booking” the wall. And I just couldn’t let it be without a vase of clippings from the yard. The rest was left to them.
A few questions:
Can floating shelves support books?
Yes, they can!!! But you need the right anchor system for these shelves ingenious steel internal support. And it’s an absolute must to find at least one stud for the smaller shelves and two or more for the longer shelves.
How deep should floating bookshelves or wall mounted bookshelves be?
For shelves meant for books (mostly), 10-inches work great. For function, it is best to store the books close to the wall, but visually you don’t want the shelves sticking out too much in front of them.
With deeper shelves, the weight of the shelves themselves grows and you would have the tendency to display your books too far out from the wall which puts that much more strain on the walls.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any additional questions. Remember I have two more posts coming with more installation details.
Great post!! The floating shelves look fantastic!!
Thanks so much Kim! We –and the kids– are thrilled with how it turned out.
What a great project! I love the end result.
Thanks Paula! It was a great project and it turned out amazing. (thank goodness!)
Wow, what a transformation, well done!
Thanks so much Rachel. The fun ones are the ones that actually turn out just as, or maybe even a tad bit better than, what you had in your head. And this is one of those!
Looks wonderful! Those row houses in DC have so much potential. Know tthey are enjoying living there.
Thanks Linda! They LOVE it — as do I. Great place to visit!!!
Fantastic project and the end result is so pretty
Oh thanks Cindy. I love it too, but more importantly, the kids LOVE it!
Thanks Cindy! It turned our better than I even dared to hope for.
What a great project – and I love how you planned it.
I am constantly amazed at the quirky ways I have used Canva.
Spectacular before and after! These turned out great!
Thanks AnneMarie! It is one of those projects that turned out perhaps even better that we hoped for.
Great job. Your wall looks wonderful. When will you be coming to install one for me?
Those shelves are amazing Diane! The look is so stunning – I’m sure the sweet couple appreciated all of your hard work! Pinned 🙂
Thanks Cindy! Yes, they do.
Amazing! The books are stored, accessible and decor all in one! How lucky the kids are to have such talented parents to help them turn their house into a home!
Thanks so much Kim! That’s very sweet of you to say.
What a wonderful way to make a focal wall!
Thanks Joanne! I really wasn’t sure how this would play out when the kids started describing their vision, but couldn’t come up with any pictures for inspiration. So yes, I am thrilled that is turned out so well. They have their wall covered in their “Book Art”.
What a great project! The wall looks so beautifully organized! Thank you for sharing for Tuesday Turn About!
This project is stunning! All the work and the little details to get these made just sings to my geeky designer heart. Especially the Canva designs. I need to up my game on that even more. Thanks so much for sharing it and I will be returning to see even more. This post will be a feature this week on #HomeMattersParty
Donna, you are so kind! Isn’t Canva the best!!! I love pushing it to its limits and seeing all the crazy ways I can use it. It must speak to my puzzle nerd side.
Thanks so very much for the feature! I truly appreciate it.
That is absolutely wonderful! I love it. You are a great mom! I’ll be featuring this today at the TFT party. Congrats! 🙂
It is my joy to help the kids realize their vision. Katie & I have always enjoyed project-ing together.
Oh thanks so very much Pam. I truly appreciate the feature!!!
I love floating shelves, clean and sleek. Great job! Thanks for sharing how to install it. #Home Matters Party
Diane, thanks ever so much for the great, instructive post! One of my adult sons lives in Manhattan with limited space for a giant bookcase, but has a lot of books, knick knacks, framed pix, etc. he’d like to display. What he does have is 12 foot ceilings so he can go vertical! Gonna share this with him. PInned!
Great! Let me know if you have any questions! Happy to help.
do you have a problem the shelf tilted forward? I install my bookshelf with L brackets and they tilted forward.
Oh Judy, I’m so sorry to hear that. Ours did not use L-brackets. They came with their own steel frame with either 2 or 3 (depending on length of the shelf) thick prongs. You install the frame on the wall using heavy duty anchors or into studs and then slide the shelf onto this frame that disappears into the shelf and tighten it with little hidden screws. We had one of the smaller shelves tilt forward, but that is because there was not a single bolt into a stud and the two bolts we used were installed using the first anchor system we tried. So we called that novice operator error. We now know better. Always at least one screw into a stud and the highest grade anchor for the rest.