Super closeup of the top four rows of floating bookshelves and the top part of the tv

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!

Before image of the boring, flat grey dining room wall filled with boxes and books

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.

Cocktails are set out on a tablecloth at an angle on the wood table in front of the new feature wall with wood slats painted the same color as the wall

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.

More Backstory:

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!

Before-

A tall light colored wall with piles of artwork, lamps, a tv, keyboard and misc moving debris

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!

view of the end of a single walnut shelf floating on a neutral wall with a green plant and three books with bookends on it

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.

Mock up diagram of the layout of the shelves, a TV and three cabinets for covered storage

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.

Pinterest Pin showing the finished Bookshelf Wall with a happy couple embracing and an image of the original design diagram with a title reading From Concept to Installed, Floating Book Shelves

Spoiler Alert:

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.

three rows of empty floating walnut shelves showing how the alignment is between

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.

back of Girl on tall ladder measuring and marking the lines for the shelves using a laser level

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.

a single steel bracket for the first of the floating bookshelves is installed in a corner

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.

Back of a woman sliding the wood floating shelf onto the steel bracket just above her head

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 supplies screws and tightened it against the steel rods of the frame. Perfect!

Woman with a screwdriver adding anchors in the wall for the second shelf  located just below the first one

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.

Neutral Wall the top five rows of Floating bookshelves installed. Three squares of paint samples are painted down low where the cabinets will cover it.

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.

675 feet of almost empty floating bookshelves are installed with a TV and small cabinet centered where the cabinets will be.

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.

Here's to Joy-Filled Living, Diane

30 Comments

  1. Kim

    Great post!! The floating shelves look fantastic!!

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks so much Kim! We –and the kids– are thrilled with how it turned out.

      Reply
  2. Paula@SweetPea

    What a great project! I love the end result.

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks Paula! It was a great project and it turned out amazing. (thank goodness!)

      Reply
  3. Rachel - Tea and Forget-me-nots

    Wow, what a transformation, well done!

    Reply
    • Diane

      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!

      Reply
  4. linda johnston

    Looks wonderful! Those row houses in DC have so much potential. Know tthey are enjoying living there.

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks Linda! They LOVE it — as do I. Great place to visit!!!

      Reply
  5. Cindy

    Fantastic project and the end result is so pretty

    Reply
    • Diane

      Oh thanks Cindy. I love it too, but more importantly, the kids LOVE it!

      Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks Cindy! It turned our better than I even dared to hope for.

      Reply
  6. Rosemary Palmer

    What a great project – and I love how you planned it.

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks bunches!
      I am constantly amazed at the quirky ways I have used Canva.

      Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks AnneMarie! It is one of those projects that turned out perhaps even better that we hoped for.

      Reply
  7. Janet

    Great job. Your wall looks wonderful. When will you be coming to install one for me?

    Reply
  8. Cindy

    Those shelves are amazing Diane! The look is so stunning – I’m sure the sweet couple appreciated all of your hard work! Pinned 🙂

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks Cindy! Yes, they do.

      Reply
  9. Kim

    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!

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks so much Kim! That’s very sweet of you to say.

      Reply
  10. Joanne

    What a wonderful way to make a focal wall!

    Reply
    • Diane

      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”.

      Reply
  11. Lynne Zemaitis

    What a great project! The wall looks so beautifully organized! Thank you for sharing for Tuesday Turn About!

    Reply
  12. Donna @ Modern on Monticello

    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

    Reply
    • Diane

      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.

      Reply
  13. Pam

    That is absolutely wonderful! I love it. You are a great mom! I’ll be featuring this today at the TFT party. Congrats! 🙂

    Reply
    • Diane

      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!!!

      Reply
  14. Decor Craft Design

    I love floating shelves, clean and sleek. Great job! Thanks for sharing how to install it. #Home Matters Party

    Reply
  15. Debbee M

    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!

    Reply
    • Diane

      Great! Let me know if you have any questions! Happy to help.

      Reply

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