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Hanging Bookshelves

August 10, 2011



I could be biased, but I think Boyfriend and I might have made the coolest bookshelves in the history of all humankind.

Some people look at it, cock their head to the side, and use words like “interesting” to describe it, but I personally think it could probably kick their bookshelves’ ass any day of the week.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic.  And I will admit you may need a certain vibe goin’ on in your house to pull this off properly, but still, I think they’re pretty awesome.

The idea for these bookshelves stemmed from, well, owning a lot of books and having nowhere to put them.  But beyond all the books, we only had a budget of about a hundred bucks.

Originally I was thinking a bunch of wooden crates stacked on each other might be cool as bookshelves, but they add up very quickly and we sure had a lot of books.  Next in line was the pallet bookshelf option, but our decor on a wall quite close to this one is a series of old rustic doors (to be featured in a future blog entry!), and we thought that might be a bit too much old wood rustic-ness.

Then we thought we’d just go with a more simple plan, of attaching some shelves to the wall.  When we were at Lowe’s, however, we realized that the brackets that could support the amount of weight necessary for a ton of books was quite expensive… not to mention rather ugly.  :::sigh:::

We were on our way out of the Lowe’s, feeling somewhat defeated, but I had one of my medium freak-out moments- “Boyfriend, we have to get something for bookshelves tonight! So we can make them this weekend!  So we can put our books up!  So we don’t have books all over the place when my parents come visit!”  Argh!!

That’s when he mentioned something about hanging on ropes, and the design just popped in my head.  I drew it on a sheet of scrap paper on the car dashboard, and his engineering mind went to work thinking about rope strengths and wood lengths and fancy knots, and all that jazz.  Don’t we make a great team?

We picked up all of our supplies for just over $100 bucks at Lowe’s which included the planks of wood, the galvanized pipe to wrap the ropes at the bottom, some wood varnish, and the hooks for the ceiling.  Boyfriend already had some old climbing rope to use for hanging, though we had to go back later for about $30 bucks of manila rope, as well as some darker stain then what we had at the house.

First step was to start prepping the wood, because it involves some staining and a couple layers of Wipe on Poly.  This stuff is a bit more expensive than regular polyurethane, and it takes a couple of coats, but we like it better because it goes on smoother and you don’t need a fancy brush to put it on right.     After Boyfriend cut the planks to size, and drilled the holes in each corner, I cleaned it all off and started the staining and varnishing.

While I spent time working on the wood, Boyfriend’s task was to get the hooks into the ceiling.  This part is important, as they have to hold the weight of the entire thing, which is rather heavy.  In order to do this, Boyfriend went into the attic, and used planks of wood (hijacked off some free pallets) to reinforce the eye bolts all the way up in there.  

Once we had that covered, we measured the rope to the proper length, making sure each segment was plenty long.  Boyfriend tied the ropes to the eye bolts, as you see in the picture.  Putting the shelfs on the ropes was pretty self explanatory.  We just measured where we wanted the shelf to go, marked it on the rope, and tied four tight knots below each shelf under each corner.  It is helpful to have two people for this part, so one person can hold the shelf up while the other person ties all the knots beneath it.  Once all the shelves were up, Dave drilled the galvanized pipe into the wall at the bottom, which we used to wrap the excess rope around so they weren’t swinging bookshelves.  You’ll probably have to do this a second time once the books are on it for a couple days and the weight of it all pulls on the rope.

And now, for less than $150 bucks, we have these amazing shelving units!  All we need now is a big’ol papasan next to them, for the perfect cozy reading corner.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2011 10:28 pm

    These shelves are fantastic! I agree…the perfect addition would be an overstuffed chair for reading 🙂 OR have you seen the hanging chair at Anthropologie? I think you might just be talented enough to make one of your own 😉

  2. August 11, 2011 6:38 pm

    Thanks so much! I’m definitely going to surf for the hanging chair right now! 🙂

  3. August 20, 2011 6:58 am

    Great project! 🙂 I’ve featured this post on Craft Gossip here:

    If you would like a “featured by” button, you can grab one here:

  4. August 30, 2011 6:01 am

    This looks great! Bravo!

  5. Rob Chow permalink
    August 30, 2011 10:51 am

    That is awesome. Are those climber’s knots hanging on the eye-bolt? Lessons please.

    • August 30, 2011 4:14 pm

      Hi Rob, Glad you like them! You know, I’ll have to talk with Dave and get back to you on what kinds of knots he used….but I do believe the ones at the top (at least used on the climbing rope) are climbing knots. I think he used something else on the manila rope though. 🙂

  6. Kate permalink
    October 31, 2011 8:52 am

    I just did a search for “hanging bookshelves” and your blog popped up. I love these. They are very clever–and I have an infinite variable wood/varnish/rope combo playing in my head right now. Unfortunately, I need shelves for my (almost) 4 yo daughter’s room and I guarantee she’d be scaling these on day 1! Too bad. They would be super cute. Great job.


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