Custom Wall of Shelving




Introduction: Custom Wall of Shelving

In this project, your goal is to create a wall full of shelving.

It's great for storing all kinds of things, not just books. Also, it's got movable shelves so you can customize it as needed.

Since everyone has a different room, you will need to be creative in how to design this. Most of the techniques in this instructable can be used in any room. That said, the biggest difference you may have is the end of you wall. If you have a wall at both ends like me, then you're all set. But if you have 1 wall and the other side is open, you'll need to add uprights at the open end and secure that upright in multiple places to ensure it stabilizes the wall unit. This is critical. You don't want the whole thing crashing down on you.

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Step 1: Plan Your Design

Whether you sketch it on a piece of paper or draw it in 3D, it really pays off to plan the basic parts of your design.

In our case, we had a large blank wall in our living room. On one side was a wall with windows. On the other side was a little column. We knew we wanted shelves that could handle books as well as some trinkets and art.

The first step was to take a look at all the stuff we had. We had a LOT of books ranging from small paperbacks to big art books (they are not all stored here). We also had a bunch things from our travels that we wanted to display, a small LP collection, and a bunch of board games. This told us three things:

  1. We needed some large flat shelves for art books.
  2. We needed some standard 10-12" shelves for normal books.
  3. We needed some largish areas for art and board games.

After some wrangling, we settled on this design which has a mix of fixed and removable shelves. This allowed us to be flexible in the way we used the shelves. What you see in this drawing is a little different from what we ended up with, but the design is basically the same.

Step 2: Choose Your Wood

In your plan you should figure out what type of wood you will use and how thick it will be. This is crucial to getting your measurements right.

You will be cutting four basic pieces:

  1. Furring strips
    These are cheap strips of wood that you paint the same color
    as your wall so they disappear. The furring strips get screwed
    to the wall and support your fixed shelves. These are usually
    about $1 for an 8-foot strip.
  2. Uprights
    The uprights are long straight boards that run almost to the ceiling.
    These can be made from any wood, but if you're on a budget, get
    the cheap whitewood they have at the hardware store. You will want
    it to be 3/4" to 1" thick, at least 8" across, and tall enough to nearly
    reach your ceiling. A typical 1" x 8" x 12' board will run about $14.
  3. The Fixed shelves
    These are the large curvy shelves in this design. These are best
    made from 3/4" to 1" laminated plywood. This looks very nice with
    a basic stain, and it won't sag over time. These are very visible, so
    splurge on the good stuff. A 4 x 8 sheet will cost ~$50.
  4. Movable shelves
    Made from the same wood as the uprights, these are short shelves
    that fit in between the uprights and the fixed shelves. You can get
    some of these from your upright leftovers. Then cut up an extra
    board or 2 for the remaining shelves.

Step 3: Parts and Tools

Depending on how much of this design you use, you will need all or most of the following things:


  • 50-100 x 3" wood screws
  • Wood filler (optional)
  • Primer paint (optional)
  • Paint (same color as your wall)
  • 1" or 2" Steel L brackets (same thickness as the furring strips or a little less)
    For quantity, multiply (3 x Number of Uprights) + (Number of Uprights x Number of Fixed Shelves)
    Example: (3 x 3) + (3 x 6) = 27 L brackets
  • Wood stain
  • Edging for the fixed shelves (we used aluminum strips)
  • Fasteners for the edging (we used screws)
  • 1 x 3" boards for the toe kick at the bottom
  • Black paint for the toe kick boards


  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Tablesaw (or Circular saw)
  • Radial Arm Saw (or Circular saw)
  • Jig saw
  • flexible wires, fish tape, or string
  • pencil

Step 4: Mount 1x2 Strips on Wall

  1. Figure out where your studs are and mark them.
  2. Mark the height of the BOTTOM of the each shelf (subtract the thickness of the shelves from the top height of the shelf).
  3. Cut the furring strips to length. You will need a furring strip supporting each fixed shelf.
    Assuming you have walls at each end, remember to mount furring strips at each end (the full strip starts on the left wall, wraps onto and runs across the back wall, and then finishes on the right wall).
  4. Use a drill to pre-drill a hole into one side of the furring strip and a stud.
  5. Drive a 3" screw through that hole and into the stud but leave it a little loose.
  6. Now make the furring strip level and use another 3" screw to attach the other end to a stud.
  7. Add the remaining screws, 1 for each stud.
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 for each furring strip.
  9. Optional: use wood compound to cover the screw holes and sand it down after it dries for 24 hours.
  10. Paint the furring strips with primer to seal them.
  11. Paint the furring strips the same color as the wall.

Step 5: Mount the Uprights

    The uprights have to be notched twice: once to match the furring strips and once to match the fixed shelves. The diagram here shows how to drew the lines for this on the upright.

    1. Cut the uprights to the desired height (keep in mind that if your floors sag, the uprights may need to be different heights to come out evenly at the top).
    2. Mark the back of each upright with a letter (A, B, C, etc) so you know where it goes on the wall.
    3. Use a plumb bob to mark each furring strip where the left edge of each upright should go.
    4. Now hold upright A in place making sure it is plumb (lined up with the plumb marks on the furring strips) and firmly resting on the floor.
    5. Starting with the highest furring strip, draw a notch to match where the furring strip hits the upright. (See the diagram.) NOTE: Add 1/8" inch of space to the bottom of each notch.
    6. Now extend the top line mark all the way across the upright to the front. KEEP IT LEVEL!
    7. Now add a line above that line, starting at the front edge, but only halfway across the upright. This is the notch for the fixed shelf, so make sure it's the same thickness as your fixed shelf wood.
    8. Repeat Steps 4-7 for each furring strip and each upright.
    9. Using a jig saw or a hand saw, cut out the notches for the furring strips and the notches for the fixed shelves.
    10. Sand the notches and the uprights.
    11. Stain the uprights and let them dry overnight.
    12. Using the plumb marks as your guide, use screws to attach L brackets to the bottom of each furring strip and the location of each upright (the ends of the brackets should point downward).
    13. Now slide the uprights into place, screwing the remaining end of the L brackets into the face of the upright underneath the furring strip.

    Step 6: Cut and Mount the Fixed Shelves

    For this part of the project, the goal is to create a few shelves that are permanent and add a highlight to the wall unit. We chose to cut these as a curve that wraps around the column on the left. This is harder and requires a special bit for your router, but the results are great.

    We also had a long wall, too long for any sheet of plywood. So we actually did 2 sets of fixed shelves, with one set starting the long curve, and the other set finishing the curve.

    1. Use a table saw to cut rectangles that are the proper length and depth. TIP: KEEP THEM SQUARED UP!
    2. On one of the rectangles, use a flexible wire, cable, or string to mark the curve you want.
    3. Trace the curve with a pencil.
    4. Using a Jigsaw, carefully cut the curve. TIP: Get someone to help hold the wood.
    5. Now clamp the curved piece to another rectangle, making sure the straight edges are lined up.
    6. Use a pencil to trace the curve and repeat this for all the rectangles.
    7. Use the jigsaw to do a rough cut, leaving about 1/16" of wood.
    8. Now use the router and a pattern-cutting bit to trim off the 1/16" of wood.
    9. Repeat this for each shelf.
    10. Dry fit the shelves with the uprights.
    11. Mark the location where the upright notches meet the edge of the fixed shelves.
    12. Use the jigsaw to cut notches in the fixed shelves so they slide into place and rest on the furring strips in the back.
    13. Once you are certain of the fit, sand the shelves.
    14. Stain the shelves and let dry for 24 hours.
    15. Slide the fixed shelves into place.

    Step 7: Add the Movable Shelves

    For this part, you just need to cut the pieces you need for the movable shelves, then drill holes to hold the pins that support the shelves. Since these won't rest on furring strips, it's best not to cut them longer than 4 feet (books are heavy!).

    1. Cut the movable shelf pieces to the desires lengths.
    2. Sand and stain them.
    3. Measure and mark the location for the support pins. We did this at regular intervals between the fixed shelves, but you can really do this any place you want the shelves.
    4. For each shelf, drill 4 holes - at least 1/2" deep - for the support pins (we drilled all the way through).
      PROTIP: If you're drilling all the way through, prevent the wood from splintering by starting with a pilot hole that you make with a very small bit. Then use the full-sized bit to drill a little from each side, using the tiny hole to center the bit.
    5. Push the support pins into the holes.
    6. Lay the movable shelves on the pins.
    7. Mark where the pins hit the shelves.
    8. Use a chisel to make notches for the pins.
    9. Install the shelves, sliding the notches down over the pins.

    Step 8: The Toe Kick

    These shelves sit very close to the floor but they don't end there. That keeps dust and hair from collecting on the bottom shelf. We positioned our bottom shelf at just the right height for a 1x3 board. When we were done, we cut the 1x3s to length, painted them flat black, and slide them under the bottom shelf. We didn't even have to nail them.

    Step 9: Some Optional Touches


    You can stain the front edges of the fixed shelves. You could just leave them as an industrial touch. You might glue some laminate to them. We chose to edge ours with aluminum strips. It sounds easy, but it's a complete pain unless you can find aluminum strips that already have screw holes in them. We couldn't find that, so we used a drill press to drill a LOT of countersink holes. It took a very long time. On the other hand, we loved the end result!


    We chose to go with LED strip lighting above the top shelf. We ran power up there by running a cable from the outlet below up through the column on the left.

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      Question 2 years ago on Step 5

      "Using the plumb marks as your guide, use screws to attach L brackets to the bottom of each furring strip and the location of each upright (the ends of the brackets should point downward).
      Now slide the uprights into place, screwing the remaining end of the L brackets into the face of the upright underneath the furring strip."
      I'm sorry - but I just can't seem to visualize this part of the instructions. I guess I need an image of this, can I get one?