What’s a girl to do when she has a pigsty instead of an office?
Fix it, of course!
After a lot of researching furniture solutions for this uniquely shaped office wall, I discovered a couple of things. #1 there were very few pieces out there that could work for this space, and #2 they were all expensive! While the pipe fittings weren’t exactly cheap for this shelving unit, I was able to design it to be exactly what we needed! If you want to learn how to make your own, watch the video below or just read on!
- 2 – 2″x12″ @ 12′ board
- 1 – 2″x12″ @ 8′ board
- 8 – 1″ end caps
- 8 – 4″ nipples (1″ diameter)
- 8 – 12″ nipples (1″ diameter)
- 24 – 1″ floor flanges
- ¾” wood screws
- 8 – 1″ adhesive felt pads
- Finishing wax
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s square (optional if you have boards cut to size at the lumber yard)
- Drill (with drilling and driving bits)
- Circular saw (optional if you have boards cut to size at the lumber yard)
- Sander (I used a belt sander and an orbital sander with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper)
- Hammer (optional – for distressing wood)
- Nail set (optional – for distressing wood)
- Chain (optional – for distressing wood)
Step 1: Measure and Design
I measured my space and found that the back wall was 137½” wide and that there were 39½” between the window and the wall on each side. I also found that the wainscoting was 62″ high, and there were 22″ from the floor to the bottom of the window.
Based on these measurements, I designed a shelf that was 133½” wide with the two bottom shelves spanning the width of the room and rising just below the window. I also added a third shelf on either side of the window that was 35½” wide. The top (3rd) shelves are 36″ high. This allows for some taller decorations on the top shelf without impeding on the light fixtures and wainscoting.
Step 2: Measure and Cut
You can skip this step entirely if you don’t have a saw, or if you just don’t want to deal with hauling lumber and cutting it yourself. Most lumber yards will cut boards to your desired length for free before you even pay for them! However, if you choose to cut them yourself, this step is pretty straightforward. I measured 35½” from the edge of the 8′ long 2″x12″ and marked it. Then, used my speed square to draw a line straight across at the mark. Also, I used my square as a guide for the circular saw and cut the board along the line. I then repeated this process once with the remainder of the 8′ board. For the next two cuts, I used the 12′ boards, marked each one at 133½”, and cut. At this point, I had 2 boards that were 35½” long and 2 that were 133½” long.
Step 3: Sand It
I used this first round of sanding to work on the edges and corners of these shelves to help make them look worn. I used my belt sander to really get some rounded edges as well as remove any stamps that were on the boards. Then followed up with 80 grit paper on an orbital sander.
Step 4: Whip It
The reason for this step is to make the end product look rustic. The goal is to make the boards look worn, like they’ve been used for something else before they became a beautiful shelf! There are lots of ways to do this. I chose to beat the boards with a chain, hammer them in a few spots, poke a few holes with a nail set, lay screws on the board then hit them with a hammer, and scrape them along the grain with a screwdriver. Here is a great rundown of various methods of making wood look aged.
Step 5: Sand It Again
For this last round of sanding, I used the orbital sander again but this time, with 120 grit paper. This just gives a finer finish and smooths out anything that the distressing process might rough up. An orbital sander is not necessary for this project, a detail sander, or even a sanding block and some elbow grease will do the trick!
Step 6: Stain and Finish
After cleaning up my work area and dusting off the boards, I wiped each one down with a damp paper towel to get rid of all of the fine saw dust that tends to stick around.
I brushed the stain onto the boards with a foam paintbrush. If you don’t have a paintbrush lying around, no worries! You can use a scrap of old cloth from a sheet or t-shirt. Plain old wood stain tends to be pretty forgiving. After applying the stain to all boards, I wiped off the excess and let it dry for a couple of hours. This process was repeated for the other side of the boards.
For the finish, I went with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. I chose this for a few reasons. 1) It is virtually impossible to mess up the application. 2) I knew this piece wouldn’t be heavily used. 3) It dries in 15 minutes! Simply apply evenly with a cheesecloth, then buff it out with a soft cloth when it’s dry.
Step 7: Protect Your Pipe
It’s important to clean and seal the iron pipe fittings used in this project. I found this tutorial on Homemade Modern and it was quite helpful! The first step was to spray all of the stickers with Goo Gone, then scrape them off with a utility knife.
Once the stickers are gone, clean off the Goo Gone and all of that black stuff that gets all over your hands with mineral spirits on a soft cloth.
Lastly, seal those puppies with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax on a soft cloth, wait 15 minutes for it to dry, then buff with a lint-free cloth.
Step 8: Drill Pilot Holes
My first step was to label the tops and bottoms of each shelf, then I got started with the top two shelves. I measured center on the bottom of each end, placed a flange 1/8″ from the end, and marked the holes through the flange.
I chose a drill bit that was slightly smaller than my screws, measured ¾” from the tip of the bit, and placed a piece of tape around it. This was my guide for drilling depth. I then drilled into each mark only until the tape touched the board.
After drilling all of the pilot holes for the top two shelves, I followed the same process of measuring, marking, and drilling pilot holes for the second shelf. The diagram below shows the location of the flanges for the top and bottom of the second shelf.
As you can see, the top and bottom of the second shelf look identical. The outer flanges were placed in the same position as the flanges on the top shelves. The inner flanges are centered just like the rest, but placed 35 3/8″ from each end of the board.
After drilling pilot holes for the top and bottom of the middle shelf, I moved on to the bottom shelf. Below is the schematic for flange placement on the bottom shelf.
You’ll notice that the top of the bottom shelf is identical to the top and bottom of the second shelf. The big difference here is the bottom of the bottom shelf. There are twice as many flanges on the bottom. Also, instead of centering these flanges, they are each 1/8″ from the edge of the board. There is one in each corner 1/8″ from both the edge and the end. There are also four inner flanges that are 1/8″ from the edge of the board and 35 3/8″ from each end of the board. Once I marked these, I followed up by drilling the pilot holes.
Step 9: Put This Thing Together
Here’s where the magic happens! I put the appropriate sized driving bit in my drill and got moving. Then, started by attaching flanges to the bottom of the bottom shelf with the ¾” wood screws. I partially drove each screw into the flange, then went back and tightened them all. This prevented any issues with pilot holes not lining up perfectly.
Next, I created the legs by screwing the end caps onto the 4″ nipples. The legs are then attached to the bottom of the bottom shelf by tightening them into the flanges.
I affixed felt pads to the bottom of each end cap to protect my wood floors.
The next logical step is to flip it over and level it (ignore the flanges on the top of this shelf for the time being). Leveling this piece can be tedious, but the mechanics of it are simple. Just wiggle it around and tighten and/or loosen the legs until it sits nice and flat on the ground, even with pressure in various spots and from various angles.
Sometimes with these things, you learn a better way to do it as you go. This is the point where I started to make things a little more difficult on myself. First step was attaching the four flanges to the top of the bottom shelf with ¾” wood screws.
Now it was time to complete the build where it would ultimately be placed, so I brought it into the office. I screwed a 12″ nipple into the flanges on the top of the bottom shelf, and then screwed another flange to the top of the 12″ nipples.
The second shelf was brought in and placed on top of the top flanges. I adjusted the flanges to line up with the pilot holes in the second shelf, and realized where I could have made this easier on myself. Attaching the flanges to the bottom of the second shelf first, and then flipping it over on top of the bottom shelf would have saved me a lot of time lying on my back while drilling. But, alas, I didn’t do it that way, so I continued by attaching the flanges to the second shelf with ¾” wood screws while laying on my back.
After all of that flopping around on the floor, I decided that the top shelves HAD to be easier. I got smart and attached flanges to the bottom of the top shelves. I screwed a 12″ nipple into the attached flange, then screwed another flange into the top of each 12″ nipple.
Now it’s time to flip over the top shelves, line up their pilot holes, and attach with wood screws. There were a couple of times that I couldn’t get the holes to line up just right. The solution here is to loosen the screws in the flange on the other end of the nipple to give yourself a little wiggle room. This will allow for partially driving all screws, and then tightening everything into place.
Step 10: Organize and Decorate
The goal with this project was to organize office essentials and make this space pleasing to the eye. The printer was a must as well as some storage options for filing and extra printer paper. I chose Threshold brand wooden filing boxes from Target to solve my filing problems and wire baskets from At Home for extra printer paper. These two stores supplied most of the decorations. At Home had a great selection of bins. I purchased the bottom two bins there as well as the black map box, blue metal box, and awesome bookends. Drawer organizers in the blue box made it easy to separate various office supplies. The beautiful gold candle was a Target find, as well as the two fake succulent plants and the Smith & Hawken pot for the Zamioculcas plant. I chose this particular plant because it requires minimal care, and that’s definitely how I roll. It is great for low light and requires little watering. HomeGoods also had some good stuff. It’s where I found the wooden letter S, the picture frame, and the golden hourglass. The pipe lamp is an awesome piece that the hubby made a few years back, and the clock was made by his grandfather. It was really fun to incorporate those into the design!
Once the shelving unit was complete and organized, I added a few extra touches to make the work space more comfortable. A nice, large desk mat from Office Depot. The hubby really wanted an extra monitor to make it easier to get his work done from home, so that was a must. We wanted the option to fold it out of the way as well. This adjustable desk mount from Vivo was a perfect solution. A power strip attached to the underside of the desk made quick work of hiding and organizing cords!
I am super pleased with what a simple solution this shelving unit proved to be. We love that even with open shelving and no desk drawers, we are able to have everything we need and no clutter!