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Rafter-mounted bookshelves, from Apartment Therapy. Fair use size.If you have a lot of books, like I do, sometimes it becomes challenging to store them. Decent bookshelves that won't bow under the weight of the books can be expensive, particularly when you need a whole wall or more of them. And the books can be in the way when you have nowhere to put them... oh, the piles I have tripped over!

Some people suggest using bracket-supported shelves near the ceiling as a way to put extra storage into a room, whether for books or for knickknacks, but books can be so heavy that it's probably smart to be skeptical about that idea, even if the supports are properly screwed into wall studs. Also, until relatively recently, the most widely available brackets that could support more than a few pounds of weight were in styles only appropriate for country decor... nothing sleek or modern.

On a similar theme, but with a much more distinctive look, are the "rafter shelves" that have been running around the blogosphere recently, after an appearance on Apartment Therapy Los Angeles. You can read more about them after the break!

This idea seems like an update on the old idea of propping up boards with cement blocks or glass bottles: it has the same simplicity, but more wit and visual style. Unfortunately, the concept only works if you have exposed rafter beams or planks in at least one room in your dwelling.

We have a thick plank balanced on top of the bare rafters in our garage, placed there by some previous tenant, along with a panel of plywood that you could definitely use to store a bicycle or canoe.

This is not the same thing: the boards are attached to the undersides of the rafters, perpendicular to the rafter itself. For this reason, one of the people commenting on the initial Apartment Therapy post suggests that, if you try this one, you should use heavy-duty wood screws.

I echo their suggestion. At least! Just for the sake of common sense and safety, it's probably not a good idea to install these shelves over an area where anyone regularly sits or sleeps. I would also consider keeping the weight of the load on each shelf pretty light: this is better for DVDs and mass-market paperbacks than it is for heavy photography books.

I also suggest that if, as in the photo, you are placing a shelf across the middle of the room, you might want to put another board behind the books. Otherwise, their fore-edges or spines could get pushed through and fall out on the other side of the plank. (Cat owners know that I am right.)

If you don't like the look of a backing board, you could try a strip of wood, one inch high or less, on top of the shelf board along that back edge, to provide a "lip" for the books.

Finally, it wouldn't hurt to invest in a step-ladder with non-slip steps and other safety features.


  • anonymous

    another idea would be to make the shelf double wide, put a one inch strip down the middle and put books on from each side spline out so you can read the titles for choosing. two rows of books per shelf. This would be more conducive for center room shelves since shelves against the wall make it hard to read the titles for books facing the wall.

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