Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shelf Smarts

When we were packing up our apartment in NY, I found a ton of our important documents. Tax returns, stashed away with old letters from my mom. Our mortgage information, house insurance documentation, and passports all stored haphazardly next to my art supplies. It was a mess and I vowed that as soon as we got into our new home, I'd have a dedicated place to organize papers.

Instead of buying standalone filing cabinets (not exactly the aesthetic I was going for) or pre-built bookshelves (I couldn't find any in the size I wanted), I decided to build a set of shelves in my office where I could store our papers, my art supplies, my wrapping paper, some design books, and a host of other items that would benefit from some organization.  But before showing you the end product, let me give you an idea of what all this needs-to-be-tamed junk looked like:

A little sloppy.

So anyway, I measured one of the bare walls in my office and trekked down to the Home Depot, hoping for some guidance.  The employee who helped me there actually gave me a hard time about it ("Is your husband going to do this for you?  Do you even know anything about woodworking?"), but that just made me more determined to make these on my own.

Here was step one - finding the wall studs and installing the brackets:

I knew I wanted my planks to look a little more finished, so the next step was to add trim to the edge of the shelves and to stain them.  Using brad nails, I nailed the decorative trim to the planks (below) and sanded everything down.

Next, I took all of my planks into the garage to stain them.  My can of Minwax said that I'd need two coats.  I did about five.  It took that many to get the wood dark enough.  Finally, I took all of my boards up to the office and screwed them into the brackets (already mounted on the wall).  Once my shelves were up, it was time to get organizing.

I stashed all of our paperwork, warranties, and old magazines in files boxes and magazine holders from The Container store.  I keep basic office supplies in that pink tray, and my stamps and to-pay bills in the black organizer.  On the lower shelves, I have a stack of blankets.  Have I mentioned how cold I keep our house?

I keep my art supplies in an old wine crate (found in the trash pile of my favorite Brooklyn wine store), but all of my in-progress projects are stored in the two wooden milk crates.  In the polka-dotted boxes, I have all of our wedding cards, some old letters, and a handful of other small things I want to keep but don't need to see every day.

Here's the finished product:

My shelves don't take up very much space but they make a HUGE difference.  My office feels so much more functional now that it's organized and I don't have to waste time searching for stuff.  I wasn't sure I was up to a project like this but it was easier than it looks and so totally worth it.  I'm off to finish filing my papers... stay homey!


  1. Ok, I'm officially impressed ! I need you to come next door to help me redo my office space!

  2. Any time... and you know I'm always up for a trip to The Container Store!

  3. Wonderful project you completed! And good for you for not listening to the stupid Home Depot employee. That kind of talk always gets my blood boiling!!! You know if you were a man they wouldn't have said anything.


  4. Hi, Caitlin! Your shelves really do look awesome. I'm jealous. :) In regards to the comments made by the male employee, can you email me and tell me which location this was in, if you got his name, about when this was, etc? I would like the store manager to address so this doesn't continue happening, this is not how we run our business & we appreciate all of our customers. Please email me at - Thanks, Nicki

  5. Way to go Caitlin! I agree with Brittany, I'd be annoyed by the Home Depot employee, but you showed him!

    Where did you find the bill organizer. I've been looking for one but can't find one I like.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. This looks fantastic, I love it! I can't believe you did this by yourself-super great job! I'm so inspired! Saw you on today's blog on I Heart Organizing.

  7. Absolutely gorgeous! Did you attach your planks to each other or just directly to the brackets?

  8. Hi Angie - I just attached them to the brackets. They are pretty sturdy.

    Becky - it is from a store in Brooklyn called Nova Zembla. The storefront closed but I believe they still do web orders.

    Thanks, ladies!

  9. I love this! I want to do something similar to gain more space upwards. Would you mind sharing the depth of your shelves and the vertical spacing between each shelf? It looks amazing. Thanks!

  10. That really looks great! Because the ceiling slants on the side it would have been impossible to find ready-made shelving that fit so well. I understand your frustration with the Home Depot person. I get the same thing and have to tell them my husband has NOTHING to do with my DIY home improvement projects!

  11. Two words: I WANT! Two more: Just lovely!

  12. The space you created looks amazing!! Great job!!! Visiting from Frugal Girls.

  13. Isn't it amazing what a difference a little shelving can make? Love the usable space you added. :)

  14. Love it! A little bit of shelving goes a long way! Although that's more then a little bit of shelving!! ;)
    Lots of Love


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!