Shelf Discovery: Enjoying the DIY Journey

After intending to share the installation of my new shelves today, I found that I had rambled about my inspiration and journey of discovering the ideal shelving solution for more than 1000 words. (Why couldn’t I do that in college?!)  Clearly, this process held importance to me. As I examined my motivations for sharing these details with you, I began to recognize the individual elements of decorating that I’ve grown to love and that sharing them with you is a huge part of why I started this blog!

I don’t know if this is true for anyone else, but I find sharing the journey of my projects from inspiration to research, curveballs to happy accidents, and bargain hunting to final decisions to be as important – if not more so – than the actual (hopefully beautiful) final product. While it can be frustrating to envision an idealistic Pinterest project and attempt to create something similar in your home (on a not-so-designer-budget), I find the process of discovery, problem solving, and the eventual success to be so incredibly fulfilling.

Before and After photos are admittedly fun if you want instant gratification, but the narrator in me wants to know and loves to share the little steps, the successes and failures, that led to the final product. What was the vision? Did you achieve it? Did you wander from your path and create something far more unique? Do you love it even MORE than your original inspiration?

This is the exciting part of DIY decorating for me.

I get to bend the rules, take my time, create something that is truly mine – something that I’m proud of, not just for its aesthetic, but for our journey together: the deal, the splurge, the hunt, the regrets, the mistakes, the excitement, and finally the results.

Don’t be afraid to start the journey. You might end up someplace you didn’t expect – and that’s SO much more interesting than Pinterest! :)

And now…to where I originally started writing this post a few hours ago:

If you’ve been reading my posts for long, you know how much I value storage space. When adding a third person to our 699 square feet, I knew that finding a “place” for everything he would bring into our lives was a top priority (and might prove a huge challenge).

As I was researching baby registries, and picking out my own “necessities,” the need for as much storage space as possible became abundantly clear. But of course, I didn’t want to run out to IKEA and get some big cabinet to
hide everything away, I wanted it to look pretty. (Ugh, why do I do this to myself?!)

I played copycat again and took my inspiration from the original temporary wall builders and the way they included bookshelves to the ceiling within their office/nursery space.


See the on the right side, set into the little nook? What a great use of space!

Now, where to find affordable and yet customizable shelving that utilizes every inch and looks like it was made for the space? As you can imagine, this proved to be a time-consuming and frustrating task.

I must have searched the internet for what would add up to be DAYS hunting for a solution.

The most obvious route (to someone in NYC without their own power tools to DIY the heck out of these bookshelves) was elfa wall systems (sold at the Container Store). I’d seen the most beautiful photos of their pantries, closets, and offices and I was really hopeful that this would be the beginning and end of my search.

elfa Walk_In Pan elfa wall system

At one time I even fantasized about creating an actual desk area that I could use as a changing table. Unfortunately, as I attempted to price out the pieces I would need and the actual space restrictions I was working with, I soon realized that my space didn’t fit their 24, 36, or 48 inch pre-cut shelf lengths – AND (more importantly) I was looking at spending $1000+ (for the BASICS – something like the photo below). Whoa!3690e2d907718e6d27d0a5046687018d

Source: Apartment Therapy

Nope. Not going there.

After seeing those alarming dollar signs, I bounced over to the IKEA website, to see what their comparable shelving systems could do for me.

This was the best shelf option I could find. It was $14.99 for a birch veneer (not the right color wood for the apartment) and it was either 10 inches too long, or 5 inches too short (we all know IKEA veneer should NOT be cut to size – who would do it anyway?!).



So, my next stop was my normal default. I headed to Pinterest…to torture myself with amazing DIY techniques that simply weren’t a possibility (no staining wood while I was pregnant) and required power tools that my apartment was most definitely without.

Naturally, I found TONS of photos I loved. Is any of this REALLY too much to ask?  (The answer is Yes, Melissa).


Source: The Wood Grain Cottage


Source: Apartment Therapy


Source: Between You and Me


Source: Cottage & Vine

I fell quite hard for this last photo. I even got my husband’s approval (now you know I’m determined). I knew they used IKEA brackets (very affordable at 4.99 each), and after researching pine boards, I found a site (which I somehow lost track of – sorry!) that suggested using high quality stair treads as shelf boards. Brilliant!

I did some research and found that stair treads provided the shelf depth I was looking for, the quality wood (instead of veneer) I desired, and they were far more affordable that anything from The Container Store! Even if I chose the highest quality pine stair treads from Home Depot I was looking at about $20/shelf + $4.99×2/brackets = $30 total for each shelf. I wanted 5 shelves, so that put me at $150…MAYBE $200 if we overestimate for shipping, and miscellaneous expenses (hardware, oil/wax to seal boards).

Two-hundred dollars is SO much more do-able than the nearly thousand dollar quotes I was getting for an elfa system that I wasn’t crazy about in the first place. I finally felt like I was making progress on this shelving solution!

While in NC (in March) Mom took me to IKEA to collect my brackets (which were only available in black – according to the website). Dad generously offered to spray paint them white for me and bring them to NYC with the desk and chair. Thanks Dad!

Interestingly enough we got to IKEA and found beautiful white brackets (EKBY STILIG – what does that even mean in Swedish?!) of a slightly different construction than the blog inspiration photo. They were a dollar more, but wouldn’t require any spray painting and would create the exact same aesthetic. WINNING! We picked up 10 for $6 each.


Source: IKEA

While we were in the shelving department, we noticed a number of decent looking shelves sitting nearby. Most of the shelves were typical IKEA veneer construction, but I found a stack of real wood shelves that could actually be cut down to fit the unique dimensions of our nook! I didn’t know what these measurements were yet, since the wall wasn’t up – but according to my layout, I guessed that it would be about 40-43 inches.

They weren’t the highest quality wood, but they weren’t warped, they had a nice grain to them, and they were $6.99 each. Seriously. I wouldn’t feel comfortable (or recommend) ordering these online, but by hand selecting them I could see the quality of each board and leave the sketchier looking boards behind.


Source: IKEA

Mom and I decided that 5 shelves for 35 bucks was a great deal and we shouldn’t over-think this one.

I left IKEA paying $101 (and some odd change) for 5 wooden shelves, and 10 wooden (already white) brackets. Take THAT elfa!!!

In case you weren’t paying attention, I just paid 10% of what I first thought this project might cost. That’s thrilling to me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. :)

I rambled too much about the journey today, so I’ll just have to share the actual DIY installation tomorrow.