Book Shelves

At the ICFF - International Contemporary Furniture Fair - in May 2006 at the NY Convention Center, I saw in the Umbra display, a stack of books sitting on a new product, called the Conceal Shelf. It works with a lip to hold the bottom book cover and a horizontal shelf part hidden inside book. Nice, but I wanted a shelf just for a book or two. The fairly large vertical wall mount area of the Conceal Shelf would show (its a true concealed shelf only if you stack enough books or items on top to conceal the metal support plate). I looked in several stores and saw the brackets that are simply metal rods or dowels sticking out to hold glass shelves. I made the connection: cut a hole inside of book pages and slide the book over the rod. The support rod is completely hidden and the book becomes the shelf - hence the name - Book Shelf. In Home Depot, I was about to buy the brackets when realized this could also replace the nitestand by the bed. A series of Book Shelves mounted on the wall next to the bed. Eureka. I wanted to go home and work this out before buying the brackets.

The concept

Shelves for books made of books with no visible means of support.


Riding the subway home I got pretty excited about the idea - so, I pulled out the only paper I had - a receipt from Bed Bath & Beyond, and started sketching to get my thoughts down on paper. I started to work out the details - how many books/shelves, the layout arrangement, list of items that will go on the shelves, etc. Maybe a magazine to hold magazines? Maybe cut the books at the angle of the carpet tiles? I had previously experimented with angle cuts on a table top mat and the dog bowl floor mat. I liked the idea of mixing the angles - the book shelves would align with the grid of the carpet yet be cut to be positioned up against the wall. I have a bedside clock that projects the time on the ceiling. I realized this would not allow the shelves to be stacked and aligned vertically because I didn't want the clock to be on the top shelf (too predominant). Placing the clock on a lower shelf necessitated the random asymmetrical layout of the three shelves.

Selecting the books
Now to find the right three books. Strand Books is a New York institution - near Union Square, its an old musty book store, crammed with new and old books, people browsing and jostling through the aisles. I was reminded of Strand when I saw their kiosk at Central Park. I remembered the Strand Annex downtown, not too far from the apartment. Once there, I looked thru the dollar books (investing 3 dollars for the shelves would be a great bargain). Alas, I found no books large enough. I had determined three preliminary goals for the book selection: big, cheap, and some relevance. Then in the religion section, I found a large book on The Story of Jesus and it was only $10. I could handle $10. I had accepted that the dollar per book deal was out and I would have to pay to get the effect I wanted. At $10, the total would still be only $30 - cheaper than any shelf at a store. Then nearby I found The History of Islam. What a kick, now if I could find a large book having to do with Hebrews or Judaism, then that could be the theme - the world's major religions, especially as a nitestand for Jim Watson. But I couldn't find a large book with a Jewish theme for less than $20. I wasn't willing to spend quite that much. I also realized that this theme would be fun for a while - quite ironic to have religious books as reading matter, but I would likely tire of looking at those spines day after day. No, I needed something better. So, I kept looking. Maybe a theme of Design. So over to that section. Whoa, too expensive. I did find a large inexpensive book on Frank Lloyd Wright. Cool. After browsing lots of shelves and tabletops, I saw a large book called Stuff and Nonsense. What a great title and a fitting for my apartment. Then the thought - what about a New York theme. Over to that section. There were several coffee table size books, some of them cheap. One was too thin to hold the brackets, however. I also saw a collection of books all in grey covers. Maybe? A consistent color in the shelves. No, that would stray too far from the concept of having it look like three random books protruding from the wall supporting other books and magazines. I went back to what I had already - the book on Frank Lloyd Wright, Stuff and Nonsense, and for the third, a book on New York City. Good assortment. Done.


The brackets - or rods as they are used here; the 3 books marked up for cutting; and a book with the pages cut out (to hide the rods), rods shown for placement.

So far, I had the idea pretty solid in my head, a few rough sketches, the brackets, and three books. I bought the bracket/rods at Home Depot. The first step was to cut the books - the angle to respect the carpet grid and the cavity inside to hold the and conceal the support rods. I used stacks of foam mounting tape to hold the bottom of the book up against the book cover and to provide some snugness to embrace the rods. It was a bit weird to cut up books, but I reminded myself that they were bargain books - there were several more if I really wanted to go back and buy a virgin book and they were in the bin of leftovers of books that had been picked over and rejected by many people. I read each of the books (the Stuff and Nonsense book was just, well, nonsense stuff). I had put up three strips of tape in the bedroom to begin to determine placement of the shelves. I knew by this time that the bottom shelf would hold the alarm clock - I wanted to hide its electrical cord as much as possible and this would be the least visible. This bottom shelf would also hold a notepad, pen, and coaster for a glass. Therefore there needed to be space above the left side for the clock and glass.

Installation: Drilling holes and putting in the rods; the rods all in; book shelves slid onto the rods; the finished Book Shelves.

Inspiration: May, 2006
Store search: June 14-15, 2006
Design: June 16-17
Production: June 18-19