How I Designed Wall-Mounted Shelving With IKEA

How I Designed Wall-Mounted Shelving With IKEA

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Last week I decided to swap out the gallery wall in my bedroom for something less busy and cluttered, and seven days later, I have a whole new look happening. It was one of the easiest and most inexpensive projects I've finished to date, and would be really easy for anyone to recreate. 

I wanted a way to display my favorite art, books, and items without it looking quite as visually busy. To recap, here's what it looked like for the past few years:

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

I decided the gallery wall had served its time, and I was ready for a simpler look. I was really inspired by the beautiful shelving in our Berlin Airbnb, particularly how it incorporates both books, art, and objects:

Photo of Berlin Airbnb by Eliza Kern

Photo of Berlin Airbnb by Eliza Kern

Apartment Therapy has a roundup of inspiration images for wall shelving, and another post breaking down some of the options for sourcing shelving here. I first considered the Container Store's Elfa shelving. I've used the free-standing Elfa runner drawers in every closet since I moved to San Francisco. Elfa is amazing. It's sturdy, holds up well over time, and looks nice (for storage shelves). It's also easy to customize depending on your needs. Here's a beautiful example of how Elfa shelves can be used in a living room:

But the wall in my bedroom is large, and it would have cost about $1,500 for Elfa parts alone, not including installation. Eek, no. I decided to go with the Ikea Algot shelves instead, which look virtually identical. 

I found a number of examples of Ikea Algot around the internet that looked awesome, and convinced me it was the way to go. I love Jordan Ferney's living room shelves, which hack together Ikea parts to make a gorgeous bookshelf above a credenza:

Jordan Ferney living room shelves

This photo from a Cup of Jo home tour uses Ikea Algot shelves, just like Jordan's shelves above, except floor-to-ceiling (such a good look):

Photo from Cup of Jo

Photo from Cup of Jo

Because of the chair rail around the edge of my room, the shelves can't go all the way to the floor. And since I occasionally work from home and want a place to put mail and my computer, I knew I wanted to incorporate a desk. I was super inspired by this desk/shelf inspiration from this photo of a mid-century house in Dwell::

Photo from Dwell Magazine

Photo from Dwell Magazine

Ikea actually has a super simple online Algot planning tool (seriously who knew) that lets you enter your dimensions and drag and drop the different pieces you want to customize your unit. I entered the dimensions of the wall to the right of my mirror, above the chair rail, below the ceiling, and to the left of where the closet door swings. You can drag the arrows and adjust the size of your room, or just type the numbers in the boxes on the side:

Ikea Algot planner step 1

Then you basically decide what you'll mount on your brackets. Ikea has an infinite number of options: shelves, hanging baskets, clothes rails, etc. that are all interchangeable once you have the vertical mounts installed -- they just click into place.  Ikea lets you drag and drop different shelves into different positions on the website, which makes it super fun to play around with.

I did three deeper shelves across the bottom (15 inches deep), which will serve as my desk. The chair rail is approximately 27 inches off the floor, so once you incorporate the brackets, the shelf should sit about 30 inches off the floor, which is perfect for a desk. Then I chose narrow shelves (7 inches deep) going all the way up for books and art. I ordered 12 to give me lots of options:

Ikea Algot planner Step 3

The best part is at the end, once you're happy with your design, it's just one click to put all the parts you've chosen in your shopping cart. In total, the shelves, brackets and pieces came to a total of $155, plus $40 for delivery, which is a steal.

Ikea Algot Planner Part 3

Next up, I painted the room white, partly because I wanted a fresh look, but also so the shelves would blend into the wall color and look less busy overall. I painted the room Benjamin Moore White Dove, and I was super happy with it:

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

I did have a moment when the walls were freshly painted where I briefly doubted my shelving plan. It looked so good! But I trusted my gut and forged ahead. Plus I had a million Ikea parts already:

The shelves were actually pretty simple to install. The trickiest thing is making sure you either hit studs or use the right wall anchors with the vertical bars, since that's what supports the weight of the shelves. My walls are plaster and lathe construction which makes it hard to find studs, so I used metal toggle bolts (like these) with no problem. Here's a hilarious and useful YouTube instruction video for using toggle bolts.

You also need to make sure everything is level, or the shelves won't sit correctly. It helps to put brackets and shelves on as you go, to make sure you're spacing and leveling correctly: 

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

Once the vertical brackets are up, it's really easy to move shelves around depending on how you want to design your wall. I decided to leave room for a lamp on the bottom shelf, and make room for art up high. Here's what it looked like once I put some shelves up and added books:

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

The hardest part of figuring out these shelves is making them look artful and not random. If I had more books and less decorative objects, it would look awesome to do straight rows of books all the way up. The symmetry of lines of books would look great. But I wanted a mix of art, books, and my favorite objects.

Key tips? Stack the books both horizontally and vertically for visual interest, try to mix items with different heights and widths, and use art to pull your eye to the back of the shelves. I read that your eye moves in a "Z" pattern, starting from the top left, which was interesting to consider. I also added a second file cabinet to create more symmetry and weight the bottom (and to hide cords from the desk):

No doubt I will continue tinkering with this for a long time (I kept extra shelves for inevitable future re-designs), but I'm so happy with how it turned out! 

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