before and after

before & after: wall shelving and desk unit

by Kate Pruitt

I’ve often dreamed of having a wall like this in my house — a big, open expanse with no molding and no windows so I could do something big with it. I’d probably hang a ridiculously sized piece of art (if I had one), but I also love the idea of creating an entire wall of streamlined shelving like Whitney has done here.

When they decided they needed more book storage and work space, Whitney and her fiancé took the time to research their options until finally deciding to plan the design themselves so it could meet all their needs. The 16′ shelving is unobtrusive and sleek and even accommodates a pull-down screen for watching movies. It’s a big decision to build from scratch, but I think the design is stylish and practical enough to stand the test of time. Great job, Whitney! — Kate

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Read the full post after the jump!

Time: Construction, assembly, installation and finishing took about 2 weeks from start to finish.

Cost: About $3,500, most of which was contractor fees and materials (could be done DIY for cheaper)

Basic Steps: We started by researching and educating our eye, finding out what concepts are possible and cobbling together ideas that we particularly liked and that worked for our space. Many wall systems that we looked at rely on vertical, adjustable bracing or bottom-heavy storage solutions. Our available wall was fairly long (17′), and we wanted to work with that by emphasizing the horizontal lines and drawing the eye along the whole wall. We also had many demands for our wall system: we needed it to serve as a desk, as cabinet storage, as a bookshelf and to house a pull-down projection screen for watching movies. We also needed it to be elegant, simple, relatively inexpensive and handsome in the space. Many sketches and a little architectural counsel later, and we had a plan.

Continuous 16′ long boards fed through a total of 18
Henry Julier brackets to create three rows of shelving sturdy enough to hold our art books, novels, comic books and artwork. The floating credenza was constructed with sturdy maple, finished with a stained cherry top and bolted securely into the wall studs. The inset desk creates clever cubby spaces, and the curved edge
provides just the right amount of interest against the hard linear flow.
My advice is not to be afraid to come up with your own design. Trust yourself, and the process can be quite an adventure! You know your own space better than a furniture company does, so jump in. Plus, the sense of satisfaction in seeing your own design come to life is unmatched. — Whitney


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  • Such a clever use of space, I would love a wall of shelving like this but to combine it with a desk space is genius! Loving Erin Fletts work too!x

  • :( I prefer before!
    the new bookshelve is so old and common…it seems my grandma’s house….before was minimal…loft style (really better for a young person)

  • I hit Like by accident which is really ok because what I wanted to do was SAY that I always respond to these kind of images with joy. I too want a wall like this. If I had one there is no question in my mind that all would be ordered and calm in my life.

  • Wow, such a “simple” but amazing transformation! We’re looking to do some kind of shelving installation in our office and this is the perfect solution!!

  • I have an empty wall in my living room that is just begging for an installation like this! I love the whole unit; it really looks like it belongs there. My favorite part is the built in desk–that typewriter is awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • @Erica B. — the brackets are from NY-based designer, Henry Julier (www.henryjulier.com). The brackets were absolutely KEY to the project and are absolutely unique in their design. Haven’t found anything like them before or since and we’re very pleased with the result. Happy designing! -Whitney

  • Better . . . but, possibly there are still too many little things along the wall. The room has an interesting ceiling and I like the air/heating vent . . . but I think a couple of things might cap off the change . . . one, very large plant to draw the eye to a “resting” point; and, cover the books to “clean” up the shelves.

  • I must admit, I prefer the “before” shot, and its minimalistic simplicity! But they’ve created a wonderful storage solution, that’s for sure.

  • People were never afraid to do built-in cabinets in bygone decades, and this keeps that vintage feeling — looks great (not to mention practical)!

  • Wow, you can’t please some people. OK, the before looked more “minimalistic.” But the whole point was to design something that held all their stuff and met their needs!

    It looks great: functional and practical. And very sleek and chic as well to my eye.

  • The before is not minimalist, it’s a messy uninspired wasted of valuable space. I love the new space for sure LOVE IT! This is an ideal organized pleasant work space. I only wish I had a place to put it!!!

  • Really great use of space-so well thought out! I was wondering- is there a way to keep track of our favorite articles on design*sponge within the website?

  • I love how much functionality they were able to add to the space, although there was definitely something nice about how effortless the before feels.

  • I love love love love this. I am in the process of transforming my office. I was thinking of floating shelves but these are perfect.

  • I think it’s okay to express preference for the ‘before’ shot, it’s just a recognition that the owners have flair, no matter what they’ve got to work with. I’m curious – what is being held in that little wooden display case?

  • It looks a little like the CADO Royal system the was in place in the house I am buying. The sellers are removing all the shelves and cabinets off the wall because they (in their interpretation) are not fixtures, because they are not screwed in..only the verticals are screwed in. So, we get to keep the vertical supports, and I have to come up with a solution…where we live these systems are not very common. I could find some CADO parts on ebay, but they are pricey. I am a woodworker, so I’ll make my own parts for the system.

    My advice from this experience is that if you want to take it with you, make it modular. Then it comes off the wall. Thanks for the inspiration. I really like your idea and will do soemthing similar myself

  • $3,500 is absolutely ridiculous for that. Sorry. Such a simple DIY project for about $500-$600, or less. They got ripped off.

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