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Monday, September 24, 2012

MakeShift: Do It Yourshelves

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 9:30 AM

MakeShift is a new design series for city dwellers with roommates, space constrictions, and other such awkwardness. It's a conversation for people who are being artful with their space and kicking ass while doing it. 

Want to be in the next MakeShift? Submit to: makeshiftsubmission@gmail.com 

All surface and no depth, the standard 12" - 15" depth of a bookshelf is as frivolous as Frivolous Unicorn. Who's Frivolous Unicorn? An unnecessary character who lives in my head. Don't be jealous.

Whenever Frivolous Unicorn wants to be stupid or frivolous, it's like, "Frivolous Unicorn says, 'Nooo!'" to anything that makes sense. 

Example:

Me: Can we have space-saving bookshelves available on the market, only slightly deeper than the approximate size of a standard trade paperback, say, 7"?

Frivolous Unicorn: Frivolous Unicorn says, 'Noooooo!' [fades out into a black hole of frivolity].

See also:

*Making the most of small studio spaces 

*Design tips to thwart drunken urinators

I believe Frivolous Unicorn is partly why IKEA's Billy Bookcase sells like it's made of orgasms.  But why are we shopping there, when everything is made of cardboard instead of actual wood (or orgasms) and therefore totally frivolous?

The thing is 15'' deep. Why? Does this shelf hold coffee table books only? Or does it hold coffee tables? Or are we meant to crawl inside and hide in case of an invasion? Of frivolous unicorns? - IKEA
  • IKEA
  • The thing is 15'' deep. Why? Does this shelf hold coffee table books only? Or does it hold coffee tables? Or are we meant to crawl inside and hide in case of an invasion? Of frivolous unicorns?

Why is the Billy Bookcase called the Billy Bookcase? Back in olden father times, there was a difference between bookshelves and bookcases because there were doors protecting the books from dust. Now they're just labeled "bookcase" even when there are no doors on them because it sounds sexier than "bookshelf." Even though it's just a bookshelf.

I called San Francisco's Books and Bookshelves. Get this: To custom-make a real wood shelf to fit a typical San Francisco room (an all-style, no-function room encased in textured wainscoting, elaborate built-in hutches, cordoned-off faux "walls" because you're actually living in a dining room, and other ornate business) 8 feet high, 2 feet wide, 7 inches deep, will cost you around $200. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay the extra $100 to get a shelf that is made from real wood, works with my space, and is custom-made to my specs.

Additionally, those 7 little inches on a freestanding shelf, which you might have to stabilize with a couple L-brackets, carry the space-saving benefit of "wall shelves" which require a stud finder and about 82 holes in the wall and will only bear the weight of three vanilla scented candles. With a freestanding shelf only 7" deep, I can comfortably house my books, sewing machine, files, lamps, frivolous unicorn candy-coated turds, and an array of ink pens, which I pretend is harnessed from squids.

Here are some custom shelves from Books and Bookshelves at Great Overland Book Company, one of San Francisco's teensier independent used bookstores.

Great Overland is that much more stocked with room to peruse all afternoon, thanks to shallow shelving.
  • Great Overland is that much more stocked with room to peruse all afternoon, thanks to shallow shelving.

They used to be three bookstores, and now they are one. How do they fit so many books into their tiny space? Not with the typical shelf -- Great Overland's shelves measure at 9 1/2" deep. 

Here's a closer look:

Upper Left: Children's books. Lower Left: Memoir. Main: Collectibles.
  • Upper Left: Children's books. Lower Left: Memoir. Main: Collectibles.

If you want to save some money and build one yourshelf, this Recessed Bookshelf How-To is meant for DVDs, but could easily be used for most things, because for some reason we like to pretend that most books are so much bigger than DVDs. Why do we pretend such things? I asked Frivolous Unicorn, who is unavailable for comment.

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Rose Tully

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