Installing Shelves On Our Shiplap Wall

March 06, 2012   //  Posted in: Dining Room, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  15 responses

Another long and unnecessarily difficult shopping experience has passed, as my special order shelving brackets arrived last week. May there now finally be shelves in the dining room, since my plan for floating ones went awry and evaporated.

Aw yeah, we've got brackets, baby.

Fair warning: Excessively long post ahead. This gets beyond just shopping for brackets. I get into making DIY shelves, staining, spray painting, general installation, and even showing off the new dining room with a striking before + after. I’ve been a busy girl, what can I say.

My search for shelving brackets extended all through the months of January and February. It was ultimately exhaustive, and probably to blame for my 6-week long sinus infection. I wasn’t interested in using the same IKEA EKBY VALTER brackets that are installed in the kitchen, even though I have a few extras that were left unused, they just seemed too chunky-chunk for the streamlined paneled wall in the dining room.

As I looked and looked for something sleek in design, I narrowed wish list down: metal construction, something that wouldn’t take away from the detail of the shiplap wall in the dining room, I eliminated any iota of a chance of dealing with a swirling ornate vintage variety, the common wooden variety, and even though quite briefly I wishy-washed over using industrial metal brackets, I nixed the uber-industrial variety too. See, I even texted Pete an optimistic picture at my most wishy-washiest of moments, keys, tattered nail polish, and bracket in one hand, ripping my hair out with the other:

BAAAH, industrial brackets?!?!

And even when I found designs that I liked, I’d learn that they were only available as 11-12″ brackets, or $45 a pop. I mean, $45-per-individual bracket, not per shelf. Are you exhausted yet? Should be, I almost want you to feel as pained as I was. OK, not really, hang with me.

Eventually, I came across these bad boys, the Manchester model by Knape & Vogt, sold by True Value. Very man-chester-y, whatever that’s supposed to mean; I’m running on fumes over here out of pure bracket-search-exhaustion.

AHHH, simple decorator brackets.

Cool. But they weren’t available in any of the local True Value stores around here, I had to special order them from At just $6.49 a piece, I liked the price, and even better, the order gave me the option of delivering them directly to my local shop at no additional charge, so there was really was no inconvenience. (Side note: I also saved $5 on my order by poking through, cha-ching, it’s like earning a free mocha.)

Each bracket measures 5-3/4″ in depth, and qualifies to support shelves cantilevering between 6-8″. The clean arch takes it away from appearing totally industrial and plants it into some category like “designer decorative fru-fru shelving” bracket which still, to me, sounds kind of puny, but they’re strong. Metal construction. Reinforced, but still plenty sleek enough to keep not detract from the details of the wall. Win-win-win-win.

Even though they’re they’re made of a metal construction, they did have a black finish that I wanted to alter. I even already had some Rust-Oleum Espresso Brown satin spray paint on hand from when I installed the curtain in my room. Luckily, we had some nice weather late last week and I was able to spread my first almost-springtime spray painting project out on the lawn to do the duty. Ahh, the fresh smell of VOCs.

Welcome to town, espresso brown brackets.

After three light coats (wherein I let it completely dry between each coat) I had a like-new set of brackets to install.

As you’ve seen before, I already had plotted whereabouts I wanted these new shelves to sit. The tape lines did wiggle downwards a little bit over the last few months, mostly based on the addition of this oversized world map to my collection, but for the better; the proportion felt right, and I was eager to get my new shelving installed.

Planning bracket placement. Voila!

Eager and horrified, I should clarify. I hadn’t yet drilled into these carefully installed shiplap boards, not one of them. They were totally flawless. I was taking a risk in installing straight to them, because them holes wouldn’t be easy to patch or cover if I messed up. As I planned the placement of the brackets on the wall, I was hopeful to avoid landing the screws into studs; I was more focused on clearing all the way through the paneling, plaster, and lath so that I could install each bracket really securely using toggle bolts. (I know I’m always drilling it into your head to use these instead of the plastic wall mounts, this is just another situation when they worked perfectly.) Of course, making things challenging for myself, the presence of the lath, the plaster, and the 3/4″ shiplap made it really hard for the stud finder to correctly identify the studs in the walls, so I had to do some guesswork. To make sure I wasn’t hitting a stud, I used a small drill bit to predrill holes, clearly being able to feel if the bit popped through into nothing or wanted to bite into something chewy and rough.

Testing the wall. Hoping for no studs.

After finding that all of my holes popped through into nothingness, I widened the holes using a 5/8″ paddle bit so that the toggle bolts could collapse and squeeze through, first making sure that the holes would also be totally covered by my new brackets. Win.

Make way for brackets!

Unsure of the total depth of the wood, lath, and plaster, I had chosen super-long 4″ bolts with 3/16″ toggles.


Worth noting: The large toggle access holes allows for some generous wiggle room. When you wiggle, 1) make sure that the bracket is still level vertically, 2) make sure that the mammoth holes in the wall are still completely hidden by the brackets, and 3) make sure that the top surface is level with the partnering bracket, which I think I just made up as the official name for the other bracket in the set of brackets. I hope you’re all doing shots of rum every time I write “bracket”, I probably would have had an easier two month search if I had taken that advice.

I used a piece of wood (not the real shelf) to support a level spread across the expanse. Level, level, level. Bad picture, that pink blobby reflection is me, but you get the idea. Level. Be level. Tattoo it on your arm.

Level, level, level.

Wham, bam. Photo quality aside, that first shelf felt good.

The wood on the floor in those previous photos is a whole separate mini-event in and of itself: I made custom shelves out of 1×8 lumber. Inexpensively priced, the pine boards from Home Depot only cost me about $25 in all, but I did do a little extra hokey-pokey’ing to make them customized to what I wanted. Here’s the gist of it:

  • I wanted to build 3 shelves: two 36″ lengths, one 48″ length
  • I wanted to use fresh lumber, and stain it to match the shiplap wall to blend in.
  • I wanted my shelves doubly-thick (as in, 1.5-2″ thick), but still premium and sharp-edged and smooth unlike your traditional 2×8 piece of lumber that’s always a little rounded on the edges like it was birthed to be a hidden girder on your new deck. What I really needed to construct was: 2x8x48″ and 2x8x36″
  • I therefore bought one 1x8x8′ board, and cut it in half for the 48″ shelf.
  • And also, a 1x8x12′ board, cut into quarters for the two 36″ shelves.
  • Genius.

The boards, cut with the chop saw in the basement, were then doubled in thickness with the help of some light wood glue and clamps.

Gluing the shelves together.

I used 6 clamps all together for each shelf, focusing on keeping the edges sealed tight and the two layers perfectly aligned.

Gluing the shelves together.

Pete’s IRWIN clamps are awesome, because with their soft clamping surface, it’s hard to do damage. The other two that I used were a little more rugged, and putting an extra piece of wood on either side of the shelf to distribute the dig of the clamp prevented any damage to the surface itself.

Gluing the shelves together.

After spending a day gluing the shelves together (keeping each one clamped for about 5 hours straight before switching to the next), I spent another day staining the shelves with my favorite Rust-Oleum ULTIMATE in Kona outside in the garage. (Side note: I grunt and shout like a tennis player when I’m saying the word ULTIMATE.) Sure, staining in snow and 20-degree weather isn’t ideal, but it still went well, just takes longer to dry. My technique, for consistency with the shiplap wall boards, was to lay the stain on thick.

Staining the shelves in the garage.

After it sits for a few minutes, I lightly (really lightly) wipe off the excess. Very little force, just enough to eliminate any pools that would dry unevenly, and then I leave it to dry and absorb color overnight.

Staining the shelves in the garage.

It always works out. This stain is great. I avoid manufacturer guidelines at all costs when it comes to stain because I usually like my wood super, super dark. And I can’t stand washing oil-based paint brushes, so no thank you, second coat.

When the stain had dried, the last step was to attach them to the brackets by screwing into the shelving with wood screws (I used 3/4″ length because its what I had on hand, but could have gone as far as 1-1/4″ easily). I was obviously excited about this install, that’s why the photo’s obscenely tilty, but at least I managed to not reflect my pink sweatshirt this time.

Finished shelves, on the right, on the right.

But step back, ooh, ahh.

Ooh, them are some pretty shelves.

And more ahh, as the official world map can finally sit in its new frame, on its new shelf. You might notice that we eliminated the upper shelf plan for now; adding one above the map seemed too top-heavy for now, but I do still have two brackets for it if I ever decide to add it in one day.

Pretty wall shelf featuring the world map.

Two things: No, that’s not me and Pete in this next moroccan frame; still haven’t filled it or the Missoni for Target frame, just more things I need to get around to doing. Secondly, those silvery bolts will have to be sprayed in order to blend in a little better. When I figure out the best way to do it, I’ll let you know. (And a tertiary note for reference, the starfish piece is something I DIY’ed, tutorial shown here.)

Shelf, fake pictures. Woop.

Best for last, check out the transformation of this room in the last 10 months:

Dining room: May 2011

Dining room: March 2012

Impressed? Well, I’m impressed enough for all of us. Who knew this room really could be cured so easily. (And P.S., if you try your own shiplap focal walls at home, please send me pictures, I’d love to see how your own space is transformed as a result!)

  • debb
    6 years ago - Reply

    Can you spray paint a puddle of paint on a non stick surface (perhaps a craft mat?) and paint it on the screws with an art paint brush?

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      I was thinking of something like that! It definitely would be neater and less airborn than trying to spray them indoors.

  • Elisa
    6 years ago - Reply

    Love the stain on stain action! Hah. I’m digging your shiplap walls and I’ve been noodling places in the house where I could do this..

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      I think the answer to that question is: Everywhere. :)

  • Kate
    6 years ago - Reply

    Your walls and shelves are incredibly gorgeous and rustic! Beautiful, beautiful, and beautiful!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thank you, Kate!!

  • Rachel Jones
    6 years ago - Reply

    Wow that looks GREAT! and the whole room just looks really awesome compared to your first renovation of the room- which i had really liked- even that mango-y kind of color you first had- but i think i like the now pic the best! (guess thats a good thing anyways :-D )
    we need to follow your lead and do the same around here with those shelves…

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks! I wish I had found a way to make that pink work, but I’m still glad that I covered it up. I’ll resurrect it someday, somewhere though, it has so much energy.

  • Reuben
    6 years ago - Reply

    Looks great. You’ve really put a personal touch on that wall.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Reuben!

  • Karen
    6 years ago - Reply

    Love the shiplap wall treatment and shelving! I have the desire to do this as well. However, I am patiently waiting until I have a house and NOT a condo to do it in.

  • chloe
    6 years ago - Reply

    Oh my gosh, I love this! MY boyfriends grandpa works with wood so we are planning on getting some lessons from him. When I eventually buy a home, this will be on my list of things to do!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Chloe! Glad you like it! If you learn some remarkable tricks, you’ll have to let me in on any secrets… I’m just learning this woodworking stuff as I go.

  • Heba
    6 years ago - Reply

    That shiplap is amazing! The room looks incredible!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Heba!

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