Introduction

a ladder bookshelf
Photo: Ian Spanier
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A ladder bookshelf provides the perfect storage solution for an old home. Leaning against a wall, it conveniently sidesteps baseboard moldings and receptacles, and with just two feet to level, it's not so easily upset by those charming warped floors. Maybe best of all, unlike closed bookcases, the open, airy design helps the room feel more spacious—all for not much more than the cost of a few feet of floor space.

Delicate as it may appear, the notched hardwood frame at right is plenty sturdy, and with its balanced design, it won't topple. To mimic the look without having to cut notches, we sandwiched two layers of 1x3s together for the uprights.

There are plenty of some-assembly-required options out there if you'd prefer to buy a ladder bookshelf. Or you could follow our plans and knock one out in an afternoon, probably in less time than it would take to choose from the thousands of variations available online. Either way, you're sure to appreciate the unobtrusive new shelf space.

Shown: Leaning Bookcase in Java by The Container Store, about $140; containerstore.com.
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    Tools List

    • 30-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • circular saw
      Circular saw for cutting the poplar panels
    • miter saw
      Miter saw for cutting the shelf pieces, cleats, and uprights
    • brad nailer
      Brad-nail gun and compressor
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • sandpaper
      Sandpaper
    • nonskid foam pads
      Nonskid foam pads

    Shopping List

    Carpenter's glue

    1 ¼-inch screws to attach shelves to uprights

    1 ¼-inch and 2-inch 18-gauge brad nails to attach shelf sides and backs

    Two ¾-by-20-by-29-inch poplar panels to make shelves Five 1x3x8 poplar boards to make the uprights, cleats, shelf sides, and backs

    Wood filler

    Paint