Small Room Solution: Use Vertical Space (16 Photos)
Make More Vertical Storage Space
Many people are coping with how to optimize a small living space. For some, the downsizing of the American economy and consequently, downsizing of their wages has instigated a move to a smaller residence. Others are intentionally choosing to simplify their lives through divesting some possessions and releasing themselves from the responsibilities of maintaining a large house and yard. Still others are starting out in their first apartment or house, a modest space which may or may not be their ultimate home. Whichever the reason, this article will explain one way to use space which is frequently forgotten.
Use the Gap between your Furniture and the Ceiling
I am no stranger to downsizing the square (and cubic) feet of my residence. I regard it as a game, a challenge, and one which I always intend to win. It helps that I do not feel particularly bound to imitate layouts in “house beautiful” sorts of magazines. This does not mean I aspire to ugliness, but I certainly will not be a slave to this year’s fashion as determined by an obscure editor somewhere.
As I planned what furniture could fit where in one of my moves, I could see that items I wanted in specific rooms would be competing for cabinet and drawer space. However, it did not take the proverbial rocket scientist to realize that there was great potential “above” my furniture. With this realization, I started building supplements to my free-standing shelves to exploit the gap from the ceiling to the furniture.
How to Expand a Bookcase Up
I expand a shelf unit or bookcase by building a custom-sized table beneath it. The good-looking bookcase remains in view, and the lower creation can be stuffed with books or photo albums (the old-school paper ones), or storage crates and boxes. Following is the step-by-step DIY way to do it.
Tools and Supplies for a Bookcase Lifting Table
Tape measure, pencil, straight edge yard or meter stick
Drill and varying sized bits
Screwdrivers and these wood screws: #6 x 1-3/4, #6 x 1-1/2, #6 x 1, and if your table top is not very thick these: #6 x 1/2
8 Angle Brackets (also called corner braces on some packages) 1-1/2”
4 pieces of 2” by 4“ lumber (length determined by you) for the legs
One flat piece of plywood or wood (dimensions determined by you) for the table top
Cardboard, such as an empty cereal box
Stain, varnish, or paint and appropriate brushes
Extra wood (no thicker than 1 inch) to brace the sides or back – in my photos I had ornamental grids from an unused fancy laundry basket, which I re-purposed for this project.
Tools, Hardware, and Lumber
Corners are not Square and Floors are not Flat
If you have not discovered this yet, please just take my word for it. Perfectionism in carpentry or home decorating can go only so far. If one accepts that houses are not perfect and that they settle and develop little quirks of geometry, then fretting about building a perfectly squared or balanced table can be abandoned. Try for very good work while expecting that you will need to make adjustments and accommodations at the end.
Step By Step Building
Step 1. Measure the space where your bookcase will be including the height of the room there. Measure your bookcase. Think about the top horizontal surface: will you place items on it, and, if so, what height will they be? Decide how high you want your bookcase to be lifted.
Now, design your table. It should be at least 2 inches wider and 2 inches longer than the bookcase to allow margins of safety for placing it on top. Measure the thickness of the wood being used for the table top and subtract that from the final desired table height in order to determine the length of the 4 legs.
Step 2. Obtain and cut your lumber. Many “big box” home improvement stores will cut lumber for customers at a nominal cost. Go for it, especially if you do not own a table saw. Also, obtain the rest of your supplies.
Step 3. Examine your lumber to decide which leg pieces will be front legs or back ones. Decide which side of the table top rectangle will be facing up. Put the table top upside-down and use the pencil and straight edge stick to draw the dimensions of the bookcase on it. Mark what will be the front edge. Next, write the numbers 1 through 4 in the corners. On the end of each leg write the corresponding number – this is for matching up back legs and front legs.
Step 4. Use drill, screws (probably the 1-inch ones), and screwdriver to attach 2 angle brackets to each leg as shown in photo.
Step 5. If you are going to stain or paint this piece of furniture, do it now BEFORE attaching the legs to the top. It is much easier this way and makes a neater appearance at the attachment points as well. Dry for at least 24 hours.
Stained Table Parts
Step 6. Place the table top upside-down. One at a time, hold each leg’s bracketed end flush in the pencil-drawn corner of its number match. Use the pencil to outline the empty screw holes. Remove the leg and repeat for the other 3 legs. Drill starter holes in all the pencil circles.
Step 7. Also on the underside make a mark within each corner which is near the center of where the leg will be attached. With a small bit, drill a hole completely through. This will be for a 1-1/2 inch wood screw coming from the top surface down into the leg.
Step 8. Screw each leg’s pair of brackets into the corresponding numbered corner. Here is where I used ½ inch screws because my top was thin. If I could do it over, I would splurge for a little bit thicker and nicer wood for my table top.
Then, flip the table right-side up and insert a long, thin wood screw into the pre-drilled hole. Screw in firmly. On my table, I did not choose to hide the top of these four screws. If you do, you can countersink them and apply wood filler.
Step 9. Do what you would like to brace the side legs or back with extra wood – plain or ornamental. See pix.
Table Leg attached to Top with Angle Brackets
Step 10. Place the lifting table in its location in the room. Use the level to determine if it is sitting horizontally even, or even enough. Then Turn the level to go from front to back. You want the table to lean slightly into the wall for safety reasons – to direct the weight of the bookcase slightly into the wall. If needed, cut small pieces of cardboard to wedge under any table legs which need to be propped to achieve this or which are not sitting stable. No wobbles can be tolerated. (Remember, this may be the floor’s “fault,” – not yours.)
Step 11. Then, carefully lift your bookcase onto the table and center it. Again, Arrange the bookcase so that it is not tempted to take a swan dive onto a passing person. If you want to get very safe, you can fasten the back of the bookcase onto a wall stud – but I am not addressing that here.
Step 12. Place your books, knick-knacks and objets d’art on the arrangement and underneath it. Accept all compliments with humility. J
Apply this Concept Everywhere
Obviously, now that you have learned to look up, you will see storage potential in a myriad of spots. Go for it! Also, if you need a KITTEN to inspect your work, mine has very reasonable rates. (See where arrow is pointing in the photo below.)
Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.