A while back on Instagram, I teased a new idea for our living room: hanging an ultra, super-duper high bookshelf in the living room. It all started when John’s dad kindly offered us a 12-foot custom floating shelf that he had had his local carpenter build that he no longer had a use for. It was originally supposed to go in John’s mom’s office, but they changed direction on the shelf design, which left them with a big, long shelf that they didn’t need. Around Christmas time they offered the shelf to us to put up somewhere in our house, and we spent a few days after that trying to find the perfect spot.
As you know, I change my mind pretty often when it comes to design. No room can ever actually be called “done,” and art is constantly being shifted around, so it was really hard for me to settle on a single spot where we could hang the shelf that I knew I wouldn’t want to change sometime down the line.
Then I happened upon this post all about hanging long floating shelves way up high on the wall—like, above-the-doorway, you’ll-need-a-ladder-to-get-up-there high! I was sold, and knew exactly where to put it: above the coat closet and entry to our hallway, right in the peaked part of the living room.
My thought process for choosing that particular spot went something like this…We needed a place that had a little added height above it since we’d be hanging the shelf itself pretty high, and we didn’t want it to feel cramped up by the ceiling. The interior peaked part of our angular house gave us exactly that type of situation! And I also loved the idea of butting one end of the shelf right up again the wall in the highest part of the peak so the shelf created a triangular shape that mirrored the triangular cut-out in our dining room (see what I mean in the photos above and below).
We had our plan in place, but John and I are ready and willing to admit up front that neither one of us is any good at measuring, so we asked my dad to come help us actually hang the thing. This post isn’t going to be an exhaustive DIY tutorial since the shelf is custom and not easily purchased anywhere that I can link to, but I’ll give you the general run-down in case you want to use ours as inspiration and hire it out to your own carpenter (or use the tutorial from this inspiration post!).
First, John and my dad lifted the shelf up so I could settle on the height I wanted to hang it above the doorways. With that chosen, John marked under the shelf on the wall with a pencil, and then Dad used a level to stretch that mark across the entire area where the shelf would rest.
After finding and marking the studs with pieces of torn yellow painter’s tape and pre-drilling all of our holes (in both the studs and two shelf supports), we were ready to secure the supports to the wall through the studs, and then we lifted and placed the shelf over top. We had also pre-drilled holes through the top of the shelf that we would later sink screws into to attach the shelf to the supports.
We had to troubleshoot a few things, so the project took a couple of hours to wrap up. Isn’t that always the way? It seems like it’s always the projects you anticipate being easy that always end up taking hours of frustrating back and forth to finish! Anyway, we were all super relieved to step back and survey the gorgeous results, and I wasted absolutely no time before grabbing my books and plants to style on the shelf.
Although the shelf felt super sturdy and we had gone out of our way to make sure it was tied into the strongest parts of the wall, we did decide in the end to add one additional support, as you’ll see pictured below. To make it, we took an extra piece of wood trim, cut it to size to fit between the doorway to the kitchen and the bottom of the shelf, and then wedged it in there to help prop up the front of the shelf and take some weight off the two supports we had installed.
To help hide this extra trim piece, I painted it to match the wall, and also situated it right along the edge of the doorway so it felt a little more seamless. Now, I don’t even see it at all, and it quietly makes me feel more confident about adding extra books to the shelf over time.
In the end, the new shelf is exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s a fun architectural detail that draws the eye up to the amazing peak in our living room ceiling, and it gives me a place to display our entire book collection without having them in the way in a bookshelf on the ground. I also love having the bonus space for plants. That little succulent you see there in the terracotta-colored pot has almost doubled in size since I placed it up on the shelf, and I think that’s because it’s loving all the heat its getting up there near the ceiling.
So, what do you think of our new ultra high shelf? It’s a little unusual, I know, but I love how much character it adds to the room, and I don’t see myself having the urge to move it anytime soon—maybe never (just don’t quote me on that!).