Recycled Ladder Shelf

My love of all things old continues, my latest obsession being vintage wooden ladders! I find old, worn, loved-up ladders so charming – they transport me to a realm of nostalgia in the same way that teapots do. When I look at them I think about all the excited feet that could have stood on them before… young couples painting their first home together, an excited daddy-to-be preparing a nursery or the father that is always there to help out his kids (now adults) with any renovations. Maybe this pregnancy is making me more emotional than I first thought but either way it is a symbol that warms the cockles of me heart and I wanted to use a ladder in my home. All the better that it is an old unloved material that completely cancels out the need to chop down a new tree. Check vintage stores, gumtree, Ebay, opshops, the local tip and roadside collections. And remember… the more paint stains the better!

What You’ll Need

  • An old ladder
  • Spirit level
  • Brackets – the amount will depend on the ladder size. For one this size I used two along the bottom and one to stabilise at the top.
  • Wall plugs
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Extra pair of hands is useful in this project… maybe two if you have a longer ladder!

Method

1)   After you have found your ladder you need to pick the perfect spot for it!

2)   If your ladder is a step ladder then you will need to take the two rails apart. Once apart choose which part of the ladder you will use… you may even want to use both!

3)   Hold your ladder up against the wall to measure whereabouts you want your shelf.

4)   Measure with spirit level to ensure the ladder is level.

5)   Borrow the spare set of hands and slide the brackets into place (where they will need to be to hold the ladder up) behind the ladder and quickly pencil in the holes. You want the brackets to be as hidden as possible which means the outside/underside of your ladder will sit on the bracket like a shelf, rather than being supported like a perch. If that doesn’t make sense just look at the third picture in the below sequence.

6)   Drill the holes into the walls. Hammer  in the wall plugs and then screw in your brackets.

7)   Once your brackets are drilled in, rest your ladder upon them. Put a bracket on the top of your ladder to secure and stabilize it and repeat the bracket drilling process.

8)   Once all your brackets are drilled in and your ladder feels securely ‘wedged’ you will need to screw the brackets into the ladder. Very gently drill screws into the ladder… you must be careful so as not to split the ladder.

9)   The amount of brackets you need and the way in which you organise them will vary depending on what size and shape ladder you find. Just make sure it is secure and supported. Then, the fun bit…

10)   Time to decorate! I had so much fun choosing what goodies to put on my ladder. Bobert (my leaf-tailed Gekko made from scrap metal) has pride of place and every time I look over at him walking up his little hill it makes me smile. Then I have the champagne glasses that Mark and I left our wedding venue still holding (completely accidental theft, I promise!) and I filled them with pebbles and shells that I collected the day after I met him. It is so lovely to be able to honor those little things that make your heart sing every time you look at them!

And here it is from one more angle… just because pride is bursting out my eyes like little sunbeams…

 

If you like this sort of quirky shelving you may also like my DIY Tutorial for “Book Shelves” wink wink. See that here.

I will leave you with this beautiful quote about… what else?… ladders!

One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you — suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, “Well, I’ll have a go, too.”

Margaret Thatcher

How To Make “Book Shelves”

Honestly, is there anything more beautiful than an old, tattered book? I often lose hours in vintage stores; running my finger along the frayed cloth spines, peeking inside the cover to try find a bygone message filled with love or the occasional long-lost bookmark.

With this fascination in mind, it is no surprise that I have always loved using books around my home as whimsical design features. So as soon as I spied Pinterest pictures (follow me here) using books themselves as book shelves (Say whaaaat?!)  I was hooked. Not only that but I had the perfectly drab wall just screaming for some upcycled decoration!

What You’ll Need

  • Old Books (1 book = 1 shelf)
  • 3 brackets per book – 2 for the base, 1 for the top (Aim for a bracket length that is about half the width of the book so that it will be stable and load-bearing. I am sure if you want a smaller bracket for aesthetic reasons you could manage it. In retrospect the brackets I used would be smaller… these are slightly too prominent).
  • Screws
  • Wall plugs
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Spirit Level
  • If you have a spare set of hands/muscles it will make this project a hell of a lot easier!

Method

First part is the best bit. You need to get yourself to a vintage store and find yourselves some books. Take into account the size, the spine, how the combination looks together and the book subject. I found the perfect little green book but then realised it was a book about war weapons – not a subject I really want in my house. I wanted books that reflected interests and personalities in my life. I ended up with a rare book from 1930 about sheep (my parents have 21 pet sheep), The Statutes of Western Australia (where I live) and The Generous Earth (about the beauty of living simply). Score!

Old books are so undervalued!

The thing I love the most about this method of fixing the books to the wall is that you don’t ruin the books! If you ever want to you can take your ‘shelf’ out of the brackets and have a flick through before putting it back. Even though I have seen super cool designs using books as the material I just feel wrong about damaging an old book. They are noble beasts… we must love them.

1).   Measure whereabouts you want the books on your wall and hold the base brackets underneath the book in a way that will support them. Mark a pencil line along the bottom of the book.

2).   Measure that the brackets are flat and level with your spirit level

3).   Mark the bracket holes where you will need to drill with a pencil.

4).   Line your book up with the pencil line and then draw a line along the top of the book so that you can see how thick  it is. Put your top bracket on top of the book and make sure it is completely vertical (with your spirit level). Mark the holes where you are going to drill.

5).   Shove lots of material into your ears and drill holes into the wall.  Hammer wall plugs into the wall.

6).   Screw your brackets into the wall.

7).   Slide your books into place and decorate the hell out of them with all your most loved knick knacks. I filled mine with some vintage bottles that were found in the ocean, my collection of owls (the big guy was my Grandpa’s, is 60 years old and his name is Costa) and my rolled magazine plant in an upcycled old vase (tutorial here).

So I wish you luck in your shelving!!! I will leave you with a beautiful passage that is at the beginning of what is now my top shelf. I think it is a gorgeous sentiment and I love that I have such a sweet message hidden away in my wall fittings!