One wall in the family room has been bare since we moved in, in anticipation of the shelves I planned to put up there. Meantime every surface in the room has become increasingly cluttered with the objects I knew would eventually be displayed on them. But I just couldn’t settle on the type of shelf I wanted. “Floating” shelves tend to be unappealingly chunky because of the need to hide the fixings. But most brackets are a bit inelegant too.
Finally though I saw exactly the type of shelf I wanted: a leather suspended shelf. Simplicity itself. Why hasn’t everyone got one of these?! I found several to choose from online. However, they all seemed unfeasibly expensive given that they comprised, in essence, a plank of wood and a couple of strips of leather.
I showed Mr Around the Houses a picture of my shelf goal, inquiring tentatively whether self-construction might be within his (growing!) DIY capabilities. Cunningly I made sure that he (a) understood that this shelf was THE ONE, and (b) that the absurd price tag was clearly visible on the web page. Naturally, it was game on.
I liked the idea of the shelves being fashioned from some natural rough hewn timber rather than anything very refined. We took a trip to the local council recycling centre to see if we could nab some suitable cast offs. The very lovely guys there helped me find some lengths of old pallet planks which were just perfect – by which I mean beautifully imperfect; a bit of scorching, scarring and holes left where we levered the old nails out. If you can’t bear the idea of rummaging around in dumps though, try Gumtree, Freecycle or similar local classified sites where people are often giving away pallet wood.
I bought the leather strapping on eBay. One 50” length (£8.70) cut in half to make two straps was enough to hang one shelf. There’s lots of different leathers to choose from. I wouldn’t go for anything thicker than 2mm though as it may not be pliable enough to sit nicely around the shelf.
For attaching the strapping to the wall I used brass domes mirror screws similar to these, which I managed to find at my local hardware store at £1.99 for 4.
For joining the pallet strips together we used a couple of metal mending strips similar to these. I paid £1.99 for 4 from my local store.
The other tools/equipment we needed were an electric drill, a stanley knife, wood glue and a spirit level.
putting it all together
Our pallet planks were 3” deep each but I want a deeper shelf. So we joined two together lengthwise, initially with wood glue, but added strength by screwing a couple of the mending strips into the bottom of each one.
We cut the leather strapping using the stanley knife. We formed a loop with each and drilled a screw-sized hole through the double strap about an inch from the cut ends.
We drilled the holes in the wall where the screws to hold the leather straps would be fixed. We sited the straps about 5” from each end of the shelf. The tricky bit here is to ensure that the holes are exactly level. If you’ve got one of those laser thingies, ideal. We don’t, so instead we palavered about with the shelf actually suspended in the leather loops, balancing a spirit level on it. It is perhaps more down to luck than DIY prowess that our shelves aren’t wonky (shhh don’t tell Mr Around the Houses I said that.)
Then it’s simply a case of screwing through the pre-made holes in the leather loops into the wall, covering with your decorative dome and feeding your shelf through the loops into place.
We didn’t fix the loops to the shelves at all and they seem pretty secure, but there wouldn’t be any harm in nailing the leather to the shelf (out of sight at the back) if you wanted the extra stability.
There you have it: DIY leather suspended shelves. Total cost £10.68 per shelf. Easily the most straightforward DIY I’ve ever undertaken. But then I would say that, seeing as (and I have promised to make this absolutely clear) Mr Around the Houses did all the hard work.
Is there space in your home for a leather suspended shelf? Watch out though. It’s the kind of project that could turn you into a DIY enthusiast!