A few years ago, when I was living in Manhattan, I wanted strong book shelves to hold our large library of books on city planning. I didn’t want to mar the walls of our rental apartment. I knew of designs that made shelves free standing by means of a vertical pole in the front of the bookshelves so that gravity — the shelves “fall” against the wall — gave them stability. I found some at Shelf Shop on First Avenue (since closed), and they were very cool, but they were also very expensive. So, I came up with my own design for a bookcase that used materials I could get easily at my local lumber dealer and hardware store.
I used 2″x2″ wooden poles, cut to fit my 8′ ceilings. I tightened them in between my floor and ceiling using adjustable glide levelers.
I had the folks at Wood-o-Rama (where I got all the lumber, standards, and brackets) cut a groove on one side of each pole into which I fit and screwed your basic 1-slot standards. (Wood-o-Rama has since moved from its 108th street location to New Jersey.) For the shelves, I used 9″ brackets and cheap 1″x12″ boards of knotty pine.
The result is perfect for a rental apartment and won’t break the bank: adjustable shelving for my office, with no drilling into the wall, floor, or ceiling. I made a set of 6′ by 12″ shelves for a total of $250.
About the adjustable glide levelers: Also known as leveling mounts, these are the round metal, plastic or rubber “feet” that you sometimes find on the bottom of cafe table legs; they screw up or down to keep the table level. You can get them at most hardware stores in sets of 4 for about 3 bucks. I got metal ones at the wonderful Grand Metro Hardware on 94th and Broadway. They come with plastic sleeves that fit into a 3/8″ hole. I recommend getting levelers with at least a 2-inch length to account for uneven floors and ceilings.
To prevent the metal from making a mark on my ceilings, I covered the metal surface with a small circle of felt backed by adhesive — the cheap felt that you put on the bottom of furniture legs to protect wood floors. The “foot” of each pole was positioned on a square plastic furniture caster cup.
For my shelves, I drilled a short 1-inch deep hole in the top end of each pole using a 3/8-inch drill bit. I then tapped in the plastic sleeves and screwed in the levelers. When it was time to position the poles for my shelves, I just put each pole in place, then “unscrewed” the levelers until the pole was nice and tight between floor and ceiling. Once I put stuff on the shelves, I tightened them a bit more, since the weight bent the poles ever so slightly.