How to Build DIY Industrial Shelves on a Budget

Check out how Courtney and Brent Richardson of Gray House Studio took library shelving up a notch and how they got such a cool industrial look on a budget.

couple with bookshelves

Hi! I'm Courtney, one half of the couple behind the DIY home renovation blog, Gray House Studio. I am excited to be here today sharing more details about the large floor-to-ceiling industrial shelves we built in our library for around $450.

Get the look—our favorite industrial decorating ideas.

Repurposing a Room

I Did it! Industrial Shelves Before
Image Courtesy Courtney Richardson.

My husband, Brent, and I like to think outside the box when it comes to updating spaces in our home that sit empty or get little attention. We love dreaming up ways to make a room work for us so that we will want to spend time in it and enjoy the space. This was the case with our formal dining room in the front of our house, which sat empty for an entire year.

It is a little scary to go against the grain and invent an entirely new purpose for a room, but we feel like it is necessary to get the most enjoyment out of our home. We are book-lovers and both grew up dreaming of a home library so it made sense to us to transform our formal dining room into just that. And what is a home library without a huge wall of shelves filled with books?

Developing the Shelves

I Did it! Industrial Shelves
Image Courtesy Courtney Richardson.

Because our large display of books and collectibles would be one of the first things our guests see when walking into our home, we wanted the shelving to be eye-catching and unconventional. Plus, we needed it to fit with the industrial, rustic, and eclectic styles found throughout our home, so we decided to build the support system out of pipes. Using pipes and large boards required less tools and allowed the bookshelf to be put together more quickly.

One specification we had for the shelves was for the boards to be nice and thick. We decided to use seven 2x12-inch boards in 10-foot lengths. This is because we wanted the shelves to be sturdy both in functionality and appearance. It was a tough workout to move all those boards around, but the pay-off now that they are up is worth it!

In addition to the lumber, we needed all the pipes and fittings that would connect the boards. We opted to go with black pipes for aesthetic reasons. Believe it or not, the hardest and most time-consuming part of the entire project was collecting all the necessary pieces of black iron pipes and fittings. Each store only carried a small amount of each piece at one time so we pretty much wiped out every hardware store inventory, and it took about a month to gather all the pieces our shelves required.

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Time to Assemble


Once we purchased all our supplies, we got to work assembling the shelves. Our process consisted of staining the boards with Rust-Oleum Ultimate Wood Stain in Kona, cleaning the pipes, drilling holes in the boards for the pipes to run through, and drilling pocket holes into the boards so they could be attached to wall.

We made sure each board was level, then fixed each one to the wall by securing it into studs through the pocket holes. We built the shelves board by board, adding the next row of pipes as we went up the wall.

After the shelves were installed, we were finally able to unpack all of our books and collectibles. We thought we had a lot of books between the two of us, but we didn't have nearly enough to fill up the massive shelf space we now had in our library, so we incorporated family heirlooms, old family photographs, our favorite record covers, cool thrift store finds, and some unique plants.

Get 15 tips for warming up industrial style.

The Missing Piece

homemade bookshelf

After a few weeks, we realized there was just one thing missing. How were we supposed to get those books off of the top shelf? We needed a ladder! Hanging a ladder in a library has long been a fantasy of mine, so when we built this final touch for our industrial shelves, it was a dream come true.

Finally, our industrial shelves in our home library felt complete. We are so pleased with how the shelves transformed the room into a personalized and cozy space. We know we will enjoy spending time in this room now, whether we are reading, chatting with guests, or hosting a game night. The shelves make for a great conversational piece, and they are a project we are proud to say we built ourselves.

If you are interested in following along with our home renovation journey, feel free to stop by our blog or connect with us on Facebook and Pinterest. You can also find a download with detailed instructions for this project here.

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