Making glass floating shelves

Written by linda johnson
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Making glass floating shelves
(Don't see the brackets? That's the idea.)

Design Your Own Shelving with Floating Glass

Shelves that seem to float in the air make a dramatic showcase for collector's items and objets d'art. The displayed objects themselves seem to be suspended, and no visible structure appears to be holding the shelf. Wall-mounted glass shelves can be staggered on a wall for an interesting display, or they can be perfectly lined up in a corner. Multiple shelves can display an entire collection.

Making glass floating shelves
The collector's item is the star, not the shelf

The Purpose

First determine what your floating glass shelves are going to hold. Tall items will require a lot of space between, and small items you'll want at eye-level. This will help you decide if you want shallow shelves, each perfect to spotlight one item, or one long shelf to hold a collection. Consider whether the items should be spread out, or grouped closely. Don't arrange your collection to match the shelves, design the shelves for the collection or purpose. Then create your shelving, and decide where you want it placed.

The Glass

Depending on what your shelves will hold or display, you can choose the thickness and strength of the glass you need. Thin, inexpensive, lightweight glass that can be supported by nearly invisible brackets is usually annealed, meaning it has not been fully heat tempered. It is fragile, and slightly hazardous. Annealed float glass can break easily, and rather than shattering into tiny fragments, it cracks into large shards with dangerously sharp sides. It is really only suitable to hold bathroom items, or lightweight objects. Thicker glass and heat-tempered glass are suitable for heavier displays. The glass is difficult to break but even if it does, it will shatter into fragments.

The thickness of the glass you choose will determine how obvious your shelving is. It will also determine its safety and what kind of brackets and/or frame you need.

Making glass floating shelves
Peter Pepper's shelving unit is attached to panels

The Look

Floating glass shelves have a clean, airy and elegant look. They are just what you want when you are drawing attention to a display. To make them appear invisible, choose brackets and mounting hardware that is transparent, too. To give the shelving a modern look, use shiny chrome or high-gloss, colourful brackets. For a homey look, choose warm tones of wood and mount the glass on blocks. Glass shelving is so versatile it can fade into the background, or be an artistic statement of its own.

Making glass floating shelves
Here multiple shelves are attached to a floor-standing panel

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