How to Design Glass Shelves

Written by judi light hopson
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How to Design Glass Shelves
Glass shelves in the kitchen bring out the beauty of oil, vinegar and wine. (Marsel Van Oosten, Squiver/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Almost any room can benefit from the beauty of glass shelves. Indoor house plants, books, art collections and cookware all can be displayed strategically on shelves made of glass. It's important to place the shelves where the displayed objects will look appropriate with the room's decor, but glass shelves fitted over window frames can often be the best choice. Natural light from behind the shelves adds a nice touch, especially for colourful art objects or house plants.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sketch pad
  • Measuring tools
  • Graph paper
  • Drawings of shelves in place
  • Drawings of objects on shelves

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  1. 1

    Sketch a picture of glass shelves mounted on a wall area or as part of a freestanding floor unit. Measure the room to define the exact dimensions. Incorporate bricks, blocks or glass bricks as shelf dividers if the shelves will rest on the floor. Plan to use ready-made metal strips to hold metal shelf support brackets for glass shelves to be mounted on a wall or over a window frame.

  2. 2

    Fine-tune the installation details. Draw the shelves in detail with their exact dimensions, using graph paper. Decide how many will fit into a given space. Draw other sketches to include objects to be placed on each shelf. Avoid overloading the shelves, since spacing plants or art objects well will focus more attention on each item. Remember that too much weight can break a glass shelf.

  3. 3

    Obtain the glass shelves or have them made. Don't attempt to cut glass shelving, unless special bevelling and smoothing tools are available. Purchase the shelves in tempered safety glass from a local glass seller. Alternatively, recycle glass shelving from an old building or retail store.

  4. 4

    Build floor units with glass shelves carefully. Place blocks on the floor about 3 to 4 feet apart with a single glass shelf stretching across the two blocks. Carefully place a second block on each shelf end and add another layer of glass shelving. Repeat this for a third shelf. Step the dividers inside the system about 12 inches from each end, so the three glass shelves extend beyond the support blocks. Don't use more than three free-standing glass shelves, for safety reasons.

  5. 5

    Plan glass shelves over windows conservatively. Obtain glass shelves no wider than 6 inches in depth and about 36 inches across the entire width of the window. Shelves that are overly large will be too dangerous over a window space. Plan to use metal strips and support brackets on a kitchen or family room window, for example. Buy brackets that will be secured with metal screws on each side of a vertical window frame. Consider using wall framing beside the window to secure the metal strips the brackets will fit into, if the window frame is flimsy.

Tips and warnings

  • Add a single glass shelf in a bath area or off to one side of a family living area. One shelf, with a nice plant or art piece, can made a great statement in terms of decor
  • Use a couple of glass shelves--secured to wall framing with a metal or wood support frame--in a bathroom to hold towels or wash cloths.
  • Avoid placing glass shelving over the window of a small room, if there is no other fire escape. Never block a window that might be needed during an emergency.

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