I have been looking for a shelf system to store my printers and other misc. items next to my desk. After looking around at various hardware stores, office supply stores, Ikea, Amazon, and even second hand furniture stores, I haven't had any luck finding a piece of furniture to fit my space and requirements.

I need a piece of furniture that fits in a space of approximately 2 feet wide by (at most) 3 feet in depth. It must include vertical shelves as I have multiple printers and other things that cannot be stacked on to each other. The largest of the items are approximately 20" by 20" (rough measurement, includes wiggle room). Most shelves are no more than 16" in depth.

I decided to build my own. Based on aesthetics, ease to build, and the ability to store large and small items "neatly", I've chosen to build what is typically called a "ladder bookcase".

I plan on building those using commonly available 2x4s and cutting joints (as opposed to brackets) to construct the frame. Here is a rough first draft. Please excuse my poor drawing skills. It is not drawn to any specific ratio, nor even properly isometric (it's all free hand)

ladder bookshelf frame

I will cut "slits" in the three support boards to "slide" shelves of some sort in, such that they are supported on three sides.

I understand that triangles are one of the strongest shapes. However, I'm not sure that this qualifies as a triangle ... Nor a strong frame, in general.

Assuming the use of standard 2x4s for this general frame design, some cleaning up to properly rotate the boards I've drawn in my draft, and a strong material for the shelves, Would this design be considered strong and durable enough for my needs?

If not, are there any recommended changes I can make to this design or another design I should pursue? Also, explanations as to why this is a bad design would be very educational.

Thanks in advanced!


I started "drafting" the design using a 4x4 back column (so it doesn't have to depend on the wall for support) and widening the base in the back. Again, excuse my shoddy drawing skills. Anyways, I think I've reached the conclusion that this design will not work. It's supposed to be 2' wide by 32" deep and 6' tall. The 2x4s look like they will not be strong enough at this angle and using 4x4s everywhere will be too heavy and use too much space.

updated ladder shelf with wide base and 4x4 for support

Now the question remains the same -- is this design strong enough (my gut says no) and if not, what changes or other designs should I pursue?

Thanks again!

  • 2
    Your design DEFINITELY needs a more stable base. Add another cross piece at the base against the wall so it makes an "H" rather than a "T".
    – Doresoom
    Jun 30, 2014 at 18:08
  • You could continue with your design as long as it is attached to the wall. I do think it would have stability issues unless you either attach it to the wall or change the base to have a board on the back to make it an H. Jun 30, 2014 at 18:27
  • A 'ladder shelf' is typically attached to the wall at the top. So you wouldn't need the back or base at all (though you'd likely have to use something larger than 2x4s for the sides)
    – DA01
    Jun 30, 2014 at 18:32
  • I will modify my design with the suggestions concerning the base and update this post later. Thanks!
    – Kurtis
    Jun 30, 2014 at 19:15
  • No opinion on the design, but: Books weigh a considerable amount (roughly equivalent to an equal volume of wood). Generally modern printers are not heavier.
    – keshlam
    Jun 30, 2014 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


Interesting design. f I'm understanding it correctly I think it could work, but I would definitely use screws to secure your slide-in shelving and all the other joints. Pocket hole screws can be used if you are concerned about aesthetics. The weakest aspect is probably that it will be a little tippy sideways, depending on how you load it. A horizontal support along the back (similar to how you have it in the front) would help that... it could be shorter in length than the front one, to help change up the look.

  • Thanks! The feedback about the base (as mentioned by others) is something I hadn't considered.
    – Kurtis
    Jun 30, 2014 at 19:12

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