Armchair Bookshelf Tinkering and turning old, useless things into new, useful things - a design project.

In Tinkering
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Coming from a family of voracious readers has its benefits. It means, for example, that you are constantly surrounded by a variety of books because every one of my chromosome connections has a different literature palette to mine. It also means, however, that we never have enough space for all of our books. We have many titles stored in our basement, in long forgotten boxes we have not opened in years; we have them in our bedrooms, on our beds, in our closets, and on our desks; and we have them squeezed together in various bookshelves around the house, fighting for every inch of space. They are stacked upright, sideways, diagonally, and every other way books can be stored without damaging them. There is never enough space for all the reading material we acquire, and with new paperback acquisitions scheduled in the days to come the space issue was becoming a serious concern.

When a pair of old, rickety, wooden armchairs were about to be discarded I saw an opportunity to breath a second life into them and solve two problems in one go. Firstly, if all went according to the plan (which was really in my mind–there were no clever drawings or complex measurements; there was just a gut feeling that the picture I had in my mind would eventually be cut and drilled into reality), I would be able to create some new housing for our budding collection of fantasy novels spilling all over our lounge (Robert Jordan really didn’t think of households with limited space when he wrote The Wheel of Time series); and, secondly, I would satisfy my urge to tinker around and make something from recycled materials; it has been a while since I got my hands dirty and made anything that does not require me to use Photoshop or Illustrator.

So, after roping my younger brother, Angé, into the project we fished our old drill from its hiding place and scavenged some pieces of wood found around the house  to get our project underway. It was important that all the core materials used in this project were found materials–the whole point of the exercise was to make a low-cost housing for our books. Even if the finished products were not the most aesthetically pleasing things under the sun, their functionality and cost effectiveness would be their main attributes. The only things we had to purchase were some fresh screws to hold everything together and a tin of black paint to make our bookshelves presentable if we were successful. With everything acquired we got to measuring, cutting, and drilling.

The first challenge was to fill the voids where the armchairs’ seats would have been. We wanted to squeeze as many books in each armchair as possible, so it was important that the seat of the armchair remain a viable storage space. Using wooden slats from an old bed, we cut them to size and then screwed them to the bottom of the chairs to create cribs where books could be stacked.

The next challenge was to make shelves that would be supported by the two backrests of each armchair. To make the shelves, we used some old chipboard. We cut the chipboard shelves to size and screwed to small wooden cubes cut from odd pieces of timber found around our house. These wooden cubes were held in place by screws we drilled into the backrests. We made the back part of the shelf a little longer because we needed the back-end to store and display various board games. The last thing we had to make for the shelves was a wooden edge to prevent the board games from slipping off. To do this we used another old piece of wood we found around the house. A couple of holes and screws later (get your mind out of the gutter!) and we had our armchair bookshelf.

With all the structural work done, a lick of fresh paint is all that was needed to make them look brand new. All that was left to do was to move our prized books into them and gloat at our handiwork.

As you can tell, we are big on board games, and the ones in this bookshelf are but a sample of the arsenal we have amassed over the past few years. If anyone is ever in the mood for an ass whipping from my family and I all you need to do is respond when I turn on the bat signal.

Total cost: N$150 (USD14)
Construction time: 2 hours each
Painting: 1 hour plus 24 hours drying time
Design and assembly: Angé Mucyo and Rémy Ngamije.
Tea and motivation: Gemma Akayezu (also known as The Mom)
Photographer: Rémy Ngamije.
Location: Windhoek, Namibia
  • Jay

    This project shows just how talented you guys are. It captures how much further you can go if you want to salvage something instead of just buying something new. Without wanting to sound at a loss for words: Amazeballs! Nice to see Pratchett in your collection (Amélie’s?).

    • Any collection of books that does not have Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is not a collection. It is an awkward gathering of books, that’s what it is. And, no, they are not Amelie’s collection. Everyone in our house reads Pratchett.

  • Amelie

    Still shaking my head in disbelief. I never though those old chairs could be anything other than ‘those old chairs’… Well done!

  • Brian

    Hello Remy

    Lovely chairs,

    They sure have a story to tell.

    • Yes, that they do, Brian. Wait until you see my next project. 🙂