When avid Reddit user Ben Einstein, aka “designstein” in the forums, shared his home library design project with the DIY community, he couldn’t have imagined the waves of kindness to come.
“My wife recently passed away. I used my time off to build her the giant bookshelf she always wanted,” he posted earlier this month.
When Ben and his 30-year-old wife Grace, who was living with late-stage ovarian cancer, moved into their new California home, Grace shared a lifelong dream to have a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf – the kind you see in majestic historic libraries with a rolling ladder to access the higher shelves.
The couple agreed on the 17-foot-high angled bookshelf design and ordered the building materials together, but unfortunately Grace died before all the supplies arrived and Ben was ready to begin construction.
“I think she would have really loved how it turned out, so I thought sharing here would feel nice for both of us,” he wrote. “The design is optimized for a few things: respecting the ‘California modern’ style that the house embodies, using neutral colors plus medium-tone wood, and something that could easily be assembled one shelf at a time without costing a fortune.”
Ben shared pictures of his living room before and after the project, noting that their original IKEA bookshelf felt almost lost against such a spacious wall.
Before and After: The new floor-to-ceiling library with rolling ladder can house an estimated 5,200 books. (Source: Ben Einstein/Imgur)
Ben and Grace’s story was recently told on the Good Morning America television show. When fellow Reddit members learned about Grace’s dream, they offered to donate books to help fill the wall. The Good Morning America segment reported that Ben’s local post office is now delivering hundreds of books to his home at a rate of 10 to 20 packages a day.
The unit is estimated to hold up to 5,200 volumes, enough to provide new reading material once a week for 100 years, he observed.
Ben and Grace’s story was recently featured on Good Morning America. (Source: ABC News)
Ben’s bookcase post received more than 1,700 comments from Reddit well-wishers, some sharing their own losses of loved ones to cancer, offering their favorite author recommendations and asking about Grace’s taste in books
“She was a feminist, hippie, teacher, and mediator (so we have tons of books in those "genres"). Also spent a lot of time delving into cancer and death books after her diagnosis,” Ben replied.
The Design Process
Ben Einstein’s wall-to-wall library was first designed in Onshape. The angle of his living room ceiling provided the primary design challenge. (Source: Ben Einstein/Imgur)
Ben shared a meticulously detailed account of his design and construction process on Imgur, the popular meme and visual story-sharing website. He includes specs on the wiring to have each of the 13 shelves illuminated by LED light strips with dimmers. For safety and durability, the unit is anchored to the wall through over 100 connections to the studs.
The right side of the shelf curves from 16” deep to 6” deep, so the edge that’s exposed to the open air doesn’t stick out too far, he explained. To guarantee consistent curvature on the shelves, he had a special metal template made by Oshcut, a laser metal-cutting fabricator.
To make the drilling of “approximately ten million holes” much easier and consistent, Ben also designed his own “nifty little jig” below:
Ben Einstein’s custom drilling jig machined by Plethora. (Source: Ben Einstein/Imgur)
“Somewhat surprised how well the jig kept the posts in alignment. It really looks like a single piece of wood running all the way up,” he wrote. “I took the time to use the same 4x4” timber for each vertical support and kept the grain pattern in order. Very glad I did that to keep the illusion going.”
Ben added that he always appreciates the moment when a design moves from “not sure how this is going to turn out” to “I really think this is going to look good.”
Here’s a point-of-view shot looking at the curvature of the shelves from the side. It looks like an art museum installation:
A side glimpse of Ben and Grace’s bookshelf before being filled with donated books from fellow Reddit enthusiasts. (Source: Ben Einstein/Imgur)
To learn more about Ben Einstein’s tribute to his wife Grace, watch the Good Morning America video below: