Shelf Life? Let There Be Power? Space Bar?

I got nothin’ clever for this title. We had some first world problems and we solved them. And then my three-year old nick named this spot “space bar.” That kid is clever beyond his years. So anyway, here’s what happened…

Remember when we cut our old dining table down and reused most of it for a coffee table? I said that I was keeping the finished edge attached to the scrap piece because I had plans for it. Remember? You forgot, huh? That’s okay. This isn’t important stuff.

cut table top

Well, we had that little homeschool Valentine’s party coming up, and I had 687 partially completed projects sitting in my living room and entry and hallway and laundry room and on the stairs. Okay, okay. Maybe a tiny bit of exaggeration…

But for real, there were a few things sitting around waiting on completion. This project was one of those things that would take ten minutes if we would just get off of Minecraft and Pinterest long enough to do it. I mean..wait…no…that’s not what was happening. Laundry. and dishes. and dusting. That’s what we were doing.

I have never played Minecraft. ever. And that’s the truth. But while the hubs and kids did, I ran to Lowe’s to pick up a couple things to complete this little project.

I saw some sofa shelves (like sofa tables) on Pinterest a while back. Not that I was searching for, but just that people whom I follow had pinned. I have to mention that, because this idea isn’t 100% original, and I’d feel like a fraud to claim that it is. However, I didn’t need sofa shelves and I just scrolled on by…until the hubs cut the table down and I had been getting frustrated by laptop cords strung everywhere around the same time. I immediately knew how I would use that scrap when I saw the dimensions of the piece we had left over from the coffee table project. (You could easily use a pre-made shelf or just a piece of lumber.)


So, the idea of a sofa shelf was not original, but the way in which I wanted to use it was. I have an end table and a coffee table accessible from one sofa, and an actual sofa table (well, an MCM dresser) behind the other, so I didn’t need it to be decorative at all. I also have that tripod floor lamp, so I didn’t need it to hold a lamp. I didn’t want it for picture frames or candles or anything pretty. This would be purely functional.

My laptop battery has completely died. All the way dead. If the computer gets unplugged for one second, it dies and you have to restart. My three-year old is forever accidentally pulling the strung-over-the-back-of-the-sofa cord out of the computer while he leans over watching his brothers or while he watches me watch someone’s super cute facebook video of their kid. Also, I am tired of tripping over the cord strung across to the other couch. My husband has a work-issued laptop that gets used quite a bit in the evenings also, and that cord is often strung across the living room too.

I’m over it. I’m seriously going to break my leg or lose my mind, so I declared an official laptop-using zone. If you want to use it at the desk that is ten feet over there and has an outlet beneath it, fine. If you’d like to use it at the craft/dining table which has an outlet right behind it, fine. (No one ever does.) But if you want to use it on the sofa, it has to be this sofa. And it has to be plugged in in a way in which it won’t keep getting pulled out. That’s the new rule.

So, I put on fifteen layers of clothes and my snow boots and off to Lowe’s I went. I was looking for brackets for the shelf, as well as all the pieces I would need to convert my shelf into an extension cord of sorts. You know, an extension cord shelf. You don’t know what that is? Well, that’s because you don’t live in my brain. It’s a crazy place. Count yourself lucky.

I headed to the extension cord aisle, because I wanted to adapt a cord for my shelf. I found this replacement cord, which would be perfect.

replacement cord

But it was kinda pricey and I knew my husband could cut the plug off and strip the wire himself. So thank you very much, replacement cord, but for thirty seconds worth of work, Imma buy one with a plug.

If you are doing this project at home and only want to plug in lamps or phone chargers, you could go with a much cheaper two-prong cord.

two prong cord

But I needed the three-prong, grounded cord for our laptops. This outdoor one was the least expensive for a three-prong cord. Not sure why…you’d think the indoor ones were cheaper, but for whatever reason they weren’t.

outdoor cord

I still thought this was a bit expensive. My brain was all, “I know I’ve bought surge protectors for three or four dollars. I don’t even need eight feet anyway. Why don’t they make a two or three foot, three-prong extension cord? How is it cold in here when I’m wearing fifteen layers of clothes? I wish I had some coffee. What time is it? I really should get home and make my family some dinner. Did I switch the laundry to the dryer? I wonder if they have rugs here that I like. I should go look real quick. Don’t forget to get screws. Oh, and you need to measure and price bathtubs. Look. A pink tape measure. How cute.”

And then I went an aisle over and found these.

surge protector

Yes! I knew it. My brain rarely fails me about prices and items I’ve purchased. It frequently fails me about moving clothes to the dryer. Which reminds me…hang on…I’ll be right back….

So I got the cord and then I needed an outlet and cover. I chose brown to blend into my shelf better, even though we have white by-the-case at home. (We’re slowly changing all the almond-colored ones out as we do a room.) You know these are only pennies, so I didn’t feel bad to get brown when we already had white on hand.

I also needed an outlet box to mount the outlet into the shelf. Seriously you guys, choosing the right box was the hardest part of this project.

outlet boxes

I just went with a shallow one that was barely deep enough for my outlet…no reason for any extra room. There wouldn’t be a bunch of wires or extra cord in there.

shallow outlet box

Then I needed some brackets to hold my shelf. Although this shelf was only going to hold laptops and maybe a couple books and mags that we’re actually reading (as opposed to decorative, heavier ones), I wanted it to be pretty sturdy. There is a slight chance that my three-year old will step from the sofa onto this shelf to look at himself in the sunburst mirror above. Or not. But this ain’t my first rodeo, so I’m planning for the what ifs that come along with being a boy mom.

I knew there were a few options that I wanted to price. I could use these ugly, but affordable, brackets. They were $1.18 each, and I figured I would need four of them (the shelf is 70 inches long). It didn’t really matter that they were ugly, since they wouldn’t be seen at all.

shelf bracket

But they came in a size that was just a bit shorter than I thought was safe, and a size just a bit too long. (The end in my hand is shorter.) I read the label, and it said they were for use with shelves up to eight inches deep, so the manufacturer agreed with me that they were too small.


Then I went over to the heavier-duty shelf brackets. There were several more expensive options, but these were the most affordable of the more expensive, at two for $8.97. They were also more my style, not as ornate as some of the others. I wanted to price another option, so I wasn’t sold just yet.

L bracket

Next I looked at L brackets, which are plenty strong enough for holding shelves if you get the bigger ones. They were $3.77 each for the size I needed, but unlike the other brackets, these didn’t come with screws and anchors.

I would have to buy a bag of those.


So, in the end, I went with the two pack of shelf brackets. Not the cheapest at first glance, but considering they came with the hardware, and they had that extra bar in between the angle (which made me feel they might be stronger if someone were to stand on the shelf), I just thought they were the safest, affordable option. Also, I was able to just use one two-pack, so I’ll return the extra pack.


I came home and briefly told my husband what my plan was for the extension cord shelf and asked if I got the right stuff. I did. Hooray! I asked if he minded wiring the outlet real quick and then I went and hemmed these pillows.

I went to the ironing board for like three minutes and when I came back, he had disassembled the surge protector, cut and stripped the cord, wired it to the outlet, and screwed the outlet into the outlet box. Ugh.

“You’re done already?” “Well, did you take pictures?” Nope. So then I undid it and staged these photos and then put it back together. So, um, yeah, did I mention how easy this is? It really is!

Now we had this funny looking extension cord.


We got pretty lucky because the mirror that this shelf is centered under is hung in a stud. Studs are usually 16 inches apart, so we were able to go out 32 inches each direction from the center stud for each of our brackets, leaving just a couple inches on each end of the shelf past the bracket. I didn’t end up needing the anchors at all since we were able to go into a stud, so I felt good about only using two brackets. Had the brackets not been perfectly spaced in a stud near the ends of the shelf, we would have used a third and fourth somewhere in the middle for extra support.

I sat on it like a bench to make sure it was strong. We’re good.

Next we just needed to turn this shelf into an extension cord shelf. My husband drilled holes in order to get the blade of the jigsaw in there to cut out a spot for the outlet.

Then he just screwed the outlet box into the shelf and covered it with an outlet plate.


I attempted a faux paint treatment on the cover to make it blend into the wood even more, but it was a fail. The hubs said it looked like makeup (bad foundation) spread on there and that it looked dirty. He was right. Meh. I wiped it off quickly before it dried and didn’t get a pic for you. Whatever. Can’t win ’em all.

Here’s what it looks like from the front and bottom and end.

20140209_143053 20140209_143100 20140209_145254

Then we just pushed the sofa back and my son was quite impressed that we could plug stuff into a shelf. So was I.



I think this idea would be great in a nightstand for your lamp, alarm clock, and phone charger. Or maybe in a bookshelf? Even a kid’s headboard somehow? I hope you’re inspired.