The Daniel/Daniel Project: The Colossus

There comes a moment in every DIY-er’s life, no matter how sure of their abilities or cavalier they’ve been in the past, when they spit out a project idea in a fit of over-confidence. They then spend every second until its completion shitting their pants over whether they had been fools, anticipating the moment when the crushing wave of reality would swiftly render them and their undertaking a failure. Not that this happened to me or anything.

One of the first things Daniel Vosovic (read more about this here) wanted to address in his studio was this wall. He wanted tons of storage space for all the fun accoutrements that come along with a growing company and a nice place for the interns to work and prosper.

This wall is about 17 feet long. It is also 10 feet high. It is huge. It is brick.

Daniel had mentioned loving the industrial-ish feeling of the pipe and wood bookshelf I made for my bedroom. Having only built a teensy little wall-mounted version of the ridiculously awesome and legendary Ace Hotel-inspired shelves that Morgan made at The Brick House, I might have been undermining my better judgment when I pompously suggested that we do something like that here. Except bigger. Lots bigger. Oh, and we had about three weeks to design and build the whole thing.

I thought it could be done in a weekend. I was wrong. I am obviously not right in the head.

But we did it. Oh, did we ever feel manly. Weighing in at a mammoth 15.5 feet long by 9 feet high, this shit ain’t playing around. Here, let me tell you about our struggles.

First we had to buy all of our 1/2″ black pipe. Because I designed the unit around the different functions Daniel and I had discussed, we needed pretty specific lengths of pipe for everything to come together correctly. I thought this would be easy, seeing as Home Depot sells a nice selection of pre-cut pipe (they call them “nipples,” but I refuse to) and can cut and thread pipes to size as if by magic upon request.

Of course I was wrong about this, because Home Depot stores in NYC are ten kinds of useless. Turns out that while other parts of the country might be more privileged, Home Depot in good old New York can’t cut a pipe for you. They can’t cut a piece of wood for you. They can’t tell you where to find anything or help you in any way. They are evil hellholes.

After calling about 30 different hardware and plumbing supply places, I finally found a shop in Brooklyn that was willing and able to cut pipes. It was called TMB plumbing. It was charmingly sketchy and the employees were endearingly frightening, but they did the job.

After washing all the pipes down in some soapy water, we went about spray painting them on the roof like a bunch of rowdy rebellious teenagers except with less vandalism. Ignore those lights, they’re for something else. We used matte black Rustoleum, about three cans all told.

Next we got all of the wood cut and delivered by Prince Lumber. Even though I had drawn the thing so many times and checked and rechecked the measurements, a continuous 11-foot board of pine is still terrifying when you’re actually faced with it and compelled to think about suspending it eight feet in the air on top of something you built.

We decided to go with 1.25″ thick x 12″ wide boards, which keeps the whole thing looking and feeling pretty substantial since the thicker boards allow the shelves to span for longer distances without bowing.

Since the shelves are knotty pine and the desktop is made of Canadian birch plywood (the lumber yard didn’t have pine in wide enough boards for a desktop),  it took some fiddling to get the stains to match. Eventually it was decided that all the pipe would be stained in Minwax “Dark Walnut” and the birch ply would be a mix of “Dark Walnut” and “Yellow Pine.”

Even with 2-3 people, staining all that wood took several days and a generous helping of boredom. Here, Daniel presides over our setup and clutches the playbill of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, wistfully recalling Daniel Radcliffe’s performance.

After we’d done all of the prep work of sourcing the pipe and wood, spray painting, sanding, staining, and pre-drilling all the holes, the actual construction really only took a couple hours and the helpful hands of four people. Here, Daniel double-checks measurements while his lovely and incessantly-harrassed interns provide physical and emotional support.

A good time was had by all. The top of the unit is attached to the wall with some super heavy duty metal masonry anchors and screws. It’s not going anywhere, don’t worry. But still knock on wood for me, cool?

The whole thing ended up taking about three weeks and many many hours. But it’s kind of awesome, am I right? Check out that floating 7 feet of desktop! The back of the desk is held on with short pipes and endcaps, keeping it from tipping forward, and it’s supported underneath by a couple of 14″ cheap wall brackets in the middle that keep it from bowing. Intern workspace, check!

So shelfy!

What’s that, you say? Cute industrial drawers that hold a bunch of magical fashion-building supplies? Daniel picked these up for a song at a flea market right before we built this thing, so the width of the central section of the unit was dictated by fitting these snuggly into it. All custom n’ stuff.

The left side of the unit was all about creating a manageable storage situation for bolts of fabric, so the shelves are more narrowly spaced and exactly 60″ long (the length of the longest bolts). In case, er, you couldn’t see that.

There she is. Take it in.

In other news, I’ve finished my sophomore year of college! Huzzah! Posting on the ole bloggity can now resume to a more frequent rate. Thank you for your patience and distressed comments and emails over the last few weeks regarding whether or not I had died. Your concern flatters me more than I should probably admit.

By the way, new featured blogs in the sidebar! They’re super cool this time around, I swear, so you’d better go check them out.


56 Comments

  1. Yay Daniel!

    The shelves look amazing, and you are really fabulous for taking on such an ambitious project.

    And now that you have so much experience… *COUGH* …and since you’re done with school…

  2. There was literally a gasping intake of breath when I scrolled down to the Big Picture of Big Shelves. Holy mackerel it looks like it shouldn’t be supporting itself but it totally issssss it has such a… sinewy economy to it, to borrow a phrase from Dawkins in a way he probably wouldn’t appreciate.

    Whoa. ALSO I AM GLAD YOU ARE NOT DEAD even though I am just an internet stranger.

  3. Stumbled on your sheepskin post, read the chair saga, then went back the very beginning. Great trip. Great shelves. Wonder what you would do to my tiny terrace :-)

  4. Woo hoo, I am so glad you’re back! I’ve missed you!

    Phenominal job on that shelving unit/desk/art. It looks amazing.

    (Please don’t disappear for so long again!)

  5. Wow, nice! Love the combination of shelves/workspace!

  6. wow!! you did a seriously amazing job. the shelves look sooo good!

  7. wow, that is seriously bad ass! i love it and it’s going to be absolutely perfect for them!

  8. Wow! The shelves are amazing. I happened to watch a rerun of the ENTIRE second season of Project Runway, which not only reminded me exactly who this Daniel is, but also made me EXTREMELY jealous.
    The shelves perfectly fit with the style of the rest of the studio. And they must be amazing for storage. Way to go!

  9. AMAZING! It turned out so well. After all the stress and craziness it loos so great. Good job, you are incredible.

  10. WOW WOW WOW. This looks so gorgeous! I’m speechless. Do you do big drawings and plans of all of these things that you build? I’d love to see some of your blueprints!

    • Generally I make some really bad sketches of what I want to do when I’m doing projects for myself, but this project was SO big (and involved several people being able to understand what was going on) that I made a lot of to-scale drawings on graph paper that eventually got translated to an Adobe Illustrator rendering (nothing fancy, just a 2-D drawing). There were a LOT of pipe measurements to keep track of, so having a really organized plan was key to make sure we had all the proper pieces before we started building it!

  11. Amazing. I can’t believe how huge it is. I love all the details.

  12. wow, great work! Congrats on finishing school. Looking forward to more posts!

  13. Andrew here…long time lurker and second time poster. I am so compelled to write today and say GREAT JOB! The unit looks fantastic and utterly beautiful. I can’t wait to see more. Cheers!

  14. Damn! This is so awesome.

  15. Wow! Beyond amazing!!
    I too was worried you gave up on us – so glad you’re still here!!

  16. Awesome. Now go party and chillax! Congrats on finishing your sophomore year. Keep us posted :)

  17. You are amazing! Photos are equally fabulous. Love your style and creative edge.

  18. What a great project! It’s wonderful to watch your progress from doing stuff in your own little place to getting a big commercial pro-am project. I know you’re going to be a big success as a designer! Kudos, kiddo!

  19. an amazing project, and an impressively large structure! way to go!! and thank you for featuring my blog, its an honour :) have a great weekend!!

  20. I need those drawers!

    Let me tell you: Not only are the Home Depots anywhere near downtown Chicago totally useless they don’t even sell spray paint. Nobody does. You can’t even have it mailed to you

    Congratulations! The final result is stunning! You should all be very proud! Now, get to work! :3

  21. The NYC Home Depot stores are the worst. Imagine our shock when we first went in the one near our California work site and everyone was super helpful, knowledgeable, and most of all POLITE. We thought for a second we were at the wrong store.

    • I know, I think it might just be NY. I went to one in Portland and we had the BEST experience ever with the most amazing, helpful, friendly employee. He also said he was the only one in the store like him, though… so I don’t know.

  22. It’s beeaaauuutiful! Bravo, bravo!

  23. Oh my. I was blind and now I see…that is, I see exactly how I want the shelving in our new log cabin to be. :) Super modern meets rustic utility.
    Fabulous job with these! And congrats on another year of school!

  24. GORGEOUS! Well done….and your sophomore year? You should clearly be fast-tracked through….

  25. WOW! I liked the little pipe-shelf that you did in your own apartment, but I really love how you did it on a grand scale here! Totally makes me want to do that with the one large wall in my living room…except that I think that drilling all those holes in the wall might be just a little too much “home improvement”, even with my incredibly permissive landlord (also, the old walls are a wee bit sketchy, so I’m not sure I want all that weight relying on them…)

    But well done you! And congrats on finishing your sophomore year, and yay for not being dead in a gutter somewhere! ;-)

    • Oh please, you can ALWAYS spackle over those holes! With the right anchors I’m sure you’d be fine… the wall really doesn’t bear THAT much weight since it rests on the floor after all. Screwing into the wall just keeps it upright!

  26. The shelves are amazing! Well done.

  27. Am new to your site – love, love, love it! The chair saga was classic, laughed and was intrigued about how you made it all work. Really loved the shelves. Could you elaborate as to how you attached the shelves to the walls and where you attached them? Thanks! Am so glad you will have time to post more often this summer!

    • The shelves are attached to the walls at the top through the flanges (you can see them in some of the photos), so there are four screws holding each vertical section up. We used some big metal masonry anchors to keep the screws securely in the brick.

      Since the unit is really big, we ended up adding two flanges in the middle just for some extra stability, which you can see in the picture with the drawers. For that we just used a t instead of an elbow underneath the shelf, then attached a small pipe and then a flange and did the same anchor-screw combo as at the top. Hope that makes sense!

  28. You are crazy. And amazing!

  29. Looks great! I am designing something similar for my apt, and now totally inspired to include a desk in the mix.

  30. Woot! Youre still alive!

    The shelves are fab, want, want, want!

    On a side note, I have an Eames chair with bolt holes as well, I was planning on going over to Etsy and seeing if someone could make me an ulta thin leather pad for the seat, when I do so shall I send you the info?

  31. Great post, as always… I’m glad to know we’ll be hearing from you more often now, congratulations on finishing sophomore year!

  32. you are a god amongst men.

  33. Yeay! I knew you would be back soon with an amazing post! This looks like AWESOMENESS. I too just saw a whole rerun of the 2nd season of PR, and I was thinking how it should be any day now that you reveal the project! Yeay!

  34. Great Shelf! I feel your pain with the NY Home Depot awfulness. You’d be amazed at how nice they are here in CA. My jaw still drops every time I walk in. Just not used to kindness and knowledge from the Depot!

    Thanks so much for adding us as one of your incredible featured blogs! I’m totally honored.

  35. Geat project! And it all looks like it’s been there like forever!

  36. YOWZA! Screw college, just open up a design business.

    My local Home Depot is mainly staffed by young(ish) kids who don’t know squat about the department they’re working in. I’m much more a fan of my local hardware store, plus googling for research before shopping, but sometimes still end up at that big orange box because of their prices. Damn capitalism.

  37. Um. I need one of those. Stat.

    Ok fine, I have to save lots of money and build a garage with studio above it first. But then! Big shelf of amazingness!

    PS- Did I mention it’s amazing? Because it it. You rock.

  38. Flippin ‘ECK, matey! Respect.

  39. maaaajor high-five. hope you popped some bottles after this one!

  40. Love the dark stain with the black metal against the white brick wall. Utilitarianally sleek and gorgeous.

    In addition to stalking your blog, I used to work in advertising for Home Depot. I wish they would show interesting projects like The Collosus.

    Fabulous, completely.

  41. Oh Dan, you’re back!!!!!! Yay. I must say I take my hat off to you on this one, you really pulled it off. AND I hear you on the self doubt front :-{ but that’s the mark of a true artist. Great to have you back!

  42. Hello Daniel, found your nest on a rainy day through Smitten Kitchen’s links. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy your site. Thanks, a good time is had by all. However, these shelves here … wow, just wow! Well done. And congratualtions on finishing the year. That would be considered early in our country where the brunt of the exams is in June.

  43. It looks like it grew there, it really does. Amazing work, and what a fun collaboration for you guys.

    jbhat

  44. LOVE it. This project rocks! You are amazing. So glad you are back posting.

  45. Love this – great work!

    I think this would be fab in a kitchen.

  46. Astounding! I’ve been considering building one of these for my studio, but on a smaller scale. This is certainly inspiring! Before I get to that though, I’m working on a birch desk I want to stain dark or stain some trim to put around the edges. I’ve read some very complex staining tutorials that have me worried it won’t turn out well unless I do a lot of prepping and pre-conditioning of the wood. Your boards and the birch desk look wonderful and are about the color I wanted. Could you explain your process for prepping and staining the boards?

  47. Great name for your industrial post. Colossus was one of the first computers. Used to break the German codes in WW2.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

  48. This over-ambitiousness you speak of pretty much describes my ENTIRE HOUSE renovation. Kill me now. But great job — the shelves look fantab!!! Wanting to do something similar in my kitchen. (When I finally have one.) You’ll be my inspiration for soldiering on when I feel I’m in over my head.

  49. She’s a beaut!!! Good job & Congrats!

  50. Seriously. Amazing. Shit.

  51. this is beautiful!! I LOVE IT, and am totally giong to do this (on a smaller scale) in our new home office. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration!

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