Turn Old Wire Shelving Into New Plant Shelves

Columbia GB
by Columbia GB
2 Materials
10 Minutes

We moved a year or so ago. I grow a few simple phalaenopsis orchids. After getting their outside summer place setup properly, I needed to come up with a less bulky solution for when they come inside over the winter. I was using a large rolling rack which worked great, however it stuck out 15" from the window/wall and was difficult to walk around.

I mulled over many different options on this and none reduced the footprint enough to pursue. Also, I didn't want to do wood shelves because of the permanence, fiddlyness and the fact that they block light to any lower shelves.

We recently redid a wire closet storage system and had a few odds and ends left over from the removal of the old one. While staring at the parts left over and reminding myself how I needed to Craigs them out of my living space, it hit me. Why not try making plant shelves out of them?

Our windows are recessed 4" into the walls. The wire shelves are 12" in depth. If I could figure how to make them sturdy and use the recess, I would end up with an 8" footprint - this down from 15". That's a huge difference in a small space!

After much eye rolling from my roommate, I decided to give it a go...

I would use the entire system just as it was intended, but with some minor adjustments.

I started with the top shelf and put one bracket on each side of the recess, then flipped the shelves around to fit. The rod supports were then attached to the edge of the shelf.

The second shelf went in the same way.

I needed three shelves, but only the top two would be screwed into the recess. The bottom one would sit directly on the sill and be flipped around. The reason for not adding brackets on the bottom shelf was because we setup a window air conditioner here in the summer. So, I didn't want any brackets in the way.

This worked great and they were surprisingly sturdy! When summer comes, it's easy to break down and store until next winter.

But I had another problem I had to address, that was the intensity of the sun in this west window. This species of orchid only requires 1500 to 2000 foot candles of light. Any higher then that and they might burn, not bloom, not be happy.

So, I found a window film supplier who offered various levels of UV reduction in their window films. I chose the 35% reduction film for interior double pane windows.

Here's the light meter reading before applying the film - pegged out, no idea what it actually was.

It's hard to see in this photo, but the reading is taken from the top numbers and the white needle shows the intensity. Pegged out!

And here's the after reading. It was perfect!

NOTE: I bought the window film on Amazon to take advantage of the free shipping and Amazon's amazing supply chain. But, I researched the types this supplier had directly on their website - buydecorativefilm.com.

My orchids didn't skip a beat when they came in. I have 13 plants, of which 3 are too small to flower. Of the other 10, all sent up bloom stalks within a week or two of coming inside and some are doubles. They are happy. I am happy. Win, win.

If I ever need to remove the hardware, I have four small holes to patch and paint. Simple.

I know the wire shelf haters will roll their eyes at this one. But, it's so right for my situation and it doesn't look all that bad. Plus, they were basically free and it took me 10 mins to install.

Of course, I had to pay for the window film. But, I did most of the windows on the house to increase privacy. So, that is actually cost for another project.

NOTE: I did have two long shelves left over and found these fit perfectly across my tub. When set side by side they make a great sweater dryer and store neatly between the washer and dryer. There's also another smaller shelf piece that I may be able to make a shelf in the shed. Once the show melts, I'll check.

Who'd a thunk it, wire closet shelves that keep on giving. By the time the 'parts left over' hit the bin, there won't be much left.

What do you think? Too wire shelfy?

Resources for this project:
Scrap wire shelves
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  • Jen Jen on Nov 09, 2019

    I think this looks great! I have the same type of windows and this would be perfect for my violets. Thanks for sharing.

    • Columbia GB Columbia GB on Nov 10, 2019

      Thanks! You should post a picture of it. I'd love to see it.