We Needed Storage!

For those of you who don’t know – Colton and I are getting married soon.  And with that, comes me moving in – and a desperate need for storage in his old farmhouse!  This house was built (and rebuilt) with next to no storage, and two people can only fit so much in a tiny bathroom, especially when one of them is a girl.  So we finally got a project done to help with this problem – and it’s a pretty cool one at that!

Farmhouse Style Pulley Shelf

The Idea:

Several months ago I had found a picture of a single pulley shelf unit on Pinterest, routing to Etsy.  The item by ANorthernTouch is now unavailable, but Pinterest still has the image link HERE.  We had an old metal pulley or two, so I started in on the project.


  • Rope (I used this)
  • Shelving wood (about 1″ deep and cut to preferred length and width; ours were about 18×10″), holes drilled in each corner – diameter to accommodate diameter of rope
  • Pulley(s)
  • 2×4 board to anchor to ceiling
  • 1 hitch ring per pulley
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Patience

When I explained to Colton what I wanted to do, I think he thought I was losing my mind, but after the last year or so of projects I’ve subjected him to, he went along with the idea.

He hooked me up with some salvaged wood from large pallets that were about 10″ wide and 1″ thick.  We cut to the length that would fit between the wall and medicine cabinet (18″).  I originally thought I could fit three shelves, but ended up doing two.  After we cut the sections of wood we drilled a hole in each corner for the rope to go through and sanded and stained everything.

Wood Stain Choices

The hard part was figuring out how to “hang” it.  Normally, shelves anchor to the wall – but because of the pulleys and gravity, we needed something from the ceiling.  The way the ceiling braces are constructed wouldn’t allow us to anchor the pulleys directly to the ceiling, so we needed a 2×4 to span at least two braces.  Colton knew he had a 2×4 somewhere with “MADE IN USA” stenciled on it and thought it would be perfect for what we needed.  And it was.  After I sanded the raw wood I realized that the stenciling had faded a bit, so I found a trusty permanent marker and drew it back in – and it worked, even after staining!

Made USA Changes

Then we had to still figure out how to attach the pulleys.  They make these things called “hitch rings”.  I just call them “those ring thingies”.  Somehow one entered my mind and I knew that was how we needed to hang the pulley.  So I got one (and later I had to find another one) and spray painted them black.

Enter:  Block and Tackle.

For those unfamiliar with farm tools – a block and tackle is basically two pulleys with rope weaved through them, designed to increase the strength to lift or pull.  The heavier the item, or the less the amount of available strength, the more revolutions in your block and tackle or pulley system for increased muscle power.

We were debating among four pulleys to use.  At the time, we were just planning on using one pulley with it anchored in the middle of the board and both ropes extending from it.  Then when I realized that the hitch ring would cover “MADE IN USA”, and we had a set of pulleys – bingo!  Two hitch rings and two pulleys!

Block and Tackle Pulleys

Totally.  Cool.

You’ll see in the picture of the pulleys I did a strange loopdy-loop thing on the double pulley.  This was because when I just did one side it shifted the pulley and I didn’t know what would happen with the stability of the shelf.  So I improvised.  It was a good thing because a single wrap on the triple pulley had a slight play in it when I was adjusting the knots.  If I just had a single pulley I might knot the rope or figure out a way to “anchor” it in the pulley so it doesn’t rock and risk being out of balance with stuff on the shelves.

We decided where the bottom shelf needed to be (so we didn’t hit our heads or risk fire hazard with the outlet right below), and I cut the rope probably 6-8″ longer than the bottom shelf so I had room for knots.  This rope went through the pulley – so the rope was twice as long to accommodate two holes on each end.  So if my bottom shelf was 30″ from the pulley, my rope was probably about 45-50″ long.

A note on if you use “my” kind of rope:  Be sure to tape the rope where you will be cutting it!  Otherwise you’ll have frayed ends, maybe even a totally useless rope, not to mention extreme frustration!  I used duct tape because it was wide and handy.  Then cut in the middle of the duct tape.  That way my ends stayed together and they didn’t unravel or fray when I pushed them through the holes.

After stringing the first shelf on the four ropes I knotted each rope under the shelf – lightly at first – then stuck a level in various places and tightened the knots up or down accordingly.  Yes … it was kind of a pain … but it wasn’t as big of a pain as I expected!  We’ll see what happens once it settles.  I don’t think it will be too much unless we have something fragile or that would roll.  And I probably won’t even put worrisome stuff on it anyway!

Knots Under Shelf

I did the same thing with the second shelf, then did another “half-hitch” (knot-speak for a second knot-looking-thing like in the picture) to make sure that the end stayed secure should there be too much weight on the shelf (doubtful) or if for some reason we needed to untie it and needed a bit more rope.  Since those ends were taped, and I had a bit of extra length, I cut the rope – un-taped – about an inch from the knot.

And there you have it!  A totally awesome farmhouse shelf!

I’m so excited to have this – and to see about making more!  This is a unique shelving unit that could be awesome anywhere – bathroom, open shelving in a kitchen, living room, man-cave (even a “she-shed”!).  The fact that they’re anchored in the studs of the ceiling mean they could potentially hold a lot of weight if we ever wanted to move it or make another one for kitchen dishes or other heavier items.  Antique pulleys were repurposed and now they aren’t sitting in a barn anymore.  They will always be safe indoors and we will always remember the history behind the pieces and how it was made.

Like what you see?  Want one of your own??  We’d love to chat!  Leave us a comment below or Contact us to talk about us making a shelving unit for you!  We can source pulleys if you don’t have any and can build to your desired size.

Check out our Etsy Store for products on hand!



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