Build an Enzo Mari Style Shelf

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Chopsaw or handsaw
Phillips head bit
1 5/8-inch screws
Speed square
Tape measure
150 grit sandpaper
2-inch chip brush
Pint of water-based polyurethane
8-foot 1x2 #2 pine boards (4)
8-foot 1x12 #2 pine board (1)

In this project we will create a very basic, yet elegant, 2x2-foot cabinet with three shelves that can be mounted to the wall or used on the floor. This simple design can be modified in height, width, depth, and number of shelves very easily. The following design is taken from the 1974 book Autoprogettazione, by Enzo Mari, which deals with the DIY design and construction of furniture.

Enzo Mari is an Italian modernist artist and furniture designer. What is most appealing about Mari's designs for the do-it-yourselfer are the simple, straightforward cuts and joining of attainable material, as well as the clean design and strong form. Almost all his designs can be made with nothing more than a saw and a drill and are able to modulate into nearly any variation in size and dimension. The following design outlines the most basic form of Enzo-style shelf.

The frame of the Enzo shelf is made of three components: verticals, horizontals, and diagonals. Once assembled it is called a tower - each tower is spanned by a board, and this is what creates the shelf. We will start by constructing two towers.

STEP 1 - Cut 1x2 Verticals

The verticals determine the overall height of the shelf. These can be made as long as you like and spaced accordingly. For this project a small, easily modulated size is ideal.

- Using a chopsaw or handsaw cut 4 pieces, 2 feet long. Group this material and set it aside.

STEP 2 - Cut 1x12 Horizontals

The horizontals are cut to the width of your shelf. In this instance we are using a 1x 12, however, the factory dimension of this lumber is 3/4x11 1/4 wide, so we will cut the horizontals accordingly.

- Cut 12 pieces, 11 1/4 inches long. Group this material and set it aside.

STEP 3 - Cut 1X 2 Diagonals

The diagonals create the lateral support for the shelf. In this case, the diagonals will run from the topmost corner to the bottom corner.

- Cut 2 pieces, 23 1/2 inches long. Group this material and set it aside.

STEP 4 - Cut 1X 12 Shelves

These pieces will determine the overall width of your shelf. The dimensions suggested get all shelves out of one board, however, feel free to alter any dimension to fit personal needs.

- Cut 3 pieces, 2 feet long. Set these aside.

STEP 5 - Mark the Verticals

Locate your 4 verticals and group them so they are pressed tightly together and flush at the ends. From the left side mark lines at 3/4-inch--12 inches--22 1/2 inches

Using your speed square, extend these lines across all 4 boards, on both sides. These lines mark where the horizontals will go, and also determines the spacing of your shelves.

STEP 6 - Place Horizontals

The process of screwing the horizontals is, essentially, making a small ladder. Lay 2 1x2 verticals on end, and parallel to each other, in front of you. Arrange the boards so the 3/4-inch mark is on your left and 22 1/2-inch mark is on the right. Next, place your horizontal pieces to the right side of your marks. At this point, you should have what looks like a ladder laying in front of you. The left side should leave 3/4-inch exposed and the right side should be flush.

STEP 7 - Countersink & Screw in Horizontals

If everything checks out, countersink 1 centered hole 3/4-inch from the end of each board while they are in place. The point of this is to make sure you countersink into both horizontal and vertical boards. Next, use the speed square to hold both pieces square, and flush, while you sink a screw. Do the same to the other side and repeat for the other 2 horizontals. Now, flip your piece over.

STEP 8 - Set Diagonals & Complete Tower

The final step is setting your diagonals in place and screwing in the other side of horizontals. Place the diagonal on end running from corner to corner. Next, place the horizontals on your marks, same as the other side, and screw them in to the verticals. Make sure you leave the 3/4-inch space clear, because this is where your top shelf sits. Also, it helps to hold a small block into the corner to keep both boards square. Finally, sink a screw into the three places where diagonal and horizontals intersect.



Double check that you have the following:

  • 2 IDENTICAL towers measuring 2 feet tall by 11 1/4 inches deep
  • 3 Boards cut at 2 feet and measuring, factory standard, 11 1/4 inches wide
  • A handfull of screws
  • Maybe some coffee

Everything check out? Good. Lets move on!

STEP 9 - Complete Final Assembly

The final step, and what brings the whole shelf together, is screwing your boards to the towers. Start by arranging both towers so the 3/4-inch space is on your left. Remember to consider your diagonals and which direction you want them to run - parallel to each other, or opposite in angle. Next, set your board on the horizontals and flush it up. Countersink and screw through the shelf into each corner. Move on to the middle shelf, and finally the bottom. Stand it up and check it out!

STEP 10 - Finish

First, soften all edges and remove any mill marks or smudges from the wood with 150 grit sandpaper. FINALLY, give it a few brush-on coats of water-based polyurethane. Congratulations, you just entered into the world of Enzo! Have fun and see where this design takes you.