After months of searching fruitlessly for mid-century floating nightstands that we like, I decided to wall-mount two Slice cabinets from CB2 at nightstand height. The install was more challenging than it should have been, due to our plaster-masonry walls, but it all worked out. Here's a step by step of how we did it — including the embarrassing number of holes that I put in our walls trying to find a stud that isn't there.
I'm not one of those perfect bloggers who gets everything right the first time and takes a pretty picture at the end. I don't spare you the gory details, because I know that my trial-and-error may help one of you who are reading this with your own project. I was hoping to locate a stud for this installation, at least one stud for each cabinet. That's best practice. However, knowing our walls, I was prepared with a backup plan to use toggle bolts, and I made sure that I had enough of those on hand before I started. That is, indeed, the way this thing rolled. The first cabinet took about an hour to install, while I searched for a stud that it turned out is not there; the second one took 15 minutes.
The cabinets come pre-assembled. All you have to do is mount the hanging bracket, then hang the cabinet from it. They arrive with mounting hardware — 5 screws and 5 plastic drywall anchors and a tiny level for each. Sounds easy peasy, right? Not really. Those drywall anchors are not going to cut it on plaster walls like ours. Our bedside tables would be falling down the minute I placed anything heavier than coffee cup on them. Nope. If I couldn't find a stud, I had to use metal toggle bolts, at least two per cabinet.
First up, I taped off where I wanted the nightstands to be located on the wall. Maxwell over at Apartment Therapy suggests the perfect height for a nightstand is with the tabletop 4-5 inches from the top of the mattress — low enough to make reaching for things easy but high enough that you don't kick over your lamp in the night. Our mattress is about 20 inches from the ground, so that put us at a tabletop height of 24-25" from the ground. I did a test run to make sure that at this height my lamp would still throw enough light on the books and magazines I read at night, and 24-1/2" seemed right. I taped it off on either side of the bed, checked it with a level, then started assembling my tools.
I've talked before about the challenges of hanging heavy things on old plaster-masonry walls. It is, of course, always great to locate a stud if you can. I tried that first, exhausting all five tips from Scott Sidler at The Craftsman blog for locating a stud on plaster walls.
1. I tried the stud finder. Mine is a fairly sophisticated model that can detect wood, deep wood, metal, deep metal, and electrical current. The deep wood setting worked in our old home that had plaster over lathe, but in this home, on this wall, I got nothing. No matter where I placed it on the wall, it never showed all bars, denoting a stud.
2. I looked for an electrical outlet — an electrical box can provide a clue, as code demands they be located on either side of a stud. There are zero outlets on this wall.
3. I knocked all along the wall. Several times. But it all sounded hollow. I didn't hear that denser "thunk" that tells you you've hit wood.
4. I strung a magnet from a length of dental floss and slid it slowly along the wall. No traction what.so.ever.
5. Finally, I resorted to the old drill-a-hole-every-few-inches-until-you-locate-a-stud trick. Nope. No studs.
Was I surprised? Not completely. When we gut renovated our bathroom a few years back, I got a look at what is beneath our walls, and this east facing wall was all brick in the bathroom; there were no studs on this wall. It's likely that extends to the bedrooms that share this wall, as well. Note to self for future reference, any time I touch the east wall, we are dealing with all masonry. So, that was that. I taped up the paper template, checked it with a level, grabbed my masonry drill bits and toggle bolts and got to work on the left-side cabinet.
They tightened up well; the bracket was firmly mounted. I moved on to the right side of the bed.
I didn't waste any time trying to find a stud that I'm now completely sure is not there, I just installed my toggles and plastic plugs and mounted the bracket. This second one went up in a jif.
I laid the cabinets on their brackets and voila! — floating nightstands.