My condo has regular old drywall walls. Can such walls withstand the weight of two or three shelves stacked with paper files, reference books, and photos? Can anyone give me tips as to how to do this project properly? L brackets vs. those long vertical metal strips attached to the walls? I am sure to those more handy and inclined to home improvement, this seems uber-easy. But I am sadly lacking and could use a square one tutorial.
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Sera, it sounds like you'll need a sufficiently strong support for all the clutter you hope to banish from your desktop (books are heavy!), and wall shelving is a great solution. But if you try to solely rely upon the drywall, you could possibly run into disastrous results.
Whether using an L-bracket or shelving bracket system, you need to attach these to the wall studs behind the drywall if at all possible. Get yourself a stud sensor and also some drywall anchors (these can provide a moderate amount of weight support in themselves). We recommend you check out this excellent resource from the pros at This Old House, with their step-by-step guide to installing wall-mounted shelving here.