DIY: Floating Shelves

Recently, I was talking to my friend Jenny while sawing wood (because I love the danger of multitasking). When she asked what I was doing, I told her I was making floating shelves to prep my home for the onrush of herbs from the garden. When you live in an apartment, you realize that wall space is ridiculously valuable in keeping things looking less intensely cramped. Couple that with horrible taste in art (and an even worse ability to choose things) and you have an instant decorating miracle.

Back to the point: Jenny said I should blog this. I need realize more often that sometimes my random, lazy way of cutting corners might actually be useful to others. I mean, floating shelves cost $25-$50 and require pretty much the same amount of effort to decode directions and install correctly. Here’s how you can make your own floating shelves on the cheap.

You’ll need:

  • Boards from your local home improvement store. The sturdier, the better. However, you don’t have to spend a million dollars on uncut wood. Pine is fantastic.
  • Hand saw. Because you are the danger.
  • Measuring tape. Yes, you really want this.
  • Pencil. I have no jokes for this.
  • Wood stain. Bonus points if you match/coordinate it to the other wood in the room
  • Old paint brush. You aren’t going to want to keep this.
  • Drill. For drilling the things.
  • Screwdriver. I also have no jokes for this.
  • Packs of corner braces. These include the needed amount of screws. All you have to do is estimate how many shelves you will have and multiply by two.
  • Level, or your cell phone with a leveling app, so things don’t slide off of your shelf in the middle of the night.
  • A wall.

Unfinished PicMonkey Collage

Top left: First, figure out how long you want your shelves to be. I buy 4 ft. boards, so I divide them into four just to make it easy on my math-challenged self. Once I figure that out, I take a pencil/measuring tape and mark where I’m going to cut.

Top right: Cut the thing. If you don’t have a table to cut wood, just do it on the ground. The trick is to avoid dragging the saw teeth across the cement, otherwise you will damage the saw and your teeth will simultaneously shatter.

Bottom left: Since you aren’t dragging the saw across cement in order to avoid the need for premature denture fittings, you’ll need to flip the wood on it’s side and saw from the top. Make sure you are guiding the saw, not channeling your anger into it. Anger leads to hate, hate leads to wonky cuts. And the dark side.

Bottom right: My math was wrong. Did I mention that I avoided teaching math when I was a sub? Because there’s a reason behind that. I had two boards that matched. I was saved, because my layout involved only putting two shelves together and the others would fly solo. Remember last post when I said that you need to make your mistakes look like they were on purpose? Well, add “You can use optical illusions to hide your mistakes” to your We Are All Imperfect Humans Toolkit. You’re welcome.

Drillz PicMonkey Collage

Top left: This is the staining process. It’s pretty straightforward, much like painting. Just classier? Now my cement porch is so classy.

Bottom left:
Once the boards are dry, you can start drilling. Essentially, you’re going to want the two corner braces to be an equal distance apart so they are supporting the same amount of weight. Think three or four inches in from both edges. Drill part of the way through with a bit that’s smaller than your screw. That way, your screw will hold better. It’s science, don’t argue.

Top right: Screw it.

Middle right:
This is what it should look like. Wood shavings all over the bathroom.

Bottom right:
Another view of the finished, unwalled product.

Done PicMonkey Collage

Top left: Here is the tricky part. You’re going to have to determine where on the wall this thing is going to live. I don’t have any pictures of that because it requires both hands. Hold your shelf up to the wall and use your level to determine approximately whether it is straight or not. Protip: Let’s admit that when you live in a large apartment complex or an old house, things are probably not level. If that’s the case where you live, match your shelf to the nearest surfaces. In my case, it was perpendicular to the mirror and parallel to the counter. It looks perfect, but according to magnetic fields and gravity, it’s pretty off. If you live in a Weasley house, you may want to nail down a bookend or something.

Bottom left: It’s on the wall!

It holds the things!

And there you have it. Make sure not to overload your shelves, since you did make them yourself and are not Bob Villa. Use your best judgement here.

For fun, here are the other shelves I have in my office to hold my kitsch:


My life is an I SPY book.

Have you ever made floating shelves? Have you ever made furniture? Let me know in the comments!

~ Meg

12 thoughts on “DIY: Floating Shelves

  1. These look AWESOME!! I’ve always wanted shelves like this. PLease come over and make them and install them for me. Thank you 🙂

  2. Yayyyy I’m so glad you did the post on this one. You really should be a comedian, though. I was laughing all through this, but, “Anger leads to hate, hate leads to wonky cuts. And the dark side,” had me cracking up the most. GOOD POST MEGGLES.

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