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How to Build SIMPLE FLOATING SHELVES (…for any room in the house!)

When we moved here to Oklahoma (from Colorado) almost a year ago, we had to change up the configuration of our living spaces and what furniture could fit in certain rooms, etc.  We also got rid of some things because we no longer have a basement (which we both REALLY miss).  But, basements are very uncommon here…..dang that whole water table thing! ;)

The other thing that changed up a bit, was our dining room.  We no longer have a formal dining room and the space we have for our kitchen table is more of a square, rather than a rectangle…so we ended up making a new dinner table to fit the space a little better. (I’ll be showing you the table soon….because I love how that thing turned out too!)  And because we are in a tighter dining room space, we could no longer fit the white hutch that we have had for several years, which stored a lot of our extra dishes, silverware, glasses, serving platters, cake stands, etc.  But I still needed a place to store these things.

So, instead of trying to cram these items in an unused corner cabinet in the kitchen or even up in the attic……my husband Steve and I decided to make some really simple Floating Shelves to hold some of this extra stuff, without worrying about the standard shelf supports getting in the way or taking up space.


As it turns out, these new floating shelves not only provide storage…..but also provide some pretty farmhouse-type decor, which we love to add here and there to our decor.


Each shelf was created as an outer shell that you slide onto a sturdy frame, which is screwed into the studs of the wall.  So, in case you were worried about my glass dishes tumbling down…’s highly unlikely. :)

And the lowest shelf is high enough for Oliver (18 mos) and Chloe (almost 5) to run underneath.


The shelves are made from pine… they are pretty inexpensive to make but once you stain or paint them, it really makes them beautiful!


Each of the shelves are very sturdy and hold their weight very well.  And nope, no sneaky little supports to hold anything up.  Everything is kept inside and hidden.


And really, these shelves could be added to any space in the whole house.  They would be great in a bedroom, a bathroom, and even in the entryway by the front door!  The concept is very clean….and I’m kind of in love!


Want to make some floating shelves too??


  • 2×4’s (8 feet long, pine) for the inner frame
  • 1×6 (8 feet long, pine) for the sides and front of each shelf
  • 1×12 (8 feet long, pine) for the top and bottom of each shelf
  • screws
  • wood shims (might be needed)
  • wood filler
  • Stain (we used a combination of Minwax “Weather Oak” and Minwax “Provincial”…both are oil based)


First of all, you need to decide where you want your shelves and how wide you want them.  We have future plans to add Board and Batten (yep, just like the original Board and Batten we installed here.  I really miss having the nice semi gloss around the eating area because it cleans up so well! And…I love the look!)

To be sure we were installing the shelves right where we wanted them, I added a line of tape where the board and batten would go (1/3 of the way up the wall) and then lines of tape where the bottom and top of each of the 3 shelves would be.  After deciding on dimensions, the measurements of these shelves are 76 inches wide, 4 1/8 inch tall, and 12 inches deep.  So I made sure the tape reflected that, with a 12 inch space between each shelf.


The first thing that we decided is that we didn’t want each shelves to be 5 inches tall….we wanted them to be about 4 inches tall instead.  So we cut down the 2x4s that we were using to 2 1/2 inches wide, instead of 4.  (Which, they’re actually 3 1/2 inches wide…but that’s just how 2x4s are.  Dumb, I know.) But if you don’t want to have to rip down 2x4s to 2 1/2 inches wide and would to prefer to keep them at 3 1/2, you can, but you’ll need to make adjustments throughout.

Okay, so first, cut the length of one of the 2×4’s (that are 2 1/2 inches wide now) down to 2 inches less than the desired width of your shelf.  We wanted a 76 inch wide shelf so we cut the 2×4 at 74 inches wide.  Then place it on the wall where you want it to go, make sure it’s level, and then use a stud finder to locate the studs in your wall.  Make a mark on the wood where the studs are….because this is where you’ll be attaching it to the wall with screws, and you don’t want anything else to be in the way.  (Repeat with any other 2×4’s if you’re making more than one shelf.)


Then lay your long 2×4’s down flat and then attach shorter 2×4’s that are cut down to 9 1/2 inches.


You can attach the shorter 2×4’s from the back side of the longer 2×4….or you can use a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig and attach screws through the sides of each of the shorter 2x4s.


Here’s a closer peek at what that looks like.  (You have a lot more control attaching them this way and keeping the wood straight….but both methods work.)


Hold your wood frame you built up to the designated spot on the wall and with the help of someone else, make sure the frame is level left to right but also that each of the arms coming off the frame are level.  (You don’t want your shelf to be sloping too far down so that things slide off or too far up and look awkward.)  Chances are very likely that your walls are uneven and your 2×4’s are slightly uneven.  That’s okay.  And normal.  To fix this, you’ll need to slide some shims behind the 2×4 that’s touching the wall until you get the balance just right.  It may take some fiddling but once you get it right….screw the frame in one screw at a time (and adding more shims as needed), right into your studs that are in your wall.


Now, it’s time to build the box that will slide over this frame and then be screwed onto the frame.  You want to cut the main top and bottom piece of your shelf 1/2 inch wider than your 2×4 frame that’s already attached to the wall (to give it some wiggle room when sliding it on) and 11 1/4 inches deep.  (This will give you a finished shelf that’s 12 inches deep.  If you want something more or less than that, you’ll have to adjust as needed.)  So for one shelf, we cut a top and bottom piece that were both 74 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches.  (These boards are all actually 3/4 inches thick….instead of the listed 1 inch thick.  I will never understand why lumber isn’t listed/sold at their EXACT dimension.)

Then, cut 2 identical side pieces for the shelf, that are both 11 1/4 inches long and cut down to 4 1/8 wide (the extra 1/8 is for wiggle room inside the box).  Attach these side pieces to the ends of either the top or bottom piece, making an even 90 degree angle and matching up the edges.


You can screw in from the outside but we have grown to love using a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig for attach wood together like this.  (HERE’s the EXACT Kreg Jig we have….and LOVE!  And HERE’S the Kreg Face Clamp that you must have to use the Jig.)
Using the Kreg Jig helps the screws go in so much easier. (But you have to create the holes before adding the side wood pieces.)


Now, you’ll be attaching the long front piece of the shelf but before doing so, if you’re using a Kreg Jig, you’ll create the holes first.  I have mentioned this Kreg Pocket Hole Jig several times but here’s what it looks like clamped into place.


It makes it a snap to get a nice buried screw hole….at the perfect angle.


…that ends up looking like this.


Now, cut a piece of 1×6 down to 4 1/8 inch tall and as wide as you want your shelf to be (and as wide as the section you have already created), completely covering the front of the shelf.  So, we cut our piece 76 inches long and 4 1/8 inches wide.


Then attach it to the front by screwing in screws through your holes you created with your Kreg Jig or straight on from the front of the shelf.  (You can always wood fill later.)


It really helps to clamp the front piece in place, so there’s no shifting while you’re screwing.


Now, it’s time to fit in the other large bottom or top piece (they’re identical at this point).


Use a nail gun to attach this last piece, making sure the wood is flush along the outside seams of the shelf.


You may have to adjust the piece of wood as you are nailing, because it’s likely your wood isn’t perfectly straight.


Now you have a box that you can slide onto the frame that’s attached to your wall.

And then repeat with however many other shelves you’re making.


Once your shelf is in place, screw the frame into the 2×4 portion that’s actually attached to the wall.  This will make your shelf nice and secure.  Now, fill all of your holes with wood filler.  (Except don’t wood fill over the screws that you used to attach the shelf to the frame, in case you want to take it off to paint or stain the wood.)


Once the wood filler is dry, sand until smooth.


Then, just because we wanted to give the edges a nice clean look, we used a router and cut the sharp edges down at a very slight angle.


And lastly, we stained our shelves using a combination of Minwax “Weathered Oak” and “Provincial”.  We actually unscrewed them and took them back out to garage to do the staining and then once they were dry, brought them back in and screwed them back into place.


And that’s it guys!  Not so bad, right??  Now you have some beautiful shelves without any bulky hardware.  So cool!





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  1. James Eng says:

    You and your husband should know that your instructions helped me to make nice floating shelves for our home. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I appreciate your assistance!

  2. Matias says:

    What is the purpose of the nail gun at the end of the build?

  3. Emily says:

    I know you’re super busy with that sweet little guy, so I don’t expect a quick reply… but why did you choose 2×4’s to trim them down instead of getting 2×3’s? I’m not sure if I’m just missing something entirely with the darn lumber math or not thinking through something else!

  4. Jackie Flavin says:

    Hi-how did you combine the 2 stains? Did you apply one coat and then another? Or did mix the 2 colors together and then apply?

  5. Anonymous says:

    How did you combine the stains? Any specific measurements?

  6. Pete says:

    As a long time wood worker I just have to answer the question, ” Why is wood called one dimension but not that true dimension?” All wood is cut to a Board foot dimension that is length times width times height. So, Lx Wx Hx. The reason is that you are paying for the waste of that board to be sized to the end dimension. The thickness of a board is called out in quarters of an inch. So you ask for a 5/4 board and you will get….A One and one quarter inch thick piece of wood.

  7. stephanie says:

    I would love to know how much weight you think each shelf could hold. We are considering doing this in our pantry because there are no studs on the edges to use as supports. I’d also love the ratio you used for the stain. They are beautiful!

  8. ben says:

    What is the mixture ratio of each stain?

    1. Chelsea says:

      I want to know this too! That color is gorgeous!!

  9. Zach Martin says:

    How did you use a router when the shelf was already on the wall? You wouldn’t be able to get the bit all the way to the wall on the sides.

  10. Anonymous says:

    AWESOME. Thank you for creating this tutorial and for sharing it with us.

  11. Crystal says:

    These are so adorable! I have seen a lot of floating shelves online, but I think the added detail of the slightly beveled edge really makes it stand out. I’m sure you are enjoying all the extra storage.

  12. Caro says:

    I love this idea! It would be just perfect to have these (many of these haha) in my office/sewing/craft/yarn/fabric room. Although I have that neat and tidy all the time, I’m now dreaming of the extra floor space I’d have by building these and getting rid of the plastic storage containers! Now, to get hubby motivated to do more in his shed than sit watching mindless TV shows… :)

  13. Grandpa Rob says:

    Nicely done! I love Kreg tools! They made the craft room cabinet project much easier! Do you rent out that awesome carpenter? ;)

  14. Jannie says:

    Ooo those are beautiful! I totally need these in my kiddo’s rooms. We’ve got some memorabilia and things that need to stay “out of reach” but are still beautiful in the room. Thanks for the great idea!

  15. Diane W says:

    I have a very small dining room and did the same thing 6 months ago. I cheated and went the ikea way. I also refinished a smaller dresser to go underneath for a coffee bar. I love it!!

  16. Britta Singer says:

    I love these! I know what you mean by the wood not being exactly the dimensions that they say they say they are. My husband and I just made a balance beam for our daughter. We had to cut down a 4×6 HEAVY beam to the size we wanted because the smaller size down from that was actually too small for what we needed. Ugh! But it turned out looking good.

    1. Britta Singer says:

      Actually it was a 4×8 beam. Let me tell ya. I got sore muscles that day!

  17. Nancy says:

    WOW! These look beautiful. I agree with one of the other comments about your house looking so clean and neat. I have a 20 year old son and still doing nothing but pick up after him. Can’t wait till he goes back to school. Congratulations and well done.

  18. Stacey says:

    We moved to Texas a little over a year ago and really miss our basement too! Don’t you just love how with every move you have to try to make all your furnishings fit the new space?! I’m slow, so just about the time I’m almost done remodeling and decorating, it’s time to move again. :) Those are really beautiful shelves. I can think of several spots I’d like to put them!! Thanks for another wonderful project!

  19. Sara says:

    I would LOVE these in our apartment. I wish I could build our own, too. NYC isn’t always functional for large project like this one (I wish!), but I certainly admire and adore how you’ve made these beautiful additions to you home. Thank you for the inspiration!

  20. lindsey says:

    oh wow that looks amazing – but i know my kids and first thing they would do is run round the table to grab thier favourite chair a smack their heads into the lowest shelf second thing they would do is climb on a chair because they “need”something and probably knock the whole darn lot down……haha oh well a good idea for when the kids are out of the “i must touch everything i see phase” looks great in your house though – i am down right jealous of how your house is so lovely clean and tidy all the time! please could i borrow your children for a while to teach mine how to behave and tidy up after themselves?!?!?…

    1. Wendy says:

      Ha! That is the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I showed my husband, and he laughed, too. My kids would do the same thing! Cool shelves, though. Maybe someday . . .

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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