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How to DIY Floating Shelves (You Can! You Will!)

Trust us, you’ve got this. And if not, we’ve got options.

November 11, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Floating shelves, while appearing to effortlessly “float” on the wall, are sometimes anything but effortless. To a casual onlooker, they appear to be a simple piece of wood attached to the wall, but some of them can actually be quite advanced for the amateur DIYer.

The reason they appear to “float” is because the hardware used to mount them to the wall is hidden within the shelf itself, which means they require a little more finesse than any old wall shelf.

Since the thought of finding studs, drilling into walls, and using power saws can be intimidating, we’ve broken these DIYs down by skill level and number of items needed to complete the project. Take a scan through the following “recipes” to see which shelves you’re most likely to DIY—and if not, we’ve got other options.


The Floaters

Photo by A Piece of Rainbow

Easy: Really Believable Faux Floating Shelves

I’ll let you in on a little secret: floating shelves don’t really need to float. Nope, as long as what you’re putting on the shelves can be positioned to cover two teeny brackets (plants! Frames! Books!), you can totally take the easy way out on this one. This tutorial, courtesy A Piece of Rainbow, is super easy to customize for the size and finish of your dream shelves, because there’s not a whole lot of precise measuring. The added bonus? You can have much thinner shelves, because they don’t need to hide a cleat inside.

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Level

    Supplies:

  • Wood boards (size of your choosing!)
  • 5x3 inch L-shaped brackets
  • 1-2 inch screws
  • Drywall anchors
Photo by This Old House

More Advanced: All Wood, All the Time

This tutorial, via This Old House, is a pretty standard model of DIY floating shelf. It consists of a hollow shelf (which is basically just a box missing one side) that slides onto a cleat attached to the wall. The entire thing is made of wood, screws, and wood glue; so, in that respect, it’s not too complicated.

Furthermore, just because this one requires using a saw and a stud finder, does not mean you’re not capable of doing it. The trick to learning any new DIY skill is to just be patient. I’ve had my fair share of DIY fails that could have been prevented if I wasn't so desperate for a photo-finish reveal. Grab a buddy (preferably one who has a few power-tool skills handy), head to the hardware store (for supplies and some extras), and don’t rush the process. You’ve got this.

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Orbital sander (but sandpaper will work just fine)
  • Miter saw (you can also use a miter box with a hand saw)
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Pencil


Supplies:

  • 1x8 board
  • 1x2 board
  • 2x2 board
  • 1 ½ inch wood screws
  • 2 ½ inch wood screws
  • Drywall anchors

Store-Bought Options (We Fully Support It)

Photo by West Elm

Reclaimed Wood Floating Shelves, $80

So many floating shelves seem to invoke the farmhouse style, these ones included. Reclaimed wood brings a friendly warmth to any space, even if what’s stacked on them is an assortment of modern frames.

Photo by IKEA

Lack White Wall Shelf, $19.99

Ah, the most classic of floating shelves. These IKEA options are substantial enough to act as a vanity, but still narrow enough to hold art along the walls. Oh, and they’re truly affordable.

Photo by Urban Outfitters

Simple Floating Wood Wall Shelf, $29

These guys are bare bones in the best way: just wood boards affixed to the wall to let your perched items shine.

Would you attempt either of these DIYs (or pick a store-bought version)? Tell us below!

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