Builder grade to beautiful

Easy, 6-Step DIY Floating Shelves

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It’s no secret that the median home price in the Denver area has risen quite rapidly these past few years. Moving from Illinois to the Denver suburb of Arvada had my husband Jason and I scrambling to find a home we loved in a price range we were comfortable with. We seemed to only be able to find fixer-upper homes, or tiny little condos for the price at which we always thought we’d purchase our first home. In Illinois, my childhood home sold for a little more than what Jason and I needed to spend here in Colorado if we wanted a detached single-family home with a yard. And let me tell you, that home was twice the square footage of the one we eventually bought — and built.

Once we learned that building new was our best option, we decided to opt for only a couple structural upgrades from the plethora of options the builder offered. We opted to put money upfront into things that would be difficult or super costly to change down the road, such as nine-foot ceilings, kitchen cabinetry, and a gas fireplace. Everything else came builder-grade.

We’re both pretty crafty people, so we knew it would be fun to leave our mark on our home by coming up with our own unique ideas and doing our best to implement them ourselves. I like to think of myself as a thrifty shopper (although the less I can spend on one item, the more items I tend to buy). Jason is incredibly supportive, as he trusts that whatever I buy will make our home feel more and more like “us.”

That being said, when it came to the empty cubby spaces flanking the fireplace…

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…we toiled with the thought of installing built-in shelves, buying tall book-cases to push into those nooks, and finally, throwing some floating shelves in there. Option three was the winner, as it was the most cost-effective option (and it was a new learning opportunity! We love those.).

I’ve seen plenty of tutorials where the shelves were built as narrow boxes, with pipes protruding from the wall and into the cavities of these wood boxes. I wanted a different, sleeker, more streamlined look for our space. No thick shelves for me.

Jason measured out the nooks, only to discover that they were not entirely uniform. The drywall seemed to widen marginally at the back of the nooks, and that measurement changed as he moved up the wall. He had to be very calculated when it came to cutting boards that would fill the spaces where they were needed.

Eventually, the proper pieces were cut and stained, and we were ready to begin the fun part — making the shelves appear as though they were floating.

Supplies you will need if you’d like to achieve this same look are:

  • Six #2 pine boards, 1/2 inch thick, measured to the depth of your shelving nook
  • 12 furring strips, 1/4 inch, measured 1 inch shy of the depth of your pine boards
  • Hammer and nails
  • Stud finder
  • A tape measure
  • A level
  • Paint to match the wall color (you’ll paint the furring strips to blend in with the wall)
  • Wood stain (we used Minwax Wood Finish in Ipswich Pine, and did not seal it)

Step 1: Measure your nooks and cut the boards to fill the space, wall to wall. To determine how much space should go between your shelves, remember the rule of thirds. With interior decorating, aim to use odd numbers to create a sense of imbalance and intrigue. We measured the nooks top to bottom, then divided the space into three relatively even sections. The top cubby was intentionally made a little smaller than the lower two sections. You also want the wood to fall short of the edge of the nook by one-to-two inches.

Step 2: Stain your cut boards (top, front, and bottom) and set them out to dry.

Step 3: Using your stud finder, locate the studs and mark them with a pencil. Then, use your handy hammer, some sturdy nails and your level to hang the furring strips. Check and double-check to make sure they are even and level on both sides, or else your shelves will appear crooked.

Step 4: Paint the furring strips the same color as the walls behind them (no need to paint the top of the strips, as the shelves will be resting on this part).

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View from below one of the shelves. Notice the furring strip.

Step 5: Rest the stained shelves on the dried furring strips.

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Step 6: Decorate! Have fun :)

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