DIY floating shelves

Do you have a space in your home that just needs a little open shelving?
When we designed our bathroom we originally planned for an even larger shower, however, our contractor talked me into a smaller shower (yes, a smaller shower) because he was concerned we were getting too big and wouldn’t be able to keep the shower warm. After a small whine to myself, I thought about it and came up with keeping a small nook carved out behind the shower for some added storage, namely a place for open shelving, towel hooks, and a place to tuck away a laundry basket.
When the shower was completed, the nook looked perfect for what I had imagined and I couldn’t wait to get started on these floating shelves.

Our Supplies

3 -1x4x8 select pine boards

3- 2x3x8 wood studs

3- 1/4x2x2 Lauan plywood

1- 1x16x6 Douglas fir stained grade panel

Wood glue

#10 2 1/2 inch wood screws

toggle anchors (or bolts)


old masters gel stain dark walnut

minwax wood filler


These shelves are fairly simplistic, which is exactly what I was looking for. We started with measuring our back wall, which was 17 1/2 inches wide. I also had decided I wanted the depth of the shelves to be 16 inches, which left us enough room to hang towels on the wall in front of the shelves and utilize the space more.
Depending on your wall space, your dimensions would be different than ours but the basic steps would be the same. We started ( or more Steven started) building the inside of the floating shelves using the 2×3’s. Based on our measurements, the rear support needed to be 16 inches long, which was then attached to 3 supports, one on each and one in the center measuring 13 3/4 inches, held together with 2 1/2 inch wood screws.

The support structure can definitely be different based on your size floating shelf since it is meant to fit snuggly inside the shelf. With the basic support out of the way, our next step was the shelf itself. We used the 1×4 pine board to create the sides and the face. We cut each side piece to measure 15 1/4 inches and the face to measure 17 1/2 inches.
Next, we were ready cut the piece of wood for the top portion of the shelf. We took the Douglas fir panel and cut it down to size. It was already at the depth I had wanted, so all we needed to do was cut the right size width, which in our case was 16 inches.

At this point we attached the two side pieces and the front piece to the new top using wood glue and 16 gauge finishing nails. We then did a quick dry fit to make sure the floating shelf was going to fit onto the support structure and within the space itself. So we went ahead and fixated one of the supports to the back wall within the nook and placed the incomplete shelf on top to see if it fit correctly. In our case we did have to make slight adjustments to our measurements to make it fit correctly. This is why a dry fit can be so important! ( the measurements listed are the proper measurements, and not the original ones we started with to try and avoid confusion.)

Once everything was fitted we measured and cut the bottom piece using plywood, this piece should fit in between the two side pieces when it’s all together. But WE DID NOT ATTACH YET. Before attaching the bottom piece, we wanted to attach the supports to the wall. At this point, most people would use a stud finder to find the studs and place the supports accordingly. However, we watched this house get stripped down to the barebones and put back together again, so we knew there were no studs on this wall. So, in our case, we needed toggle anchors; two in each support piece. Before installing the anchors, two holes were drilled into the 2×3’s. We then placed the whole support structure onto the wall, made sure it was level, and then marked on the wall where the toggle anchors would be inserted. We then needed to remove the support structure so that we could place the anchors into the wall. We were able to find our spots easily with the marks we had make previously. We could then place the supports back onto the wall, line the the holes in the 2×3 up with the anchor and bolt each support in place.
TIP: when selecting toggle anchors or bolts, check to make sure the bolt is long enough to go through the 2×3 and the wall to actually reach the toggle anchor. If you don’t need toggle anchors, make sure you select a lag screw, a lag bolt, wood screw, anchor support, ect., that will be long enough to make it through your support structure and the wall.

Before we hung the shelves onto each support, we needed to add a little wood filler on top of the nail holes. For this we used minwax wood filler. We also sanded and stained each shelf and the bottom piece that we hadn’t yet attached. For this project I used old masters dark walnut gel stain. I happen to have it on hand, but I also really like the way the gel stain goes on and the color was exactly what I wanted since I wanted it to closely match our bathroom vanity. After it dries, you really should use a polyurethane or top coat to protect the shelves from wear and tear, especially if it’s going in a high traffic or high use area.

Once the shelves were dry enough, we slid each shelf on top of each support, making sure they fit nice and snug. Lastly, we attached the bottoms using the same finishing nails that we used earlier, nailing the piece directly to the support structure.

And there you have new floating shelves!

Because we were working in a small nook, where the objective was for the floating shelves to fit wall to wall, the real last step for me was a lot of touch up painting. Followed by adding adorable hooks from Hearth and Hand at Target and styling the shelves to my contentment.

I really love this DIY and these floating shelves. This is the third time we have done this and I will still probably utilize it again!

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