Building DIY wood floating shelves

July 01, 2013

This weekend I finished up a DIY in the basement that I’ve been planning for a while. Since we had the built in cubbies installed I’ve been hoping to get this done, just to take advantage of some odd wall space down there.

I have never built true floating shelves – I have built shelves (here in the dining room built ins, here in the pantry, here in the basement bathroom) but all of those had supports on the sides for me to attach supports to.

True floating shelves with no side support are another thing – but I think I did pretty OK at it for a first try!

I didn’t follow any specific tutorial, just used what I’ve seen here and there and winged it myself. This is a relatively simple project if you work with tools. And sometimes I make relatively easy projects total pains in the butt, so yeah. This was one of those. :)

I started out with some 1x2’s from the hardware store – I cut them down to the length I wanted the shelves to be and then cut supports (same exact length) and glued them on with wood glue:
building floating shelves
Then when I thought I had let them dry well enough, I flipped them over to secure them even more with screws. That’s when I realized I didn’t let them dry enough and every. single. support. fell off.
Sometimes I look like I know what I’m doing. This was not one of those times. I’m sure my neighbors were all, awww, look at her, trying to DIY! So cute!

ANYWAY…I always go way overkill with nails/screws/glue and this was no different – I used two (long) screws in each support:
building floating shelves
Before I put the front of this support on, I installed them on the wall. This way I could get the screws into the wall straight on (if the front support was on I’d have to work around it, make sense)?:
building floating shelves
After both supports were up I went to grab the wood I had bought to make the actual shelves I was going to build to slip over them. And I realized I had totally made the supports the wrong size. DOH!
So…back to the store I went. I ended up getting a big sheet of stain grade particle board cut down instead, which in the long run ended up being better anyway (a lot more light weight and less bulky):
building floating shelves
That photo is why I have an SUV. That photo is also why I don’t have a nice SUV. ;)

So instead of making a shelf that slips on over the support, I ended up just securing all the wood to it instead. Which is fine, I just won’t be able to take these down…like, ever. Good thing I like them.
Here’s the process as I started covering the supports with the wood:
building floating shelves how to
I hope that makes sense! The trim on the right is just the start of what I wrapped around the whole shelf to make it look finished off.

Here they are all done – I taped off the walls with FrogTape so I could get them stained with little mess:
DIY floating shelves DIY floating shelves
So sometimes I recommend you paint before you do a project because I think sometimes it would make the project easier. I NEVER do this and many of you ask why. It’s mostly because of projects like this – they are rarely perfection. So I fudge with stuff, have to recut many times, sometimes make additional trips to the store – and if I had painted the wood I originally wanted to use for this I wouldn’t have been able to return it.

So…sometimes it’s easier to paint/stain before – I just work better doing it all after all is done. That usually ends up being quicker for me.

I used the beautiful Kona (Rustoleum) stain I’ve used elsewhere in the basement – love it!! When that was dry I did a coat of semi gloss polyurethane and called it done. Then I loaded them up with the little Lego sets that have been all over the countertop for months:
DIY display shelf
I’ve been planning these shelves forever now – their purpose is two-fold. Obviously as a place to display all the little Lego sets our boy makes, but to keep them up off the countertop as well. I just want to use the storage space as best we can.

The basement is such a fun space for us and my goal all along has been to make the art down there be very personal to our family. So the Lego sets, although not styled to perfection, are just us. :)
Here you can see how the trim looks and how the bottom piece of particle board hides the supports inside:
DIY display shelf
I just started grabbing the Lego sets and putting them on the shelves – there’s not much hope that this is ever going to look “perfect” but I kind of LOVE it:
DIY floating shelf dark stain
Although the Bub did say later that it’s a “little messy” so he’s going to rearrange it.  (He did NOT get this from me.)

Of course these are all sets he plays with, so he needs help getting them from the top shelf, but he can reach the bottom shelf easily. They are both fairly low because of the bulkhead in that spot.
I had to include a pic of us on a roller coaster in Legoland -- we had it made into a Lego set:
lego storage
It’s hard to see but it makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it. You can’t even see the Bub because he’s ducking down, totally freaking out. My husband has his eyes tightly shut, probably praying for his life. And I’m in the front laughing my butt off – it’s pretty obvious who loves roller coasters in this family.

Now this little spot is dedicated to what the kiddo loves – I’ve mentioned a few times that he’s a Lego freak and we encourage it (within reason). I like that this part of the room really speaks to what he loves:
DIY floating shelves as Lego storage
Like I mentioned, this was my first try at the true floating shelves – and I think they turned out pretty well! Just don’t look too close. :) The bottom one is secured to the wall on one side so it’s super secure. The top one is definitely staying put but I wouldn’t do any pull ups on it. Good thing I can’t do a pull up.

Have you tried this DIY project? Did you do them any differently? Do you have a Lego house that you try to organize too?
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  1. Love the idea - my kids love lego's as well - we were just looking at a big bookcase today to display there collections!

  2. That looks so awesome. I'm going to have to show this to my husband for him to make. You two are kindred spirits...he overkills everything.

  3. This is great! Such an easy way to do floating shelves. Much more manageable that some of the plans I've seen out there.

  4. I love this! I think it's important to have a space for your kids hobbies. I feel like all too often people's houses look showy and you wonder what their kids play with! I love you chose to display his favorite things!

  5. Looks great for a first try Sarah! Love how you organized the legos!

  6. Wow those shelves look awesome! And the space just looks great.

  7. When I was younger, a tradition was for my dad and I to build one of the big Lego sets on Christmas day (usually a knight's castle) and then we put them on display on built-ins in the basement. 20 years later and I STILL remember sitting in the basement staring at all of the completely Lego sets proudly :)
    I'm sure your son will look back on these shelves just as fondly when he's an adult!

  8. They look great. I remember when my younger brother was around his age...the house had Legos everywhere. So not fun to step on in the middle of the night.

  9. I love how you mix the dark wood with the grey and white. It really warms up the space and looks inviting, especially to a Lego lover!

    I've been reading your blog for a while and can't believe the basement transformation.

  10. Love your floating shelves! I might give them a try! But, I've NEVER worked with a saw before. What kind of saw did you use? I only have a really basic saw, no miter saw, etc.

  11. Love your shelves. They look like they will be well used for all kinds of treasures. Love the pic of your family too, nice action shot!

  12. Love your shelves. They look like they will be well used for all kinds of treasures. Love the pic of your family too, nice action shot!

  13. I love it. What a great way to display all his creations. I need to do something like this in my son's room. Those shelves you made are the perfect depth. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. I like what you did here, especially adding the sign & photo.
    Too bad Bub isn't in photo! Haha

    And now you have the song playing in my head. It's
    ok-I like Ed Sheeran. :) Perhaps you relate best to
    this line in song; "I'm gonna pick up the pieces!"

    Lots of rain in PA too. Chrissy

  15. i just bought some LACK (floating) shelves from IKEA for the same purpose!! I wish i had made them as yours look so much better, but I needed something to display the massive legos around here and it was before I read your post. Nice job!!!!!

  16. Love that! We never seem to have enough storage for the bajillions of Lego's my son has. I love the rustic look of the shelves. Great job!

  17. I love them!! They look very rustic. I'll be sure to give you credit when I copy! LOL Thanks for sharing.

  18. Love this! Wish we had a basement so we could do this. Sad to say we don't have children...the Lego addict in the house is my husband! :X

  19. WOW I love the floating shelves and the whole built in cubby look. So fantastic. I love the lego sign and the giant lego box, would you mind sharing where I could find the lego sign and lego box? Happy Fourth of July too. Jen-COM

  20. Oh, boy, do we ever have a LEGO house! Honestly, I wish you could come here and bring the Bubs. He could hang out with my Lee (aka LegoLee329). He would see more LEGO bricks than he's ever dreamed of! We have thousands upon thousands of LEGO bricks in this house. We have several bookshelves and tables that are in use for displaying creations, but nothing as cool as these shelves! You did a great job on them!


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