I’ve been wanting to decorate the end of my hallway for some time now. I’ve also been wanting a place to display favorite family photos, so I decided I wanted to build picture ledges to go across the back wall of the hall. The problem we faced is that we only had 3.5 inches to work with because the door on the left side of the hall is really close to the back wall. This meant that we couldn’t build traditional picture ledges that have a piece of wood on the back and the front. It would eat up too much of our space and then the shelf wouldn’t be deep enough to hold picture frames. So after mulling the problem over, we came up with another way to build floating picture shelves that eliminated the need for the back piece and freed up just enough room to make the shelves work in our narrow space.

How do you make floating shelves?

 It’s actually a pretty simple project and the wood will only cost you about $20, so if you already have the screws and wood stain, it’s a very cheap DIY project! To make your own floating shelves, you will need: Supply List(some affiliate links used)

Step 1: Measure the width of your hallway and cut the 2×3’s down to fit. Most hallways are about 3 feet wide, so you should be able to get two shelves out of one 8 foot 2×3 board. Cut the 1/2×3″ poplar boards to the width of the hallway as well. Measure where each shelf will go to be sure the boards fit snuggly even if your walls aren’t perfectly straight.

Step 2: Sand the wood, focusing on the 1/2×3″ piece, since it’s what you’ll see most of.

Step 3: Use wood conditioner to ensure the stain goes on evenly. Just follow the directions on the can. Stain the 3″ sides of the 2×3 boards and the entire 1/2×3 boards using the stain color of your choice. I used Weathered Oak first, then did a very light coat of Briarsmoke on top of that. I chose not seal my wood with polyurethane since it’s just decorative and doesn’t need the extra protection, but you definitely could if you wanted to.

Step 4: Find the stud location in the wall using a studfinder and mark the location on the 2×3’s.

DIY floating shelves

Step 5: Using a drill fitted with a countersink bit, drill holes through the narrow side of the board, aligning the holes with the markings you made for the studs. Step 6: Place the 2×3 board against the wall and use a level to make sure it’s correctly positioned. Insert the screws into the countersunk holes and attach the shelves to the wall. 

floating shelves DIY

Step 7: Face nail the front lip (1/2×3 board) in place using a finish nailer. The bottom of the board should sit flush with the bottom of the 2×3, forming an L-shape. Optional: use wood putty to fill in the nail holes. I skipped this step because the nails we used are so small I can’t even see them! 

how to build floating shelves

 Here’s a close-up of the finished shelf: 

how to make floating shelves

 The overall shelf with lip measures 3 inches deep, which gives you 2.5 inches of usable shelf space, which is just enough to be able to layer two picture frames next to each other.

picture ledge

 To decorate my shelves, I gathered up a variety of photo frames that I already had laying around and painted them all in coordinating white, blue and wood tones. I think the trick to styling shelves like this is to vary the height and shape of the frames, but keep a cohesive color scheme to make it look pulled together.

picture ledge shelf

 I’m so thrilled with how much bang we got for our buck with this project. Suddenly the hallway is one of my favorite places in the house! I smile every time I walk by these pretty photo ledges and see our treasured family photos.

wood floating shelves

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