Rustic Modern DIY Floating Shelves: Part One

Add character to any wall for about $50 with this tutorial for rustic modern DIY floating shelves!

Here's a problem you may be able to relate to… I live in a tract home in the suburbs and have a lot of big walls and not a lot of definition when it comes to defining one room from another.

And although I love the open concept, it's a challenge to add character and interest into a space. But I think I nailed this one and I am super excited to show you these rustic modern DIY floating shelves that we built!

I have to admit, I was a little hesitant at the beginning of this project, but absolutely love how they turned out.

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These floating shelves solved 2 main problems for me.

One, they provided definition for my living room (which is actually just part of a giant room right when you walk into my home that includes the entry, dining room, and living room).

And two, they provided a place for me to display some pretty things. I don't have a lot of opportunities to do this in my house and think it adds so much personality and warmth.

This post turned out to be really long so I broke it up into 2 parts.

This post shows you how we built the shelves, and this post shows you how we installed them.

Ok... Onward!

Supplies For DIY Floating Shelves

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The supplies are for one shelf 43 inches long, 10 inches deep, and 3 inches tall. I made 5 shelves.

You can order all of your supplies on and they will gather it all up for you and all you do is pick it up! No more wandering around the store lost! Yipeeee!

How to Build Floating Shelves

Step 1: Cut your wood

Again, I made five 43 x 10 inch shelves. Adjust the measurements and amounts according to how many shelves you make and the size.

  • Cut ten, 43 inch long pieces of 1 x 3 wood.
  • Cut ten, 8 inch long pieces of 1 x 3 wood.
  • Cut fifteen, 8 inch long pieces of 1 x 2 wood.

Step 2: Create a template

Before drilling I made a template so that I made sure I was drilling into the center of my boards. They're quite thin, and you don't want them to split. To do this I took an outline of how wide my boards were and marked 2 holes in the center.

I poked holes in the paper where these marks were and used it at the end of my 43 inch boards to mark where I would drill.

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Step 3: Pre drill holes for the backs and start a wood screw in each hole

Be sure that the screws you use have a flat head on them because they will be up against the wall and you don't want them to interfere with the board being flat against the wall when you install the shelves.

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Step 4: Attach side pieces (your eight inch 1 x 3s)

Lay your 43 inch board (the one you just started the screws in) and an eight inch 1 x3 on their sides at  90° and check to make sure they're square.

Attach the two pieces by screwing in the screw you just started so that it goes into the end of the 8 inch piece.

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Step 5:  Attach your front boards

Lay your front board (43 inch board) in place and pre drill a hole through both your front board and the side piece. The size of your pre drilled hole will depend on the size of the hex bolt you are using.

Then, insert the hex bolt with a washer to hold the two pieces together.

Now you have the frames of your shelves!

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Step 6: (Optional) Stain your shelves

Step 7: Cut the tops for the shelves

Take a measurement of the inside rectangle  of your shelf frames and cut a piece of underlayment just a hair smaller so that the underlayment fits just inside of the frame.

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This wood is super thin and will splinter. See this quick tip to make sure the wood doesn't splinter.

If your tops are slightly too tight, use a sander to shave them down a little bit.

Step 8:  Put the tops on

Take your shelf top (underlayment) and lay it on a flat surface and put your frame over it, making sure that the underlayment fits just inside the shelf frame on all sides.

Lay 3 pieces of your 1 x 2's on top of the underlayment and from the outside of the frame nail in place with a finish nail on both sides.

Flip the shelf over (holding the top in place) and you're done!

(I did not stain the tops of my shelves because I really liked the two-tone look.)

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Once they're built it's time to install the floating shelves!

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