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How to make beautiful shelves for under $25

Sometimes it’s crazy for me to think I’ve already been a homeowner for 7 months and I still have so many things on my “to-do” list for home improvements (I hear that will never end). Many of the things my husband and I have done on our house have been extremely time consuming, so I wanted a project I could knock out in a couple of hours and not take a hard hit to the bank account like most of our other projects have done.

We have a lot of un-used wall space in my kitchen and not as much counter space as I would always like, so I got inspired after a visit to California to see my lovely older sister (who is far craftier than me) to make my own shelves, and it was so easy!

Finished Shelf

Here’s what you need to purchase:

– Wood for the shelf: I purchased a 12x12x2 inch piece of wood at Home Depot and had it cut in 3 ft lengths for me, so I got 4 shelves out of one piece of wood! – $12 for the entire length ($3/shelf)

– Metal Brackets – 2 for each shelf (if you use a wood that’s as heavy as mine, be sure to get a sturdy bracket – mine were from Home Depot) – $8 each 

Supplies you hopefully have on hand (but if you have to buy it will be helpful to own for future projects):

– Drill

– Wall screws (these should be longer and make sure the head of the screw is larger than the hole in your bracket)

– Shelf Screws – make sure they are shorter than thickness of your shelf or they’ll pop through the top

– Level

– Painters / Masking Tape

– Pencil

– Sharpie

– Measuring Tape

– Stud finder* or drywall anchors

*You could ask someone to borrow this, but they aren’t extremely expensive – around $25. It can be helpful if you have other heavier objects you want to hang in the future and want to make sure you are nailing or screwing into a stud – not drywall (or if you ever plan on re-doing your baseboards or door frames you will need one of these).

What you need


When I got home from Home Depot with my cut pieces of soon-to-be-shelves in hand, I had to do a few things before I could get to the steps you’ll see below.

I first sanded the shelf and then stained it. It was very quick in simple – I was done in about 30 minutes and left the stain to dry overnight. (If you’re pregnant and staining, be careful around those fumes!) You could leave the wood as is but it may not have as “finished” as a look or you could also paint it whatever color you’d like.

Now, to building/hanging the shelves!

Step 1: Find the Studs (Skip this step if using drywall anchors)

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– Place a line of painters tape across the wall you plan to hang your shelf on, but make sure the tape is below where you will actually be hanging the shelves.

– Use your stud finder to find the studs in your wall and make a mark with a sharpie on the tape when you find them. They are typically around 16 inches apart.

Step 2: Pre-Algebra (Don’t be intimidated)

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– Measure the distance between your studs. This is the exact distance you will need your brackets to be on your shelf if you plan to drill into studs – if you don’t like where this will make your shelf hang, get drywall anchors and you can hang them anywhere!

– Once you figure out the distance between your brackets (mine was 16 inches), it’s time to do some simple math.

[Length of the shelf (in) – distance between brackets (in)] ÷ 2 = the distance from the edge of the shelf to the bracket

So my math problem looked like: (36 inches – 16 inches) ÷ 2  =  10 inches

Once you figure out your distance, measure from the edge of your shelf in, and make a mark with your pencil. Do this on both ends of the shelf.

Step 3: Drill (Get someone to help you from this point on if you’ve been solo thus far)

Drilling Bracket

– Now that you have your marks on both ends of the bottom of your shelf, grab your first bracket and center it on the mark. Make sure the bracket is flush with the edge of your shelf so it screws nice and flat to your wall.

Have your helper hold your bracket evenly on your shelf as you drill in the screws. Mine shifted a little bit but it wasn’t the end of the world so don’t stress out if it’s not perfect – none of us are pretending to be carpenters over here and you don’t even notice when you’re done. Once you get all of your screws in, repeat for your other bracket and your shelf is ready to hang on the wall!

Step 4: Hang

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– Have your helper hold your shelf on the wall where you want it hung.

**REMINDER: If you are drilling into studs, your brackets will need to be vertically in line with the marks on your masking tape you made in step one. If you didn’t find your studs, now would be the time to put in your drywall anchors.

– While your shelf is being held by your helper on the wall, put your level on the top of the shelf and make the necessary tweaks so the shelf is level.

– Make sure your helper has steady hands and drill your brackets onto the wall!

If you used a stud finder, I hope you found the studs when you drilled – I’ll be honest, I definitely didn’t hit all of mine (I think my math was a little off). Thankfully I hit a few and my shelves are hanging just fine, with quite a bit of weight on them.

Step 5: Decorate and Share

It’s time to utilize and brag about that shelf you made!

Finished 1

Once you get your shelf (or shelves) up, take a photo and be sure to tag it with #thelovelyproject so we can see your beautiful craftsmanship in your lovely home!


~ Janelle