“Chunky” DIY Floating Kitchen Shelves
This post has been on the back burner because I needed time to think about how it all came together. But this is very satisfying to post because about 100 people have asked questions about and begged for the details of how exactly we made and installed our floating shelves.
Before I delve into the construction details, I’ll answer the top questions.
1. “Do you like having open shelving?”
Yes. We LOVE it. It works for us because we have so many bottom cabinets, as well as a few other top cabinets, to store all the stuff we don’t wan to show off…which is most of our kitchen stuff. I mean, I love my food processor, but it does not need to be on display. However, we do have a few pretty items we’ve never been able to showcase before—the pasta bowl we bought in Italy, a cool antique locker box, a hand painted plate from my mom—so this finally gives us the opportunity.
2. “Do you feel like you have room to store all your ugly stuff?”
Yes. Totally. See Question #1.
3. “Is everything dusty all the time? Does it all need to be washed before using?”
No. Well, not really. That first shelf holds our every day stuff. Dinner plates, small glass plates, cereal/soup bowls, pasta bowls, and the trifle dish we use for fruit. We rarely have to pre-wash this stuff because it gets used every day. That wooden salad bowl and blue ceramic bowl, also well within reach, are two other constantly-used items. Everything else is either for show (the locker box) or used less frequently so we don’t mind a) climbing a stool to get them and b) giving them a good wipe-out before using.
4. “Are you happy the cabinets are gone?”
Oh yeah. We hated those things. The whole kitchen felt twice as big as soon as the cabinets were down. The open shelving adds visual interest and an open, airy feel to the space. Best (and cheapest) change we’ve made to the house so far. Couldn’t love it more.
OK, so now for the actual shelf construction.
I had to ask our contractor, John, for help with the materials list because, while they were my vision, they were his handy-work. Stu and I didn’t even attempt to build them on our own. John is a perfectionist and we knew he’d make this plan work…perfectly.
Before deciding to go custom, I shopped around online for pre-made “floating shelves”. I found a few options, but they were really expensive and none looked very sturdy. So I printed off Ana White’s Floating Shelf pattern for John, asking him to “beef them up”. The original design looks like it could barely hold a feather, much less our stack of 12 dinner plates. In addition, I wanted them to be…more substantial. “Chunky” was the term we kept using.
As usual, this was no sweat for John. To build the frames he used 2 x 2’s and secured them with 10 x 1 1/4″ angle brackets. During assembly, John made sure to position the center supports to match the wall studs in front of which the frame would hang. Once assembled, he removed some dry wall and attached the brackets directly to the studs.
We could store baby elephants on these shelfs, they wouldn’t budge.
Since I knew what needed to be stored on that first shelf (our every day items), we used the measurements to equally distance the three shelves (not including the first shelf of course—it needed more space above the counter top). Then we sealed up the dry wall. Another help with support was butting the shelves right up to the corner, putting another screw in another stud.
See that electrical wire hanging out? That had been used for atrocious under-cabinet lighting pre-renovation so we made sure to raise it for later use.
For the actual shelves—I like to think of them as “sleeves”—John used 3/4” sanded plywood for the tops and bottoms of each shelf, then 1 x 6 clear pine ripped down to desired thickness for the fronts and one side (the other side is against the wall, so was left open). The primed sleeves spent a few days on the screened in porch while I tiled around the frames, they were pretty heavy and very solid.
I’ve made an attempt to lay out the measurements involving our floating shelf project. These are to scale and give a good idea of how our plans differed from Ana’s.
Make sense? Hey, props to Ana…explaining how things go together is tough stuff. She is a total rock star. I have to measure anything I cut about 10 times so I’m impressed by anyone who can put together even the most basic of furniture.
Oh, and I’m pretty frightened by power tools…except a tile saw, that I have mastered. (Wa ah ah ah ah—a sinister laugh seemed to work here…no?)
By the time the shelves were secured and the dry wall set, I had made my way around to what I called “The Big Wall” of tile. Read more about my tiling here…I’m still pretty darn proud. Our plan was to tile close to the shelf frames, but not have to make it perfect. In other words, I had wiggle room because the shelves would slide on and hide about 1/4″ of whatever I had going on tile-wise.
For the most part, I was able to measure one tile to just below the frame, count how many I needed for that row, then head out to the saw and make all my cuts at one time. It’s not like this saved me hours of time, but I appreciated a few saved trips.
Above the shelf frames was a different story. Since we were using regular adhesive and not quick set, there was some dry time involved which could lead to “slipping” if there weren’t tiles below for support. So when I did the tiles above the frames, I used little plastic spacer-wedgy-ma-bobs (technical term) to support the tiles and keep them in place while drying. I also constantly pulled out my trusty level to ensure no slippage had occurred.
Again, John’s idea, worked perfectly.
Remember that electrical cord?
Stu had the foresight to pick up some LED under counter lighting during our final mad-dash IKEA shopping trip (before moving back to the Ikea-less Midwest state of Missouri) and found it to be the perfect compliment to our floating shelves.
And that was it! Not so bad, as project go.
Would doing everything ourselves have been cheaper? Actually, I’m going to say no, because just the cost of gas alone for us to drive back and forth to the hardware store for missing/wrong/replacement equipment/hardware made having a pro do it a wash
And I can be 100% they will never come crashing down in the middle of the night. Peace of mind is worth every penny.
Do you have floating shelves? Do you love them? Did you do them yourself? Please share a link or story. I LOVE hearing from you. And if you want to see my inspirations for our kitchen renovation, follow me on Pinterest!
Visit Preparing for Peanuts’s profile on Pinterest.