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“Chunky” DIY Floating Kitchen Shelves

2013 September 17
by Becky

**See more kitchen renovation posts hereherehere, and here

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.

Open 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.

And finally,

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.

Frames for DIY Floating Shelves

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.

Supporting DIY Floating Shelves

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.

Plans & Measurements for DIY Floating Shelves @

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.

DIY Floating Shelves

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.

DIY Floating Open Shelving

Tiling Around DIY Floating Open Shelves
Tiling Around DIY Floating Open Shelves
Pretty slick, eh? All John’s idea. It worked like a charm.

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.

Under Cabinet Lighting in DIY Floating Open Shelves

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.

UnderCabinetLightingIkeaHe was easily able to hide all the ugly stuff in the hollow shelf cover (we didn’t plan it, it just worked out!) and BAM, we had some subtle light to highlight a few of my most used cookware.

And that was it! Not so bad, as project go.

Under Cabinet Lighting in DIY Floating Open Shelves

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.

64 Responses
  1. September 17, 2013

    LOVE those shelves! Your kitchen is gorgeous and I love how bright and open everything looks!
    Holly recently posted..Nursery Wall Decor-Alphabet ABC Number Typography-Animal Alphabet Pottery Barn-Baby Boy Nursery Decor-Art Prints for Kids Room-Colorful Art by HollyPopDesignsMy Profile

  2. Cristina permalink
    November 12, 2013

    Hi! I love the shelves. I’m in the D.C. area. Can I have your contractor’s name? How much did it cost him to put the shelf together for you?


    • Becky permalink*
      November 12, 2013

      Hi! So sorry for the confusion but we actually live back in St. Louis now. So it would be quite the commute for our contractor! :) Hope you find someone great!

      • Cristina permalink
        November 17, 2013

        Thanks Becky. I know the prices between DC and St. Louis are widely different but can you let me know (maybe in a private email if you prefer) what the labor costs were for putting the shelves up? Trying to see if we should attempt it ourselves or find someone to do it. Thanks!

        • Becky permalink*
          November 19, 2013

          Well, our contractor charges $25/hr, and building/priming/hanging the shelves took him at the most 12 hours. That price did not include materials. Hope this helps! (Sorry I don’t have exact numbers, he did several projects at the same time so the breakdown is fuzzy.) We just aren’t “wood workers” and opted to skip the failed first attempt and go straight for the perfect finished product faster. :)

          • Cristina permalink
            November 26, 2013

            Thank you for being so helpful!

  3. November 24, 2013

    I am totally satisfy to see your creativity and this is a Brilliant and authentic design as well as information and I think this will really help people like me who don’t have enough experience on decoration. Can you provide me your Facebook page URL or Pintrest ? I want to share with my followers. Thanks for all your information.

  4. Tom Ward permalink
    January 27, 2014

    These look great and I hope to copy them in my new kitchen (…the highest form of flattery…) I have a question about the braces you used, though. I went to my local Home Depot and found 10″ braces, but they looked thinner than yours and had some flex to them–I’d never use those. Are your braces totally rigid? And where did you find them?

    • Becky permalink*
      January 27, 2014

      Thanks Tom! You know, I’m not really sure where our braces are from, our contractor just showed up with them—he didn’t mention going anywhere special to get them. I’ll check with him and post back. But no, there was NO give to the ones we used. They could hold up a car!

  5. February 9, 2014

    I’m obsessed sight the idea of floating shelves above our new kitchen peninsula. I was thinking Ikea since we won’t be using them for heavy stuff, but now that I’m looking at your post I’m thinking we may want to go super strong. Gotta think of renters down the road. Who knows, they may have a baby elephant to store up there.
    Felicity @ Our Little Beehive recently posted..A New FacadeMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      February 9, 2014

      Do it! You never do know what people will put on shelves. I wasn’t even a little comfortable with store bought ones, especially with three sets of 12 plates sitting on top of them. You don’t want to limit yourself or renters! Good luck!

  6. Stacey permalink
    March 17, 2014

    Thanks for posting! I am about to install tile and shelves and this definitely helps me plan my kitchen. I have a quick question about the lighting you chose. Did you adapt the Dioder set and hardwire it? Were there any issues with that? Thank you!

    • Becky permalink*
      March 18, 2014

      Hi Stacey! My husband did adapt the Dioder set to be hardwired to an exiting switch. We’re lucky to have about 1 million light switches in our house (WAAAAY too many) so it was an easy (for him—he’s an electrical engineer) fix. No issues. Good luck!

  7. Leila Waddell permalink
    June 17, 2014


    I have a quick question for you. Did you caulk the back of the shelves? does it look like has a gap where teh wood meets the wall?

    • Becky permalink*
      June 17, 2014

      Hi! We did not caulk the back of the shelves and there is no visible (or at least no bothersome) gap. Hope this helps!

      • Leila Waddell permalink
        June 18, 2014


  8. Russell permalink
    July 24, 2014

    Hi Becky

    I found your site while looking for ideas on study shelves and decided to have a go and was really happy with the result, thanks for the inspiration.

    • Becky permalink*
      July 24, 2014

      Fantastic!! So glad to hear it.

  9. August 6, 2014

    I’m really excited that I found your site because this is exactly what I want to do in one area of our kitchen. I do have one question though… the “sleeve” part of the shelf… does it just slide on? Or is it also secured somehow, like screwed in some place? I tried reading carefully but maybe I missed something. Thanks and I’m loving your other projects on the site, like the play kitchen too.
    Cat @ MaryMarthaMama recently posted..The Mini-Beach TripMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      August 6, 2014

      Hi Cat! I’m so excited these plans will be a great solution for your kitchen! We LOVE our open shelving. The shelf does just slide on. It’s nice and heavy and a very snug fit so there was no additional reinforcement needed. You could totally screw the shelves into the frames, but if not necessary I figured why make more holes to patch, sand, and paint?? :) Good luck!

  10. Anita Dickens permalink
    April 8, 2015

    Love these shelves. My husband and I bought an older home in SW Missouri, and am re-building our kitchen (no gutting since we want to keep the integrity of the home) and love these shelves. We will be putting one cabinet in the corner of the kitchen and these shelves are what I’ve been looking for. Love shelves, excess cabinets are out for me. Thanks for sharing your idea.

    • Becky permalink*
      April 9, 2015

      Thank you for your comment! We’ve been so happy with the shelves, they are really perfect for the way we use our kitchen. Good luck!

  11. July 26, 2015

    finally! I’ve been scouring the earth for plans like these. I’m getting ready to do these kind of floating shelves and I’ll be going around two corners. Will be using a modified version of these plans but we’re going to include the white subway tile which we love.

    • Becky permalink*
      July 26, 2015

      Awesome!!! Good luck with your project!

  12. Katy permalink
    August 2, 2015

    Did you ever find out where those brackets Came from? I can’t find them anywhere! Thanks!

    • Becky permalink*
      August 2, 2015

      Hi Katy! I asked my contractor again and he said they were 8″ brackets from Lowes.Hope you find them! I bet there’d be something online?

  13. Ann Brady permalink
    November 11, 2015

    Absolutely LOVE the blueprints and descriptions for the floating shelves. These, too, are in my near future, but as of yet had been unable to find how to do it. We we to the point where we were going to go with pipe supports and a solid board. Now, could you please elaborate/diagram the led under cabinet lighting? BTW my remodel is in Missouri, as well. Although we have found the LED lighting strips at pretty much every big box home improvement store. Thank you again!

  14. Rhema permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Hey! Love the shelves! Question about the lights. Were those IKEA LED lights made to hook directly to the wire coming out of the wall? Did you need to use a transistor or anything to step down the electrical current? Can you elaborate on that part of the install? Thank you!

    • Becky permalink*
      November 27, 2015

      Hi! Yes our lights are the LEDs from Ikea and yes there is a transformer, the box is hidden in the hollow part of the shelf. My husband did it, he said it was pretty easy. Hope this helps!

  15. J.Flu permalink
    December 10, 2015

    I love the approach to these shelves. I ended up here because I want to create some nicely finished floating storage shelves in the garage. Obviously the concern there is holding a lot of weight! This approach just makes sense for that and I like that putting the bracket into the drywall gives all the extra structural integrity without sacrificing the look of a floating shelf!

    Nice post!

  16. jeannette permalink
    December 15, 2015

    This is a beautiful design! Do you know what tool your contractor used to get rid of some of the drywall? We are trying to build shelves in a similar way, but are making a bit of a mess of the drywall removal for the shelf brackets. :-)

    • Becky permalink*
      December 15, 2015

      Thank you! Our contractor used a dremmel with a saw attachment. It’s a pretty nifty little tool, he used it to cut out the old tile back splash too, instead of trying to break the tile off the drywall. I never would have thought of it!! Which is why I’m not a contractor :) Good luck!

  17. Brian Smith permalink
    January 11, 2016

    I love the design of these shelves. Thanks for the great ideas.

    The hardware can be bought at either Orange or Blue. Look in the hardware isle, next to where you can buy large gate latches. They may even have it zinc plated or galvanized (in this case, either option will work, but galvanized is more expensive). I found only 2 at Orange, but there were plenty at Blue.

  18. Kamille permalink
    February 10, 2016

    How tall are your ceilings? I’m installing open shelving in my kitchen renovation and am torn between two or three shelves because our shelves are 2×12’s and the look pretty chunky

    • Becky permalink*
      February 10, 2016

      Hi! Our ceilings are about 10 feet tall. Good luck!

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  22. Daniel Thole permalink
    January 3, 2017

    Hello, I love these shelves. Quick question: what are those shelving brackets called? Thanks!

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