There’s no better way to make your house feel like a home than adding personal photos. But, it’s easy to put off the project–not knowing which photos to hang, how to best hang them, or feeling resistance about putting holes in the walls.
The Ledge Shelf
The concept of the ledge shelf has become quite popular, helping add style and personality to homes. The latest one I did was in my niece’s room–it was intended to replace walls of teen decor and nail holes, so that the pieces could be swapped out as she gets older. We did a makeover in this space during our visit–a one week time period. To see more, visit this Instagram link.
Ledge shelves work great for people like me, too, who like to change things up quite often! Frames and art can be easily changed out in the future for new frames, photos and style elements.
Ledge shelves are pretty easy to build. You need basic tools + the width measurement of the space where you’ll be installing it.
*These directions are meant for a six foot long shelf. I have done them as small as 18 inches, and as large as 90 inches–adjust the length according to the space you’d like to fill.
- 1 6′ pine board 1×6
- 1 6′ pine board 1×4
- 1 6′ pine board 1×2
- Mineral Spirits (to clean the wood after sanding)
- Clean, dry rags
- Wood conditioner
- Wood Stain of Choice
- Paint Brush (to apply poly)
- 1.5″ screws to assemble (I chose darker screws to match the stain)
- 2″ screws to drill into studs
- “C” Clamps
- Stud Finder
How to Choose the Best Pine Boards
You’ll want to spend the extra money for better quality boards at the store, unless you can find some in really good condition. Boards that are crooked or warped are just going to frustrate you, with the possibility of the finished product looking less than great. You’re putting in a lot of work–you deserve to start with good quality materials.
The floors at most hardware stores are scored with straight lines. I always lay the boards down along the lines to see if the edges are straight.
Then, I put my foot on one end of the board to see if they are flat. If not, you will see one part of the board lift off the floor when the other side is touching. The idea is to get the straightest, flattest boards you can get.
Prep the Boards
It’s pretty handy to have a palm sander, or some other type of automatic sander, but you can do this by hand if necessary. Sand all edges to smooth. Vacuum up the dust if you have a shop-vac on hand. Use a rag to clean the wood with mineral spirits or isopropyl alcohol. Apply the Wood conditioner, and wipe it off.
Apply the Stain
Choose a stain that will complement the interior of your home. (My favorite stain for many projects has been Aged Barrel by Minwax.) For this project, Charlotte chose “Roanoke” from Varathane, and it’s a beautifully rich brown.
I’ve used a combo of stains–Early American & Weathered Oak, which ended up being a very pretty color, just rustic enough. I will show off the finished looks of other shelves and identify the stains used.
I apply stain with a rag, smearing it on and wiping it “dry” right away. Of course, it’s not really dry, I just wipe it good enough that there’s no chance of drips. How pretty is that color???
Assemble the Shelf
It’s time to put it together! It can be helpful to have another set of hands available if possible, but you can also use “C” clamps. I didn’t have either, so I made the best of it by just holding the boards in place very tightly.
You’ll be putting the screws into the shelf in the most inconspicuous spots, so plan accordingly.
I started the assembly by holding the boards in place and drilling a pilot hole through the boards in the middle spot. Once that screw is in place, I did the other screws on each side, then the ends the same way. This is where having an extra set of hands or clamps would be very helpful.
- The 4″ board will be the bottom.
- The 6″ board will be the “back” of the shelf–the board that is screwed into the studs.
- The 2″ board is the front edge of the shelf.
- The 6″ back will be screwed into the 4″ board from behind–so the screw holes are hidden from sight.
- The 2″ front will be placed on top of the 4″ board and screwed in from the bottom.
- I ended up putting 5 screws into the back and the front pieces, for a total of 10.
Hanging the Shelf
Identify where you will be hanging the shelf, and then locate the studs. The easy part about a ledge shelf is that you won’t see the installation screws because they’ll be covered with art and frames. You can basically screw the shelf right into the studs, have it be incredibly secure and then decorate!
Mark the height of the shelf after holding it up. This step is best done with 2 people so one of you can adjust it while another person stands back to give direction, “Up or down.” Then, use painter’s tape or a pencil to mark where the studs are. Keep a level handy so you can check it during the installation process.
Start by making a hole where the stud is located nearest the middle. While one person holds the shelf in place, the other person drills a pilot hole through the shelf and into the stud. Then you’ll screw the shelf to the wall. With that one screw in place, you can then do the other areas easily–as long as the shelf is level!
Time to Decorate!
I wanted to have it decorated by the time Charlotte got home from school, so I quickly grabbed pieces that we had taken off the walls during our renovation process. The key is to vary the shapes and heights of the items.
Other Ledge Shelves…
Here are a few other shelves I’ve created in our own home.
Our living room shelf is 90″ wide. The black frames are photos of locations…4 out of 5 photos of places we’ve lived or visited. The front row is done with white frames, just family photos. This shelf was built with a 1″x 1″ trim piece as the front edge.
This is the art ledge shelf I made for Broderick’s room makeover, using artwork he did at school. I put this one together a little differently. The front edge is connected to the bottom piece with pocket holes that you can see underneath the shelf–if you were in the position to look. Otherwise, they are pretty much invisible.
And, this last one is for our calendar. I felt like I was constantly taking the calendar off the hook to write on it, so I thought I ledge shelf would work nicely. There’s even a spot for a pen! This shelf was put together with the front edge just glued and fastened with a nail gun. It *probably* needs to be secured a bit more.
Who wants to make their own ledge shelf now? If you do one, let me know, I’d love to see it! You all inspire me as much as I inspire you!