Build It With Ana: How To Make Floating Shelves

We could not be more thrilled to introduce Ana from who’s swinging by with an amazing build-it-yourself project for everyone to take on at home. For those who don’t already know about Knock-Off Wood, it’s a site full of amazing designer-lookalike furniture plans that will save you hundreds- even thousands- if you’re willing to break a sweat and put in a little elbow grease to whip things up on your own.

And you know we love that Ana proves that woodworking isn’t only about guys in overalls. Ladies can totally make the sawdust fly just as well. So without further ado, let’s get down to business with the first project that Ana is exclusively bringing to all of our lovely readers. And don’t worry, she promises it’s a super easy and affordable undertaking, which is why we thought it would be right up your alley. Let the fun begin…

YHL: Hey Ana, so happy to have you dropping in to share a project with us. What are we building today?

Ana: Youngsters, I want to hack your entire house. Everything. From Burger’s closet to the bean’s crib. If I could, I would write a blog called Young House Love HACKED. So the stalking starts today with my favorite feature in your home, those floating shelves in your dining area.

YHL: Sounds like fun. What level of difficulty would you say this project is?

Ana: Beginner. You, yes YOU, can do this project! No, not the Youngsters, they already have shelves. YOU at home.

YHL: And how much money should someone expect to spend to build all three 72″ long shelves?

Ana: For three 6′ long shelves, it will cost about $50-$60, less if you have some basic supplies like paint, screws, sandpaper and wood filler. In fact, the lumber is only going to run you about $30 (which means you’ll save around $60 as opposed to buying them). Bonus: You’ll have enough leftover scraps to make three 24″ shelves for free!

YHL: And about how long should this project take?

Ana: It will take a couple of hours to construct all three shelves, and then you’ll need to paint ’em. If you start in the morning, you can have these hung by night. I did!

YHL: Nice. What would our shopping list look like?

Ana: Here’s all you’d need to get ‘er done:

  • 1 sheet of 1/4 plywood, sanded on one side or lauan ($15)
  • 10 1×2 pine boards ($1 Each)
  • 1″ brad nails (think the little tack nails that you use to put the back on an IKEA bookcase)
  • 2″ screws
  • 3″ screws (for mounting to the wall, you will only need about 10 of these)
  • wood filler
  • sand paper
  • paint (I used high gloss white)

YHL: And what tools would we need?

Ana: Nothing too complicated. Here’s the list:

  • measuring tape
  • drill with countersink and drill bits
  • saw (or get the hardware store to cut your boards for you)
  • hammer
  • sander
  • paint brushes
  • stud finder
  • level

YHL: Sounds simple enough. What would our cut list look like?

Ana: When you buy your plywood, have Blue or Orange cut it into strips that are 7 3/4″ wide, and 8′ long. I will refer to these as “plywood strips.” By having the store cut your plywood into strips, you can haul it in just about any car and it will be easier to work with to create the exact cut list below when you get home. And you may even be able to get the store to make the exact cuts in the list below, which will save you from any at-home sawing! Here’s that exact cut list for ya:

6 – Plywood strips @ 72″ (tops and bottoms of shelves)
3 – 1×2 @ 72″ (fronts of shelves)
6 – 1×2 @ 69″ (shelf frame)
12 – 1×2 @ 7″ (ends of shelf frame and shelf)
21 – 1×2 @ 5 1/2″ (shelf frame studs)

YHL: Ok, we’re ready. Hit us with your plans.

Ana: Alright. Let’s get down to business.

1.  General Instructions. Work on a clean level surface. Have your plywood cut into 7 3/4″ strips by the hardware store. Then make all of your cuts as directed in the cut list. Always use glue and countersink your screws. Keep outside edges flush unless otherwise directed. Use proper safety precautions and equipment. Click plan to enlarge.

2.  Frame. Set aside the frame, now let’s drill the sleeve. Predrill with a countersink bit pilot holes for your screws in the frame sides. Then use glue and the 2″ screws to fasten the frame supports to the frame sides. Keep edges flush. Click plan to enlarge.

3.  Shelf Trim. Build the trim for the shelf by screwing the trim ends to the trim face. Click plan to enlarge.

4.  Shelf Surfaces. Just like you would add a back to an IKEA bookcase, tack the plywood to the tops and bottoms of the shelf. Keep your outside edges flush. The better job you do, the less sanding later!

5.  Test Fit. Your floating shelves should look like the above photo (except I made two that are 48″ long, and you’ll probably be making three that are 72″). Dryfit your frames with the sleeves to ensure the frame fits into the sleeve. You may need to sand the frame in areas to get a better fit. You do want the sleeve to fit tightly on the frame to keep it in place.

6.  Wood Filler. Fill all holes on the sides and face with wood filler. Fill any and every hole if you want that shiny finish! Overfill your holes and let dry.

7.  Sand. Sand extremely well, making all edges flush and even. If you need to, add more wood filler, let dry and sand again. The better you do at sanding, the shinier & smoother your finish will be.

8.  Painting. Vacuum your shelves with a soft bristled brush. If you are using paint with primer, you can skip the primer. Otherwise, apply a coat of primer first. Let dry, and begin adding coats of high gloss white paint. I used three coats.

9.  Hanging On The Wall. Locate the studs in your wall and mark where your shelf will be placed. If you cannot locate a stud, then you will need to use drywall anchors to hang your shelves. Then fasten with 3″ screws as shown above into the stud or anchor in the wall. Screw in a downward direction, as shown above. This will not just give you room for your drill, but it will also create a hook, or a stronger joint. Use at least 6 screws, in at least 3 different locations or studs. Use a level as shown below to keep things looking straight.

10.  Shelf Sleeve. Slide the shelf sleeve over the frame, as shown below. The sleeve will fit snugly. If it’s too snug, you can sand down the frame a little – just a bit will make a big difference. You want the sleeve to fit tightly, as we will not be screwing the sleeve to the frame.

*And now for the Knock-Off Wood disclaimer: This plan has not been tested for weight or safety. Build at your own risk. Knock-Off Wood (or Young House Love) are in no way responsible for any loss, damages or injury resulting from this post.

Onward to the after picture. Check out Ana’s amazing shelves. We can’t believe that she actually whipped up a pair for herself (she wanted to be sure that the plans that she provided were as accurate and detailed as possible). And we also can’t believe how great they look in her home.

So a big thank you to the amazing Ana for whipping up such a fantastic make-it-yourself shelf tutorial. What do you guys think? Will any of you be creating some sleek floating shelves anytime soon? Do you love as much as we do for the amazing (and free) plans and inspiration that it provides? Let’s shower Ana with praise for stopping in. And of course, we’d love to see photos from anyone and everyone who decides to take these babies on. Happy building to one and all!


  1. says

    So the hardest part about build these sleeves . . . was the hanging! Finding studs, and then, drilling a hole in my pretty walls. You have to do that regardless of if you built or bought. But I find myself staring at them, and the shelves have become my favorite feature in our home.

    When I knock-off designs from IKEA, I find you can save about 50%. But for many of us do not live near an IKEA (that’s me up here in Alaska), already have paint and screws (which is the bulk of the cost), or want a custom color or configuration, DIY makes sense.

    John and Sherry, thanks for having me- and letting me hack your beautiful home. I find myself at your site all the time, and I’m starting to believe that moose antlers and beachy colors could go together! You are causing me to loose my design mind!

    • says

      No thank YOU Ana for all your inspiration and expertise! You truly are a woodworking genius and we love sharing your shelf knowledge with the world! Here’s hoping we can team up again sometime. It’s too much fun not to!


  2. marissa says

    Very fun! I’m excited because I actually knew what a countersink was. I just learned about it this weekend!

  3. says

    I am SOOOOOOO happy to see Ana on here! I read her blog every day and will soon be building a *sweet* kitchen island. What a fantastically awesomewonderful move to have her on here. From what I’ve read, Ana really is an incredible person doing incredible things. :)


  4. Barb says

    Thank you YHL for introducing me to Ana’s blog. I can’t wait to read through and find even more ideas for the new house I’m moving into in just 2 months!

  5. misty says

    I love Knock off Wood! I am going to give the plans for the mini picnic table to my Father in law to make! He is much more handy than I not to mention retired and likes to build things for our son. Ana is the best. Keep up the good work!

  6. says

    About sturdiness, of course this shelf has limitations too, but the longer the shelf, the more studs you can attach to, the sturdier – so go for the full 8′! And also, if you love a chunkier floating shelf, you can use a 1×3 board or a 1×4 board instead of the 1x2s. This will make the shelf even more sturdy. I used this design for my kitchen island with a 1×4, and it holds a granite counter top up!

  7. says

    Another HUGE Knock Off Wood Fan who is ecstatic to see plans for the floating shelves. I love IKEA and own several LACK shelves, but I have long felt hampered by their color palette. With a lot of prep and the right primer, sure the LACK shelves can be painted. I think it would be much easier to do this with a wood surface, than the foils and laminates used for LACK. But when it comes to taking them down and moving them around, I’d put my money on wood and screws over LACKS’s compressed wood composite.

  8. says

    Thanks so much for these plans!! I’ve been looking everywhere for instructions on how to build something like these, but I’ve never found directions on how to build nice long ones like yours (and unfortunately, I live nowhere near an Ikea).

    Ana, you truly are amazing and inspirational to women! Keep up the fantastic work, and maybe tackle that gorgeous West Elm daybed the youngsters have in their sunroom for your next installment of Young House Love HACKED. ;)

  9. jenelle says

    Great plans. You could modify these by added some crown molding around the edges and even some corbels on the bottom for a more Pottery Barn look.

  10. says

    Thanks for hosting Ana! She is one of my favorite bloggers. I might just add YHL to my regular reading list, too. It’s a testament to your talent that I love everything I read here even though you have very different style than me.

  11. cheryl says

    Thank you for featuring Ana on your blog today! I discovered Knock-Off Wood through YHL awhile back, so it’s nice that you’re spotlighting her again so that others who missed her the first time around are introduced to her and her fabulous work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *