Hanging Floating Shelves In The Kitchen

Let’s take some shelfies. You know, as opposed to selfies.

If only we had Beyonce around to photobomb them, they’d be the best shelfies ever…

The no-Beyonce consolation prize is that we finally got the floating shelves up in the kitchen, and it suddenly feels like we’re turning a corner. We still have a few major things on the list (like painting those cabinets) but the shelves make such a gigantic difference as opposed to the dark cabinetry that used to hang on either side of that window. Here’s how it looked a few weeks ago after we removed the wallpaper.

And here it is from the same POV now, after removing the cabinets, re-hanging the crown molding, patching/priming/painting the walls, trim, and ceilings, upgrading the lighting, and hanging those new shelves of ours. These pictures don’t even do it justice – it’s literally at least twice as bright and feels a lot bigger and more open as well.

When it comes to how we hung them (they’re lack shelves from Ikea), we decided to line the bottom shelf up with the cabinet on the left of the shot above (18″ above the counter) so that they all related to one another. The pre-made sizes allowed for a couple inches of breathing room around the window too, which we liked anyways. We just spaced the height of the second shelf by eye and chose 14″ above the other shelf, which gave us enough room to load up the bottom shelf without things feeling cramped, but also allows a shorty like me to easily reach items on that top shelf.

As for actually hanging them, we held up the bottom shelf in place and made sure it was level…

… before marking the top corners on each side and drawing a line across the top, like you see below.

These longer shelves come with a metal hanging brace and screw, so when you open things up, this is what you’re dealing with.

The metal brace is actually pretty smart. It has a bunch of holes all along it so you can just find a stud (we used a basic stud finder) and screw into at least two of those along the span of the shelf, so you know it’s extra secure. The instructions show a few recommended screw-to-stud placements.

Next I placed the brace along the horizontal area where we wanted to hang the shelf. I just measured in a few inches on each side from our little pencil corner guides since the metal brace doesn’t run as long as the shelves themselves) and I used one screw into the drywall right in the middle, just to hold the brace in place.

That freed up my hands so I could use the stud finder to find the actual studs, and drive two more nice long screws (provided with the shelves) into the studs on that wall, so it was held up really strongly (John aided me by holding the level to be sure it didn’t tweak up or down on a certain side as I went).

There are these little metal plates that you use when you drive the screw into the stud (they’re sort of like washers, they go under the screw and hold the brace even more firmly than a screw alone could), so those three metal rectangles that you see below are where two went into studs (we also added one more with an anchor for even more holding power).

Then you just slide the shelf onto the brace and tighten the three provided screws that go into the three pre-drilled holes in the shelves. At first I did it by hand, all allen-wrench-style. That was for the birds (took a million years)…

… so I broke out the power drill to drive those in a lot faster.

We repeated that process for the higher shelf, and when it came to the little side shelves, those were really easy. We just used heavy duty anchors driven into the pre-selected spots on the wall that aligned with where we wanted to hang each shelf. As opposed to the longer shelves, which are screwed into place pretty firmly in three places each, these can also be popped on and off easily, which is awesome because we’ll temporarily remove these guys when it’s cabinet painting time.

They’ve been really sturdy so far. The stronger the anchor you use, the more stable your shelves will be – and of course if they’re not placed perfectly level into the wall, they might wobble. So be sure to measure at least twice and break out that level for the best result. I think as the room evolves, the items on each shelf will too (for example, I might hang a small framed photo above that stack of plates on the wall, or place something taller on that bottom shelf for some fun color/height).

But for now they’re super functional – I just filled the bottom ones with the stuff we use all the time, and the top ones with items we just love to see. For example, things I might leave out on the counter to be decorative (like a potted plant or a pitcher-turned-vase) along with other items we use a lot that didn’t quite fit onto those bottom shelves (like more plates and mugs).

Here they are from the other angle. Oh man, it’s so much faster to unload the dishwasher again (we seriously missed that perk of open shelving from our last house) and we love that although they flank the window on each side, they don’t really block any light since they’re shiny and white (they bounce light around a lot themselves) and they’re not dark and solid like the old cabinets were.

Update: These longer shelves should each be able to hold 33 lbs according to Ikea if you go into studs (we went into two of them), and so far ours have been really strong no matter how much china we throw at them put on them. Giant upper cabinets full of dishes are held up the same way (screws into studs) so that definitely helps to ease our mind, along with the fact that we had good luck with  the same type of Lack shelves in the dining area of our first house for 4+ years.

It’s certainly a far cry from the room that we started with around 6 months ago…

… and we’re crazy excited to lighten up those upper cabinets and go even deeper/richer with the lower cabinets. We’ve never had a tuxedo kitchen, but we’ve been such huge fans for a long time (just look at how gorgeous this one is). In fact we’re sanding and priming this week, so we hope to have a whole “new” kitchen for 2014!

Was anyone else doing last minute home projects this weekend in anticipation of the holidays? Do you have any big projects planned this week? We seem to have a tradition of doing something big and house-interrupting right in the middle of the Christmas craziness…

Psst- We’re taking more quizzes on Young House Life. And this one was crazy accurate!


  1. beth says

    Trying to get a guest bathroom finished before, well, the guests arrive! Just picked up the SW “tight spaces” paint brush you recommended – hoping it will help reach that tight space behind the toilet!!

  2. Vanessa says

    I love the way your kitchen is turning out. I cannot wait to see how the cabinets turn out. I love how open and bright this home is. I have loved all of your homes- but this is my favorite. Please do not ever leave it! :)
    This just seems like the perfect home for your family. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

  3. VKS says

    Ok, sorry, I have to call long-term durability card on this. We had one of these lack shelves at our house for awhile, we used it as the “mantle” over the flat screen, and after about a year, I could only put a very few light items up on it because it sagged. One side had a wall anchor and the other side was in a stud. We ended up putting brackets underneath the shelf to support it and make sure it didn’t crash down into the tv.

    Maybe your plates are really light? But I don’t think I could keep a stack of dishes like that on a floating shelf and not expect it to rip out of the wall. What do you expect the lifespan of these shelves to be?

    • says

      Oh no! We had three of these same Ikea shelves (the extra long 72″ ones!) in our first house’s dining area with plates/mugs/large frames for 4+ years and they never sagged! The new owners even used them to hold their TV & components up for the last few years, so they’re still going strong nearly seven years later (we saw them in the real estate listing when they were selling recently). The key is getting into the studs with those long screws to make them super strong (heavy things like giant cabinets full of plates are screwed into studs and don’t rip out of the wall, so that principle is at work when you hit those studs in a few places with the shelves). As for the lifespan, since the ones in our first house are on around 7 years of use, I hope at least for the same with these. Will keep you posted of course!


    • Candice says

      Ikea has gotten even cheaper… Heads up- the strength/ durability/design of the ‘current’ lack shelves are not the same of the ‘old’ lack shelves. Being in studs might gain back some of the ‘old’ quality but in anchors… I helped my sister turn her craft room into a nursery this summer. We bought ‘new’ lack shelves to match her ‘old’ long lack shelves for the room, just hung them above the each other. She noticed when buying them that they didn’t feel quite like she remembered the ‘old’ ones but we didn’t have them on hand to compare.
      We started putting the ‘new’ ones up in the same way as the ‘old’… My sister went anchor overkill and bought 75lb anchors for shelves rated for 33lbs. We put a few knick knacks, mostly empty picture frames that were for future baby pictures, on the ‘new’ shelf, a couple stuffed animals…the ‘new’ lack shelf flipped off the wall, destroying itself and knocking down the lower, ‘old’ shelf in the process. The arms stayed attached to the wall via the anchors.
      My sister, the architect, dismantled the shelves to figure out the problem could be. The short arms inside the shelf did not go all the way through to the front like they did in the ‘old’ shelf design.
      I noticed a similar cost cutting in the desks/tables. I can’t remember the name but it’s the ones were you buy the table top in white for like $5 and the legs are each $3.50 in red/black/white/silver… Anyhow, bought a second desk for my son to match his brother in their shared room, the table top isn’t as thick, the legs aren’t as substantial or as tall, they’re adjustable via a peg you pull out to make it standard table height. Same price though, and I still had to build it. Basically, make sure you always push the plates and stuff back to the wall where the support is in the ‘new’ lack shelf.

    • says

      Oh no! That stinks! So far these have been loaded up with dishes and plates, so it’ll certainly be a durability test! Their site says the weigh limit is 33lbs, and we probably have around 15-20 lbs on each one, so we’ll keep you posted for sure. And thanks for the push-stuff-back tip!


  4. lindsey says

    They look great! I want to do this someday in my kitchen – thank you for the inspiration and tutorial, I love the look of floating shelves :)

  5. Lisa K says

    It looks beautiful! How did you decide to do shelves? I worry that things will get dusty quickly. What is the weight limit on the Ikea shelves that you used?

    • says

      If you use screws into studs, these shelves should be super strong (that’s the same method used for hanging giant cabinets that people fill with tons of dishes/mugs/plates, etc) so we just made sure to go into those studs (anchors alone wouldn’t be as strong). Ikea.com lists the limit as 11-33 lbs depending on how you fasten them (going into two studs = mucho strong) so ours are nice and sturdy while full of dishes. We also had them in our first house’s dining area for years (the extra long ones) and had luck with those, and built open shelves in our last house’s kitchen, so we have found that we love them, but open shelves aren’t for everyone. We try to put stuff out that we use so often it doesn’t have time to get dusty, like everyday plates and cups and bowls along with other things that are out somewhere anyway, like potted plants – which are never in cabinets anyway (more on that here, with an update on how we liked living with them here).


  6. says

    Absolutely gorgeous! The transformation is already incredible! My husband and I spent yesterday working on our own version of the latch board you gave to Clara – we’re making 2 for some little kiddos in our life :) I’m excited to see how they turn out!

  7. Tara Menuchah says

    Rita from Design Megillah (the kitchen you linked to at the bottom) is one of my best friends’ mom! She’s amazing… Love, love, love her kitchen. And yours is looking amazing too. :) Awesome.

  8. Liz says

    Looks great, as always. Question: why did you decide to hang the shelves before painting the cabinets? Are you going to take off the small shelves so you can roll the paint on or will you cut around them?

    • says

      Oh yes, that’s in the post (those short ones pop right off for easy sanding/priming/painting). I just wanted the shelves hung for company that was coming this week!


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