How To Make and Mount Narrow Floating Shelves | The Painted Hive

As mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to capitalise on the modest proportions of Charlotte’s new little bedroom by making use of as much space as possible. This includes taking advantage of the often forgotten area behind the door.

Behind Door Bookshelves Before

One of the first elements I envisaged for her room was a series of simple narrow bookshelves, reminiscent of those from my very own kindergarten, which display the face of the books, rather than the spines, in a semi-haphazard, layered fashion. Given most of the wall space (reachable by a two year old!) will be occupied by furniture, I thought the slim cavity behind her door would be perfect for this. Of course, a quick Google search revealed my idea wasn’t original (damn you Google – computer directed fist shake), though it is still a clever way to use a defunct wall, and whilst floating shelves aren’t exactly unique either, the design and construction of these babies is all mine (well, Google would probably contradict me there too, though I decided that ignorance is bliss!).

This tutorial is based on mounting the shelves to a hollow cavity plaster wall. If you have a solid wall or access to studs, obviously you can omit the use of anchors. These shelves are super thrifty – they cost me less than $15!

How To Make Floating Shelves | The Painted Hive

1 Lengths of timber.
I used Pine DAR (Dressed All Round) – two lengths of 3cm wide x 1.2cm deep x 120cm long (1.2″ wide x 0.5″ deep x 4′ long) which I cut in half to make four pieces, for the shelves themselves, and two lengths of 2cm wide x 1.2cm deep x 120cm long (0.8″ wide x 0.5″ deep x 4′ long) which, again, I cut in half to make four pieces, for the ‘lips’. Of course you can use any timber you like.

2 Stain/paint.
I wanted a natural timber finish so used walnut stain and danish oil. I was tempted to go for neon spray paint which I think would add a pretty cool colour pop.

3 Drywall anchors/plaster plugs/cavity wall fixings.
I used nylon toggle anchors rated to 8kg (that’s plenty of strength for my purposes). Ensure the head of your anchors is smaller in diameter than the depth of your shelf timber otherwise they will be visible.

4 Screws.
I used 8cm (3″) long screws as specified by the anchor manufacturer. Keeping in mind that a large portion of your screw will be inside the shelf, make sure they are long enough to easily penetrate the wall. Ensure the head of your screws is flat and is smaller in diameter than the head of your anchors.

5 Finishing nails.
I used slim 3cm (1″) long nails.

6 Books!

DIY Narrow Floating Bookshelves

STEP 1 Drill pilot holes width-wise through your shelf base.

If necessary, first cut your timber to length and lightly sand all pieces to smooth any roughness. For now, set aside the ‘lip’ lengths. Use a reasonably fine bit to carefully drill small pilot holes width-wise through the shelf base around 10cm (3″) in from each end (refer to pic).

I used two holes for each of my shelves. You may require more holes if your shelves are longer. So, why bother with pilot holes? Well, if you’re super confident you can forgo them, though given the narrowness of the timber creating straight central holes is imperative (so the timber doesn’t split and the screws aren’t visible) though also tricky. Using a smaller drill bit first to create pilot holes to act as a guide is just a little easier. If some of your pilot holes get a little wayward, simply fill them with putty (or similar), move along and try again. I may, or may not, have had one, or more, slightly wayward holes :-)

Behind Door Bookshelves

STEP 2 Drill through your pilot holes with a larger bit.

Using your pilot holes as a guide, drill through with a larger bit to create holes big enough to comfortably accommodate your screws.

DIY Floating Bookshelves

STEP 3 Counter-sink the holes.

Using a larger bit again, carefully drill a shallow depression, deep enough to counter-sink the heads of your screws by around 2mm (.05″) (refer to pic).

Behind Door Floating Shelves

STEP 4 Finish your timber lengths as desired.

At this stage, stain or paint all of your timber lengths. As touched on in the ‘Supplies’ section above, I tinted my timber with walnut stain and sealed it with danish oil. Don’t forget to look super cool when you’re undertaking this step – wearing a highly fashionable pair of ill-fitting pink latex gloves should do the trick.

How to Make Floating Shelves

STEP 5 Insert your anchors into the wall.

Decide where you want to mount your shelf on the wall then measure and mark accordingly (use a cable and stud finder to ensure the wall cavity is clear, and a level and tape measure to ensure everything is straight). To accurately and easily determine where you will need to insert your wall anchors, hold your shelf in position against the wall (ensure it is in the exact location you want it) then push each screw tip into the wall to create small indentations which will act as your guide (refer to pic). Using a drill bit just large enough to make a hole which can accommodate your anchors, drill into the wall through the indentations, then push your anchors in until they sit flush against the plaster (you may need to use a hammer to tap the anchors in). Certain anchors do not require pre-drilling and can be screwed directly into the wall. Refer to the manufacturer instructions for your particular anchors.

How To Make Narrow Floating Bookshelves

STEP 6 Mount your shelf to the wall.

Align the tips of your screws with the wall anchors then screw them in until the shelf sits flush against the wall and the heads of the screws are nestled into the counter-sunk depressions. If, like me, you are using soft pine, the screws will probably recess further upon tightening. This is fine.

Behind Door Storage Bookshelves

STEP 7 Attach the ‘lip’.

Hold your ‘lip’ in position in front of the shelf then create pilot holes for your nails, around 3cm (1″) in from each end and one in the center (obviously avoid where the screws are already located), by drilling through with a very fine bit (note; fine bits can snap easily, so take care – um, no, I’m not speaking from experience here…okay, maybe I am :-) Ensure your drill bit is slightly smaller in diameter than your nails and try not to drill in the entire length of the nail. If the holes are too big and deep the nails wont ‘grab’ the timber. Still holding your lip in position, carefully hammer in your nails. If needed, use a punch to tap the nails so they are slightly recessed. If desired, use a pen, marker or paint to camouflage the nail heads. I used a black marker to mimic small imperfections in the timber grain.

DIY Floating Bookshelves

STEP 8 Done! Adorn your shelves with lovely children’s books and create a library-esque feel in your little kiddie’s room!

Easy DIY Narrow Floating Bookshelves Tutorial | The Painted Hive

Easy DIY Narrow Floating Bookshelves (for behind a door) | The Painted Hive

:: I chose to use nails and no glue so if ever I want to remove the shelves I can simply pry the ‘lip’ off to access the screws.
:: If you are installing shelves behind a door, take note of where the handle sits and allow enough room for its protrusion. And, if you don’t already have one, install a good door stop or catch.
:: I purposefully designed these shelves to be slender, simple and discreet, holding only a portion of Charlotte’s book collection at a time (her other books will live on our bookcase and in baskets beneath her bed – we will rotate them occasionally).
:: The narrowness of the ledge means that some care and restraint is needed when adding books so they are configured in a somewhat balanced manner, otherwise they might have a tendency to topple over (this basically means avoiding stacking them too deeply – they need a slight lean).
:: Of course, there are heaps of variations you could make to this design, both style and function wise, to best suit your needs.
:: Whilst I’ve positioned my shelves behind a door to hold books there is no reason you couldn’t use them in a more prominent position to display photos or artwork.

Floating Bookshelf Behind Door Storage | The Painted Hive

I really love the way these little shelves turned out. I was tempted to install them floor to ceiling though restrained myself because I want the added practicality of coat hooks on the upper portion of the wall (still yet to buy said hooks). Soooo, onto the next project I guess!



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