How to build floating shelves

How to build Floating Shelves

How to build floating shelves

I wanted to build chunky shelves in the closet because I wanted my closet to be pretty.  That’s just how I roll.  Building small decorative floating shelves is generally an easy task.  You build the shelf, install a cleat and hang the shelf.  Done.  Not these floating shelves.  Of course not  :-D

These floating shelves are in a small closet, half are U-shaped — hanging on three adjoining walls and they are fairly deep so they have to be well supported.  They had to be built and installed piece by piece.

Materials used:

  • 2×2 lumber
  • 1/2″ plywood (top of shelf)
  • 1/4″ plywood (underside of shelf)
  • 1/4″ beadboard for walls
  • 1×3 poplar (for shelf face)

* I ripped my own 2×2 out of 2×4 and 2×6 lumber because I couldn’t find 2×2′s that were straight enough for my liking.  If you don’t have a good table saw spend a lot of time picking out the straightest 2×2′s you can find.  You’ll be glad you did.


How to:

1.  Mark your studs on the wall

2.  Attach 2×2 cleats to the studs on the wall

-I marked my studs on all walls and used 3″ wood screws to secure the 2×2 to the walls.  I spaced my shelves about 16-18″ apart.

How to build Floating Shelves

Next, I determined the depth of my shelves.  The bottom two are deeper at 14″ and the rest are 12″ deep.  I also left a space at the bottom on the left side where I could store my vacuum and cleaning supplies that are tall so the bottom shelves are only L-shaped, not U-shaped like the top three shelves.

3.  Build shelf skeleton with more 2×2′s

I used more 2×2′s to create the “skeleton” of the shelves.  I used 2 1/2″ wood screws, driven in at angles to secure them to the initial 2×2 cleats.  I filled in the shelf skeleton with 2×2 support braces about every 18″.

How to build Floating Shelves

I covered the walls with beadboard and it’s easier to paint the beadboard before it’s installed — If you aren’t adding beadboard skip ahead.  :-)

How to build Floating Shelves

I then cut my beadboard into strips to piece in between the 2×2 cleats.

*It would have been 100 times easier to cover the entire closet with beadboard BEFORE I started installing the shelves but I had a bunch of scraps cluttering up my workshop so I decided to make my life difficult and use them up to save some money.  (And to be honest I didn’t think it would be quite as big of a pain as it ended up being piecing it together.)  I would not do it that way again.

4.  Cover 2×2 skeleton with plywood and hardwood

- Next I cut 1/2″ plywood to size and nailed it on top of my braces.  Each U-shaped shelf uses 3 pieces of plywood.  I made the seems as tight as possible and added glue to the seem to keep it secure long-term.

How to build Floating Shelves

 I used 1/4″ plywood on the bottom and nailed it to the 2×2′s.  I fit the seams as well as possible but didn’t stress too much about making it perfect.  Wood putty and caulk are my best friends with a painted project.

I framed the front edge of the shelves with 1×3 poplar.  Filled all the nail holes and sanded.

How to build Floating Shelves

Then used lots and lots of caulk!

How to build Floating Shelves

I added a 4″ wide strip of poplar on the left side to add pegs in case I need to hang anything.

Hall closet with floating shelves

Once everything is painted and caulked, it looks awesome and was worth every minute of the week and a half it took me to knock it out.

How to build Floating Shelves

That’s all there is too installing U-shaped floating shelves.  Easy as pie!  NOT   But definitely worth it!

See  Hall Closet Reveal pictures here!


  1. Patrice Angiuli says:

    You make it look so easy! Beautifully done.

  2. Kim Lewis says:

    This is so awesome! Thank you for sharing your journey! It’s so inspiring and motivational!

  3. Love it! What are the dimensions of your closet? I’ve been considering something like this. Love your site and projects!!! Thanks!

  4. Cynthia@OrnamentalStyle says:

    I swear this is the most beautiful closet I’ve ever seen. I’m in the middle of a closet renovation myself but it’s not going to be nearly as beautiful. It will be functional though! It’s a small bedroom closet (used as my studio) so I took down the crappy, sticky wire shelves used for hanging clothes and am installing 1/2″ plywood shelves (stained walnut) in an L-shape (not enough room for a U-shape as the door opens into that third wall). 18″ shelves x 48″ along the back wall and 12″ shelves x 36″ along the side wall, supported by brackets fastened to the studs. Seven boards high! I hope it works! Boards are cut and stained, closet is emptied and holes patched. Today is painting the closet and hopefully tomorrow the shelves will go up. I’m inspired by your pegboard because I will have room for one. Sorry but I’m rambling! Some days are like that.

  5. kim massa says:

    thanks for the explanation/demonstration, this is staying in a file for late use :)

  6. Yep, I am going to do these in some part of my house! Thanks for the tutorial! :)

    Serena @ Thrift Diving

  7. Suzanne B says:

    Thank you. I had been looking to do some floating shelves in my bathroom but I was not crazy about some of the ways I was finding instructions on them.

  8. What a great tutorial…..thank you so much. Your work is fabulous and inspiring. I am definitely going to put these in my pantry.

  9. I love them Sandra! Like Kristin said, you never do anything half-ass! hahahahahah

  10. Michelle says:

    Question…are you using the shelves for towels at all? I’m wondering if I could do this for my closet that holds everything including our bath towels etc. Looks so great, I’m very inspired

  11. Hi Sandra,

    I just have to tell you how happy I am to have found your site! Your tutorials are well-written, funny, and to-the-point. These shelves look beautiful! Have a great day!

    Val @

  12. Beautiful! I wish I had a utility closet like this.

  13. Thank you for my morning fix of Sawdust (Girl)! I was actually lying in bed last night, thinking about your shelves and wondering why you didn’t put the beadboard up first! ;). What a way to save $20!

  14. Too funny! Thanks for the show-how. They are beauties and besides Sandra–you never do anything half-ass!

Speak Your Mind