How to Build Floating Shelves

Before we tore it apart, our hallway bathroom had a fairly good-sized closet. We didn’t necessarily need all that closet space, but we did need a bigger bathroom! Because of that, with our bathroom renovation, we knocked out the closet and reframed a new closet space.

I wanted the new bathroom to be the complete opposite of the dark, cavelike original, so I chose built-in floating shelves rather than a complete closet. They turned out perfect- functional and stylish, able to hold towels, bath supplies, and whatever else we need. Although my original plans were for five shelves, we chose to do four instead so that we had room for a laundry basket underneath.

You could use this tutorial for any size of shelves in between two walls!

You’ll need:

How to build floating shelves:

  1. Decide on the material, number, and height of shelves. We used 4 oak plywood with a 16″ height in between each shelf.
  2. Mark the distance from either floor or ceiling to the top of each shelf and find and mark studs.
  3. Cut 1″x1″ boards to appropriate lengths. We started with the back board and then measured the sides. Measure for every single shelf in case there’s a slight difference in the walls! We used a total of 6 1″x1″s per shelf.

4. Nail 1″x1″ boards with one nail per stud.

5. Add one board to the bottom of each shelf. We used a strip of glue around the top edge of each board as well as nailing the underside of each board.

Don’t worry about any gaps between the shelves and walls- you will take care of that with wood filler and/or caulk.

6. Add the support strips for the top of each board. We used two support strips in the middle of each board and one at the front.

7. Add a strip of glue to the top of each 1″x1″. This step isn’t 100% necessary but ensures a secure seal and extra stability.

8. Lay the other plywood board on top. Press down evenly across the board.


9. Nail the boards down around the edges.

10. Measure, cut, glue, and nail a thin strip of plywood to the front of the shelves. I didn’t get a photo of this exact step, but you can see what the board looks like below. 

11. Fill all nail holes and gaps in edges with wood filler or caulk and let dry.

12. Sand all wood filler and tops of boards.

13. Paint boards, let dry, and decorate!

Our shelves add the perfect amount of storage without taking up too much space- just what we need in this little bathroom of ours!

Author: Laura Sima

Hi, I'm Laura! I have a passion for all things home design, decor, and renovation. My husband Josh and I are DIY renovators, currently working on our 1952 home in St. Paul, MN. I hope that by following along with us, you'll become inspired to find and create the beauty in your home.

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