Throwback to DIY Faux Floating Shelves

(Originally written in 2018 while living at our first home.)

As you know, G and I recently moved into our first home and are currently in the process of getting the house together. We are slowly going room to room. We have already demolished a wall between the dining room and living room to provide the house with an open concept floor plan, switched the old electrical fuse panel to a modern breaker box, and had the main cast iron water line replaced to PVC piping. This is all on top of painting our main rooms and doing some major cleaning as well.

The living room is our main focus now. Before we even moved in, I had stripped the room of wallpaper, painted the walls a simple gray, and pulled all the old trim work from the windows and baseboards. G and my dad finished flooring the living room last weekend, and so now comes the decorating and finishing touches — my favorite part! So to the delight of my inner interior decorater, I decided to hang some “floating” shelves in the living room. These shelves are do-it-yourself, and appear to be floating but are actually faux floating. They are the perfect inexpensive addition to our social space!

I looked at alternative options for quite a bit of time before decided to DIY. I considered ladder shelves, bookcases, and actual floating shelves for this space. All were incredibly more expensive than I was hoping to spend — over $200 for any quality products. Instead, I set my mind to creating my own shelves for the decorative space. Here is how I made my Faux Floating Shelves:


  1. 2 x 10 pieces of wood pre-cut to 3 feet in length — I bought 4 pieces but only used 3 after seeing them on the wall hung. (Helpful tip: hardware stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot will cut longer pieces for you at no charge.)
  2. 4″ corner (sometimes called L) brackets — I used 2 braces per shelf.
  3. #12 x 2 1/4 inch wood screws (flat Phillips head) — I used 2 screws per brace.
  4. #12 x 3/4 inch wood screws (flat Phillips head) — I used 2 screws per brace.
  5. Wood stain, stir stick, paint brush/foam brush, work rags — I used Minwax PolyShade in Espresso Satin as my wood stain.
  6. Sanding tool and sand paper — I used both 120 and 220 coarse sand paper.

To hang the shelves you may want:

  • Level
  • Stud-finder
  • Pencil (to mark where screws will be places in the walls)
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Power drill (with bits to drill into wall and studs, screw braces in place, and pilot holes in wood)
  • Second person for longer shelves

Prepping Your Wood Shelves

Step 1: Sand the wood
Sanding your shelves is important as it not only smooths the surface of the wood, but also reduces streaking of the wood stain. I bought pre-cut wood pieces that have a bullnose to them, but they still needed quite a bit of sanding. Be sure to sand the flat surfaces as well as all the corners and edges. Wipe the dust away with a cloth while also feeling if the cloth snags anywhere. When sanded correctly and completely, your wood pieces should be smooth to the touch with no slivers sticking to your hands and/or a clean cloth.

Step 2: Stain the wood
I had never stained wood prior to this project, so I was excited to practice something new. Your wood stain should come with directions on the can, so I urge you to begin here. Be sure to stir your stain from the bottom up! Stroke the stain with the grain of the wood evenly and cover the top surface and all edges.

I waited about 10-12 minutes per piece and then took old rags and wiped the stain away. The color I chose, espresso, was dark after one coat and I felt that was sufficient to match my living room furniture. If you would like a darker color after your first coat of stain, simply repeat this step until you get the color for which you are looking.

Step 3: Allow resting dry time
I stained my wood pieces in the basement, though I have heard of some people staining outside due to the strong smell. We’re having an overly rainy autumn here in Michigan, so this option was out for me. I set up two saw horses and placed two boards on them at a time to stain. Once I had the top surfaces and edges stained and wiped, I allowed two hours of dry time before flipping them and staining the bottom. I probably should have been more patient with this step because two of the boards did have small indents on the first sides from the saw horses because they were still a bit wet. However, I allowed the second side to dry almost 24 hours before handling them again which seemed to be a good enough amount of time.

Another option you may choose to do is seal your wood pieces. I bought wood stain which supposedly has seal in it, but I also so not plan to handle my shelves too much once they are hung other than changing seasonal decorations. Sealing is completely up to you, and if you choose to add this step, I would love to hear your results — does it change the color at all? Do you see a difference between sealed wood and unsealed wood with past projects? As a first-timer, I’m curious.

Hanging Your Faux Floating Shelves

Step 1: Determine placement of first shelf
I recruited a cute helper for hanging my faux floating shelves. G and I measured how far from the floor we needed the first shelf to be hung. As I wanted to have enough space for a basket or two of blanket beneath the shelving unit, we settled for two feet from the ground. Using a stud finder, G located the 16 inch difference we would need to place our shelf’s two brackets. Luckily for us, we were setting our shelves directly to the corner of the room, and the brackets were almost dead-center to the shelves. I bought pine laminate boards which were already heavy enough on their own, so it was imperative we anchor the wall screws into a stud to handle as much weight as possible.

Step 2: Hang first shelf
Once we anchored one bracket into the wall, we leveled and placed the second bracket as well. After the brackets were secured into the wall, we placed the board on top of them. I chose to level again just to confirm our prior measurements. Except for the board being a bit bowed in the front-left corner, the shelf remained level. G had me put weight onto the board as he screwed the 3/4″ wood screws into the bottom brackets to hold the shelf. It is important to note we primed these holes first in order for the wood not to split. I then took a dry cloth to the top surface and wiped all drywall dust away and — voila! We had our first faux floating shelf.

Step 3: Coordinate your other shelves
Having our first shelf complete meant we had a solid foundation to hang our other shelves. After arranging the second shelf around, I settled on a distance of 18″ between the shelves. G marked this distance and we set out to hang our second and third shelves in the same fashion as our first. When I had a look at three shelves, however, I decided not to hang my fourth. There was a perfect space above the shelves where I could envision placing either a clock or a seasonal wreath, so G and I put our tools aside and stepped back to enjoy our handiwork.

Which leads me to our final step…

Step 4: Decorate!
Always my favorite, decorating the shelves has been fun with our seasonal treats. I absolutely love Fall, textures, and neutrals with little pops of color, so having the shelves ready in time for October was perfect!

As you can see, I’m continuing to play with how I want the shelves decorated. Our living room has also gained more and more furniture over the past few weeks, including a beautiful area rug and (eek! my favorite!) a beautiful espresso-colored faux fireplace TV console.

Interested in a few of my decor pieces you see?

  • Frames around pictures: all bought at Michaels
  • Framed quote: handmade by my amazing friend Toto ❤
  • Mini felt board: wedding gift from Panda bought here
  • “S” Pumpkin, galvanized “S”, and hanging “S”: all gifted from Kohls
  • Fall floral: top shelf are stems bought at Michaels I put together into an old vase I had sitting around and some brown coffee filters, middle shelf was bought at Michaels, and bottom shelf is a leaf garland placed into one of our wedding centerpiece vases
  • White lantern: bought for our wedding centerpieces (I bought mine for a steal off eBay, but they are available on Amazon as well.)
  • Blanket basket: also from Michaels — I kinda of love that store.
    And last but not least…
  • My Mickey Mouse Hatbox Ghost Nutcracker — a special surprise from G last Christmas. I am honestly not sure where he found him because this nutcracker has been out of stock online for quite some time and is only available in-store at the Disney parks. However, I collect nutcrackers for Christmas and this Haunted Mansion version has been on my wishlist for some time. He is perfect for the entire Fall and Winter seasons.

We’re planning to get baseboard trimming done this coming weekend, and then our living will be complete.

I absolutely love these shelves and could not be happier with our little social space. If you have any questions while attempting this project, please leave a comment below

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