DIY Picture Ledge Shelves + Living Room Makeover

18 Materials
2 Days

My parents living room/TV room needed a good refreshing, including new pictures and frames to display to update this room. I wanted an easy DIY solution to easily display multiple frames in a cute and minimal way, and these shelves were SO easy and cheap to put together! Follow along for a step by step on how to create these shelves which could be used in any room.

Buy your wood and gather what you need

During pre-social distancing times, I went to Lowe's and bought the wood and supplies I needed to prepare my shelves. I ended up getting (excuse my terminology):

  • 2 planks (?) of 1x4 pine wood
  • 1 plank of 1x3
  • 1 plank of 1x2

With the stuff I have at home I gathered:

  • A yardstick
  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Paint or stain
  • A level
  • Tape measure
  • Sand paper
  • Polyurethane
  • Paint brush
  • Miter saw or hand saw
  • *Optional* Pre-stain conditioner
  • *Optional* (Wish I had some) Clamps

Prior to cutting, make sure you start by measuring your space and the length of the shelves you plan to attach to the wall. Use your pencil and tape measurer to mark the length on your wood. For my shelves, I wanted to make it easy and made the 2 main ones 36 in (1 yard) and the smaller one was 18 in.

Make your cuts

Cut accordingly to your measurements. I cut each of my planks to size. We have a miter saw for easy cuts, but you can use a hand saw if you don't have one.

Sand your pieces

This is each of the pieces cut, sanded down to a smoother finish, and ready for the conditioning process.

Use a Pre-stain Wood Conditioner (optional)

To help even out the color when working with bare woods, you can use a pre-stain wood conditioner. Allow the conditioner to penetrate the wood for 5 to 15 minutes, and then wipe off any excess. We applied it with a simple paintbrush to each piece and waited until it was dry and all absorbed (about 1.5 hrs) before staining. There is a recommended time frame to stain after application of the pre-stain and its usually within 2 hours (follow the instructions on your can).

Test a dry fit first!

Prior to making any commitments to cuts or stains, I wanted to see a quick dry fit to plan how I was going to put them together. I planned to use the 1x4 for the back piece, the 1x3 for the depth, and the 1x2 for the front lip. A dry fit gives you a good idea of how things will look when they're all put together.

Start your staining

Initially we wanted to go for a lighter, more rustic stain so we started with Minwax "Early American" stain, but it ended up being lighter than we anticipated on our first few planks. We then chose to go with a darker stain, to complement the darker wood trim already in place in the room, and went back over with "Dark Walnut". I think it was such a beautiful, rich deeper brown and I loved the turnout of it.

Allow stain to completely dry, apply polyurethane

We made sure that the stain was completely dry and not tacky before giving it a quick light sanding again and finishing it with a coat of clear polyurethane. This process of cutting, staining and finishing took about 2 days just to ensure that everything was dry and not rushed!

Assemble your shelves... carefully! ;)

I went ahead and nailed the 1x2 front lip piece to the 1x3 piece with some nails (I don't remember the exact size of the nails, sorry! long enough to ensure it was attached to the 1x3.

Next, I used my drill to drill my 2.5 inch screws from the 1x4 back piece to the 1x3 base piece. Looking back, I should have pre-drilled the hole with my drill bit to prevent splitting, because I had a few pieces that were a little soft still and I had a few cracks in the wood from the screws. They weren't very noticeable, but something I took away that I could have done better.

Also, before ya'll come at me, I'm gonna just own my mistake of the small shelf and laugh at myself and my boyfriend for constructing the shelf the wrong way  I accidentally switched my 1x3 with my 1x4, and I also screwed it in at the wrong angle. In this above photo, please reference the larger two shelves for accurate assembly! Hahah, when it was all said and done, instead of being angry at my mistake I ended up just laughing at it and moving on, lesson learned to assure my dry fit matched my final fit

Example of the screws attached to the backside.

Mount to your wall

Grab your level and your pencil, and find the areas you want to attach your shelves to the wall. We also grabbed some dry wall anchors because the area where we wanted to install them, of course had the studs in awkward areas.

I used the level to ensure the shelves were hung straight, while my boyfriend held them on the wall, I marked the placement with a pencil and

Next, while one person held the shelf, the other drilled the shelf directly into the wall with a drill bit through the shelf and the wall to make our first hole. Put the shelf aside for a moment. We then added our anchor in the wall, put the shelf back over it, and drilled the screw through the shelf and into the anchor. Ensure its even with the level, and then add your other screws/anchors to hold it in place.

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here's a quick video of our process to help explain it better.

Placing our dry wall anchors first before screwing the shelves

If you're wondering what that thing is on the wall, it's my dad's intercom haha. I chose to leave it in there, but considered putting it on the shelf too.

While this shelf ended up having some flaws (I literally didn't notice them until after anchoring it to the wall) It really wasn't that noticeable and the only difference was the depth of the shelves compared to the other ones. No harm, no foul though.

Make it pretty!

Finally, the best part. Placing your décor and frames to make those shelves pop.

I did this room makeover for my parents while they were on a cruise. They bought a brand new power loveseat recliner a few months ago and it's scheduled to get here next month, hence why there is a big empty space beneath my shelves. I'm sure when the recliner is here, the room will feel all put together and the shelves will stand out as an accent even more.

While I'm here posting this, here's a quick "before and after" of this living room!

This couch HAD to go!

It's amazing what a coat of paint, some new furniture (I scored that TV stand for only $80 on Marketplace!), a goodwill trip (where most of the décor there is from) and some pictures on the wall can do for a room. What a transformation!

These shelves look amazing here now! I can't wait to see the room with their new recliners in place there. I will definitely be coming back to update the post with better "after" shots of the shelves once the room is complete.

Do you want to know a secret? This was my first wood working project I've ever done. I'd say the hardest part was just putting it into the wall because it takes a lot of effort to make sure it's straight and in the right spot. I made a few mistakes and laughed at them along the way and learned some things in the process. I hope this project inspires you to create these easy to make shelves for a space in your home.

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Joanie
    on Mar 30, 2020

    You sure upped your sitting looks GREAT! I LOVE that table and plant.....Is that a Fig tree? real or fake? Your shelves are very nice. I love shelves. Just an idea you might wanna try to fill in corners. Corner shelves. Remember eye level is your placement. Keep up the good improvements!!

    • Emily Grace
      Emily Grace
      on Mar 30, 2020

      Thank you so much! my parents love it. It is a fake fig tree, for now, maybe they will be open to placing real ones :) Ohh yes I thought about corner shelves too, but when I showed my mom and example of it she wasn't a fan. Thanks!

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