Mid-Century Modern Wall Shelf

9 Materials
3 Days

What started as a plan to add a picture shelf to our living room wall turned into this. We wanted something with a bit more style or flair. Now, I don't know if there is truly such thing as a mid-century modern wall shelf, but that is what we set out to design.

We started by taping out the design we wanted on our living room wall. We wanted something long, to span the length of the couch, and tall, to give the appearance of higher ceilings. We also wanted the ability to lean a photo in front of the thermostat (to cover it up). With that, we set to taping. We had a few other versions before settling on this.

I used 1"x6" pine boards for this project. I ripped them down to 5" wide, because we were very certain we didn't want the shelf sticking out further than 5" from the wall. Taping up the design on the wall made the cut list very easy.

If you can make sense of our design, here are the measurements.

I used nails to attach the short 4" pieces protruding from the top and bottom of the shelf. I used pocket holes to attach the other two 11 5/8" long vertical pieces.

You don't need them, but I used 90-degree angle clamps to glue up the shelf and hold it tight while driving in the pocket hole screws. These were a new purchase, so I was excited to try them out. If I didn't have these clamps, I'd have just used bar clamps to hold the vertical pieces. I put a spacer (my level) into the gap between the top and bottom shelf on the left side while the glue was drying to maintain square on the shelf.

After the glue dried, I stained and polyurethaned.

I also spray painted the brackets and screws I will use to hang the shelf. These are 1" x 1" L-brackets. I used bronze paint because it was close to the golden oak stain color I chose for the wood.

To hang the shelf, I started by finding the studs. With a shelf this long, I had some flexibility in where I placed the brackets, so I didn't have to worry about hollow wall anchors. Then, we determined height. I used these L brackets for hanging the shelf because I didn't want the process to be complicated. That part worked out just like I'd hoped, nice and easy.

Here is the finished product. To hang it, I ended up using two brackets on the bottom shelf, 2 brackets on the middle shelf and 1 bracket on the top shelf.

This shelf gave us exactly what we were looking for. It's a low-cost, little bit funky shelf to add some character to our living room. And it was truly easy and quick to make with minimal cuts.

Follow me on Instagram at   @woodyworking for more woodworking DIY or home improvement projects. Happy building!

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  • Susan QC Susan QC on Sep 27, 2022

    Darn the pesky thermostats! Builders sure put them in awkward places, don't they? Your idea of leaning something in front of it will work if there is enough air getting to the sensors. As you said earlier, you'll just have to monitor it. If it causes problems, a fake plant may help camouflage it and still let the thermostat work. Great job on this shelf unit. Simple and beautiful.

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