How to Build a DIY Photo Ledge (in Under an Hour)

5 Materials
1 Hour


Our hallway doesn’t get a whole lot of natural light and has always been kind of meh.

We had a mismatched gallery wall in our rental before we bought our house but it was more college dorm live, laugh, love than the modern boho farmhouse thing we’re trying to get at in our new home.

A photo ledge is also great because you can switch out your photos or artwork seasonally or update them without needing to keep filling holes in the wall for different frames.

This DIY photo ledge was seriously so quick – it took under an hour to complete (not counting wood glue drying time) and it was completely free because we used scrap wood and other materials we already had (and that you probably have, too!).

To read more about the project, click here.

Measure and make your cuts

Cut all your pieces down to the same length. For us, this was 55 inches.Lay your 1×4 piece down flat (this will be the back piece that’s up against the wall). Put the 1×3 piece vertically on top of the edge of the 1×4, making sure the 1×3 and 1×4 are lined up flush on one side, and clamp them together to hold in place. You’ll want your eventual ledge to be flat on the bottom, so you’re essentially making a kind of U shape with the 1×4 in back, 1×3 on the bottom, and 1×2 in front. Use your 1.5-inch screws to secure the two pieces together from the back side of the 1×4 into the 1×3, about three or four times along the whole piece depending on how long your ledges are going to be.Once those are screwed together, sit the piece so the 1×3 is now flat on your work surface and the 1×4 is standing up behind it.Hold your 1×2 piece along the front edge of your 1×3 and use a thin bead of wood glue all along the 1×2 and then clamp the 1×2 to the 1×3 as the front lip. Make sure there aren’t any drips seeping out and then let dry for a few hours. You could use nails if you want, but we found wood glue was perfectly fine – the only thing putting any pressure against that joint are the leaning frames in the end which really isn’t enough to warrant the extra security, in our opinion.Assemble, mount to wall

Here’s a photo of the underside of the finished product to get a better idea.Sand down any rough edges of the finished product and give it a coat of stain and polycrylic. We used special walnut which we’ve found ourselves using on a lot of different projects throughout our house and it’s a nice, warm wood color that doesn’t pull too orange or red no matter what kind of wood you use.Then just use a few more of the 1.5 inch screws to secure the ledge to the wall through the back 1×4 piece (we only used two screws on each ledge and did it in spots we knew would stay covered with artwork.)

Add photos

We used a mix of 5×7, 8×10 and 11×14 frames to add different height and sizes, but it took way longer than it should’ve to work out how many frames we needed and which photos went in which size but that’s 100% user error.But there you have it! In one day you’ve made a cute, cheap DIY photo ledge that’ll give art gallery vibes on a back alley graffiti budget.Make sure to sign up to our weekly newsletter where we share all of our favorite DIY updates.

Suggested materials:
  • (2) 1×2 at 6 feet
  • (2) 1×3 at 6 feet
  • (2) 1×4 at 6 feet
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Heidifdez Heidifdez on Feb 03, 2021

    Locate the studs in the wall where you want to hang the shelf. Using a stud finder is the easiest way to do this (If you don't already have one, I would seriously consider investing in one, as it will be so handy for many other projects and you'll wonder why you never bought one years ago!). You can pick one up at a big box store for under $15 for a simple version.

    On the piece of wood that's going to go against the wall, pre-drill some holes for screws that line up with the marked studs on the wall. Pre-drilling will help to ensure that the wood does not crack or splinter. You could put a piece of tape over the area where you're going to be drilling that will also help avoid splintering the wood. I personally would want to countersink the screws but in answering your question, I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible. You won't end up seeing the screws anyway once you place your pictures on the ledge. Use some wood putty if your wood does splinter or you want to hide the screw holes. Most putty is paintable or stainable, so you can have it match the finish on your shelf.

    Use a level on the shelf before you mark it to make sure it is in fact level. You could leave a light pencil line so you don't have to continue holding up or trying to balance the level while hanging the shelf.

    The wood you're using may seem thick, but if you make sure to hit the studs with the screws (and make sure to use plenty of screws depending on the length of the shelf) you should be fine.

    I wouldn't put anything too heavy on these skinny shelves, I'm assuming that you'll just be putting pictures like the article suggests?

    I hope that helps?

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4 of 6 comments
  • Jayne Jayne on Feb 03, 2021

    Maybe my wood is to thick.

    • Emma @ Shoe Makes New Emma @ Shoe Makes New on Feb 05, 2021

      Hi Jayne, I'm so sorry we didn't see this earlier! The way we did it was we lined the shelf up where we wanted it on the wall, then marked the shelf on that taller back piece that sits against the wall where the studs are. Then we did a pilot hole (drilling through the piece of wood in those spots) and added a screw in each of them so it was attached to the stud.

      It doesn't look like your wood is too thick at all, you might just need to use screws instead of nails and make sure the screws you're using are long enough and go into the studs for extra security.

      The screws aren't visible once you add your photos or artwork because they sit in front of it.

      Hopefully that makes sense!

  • Deniseinark Deniseinark on Feb 03, 2021

    Thank you for this description and pictures. I make jewelry and just bought an entire flat of Rajtan jars from IKEA to make my beads more viewable and accessible. I want a series of shelves like this for displaying the jars but couldn’t describe them so my husband could see the “picture.” Your pictures and description will get the point across!!