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Floating shelves are a visually appealing, versatile solution for functional storage or displaying your favorite things. They require no visible means of support, make them a minimalist decor style that adds interest to lackluster wall space. Their simplicity also means that floating shelves lend themselves to easy DIY versions. Easy to install, functional, and fun to do, they’re the perfect DIY project.

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Gather your supplies

Putting together a small list of inexpensive supplies first will make your DIY floating shelf construction easier. A stud finder allows you to locate the most secure part of the wall to hang your shelf. You can use wall anchors instead if you choose. Use a level to prevent an uneven shelf installation. To attach each floating shelf to the wall, you’ll need a sturdy floating shelf bracket, available online or at any home improvement store. A drill makes it easier to install hardware that holds the shelving in place.

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Choose the best wood for your shelves

Floating shelves need to be sturdy. Look for the best quality wood that fits your budget. The wood should be at least one-inch thick. Pine is an affordable, solid wood, but not suitable as a shelf for displaying heavier objects because it dents easily. Cherry and koa are examples of lightweight woods that are not only easy to work with, but they’re also durable. If your budget is fairly tight, furniture-grade plywood is less expensive than other types of wood and makes a strong shelf material that you can paint or stain. Consider dark-stained oak, reclaimed wood, or solid wood boards that are at least two to three inches thick for a more rustic look.

cherry koa reclaimed wood purchase Juanmonino / Getty Images
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Measure, cut, and notch the boards

Once you’ve determined the length of your shelving, it’s time to cut the boards. If you lack the tools to cut them yourself, most home improvement stores will cut purchased lumber for you. After cutting a board, notch it on the back edge to accommodate the hardware so that it lays flush to the wall. Drill holes for the hardware and check the instructions on the package as to how deep.

shelving cut notches drill skynesher / Getty Images
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Stain or paint the boards

Sand the cut boards and wipe them clean before painting or staining. If you are painting them, go for an acrylic enamel rather than a latex paint, which can cause objects to stick to it even after it’s dry. Allow the paint to dry completely between coats if applying more than one. Finish with a coat of fast-drying polyurethane lacquer for added durability.

sand cut clean paint staining nimis69 / Getty Images
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Map out the wall location

While your shelves are drying, prepare the wall you’ve chosen for the shelf installation. Choose it’s height and placement and mark it on the wall. In most cases, a height of 4 to 5 feet from the floor works well for a single shelf or the lowest shelf in a group. Shelves that will hang above the couch should have at least 10 inches of clearance above the back of the couch. If you’re installing a group of shelves, don’t be afraid to vary the distance between them to increase the impact and allow you to display a wider variety of object sizes.

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Install the hardware and hang the shelves

Mark the wall where you intend to place the shelf’s hardware, making sure you allow enough room on either side to accommodate the length of the shelf. Use a level to ensure the brackets are straight. Once you’ve installed the hardware, use the drilled holes as a guide to slide the shelf into place.

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Quick-and-easy tip for installing floating shelves

Don’t allow space restrictions, availability of tools, and other factors prevent you from installing floating shelves. You’ll find a variety of floating shelf kits online that include everything you need. No drills are required because you can install the hardware easily using your thumbs. Slide the shelves into place, and you’re ready to fill the shelf with your favorite mementos and or collections.

floating shelf kits instructions svetikd / Getty Images
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Create floating shelf arrangements in corners

Instead of a bookcase, opt for a group of floating shelves in corners to display your favorite literary works, priceless keepsakes, framed art, or a photo collection. Corner shelves add function to unused space and are perfect for smaller living spaces. Think outside the rectangular shelf. Triangular shapes work great in tight corners. You’ll discover a wide selection of DIY floating corner shelf kits just right for a weekend project.

function unused space corner floating shelves Brett Taylor / Getty Images
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More creative shelf ideas

Floating shelves work in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and common living areas. If you’re an experienced DIYer, you’ll have no trouble creating a floating shelf with an added feature: a hidden trinket drawer that slides inside the shelf. Floating shelves add additional storage in the kitchen, but don’t forget to use the shelf’s underside, too. Hang your teacup collection or favorite coffee mugs from hooks installed into the bottom of the shelf.

kitchens bathrooms storage bedroom shelves ThreeDiCube / Getty Images
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Styling your new floating shelves

When choosing pieces for your shelf, mix the object sizes instead of displaying just those of similar size. Various heights and shapes balance and layer the appearance and add more interest. Display items that are important to you to create a unique, personalized focal point. And don’t forget to add eye-catching objects that offer a pop of color.

styling floating shelves display items northlightimages / Getty Images

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