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How To Build Custom Wood Shelves

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Open shelving is one of the top interior design trends right now, and the look is easy to achieve! I've had so many people ask about my DIY shelves, so I decided to put together a quick how-to post to help you get started with planning, measuring, staining and eventually styling.

When I purchased my first home last year, I instantly visualized open shelving spanning the blank wall in our kitchen - and I successfully achieved that vision - for just under $75! I loved the shelves I built so much that I replicated them in my new office. The design is so easy and versatile. If you scroll down to the gallery, it's hard to tell which shelves are the new ones. I guess it's safe to say that I don't like change lol.

The best part about shelves is styling them. I'm mostly looking forward to seasonal decorating. Fall and winter are right around the corner. I went a little overboard on the holiday décor last year, but I'm planning on putting it to good use now!

Okay I'll stop ranting and tell you what you need to know to get started...

MATERIALS (including links to the products I used):


1. Figure out your measurements. I like my shelves to span the entire length of the wall, but that's just my preference! One you know what length/width you want, you can head to your local Home Depot or Lowe's and they'll cut it down to size for free.

2. Consider what type of wood you want to use. I chose 8" in. x 8' ft. pine boards for my office shelves because they were cheap, but there are a lot of high quality woods out there to choose from if you want something more upscale.

3. Sand out all of the imperfections. I used an orbital sander to smooth everything out, which is probably the quickest method.

4. If you're choosing to stain your shelves, use the excess wood to make some stain samples. Stains go on differently depending on what type of wood you choose, so don't always trust the color on the can! For my first shelf project, I used the stain Provincial by Valspar. For my current project, I'm just using Danish oil to keep the raw, natural look while making the grain pop.

5. Once you're ready to stain, you're going to want to treat the wood with a pre-stain wood conditioner first. This allows the stain to go on evenly, otherwise you may see dark blotches when applying your stain. Wipe off any dust and apply pre-stain conditioner. Allow pre-stain conditioner to penetrate for 5-15 minutes. Then, apply your stain to the wood, allow a few minutes for penetration, and wipe off the excess. You'll want to wait a full 24 hours to dry.

7. Once the shelves are finished, you're ready to secure the brackets! I recommend using a long level for accuracy and some serious anchors to secure them to the wall (Also recommend using a stud finder and drilling them into the studs). Take your measurements, space the brackets out at your preferred distance, and drill those babies in! You can take it a step further by screwing the brackets to the wood but I got lazy.

Voilà! You have your very own custom shelves. Now comes the fun part - styling. I typically pair objects of different heights to add dimension and visual interest. Or, just fill them entirely with plants! I have quite a few shelf styling tips, but I'll save those for another post...

Check out my Shelves highlight on Instagram for a visual tutorial, and don't forget to tag me if you create your own #kyliewhiteshelves!



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