Building + Styling Floating Ladder Shelves

Those of you wrestling with small spaces know that it’s a pain to wrestle with small spaces! Most commercial solutions for storage just won’t work, and you’ve got to either have a mess or get something custom made. And that, since we don’t have an IKEA on the island, can get seriously expensive.

Come on, IKEA. We are so ready for you out here. You would CLEAN HOUSE out here.

So when stuck between the rock and the hard place of having clutter or having to get something custom made to fit our space, we ended up going with Option C – make it yourself. Fortunately for us, though, we’ve got a little bit of skill when it comes to this kind of thing, and it turned out pretty cool!

I wish I could find the original sketch for this. I love seeing the genesis of projects as they go from concept to scribble on paper to detailed plan to actual construction. This one stayed pretty true to form, but the original form was just some lines on a sheet of paper. I had it in my head that I wanted something like a set of ladders on the wall, but set at staggered intervals.

That part was the easiest to build. I took some 2x4s from the stack of wood we still have at the side of the house from all our other projects and cut them all to about three feet. Then I offset them by a few inches and connected them with 18″ cross pieces.

Nice and easy!

I washed them with our Minwax stain in Mahogany so it would match the rest of the reclaimed mahogany we have throughout the living room. Two coats of that and a coat of poly to protect it, and the shelf frame was done and ready for shelves.

For the shelves, we had some large pieces of 3/4″ pine we’d purchased for another project and ended up not using, so I cut those down into shelf size. I notched out corners so they could slide between the “ladder” portions of my shelves, and then sanded down the edges until they were nicely rounded.

I look like such a dork in this picture, but I’m so obviously happy with my shelves, I’m posting it anyway. Seriously. We miss out on so many memories just because we look silly!

Okay, enough of that, let’s look at the nicely rounded shelves instead!

I debated whether or not to stain the shelves the same color as the ladder for a while. But then I opted to keep them visually distinct. I thought if they were the same color, they might look a little flat.

So instead of staining them in Mahogany, I gave them a quick brushing of Minwax Natural stain and sealed them with poly when they were dry.

All that was left was to drill holes in the edges of the shelves and run some metal cabling through. The shelves don’t need the support, but I thought it would be fun to add a little metal into the mix. With all the wood we have in the house, I like adding some shiny elements!

Here’s how the finished shelves turned out.

These shelves became a spot to collect the few odds and ends we didn’t want to put into storage when we took down our big {too big for our condo} shelf unit. They’re a little mismatched and they’re definitely not designer items, but they’re very us and we love them.

One of these days, I will get better at my styling!

As always, I’d love to hear what you guys think!


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