Spa-Inspired Bathtub Shelves

During my first deployment, my team and I would gather for dinner and share whatever our biggest dream was for when we returned home. We were living in a pretty austere environment {100+ degree desert heat, sleeping either on fold out cots by our vehicles or on the front hoods of said vehicles, and eating plenty of these}, so you can imagine we were dreaming of hot showers, restaurant meals, sipping a cold pint in a favorite chair. But for me, there was always one thing that sat at the top of the list.

A really, really hot bath in a huge soaker tub.

I remember aching to just soak all the grime away, and let the heat get into tired muscles and joints, and just be able to close my eyes and absolutely relax. Even after I got back home, that dream never really went away. Mostly because I never had a tub big enough or deep enough to soak in, and in some places I lived, I didn’t have a tub – just a stand-up shower.

Now, fifteen years, a few deployments, a lot of moves, and a lot of miles on these feet later, I actually own a house that has one of these blessed contraptions in it. Our house came with a gigantic soaker bathtub that’s practically a hot tub and I’m convinced our bathroom is heaven. Not so convinced that I don’t want to change tile, paint, redo cabinetry, and so forth, but even as it is, it’s awesome and I love it like crazy.

But I kept feeling like it needed a little…something.

I still laugh at the “tub is fine” note in there. The tub is better than fine, and I see no need to change anything about it. But I do want to redo the tile and maybe add a different facing to the front of it.

And I wanted to add more space around the tub to put things. I wanted a place to set my book where it wouldn’t fall off, a place to put some candles for ambiance, a place to set a glass of wine or a mug of beer, a little extra comfort for those much needed post-race or post-construction-project long soaks. There is literally nothing like soaking in bubbles and epsom salts for your body or for your mood.

So I decided to make some simple shelves for the corners of the tub. It was the only place I could think of adding more space without getting in the way of the tub. I measured the tub for the most useful dimensions and sketched them out to look like the teak shelves and seats I’d seen at the onsen we visited when I was working in Kumamoto. It ended up being a simple and easy design :: a 45-degree right triangle with 20-inch sides and the longest length at 28.28-inches. Who says you’ll never use trigonometry again?

Here’s what we used ::


  • Two 6-foot 5/4×4 pine boards for the supports
  • Three 6-foot 1×3 pine boards for the cross-pieces
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Minwax wood finish stain in natural
  • Minwax polyurethane
  • Titebond wood glue
  • 2-inch flat “throwaway” brush

Materials for this project ran about $48 with tax.


  • Ryobi sliding mitre saw
  • Ryobi mitre saw stand
  • Ryobi AirStrike nail gun
  • Rigid drill
  • Clamps
  • Ryobi electric sander
  • Tape measure
  • Metal speed square

The build was a pretty easy one. I cut two pieces of the 5/4×4 pine boards to 20-inches, and two to 18.75 so that when joined end-to-end, both sides would be 20-inches.

I joined them with wood glue and screws and held them steady with a clamp.

Then it was a lot of back and forth between me and the mitre saw as I fit the top boards to the frame I’d created. All the cuts I made were 45-degree angle cuts, so it was pretty easy work with the speed square and the saw. I cut and fit each board, tacked it in with the AirStrike, and then moved onto the next one. I left a space of two biscuits from our biscuit joiner between each board.

I just love the wood grain on these boards and wanted to keep that visible. So all I used was neutral stain and polyurethane to protect them {they’re going in the bathroom, after all}. A couple passes with the sander and 80-grit paper to round the board edges and a pass with the 120-grit to smooth the wood and they were ready for staining.

The longest part of any wood project like this is just letting all the stain and poly dry. I built and stained these on a Sunday, put coat 1 of the poly on Monday and put coat 2 of the poly on Tuesday. Wednesday, they were done, but still smelled of poly, so they stayed in the garage a couple more days.

And by the weekend, they were ready! And was definitely ready for a therapeutic soak!

Turned Wood Candlesticks :: Pier 1 – Faux Plants :: Target {Similar} – Towels :: Bed Bath + Beyond

It’s funny how a few inexpensive additions can add a little bit of extra luxury. Now, I don’t need to go anywhere for a spa day. We’ve got our spa experience right at home!

For a smaller tub, you could scale these back to 10×10 inches, with your longest cross-piece coming in at 14.14-inches. And if you used them in a tub/shower combination, I’d recommend cedar, but you could even mount them to a corner wall for some extra space.

What kind of projects do you guys have planned for your weekend?



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  • Denise Blust Vermillion

    Beautiful! And I’ve never seen a tub that angles two different ways? When we were looking at the house we live in now, I was so excited to have a real Master Bath. The tub is huge! I’m 5’10” and can stretch almost all the way down in it. Of course, I haven’t used it in years because 1) we had a spa, and 2) the SoCal drought. Finally last year, I had a friend make a custom plant rack and I now have a temporary planter in there as well. I love having all the greenery. But if I ever feel the need for a soak, I can move it all out.

    Just an interesting aside, but after my first half marathon in Las Vegas, I soaked in a huge tub in our hotel room that had a TV built into the wall. Talk about spa-like pleasure. I whiled away the afternoon with champagne, stolen muffins from the buffet, and Britney Spears’ True Hollywood Story!

    • It’s an interesting tub! It’s technically a two person soaker – or it would be if my other half didn’t take up all the room and just leave me a little corner 😀 I don’t use it all that often, but it’s terrific for after races – but I definitely don’t think I would use it if I were paying SoCal water prices! Yikes!!

      That sounds like a FABULOUS day in Las Vegas. A great run, champagne, soaking, and Britney Spears! Which race did you do? We would love to do a race out in Vegas!

  • jointhegossip

    Such a luxurious tub! I love the additions you made and how the shelves transform the space into something even more beautiful!

    • I love this tub!! There’s nothing like just being able to bask in the heat – especially without having to leave the house to do it!