Some days, you have a blank wall, but what you really need is a beautifully decorated wall. It was on a day like this that I decided a shelf was the answer. In fact, a pretty specific shelf was the answer. The AMAZING shelf on the left from Restoration Hardware was the answer. But, alas, the shelf on the left cost $359! What is a girl to do? I’ll tell you what this girl did. This girl made the one on the right instead, and she did it for $65!
As much as I liked the RH shelf, I’ll be honest with you, I like mine better. I really like that the thicker rope makes this piece more substantial. The fact that it was custom made to fit the wall space is also a bonus! If you want to learn how to make your own, watch the video below or just read on!
- 8′ – 2″x8″ board (this length will make a 32″ wide shelf)
- 40′ – ¾” manila rope
- 2 – hooks w/screws
- Stain or paint
- Drill (with a 1″ spade bit as well as driving bits)
- Sander (with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper)
- Heavy duty scissors (or other tool for cutting rope)
- Circular saw (optional if you have boards cut to size at the lumber yard)
- Carpenter’s square (optional if you have boards cut to size at the lumber yard)
- Stud-finder (optional)
- Hammer (optional)
Step 1: Measure and Design
I measured my space and found that it was 51″ wide and 59″ tall. Based on those measurements, I decided to make this shelf 32″ wide with 13″ between each shelf. There wasn’t a real science to the dimensions that I chose. I eyeballed the amount of empty space that I wanted on either side of the shelf then subtracted that from the wall width. I then did the same calculations for the empty space above and below the shelf.
Step 2: Beat Up The Board
The reason for this step is to make the end product look rustic. The goal is to make the boards look worn, like they’ve been used for something else before they became a beautiful shelf on your wall. There are lots of ways to do this. I chose to beat the board with a bag of screws (I do NOT recommend a plastic bag! What a mess!), hammer it in a few spots, poke a few holes with an awl, and scrape it along the grain with a screw. Here is a great rundown of various methods of making wood look aged.
Step 3: Measure and Cut
You can skip this step entirely if you don’t have a saw, or if you just don’t want to deal with hauling lumber and cutting it yourself. Most lumber yards will cut boards to your desired length for free before you even pay for them! However, if you choose to cut them yourself, this step is pretty straightforward. I measured 32″ from the edge of the 2″x8″ and marked it. I used my speed square to draw a line straight across at the mark. Also, I used my square as a guide for the circular saw and cut the board along the line. For the next two cuts, I just used the first cut piece as a template by laying it on top of the remainder of the board, lining it up with the end, and marking the edge. When this was complete, I had 3 boards that were each 32″ in length.
Step 4: Measure and Drill
For this step, I simply measured 2″ from the end and 1½” from the edge on each corner of each board. I then used a 1″ spade bit to drill into each of these marks. Each board gets 4 holes, one close to each corner. If you are concerned about tear out when the bit comes through the bottom of the board, there are a couple of solutions for that. One is to tightly clamp a piece of scrap wood to the bottom of the board. Another solution is to only drill until the tip of the bit protrudes out of the bottom, then flip it over and use that hole to drill from the other side. I knew that the knots from the rope would cover the tear out, so I didn’t bother with either.
Step 5: Sand Those Puppies!
I used an orbital sander and started with 80 grit paper. I gave a lot of attention to corners and edges, rounding them, to accomplish a worn look. Then, I sanded all of the boards with 120 grit paper for a finer finish. An orbital sander is not necessary for this project, a detail sander, or even a sanding block and some elbow grease will do the trick!
Step 6: Stain and Finish
After cleaning up my work area and dusting off the boards, I wiped each one down with a damp paper towel to get rid of all of the fine saw dust that tends to stick around.
I brushed the stain onto the boards with a foam paintbrush. If you don’t have a paintbrush lying around, no worries! You can use a scrap of old cloth from a sheet or t-shirt. Plain old wood stain tends to be pretty forgiving. After applying the stain to all boards, I wiped off the excess and let it dry for a couple of hours. I repeated this process for the other side of the boards.
For the finish, I went with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. I chose this for a few reasons. 1) It is virtually impossible to mess up the application. 2) I knew this piece wouldn’t be heavily used. 3) It dries in 15 minutes! Simply apply evenly with a cheesecloth, then buff it out with a soft cloth when it’s dry.
Step 7: Hang Your Hooks
Because I knew this shelf would be quite heavy, I chose to hang the hooks directly into the studs. This meant that it would be a little bit off-center on the wall, but with the way that the bathroom is set up, I knew no one would notice. I briefly considered using anchors, but I just didn’t completely trust them with this project. Another option, if you need it centered, would be to sand and stain another board, center it on the wall, then attach it directly to the studs. This will give you a solid board to which you can attach your hooks. With the method that I used, a stud finder will come in handy. If you don’t have one, the studs should be 16″ apart. You can knock on the wall and listen for a “solid” sound, just to be sure you are on the right track!
Once I found the studs, I measured down 7 inches from the ceiling and marked it on the wall. I used my long level to be sure that these marks were in fact level before moving forward. I lined up the bottom of the hooks with these marks, and used the holes in the hooks to mark where each screw would go.
I used a drill bit slightly smaller than the screws to drill pilot holes. Then, I attached the hooks to the wall with the screws.
Step 8: Cut the Rope & Hang the Shelf
Then put both ends of the rope together and ran it through my hands to find the center, and cut the rope in half.
I took one of the halves and found the center of it in the same way, folded it at center, then tied a simple knot, just cross over and pull through!
It took some extra time pulling it tight and making it look nice. Then, I did the same thing to the other half of the rope.
I hung the ropes on the hooks, threaded the rope onto the first shelf, and used my tape measure to determine where my first knot should be tied. 15″ was the magic number!
The ropes were then removed from the hooks and moved down to the floor to assemble. I measured 15″ down from the bottom of the top knot and tied a new knot under the shelf. This process was repeated for each strand of rope going through the top shelf.
The next step was to thread all of the strands of rope through each hole in the second shelf. I pulled the rope tight, so the knot was flush with the top shelf. Then I measured from the bottom of the top shelf, moved the 2nd shelf so that the distance measured 13″, and marked that spot on my rope. The idea was to tie a knot that will start at that point. I knew that this wasn’t going to be an exact science. Plenty of adjustments take place after hanging the shelf, so don’t get too caught up in trying to make it perfect here.
When all of the knots are tied under the second shelf, it’s time to repeat the process for the last one!
At this point, it is time to hang and level the shelf. If I were to do this again today, I would hang a sheet or blanket on the hooks before hanging the shelf. I had to do quite a bit of touch-up painting that I believe this step could have prevented. Once the rope was looped onto the hooks, I placed my level on the top shelf. I made small adjustments to the knots until the shelf was level both left-to-right and front-to-back. After the top shelf is done, move down to the second and do the same. It is important to work from top-to-bottom through this process and go back to check periodically that nothing above where you are working has shifted.
Once the shelf was level, I tied knots in the rope around 6″ from the bottom knots and cut off the excess rope. At this point, shelf construction is DONE!
Step 9: Decorate
I’m not an expert at decorating, but I did have a few things in mind here. The main thing was to have this shelf make sense for a bathroom. Towels were a must, and some pretty holders for toiletries. I also wanted to incorporate some live plants to improve air quality. a variety of shapes and textures were important to me. So, after more research than was reasonable (because that’s how I roll), I went with aloe vera, fittonia, and zebra haworthia. I wasn’t sure what else was needed for the space until I spied that awesome wreath at HomeGoods. And since I had all of the plants, the beautiful gold watering can from Target was perfect!
Step 10: Enjoy!
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how this shelf turned out! It makes me so happy every time I walk into my bathroom! If you decide to build one, send me a pic! I’d love to see it!