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DIY Picture Ledge Shelves for Any Skill Level

January 15, 2020

Gallery wall shelves and chair in white room
Picture frame shelves are an easy beginner's DIY woodworking project and cost less than the factory-made versions available at the store. They provide the perfect place to display photos, artwork, and decor and can be designed to fit in with the style of your home.

CREATE   |   Published January 15, 2020

Shelf with botanical print

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I love the idea of being able to switch out photographs and meaningful decor often without having to add another nail into the wall and picture ledges are a great way to do that.  They can hold a collection of pictures, art, architectural salvage, and small plants, amongst other things.

I've even seen them used in children's bedrooms to hold their collection of picture books.  Or short shelves would make an ideal place to store spices in pretty glass jars in the kitchen (complete with a custom spice jar label, of course!)

Decorated wood shelves on white wall

These shelves don't stick out far from the wall making them great for decorating hallways or small spaces.  I wanted to be able to decorate the narrow wall area between the doorway and staircase in my living room, but couldn't have anything that would stick out far since this is the entry to the room from the dining room.

Empty white wall with staircase

A picture ledge (or gallery) shelf is formed by three boards attached in an L shape creating a little lip in the front to keep your pictures and framed items from sliding off.

Corner of picture ledge shelf

Gallery wall shelves can be purchased practically everywhere from Target to Pottery Barn.  But they are actually a very basic building project that anyone can try and you don't even need power tools to make them (although they do make the job easier).

Gallery wall shelves and leather chair

And they are an affordable DIY project, as well.  The shelves are made using just a few pieces of narrow stock lumber that you can pick up at Lowes or Home Depot and some screws, nails, and wood glue.  Since the lumber comes in even numbered lengths ranging from 2 to 12 foot, you may not even need to cut the boards depending on the shelf size that you want.

If you'd like, you can even build different lengths of shelves depending on what you're going to do with them.  They can be staggered or hung in a row.  I really love this layout that has a smaller top shelf, allowing space for hanging a picture on the wall.

To make my picture ledge shelves, I bought premium pine boards from Lowe's because they are smooth and ready for easy staining.  But you can use the less pricey regular pine or any other type of wood that you'd like.  You may even have some scrap pieces lying around that will work.

Pair of picture ledge shelves



  • Wood Boards  - I used 1x3 boards for the shelf and back and 3/8x2 project boards for the front
  • Screws, 1 1/2 inch for building shelves and 2 inch for attaching to wall.
  • Wood glue
  • Nails
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain or paint
  • Stainable Wood putty
  • Finish Nailer (optional)
  • Drill with a screwdriver attachment (optional)
  • Miter Saw (optional)

Picture ledge shelf supplies

STEP 1: The cut edges of purchased boards are often rough, and if that is the case, you may want to cut off the end before you begin measuring for your shelves.  Otherwise, measure and cut sections of your boards to the length you desire.

STEP 2: Sand the edges and any rough spots on your boards with a fine grit sandpaper.

STEP 3: You can either stain/paint your individual boards before you attach them together or you can do the shelf as a whole piece when it is constructed.  While it is a matter of preference, I chose to stain each of my boards before screwing and nailing the shelf together because I think it is easier to remove the stain after brushing it on.  I used a half and half mix of Cappuccino and Natural Stain and Finishing Oil to coordinate with the feet I stained on my sofa.  Allow your finish of choice to dry thoroughly.

Drilling pilot holes into wood

STEP 4: Predrill holes that are slightly smaller than the width of your screws wherever you plan on placing a screw.  This keeps your boards from splitting and will make it easier to get the screw into your wood.

Screwing boards together

STEP 5: Using 1 1/2 inch screws, attach two lengths of you 1x3 boards together to form an L shape where the vertical back board will be sitting behind the horizontal shelf board.  The number of screws that you'll use will vary as to the length of your board.  For my 2 1/2 foot shelf, I used three screws.

HELPFUL TIP: To make it easier to screw the boards together, I first used my finish nailer to attach the boards on each end so that I didn't have to hold the boards in place as I attached them.

Gluing boards together

STEP 6: Spread wood glue along the front edge of your L shelf.

Nailing gallery wall shelf together

STEP 7: Then use your nailer to attach the thin board to the front of the shelf.

Filing holes with wood putty

STEP 8: Fill the tiny holes made by the nail with wood filler and then touch up the spot with your stain or paint when it is dry.

Picture ledge shelf with level

STEP 9:  You'll want to find where your wall studs are located and screw into them if possible to create a sturdy shelf, especially if you plan on resting a lot of weight on it. Mark on your shelf the location where you'll be adding the screws and then pre-drill a pilot hole slightly smaller than your screw size.  Hold the shelf up to the wall and add your 2 inch screws in the holes.  Use a small level to ensure that your shelf is hanging straight.  The screws will not be hidden here, but since you'll be resting things on your shelf they shouldn't be too noticeable, if at all.

Two picture ledge shelves on white wall

Now fill your your favorite photos, art, and other decor!

I absolutely love how these two shelves look on this wall and I can't wait to lean some large canvas pictures that I'm making here, along with some of my favorite quotes and other decor.  It's definitely one of the best beginner DIY woodworking projects to try and a great way to get a Pottery Barn look for way less!

Side angle view of two picture ledge shelves

DIY still not your thing, but you love the idea of adding picture ledge shelves to your wall?  Here are some of my favorite finished shelves available online......
Use the left and right arrows to scroll through the products

How to Build Picture Ledge Shelves

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