Thursday, July 25, 2013

Picture Ledge Tutorial

I'm pretty sure every DIY'er in the world has been making picture ledges lately, and now I know why!  They're easy and awesome!

We have a 12' wall above the sofa in our living room that was just begging for some love.  That said, we don't have the budget to get a single piece of art big enough for the space.  Plus I love to change my mind all the time.

The perfect solution was a large picture ledge.  The frames and stuff just sit on it, so I can move them around as I please without creating any new holes in the walls.

Of course nobody sells a six-foot picture ledge, and of course I would have DIY'ed it anyways, so that's what we did!

I wanted to use IKEA Ribba frames for the photos, and some of them are almost 2" deep, so the shelf needed enough depth to be able to layer the frames.  Rather than the standard 4" depth for picture ledges, I made these 6" deep.  To be honest, they could stand to be even deeper!

  • 1 x 6 board, cut six feet long, minus the "1 inch" width of the 1x2
  • 1 x 4 board, cut six feet long
  • 1 x 2 board, cut six feet long, plus two small pieces cut to be equal to the width of the 1x6

After cutting everything the right length, we put wood glue on every place two pieces of wood would touch, clamped everything together, and nailed it together with finishing nails.  As my Civil Engineer Dad would say, "if in doubt, build it stout!".

Along the "build it stout"  line of thought - that's exactly what the two short pieces of 1 x 2 are for.  Since all the weight of the shelf is cantilevered out from the wall, having those additional pieces to provide support make the shelf much stronger.  IKEA, Pottery Barn, and many tutorials leave that part out, and I think that's a big mistake!

Once it was dry, we used leftover white trim paint to paint it.  Tommy did all the painting, but he's not a fully-trained DIY blogger yet, so no photos!

To hang it on the wall, we located and marked all the studs that would be behind the shelf.  We made the same marks on the shelf, and drilled pilot holes.  Then we screwed the shelf directly into the studs using 3" screws.  All of this was kind of a pain, and I think it would have been easier to just use drywall anchors.

We weren't convinced it would be strong enough to hold all those frames (and we were having visions on it collapsing on us during a tense moment of House of Cards), so we piled it up with heavy innocuous stuff to test it out.  Like Tommy's shoes.  Yes, I'm weird.

It held, so the frames went up!

I can't wait to finish our wedding album so I can add it to the space!

In all, this was a pretty easy project.  We were scared about how much weight the shelf would hold, but so far we've been happy.  I don't remember exactly how much the wood cost, but I would guess under $20.  We probably spent a total of three hours working on it, but a lot of that was problem solving and waiting for stuff to dry.  I already did some of that for you, so yours should go even faster! 

You might also be interested in these posts:
Living Room Curtains
Living Room Paint
Scrappy Pillows
Living Room Sofa


  1. I would love to make this at the entrance of my apartment. I think the way that everything is arranged, it would be nice to see some little trinkets and photos when guests come in.

    Lisa Favre

  2. What kind of brackets did you use to support it, with the 3 inch screws? I'm not very good at getting a floating shelf to stay floating so, would probably need to use a regular type shelf bracket and am wonder how you did that?

    1. We didn't use brackets, just screwed straight through the back board into the wall. It's very strong - these have been up for almost a decade now!


I love hearing from you!