DIY Shelves + Styling Tips

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the ol’ blog! Since the last post, we have officially become Austin residents! While many things about our move to Austin have been a big adjustment, we truly love it here. One of the things we’re especially enjoying is transforming our basic apartment into a place that feels like home. We’re getting there! We’re on a very tight budget, so we’ve had to be extra creative and strategic, which we don’t mind a bit! We’ve thrifted a lot, hunted down items on Facebook marketplace, and now we’ve begun to take on some DIY projects!

Our shelves were our first project in our new home, and it’s safe to say we’re addicted to the DIY life! When we stood back to look at our newly completed shelves, we were both so excited and felt so proud that we built them! I also have to give a shout out to the best husband in the world. DIY projects were not his strong suit, but they are now! He was so patient and determined. He took on this project like a champ and did all the hard work. All I did was sand, stain, and paint… ha!

If you’re still on the fence about DIY projects and whether or not they’re really worth it, let me tell you that we spent a tiny fraction of what we would have spent on new, store-bought ones. They’re medium-heavy duty, super sturdy, and can hold just about anything. For store-bought shelves of this quality, we would have paid at least $50 per shelf, and we needed six of them (three in our dining area + three in our bedroom). These DIY shelves cost us a grand total of $105!

So, I’ll quit gabbing and get to it. Here’s how we built our shelves. Remember, we are newbs at this, and this is certainly not the only way to do it, so feel free to tweak it as needed!


Supplies Needed:

  • 2x10x10 pine boards cut into 40 inch pieces (or however long you’d like; we were able to get six 40 inch pieces for $22 at Home Depot; we asked an employee cut it for us since we don’t own a saw and he was happy to do it!)

  • 10×8 shelf brackets (we used these; you’ll need two brackets per shelf; each pair holds up to 320 lbs. If you’re making longer shelves, I recommend using a third bracket in the middle of each shelf)

  • Self-driving dry wall anchors + screws (we used this duo pack)

  • 3/4 inch wood screws

  • *optional* spray paint if you desire to change the color of the brackets (we use Rust-Oleum Metallic Pure Gold Spray Paint)

  • Wood stain of your choice (we used Varathane Classic Wood Interior Stain in “Special Walnut”)

  • Sanding block

  • Screwdriver, drill, level, + measuring tape



  • Sand + stain your shelves and spray paint your brackets before you install. Let them dry for 24 hours.

  • Using a level and measuring tape, space out your first set of brackets far enough that at least five inches of the shelf will hang off each end (for our 40 inch shelves, we spaced out the brackets 30 inches apart). The bracket’s long side should be against the wall, and the short side should be facing up so that the shelves lay on top. Be sure to mark clearly with a pencil inside the holes of the brackets (see left picture for reference) so you know where to put the drywall anchors. Using a screwdriver, install the drywall anchors, then place the bracket over the holes and install the screws. It’s definitely an arm workout, but this step requires a screwdriver rather than a power drill because it’s nearly impossible to maneuver a drill around that pesky little bar across the bracket.

  • Once the long side of your brackets are screwed into the wall, place your shelf on top of them. Make sure it’s centered, leaving at least five inches off each side.

  • This step may be a two-person job. Using a drill this time, install a wood screw into the top-front hole of the bracket (see right picture for reference) while the other person applies pressure on top of the shelf to keep it from moving.

  • Soooo, here’s where we got lazy. We couldn’t maneuver the drill around the bar to put wood screws into the other two top holes, but the shelves felt plenty sturdy to us already so we just left them out. If you’re putting things like stacks of dishes on these shelves, don’t be like us  Go the extra mile and put screws into the other two holes. Otherwise, it’s fine to leave them out.

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  • IF you are planning on installing more shelves above or below your first setleave at least four inches between bracket sets. We spaced each set of brackets four inches under the previous set which put 12 inches between each shelf. We found that was plenty of space to style each shelf with books and decor. If you are putting taller items on your shelves, space each set of brackets apart from each other accordingly.


Now, let’s talk about decorating + styling your shelves!

For me, this is the fun part! But I know for some people, it’s the “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing” part. Allow me to give you a few pointers.

– Categorize & group your items. For our shelves, we “grouped” books. You can group dishes, frames, or whatever your heart desires!

– Break up your groupings with larger singluar items (a frame with a special photo or print inside, cake stand, globe, vase of flowers, etc).

– Use items of varying height, shapes, and dimension. This helps to avoid the cluttered look.

– Fill in the holes with smaller decor items like little knick knacks, candlestick holders, mugs, etc. If you’re going for a more minimalistic look, this step may not be necessary. For me however, I abide by the “more is more” rule when it comes to shelf styling  You do you, boo!

– Add some green! A vase of flowers, greenery, or a little succulent. I think adding a plant or two to any space brings life and freshness!

– Don’t complicate it! If you love it, put it on there. Don’t feel like you have to fill in space with items you don’t really care about. Use items that are meaningful to you and that represent you and your style. Plus, if you put everyday items on your shelves that are practical and useful, you won’t have to worry much about dusting them