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Easy DIY Floating Shelves in a Nook or Alcove

Create more storage by adding simple floating shelves to an niche in your home.

Have a nook, niche or alcove in your house? Use it to create more storage and display space with some beautiful floating shelves.

This DIY is so easy! In just an afternoon, you can transform any 3-sided spot into the perfect place to store things.

Use bins or baskets on floating shelves to hide away things and keep the focus on your beautiful shelves. Or use them for displaying objects like books, towels, linens, toys and more.

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Two medium wood floating shelves in a nook.

What Alcoves Can you Build Floating Shelves In

Any 3-sided nook is a perfect place to add some DIY floating shelves.

Here are just a few places I have found alcoves to add shelves to in my homes:

  • Above the toilet
  • In a closet
  • Above a washer and dryer
  • In the mudroom
  • Between built in bookcases
Toilet nook with DIY floating shelves above it holding towels, toilet tissue and a plant.

I love turning a messy closet into a beautiful space by removing the door and adding floating shelves. This is great for linen closets, entry ways and more.

And I find it is way easier to keep a closet like that organized. Maybe it is because it is more visible or maybe because it is seen more often.

If you do not remove a closet door, you can still make your closets beautiful with chunky floating shelves. Even if no one sees it but you!

Small alcove with chunky wood shelves with no brackets in it.

How to Build Floating Shelves

Tools needed:


  • Wood products
    • 2×2 boards
    • 1/2″ thick plywood
    • 1×3 boards or 1/4″ thick boards
    • Optional: 1/4″ thick plywood
  • 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws
  • 1 1/4″ brad nails
  • Optional: drywall anchors

STEP 1- Build the frame

Locate the studs in your wall and mark them.

Make sure the back support is secured into at least 2 wall studs and each side support is into 1 stud.

Marking studs with a stud finder.

Determine where you want the shelves in your nook/closet/alcove. Mark those out.

Measure at these marks the full width of the back wall. Measure the wall at every shelf line because walls are not perfectly straight.

Measuring the alcove for the back frame piece.

Cut a piece of 2×2 to this measurement. Cut 1 piece for each shelf (with their own unique measurement).

Attach the board to the back wall. Put one screw into each stud on the back wall ensuring it stays level.

Countersink the screw into the 2×2 and secure with a 2 1/2″ or longer screw.

Don’t forget to account for the thickness of your drywall when determining screw length. You want the screw to go into the stud at least an inch, so you need to countersink the 2 1/2″ screw 1/2″ so it deep enough into the stud.

Attaching a 2x2 board to the back of the nook into studs.

Determine the length of the side boards. They should be the total depth you want your shelves minus 3″ for the front and back frame boards minus the thickness of your front board.

Cut the boards and drill 2 pocket holes set for 1 1/2″ thick material in each end.

For my shelves, I didn’t want them very deep and would not be able to anchor the sides into a stud. So I used a wall anchor behind it.

I would only recommend this for smaller nooks where you will not be using the shelves for heavy items.

To install the wall anchor, I first drilled the countersunk hole for the screw. Then lined it up on the side where it would go.

Drill through the countersunk hole into the drywall to mark the location for the anchor.

Remove the board and install the anchor.

Adding a wall anchor in to the wall where there is no stud to attach the frame to.

Attach the side piece first to the back frame board with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws.

Then secure it to the wall into the stud (or the anchor). Make sure it stays level as you attach it to the wall.

The pocket holes into the back frame piece will help give more stability to the sides that would otherwise only be attached to the wall with 1 screw because studs are 16″ apart and most shelves will not be deeper than that.

Attaching the sides of the floating shelf frame.

Once both side pieces are attached, measure for the front frame board.

Again, measure each shelf frame individually because your walls will likely not be straight.

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Cut the board and attach it to the sides with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws.

Measuring and attaching the front piece to the shelf frame in the niche.

STEP 2- Cut the shelf top/bottom

Because the walls are probably not very straight, you cannot just measure and cut a straight piece of wood to fit on the top and bottom of your frame.

If you do, you will have large gaps and a lot of frustration trying to get it to fit.

Instead, the easiest way to get a board to perfectly fit the space is to create a template. You can use thin (~1/8″) pieces of wood, strips of cardboard, or even cardstock.

I ripped thin strips of wood off a scrap of 2×4 to make my template.

Cut or break the pieces into smaller pieces so you do not have large gaps against the wall and hot glue the pieces together.

Create a complete frame of the sides, back and front.

Creating a template out of thin strips of wood.

Transfer the shape of your template to the piece of 1/2″ plywood.

Make sure the template is oriented so the pretty side of the plywood is the top.

I like to like the front (which should be completely flat) up against the front of the plywood.

Tracing the template onto a piece of plywood.

Use a jigsaw to cut the plywood out to the right shape.

Be aware that your pencil mark is slightly on the outside of the template. So cut the line off with the saw or your piece of wood might be too big.

Test your piece of wood on the shelf frame to see if it fits. Adjust as necessary.

Cutting out the plywood shelf top with a jig saw.

For the bottom of the shelf, you can use another piece of 1/2″ plywood. This is convenient because it creates a 2 1/2″ thick total shelf. This means the front board is a standard 1×3.

Or you can use a 1/4″ thick plywood to create a slightly thinner shelf (2 1/4″). This is what I did to use up scraps of plywood instead of having to cut a new sheet.

With a thinner shelf, you will need to rip the board for the front down to the width of your shelf on a table saw.

STEP 3- Cover the shelf frame

Once the plywood pieces are cut, they are easy to attach to the top and bottom of the shelf frame with 1 1/4″ brad nails.

Ensure the front of the plywood is flush with the front of the frame.

Attaching the top and bottom of the shelves with brad nails.

Measure the front of your shelf and cut your front piece.

You can use a standard 1×3 board which is 3/4″ thick. Or if you want a thinner front profile use a 1/4″ thick board.

The home improvement sells 1/4″ thick boards sometimes labeled as hobby boards. I usually find them next to the hardwoods or dowels.

The thinner front board almost disappears into the plywood making the shelf look like 1 solid piece of lumber.

Looking up towards the floating shelves in the small alcove.

You can attach the front with no visible nail holes by glueing it into place.

Add a good amount of glue to the back of the board. Line it up and tape it into place with blue painters tape until the glue dries.

Glueing the shelf front and clamping it with blue painters tape.

STEP 4- Finish the shelves

Sand and finish your shelves.

For my floating shelves, I used birch plywood with a pine for the front board. They are stained with Early America stain by Minwax.

You may also have to do some touch up painting on the wall if you scraped the walls while installing the shelves (I know I did).

Two chunky floating shelves in a niche in a bathroom.

Now you are ready to load up your new shelves.

I just love how they fit so nicely into the small alcove in my bathroom. There are no unsightly gaps.

They were made to fit perfectly. And it was all done in an afternoon!

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati


Monday 22nd of January 2024

Thanks so much for the detailed instructions! Going to attempt it this weekend. I do have a pretty wide alcove, would you recommend doing support pieces in the middle/any suggestions? I’d like to be able to put some weight on it (i.e. books). Also, if the side pieces are attached to a couple different studs, do you still need pocket hole screws to attach to the back?

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