DIY Network

How to Build Freeform Wall Shelves

Host Michele Beschen demonstrates how to easily make one-of-a-kind shelves that will add storage and fun to any wall.

More in Remodeling

freeform wall shelves artistic in their own right
  • Time


  • Price Range

    $50 - $100

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Choose a Design and Mark the Boards

Determine how much of the wall the shelving should cover and lay out the boards in a freeform design. Create angles and slopes that are not typically seen in a shelving unit. Lay the boards on edge, exactly the way you want them to be on the wall.

When the design is ready, mark the boards for cutting. Wherever two boards meet, trace each board's edge onto the other. The marks on the vertical boards will be cut lines; the ones on the horizontal boards will show where the vertical boards attach. You only need to mark one side of the boards at each intersection -- just make sure you mark the same side of every board. For example, if you trace the bottom of a horizontal board, make sure to always trace the bottom of that board, or the design won't line up right.

Also label the boards for each intersection. That will help if the boards get mixed up somehow.

mark where boards intersect on your design

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 2: Cut the Boards

Make the cuts on the vertical boards using a miter saw. A hand saw will also work but will take much longer and may not be as accurate. To get the correct angle with the miter saw, adjust the adjustable bevel to match the angle of the cut. Tighten down the bevel to keep it steady, take it to the miter saw and adjust the saw's angle to match.

Remove the vertical boards from the layout one at a time, cut them, then replace them in the layout. Check for fit after each cut: You want the intersections to be as seamless as possible. The layout will shift slightly when you replace the boards, because of the thickness of the horizontal shelves.

adjustable bevel

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 3: Connect the Boards

Michele prefers to connect the boards as she cuts them. To do this, drill pilot holes and connect the boards with decking screws. If it's necessary to drill and drive a screw at an angle, drill into the side of the board, then gently angle the drill upward to come out of the end of the board (Image 1). Or, use a pocket jig (Image 2). This handy tool clamps to the board and automatically guides the drill to the proper angle for this type of hole.

Continue cutting and attaching boards until the structure is complete.

Step 4: Paint and Install the Shelves

Michele strongly recommends painting the piece before installing it on the wall to avoid a massive taping job.

Once the piece is painted and dry, use a stud finder to locate the wall studs where it will hang. Lightly mark the position of the studs with a pencil and measure the distance between the studs.

Drill angled pilot holes in the underside of the shelves, spaced the same distance as the studs in the wall.

Have at least one other person help lift the unit into place. Line up the pilot holes with the studs and secure the piece to the wall with decking screws (Image 1).

Fill the shelves (Image 2). Since the shelves are angled, you may need to use Sticky Tack or double-sided tape to hold items in place.