How to Build an Open Display Shelving Unit

Looking for a cool way to display your kid’s collectibles, books, photos and accomplishments? Do it in style with this fun DIY multi-tiered shelf.

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

We painted our shelf in a variety of colors to match this totally cool collection of unicorns.

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

Tools and Materials

  • (3) 1x8 x 8’
  • wood glue
  • miter saw
  • drill and a Robertson drill bit
  • (28) 2” wood screws
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • cotton rag
  • measuring tape
  • safety glasses
  • paint, paintbrushes and paint trays
  • speed square
  • (4) 6” decorative furniture feet
  • (12) 5/8” wood screws
  • (2) 2” corner brace

Step 1: Cut Wood

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

Cut the lumber to the following sizes:
(4) 1x8 @ 36” [Pieces A,B,C,D]
(7) 1x8 @ 12-1/2” [Pieces E,F,G,H,I,J,K]

Step 2: Lay Out Shelves

Lay out the 1x8 boards in a staggered pattern, keeping the four 36” boards [A,B,C,D] on the outsides and in between the seven 12-1/2” pieces [E,F,G,H,I,J,K]. For our design, we alternated the number of cubbies on each shelf, creating a 2-3-2 pattern. Staggering the boards makes for easy assembly and better stability. Measure both sides to ensure you have equal spacing for all the cubbies. Use a speed square as a guide to ensure your boards are at a straight 90-degree angle. Once you are happy with the placement, mark the board lines using a pencil.

Step 3: Glue and Screw

Start at one end and work your way across, applying a strip of wood glue along the edge of the 12-1/2” boards, line it up with your pencil marking and carefully screw in place using two 2” wood screws. Continue until your entire shelf is complete.

NOTE: This project uses self-tapping screws. If you plan to use regular wood screws, make sure to pre-drill the holes to avoid splitting the wood, use a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw size.

Step 4: Sand It Smooth

When the entire shelf is assembled, use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out rough corners and edges. When it’s completely smooth, wipe down the entire unit with a cotton rag to remove dust.

Step 5: Paint

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

Get creative and make your project unique to your space. We went for a unicorn theme so we used shades of purple and blue blended together in a feathered style. Make sure to paint in a well-ventilated space or take the project outside. Let it dry.

Step 6: Add Feet

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

Source four decorative furniture legs and attach them to the bottom of your shelf using 5/8” wood screws.

Step 7: Wall Hardware

To make sure our unit is securely attached to the wall and won’t fall forward, we attached two 2” corner braces to the underside of the top shelf and to the wall. Make sure you do your research and determine the best way to secure your unit to your wall type.

Photo by: DAN WHITEHEAD

DAN WHITEHEAD

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