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Whatever Floats Your… Stuff?

When we were painting the upstairs bathrooms we took down the medicine cabinets that were hanging over the toilets. The rooms felt so much bigger and less claustrophobic that we decided not to hang them back up. The cabinets were actually a little bit overkill for our needs, but we were still left with a storage shortage without them. We realized a single shelf would free up counter space while still keeping the room feeling open and uncrowded.

Putting an open shelf above a toilet seemed mildly risky, even though we always keep our lids down when not in use (more sanitary, looks better, and — most importantly — keeps Mochi’s water obsessed paws out of the bowls). A picture ledge seemed like the best solution to keep things in place. We hunted for store bought solutions and even bought and tried some shelves from Target, but nothing was quite the right scale, most options being a little too shallow for the items we wanted to store.

Fortunately, picture ledges are a breeze to build and the internet is replete with tutorials, so I decided to make them myself. After reading a few methods online, I had a pretty good idea of what I thought would work best for me and got to work. I ended up building three shelves: one for each of the upstairs bathrooms and one for the guest room.

For the bathrooms, I made 22″ wide by 6″ deep shelves out of pine. The actually usable shelf depth is around 5″. It’s enough to hold several things but not so deep as to interfere with sitting on the porcelain throne. For those curious about my approach, I constructed the shelves using two 1x2s and a 1×6. I cut them to size with my jigsaw and then attached the 1x2s to the 1×6 using wood glue and clamps. After the glue dried, I secured the back piece with screws. For DJ’s shelf, I secured the front with finish nails, but I didn’t bother doing that with mine and opted to trust the wood glue. So far, so good!

While the internet doesn’t really need more tutorials for this, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a diagram.

I primed DJ’s shelf then painted it white using our leftover trim paint in Valspar Crème Fraîche. Mine I stained with Varathane Dark Walnut stain and finished with a matte polyurethane.  I also started with wood conditioner to ensure a smoother stain job. If you do this project and use stain, be careful with the wood glue and sand thoroughly before you stain because stain won’t penetrate the glue. You could probably stain first, but wood glue is meant for wood to wood adhesion, so it won’t bond as strongly when applied in that order.

We considered attaching keyhole hangers on the back for invisible hanging, but ultimately opted for the easy route and just screwed the shelves directly into the wall using two screws per shelf with anchors where needed.

Here’s the shelf in the hall bathroom, which is typically my primary bathroom unless we have guests staying with us. Mika is passing judgment on my work.

And here is the shelf in the master bathroom (primarily DJ’s space):

It’s motivating to have so many feline inspectors eager to check the quality of my work. Keeps my standards high.

The guest room shelf is a variation on this theme at a larger scale. I have a pile of art that’s moved with me over the years and in the past has hung in various rooms, often in a gallery wall arrangement. I was feeling kind of bored of that approach and wanted the option to easily swap out art when DJ and I stumble across things we like better or get tired of certain pieces without the pain of dealing with wall holes, so I thought a picture ledge would be a great solution for this.

Since I wanted it to just hold pictures instead of more varied fare, I built a narrower but longer shelf 60″ in length and 3″ deep using basic whitewood. The wood quality isn’t as high as the pine I used to build the bathroom shelves and I had to dig a little to find good pieces, but it was significantly cheaper and I figured this one won’t be as heavily used or closely examined as the bathroom shelves. Plus, I knew I wanted to paint this shelf white, which would hide a lot of the wood’s knotty imperfections.

I used the same basic steps as I did for the bathroom shelves, except instead of a 1×2 attached to the top for the back piece, I used a 1×3 attached to the back. Glue, clamp, (wait and repeat,) screw, prime, (wait,) paint, (wait…) hang. Finished! The hardest part of this project is waiting between steps. The actual work put into making the shelves is not bad and the whole project can be knocked out in a few hours spread over the course of a few days (because waiting!).

Once everything dried and spent some time curing, I put it up on the wall. I chose to align the shelf and screws according to where studs were in the wall and then shifted the dresser to be centered underneath. Here is the final picture ledge complete with art and one of my favorite decorative items, a Mochi cat:

Nice, right? We’re really happy with all three shelves and are especially enjoying the freed up counter space in the bathrooms. You may have noticed a lot of alterations to the rooms compared to our current house tour page. I’ll start doing some room by room posts soon and talk about the changes we’ve made and are still working on. We’ve been doing projects faster than we’ve had time to write about them, but things are starting to slow down a bit. It’s been an exciting couple months, albeit a bit exhausting on both the body and the wallet!

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