Easy DIY Hanging Shelves

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The huge wall space above the sofa in the tiny house intimidated me.

The space is so unique, and I'm not a designer, so how could I possibly do it justice? How could I commit to a large piece of art, let alone choose the right one?

By the way–I don't believe there are any right and wrong choices in design. There are just "eh," "works," and "oo!" For someone who gravitates toward finding the right answer, this makes me really uneasy. I've had to learn to just go with my gut, keeping trying new things, and not worry about committing to any choice forever. That's the beauty of it!

But that's why these DIY Hanging Shelves are so great. You can change up their styling whenever and they only require a couple nail holes and a few dollars in materials. No buyer's remorse over spending a ton on something you don't actually like. And no worrying about making giant drywall anchor holes. They could also be really great for renters for the same reason! In fact, I made several holes when trying to find the best positioning but covered them up easily. Here's a little tutorial to get your own DIY on. 

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  • A plank of wood, 1" thick or less. Any thicker may be too heavy for just the nails. Mine were about 18" by 4" wide. Can be purchased at Home Depot and cut to size in the store.

  • Test tube(s) (I used these on Amazon)

  • Twine or other cord of your choice

  • Shelf support pegs


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Step 1: Drill holes for hanging


Drill holes in each of the 4 corners about 1/2" from each edge. The width of these holes isn't super important. They just need to be large enough for your twine or cord to fit through. Make sure to put your shelf plank on top of some scrap wood to minimize blow out on your hole and protect your drilling surface. (In my case, my lovely driveway!) Sand around the holes smoothing out any rough edges. 

step 2: plan out styling

At this point you may want to skip ahead to Step 5 where you actually hang the shelf. Or, just lay it on the ground so you can start playing with what you will put on your shelf and where. It doesn't have to be the final positioning–just so you can decide where you want to put a bud vase or lean a frame, if at all. Once you have an idea, then proceed to Steps 3 and 4 to customize your shelf. 

Step 3: Drill bud vase hole

If you plan to utilize a test tube bud vase as I have in the picture, decide which side you want to put it. Mark the center of the hole, keeping in mind the width of the flower or piece of greenery you may use and any other accessories on the shelf. Don't forget your scrap wood underneath and to sand the edges of the hole afterward. 

Step 3: Drill peg holes for leaning frame

If you anticipate setting any artwork on the shelf to lean against the wall, you'll want some sort of barrier to ensure the frame doesn't fall off the shelf. I used extra shelf support pegs that came with my cabinets and they work great! Plan out where you want to put your frame and measure the width in thirds. Setting the frame down along your shelf, mark the center third marks, about 1/2" from the edge. See the two red circles in my nerdy figure drawing. Then, drill down only the depth of the shelf pegs, about 1/4".

Tip: When you don't want to drill all the way through something, wrap your drill bit in some painter's tape at the max depth you want to go. When the tape hits the surface, you're done!

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Step 4: Hang the shelf

Thread the twine through each of the holes from the bottom, and then tie the ends in a simple knot as shown. Here is where you'll want to play around with the length of each side. They really can be as long as you want them to be. I opted to have each side longer than the total height of my frame, but shorter than the length of the shelf thus creating a rectangle vignette. 

Once you have each side of twine threaded through and knotted, simply hammer in 2 nails, using a laser level if you have one to make sure they are even. Or, you can set a regular level on top of your shelf as you hold the twine knots against the wall, marking the tops. Position the knots on the nails and adjust as necessary.

No knots needed underneath, just tie the ends together at the top.

No knots needed underneath, just tie the ends together at the top.

Play around with length of the twine in front and back, ensuring the shelf is level from both side to side and front to back.

Play around with length of the twine in front and back, ensuring the shelf is level from both side to side and front to back.

Just a simple knot will do. Then, trim the extra.

Just a simple knot will do. Then, trim the extra.

Ready for styling!

Ready for styling!

test tube bud vase.jpg

Tip: When adding in the test tube bud vase, it will probably fit fairly loosely. If you'll be taking it in and out to water often enough, this is a good thing! I added a dab of hot glue on either side to keep it from sliding all the way through the hole.

Step 5: Style your shelf

This is the fun part! It took me several tries to get my shelves to a place where I was pleased with them. I originally planned to use my "be still my soul" print (pictured below), but decided it was too short for the length of the twine I had set and for the large space on the wall. So, I dug up some other things in my house and came up with the current arrangement. The cool part is, everything on these shelves were things I already had.

My dad actually made the reclaimed wood frame decades before reclaimed wood decor was a thing. #trendsetter! I just added a piece of wire to hang my giant xerographica air plant. The silver champagne glass was a Goodwill find from San Francisco and currently displays another air plant itself. In the bud vase, I either use a sprig of bougainvillea from my yard if our guests are only staying one night. If they're staying longer, I'll use fresh lavender, or a stem from whatever flowers I have that week in the house.

Hospitality tip: Plant some lavender in your hard and you'll always have something beautiful and delightful smelling to cut fresh for visitors. Since it lasts so long, you won't have to worry about it drooping in their private space. I've only had to change this sprig once in the last six weeks!

On the right, the frame is one I have had from Home Goods forever. I browsed through some old photos and found this one of a cactus from the Desert Botanical Gardens a couple years ago. I printed it out on regular paper (not even photo paper! gasp!) and it looks great. The concrete planter is of course a little more complicated, as I made it myself, but it was one I already had done in my collection. (You can purchase your own here.) 


And that's it! Have you been stumped by a large open wall? What projects have you tried in the space? Let me know in the comments, as I'm sure I will be inspired soon enough to try something different on this wall. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to never miss a post!

Shelf styling with air plants, leaning frame, and test tube bud vase.

Shelf styling with air plants, leaning frame, and test tube bud vase.