I love to see a stylish floating shelf in a modern kitchen! When we started our kitchen remodel, this was a must-have for me.
Adding a floating shelf to your kitchen is a fairly straightforward project. Here are the main types of floating shelves, a step-by-step guide, and frequently asked questions.
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Types of Floating Shelves
There are two common methods for hanging floating shelves.
- For a Thicker Shelf: You can build a wood insert that screws into the wall, with a hollow shelf “box” that slides over/around it (like the step 5 image seen here). This gives you a thick shelf with a traditional farmhouse style. Or…
- For a Thinner Shelf: You can use a piece of solid wood and drill holes in the back for dowel-like hidden brackets. Screw the brackets into the wall and insert them through the back of the shelf until they disappear.
We chose the thinner option because it provides a minimalist look for our mid-century modern kitchen. See the detailed instructions and infographic guide below.
How to Install a Modern Floating Shelf
- Stud finder and pencil
- Tape measure
- Floating shelf brackets and installation hardware (we used these ones)
- Wood shelf
- Circular saw
- Electric drill and auger drill bit
- Paint brush
Note: This is how we installed our floating shelf, but make sure to check the instructions with your particular brackets.
1) Mark the studs. Use a stud finder to find the studs in the area you want to hang your shelf, and mark the studs with a pencil.
2) Plan the shelf dimensions. Based on where your studs are, decide where your shelf will hang and what size it will be, making sure to cross at least two studs for stability. Mark where your shelf will hang on the wall.
My floating shelf is 46 inches long by 11.75 inches wide and 1.75 inches thick. This thickness was perfect for creating a prominent shelf and covering up brackets without looking too boxy. Not too big, not too small.
3) Install floating shelf brackets on your wall. Make sure the brackets are level with each other, with at least two brackets screwed into studs. You can use molly bolts for additional brackets. We installed four brackets for our 46-inch shelf.
4) Cut and plane the shelf. Use a circular saw to cut your board to size, and then use a planer to create a flat surface on all sides. You might also be able to order a custom shelf that will work for your space, like this.
5) Drill bracket holes into the back of your shelf. This is the tricky part. Based on where your brackets are installed, mark where you need to drill bracket holes. You can set your shelf on the brackets to help with marking the bracket locations.
You’ll also need to chisel out some space for the back of the bracket to fit into the wood so the shelf can lay flush against the wall. Test it out and keep chiseling or drilling until the shelf will slide all the way around the brackets.
6) Sand and stain the shelf. Use a variety of sandpaper grits to get a smooth shelf, and then use a paint brush to stain it in your preferred finish. We usually choose Danish oil in walnut.
In this case, we built our shelf out of pieces of the cabinets that we took down, so the shelf matches our remaining cabinets.
7) Slide your floating shelf onto the brackets. Once your shelf is dry, slide it onto those brackets and start decorating.
Floating Shelf FAQs
Here are some common questions and answers about floating shelves, including where to find materials.
Are floating shelves sturdy?
Yes, when built with real wood and installed into studs with the right brackets, floating shelves are very sturdy. They can hold books, dishes and plants easily. Check your bracket instructions for specific weight recommendations.
Where do you get floating shelf brackets or hardware?
You can find floating shelf brackets on Amazon. The dowel-like brackets insert into holes in the back of the shelf. They fit snugly inside the shelf and disappear, giving you the floating appearance.
Make sure to choose the right size brackets for your shelf. We chose 10-inch brackets for our 11.75-inch wide shelf. Here are some options in different sizes.
Where can you buy floating shelves?
If you’re not up for DIY, you can order floating shelves on Etsy. Many of the sellers will let you select your wood type, depth and length, and they will build a custom shelf for you. You’ll just need to screw the insert or brackets into your studs and attach the shelf.
Check out these Etsy sellers:
- StudioJesseJames – Baltic Birch Plywood Floating Shelf
- PacificoReclaimed – Reclaimed Wood Floating Shelf
- SawtoothRidge – Chunky Floating Shelf
How do you style a floating shelf?
Your floating shelf style can lean toward the practical or more decorative. Maybe you want to display your favorite serving dishes for easy access on special occasions.
You could use your shelf as a baking station with canisters of pantry staples, like flour and sugar. Or maybe you need more room for eccentric cat decor or cascading houseplants.
I was looking for a place to display my cookbooks. I love seeing them here above the mixing stand—the perfect inspiration to try a new recipe. They stand in place with these cat bookends and my simple cookbook holder.
The shelf also houses my kitty teapot, and of course I always need more room for houseplants. Here are some pretty accessories for a floating shelf.
You might also like these kitchen remodeling and decor ideas:
- Tile backsplash DIY installation tricks
- How to install retro glitter laminate countertops
- Colorful accessories for a mid-century modern kitchen