How To Build A Seamless Art Ledge

This week, I unveiled my guest bedroom refresh and a big centerpiece of the room was the art ledge that hung above the bed. An art ledge is a shallow shelf with a short lip on the front to hold framed pieces of art and sometimes small plants and other knickknacks.

The guest room reveal art ledge.

I built my first art ledge a few years ago for my living room to go above my couch. For me personally, I have always had a hard time committing to one setup when it comes to art. I frequently purchase and thrift pieces and my style varies so much that it’s hard to keep up with myself. In the past, I would create gallery walls or something similar, and I would end up liking them for a little bit but would almost always want to change them within a year. Same thing with really anything with semi-permanence… It’s just in my nature.

My first art ledge. It gets changed every few months.

An art ledge offers a practical solution to this problem. I’m able to swap out the art in the room to alter the feel of the space anytime I please. It’s amazing how something as small as bringing in a new piece can change the vibe.

If you can’t find it, build it.

Before I built my first ledge I searched Pinterest for plans and, much to my surprise, there really weren’t any I liked. I’m picky, but not *that* picky! A lot of these tutorials — even from big-time bloggers — had a noticeable seam that ran along the front where the front lip of the ledge sat on top of the bottom piece of the shelf, and I wanted to give more of the illusion of a floating shelf.

I was able to achieve this look using my brad nailer with 18ga brad nails to nail the front lip to the bottom support piece of the shelf and filling the nail holes. The exact nail gun that I use is the Ryobi AirStrike brad nailer and I love it dearly.

And now, lovely humans, I am offering up my tutorial to you so that you may build ledges of your own and adorn your homes with a never-ending carousel of art and other framed goodies.

TOOLS NEEDED

  • two 1×4 pieces of wood of the same length – I use common pine because it’s easy to find and it’s cheap, but if you stain common pine you will need to condition it first
  • one 1×2 piece of wood in the same length as the 1x4s
  • 1.5″ minimum-length screws and an impact driver/drill
  • 1/8″ drill bit (for pilot holes, which is helpful but optional)
  • brad nailer with 18ga nails
  • plastic wood (or other comparable sandable/stainable wood filler) and a putty knife
  • stain (optional)
  • level (for mounting to the wall)
  • safety goggles!!!!

HOW TO BUILD IT

First things first, decide on the length you’d like your shelf to be and cut the pieces of wood to that desired length. The shelf in my living room is somewhere between 8-10 feet in length, but the one in my guest bedroom is 6 feet in length. I bought 6′ pieces for my guest room because that meant I wouldn’t have to do any extra cutting at home. Life hack.

Side note: Home Depot and I assume other hardware stores will cut your wood for you if you do not have access to something like a miter saw at home.

If you are staining, you can stain when the shelf is built, but I’d recommend you stain each piece before anything is attached to each other.

1.) To build the shelf, join the two 1x4s together at one end to form a corner, refer to photo below. Be sure that these pieces line up on their seams and on the outside ends. One of the pieces will form the back support that attaches to the wall, and the other piece will form the bottom part that becomes the ledge itself. I like to tuck the “wall piece” behind the “ledge piece” to allow room for thicker frames.

I am the queen of inappropriate work stations. In this instance, it is two leftover foam insulation pieces and a piece of drywall.

2.) Drill pilot holes into both pieces while they sit in this position. I had Jake help me hold them together so the pilot holes would line up. Pilot holes are not entirely necessary, but they do help to ensure that the screws don’t bust through the wood and to guide them into their correct positioning. I used a 1/8 inch drill bit to drill my pilot holes.

I know you can’t see the “wall piece,” but trust me it’s there and this aerial view of the pilot hole was important, okay?!

These ledges are, most often, not going to be holding a large amount of weight on them, but I would recommend doing one screw every 1.5 or so feet. I did four in total — one on each end, and two spaced evenly between them. Don’t quote me, but this should be ample support for whatever you’re placing on your ledge.

3.) Screw the screws into the pilot holes. Again, I used Jake as a project assistant here to make sure my 1x4s stayed lined up in their same position. Counter sink your screws so they sit just below the surface of the wood.

A nice, counter-sunk screw head. Also please ignore my terrible stain job — this is the “backside” of the shelf, no one will see!

4.) Repeat this process with the rest of your pilot holes. If you’re not using pilot holes and instead just chose to forgo this step and be brave, go ahead and screw in all of the screws.

You’ll have something like this. The piece on the left will become the back piece that is mounted directly to the wall, and the piece on the bottom will form the ledge.

5.) Flip them up so you can place the 1×2 along the front edge of the “ledge” piece. This is crucial if you’re looking to avoid having a “seam” on the front. Line up the bottom of the lip with the bottom-front of the ledge piece. Please refer to the photo below. Again, having a helper here to hold them in place will be beneficial.

6.) Attach the front lip to the bottom section of the shelf supports using the nail gun. My brad nailer uses small (18ga) nails that shoot into the wood and leave small holes to cover with wood filler. For wood filler, I use Plastic Wood. It’s sandable and stainable, which helps it become more seamless and look professional. Follow the instructions on the can.

And voila! You have successfully created an art ledge!

To hang it, mount it into studs in the wall. You’re not going to be putting a ton of weight on these, generally speaking, but it’s always a good idea to mount into the studs for safety and for functionality. For the six-foot ledge, I used two screws to mount into two different studs.

Fun hack! Can’t find your stud finder? Use a super-strong magnet! This was Jake’s ingenious idea when I couldn’t locate my stud finder. It will magnetize to whatever screw or nail it finds in the wall. It’s pretty foolproof and uses the same logic as the Stud Buddy.

You do not have to use both a laser level and a regular level, but I was using the laser level to eyeball the height from afar. The artwork on the shelf will cover up the visible mounting screws.

You can customize your ledge however you want. My living room one is stained in Varathane Provincial, a neutral-warm wood tone, but this art ledge was stained using Varathane whitewash mixed with a little Varathane Provincial. I also installed two brass cup hooks to the bottom of the guest bedroom ledge and hung bulbs from them in lieu of lamps. Plus the brass cup hooks were leftover from my IKEA Bekvam Hack. Love a good zero dollar update!

Will you be trying this DIY? It’s one of the easiest and most functional projects I’ve ever tackled. Would it be overkill to put one in our bedroom too!?

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