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Shelving DIY, cheap and fast–and super cute!

As we work on building our nest–in our new apartment, nestled in an ancient house in an ancient neighbourhood, two houses down from the highway with slanty floors and a crooked bathroom door–we’ve had a lot of tiny DIY projects that are helping to make this place really feel like home. Turns out, they’re quick and easy, and consequently, I want to show them off to everyone. These projects have one thing in common with each other: they take approximately an hour (maybe less, maybe slightly more), but make a huge impact on your living space. So on our home blog, we’ve started titling these projects ‘Better in an Hour’ projects. Today I’ll review with you how to make some cheap, fast shelves that are to-die-for cute. (Or, if you’re into handsome, dashing, or manly shelves…just substitute some cut-up bicycle tire for the ribbon.)
-pieces of wood
-paint and paintbrush
-glue gun, glue
-an hour, broken up into smaller segments
First, we went out and bought some wood at Home Depot. I find that proper shelves are really expensive, don’t you? And why?! What distinguishes one piece of wood from the next? What distinguishes the shelf from the board? I would argue: nothing does. So because it was the cheapest thing we found in the size we wanted, we bought two pieces of stair case wood. I’m sure it has a fancier name, but if you’re looking for it, that’s where we found it. It’s thick, non-warping plywood, with a paintable veneer on both sides. If you find a nice piece of solid pine or something, great…but with the final step of this project, we’re going to make the plywood look fantastic. Buying the boards took 10 minutes.
We took the boards home, and I painted them with the same paint we were using that day on the bedroom. I like to use house paint (versus art or craft paint) on household things because it holds up better; if you don’t have any lying around, look at the mistinted paints at your local hardware store. You can get a gallon for around six bucks, and there’s often tons of cool colours because people buy it, take it home, and realize no one should paint a whole room that colour. But since you’re going to use it on accents and furniture, it’s a win-win for you. Painting the boards took 10 minutes—doing two coats.
Once the boards dried, I got Brian to mount them on the wall. Mounting shelves is a whole tutorial in itself, but a boring one, so I’ll skip it here. Suffice it to say, watch a youtube video and no—don’t wing it. One tip: remember that if you have two shelves close together, you’ll want to mount their brackets the same way so it looks visually correct. Don’t put two brackets, six inches in, on one shelf, then put three brackets, four inches in, on the other. Get it? Good. Mounting the shelves took 30 minutes.
After Brian finished cursing, swearing, and fighting with the mounting job, I warmed up my glue gun, pulled out some ribbon I had, and began gluing the ribbon around the ugly plywood edge of the shelves. I aligned the edge of the ribbon with the edge of the shelf; because my ribbon is slightly wider than the wood, there’s a bit of a ribbon ‘lip’ on the bottom edge. But this doesn’t matter, because the ribbon is still flush with the top edge of the shelf, so things won’t snag on the ribbon as they’re added or removed from display. Gluing the ribbon took 10 minutes.
Give or take a few minutes for buying the ribbon—but I had bought mine while I was already out shopping—this project took 60 minutes. The result: we have two cute shelves where we can display some of our lovely oddities. The rocks, by the way, are from places I’ve travelled, plus places my friends have travelled. You can call me nerdy, but I say geology rocks. Wink!

Jordan Kent-Baas is co-author of the award-nominated blog Project: Priceless—The Free Wedding Experiment, and Project: Priceless—the NEST (the newlywed experience). The wedding experiment harnessed the power of social media to create a 140-person wedding for virtually no cost, while the NEST chronicles Jordan and Brian’s experience as frugal newlyweds. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, and aspires to one day be a full-time author. Jordan lives with her fat senior pug and her sweet handsome husband, Brian; she has a passion for crafting, and exploring new activities around the city. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blogs at, on Facebook at, or on twitter, under her handle @projectpricelss.

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