When sharing some videos of our bathroom on Instagram recently, many of you noticed an easy update we added: a wooden, floating shelf in the window. It was such a simple DIY project that we did on a whim a while ago (and it was extremely affordable too!) so we wanted to show you the easy steps to make one yourself.
For reference, this is what the window looked like when we first showed you the before and afters of this space back in 2020. We’ve always used the deep windowsill for some decor and greenery, but adding the extra shelf gave us room for more things, and just generally adds some nice interest to a formerly non-descript window.
The steps for this depend somewhat on your specific window, but here’s what we used for ours:
Tools & Materials
*You could also get the board cut to size at Lowe’s or Home Depot, in which case you wouldn’t need a saw & could likely use a small hand saw or hack saw for the thin quarter round supports.
We had all of these supplies on hand – even the scrap piece of butcher block – so all we need was about $2 in cove molding to make this project happen!
Why This Window Was A Good Spot For A Shelf
This project won’t work on every window, but ours was a great candidate for a few reasons. First, it has a deep sill (about 4″), which means we could add a 4″ shelf without it bumping out into the room at all. Anything significantly shallower might make it harder to fit most things on there (although our wooden hands from Mexico just need about an inch of wood to balance on). Sure, we could’ve made it stick out into the room a little bit (which you can do if your sill is narrower), but we personally like how the shelf is flush with the window casing since it was already deep enough to hold what we wanted up there.
Secondly, this window has frosted glass in it – meaning it doesn’t need a blind or roller shade to give us privacy. Most window treatments would interfere with a shelf like this, so any windows that need covering (bedroom or bathroom) might be a no-go. This could be awesome in a kitchen window though! Even if it’s not frosted and has a nice view. It’s also worth noting that this window came frosted with our house, but we’ve added frosting film to windows in plenty of our previous houses before – so here’s a tutorial for that if you’d like to remove your bathroom shade, frost the window, and then add this shelf.
Lastly, since this isn’t a sleeping space, we didn’t need to worry about egress – i.e. when bedrooms need a viable escape route in case of emergency. Bathrooms are not required to meet egress, but we were sure to install our shelf in a way that allowed the window to open behind it.
We also opted just to hold the shelf in with a few small finish nails (as you’ll read in a moment) so it can easily be knocked out of the way if there is a real emergency. These are all good things to think about before adding any shelf in front of a window that opens.
How We Constructed The Window Shelf
This project was so quick that we didn’t stop to take a single progress picture, but I think you’ll find the process pretty self-evident from the after photos. It’s basically a piece of butcher block that rests upon two small pieces of cove molding!
The wood we used is this butcher block because we had a scrap piece left over from this built-in storage project. It’s pretty pricey if you were to purchase it JUST for this shelf, so there are certainly other options – even a basic 2×4″ could work! But, depending on the interior span of your window (ours is 28″), you’ll probably want something sturdier than a standard 1″ thick board. Something that thin could sag over time without support in the middle, especially if you plan to put heavy-ish items on it.
Since we knew the butcher block was very sturdy, we simply had to find a way to prop it up in place. We didn’t want big obnoxious brackets, so we decided to try this low-profile cove molding instead, which blends in nicely with the window trim, almost giving us the effect of a floating wood shelf.
So with that plan in mind, the steps themselves were simple:
- Cut your wood shelf to size using a saw (ours measured 4″ deep & 28″ wide) or have it pre-cut
- Cut two pieces of cove molding to the depth of the window trim (ours was 4″)
- Measure & mark the desired placement of the bottom of your shelf on each side of your window trim
- Nail the cove molding into the window trim, using a level to make sure they don’t slope forward or back.
- Add your wood shelf and check again for level.
- Nail your shelf to the cove molding (we went from underneath) to keep it in place.
- Caulk nail holes and paint them to match your trim
The nails we used were just simple 1.5″ finish nails in our nail gun – nothing super heavy-duty at all – because the shelf itself really isn’t that heavy. You can even see the divots where we put the nails in (guess they could use a second coat of caulk!).
Again, this was a really quick, super simple DIY project that we did in the spur of the moment with some leftover butcher block, but we love how it turned out, and highly recommend it if you have a room that could use some extra interest.
Oh, and if you’re wondering more about what’s ON the shelves – besides the two plants – those are wooden hands covered with milagro charms that Sherry picked up on our Mexico family vacation last year. We like to joke that from the outside it looks like hands recreating that scene from Titanic.
Other DIY Shelf Projects
If you’re looking for some more DIY shelf projects, we’ve got plenty of those:
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