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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

Easy alcove shelving - DIY floating shelves & alcove units

Updated: Mar 28

How I DIYed some floating alcove shelving from an old wardrobe

DIY floating alcove shelves

Alcove shelving is the perfect solution for making the most of an often underutilized space in your home. If you are looking to maximize the storage potential of your living room while adding somewhere to style books, ornaments and accessories, then alcove shelving is your friend.


There are different types of shelving for alcoves, we are mainly going to look at floating shelves in this post and how to DIY them, but I'll also talk a bit about alcove units, alcove cabinets, corner shelves at the end in case these appeal more to you.



Floating alcove shelves

Floating shelves are an excellent choice for alcove spaces, adding a simple and minimalist look while providing practical storage. I've shared a DIY tutorial below, if floating shelves are the look you want to create and you enjoy a hands-on DIY project. Alternatively, you can buy ready-made floating shelf kits in most DIY stores or places like IKEA. I recently used some IKEA picture shelves in a kitchen alcove to create a DIY coffee station. Here's the tutorial for that one if it's of interest. 


DIY floating alcove shelves: 5-Step DIY Tutorial


Here's a quick tutorial for how I created DIY floating alcove shelves back in lockdown. I was updating our bedroom and had just removed a huge built-in wardrobe that took up too much space, so I was left with lots of pieces of wood to dispose of. I decided to try and use as much wood for DIY projects as possible, and these alcove shelves were one of the first areas to be transformed courtesy of an upcycled wardrobe


If you don't have lots of wood offcuts available, you could easily and cheaply pick some plywood or MDF sheeting from your local DIY store. Make sure you use thick enough wood especially if the shelves are going to hold a lot of weight. For a heavy load, you'd want to use wood at least 18mm thick and you'll need to make sure you use strong enough wall fixings too. 


You will need

Materials:

Wood for the shelves

Wood baton for the shelf supports

Wall fixings

Screws

Grab adhesive

Decorator's caulk


Tools:

Saw

Drill

Screwdriver

Paint

Spirit level

Pencil

Tape measure


Step 1: Planning and Preparation


living room alcove next to chimnet breast before shelving was installed
  • Gather your materials so you have everything to hand.

  • Decide on the number of shelves you want to install. 

  • Consider the weight capacity you'll need, especially if you plan on storing heavy items.

  • Take architectural features into account and decide on the ideal placement for your shelves.

Top Tip: If you struggle to visualise things, mark the wall with masking tape where you plan to position the shelves, then you can stand back and see if this works. It's much easier to reposition masking tape than installed shelves so take the time to feel happy with your choice before you start drilling.


Step 2: Measure up


Alcove shelving under construction
  • Measure the alcove's width, height, and depth to ensure a perfect fit and decide the optimal gap between the shelves if you want more than one.

  • Using a pencil, mark the desired height for each shelf on the side walls of the alcove. 

  • Use a spirit level to mark the line of the shelves to make sure the brackets go on level. I used pieces of baton as the shelf supports so needed to know the exact width and depth of the alcove before marking the wood where I needed to cut.

  • Double-check your measurements and that you've started with a level line on the wall.  Top Tip: Bring in some of the ornaments and objects you plan to style on the shelves to help gauge the gap you need between shelves. There's nothing more annoying than building them only to find your lovely favourite vase is too tall to fit on the shelf you planned for it.

Step 3: Installation


Alcove shelving being installed in living room alcove

As always with home DIYs, use dust sheets during the installation process to protect your surroundings


  • Start by drilling pilot holes through the baton at the desired locations.

  • Make sure the pilot holes are evenly spaced and have enough holes for the size of the piece of wood - 3-4 holes is usually good for an alcove. 

  • Line up the pre-drilled baton against the wall on the line you have marked. Using a thin pencil through the pilot holes, mark the screw holes on the wall so they will line up for the wall anchors.

  • If the baton is too thick to get a pencil tip through the hole, you can place a piece of masking tape over the baton and mark the hole positions then stick the tape on the wall exactly where you'll put the shelf support and you can drill through the marked holes. This drill hack also helps get a neat hole in the wall as the masking tape prevents splitting.  

  • Choose the correct type of wall fixings for the wall you have. eg plasterboard vs solid wall. This step is critical as it ensures the shelves will be securely anchored to the wall. Install the wall anchors and then attach the brackets or supports for the shelves.

  • Make sure the supports are level and securely fixed to support the weight of the shelf.


Step 4: Mounting the Shelves

building living room alcove shelving from upcycled wood



  • Carefully place the shelves onto the brackets, ensuring they are level and aligned.

  • If you're installing multiple shelves, repeat this process for each one. 

  • You can screw or glue the shelves into the shelf supports for extra security.



Step 5: Finishing Touches

DIY alcove shelving from floating wooden shelves

I added a thicker strip of mdf over the shelf fronts to give the appearance of more solid wood and also to hide the floating shelf supports that were under the shelves. I simply...

  • measured and marked the desired lengths

  • cut the strips

  • sanded the ends and glued them onto the shelf fronts with grab adhesive

  • I caulked any tiny gaps or cracks and sanded once dry to give a smooth built-in look

  • then painted the whole thing.


Once all the shelves are securely mounted, step back and admire your handiwork. Consider adding personalized touches like strip lights underneath the shelves for added ambience. Finish the shelves with wax finishes for an excellent quality and durable surface. 


Other types of shelves for alcoves

Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or prefer made-to-order items, there's a perfect alcove shelving option for you. Let's explore the five best types of alcove shelving to transform your living room into a practical and stylish haven.


Alcove cabinets

DIY alcove cabinets built by Claire Douglas

For a more substantial storage solution, alcove cabinets are the way to go. If you have the budget, bespoke made-to-measure units can seriously elevate a space ensuring they fit snugly into your alcove spaces. With a front panel that seamlessly integrates into the surrounding wall surface, alcove cabinets become a focal point of the room. Consider contrasting colours or a matching colour scheme to complement your room's aesthetic (colour-drenching is very on trend at the moment and adds to the built-in look). Add strip lights inside for a dramatic effect and practical use, or style with a battery-operated lamp. 


If you don't have the budget for custom joinery, don't panic I have just the DIY tutorial for you! I created some beautiful built-in alcove shelving units with storage using an IKEA hack. I used IKEA Brusali for the base and IKEA HAVSTA shelving for the top and built them in with MDF panels. You can see the results below and read the full tutorial here if you fancy giving this one a go. 


Corner alcove shelves


Maximize every inch of your living room by installing corner shelves in alcove spaces. These shelves utilize dead spaces efficiently, providing additional storage without taking up valuable floor space. Using timber brackets or side supports, ensure the shelves can bear a decent amount of weight. Consider adding a contrasting color to the front edge of the shelf for a standout touch, or colour-drenching the whole wall - shelves included. I've written a whole piece in how to jazz up shelves quickly and efficiently - which includes loads of other ideas that might appeal - check it out here...Corner shelves are also perfect for displaying decorative items or serving as bedside tables in small spaces. 


Alcove shelving units

alcove shelving by Claire Douglas

If you prefer a more traditional approach, alcove shelving units offer practical storage with a timeless appeal. 

These units come in different sizes and configurations to suit your needs ( you can read more here about how I recommend changing up the shelf configurations in built-in shelves to create a more expensive and custom look). With lower shelves providing extra space for heavier items and upper shelves for display, alcove shelving units are versatile and functional. If your budget doesn't stretch to bespoke joinery for alcove shelving units, then you might like to try my IKEA Billy bookcase hack as I created a wall of custom-looking built-ins for under £350. Read the easy-to-follow step-by-step DIY tutorial here


As you can see, alcove shelving offers a practical storage solution while enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your living room. Whether you opt for floating shelves, alcove cabinets, corner shelves, shelving units, or DIY wooden shelves, there's a perfect fit for every space and style. With a little creativity and attention to detail, transform your alcove spaces into beautiful shelves that elevate your room.


Where next?

Below are some other woodwork-related blog posts that you might enjoy...


Mitre box DIY - how to make a tall mitre box from upcycled wood

Skirting board tutorial - everything you need to know about joins for skirting board

Sanding stick - a handy DIY hack for sanding

Countersink drill bit - how to use a countersink drill bit to hide your screw heads

Paste the wall wallpaper is a great way to decorate your alcove shelves


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