How To: DIY Beautiful Open Kitchen Shelves

From the moment I laid eyes on our newest home my brain went into overdrive thinking of all of the projects and improvements I wanted to do.  The kitchen in our new home is by far my least favorite space in the house.  It’s not that its a bad kitchen, it is just a very dated kitchen.

There are not words to describe how badly I would love to paint those terrible 1980’s orange kitchen cabinets and update the awful faux butcher block counter tops.  Sadly, we can do neither of these things since we are only renting the home.  However, I do think that adding some open kitchen shelves will help to breath a little life into this dated space.

Here is the before picture, it’s pretty boring.  There is no life and no personality in this kitchen at all. But with a little time and effort this kitchen has come to life!

Alright now getting to the how to part…

I started by going to HomeDepot and picking out some wood for my new project.  I wanted something that wasn’t going to require too much prep work.  So I settled on 8″ x 6′ common pine boards and the headed off to the shelving department to look for brackets and then back to the wood section to look at corbels.  Ultimately, I only purchased the boards at HomeDepot.  The shelf brackets ran $6 and up and the corbels were $10 and up in the sizes I was looking for.  This was way way more than I wanted to spend, brackets alone would have run $72 or corbels $120.

After searching around on the internet for a while I managed to find a wholesale lot of 12 brackets on eBay for $42 with free shipping.  Way, way better than the alternative.  The brackets shipped out right away and I had them within 2 days. They were a little smaller that I had hoped so I decided to use 4 on each shelf instead of 3.

While waiting for my brackets to arrive I worked on my shelf boards.  First I measured my boards to the length I wanted about 60″ and used an adjustable square to make sure my line and cut would be straight.

Next I used my Ryobi skill saw that I picked up at a garage sale a while back for $10 to trim my boards to the correct length.  (Garage sales are a great place to buy tools when you are first starting out in the DIY world).  After my boards were cut I gave all the shelves a quick sanding with 200 grit sand paper and a small pad sander (another garage sale find for $5).  Be sure to pay extra attention to the raw ends to the boards.

After I cut and sanded my boards I removed all the debris with a damp paper towel.  I did this for two reasons, 1. It will help the stain and later the poly to adhere more evenly and 2. The water will help to open the pores in the wood allowing it to soak up more stain in less time and with less coats, saving time and money.  It is important to keep rinsing your paper towel as you go to ensure cleanliness and even moisture.  Do not over saturate your boards, you want just enough water to make them evenly damp.  

Once my boards were clean I applied one coat of stain using a traditional brush.  I chose to use Minwax Special Walnut Stain left over from my dining room table (affiliate link). Once the stain was set I turned the boards over and followed the same process on the other side.  When applying water the other side be sure not to let it run over the edges onto the stained side.  This will effect your finished product. (When it comes time to clean your brush use Dawn soap and then soak in a 50/50 vinegar water solution overnight.  This will help break down all the oils and make your brush like new).

After several hours the satin was set enough that I could start the long process of applying poly.  In the end I applied 4 coats of high gloss Minwax Polyurethane to each side of the wood (affiliate link).  Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t take this many but because I choose to use the high gloss it took more to give it an even finish. (In-between coats of poly store your brush in the fridge inside a sealed sandwich bag.  This will prevent your brush from drying out).

There are two reasons I used high gloss, 1. because this is again what I used on our dining room table and since we move around a lot the odds are very high they will all end up in the same room and 2. Because the high gloss is more durable than the other finishes.  Since we will be using the shelves to store our serving dishes, it is likely that at some point someone will put one on the shelf that isn’t completely dry.

Sorry everyone, at this point I was so excited about my new shelves that I forgot to keep taking pictures. When applying your polyurethane be sure to do it in light coats.  It will take you longer but it will also give a better smoother finish.  I recommend only putting enough on the wood so it appears wet.  Make sure you move around the wood and look at it from different angles check the evenness of each coat.  When working on an edge be sure you go back over it very, very lightly from the opposite side to prevent raised edges.  After each coat of poly has set sand it lightly with 220, or higher, grit sanding block (affiliate link). It is extremely important that you clean your boards each time after sanding.

While we were waiting for the final coats of poly to dry my Dad helped me measure and secure the brackets to the wall (he is far better at measuring than I am).  We attached each bracket to the stud using a #6 1 3/4″ screw.  In the end the studs and the shevles were off center by about 3/4″ but with all of the goodies on the shelf you can’t tell that they are slightly off center.  It was more important that the shelves be securely fastened to the wall.

After the boards were dry and sanded one final time I secured them to the brackets.  Then the fun part really started, decorating!  And that’s it!  The process took me about 1 week and cost me a total of $72. (I already owned the brushes, stain, and poly from previous projects).

Now that spring is finally in the air are their any projects you are excited to get started?  I’d love to hear from you below! or you can always send me an email at

Shop my styleIf you love the look of my new open kitchen shelves then you’ll love these beautiful accents!

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34 thoughts on “How To: DIY Beautiful Open Kitchen Shelves

    1. They really added something nice to our kitchen and I love all the additional storage. I’ve spent the last week arranging and rearranging all the thing on them. I love them! Thank you for stopping by!


    1. There are many great places to add open shelves. I love these so much I am thinking about making another set for our dining room and our master bath could use a few too. Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out my latest project.


    1. Tara,

      They were relatively easy to make. It took me about a week to finish the project but 95% of that was just waiting for the poly to dry. I probably only worked on them for an hour a day. Thank you so much for stopping by to check out my project.


    1. Ashley,

      They are great to hold so many things. I am still playing with the arrangement, but I love them! Thank you for stopping by!


    1. Thank you Krysta!

      Would you believe I found that copper flower pot at a yardsale two weeks ago for $1!?! Ahhh, it makes my heart so happy to find things I love for super cheap! Thank you for stopping by!


  1. Thanks for visiting my post, final phase of my nature home, your blog is lovely and these shelves turned out Fabulous.

  2. Thanks for sharing your shelf ideas at Fabulous Friday.. I love this post because it gave me great ideas for my shelves for my new home. You are a feature for my next Fab Friday this Friday

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