Introduction: Corner Floating Shelves - Industrial Style

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Corner floating shelves are great for turning unused space into storage or to add an interesting display in an area that's often overlooked. In my case, I've been building a large wrap-around storage system for my garage and started with PART 1 where I built large storage cabinets on adjacent walls. This left an empty corner that I had to figure out a solution for in this PART 2 of the build.

Although I'll be connecting my shelves to the adjacent cabinets, the same technique works for building stand-alone floating shelves!

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Now on with it...


Step 1: Measure and Test Fit With Every Cut

After completing the first part of my garage wrap-around storage system build, I ended up with a large 3-cabinet storage unit on one wall and another cabinet to store brooms and gardening tools on the adjacent wall. This left me with an awkward empty corner between the two. In this corner I have a few electrical outlets, a vent and drain pipe.

I’m not a fan of the triangular corner cabinets when it comes to storage because their odd shape only accommodates small items. Instead, I decided to connect these two larger units using L-shaped floating corner shelves with the objective of making the three components look like a single wrap-around system!

Since each shelf will need to connect with the adjacent units, you have to measure each one individually because walls aren't always straight (especially in the corners) and the cabinets may not be perfectly straight against the wall.

Cut and test fit each piece before screwing together each shelf frame.

Step 2: Screw Together Your Frames

I used 3" construction/wood screws to assemble my shelf frames. Before putting in your inner frame supports, be sure to find and mark the studs both on the walls and your frame so you don't place the supports at a stud location. This means that your inner supports may not be perfectly center.

Step 3: Screw Each Shelf Into Your Wall Studs

If you haven't already, draw horizontal lines on your corner walls for where you want each shelf to go. Use a level to be sure they're straight. This makes it much easier to align your shelf frames into place using the line as a guide and ensure they're level before screwing the frame into the studs.

Getting just one screw in a stud anchors the frame enough to free up your other hand to use a level and double check the alignment. Then put in the remaining screws at the wall studs. I used two (2) 3" screws per stud.

I then used shorter screws (2") to anchor each side to the adjacent cabinets.

Step 4: Attaching Faces

With all the shelf frames installed on the wall, it's time to cover them with nicer boards and panels that I can then stain or paint.

For the front surfaces I used white/common board and cut them to the appropriate lengths and widths. I knew I was going to be using 1/4" plywood for the tops and bottoms so I added this to my dimensions so that all the panels would be flush in the end. Use glue and brad nails to secure them in place.

In order to make these floating corner shelves look like they were part of the existing cabinets, I used the same stain color (Jacobean) for all the front surfaces.

Step 5: Painting Faux Metal Panels

For the top and bottom panels of the shelves I used 1/4 plywood. Just like for your frames, measure before cutting each panel because even imperfections along the wall that are hard to see with the naked eye will affect your fitment.

Rather than staining these panels too I decided to try something a bit different. After all, I had already done a bunch of staining on the cabinets and everything was looking too ....brown. Plus I was just plain bored of staining - lol!

I love industrial and steampunk styles so I decided to try and make these panels look like old rusty metal. It would complement the rich brown stain and add something unexpected to the look.

First I applied a black basecoat followed by hammered metal effect spray paint. Plain silver will work too and it's less expensive. After the paint dried I gazed upon my creation and they looked ....terrible ...not like metal at all! They just looked like wood panels painted silver - like a cheap arts & crafts project.

I was so frustrated that I started to sand the panels down to start over with another idea ...but I sanded, the panels began to look more metal-like. It turns out that when you sand the hammered metal paint it gums up, creating dark spots that looked like rusty pits on aged metal surfaces.

I followed up with hand sanding to add more scratches by revealing more of the black paint. At this point, the panels looked pretty convincing but I wanted to add some rust effects.

There are many ways to do this and even specialized paints you could use but I wanted to keep it simple and always prefer to use up what I have in the shop. I did mine using just 3 paint colors - black, burnt umber (brown) and red oxide. You can get these as tubes of craft acrylic paints.

Starting with the black, use a flat art brush and "dry-brush" along the edges and add some splotches in the middle. Dry-brushing is just wiping most of the paint off on a paper towel before using it on your piece. I used my hands to smear and blend the paint to get rid of obvious brush strokes. Follow that up with the burnt umber. This color is great for making the panels look dirty. But the rust effect really comes to life with red oxide. Use this sparingly over the black and burnt umber to accent small areas and tap the brush to create a pitted look over dark areas you painted earlier.

Step 6: Adding Faux Rivets

After redeeming myself from a near paint fail I got a bit over-confident and figured it would be easy to hammer in a bunch of thumbtacks as rivets. But their shiny heads didn't match the aged look so I had to sand each one to give it a dull appearance ....almost 600 of them. Their stems were also too long so I trimmed each one ...almost 600 of them.

I then used a hammer and nail to create pilot holes for the thumbtacks around the edges and a bit of glue before hammering them into place.

This step is optional, takes tremendous patience but really sells the look! No regrets!

Step 7: Install the Faux Metal Panels

Some glue and brad nails are enough to secure these in place. I tend not to use glue on the top panels so that if I ever want to remove these without damaging them I can pry up the panels and access the screws going into the wall studs.

Step 8: Final Thoughts

Even though this project had a few "oh oh" moments, the trial and error was well worth it. These floating corner shelves fit seamlessly with the adjacent cabinets and look like they are apart of one giant wrap-around storage system.

The faux metal panels added an industrial look to break up the richness of the stain. I'll probably carry this over to the cabinet doors which will be PART 3 of this build.

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