Small Floating Shelf With Hidden Storage

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My wife wanted a floating shelf for our remodeled bathroom. (Pinterest strikes again).

I don't get why many of the examples on Pinterest, here, and here have the shelf permanently mounted into the stud, and sometimes mounted before the surface is finished. Perhaps its just simpler?

After further investigation I found ones like this one interesting with the hidden storage. But when sliding the storage in and out, you can disturb the items stored atop.

My version is removable from the wall and has hidden storage within. When pulling the hidden storage out, the top of the shelf stays in place so none of the items atop the shelf are disturbed. The inside is framed so items stored within don't get stuck/crushed when closed back into the shelf.

If you're curious on the thought process, I attached my childish sketches.

This shelf was sized to fit over our decorative towel bar, so I kept the depth as minimal/reasonable.

Summary:

  • 2x2 frame
  • 3/4" or full extension drawer slides
  • 1/2" plywood top, attached to top of frame.
  • Open plywood box attaches to drawer slides.
  • (optional) 3 additional 1/2" plywood sides. Prevents stored items from getting caught in track. The back is necessary regardless.
  • 1/2" plywood for the sides and bottom panel.
  • All attached w/ pocket holes.
  • Keyholes for mounting to wall. (Instead of permanently securing the frame into studs)

Parts:

  • 2x2 wood (for the frame)
  • 1/2" plywood
  • Coarse pocket hole screws, preferably 3/4" (but I seem to only be able to find coarse in 1")
  • 4" drawer slide set
  • Stain
  • Edge tape
  • Clear polyurethane
  • Toggle bolts (or drywall mollies)

Tools:

  • Pocket hole joinery
  • Table saw
  • Radial arm saw (optional)
  • Screw driver
  • Drill and drill bits
  • An iron (for applying the edge tape)
  • Brushes (for applying the stain and polyurethane)
  • Sanding block or electric sander

Step 1: Build Frame

Measure the towel bar. Our (decorative) towel bar is 20 1/2". So all the dimensions that follow will be based off that. You'll may adjust the dimensions as desired.

The desired size of the shelf I designed is 24 1/2" wide x 4 1/2" deep x 3" tall.

Using a radial arm saw (or the table saw) cut the following pieces from the 2x2 pine.

  • One piece 20 1/2" long, to use as the back support
  • Two pieces 1 1/2" long, to use as support arms

Step 2: Cut Key Holes

Practice cutting the key hole on some scrap wood.

When I built this shelf, I used a rotary tool with a plunge router attachment and the key hole bit (as you can see from the pictures). However, I learned on another project, it is much easier to predrill the entry hole and use the rotary tool with a cut out attachment (rather than the plunge router). Cheaper too. In a later project I built a jig to ensure the rotary tool remained straight. (A router table is even better, but didn't have one at the time)

Determine if the desired installation location of the shelf will have a stud available. If it does you should let this influence where you make the keyholes for more secure installation.

When I built mine I only used two key holes at the same height. In hindsight, I should have added as least one additional keyhole at a slightly different height. This would help keep the shelf more flat and secure against the wall.

Step 3: Cut Pocket Holes on Short Arms

Cut two pocket holes on each of the two short support pieces.

Step 4: Assemble Frame

Attach the short 2x2 arms to the longer 2x2 using pocket hole screws.

A corner clamp is helpful to get them lined up nicely in a 90 degree angle. You can also use the corner formed from your table saw and edge guide.

Step 5: Check Width of Drawer Slide

My measurements take into account the thickness of the drawer slide. My drawer slide is 1/2" thick.

Step 6: Cut Side Panels

Cut the side panels out of the 1/2" plywood, using the table saw.

You'll need the following pieces:

  • Two sides at 4 1/2" x 2".
  • Two pieces (for the top and bottom) at 22 1/2" x 4 1/2"
  • One front piece at 21 1/2 x 2" (this might actually need to be 21 9/16" x 2". 1/2" plywood isn't always 1/2" thick)

Step 7: Cut Pocket Holes on Panels and Install to Frame

Cut pocket holes along the sides as pictured, and attach the bottom, front, and the sides together.

I tested out the drawer slide fit to make sure things fit correctly.

Sand the frame as needed.

The top piece will be installed on the frame (not directly to the front or sides). Make pocket holes to attach the frame to the remaining top piece.

Sand the panels as needed.

Step 8: Install Drawer Slides

You'll need to partially disassemble the drawer slides to expose the mounting holes.

Attached the outer part of the drawer slide to the 2x2 support arms. You'll want it to the forward edge of the support arm, but you'll need to play with the height to get it lined up correctly (so that the box closes nice and flush).

Step 9: Assemble Top Piece

Install the remaining extension piece of the slider onto the outer box of the drawer. You'll want it lined up correctly, so that when it is slid into place the drawer slides smoothly and closes flush.

Step 10: Cut and Install Divider (Inner Storage)

You're basically making an inner 3-sided frame to install within the drawer box. This will keep stored items from falling out the back, and prevent them from getting crushed when the drawer is slide closed.

You'll need to cut the following pieces on the table saw:

  • One piece at 16 5/8" x 2"
  • Two pieces at 2 9/16" x 2"

Note: I'm pretty sure I had to adjust these dimensions on the fly to get everything to fit correctly.

Cut pocket holes as pictured, and attach the pieces to make a three sided frame.

Now cut additional pocket holes on the frame (as pictured) to so that you can attach it to the bottom of the drawer.

Step 11: Apply Edge Tape and Stain

I recommend you apply the edge tape FIRST, and than stain.

I stained mine first, and than decided "hey, maybe I should buy and try some of that fancy edge tape". It is much nicer looking than a raw, layered plywood edge.

Follow the directions for the edge tape. Applying with an iron. (An old iron, the iron from your utility room).

Trim the excess.

Sand again, so the surfaces are smooth.

Apply two or more coats of stain as desired.

Apply coats of polyurethane to help protect the surfaces.

Step 12: Assemble

Place the drawer into the shelf.

If you, earlier, determined there was a stud available at your mounting location drill a pilot hole and insert the screw for the first key hole.

For the remaining mounting points, you should also drill pilot holes. Drill a larger hole to accommodate the toggle bolt (or mollies if you must). Insert the toggle bolt with screw, and tighten until secure, but leave enough of the screw head exposed for insertion into the keyhole. (if molly, insert he molly first. Than insert the screw, and tighten, but still leave enough of the screw head exposed for the keyhole).

I had to "adjust" one of my keyholes to get the shelf level. Wood putty should work, but I added a screw.

It is small shelf, over a small decorative towel bar. Leading my wife to question "why is the storage so small?".

We're both happy with it overall. But... mine just had the two mount points, I'll be adding a third at a slightly different height, to prevent it from leaning away from the wall when the drawer is opened.

I may be building a larger version for over the bath towel bar.

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    I call this the invisible shelf which looks better than those with obscene visible hooks. I use them everywhere to provide me with that additional space I need around the house. Since there are no visible hooks, they can be fixed multiple times within the same spot too.