How to Make a White Wood Cottage Style Shelf

Scrap wood from an old barn is turned into the cutest cottage white shelf with black metal farmhouse hooks. Read on for a step by step tutorial.

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As I've been sharing the updates we've made to the guest room in our Mississippi rental, I've had several of you ask about the cottage white wood shelf hanging on the wall above the bed. Mr DIY and I built this together from some rough wood scraps we purchased at a barn sale, and I finally got around to writing the tutorial for how we built this DIY shelf.

Note: we used wood from an old barn and planed it ourselves, removing the rough edges to create nice and sturdy boards. I will link to similar boards that you can pick up at the home improvement store if you don't have any scrap wood.

How to DIY a white wood cottage style shelf

I envisioned this cottage shelf being a piece that I could really play with for the seasons. It's the single decorative piece hanging on this large wall in our guest room that becomes our daughter's room when she's home from University.

Here's a peek at how I decorated this cottage shelf for Christmas.

So let's get right into the tutorial. I feel like I need to say that Mr DIY and I don't consider ourselves 'experienced builders'. We've built some very simple projects, definitely nothing too difficult but we certainly are novices and don't own all the building tools! All that to say, if we could build this shelf, I know you can too, and I've included links to more of our easy builds below!


  1. it's white, the most popular color in cottage decorating
  2. the back board is extra wide, giving it a vintage look
  3. it has a plate groove so you can display pictures, platters and more
  4. the hardware has a vintage cottage vibe, even though it's a brand new piece



If you want to add even more cottage charm to your DIY shelf, you could use a pair of wood corbels (brackets) to join the top shelf with the back board at the edges. I chose to omit these because I wanted an open look on the ends. 

You could also cover the back board with beadboard paneling, hugely popular in cottage decorating. You'll have to buy a sheet of it but there are so many other ways to use the excess around your home! Or, fake the look with this beadboard wallpaper. It's paintable so it will look cohesive with the entire shelf. I love this look and may go back and add this at a later date. For a similar visual, you can see how a single wall of shiplap at the entryway in our TX home added charm and character to a small corner.

You can make your cottage shelf as wide as you want or need for your space. We went with 35", which allows us to use 5 of the rustic hooks.

The plate groove lets me decorate vertically with platters, stacks of ironstone, even pictures to create interest on this otherwise blank wall.

Important tip: Have an idea of what you want to display on the top shelf so you'll know how wide to make it to accommodate your accessories! I wish we had made our shelf a couple inches wider.


*our back board measures 1"x9"
**our top board measures 1"x6"


As I mentioned, Mr DIY chose wood from a pile he bought at a barn sale. He used a piece of cedar with raw edges, that he planed and cut down to 1"x9" size (cutting off the raw edges) with a skilsaw. He cut a 1x6 board to the same length of 35". This is all rough lumber, different from what you'll find at the home improvement store (where it's already been planed and cut to size). Your boards may be slightly smaller but you should still be able to create a similar looking cottage shelf.

The rest of this wood will be heading to our son and daughter-in-law's backyard soon as Mr DIY and our son Braden will be building raised garden beds this spring!

Here's a few pictures of the process of turning this rough lumber into nice cut boards. I let Mr DIY handles the big tools!

We used a rotary tool with a pointed bit to create the plate groove along one edge of the top board. To create a straight line, Mr DIY clamped a narrow piece of wood on top of the shelf so I could drag the rotary tool along it, back and forth, creating the groove. There is a specific tool that would make this job even easier, but we don't have it (and I can't think of the name of it...anyone?...).

Next, Mr DIY attached both boards together at the top with screws. You want to use nice long screws to really anchor the boards together.

Then it was time for me to take over. I'm the painter and finish-upper and decorator in the family, haha! I used a variety of products to create the white cottage style shelf of my dreams.

Prep the wood for paint

I was worried about bleed through (often an issue with wood species that have red undertones), so I painted a coat of Dixie Belle Boss, which block stains. It goes on white but dries clear. I recommend this product anytime you are chalk painting a dark piece of wood furniture.

Next, I painted on three coats of white chalk paint, letting each coat dry before painting the next (which takes just minutes!). I love the powers of chalk paint! There's no prep (other than making sure your piece is clean), and no priming needed!

If you're new to chalk paint, I have several helpful articles to get you started. I recommend you read this post first, Chalk Paint 101, an Overview for Beginners. I link to the other articles from this post, including tips for making your own chalk paint (and my DIY chalk paint recipe), as well as the best top coat options to protect your painted pieces!

Finally, I filled in the gap along the edges with white silicone. Don't neglect this step! It really gives your piece a finished look and once those gaps are concealed, it's like magic! The piece looks like a single unit. By the way, the top board looks way more wonky here that it really is, I think it's the distortion of my phone lens!

Tip: Be sure to use paintable caulk so you are able to paint over it (especially noticeable on colored pieces) and disguise it!

The last step before we hung up our DIY cottage white shelf was adding the farmhouse hooks. These hooks are from Amazon and you get 10 for $10.99, so it's a great deal. We used these on the built-in mudroom in our hallway. The hooks give me just the look I was wanting with this new but vintage-looking shelf unit!

Mr DIY hung the shelf with anchors because it's very heavy. I didn't bother patching the screw holes because I like the rustic look, but you could fill those in if you wanted to.

I love the charm this DIY cottage shelf adds to the bare wall in our guestroom. You'll be seeing this shelf styled for all the seasons now, it's going to be a favorite spot to decorate! If you want to know how to make the scrap fabric heart wreath, here is a tutorial. I made this wreath for Valentines, but it's pretty enough (and neutral) to keep up all year!

I hope this easy build tutorial was helpful, please do let me know if you have any questions ☺

Want more easy build project ideas for your home? Check these out:

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  1. Love this shelf! Thanks for the DIY.

    1. You're very welcome Melanie, thanks for visiting 😉

  2. Love this shelf! Thanks for the DIY.

  3. Yep... I've already decided this shelf design WILL end up in my home somewhere, someway, because I adore it! Those hooks are made for it! Beautiful outcome, Cindy!


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