How to Make Stylish Shelves Out of Pallet

When we first bought our house, I was quick to decorate each and every room. But the one room that always gave me trouble was our family room right off of the kitchen–I never knew what to hang above our couch. I debated between floating shelves, a random painting and even a gallery wall of framed family photos. None of those ideas, however, seemed quite right.

I finally decided to create shelves made from an old discarded pallet. I was in the mood for a DIY project, and I had visions of filling them with framed photos, fresh flowers and candles. I went with a rustic approach, but I'll show you ways to tweak the design so that this kind of shelving can work for other room designs, too.

See below for everything you need to make these shelves, as well as design tips!

Project time: 3 hours


One pallet*
½ inch plywood
A circular saw
16-gauge finishing nail guns
Wood stain

*One pallet yields up to three shelves

To build the shelves:

  • Remove the center pieces of wood from your pallet using the back of a hammer. These wood strips will be used to construct the bottom of your shelves or a third shelf, if desired. Depending on the size of the pallet you use, it may have one or more center pieces.
  • Reuse the center wood strip(s) and nail it to the side of the pallet which will later become the bottom of one of the shelves.
  • Using your circular saw, saw off each end of the pallet. You will see how each of these pieces is essentially your shelf.
  • If you wish to build a third shelf, use the remaining center pieces to construct the third and final shelf. You will need to measure, trim and affix a piece of ½ inch plywood as the bottom of the third shelf.
  • Depending on the shape your pallet is in, you may want to sand down the pieces before applying your stain (see color guide, below).

To choose and apply the wood stain:

Use a light- to medium-gray stain for a beach-y, nautical look. If you're looking for something a bit more rustic, choose a medium English chestnut brown as seen in the pictures. Once you pick your stain, follow these instructions for applying it:

  • Pick a well-ventilated area in your home, and use a dry rag to apply the stain.
  • Allow up to several hours for your shelves to dry fully before hanging.
  • When hanging your shelves, be sure to nail or screw them into a stud.

I am so thankful to have finally found a permanent fixture for the space above our sectional — and I absolutely love the versatility of these shelves when it comes time to decorate them. Fresh flowers and photographs one week, candles and wine bottles, the next!

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