Before and After: $45 DIY Wall Shelves Give a Tiny NYC Rental Kitchen a Bespoke, Built-In Look

published Jan 19, 2023
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Gold shelving unit in a wall niche in Carly Fuller's NYC apartment
Credit: Courtesy of Carly Fuller

Stylist and Instagrammer Carly Fuller had been craving a bit of a refresh in her NYC rental kitchen. For years, she had filled a corner nook with IKEA’s open-back VITTSJÖ shelf unit, an under $60 find that housed her various entertaining pieces and barware. This solution worked just fine, but at a certain point, she felt like this area could reflect her evolving aesthetic a little better — and have more of a bespoke, built-in look. “I had the idea of mounting shelves there for the last couple of years,” says Fuller. “I just needed the motivation to finally do it.”

An avid DIYer, Fuller chose to make her own floating shelf setup, which set her back just $45 total. First, she measured the length and depth of the kitchen nook and then went to a lumber store to purchase wood. “I looked for a piece of scrap plywood since I didn’t need much wood at all, and I’d be painting it,” she says. “It didn’t need to be anything special.” An employee at the store made the cuts for her, so she left with her “shelves” in hand and ready for mounting. All she needed at this point was shelf brackets.

Credit: Courtesy of Carly Fuller

Luckily, Fuller also had some pieces of 3/4”x 1/4” wood on hand from a recent wall paneling project. She used these leftovers to fashion brackets, which she mounted to the wall. “I cut down these wood sticks to the length I wanted and then pre drilled two holes in each piece before screwing them to the wall so the wood didn’t split,” she explains. She then applied wood glue to the brackets and placed each shelf on top of bracket pairs.

Once the glue was dry, Fuller caulked all of the edges and then painted her shelves. “I used one coat of primer and two coats of paint in the same color as the walls, as I wanted the shelves to look built in,” she says. “It’s my style — I like simplicity — but it would be pretty to add wallpaper on the back wall or paint the shelves a different color.”

Credit: Courtesy of Carly Fuller
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Fuller couldn’t be more pleased with the end result, especially considering the project’s low cost. “I feel like it’s such a game changer,” she says. “I honestly think it’s elevated the kitchen so much; they look like they were always supposed to be there, as if they came with the apartment.”

Fuller found the styling process extremely enjoyable, too. “I never had space for accessories before, and I love shelf styling,” she says. “I added greenery and gold to make this area pop. I played around a bit until I was happy, and I’m sure I’ll switch pieces around often, like I do in my entire apartment. Moving around accessories in my home helps it stay feeling fresh and new.”