If trying to install a gallery wall overwhelms you (how the heck do you organize all those frames, sizes, prints, and holes in the wall!) then a nice alternative with the same visual punch is an art ledge!
Sure, you can buy them online, and there are a few great options to purchase at IKEA and Amazon, but, if you'd rather save a couple dollars and have one totally custom to your space, than a DIY art ledge is for you!
You can knock this out pretty quickly and over the course of a few days (mostly just overnights for drying time) and the only tool you actually need is a drill.
If you follow me on instagram, I posted an instagram story with all of the items you need. You can head over to my 'kids bathroom' highlight and screen shot the shopping list and take it with you to your local hardware store. Or, here is the shopping list again:
- TWO 1x4 pine boards (cut to desired length)
- ONE 1x2 pine board (cut to desired length)
- Wood Glue
- Two Wood Clamps
- 1 1/4 inch finish nails (optional if you are using a nail gun)
- 1 1/2 in wood screws
- 2 in wood screws (with black or gray screw heads)
- Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
- Minwax Stain in your color choice (I used Early American for mine)
- Minwax Water Based Poly in Matte finish
- Sanding Block (fine grit)
- Three Foam Brushes (or old rags/t-shirts if you have them laying around)
1. Before heading to the store, measure the length you'd like your art ledge to be. If it's going in between walls (like mine), take 1/4" off the total length to make sure it fits without being too snug. This length is what you will have all of your boards cut to.
2. Make sure you pick straight boards. Hold them against the wall or on the floor looking down them to make sure your boards are straight. If you go to Lowe's or home depot, head over the wood-cutting area and have them cut all three of your boards to your desired length above. I believe they technically charge you for more than one cut, but I have never once been charged at my local stores! Even if you have a saw at home, have them cut it :) It saves you time and the hassle of taking your saw out and cleaning up the saw dust.
3. Once back home, lightly sand all of your boards with a fine grit sanding block and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
4. Apply one coat of the Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner with an old rag or a foam brush. Let sit for 15 minutes to penetrate the wood.
5. After 15 minutes, apply a coat of the stain color of your choice with either an old rag or a foam brush. Wipe off your excess. Continue to apply more coats to achieve the color you'd like (I did three light coats of Early American). Make sure you are staining all sides, including the ends. The only side you won't see is the 1x4 board that is screwed against the wall. If it's going in between two walls like mine, you don't need to stain the ends. Allow the stain to dry overnight.
6. Apply a coat of Minwax Water Based Poly with an old rag or foam brush. Let it sit for approximately an hour to dry. You will notice your wood feels rough again. This is because the poly is water based and will raise the grain of the wood. Take your sanding block you used in the beginning to lightly sand your wood until it feels smooth. Wipe with a damp cloth.
7. Apply another coat of the poly. You don't need to sand after this final coat.
8. Apply wood glue to 1x4 board that is acting as your ledge that the art will be sitting on. Place the back 1x4 piece to it and use your wood clamps to clamp the two pieces of wood together. Some of the wood glue may squeeze out of the seam. Use a wet rag to wipe off the excess before it dries. Also, place a paper towel or rag underneath the wood clamp so it does not press too hard and leave an indent on your wood.
9. Leave your wood clamped for 24 hours. Unclamp and use your 1 1/4 inch screws to screw the two pieces of wood together to provide extra hold.
10. Repeat the wood clamp process but this time, you will be connecting the front 'lip', which is your 1x2 board to the bottom 1x4. Allow it to dry for 24 hours. If you have a nail gun, you can add finish nails to your front lip. If you don't, just use the wood glue. Do not screw this front lip in as you will see the screw heads.
11. Now it's time to hang it on your wall! If you have a stud finder, use this to find your wall studs and screw your 2 inch screws directly through your art ledge into the wall stud. Use a black or gray screw so the screw blends in with the stain. If you don't have a stud finder, purchase drywall anchors and follow the directions on the package to screw into the walls. It's best to screw directly into the stud for the strongest hold.
In terms of the artwork that goes on your art ledge, here are my favorite print shops that you can source art from. You can also print your own photographs.
In terms of frames, you can do whatever your heart desires. Feel free to mix frame types (brass, black, white, wood, etc.), sizes, matted vs un-matted, etc. I personally did all of the same frame (found here) in different sizes and kept the matte in all four to keep it looking uniform.
If you are struggling to visualize what prints will pair well with one another, head on over to my instagram story 'kids bathroom' highlight to see a hack I use to visualize my art next to one another.