This shelf is one of my favorite surfaces to decorate each season. You used to be able to find one similar here. But what if I told you that we didn't buy this faux mantel shelf, we built it?!
It's modeled after the Pottery Barn Ledge. But ours is chunkier and thicker – making it much easier to style and prop things on. It's also a lot cheaper to make than the original to buy and have shipped!
Before you worry that it's really complicated to make – let me assure you it's not.
Essentially the whole ledge boils down to two hollow “boxes” and some trim – and a lot of finishing.
Build Your Own Faux Mantel Shelf
Build the Frame
The first thing Dean did was to cut out four pieces (a box without a top or bottom) from new pine. The front and back pieces were each 49 1/2 inches by 8 inches and the side pieces were 8 inches by 8 inches, all with mitred corners. These were nailed together with finishing nails. (You could use glue as well if you'd like, but it's not necessary).
Then the second “box” was cut from some scrap we had in the shed. This was actually only three sides: one piece cut to 48 inches by 5 inches and two cut to 5 inches by 7 1/4 inches. Dean nailed these together on the mitred corners and then notched out a 3/4 inch square to tuck this box into the bigger box. Affix to the larger box with some more finishing nails.
The bottom was added. It is was a new piece of pine cut to 48 inches by 5 inches. No mitres. Notice the hollow box? This makes the ledge lighter to hang.
And then the top was added. This was also a new piece of pine, cut to 52 inches by 10 inches.
After that, it's all about trimming it out.
Add the Trim
We used upside down baseboard at the top, some smaller trim on top of that as well as under the big “box”. And we used some thin scraps to cover up the joint between the bottom and the lower box. Here's a picture with the parts all labelled.
Does that make more sense?
After then entire piece was built, Dean filled all the nail holes and any gaps with DAP Drydex Spackling. It is pink when wet and then turns white when it's dry. Love that stuff!
Then it was my turn. I sanded off all the excess DAP and wiped the entire thing with a dry cloth to remove all the sanding dust and debris.
Now as much as we love the profile shape of the ledge, we love the paint treatment even more.
Paint and Finish
Pottery Barn's website says they stained their ledge first and then painted and distressed it. Since we were on a tight timeline for the Crafting With the Stars contest, I opted to paint two layers of chocolate brown as our base coat (to eliminate the oil stain and acrylic paint dry-time combination). I had a sample pot of a chocolate brown from Home Depot on hand already too, so that kept costs down.
After the brown paint was dry (maybe or maybe not helped along by a blow dryer), I used a large brush and long sweeping strokes to apply DecoArt's Americana Weathered Wood Medium. I adore the natural looking chippy crackle this gives!
Then it was time for some old white paint. I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, but you could use a flat antique white. I wanted to be sure that the paint was thin enough to sink into the crackle, so I dipped my Purdy brush (honestly the best brush around!) into the paint and then dipped it in a bit of water to thin just slightly. Again I used long sweeping strokes, this time over the Weathered Wood Medium. It took three thin coats, sinking into the crackle medium, to get the coverage I was going for.
Next up was the distressing. After helping the paint-drying along with my handy dandy blow dryer, I sanded edges and flat parts. Because this was a project for a knockoff competition, I kept my Pottery Barn inspiration photo nearby and focused my distressing on the same general areas as theirs. To add even more to the chippy look, I scraped a metal ruler edge along some parts to really peel the paint up. A quick wipe of the cloth removed all residual sanding dust and paint chips.
The final step was to seal the ledge. Using a lint-free white cloth (a decent facecloth or some cheesecloth will do), I rubbed Minwax Natural Finishing Paste Wax all over the entire piece. I wanted to add a little bit of aged colour too, so in some places I rubbed on some Minwax's Dark Finishing Paste Wax over top of the natural wax. Again I looked at my Pottery Barn inspiration pictures.
Now Hang and Enjoy!
We attached some keyhole hangers to the back and hung it up…
And voila! A finished mantel that you can hang anywhere you like.
Just for comparison sake, Pottery Barn used to sell their smaller ledge for $399 USD. Since we had almost all the supplies on hand already, our ledge only cost us about $40. Even if you had to buy everything, you could make this great big chunky mantel shelf for around $100 or less!
I want to encourage you that you can totally build this by following the instructions and looking at the photos for how to finish it.
Do you have any questions? What one thing is stopping you from trying this project for yourself?
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