In this post: This shelf is one of my favorite surfaces to decorate each season. You used to be able to find one similar at Pottery Barn. But we didn’t buy this faux mantel shelf, it’s a DIY mantel!

It’s modeled after the Pottery Barn Ledge. But our DIY faux mantel shelf 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!

Finally decorate your own home – with confidence!

You’re so much closer to a beautifully-decorated home than you think. You just need a little help to get there!

build our faux mantel/diy mantel shelf

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 wood “boxes” and some trim. The main thing is the finishing details that make it rock!

How to Build Your Own Faux Mantel Shelf

Build the DIY Mantel Shelf Frame

1. Cut four pieces of wood 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.

2. Nail together with finishing nails. This makes sort of a box without a top or bottom. You could use glue as well if you’d like, but it’s not necessary.

3. Then cut one piece of pine to 48 inches by 5 inches and two pieces to 5 inches by 7 1/4 inches with mitred corners.

4. Nail these together on the mitred corners

5. Then notch out a 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch square on two corners (as shown in photo below).

6. Tuck this new, three-sided box into the bigger box as shown below. 

7. Affix together with some more finishing nails.

8. Cut a piece of pine to 48 inches by 5 inches. No mitred corners or edges this time!

9. Attach to bottom of mantel shelf with finishing nails as shown below. (Notice the hollow box? This makes the ledge lighter to hang.)

10. Cut a piece of pine to 52 inches by 10 inches. Line up the board with the back side of the shelf (this will leave an overhang on the front and sides, but not the back). Affix to the top of your diy mantel, with finishing nails. 

After that, it’s all about trimming it out. It’s amazing what trim can do for both a room and a piece of furniture!

Add the Trim

1. Add upside down baseboard tight under the shelf top overhang.

2. Tuck in some smaller trim under the overhang on top of the baseboard.

3. And then use some thin scrap wood to cover up the joint between the bottom and the lower box.

4. Use finishing nails to secure each piece of trim. 

Here’s a picture with the trims all labelled.

diy mantel shelf

Does that make more sense?

Here’s a full shot of the mantel shelf with the trim added. 

5. Fill 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!

6. Sand 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 I love the profile shape of the ledge, we love the paint treatment even more.

Paint the Base Colors

1. Paint two layers of chocolate brown as the base color. This will peek through when you distress the mantel shelf later. 

2. After the brown paint is dry (you can help it along with a blow dryer if you’re in a hurry), use a large brush and long sweeping strokes to apply DecoArt’s Americana Weathered Wood Medium. I adore the natural looking chippy crackle this gives!

3. Paint over the weathered wood/crackle medium with a flat antique white acrylic paint.  I wanted to be sure that the paint was thin enough to sink into the crackle, so I dipped my Purdy brush 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. I used three thin coats, to allow for the paint to sink into the crackle medium, to get the coverage I was going for.

Next up is the distressing.


1. After the paint is totally dry, sand the edges and flat parts. 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 flakes.


2. The final step is to seal the faux mantel. Using a lint-free white cloth (a decent face cloth or some cheesecloth will do), rub 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. 

Now Hang Your DIY Mantel and Enjoy!

We attached some keyhole hangers to the back and hung it up.

diy mantel

And voila! A finished faux mantel that you can hang anywhere you like. You don’t even need a fireplace!

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!

diy mantel

diy mantel

I want to encourage you that you can totally build this faux mantel by following the instructions and looking at the photos for how to finish it. 

shannon photo and sig oct 2022

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  1. I love the weathered wood medium! Thanks for the tip! And your mantle/ledge looks great! Just the right amount of weathering and distressing. Good job!

    1. hi there, love the prints but not sure where to down load them. Am I missing a link to print? Thank you

  2. Hi, Shannon

    Love looking around your blog. Love the lovely piece you and your hubby created. I am stopping by from link party and I am a new follower. Have a great weekend.


  3. Seriously? This is the! I LOVE it…you did a great job! Now, it’s off to the hardware store to purchase my supplies so I can get started…I have literally been salivating over this piece in the catalog for over a month now knowing we could make it…$400 for essentially what’s just wood? No thank you! BUT thank YOU for the sweet tutorial! Linkin up!

    1. Kennesha, you will so love it when it’s done!!!! Be sure to come back and show us when you it’s finished!

  4. Hi! I featured this here, pinned on Pinterest and posted on fb. Thanks for linking up at the Creative Bloggers’ Party & Hop 🙂

  5. Wow! This looks great! How inspiring… I’d love one of these in my home! Found you via Homemaker on a Dime.
    Now following you. 🙂
    PS – I’m going to pin this on Pinterest!

  6. I really love this! I’m planning on building myself a mantel soon too… I really wish that our house had one for decorating seasonally & such. I’d love to know how you hung this on the wall.

  7. Hi love your version WAY more than PB’s – both the price and the style! Do you have a tutorial for the FALL banner? Please say yes!

  8. I love the ledge/mantell!! I’ve always loved to decorate a mantel, especially for holidays. We just moved in June and our new house (scaled down) doesn’t have a fireplace OR mantel!! This is a great replacement or new touch!!!

  9. This is absolutely awesome! I have been asking my husband to build one of these for our fireplace and your plan is the best one I’ve seen!

    Can you give me the overall dimensions of your ledge? I think the top to bottom length will need to be altered to fit over our fireplace.

    Thanks for sharing!!!


  10. LOVE this project (and hoping my hubby will be inspired too b/c I’ve got plans… ;-))! What a wonderful knock-off. Loved it so much I featured it on my blog Vignettes this weekend for a great weekend project idea! Hope your day is a great one…

  11. Just handed my husband the Pottery Barn catalog yesterday and asked him to make it for me. Now he has direction! Thanks so much for sharing. I love it!!

  12. Hi!

    Great tutorial! Had a go at this myself and have been really pleased with the result! Not as professional finish as yours Shannon & Dean, but I’m happy with it and it now sits proudly over our bed!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to create this great website and all the tips etc! Couldn’t have made this so successfully without the help here.

    Have a look at my finished attempt here:

    Cheers from the UK!

    Scott xx

  13. Hi. I love it!!! Even if I do love PB I do not like the high rip-off prices when someone as clever as yourself can reinvent the same at a fraction of the cost. Sorry PB!!! It is beautiful!
    Could you loan out your hubby. What a GREAT man to put together all of your ideas & you get to do the creative touches. You are very blessed. I have enjoyed looking at all of your DIY ideas this morning.
    Thank you for sharing. Angela

    1. Hi Angela, I hear ya! I love PB and RH – I just cannot justify the prices!!! And I totally agree, I am very blessed to have Dean for my hubby! Glad you enjoyed poking around our little blog this morning!

  14. Great PB DIY! Thank you! Do you have an approximation of how much it weighed once completed? Where I would like to place it cannot handle excessive weight.

    Thank you!

    1. I do not know what it weighed. It does need to be hung somewhere solid as it isn’t exactly light. Plus the display items on top add some weight too.

  15. Hi! I just found your blog and I am very interested in learning how to make that barnwood-looking square that you have on the mantle. I have looked everywhere and can’t seem to find it. Could you direct me to the right page?

  16. Brilliant! Thanks for the great ideas. Your work looks so simple and the results are stunning! Good job.

  17. In this email, there is an article for a Rustin Mantel Shelf Ledge. Under the mantel, there is a piece of wood with the date 04.13.96. I am interested in how that was made. Is it real wood, is it painted or is that a chalk marker, it is an anniversary date? I would like close up pics if possible. Thank you in advance, Anita

  18. Finished this mantle this weekend and I’m in love! I made my bottom box a little longer, but the instructions were easy to follow. Thanks so much!

  19. Ahhh!! I want to do this so badly. The only thing stopping me is the mitered corners. I don’t think my husband knows how to do that! lol

  20. I love that the spack-filler goes on pink and turns white when dry! Love products that build-in these great little extras. (I’ve not heard of it in Australia so I guess i’ll have to make do with the ordinary, boring products we have.)

    I would never have guessed your mantle shelf was hollow. What a great idea. I don’t have anywhere I could use this in my little apartment but I might use the idea of adding some trim under my Ikea picture ledges (those same ones your used in your kitchen for your herbs and spices). Of course, I’ll paint my trim a crisp white like the ledges. I’m not into the ‘shabby-chic’ look in my home (I was 15 years ago but I guess I’m over it now).

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lol. Yes, that pink-turns-white is super handy sometimes! The extra trim would likely add a nice touch to your space!