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Build a Faux Mantel Shelf For YOUR House to Decorate Each Season!

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!

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.

Finish

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 sign off