How to Build a DIY Leaning Ladder Shelf (Step by Step Guide)

May, 24, 2017
DIY Leaning Shelf

Alright, you guys have been waiting for this ever since I shared our Master En Suite Reveal and I finally got the post together to share with you! I’ve had my eye on these types of shelves for a while now but they usually cost between $200-$300 or more. So I figured I’d just make my own and it really was super easy! So if you want to make your own DIY Leaning Ladder Shelf you totally can!


DIY Modern Ladder Shelf

This is the inspiration photo I found that I based my leaning bookshelf design off of which you can buy for almost $300. No thanks.

DIY Ladder Bookshelf Tutorial


(affiliate links included)

Two 1 x 4 x 6 pine boards
Six .5″ x 2.5″ x 3ft. pine boards
3/4″ plywood cut into the following measurements:
— 4.5″ x 22″
— 6.75″ x 22″
— 9″ x 22″
— 11.5″ x 22″
— 14″ x 22″

3/4″ trim for the front of each shelf

I used this chop saw for all the cuts on this project.

DIY Leaning Ladder Shelf Tools

Cut your plywood to size which will be used for the wooden shelves. We had some extra plywood laying around that we cut ourselves but you could buy a half sheet from the hardware store and have them cut it for you if you need!

Wood used to build a diy ladder bookshelf

Cut the pieces that will be the trim on the shelves. One piece along the back and two on the sides. I just placed it on the plywood, marked the end with a pencil and then made the cut. I cut mine so that the back piece went across the whole length (22″) and then the side pieces started in front of that.

Supplies for DIY Ladder Shelf

Glue the back piece only to the plywood. I used DAP Rapid Fuse which is my go to wood glue.
Glue used for wood working and building ladder shelf

Cut your 1x4s on the bottom at a 10° angle.

Chop Saw for wood working

DIY Leaning Shelf Step by step Guide

Once your shelves have their back pieces glued down and are dry – it’s time to attach them. We used our nail gun and put two nails on both sides for each shelf. This is a two person job so make sure you have help! I tried doing it by myself first using glue to hold them in place until we nailed them but it was a HUGE FAIL. So just ask for help 😉

Also make sure you use a level so your shelves are straight. Have one person hold the shelf and the other person use the nail gun.

Tutorial for DIY Leaning Ladder Shelf

And then you’ve got this!

Wooden Leaning Ladder Shelf

Place the side trim pieces on the shelf where they’re going to go. Grab a pencil and make a mark (that will be at a slight angle) and then make your cut. Then glue them down!

Wood cuts for a leaning ladder shelf

Once all your pieces are glued down your leaning shelf should look like this:

Side note* this is where you would glue on your trim pieces as well. I ended up staining my shelf first to see if I liked the way it looked but the plywood layers were still peeking through so we glued the 3/4″ trim on right over the plywood only on the front of each shelf and then stained it the same color. You can see a close up further down!

Build your own ladder bookshelf

Stain and poly! I used Red Chestnut which isn’t usually my norm (I’m more of a dark walnut or special walnut kind of girl) but the vintage sideboard I got to use for our vanity had a little hint of red to it and this was the closest match I could find.

Stain and polycrylic used on wooden ladder shelf

Once dry – you’re ready to use your ladder shelf! Here’s a side view so you can see where the nail holes are.  Super small and not very noticeable and those two little nails on each side are all you need.

Wooden ladder shelf brepurposed

And here is a close up of the trim I added on the front of each shelf on my new leaning ladder shelf.

DIY Ladder Shelf Brepurposed

Wooden Leaning Bookshelf Brepurposed

Wooden Leaning Ladder Shelf Brepurposed

Ladder Shelf DIY Brepurposed

Ladder Shelf DIY Brepurposed bathroom

I’m so glad I decided to DIY this wooden ladder bookshelf and not pay for one, it was super fun to make and gave me the perfect spot for some additional storage and pretty decor.

If you’re looking for an easy beginner builder project – you should totally try this DIY Leaning Ladder Shelf!



  1. Reply

    Willian Werneck Carvalho

    August 20, 2019

    Really dumb question that I don’t think I saw a mention. Did you screw them into the wall so it doesn’t slide down?

  2. Reply


    August 13, 2019

    At what height do you attach the shelves?

  3. Reply


    June 2, 2019

    do you think the bottom 2-3 shelves would be sturdy enough with 4 nails to hold cast iron cookware or stoneware? Its a little heavier, but contemplating making one of these instead of making a buffet. Thanks

    • Reply


      June 2, 2019

      I definitely think it would be ok. You could always add some brackets underneath to add a little extra support!

  4. Reply


    March 16, 2019

    Is there a way to make the ladder with shelves taller? My husband is making it for my daughter and she has high ceilings .we are thinking 8ft ..thank you!

    • Reply


      March 17, 2019

      You definitely could! You’d just need to use different measurements

  5. Reply


    April 6, 2018

    This looks awesome! What distance spacing did you use between the shelves?

  6. Reply


    March 18, 2018

    Bre, this project is so great! Do you remember (or can you estimate) what your total cost ended up being to complete the project?

    • Reply


      March 21, 2018

      Thanks Ali! I don’t remember exactly but it was definitely under $100!

  7. Reply


    January 11, 2018

    Hey Bre … this is such a nice little DIY project. I loved it.

    It looks very nice and stylish and as well it adds functionality to that little corner of your home.

    I really liked the finishing, it looks high end 🙂 really well done!
    Thanks for Sharing


  8. Reply


    October 21, 2017

    This is lovely! Do you care to share the final dimensions, please?

  9. Reply


    June 9, 2017

    I’m so happy to see a diy for this. I too keep noticing these in the store but they’re so expensive. You did a great job.

    Also, I’m totally jealous of your shower area. One day I’ll have a house big enough for something like that.

  10. Reply

    Claire Anderson

    May 26, 2017

    Very, very, very clever! I love saving big money on things and what a huge saving you made…I might even try some construction now. Cheerio

    • Reply


      May 30, 2017

      Thank you Claire! It always feels good to save money!

  11. Reply


    May 25, 2017

    That is fantastic! Thanks for the directions! So… did you anchor it to the wall before putting items on it? I’m wondering if it feels like it could slide down???

    • Reply


      May 30, 2017

      Hi LouAnn! Nope, it didn’t need to be anchored…the backs of the shelves are all flush with the wall and it’s totally stable!

  12. Reply


    May 24, 2017

    That looks really great! You’re house looks amazing! I have been curious, why did you decide to leave the baseboards and doors wood throughout the house? I would have painted those white in a heartbeat.

    • Reply


      May 30, 2017

      Thanks Jo! I definitely thought about it but ALL the trim, doors and windows are wood and would be a huge undertaking to paint. The windows can’t really be painted due to the way they are (it would be more than just a frame) and we aren’t planning to replace them anytime soon so I wanted to keep everything consistent for now 🙂

  13. Reply


    May 24, 2017

    Obsessed! This is my new inspiration room! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply


      May 30, 2017

      Thank you so much!

  14. Reply


    May 24, 2017

    Thank you. This might be on my to do list during Mem Day weekend.

    • Reply


      May 30, 2017

      Awesome! It’s a super fun project!

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Hi, I’m Bre! Follow along as we renovate our current home and share modern DIY ideas.

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