how to: build floating night stands + lamps (even if you have no tools)

I’m decorating my apartment, DIY-style! I’ll be sharing all my DIY projects in a series of Apartment Makeover posts. Click here to check them all out!

My bedroom is tiny, so one of the ways I maximized the space was by getting a bed with drawers under it (I have this one in Polar White, from Gothic Cabinet Craft), which has worked out very well. But because of the drawers, and also because of the minimal space, I couldn’t do standard night stands next to the bed (the drawers under the bed wouldn’t have been able to open with nightstands blocking them). So, I started to think about options for floating night stands and lamps.

As these things tend to go, it didn’t take me long to realize I couldn’t find any floating tables I liked in the stores. I needed them to be a very specific size, and I wanted them to be cube-like so there would be a little shelf underneath as well as a top surface. I knew such a thing would be easy to build, at least in theory–but the problem is I have no workshop for building things from wood, not to mention any proper wood-working tools. Or, um, skills.

But I didn’t let that stop me! I decided to give it a go anyway, and it turns out it was super, super easy to build my little floating night stands, using just a few basic tools that I already owned. Now, these tables aren’t fancy or anything, but they do the job and they’re easy to DIY, even for the newbies among us. Here’s how I did it!


-wood; see below for details
-1″ L-brackets (two per shelf)
-wood glue
-small finishing nails
-hardware to mount the shelves on your type of wall

To start, you’ll need four pieces of wood like this for each table. I used 1/2″ pine, which my dad cut for me to my measurements and sent to me in the mail–but you could easily have these pieces cut at any local hardware store or lumber yard. Just call them up and ask if they cut wood–most do for a small fee.

As for the measurements of these pieces, the top and bottom pieces are just the finished length and depth you want for your tables. The side pieces are the finished depth by your desired finished height, minus the thickness of the top and bottom piece of wood. (So if you want a finished height of 6″ and your wood is 1/2″ thick, you need to cut your side pieces 5″ tall. Got it?)

Next, attach two 1″ L-brackets to the long edge of the top piece of wood. Remember to use screws that are shorter than the thickness of your wood so that the screws don’t go all the way through the wood. (I did that once on a project, it was the saddest thing ever.) Attach the brackets so that they are flush with the edge of the wood.

Then, attach the two side pieces to the edges of the top piece using wood glue.

Place the remaining piece of wood (the bottom piece) on top of the two side pieces, also attaching it with wood glue. Now at this point, since the glue isn’t dry, everything will be balanced a bit precariously. Real wood workers would do all of this with a much better process, probably using clamps and whatnot, but since we are improvising here, just balance and go with it. It will all work out in the end, I promise.

Place a few heavy books on top of the whole thing and allow it to dry overnight. (Again, slightly tricky to balance all this, but not really that hard, and once it’s balanced, just leave it be and walk away!)

After the glue dries overnight, remove the books and reinforce the joins by nailing small finishing nails through the wood at the spots you glued.

Next up, give everything a good sanding, being sure to knock off any rough spots where the wood was cut. Then, it’s time to paint. I didn’t get any painting process shots, but all I did was coat the shelves with primer then two coats of latex paint (white semi-gloss), sanding lightly between coats. That’s it!

Once painted, you could leave the shelves as they are, or jazz them up in a million ways. (I think decoupage could be perfect here.) I decided to finish mine with upholstery nails on the front-facing edges of the wood. (I got my nails here.)

There are tools out there in the world that allow you to neatly install upholstery nails at regular intervals, but I do not have these tools and didn’t want to buy them for such a small project. Instead, I used a clear quilter’s ruler to mark the wood at regular intervals, then I hammered the nails in place at the marked spots. It’s hard to get a grip on these small nails without smashing your fingers with the hammer, so I held each nail in place with my trusty needle-nose pliers (seriously, I use these pliers for everything) while I hammered. No smashed fingers FTW!

Finally, I hung the shelves from the attached L-brackets, using plastic wall anchors (and situating the shelves so that the brackets are on the underside of the top edge of the shelf, where they are essentially hidden from view unless you look really hard while sitting on the floor). All in all, the shelves are perfectly sturdy and are doing a fine job of holding my bedside stuff.

Next up, I installed my lamps–mine are the Minut wall lamps from good old Ikea. Ideally I would have liked to use hardwired-lamps, with the wiring installed inside the wall, but that was definitely more than I wanted to tackle in my rental apartment. So I went with these, but then the resulting problem was the unsightly white wires hanging from the lamps. Unsightly!

Luckily there is a fix for such horrors! At the hardware store you can get this wire-hiding-thing. I don’t know exactly what it’s called, but it’s the greatest invention ever–it’s a plastic strip that’s hollow on the inside, with a slit along one side and a flat back with an adhesive strip. It’s easy to cut, so you just cut it to the length you need, slide your wire inside, peel off the backing and stick it to the wall like a sticker. Like a sticker, people! Best thing ever.

Here it is all stuck in place. Of course it’s still glaringly bright white, but the good news is its surface is paintable, so you can paint it to match your wall color. I went ahead and painted it with some leftover paint from my wall, and that was that! The final result isn’t a completely hidden wire, but at least it’s neat and tidy.

Here’s the before-and-after shots, first with hideous white wires flopping all over the place, then neatly nestled inside their nice little homes. I don’t know why, but I find this extremely satisfying. I think hiding wires might be my new favorite hobby.

And there it is, the final product in all its glory! A space for my bedside essentials, a nice little reading light, no hideous wires, and nothing touching the floor. I love my little floating set-up. I think it turned out not too bad at all for a no-special-tools hackjob!


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  • Lisa S.

    Hi there! Your bedroom looks awesome. I like that you’ve used modern, graphic prints but that the room looks soft and warm. I especially love the fabric on your headboard. You’ve inspired me to try this myself! Btw, I am a sewing newbie and I have your book checked out from my local library. It is definitely a keeper! (I’ll buy my own, not keep the library’s copy ;^)) I made a fabric bowl over the weekend and love it. It’s so gratifying to finish a project in a *relatively* short time. I think I’ll tackle the jewelry travel case next. Pretty+useful=Happy dance.

    Lisa from Atlanta

  • The Rebel Crafter

    Love this idea! Just repinned on pinterest!

  • Marji

    This is a fabulous project!! I love the finished look!

  • Gabi

    Great practical and inspiring project. Minimalist in the usage of tools (loved it) and the result itself.
    Keep up the good work Brett!
    Gabi from Sydney – AUS

  • Libby

    Wow, I am so impressed! My bedroom is also on the small side, so I might just have to build some of these awesome little floating shelves too. And I love your lighting solution! I just hung a small flat screen in our bedroom and I fully intend on getting some of those sticker strips to hide the cords…they make all the difference. Great job :)

  • Diane

    Love the shelves and love those lamps!!! Just what I need beside my bed. I have to tell you about my Daddy and those decorative tacks. My Daddy did upholstery. He has a special hammer called a tack hammer. It is small on the end and is magnatized. I have watched him put a hand full of those tacks in his mouth and then catch them on the end of the hammer as needed and tack them into the furniture. He would put them around the arms and such as decoration. He could spit and hit those tacks faster then anything! It was fun to watch him. He also upholstered back in the day when they used tacks to hold the fabric in place instead of the staple guns they use today. So he was super fast at tacking the fabric with the tacks in his mouth and the tack hammer. I don’t think he ever swallowed a tack either! Just thought it was an interesting story about my Daddy. He was the best at recovering a piece of furniture. People came from miles around to have him recover their furniture.

    • Brett

      I love that story!! :)

  • Chanda Chapin

    Brett, this is beautiful.. Love it.. I added your link to my site

  • Kristine

    I’ve been looking for some inspiration for a project like this, thank you, you did a beautiful job!

  • Ali

    Your floating tables are cool. My husband made some out of mahogany a few years back, to go with our bed & dresser that he made also. I thought they were great because they are easy to vacuum under (HATE vacuuming). Our bed is also that style. So now I wonder what you keep your clothes in-ha.

  • Andrea |

    Your shelves are perfect! Love them!

    Definitely want to give this a try when I redo my daughter’s room…

  • Kalle

    Hi there! Looks great…would you be willing to share the name/manufacturer of the headboard fabric? I love it!
    And the quilt looks fantastic; those colors are right up my alley.

    • Brett

      hi Kalle – unfortunately I don’t know the manufacturer of the fabric, I’m so sorry! I got it at Mood, but when I was there last week I noticed that they’re sold out of it. They get a lot of one-offs so I think that’s what this fabric was. So sorry I can’t help!

  • Briana

    Was the headboard also DIY? I’m looking to do one and I love yours!

    • Briana

      Oops nevermind. I just found it!

  • Pingback: DIY Floating Nightstand Lamps | Decor Hacks

  • brooke

    Ok Im getting those lamps! love them, this room is beautiful great job

  • Lori @ Studio Waterstone

    I am madly in love with this and it’s ideal for my small bedroom. Thanks so much.

  • Julie

    Nice! And your directions are great and simple. Thanks!

  • Inspire Me Heather

    I do love your nightstand there – that looks gorgeous! Thanks for posting your tutorial and I’ve got this linked to my DIY nightstands post too today!

  • Heather Alves

    this gave great instructions and a great diy i will be using this when i make my headboard with floating nightstands but i will be adding a drawer somehow :)

  • caroline kim

    Hi I love the headboard. Did you make that, too?

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