How to build window shelves

Transform a bare window into a green wall with custom shelving.
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Window shelves turns an expanse of glass into a stylish showpiece without blocking the light.

WATCH: Adam and Daniella give an old bathroom a fresh coastal-style makeover

Split into three parts for ease of installation, it turns an expanse of glass into a stylish showpiece without blocking the light.

Bathroom window
Before: Bland and boring
Bathroom window shelves
After: a captivating statement window (Credit: Sue Ferris)

Gather your supplies

Outside frames

  • 135 x 19mm Tasmanian oak


  • 110 x 19mm Tasmanian oak
  • Intergrain Ultra Deck stain in Driftwood

You’ll also need

  • Tape measure
  • Small paint roller and tray
  • PVA glue
  • Clamps
  • Cloth
  • Combination square
  • Pencil
  • Countersinking drill bit
  • Drill
  • 3mm drill bit
  • Scrap plywood
  • 50mm stainless steel screws
  • Paint roller
  • 30mm screws

Here’s how

Step 1

Measure inside the window reveal to determine the overall dimensions of your shelving unit, allowing a few millimetres less for wriggle room and leaving space at the back for the window to work smoothly. Work out the size of each of the sections that will join to form the unit, and then work out a cutting list for the parts needed for each section. Note that here, the join between the sections coincides with the window’s vertical glazing bars.

Step 2

How to make window shelves step 2
Step 2

To make double-thickness shelves, use a small roller to evenly coat 1 side of each shelf with glue. Bring together in pairs and clamp. Remove excess glue with a damp cloth. Leave to dry.

Step 3

How to make window shelves step 3
Step 3

Use a combination square to mark sides with position of shelves, which are 560 and 880mm from the top. This is designed to match the box unit on the adjacent wall. Also draw lines 9mm from each edge, which will match the centres of the top and bottom pieces.

Step 4

How to build window shelves part 4
Step 4

Mark screw holes on sides. For shelves, make screws go into the middle of the boards, 35mm from the edge. For tops and bottoms, screws go along drawn line and 20mm from edges. Drill holes at each point using a countersinking drill bit. 

Step 5

DIY window shelves step 5
Step 5

Spread glue along ends of top and bottom pieces and butt into sides. Predrill through screw holes with 3mm drill bit, then join with 50mm screws.

Step 6

Use scrap plywood to make spacing blocks so shelves in all 3 sections are the same. The block for the gap between the top and first shelf is 541mm and then between shelves is 282mm. Also cut small blocks 12mm thick for shelves to sit on as you screw them in place.

Step 7

Step 7 how to build window shelves
Step 7

For each unit, place the long spacing block against 1 side, butting it into the top, and clamp in place. Spread glue along ends of first shelf and butt against both sides, with 12mm block sitting under it. Predrill and screw through sides into shelf, using 50mm screws.

Step 8

step 8 window shelves
Step 8

Repeat Step 7 to attach second shelf to unit, using shorter spacing black. Leave glue to dry. 

Step 9

Step 9
Step 9 (Credit: Sue Ferris)

Apply 1 coat stain to sections with roller. Let dry.

Step 10

Step 10
Step 10 (Credit: Sue Ferris)

Place sections in reveal, ensuring window can open. Where sections meet, make fronts flush. Clamp. Predrill and screw together with 30mm screws.

Step 11

Step 11 window shelves
Step 11 (Credit: Sue Ferris)

Predrill and screw through units into window reveal until secure, using 50mm screws.

Bathroom window shelves
Make planter boxes using the offcuts from yoru shelf units. Stain to match, then use a hot-glue gun to attach twine to the outside of the box, wrapping it around to continue the coastal theme. (Credit: Sue Ferris)
Bathroom vanity
The oak shelves reflect the timber tones in the vanity (Credit: Sue Ferris)

Want to see more step-by-step projects for this coastal bathroom makeover?

How to paint bathroom tiles

How to build a towel rail

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