The Bar is Open

When we picked our floor plan, I spotted dead space in the plans between the living room and kitchen, just to the side of the fridge. I realized we could cut the divider wall in half and gain additional cabinetry and it would be the perfect space for a bar for Jon. He was….skeptical. But we drew up the changes to the plans and moved forward with it.

These are not the exact plans, but close enough

We were able to add a 36″ cabinet and it’s been great for storing all of Jon’s alcohol and bar items but it started feeling overwhelmingly crowded.

So when Jon went to Vegas for a weekend, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to install some floating shelves. Should be a quick project that will be done before he gets home, he’ll be so surprised!

Sure. Suuuuure. When is a weekend project every really a weekend project? Never. Not ever.

The shelves would be a simple frame encased with stained birch veneer. I started by cutting all the support pieces to build the frame. You’ll need a front and back for the width of the shelves, and supports for the depth. I wanted the shelves to be the same depth as an upper cabinet (24″).

I screwed the support pieces to the back piece first, and then screwed the back into the studs for strength. Repeat steps for the top shelf.

Hmm, that’s not looking super sturdy

That did not look too strong. How does it look with a bottle on it…

Huh. Not sure about this. Let’s double up the supports.


Well it looks better. A little.

*My pictures are crooked but the shelves are level, swear it!

I tried it with two and three bottles and it started to sink. I was adamant I wanted the thinner plywood sheets so the shelves wouldn’t get bulky, but I knew they wouldn’t hold up so I made another trip to Home Depot to get 1/2″.

I screwed the face of the supports on and the 1/2″ plywood just in time for Jon to arrive home.

So with the structure built, I worked on staining the three pieces (top, bottom, front)

Just my make shift work bench

I don’t have pictures for this part, but learn from me. Don’t ever trust the dry time on the cans of stain. They’re pure lies. After applying three coats of stain – with the designated dry times – I went to apply wipe-on poly for protection. And it promptly wiped off a good coat and a half of stain! I freaked, and panicked, and got pissed, and then shrugged it off. Instead of being a nice warm walnut, they’d be a nice honey.

Well, it turns out my front pieces were not cut very straight so I had to recut/restain/repoly new ones. So while the tops and bottoms are a bit honey toned, the fronts are the color I wanted but the variation is hardly noticeable because the undersides aren’t well lit and the tops are covered in booze!

After 4 coats of poly, I applied wood glue and attached all pieces, securing with brad nails. I wanted a photo with just the shelves, unfortunately Jon beat me to it.

Before and after

Overall, I made quite a few mistakes on this one and learned a lot, if I ever did this again I would do some things differently:

  • Wait longer for stain to dry
  • Miter the cuts so the edges are seamless
  • Use wood, not plywood, which splintered like crazy
  • Find anyone with a table saw to cut the fronts, I’m not great with the circular saw

Even with the mistakes, I’m very happy with how they turned out, we gained even more storage and the area is so much more functional now. But most importantly, Jon loves it and can’t wait to add to the stock. So it’s official – come on by, the bar is open!

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