DIY Modern Shelf–A Knockoff for Under $100
It’s no secret I love a good modern furniture design. I mean, those clean lines, natural wood tones, and simplicity–they just get me every time. So when I was challenged to come up with a project that I could “knockoff” for under $100, I started looking at all my favorite modern furniture stores and found this contemporary shelf design from CB2 that was SO me.
Not only is it super cute, it’s also really versatile, and it’s SO EASY TO BUILD. So it makes a great beginner project or a quick weekend project if you’re looking for something to whip together in just a few hours.
For more great beginner projects, be sure to check out:
.But back to the challenge I mentioned earlier. I, along with several of my other (crazy talented) DIY blogger friends were challenged to replicate a furniture piece from a designer store for under $100 in materials. So several of us (mostly them haha) built some pretty amazing pieces and I’m linking to all the other projects at the end of this post. And they are SO GOOD so you want to be sure to check them out!
And for more knockoff projects you might enjoy, check these out:
Now, I have to confess and warn you about something real quick before we get to the how to. The original CB2 shelf is made from walnut and white oak (well, TECHNICALLY it’s a walnut veneer and white oak), and when you get into buying these hardwoods, the lumber price can add up really quick.
But I really wanted to try it with the actual walnut and white oak instead of the standard pine and spruce I’m used to building with. So I ended up maxing out my $100 materials budget with the lumber. BUT, to build this shelf, that’s basically all you need anyway–just a little wood glue and a few screws are the only other things you need and I already had that on hand–so I was still able to keep it to $100.
However, if hardwood isn’t in the budget, it would look just as awesome to build it out of the spruce and pine you get at the lumber yard or big box store and just stain it contrasting colors so it LOOKS like oak and walnut. That would save you about 50-60% of the lumber cost.
I’ve partnered up with the amazingly talented Jen Woodhouse from The House of Wood to bring you the plans for this project here. I’ve also got the video tutorial, the written tutorial, and what I learned from working with hardwoods below.
This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure policy.
For this build, you will need:
(3) 1×12 boards
(3) 1×2 boards
(3) 2×2 boards
2″ wood screws
Step 1: Mill Up the Lumber for the DIY Shelf
If you aren’t using hardwood for this project, you can skip on down to step 3. But if you are curious how this worked with hardwood vs. standard bog box store lumber, keep reading 🙂 It doesn’t cost anything for the extra info.
Since I used hardwood, there was some prep work that needed to be done before I could start with the plans. You can purchase hardwood already milled to the size you need from Home Depot (some locations) or a local hardwood store. However, these are REALLY PRICEY. So I got my lumber rough sawn for under half the price as already milled up.
But, that meant that I had to spend quite a bit of time at the planer and the table saw to get my lumber to the sizes I needed to work with. You may already know that 1x material (which is what the plan calls for) is ¾″ thick. But rough sawn lumber (at least where I get it from) will typically come somewhere around 1″-1 ¼″ thick. So the first thing I did was plane all my wood down to ¾″ thick making sure that both sides were smooth in the process.
Once everything was the same thickness, I moved to the table saw and cut down my boards into three 1x12s (from walnut) to use for the shelves, then cut the rest of the wood down to three 1 ½″ wide strips of walnut and several 1 ½″ wide strips of white oak.
Step 2: Glue up 2x2s for DIY Modern Shelf Supports
Now, you may be thinking, “wait a minute, you milled all your lumber to ¾″ thick but the plans call for 2x2s which are NOT ¾″ thick…what are you thinking??” Good point.
Where I get my rough sawn lumber, your only option is the 1x stuff (by the way, this is called 4/4 in the hardwood world), so I couldn’t get 2x wood. I had to make my own. But, if you do the math, ¾″ x 2 = 1 ½″ which is the thickness of a 2×2. So all I had to do was glue two strips of ¾″ thick wood together to get a 1 ½″ thick piece and have a 2×2.
So that’s what I did. I laid out all my strips of white oak that I cut down in step 1 and applied glue.
Then I folded them on top of each other to glue two together at a time. NOTE: I only had so many clamps, so I clamped these all at once. However, I wasn’t gluing them all together, so there was only glue between every other board. Just wanted to clarify 🙂
Once the glue was dry, I removed the clamps and sanded all the glue off the sides and ta-da! 2x2s 🙂
Working with hardwood made this project a little more time consuming at the beginning, but once step 1 and 2 were done, it’s smooth sailing. If you bought your lumber already milled up or you bought standard sizes from the lumber yard or big box store, here’s where you start your work–in step 3.
Step 3: Glue Up Shelves for DIY Contemporary Shelf
This is actually step 2 of the plans, but I did this part first so the glue could be drying while I assembled the other pieces. Each shelf consists of a 1×12 on the bottom and a 1×2 glued on the back. So I applied wood glue and clamped the 1×2 in place. You could also brad nail these on from the bottom side or use screws from the bottom side as well.
Step 4: Cut and Assemble Shelf Supports
This is step 1 of the plans. Sorry, I got a little out of order…I hate waiting on glue to dry so I try to stay busy while it’s doing its thing.
I trimmed all my 2x2s down to the sizes on the plan and assembled using 2 ½″ pocket hole screws and 1 ½″ pocket holes using my Kreg Jig. Now, in the video, I warn you about this. So I will warn you here as well.
Warning 1: If you are using hardwoods, you need to use fine threaded pocket hole screws. I tried to use coarse and it was SO HARD TO DRIVE. Like, basically impossible. I ruined two square bits. Not smart. Don’t be like me.
Warning 2: Pocket holes and screws make these so easy and quick to assemble. However, it is a little difficult to get your drill in to drive the screws once you add the second leg on each support. If you have difficulty with that, try a 90 degree drill attachment OR try a driver (which is typically not as long as a drill) OR instead of using pocket holes, you could try dowels.
Step 5: Attach the Shelves to the Supports
Once the glue was dry on the shelves, I trimmed them down as one whole piece to make sure I got nice smooth ends, then attached to the shelf supports.
Because it’s kind of a tight squeeze, I started with the top shelf then worked my way down. I used 2″ wood screws through the front to back supports to screw the shelves in place like the plans show. Instead of screws, you could also use 90 degree L brackets as well, but the cost starts adding up with extra hardware.
Once the top shelf was screwed in place, I slid the middle shelf in and attached the same way. Then, finally the last shelf.
Step 6: Finish as Desired
I simply finished the shelf off with a couple coats of Rustoleum Triple Thick Poly. It bought out the natural coloring of the walnut and oak. However, you can finish yours however you want and even do contrasting stain colors if you wanted.
I think this shelf would be super cute in an entryway just decorated with a few of your favorite things, or even for shoe storage. The spacing between the shelves is a great distance to stick a pair of shoes or boots in. But, then again, I’m not sure you’d want to put your dirty boots on walnut shelves haha.
Either way, whatever you use it for, this is a great little shelf to make for less than $100–which is less than 25% of the designer version. Can’t get much better than that 😉
Speaking of $100 designer knockoffs, I told you earlier I had some more fun ideas to show you from some of my builder friends. Be sure to check out all the other awesome knockoffs in the links below and don’t forget to pin this project for later!
Until next time, happy building! 🙂
Check out these other awesome $100 or Less Knockoff Projects: