Easy DIY Shadow Box Frame & Wall Shelf
Build an easy DIY shadow box frame and wall shelf to hold picture frames and other decor items. This easy DIY shelf features one large shadow box frame and 3 small shelfs.
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Multipurpose DIY Shadow Box Frame
When we showed you our new DIY entry table with cubbies and shelves, we also gave you a sneak peek of this easy DIY shadow box frame which is also a baby changing table topper.
Yes, we really like versatile multipurpose furniture around here!
We built the entry table with the intent to use it as a changing table, with the changing table topper as shown here.
But babies aren’t in diapers forever (thank goodness!) so we wanted to show you how versatile these pieces are to use after you don’t need a baby changing table anymore.
The changing table is right at home as a baby’s dresser, or as an entryway organizer (it replaced our 2×6 bench and rolling buckets for awhile) or a small buffet or TV console or… you get the idea.
And after it’s served its purpose, the changing table topper makes the perfect wall shelf and shadow box frame to display favorite pictures, vacation mementos, decor, etc. (Scroll down for lots of ideas for how to use it!)
It’s sized to fit the entry/changing table perfectly, so it also makes a really nice matching modern shelf display, exactly the right size.
But if you have a different size dresser changing table, or just want to build the shadow box frame itself — it’s really easy to customize the size to fit whatever you need.
See the details here for making this specifically as a changing table topper.
How to Build an Easy Shadow Box Frame & Wall Shelf
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Get the plans to build this changing table topper here as a Remodelaholic newsletter subscriber, or here in the shop.
Materials & Tools
- (2) 1×4 Select Pine Boards*
- (optional) ¼” x 2’ x 4’ plywood project panel
- Miter Saw
- Pin Nail Gun
- Pin Nails
- Wood Glue
- Wood Patch Filler
* You may be able to use less expensive 1″ x 4″ x 8′ furring strips, but check that the boards are all straight and square. The more expensive pine boards will typically be straighter and smoother.
Read our Tips for Choosing Good Boards.
1. Cut the 4 sides of the shadow box frame to your desired size, cutting the ends at a 45° miter to create nice looking corners.
The printable plans show the dimensions to fit the entryway table perfectly, but you can make it any size you want to fit your space or the contents of the frame.
2. Attach the sides at the mitered corners, using wood glue and pin nails.
- Check the frame for square. You can use a carpenter’s square, or measure the diagonal distances — the distances will be exactly the same when the frame is square.
- Clamp the frame as it dries to keep it square. A Corner Clamping Jig is really helpful here.
3. Cut the dividers (shelves). Ours are 10″ to fit the changing pad and table.
Space the dividers evenly along one short side of the shadow box frame, and glue and nail in place. Ours are 5″ between.
4. Cut the long vertical divider to fit. Attach it to the sides and dividers using glue and pin nails, checking for square again.
5. Cut the (optional) backing. We opted to leave our frame open, but if you’d like, you can install a backing in your shadow box to allow you to pin display items — or to add some patterned paper or wallpaper.
Measure and cut the 1/4″ plywood to size. Attach to the back of the shadow box using glue and pin nails.
If you’d like to be able to pin items (like pictures, papers, or baby clothes) to the back of the shadow box frame, replace the backing with foam core, or wrap the backing with thin foam batting (and/or a layer of cardboard underneath) and fabric, secured with short staples or nails at the edges. Wait to nail it to the frame until the frame has been painted/stained and cured.
Now just finish it! Fill any nail holes or imperfections with wood filler, then sand and paint or stain to fit your style.
Hanging an Open Shadow Box Frame
We hung the shadow box on the wall using just 2 screws, painted the same color as our walls, with the frame just resting on top. You could also use L brackets or sawtooth picture hangers.
For a different hanging style, you could also attach eye hooks or handles to the sides or top and hang with rope, like Corey did on this chalkboard organizer.
What to Put In a Shadow Box Frame
Since this shadow box doesn’t have protective glass on the front, I wouldn’t recommend using it for family antiques or anything that needs the extra dust- and UV-protection.
But you can use it for so many things (including many of the ideas here for using old windows) —
- Picture frames, standing on the shelf or hanging with eye bolts and hooks
- Photos or printable art pinned to the backing
- Plants (real or faux) – wood flowers would look lovely!
- A small battery-operated lamp or candles
- Small sculptures and decor items (like this cubby display shelf)
- Vacation mementos, like a rock collection, travel maps, postcards, or tickets
- Baby clothes or booties, or other items
The shadow box frame could also be used as a wall shelf in other rooms in the house:
- As a kitchen spice organizer and cutting board or tray holder (just add a front rail or rod to the large section to hold the larger items, like Betty’s essential oil shelf)
- As a bathroom organizer with small bins or buckets to hold hair elastics or hygiene items (or add ribbon to hold hair bows)
- As a memo board using pins or a chalkboard backing (like this chalkboard shelf)
- As a toy display shelf for small toys or kids’ artwork
- As a wall shelf and organizer with hooks for keys or sunglasses (like the hidden ones in this coat rack)
For extra decor and style points, you can also dress up the shadow box backing with wallpaper, fabric, chalkboard panel, or burlap tape (like this easy-swap frame), or replace the backing with planks for a farmhouse crate style.
More wall decor ideas to check out:
- How to Decorate Tall Walls: 24 Ideas for Large Wall Art
- 60 Easy Art Ideas for Kids Wall Decor
- 50+ Ways to Display Wall Art and Photos
- Best DIY Wall Shelf Tutorials