Painter’s Ladder Shelf

Submitted by Ana White on Sun, 10/24/2010 - 18:56
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A free standing storage tower, with varying size shelves. perfect for tight spaces that need extra storage, but still plenty of elbow room.

This weekend, I spent most of my time in the garage, working on projects for HGTV.  And I'm so happy with how this one turned out.

What do you think of our Freestanding Painter's Ladder Shelf? I really went out of my comfort zone with the orange paint.  Loved how Pottery Barn went for white, but for whatever reason, I just had to use up a ooops quart of construction zone orange.  Yes, that is my magnetic steel wall in the background.

And while you are going to have to wait until the posts publishes on HGTV for this exact plan, if you fancy a wider shelf, today's your day.

The coolest part about this design?  Well, there is a couple of cool parts.  One, it's cheap.  Two, it's sturdy and free standing.  Three, it works in tight space.  Four, well, it looks so good in color!

54" tall x 24" wide x 16" deep (approximate)


Shopping List

1 – 24″ wide shelf, 48″ long (or 1/4 sheet of plywood or 24″ x 48″ pine project panel)
4 – 1×2 boards, 8 feet long
4 – 1×3 boards, 8 feet long
2 1/2″ Trim Screws
1 1/4″ Screws
Wood Glue
Finishing Supplie

Cut List

2 – 1×2 @ 55 3/8″ (Front Legs, ends cut at 15 degrees off square)
2 – 1×2 @ 53 1/2″ (Back Legs)
8 – 1×3 @ 25 1/2″ (Fronts and Backs of shelves)
1 – 1×2 @ 25 1/2″ (Top)
1 – 24″ x 4 3/4″ (Top Shelf cut from 24″ wide shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 4 3/4″ (Top Shelf Side Trim)
1 – 24″ x 8 1/2″ (Second Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 8 1/2″ (Second Shelf Trim)
1 – 24″ x 12 1/4″ (Third Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 12 1/4″ (Third Shelf Trim)
1 – 24″ x 16″ (Bottom Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 16″ (Bottom Shelf Trim)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Miter Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

For the instruction for the smaller width tower, please visit my post on HGTV here.


Step 1


Cut the legs as shown above. See step 2 for cutting the top corner of the front legs.

Step 2

Tops of Legs

Cut the top of the front legs as shown above. Join the front leg to the back leg with screws and glue. I used pocket hole screws, but a 2 1/2″ trim screw predrilled from the back does the trick too.

Step 3


Now attach the top to the legs as shown above. Again, I used pocket holes, but 2 1/2″ trim screws would do the trick. I layed the whole thing on it’s back on the garage floor to make things easier. Set the whole thing aside.

Step 4

Shelf Sides

Now just add the shelf side trim to the corresponding shelves. Super easy. I used pocket holes, but trim screws would work as well – and glue.

Step 5

Step 6


Now if you are going to mess up anywhere, this is the spot. Take time to carefully prepare by cleaning your workspace free of sawdust. Now measure the legs and mark the shelf locations, as shown in the diagram above. Then mark each of the shelves 2″ in from the top front corners. This is the point where the shelves meet the marks you made on the legs. Lay the legs with the back down on the floor. Then start with the bottom shelf, screwing through the legs into the side trim for the bottom shelf with 1 1/4″ screws. Then work your way up. Check all the shelves and back legs for level – I did have to adjust mine.


Leah (not verified)

Sun, 10/24/2010 - 19:16

Perfect! I loved the bakery wall shelf thingy, but we have a very smal area to fill. Thanks! =)

michelle (not verified)

Sun, 10/24/2010 - 19:17

I am soooooo making that. Have been looking for something for a small-ish spot and now I found it. Thanks Ana.....I will post a pic when I make it. :)

Barrett (not verified)

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 02:44

Thanks Anna... I think one or two of these could be useful to fill a spot in my workshop, especially since they're free standing. A couple casters on the bottom would be a great addition!

Mary Anne (not verified)

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 02:50

Ana, first of all, is there nothing you can't do? Secondly, I see these posts from you talking about HGTV and some other things you're involved in, but where do I find more details? Are you going to be on an HGTV show or something? Not only do I love your plans, I love to follow where your career is taking you! I love it when good things happen to good people!

Robin E. (not verified)

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 05:14

Did you come into my hall bathroom and see that I have an empty spot right next to the counter that is PERFECT for this project, a spot that I was at a loss for what to put there? This is soooooo on my to-do list now and down here on the Mexican border the weather has finally become cool enough for such projects.

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