A DIY Leaning Ladder

My wooden DIY leaning ladder idea sprung from the desire to create an organized ‘home’ for my treasured antiques and knick knacks while providing uncluttered storage and a focal point in the living room. My home is becoming more and more refined and I am loving how open and uncomplicated it feels day to day.

This is a great project for home owners and renters alike who want to create a piece that will grow with you.  When I get bored of the ‘look’ of my new ladder, I can just mix it up and swap in/out my different home accessories for a new look. And really, I needed to expand the potential surface space for my ever-growing plant collection. Also, a bonus is that it satisfied our landlords request to minimize holes in the wall. This gave me more display power, less big holes in the wall. Here’s how to make your own DIY Leaning Ladder!

side view of DIY leaning ladder shelf

Everything for this project was from Home Depot and won’t crush your budget coming in at approximately $75 (CAD) for the lumber or closer to $110 if you include all the materials. I had spotted similar leaning ladders/shelves ranging from around $300 – $700 and they weren’t quite the look I was going for.

I was inspired by this image:

Our original Large Raw Oak Shelf Ladder, with 6 wider graded shelves, offers a striking and fresh shelving alternative.

A Place For Everything in the UK.

I think it turned out beautifully. Look at the contrast against my black door!

DIY ladder shelf Row House Nest

One of the modifications that my ladder features over other leaning shelves or bookshelves is no sides or trim. I wanted my ladder to be less of a bookshelf and more of a ladder, so we removed the trim around the sides. If you are looking to make a ladder with trim sides, Ana White has an excellent tutorial here. So let’s show you how to make your own ladder.

whitewashed wood on diy ladder

First off. We had to decide how tall, how wide and how far out from the wall we wanted the ladder to “lean”. Also how many shelves. To help get an idea of the finished project sized, we taped off the dimensions. This helped me to actually see how much space it would occupy in the room.

Based on the projected ‘look’, we could figure out how much wood we needed. I wanted it to be a touch taller than my door trim, so we went with a 7 foot ladder. You might want something smaller or bigger.

DIY ladder shelf - Row House Nest

Materials for DIY Leaning Ladder:

Lumber: 2 pieces of  1 x 6 x 8 knotty pine

 1 piece of 1 x 6 x 6 knotty pine 

 4 pieces of 1 x 8 x 6 knotty pine

1 piece of 1 x 10 x 6 knotty pine

3 pieces of small cuts for support – mine measured 1″ x 36″

Stain and Finish:  I used water based Wood Stain in White Wash Pickling  and Clear Protective Finish (both made by Minwax)

I love how you can see all the grain of the wood. I wrote about how to get that Scandi white washed look here. 

white wash pickling stain on ladder

Other things you will need (including tools): sandpaper, acrylic paint brush, rags, screws (we used 1 3/4 inch), brackets or small pieces of wood to secure ladder (for safety!), measuring tape, try square, jig saw, drill and a level.

Advice: paint or stain your lumber in advance. Makes life a hell of a lot easier. Trust me.

Here is the rendering my dad mocked up that details the measurements, cuts required and what the final project should look like.

DIY Ladder Shelf Row House Nest

Instructions for DIY Leaning Ladder:

Once you have cut and painted/stained all your pieces, mock out with painting tape to ensure you love the location. We actually switched things up from the original plan and moved the shelf from a north facing wall to the east facing one.

As you can see in the photos, this is an odd little piece of wall that didn’t serve much purpose. Thus making it the perfect spot for the ladder. It doesn’t interfere with the pathway to the bedroom either.

My dad attached the shelves starting at the top. The smaller shelves at the top do not need any extra support and can hold themselves up. Since the bottom three shelves are larger and heavier, my dad secured each shelf with a small piece of wood measuring 1″ x 36″.

ladder shelf support

I have read other blog posts suggesting that you attach the ladder to the wall using a picture hanging kit, you may want to do that if you have kids around but it is unnecessary for our home. Each shelf was leveled – in three spots, far right, far left and center.

ladder collage DIY

A special thanks to my dad – he has been incredibly helpful and instrumental in taking my ‘ideas’ and turning them into beautiful pieces of furniture in my home. I can’t thank my dad enough for his time, thoughtful contribution and hard work that made this project happen! This project has definitely been one of my favourites. Let me know if you make your own DIY Leaning Ladder!

 Now… Just need to fill those shelves! Am sure it won’t take long! ladder shelf vignette


Disclaimer: Most of the materials required for this DIY project in this blog post were supplied to me by Home Depot via a gift card. That said, all words and opinions are my own. All images are also my own. Thanks to Home Depot for making this project possible!

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  • ramblingrenovators

    Your dad is awesome! Love a good daughter-dad project. The ladder looks fabulous and well constructed. I didn’t realize you had cleats to support the shelves at first but of course that makes sense. It makes really good use of an unused space. Your place is really coming together Meagan!

    • Aw thanks Jennifer! I really appreciate your kind comments. It really is so nice to have projects with my dad, especially as an adult. Makes me feel like a kid again! Slowly but surely our home is coming together!

  • Kirk Merker

    Help me understand the shelf widths. For example you have a 16 inch shelf on the bottom, but your supply list does not mention a 1×16. Your widest board is 10 inches Please help

    • Morning Kirk!
      Thanks for stopping by. I am not sure if you are in the US or Canada (or elsewhere) but the measurements for the boards (if you link through on source) is by FEET not inches! So if you scroll down to the materials required and click on the boards I picked up, then scroll down, the specific dimensions break down is available for each at the bottom of the page on the Home Depot site. If you are in the US, it may be redirecting you to other information. I hope that helps,