Salvaged Wood Shelves: Sneak Peak

Our new place is very… functional. It checks off a number of our requirements (pet-friendly, ground floor, outdoor space, lots of light, south facing, dishwasher…) but it’s bland. White walls, beige carpets, builder basics- no character to speak of. I figured character was easier to add to a space than it would be to clean up an uncared for old apartment, so we opted for this one. To add some personality, I have a few DIY projects lined up…

The first of these are my salvaged wood shelves. I’m not usually exceptionally keen on wood furniture (much to Shaun’s dismay, I generally prefer to paint it all white!) but seeing as we don’t have wood floors, I wanted to add some rustic warmth to the space. I’ve found a few inspiration photos on Pinterest to share with you:



Aren’t they pretty? I thought they would be a great addition to our apartment for a few reasons: a) The kitchen is TINY and needs extra storage b) shelves are considerably cheaper than buying another piece of furniture c) they can show off my favourite dishes in the little kitchen nook area and d) they would definitely add interest to my boring walls.

Lucky for me, Shaun’s painting company had some extra pieces of wood lying around. If you had told me when I was a teenager that I would spend time in my twenties leafing through piles of old wood, I would not have believed you! I never understood why my dad did it, and here I am doing the same thing. Anyway. If you’re looking for salvaged wood and don’t have easy access to it, check out How Get Free Reclaimed Lumber from I even came across some free planks today in my neighbourhood from a new house they’re building down the street. It pays to keep an eye out for these kinds of things. For even more inspiration, check out Brooklyn to West‘s headboard made out of rescued wood from a church!

Here are the pieces we settled on:


(Don’t mind the poor quality; these were taken on my Iphone in a dark garage.) I think they have potential!


Since the colour of the beams was a bit bland, I wanted to enhance them while preserving the dings and varied colour in the wood. After a great deal of thought on how to treat it between staining, waxing and varnishing, (by this I mean asking Shaun every few minutes and me bringing a sample to a dinner party for more opinions!), I opted to varnish it.

I started by giving both planks a very light sand with a piece 220 grit sand paper, just to avoid any slivers in the future. It’s tough to tell the difference in the photo, but I just sanded until the beams were smooth when I ran my fingers over them. Of course, whenever you sand, make sure to do so with the grain, and not against it, to avoid scratching the surface.


Bali loves to hang out with me, especially when I do new and exciting things like painting… She kept photo bombing so I decided to take a few of her too!

Bali photo bomb 2

 Bali photo bomb

Somehow I don’t think she was all that enthused.

As my planks were salvaged by a painting company, there were drops of paint here and there. I kept a few minor ones, but the conspicuous ones I simply picked off with an exacto knife and sanded down. I didn’t worry too much about making it perfect, since it would just blend in to the other imperfections in the piece.

Before varnishing, I wiped the wood down with a rag to get rid of all the sawdust. With a regular paintbrush, I painted on a thin coat of varnish, making sure to wipe any run-off along the sides. Here’s what I used:

To keep an even coat, made sure the surface I was varnishing was flat, meaning I was moving the board to its side or on its end, depending upon what area I was working on. Honestly, it was easy. I purposely chose wood that had imperfections, so who cares if I mess up the varnish a bit? All part of the charm. When I finished, it looked like this:

Wet varnish

Hmm… I was sceptical about how it would turn out since it was so shiny and a bit of the yellow side in comparison to what I had envisioned. Thankfully, when the varnish dries it’s considerably more subtle. Here’s what it looks like now that it’s dried in our spare room for the last few hours:

 shelves sneak peak Shelves sneak peak

Still a work in progress, but I’m encouraged! I bought these black steel brackets to hang them:

I can’t wait to see the beams up against a dark grey wall with my favourite glassware and crisp white dishes!

Total cost:

Since the lumber and varnish was at already at our fingertips, the only thing I needed were brackets, which I bought from Rona (basically the Canadian version of Lowe’s, I believe) for 5.50 each, and I bought 4. With tax, my total came to $25.

However, recreating these shelves without knowing a painter would still be budget friendly: find the wood from a barn or around your neighbourhood, get a can of varnish from Home Depot for around 15, and you’re still looking at a 40 dollar project. Not bad for some badly needed style and storage in a small space.

Keep in touch for the reveal when we move in early April!