Shortly after we found out that Sydney would be joining our family I saw this picture of rainbow book ledges from Pottery Barn Kids and fell in love. I knew I wanted shelves like this to be a focal point for our nursery, and they became the inspiration for the entire room. Crate & Kids (Land of Nod at the time) also sold similar ledges, but the ledges from both stores would cost us at least $150 and each shelf was only 24″. Because of the size of our wall, we knew that 36″ shelves would be best. So we decided we’d build them ourselves, and desperately hoped they wouldn’t look like a craft project.

What We Used

  • 2 pieces of 1′ x 3′  MDF per shelf
  • 1 piece of 1′ x 2′ MDF per shelf
  • Miter Saw
  • Nail Gun and Nails
  • Wood Glue
  • Clamps
  • Exacto Knife
  • Wood Filler
  • Craft Paint
  • Polycrylic Spray Sealer
  • Drill with appropriate bits including a countersink bit
  • Wood Screws
  • Wood Buttons
  • Level
  • Wall Anchors
  • Pencil and Measuring Tape

Building the Rainbow Book Ledges

MDF Board

We used MDF for our ledges because that would make painting much easier. Each of the boards that we bought was 96″ long, so when we got home we cut them all down to 36″ each (20 of the 1×3 and 10 of the 1×2 boards total).

After we cut the pieces, it was time to glue them together. (Note: the more wood clamps you have for this part, the faster it will go because it can only go as quickly as the number of clamps that you have. We had four clamps, so we could do two shelves at a time.) We used an Exacto knife to mark up the edges so that the glue would adhere better. After we added the glue (and wiped some away because on the first one we added a bit too much!) we clamped the pieces together. We allowed the pieces to stay clamped together between 30 minutes and an hour before moving on to another piece of the shelf (when you’re building five shelves, you can see how this step can be time-consuming).

MDF Making Rainbow Book Ledge MDF Making Rainbow Book Ledge 2

Because of the length of our shelves, they needed a little more reinforcement. We used a nail gun to put nails both into the bottom of the back shelves and into the front of each ledge. We then used wood filler to cover the nail holes on the front of each shelf to cover the nail holes.

Once the filler dried, not all of the shelf edges were perfectly flush, so we used the saw to cut off a “smidge” off each end. We used the first shelf as a model to ensure they were all the same length.

Painting the Ledges


Now for the finishing touches! To help the color stuck to the shelves, we primed the shelves (especially the porous edges of the MDF).

Craft Paint for Rainbow Book Ledge

We then used craft paint from Michael’s in Pink, Orange, Yellow, Apple Tart and Island Blue to get our rainbow effect! It took about two coats to cover each shelf completely. Luckily with craft paint, it dries very quickly. Once each shelf was dry we sealed them with Polycrlic spray to protect them from wear and tear.

Rainbow Book Ledges After Paint

Hanging the Rainbow Ledges

Painters Tape on Wall

Now time to hang the book ledges! We used our largest book to decide the distance between the shelves, which was Make Way for Ducklings at that point (and we never received a book larger!) and we hung the shelves 12.5″ apart. We used painters tape on the wall after we measured the distance apart on each shelf so that we could see what it would look like visually before drilling any holes. Since we wanted the shelves perfectly centered between the closet and entrance doors we didn’t bother looking for studs and used wall anchors to anchor the shelves into the wall.

Drilling Pink Rainbow Book Ledge

To complete the shelves, Brian bought a 3/8″ countersink drill bit to properly fit the wood buttons. Luckily, I have Brian for these types of projects because I wouldn’t have known how to do this, but he drilled the countersink holes and then the pilot holes, and they were perfect. It was relatively easy and this made the shelves look really professional! The buttons are really snug in the holes, especially since they were painted as well, so we don’t have to worry about them coming out in the future.

Rainbow Book Ledges on Wall

Then we hung all five of the shelves and voila! We received so many books to fill Sydney’s library. Several of the books have personalized notes written just for her too. We can wait to read them to her and tell her all about the shelves that her Dads built for her.

Rainbow Book Ledges 1 Rainbow Book Ledges 2 Rainbow Book Ledges 3 Rainbow Book Ledges 4