Upcycling an Old Table into a DIY Farmhouse Shelf for the Bathroom

I had an old oak table for a couple of years that split in half, and try as I might I could not reglue and clamp it to hold together. So I put the legs aside and decided to use the top portions to create a DIY farmhouse shelf and towel holder for the bathroom.

I realize the most of us don’t have an unwanted table kicking around, but you can make this with any old unwanted furniture you can find at a garage sale, as long as it is solid wood.

DIY Wood Shelf Tutorial

Old Piece of Furniture for Wood


Wood Glue

Paint brushes, clean rags

Minwax Walnut Stain

120 & 150 grit sandpaper

white paint & water

The first step was to strip and then sand the wood down so the gorgeous wood grain shows again. My preferred stripper is (affiliate link) Citristrip its now finally available in Canada, but before that it was on my annual USA shopping list. Its easy to work with and works well.

Once the majority of the paint is removed sand the wood with 120 and then 150 grit sand paper until its smooth.

Modern Farmhouse Finish

Hubs cut the wood to size for me on the table saw into four pieces.

1 piece 9″ by 23″ for the back

1 piece 4″ by 23″ for the shelf

1 piece 1″ by 23″” for the ledge and shelf bracket.

I prefer to stain the wood pieces before assembling them.

For this project I played with a new farmhouse finish, that replicates Restoration Hardware finish. You can try it yourself, or skip the whitewashing and just stain it.

Wood Stain Examples

The first step is to mix a small amount of whitewash. Take 1/4 cup of white paint, I used Picket Fence Fusion Mineral Paint as I love it and keep it on hand, but any white latex will do. Mix the paint with 1/2 cup of water. Paint the wood with the whitewash, count to ten and wipe the wood with a clean rag.

Once whitewashing is done, apply the walnut stain with a clean brush. Apply the stain a little bit at a time and spread it evenly with the brush. You don’t wipe it off. Let dry.

Building the Shelf

Now that the wood has been finished start building the shelf.

For each piece we began by applying wood glue to the seams and then nailed the pieces together. Its a very simplistic design. The arrows on the photo show the direction of the nails.

Sideview of a DIY Farmhouse Shelf made from wood that shows the direction of the nails required.

Optional Shelf Stencil

I have a Prima stencil in my stash that I love for this project. Its optional but as I had it already I used it.

To add the stencil I centered it on the board by making sure it was an equal distance from each end.

Centering a stencil onto a DIY Farmhouse shelf

Dipping the very end of the stencil brush intl white paint, I removed the majority of the paint off of the brush onto a rag. Then painted from outside the stencil towards the center. Let dry.

Applying a prima stencil to a DIY farmhouse shelf for the bathroom

Hanging the DIY Farmhouse Shelf

Obviously this DIY farmhouse wood shelf is quite heavy so we thought we should share how to hang it.

You need to hang the shelf into a stud in the wall, gyproc won’t carry the weight.

Five steps for hanging a heavy shelf to the wall.0
  1. Start by using a stud finder to find where the studs are in your wall. Then make a pencil mark where the studs are. We found two studs inside our bathroom wall.
  2. Its impossible to move wall studs so you need to attach the hangers so they match up with the studs. The first one was very close to the edge
  3. Making sure and remeasuring the distance between the studs on the wall. Herman matched that measurement to the distance from one hanger to the second hanger.
  4. Once he had the width of the hangers decided we eyeballed and decided on 30 inches from the roof for the hanger height. We then measured and predrilled holes into the studs through the gyproc.
  5. Finally Herman placed screwed into the wall where his marks were, and then double checked that everything was level.
A DIY farmhouse shelf for the bathroom with a dark walnut finish, white stenciling and two towel hangars.

This shelf is located in a very small half bath that’s less than 5 feet square. It not only hangs towels but allows me to add some pretty decor elements. It is paired with this matching bench that I can use to hold toilet paper, towels, etc.

A modern farmhouse DIY milky brown bench with white towels and white farmhouse container holding white toilet paper.

The two little farmhouse wood projects look very nice together, unfortunately the small bathroom makes it impossible to photograph them together.

A DIY Farmhouse shelf made using upcycled oak wood, stained dark walnut and stenciled.


  1. Oh my that’s gorgeous. We have two teeny, tiny bathrooms at our holiday home. The one’s is so small you have to close the bathroom door before you can get inside the shower 😀 This would be so perfect for down there. Space is always such an issue

    1. This little shelf is high enough to stay safely out of the way. A tiny bathroom is better than no bathroom, but it feels similar to a commercial bathroom stall. It needed some pretty things.

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