Painter’s Ladder Shelf

A free standing storage tower, with varying size shelves. perfect for tight spaces that need extra storage, but still plenty of elbow room.


Projects built from this plan. Thank you for submitting brag posts, it's appreciated by all!


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!

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

measuring tape
safety glasses
hearing protection
countersink drill bit
General Instructions: 

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

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

Step 1: 


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

Step 2 Instructions: 

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 Instructions: 


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 Instructions: 

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 Instructions: 

Front and Back Trim

Now the front and back trim. Make sure you also screw into the side trim and use glue.

Step 6 Instructions: 


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.

Project Type: 
Estimated Cost: 
Skill Level: 


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. :)

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!

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!

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.

Ooohhhhh, I can see one of these on each side of my bed! Thanks, Ana!
I would also like to know how to get to your HGTV items, and better yet, see you in action :)

I can definitely see this made of redwood and exterior grade materials as a patio piece.

Or ... fill the compartments with padding and call it a cat storage unit.

I think this would be great for my front room/office to store all books!! It's hard to find space for a full time mom & college student's things when you have little ones taking over!!

So awesome! I really want to make the smaller one... Are the plans up on HGTV? The HGTV site is really hard to search. Can you let us know when they go up and where Ana? Thanks!!

Hi everyone
Im confident with power tools - but Im terrible with wood - can someone tell me what type of wood I should buy to make this - I am searching on our local hardware store for the above wood (pine panel or 1/4 plywood etc)... but Im too unco to figure out what Im meant to be buying for (just so I can budget the project).

This is the website for the local hardware store - can someone tell me what type of wood I should be getting??
Hope thats okay Ana... I just thought it might be easier the someone trying to explain it in more detail and me still not knowing what to get. Feel free to remove my comment if this is not okay!

Hi, Ana.

I've been puttering around your site looking for ideas for a tiny bit of extra nursery storage, and something like this could definitely work...

Quick question, though -- If I make a shorter version of this (like, changing table height), how does it affect the cut angles on the legs? Does it affect the angles?

As always, thank you so much for your creativity, plans, and inspiration. This is seriously becoming my "go to" blog for the house. :)

I have been looking for something I could put on the covered patio to hold pool towels, sunscreen and swim goggles and this fits the bill perfectly.

I found the original plan on HGTV website, but was very confused by the materials list on that site.... so I found your link and found exactly the information that I needed.

I have a weekend project and I am so excited. I will let you know how it goes!

I'm so glad that I found you.

I can't believe no one else has said this...I followed the link you posted, and the cut lengths that HGTV gives and the quantities of wood are wrong!
They took your shelf and made it 12" wide instead of 24", which I actually like. My space is small and the smaller size is great, but they told me to cut 8 - 24" long pieces for the front and back of the shelves. I ended up buying way too much of those pieces and now I have nothing I can do with them because I wasted a bunch of time cutting them. By the way are they 1 x 3 or 1 x 4? Because they say 2 different things in the instructions. And lastly they tell you to only by 1 - 1x2. So I had to go back to the store and get more. Because 2 - 6 ft lengths of wood doesn't make all 4 legs.
I love your design, but could they have messed up the plan any more? I don't think so.

Yes, I was just looking at that too! The HGTV plans for the smaller shelf are incorrect for the materials and cut list. It appears as though the larger shelf was mixed up with the smaller shelf. Ana, maybe you can correct it for them. I figured it out in the mean time. The diagrams are correct though.
If anyone's interesetd in the corrections (smaller shelf):
Materials--- 1x2 6ft (4) legs, 1x3 8ft (2) trim
Cut list--- 1x3 cut 13 1/2" long (8), not 25 1/2"
Cut list--- 1x2 cut 13 1/2" long (1), not 25 1/2"
I'm starting today! Looks fun! This will be perfect for my small bathrooom. Thank you, Ana.

I actually found a pic searching google images and I'm pretty sure it's from here. Thanks for the great post. ;)


The cust list shows "1 – 1×2 @ 25 1/2″ (Top)", but Step 3 shows a 26" trim piece connecting the legs, I believe the 25 1/2" piece to be the correct dimension, since a 26" piece is not in the cut list.

Did anyone else catch that ?


 I absolutely love this, but I need it at least one more level taller!  Can you tell me what changes  you would do?  I know the front and back legs would be longer, but does that change any cuts?  And what size would you make that bottom piece?  18 inches?


Andrea Saunders