How to Distress Wood Shelves for an Ikea Shelf Hack

Upgrade your IKEA shelf with our expert tips on how to distress wood, adding vintage charm and personality to any room in your home.

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

Are you tired of your plain and boring IKEA shelf? Do you want to add a rustic and vintage touch to your home decor? Look no further!

We’re really into the distressed wood look. But the hefty price tag that goes along with reclaimed wood isn’t exactly doable. Luckily, the weathered aged appearance can be created with a little elbow grease and a few key supplies for an easy DIY reclaimed wood shelf.

So instead, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of distressing wood and turning your ordinary IKEA shelf into a stunning piece of furniture.

This isn’t the first time we’ve hacked this weathered rustic look for a DIY Reclaimed Wood Folding TableDIY Wooden Headboard and simple bedroom makeover.

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or just looking for an easy way to upgrade your interior, this IKEA shelf hack is sure to bring character and charm to any space. So grab your tools and let’s get started on this exciting project!

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

Materials and Tools Needed

Untreated wood — Ikea has a lot of options like the Billy Shelf from the Billy Bookcase series. You can also use your own wood from the hardware store or repurpose scrap wood.

Wood stain or furniture paint in your preferred colors — Medium brown works best for a vintage look. We opted for Early American Stain from Minwax.

Ikea Ekby shelving brackets — Or any shelving bracket of your choice. (It doesn’t have to just be Ikea brackets.) You can also switch out the boards for any wall shelf like the Ikea Bergshult/Granhult.

Paint brush

Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)

Optional: Sealer or finish — To protect your distressed wood and give it a polished look, consider painting a clear sealer or finish. This also helps to lock in the distressed appearance.

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

How to Distress Wood Shelves

1 — Start by sanding the wood with medium-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface. Focus on the edges, corners, and areas that would naturally receive wear and tear.

2 — Create indentations on the wood. Use random tools and utensils (like a hammer, chains, nails and/or steel wool) to scrape the wood. This simulates the effects of natural aging and wear. Place screws in various areas and twist them to create small holes. This adds another level of authenticity to the distressing.

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

3 — Smooth out any major bumps caused when you were distressing the wood. Focus on the areas that you distressed earlier, smoothing out any rough edges.

4 — Once the wood is distressed as much to your liking, apply a stain or paint onto the wood. Allow to dry to the touch in between coats.

5 — For the second coat, only apply in certain areas, and use a rag hand towel or brush to blend the edges of the second coat into the first. This will make certain spots a bit darker than others giving a reclaimed wood effect by having a variety of colors and will give interest to the distressed areas.

6 — Optional: Apply a clear finish to seal the wood from water.

7 — Once the stain has dried completely, install the Ikea EKBY shelving ends according to the instructions on the package.

 

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

 

 

Now that your shelves are installed, decorate them with as many pretties as you’d like. And you’ve got yourself custom distressed wooden shelves for a fraction of the cost!

DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

Distress Wood Shelves Tutorial Tips

  • Experiment on Scrap Wood: Before distressing your main project, practice on a scrap piece of wood to get a feel for the technique.
  • Layering Techniques: Combine different distressing techniques for a more authentic, aged look.
  • Pay Attention to Detail: Focus on areas that would naturally receive the most wear, like edges, corners, and surfaces that come into contact with hands or objects.
  • Gradual Process: Distressing is a gradual process, so take your time and build up the effect until you’re satisfied.
DIY Ikea Hack Distressed Wooden Shelves - Sugar & Cloth - DIY - Houston Blogger - Home Decor

More Easy DIY Ikea Hacks

Now that your distressed wooden shelves are installed, decorate them with as many pretties as you’d like. This is a great project if you need more storage, especially for a home office. And you’ve got yourself a custom distressed wooden shelf for a fraction of the cost!

We love modifying Ikea furniture. For more Ikea hacks, check out some of our favorite DIY projects below —

DIY distressed wood shelves

DIY Distressed Wood Shelves

Print
5 from 7 votes
Upgrade your IKEA shelf with our expert tips on how to distress wood, adding vintage charm and personality to any room in your home.
Active Time2 hours
Dry Time30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Course DIY
Category Home Decor

Equipment

  • Sandpaper medium and fine grit
  • Paint brush
  • Hammer to create indentations
  • Screws to create indentations

Materials

  • 3 wood shelf untreated
  • 1 wood stain ideal medium brown
  • 6 Ikea Ekby shelving bracket or any wall shelf bracket
  • 1 clear wood sealer optional

Instructions

  • Start by sanding the wood with medium-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface. Focus on the edges, corners, and areas that would naturally receive wear and tear.
  • Create indentations on the wood. Use random tools and utensils (like a hammer, chains, nails and/or steel wool) to scrape the wood. This simulates the effects of natural aging and wear.
    Place screws in various areas and twist them to create small holes. This adds another level of authenticity to the distressing.
  • Smooth out any major bumps caused when you were distressing the wood. Focus on the areas that you distressed earlier, smoothing out any rough edges.
  • Once the wood is distressed as much to your liking, apply a stain or paint onto the wood. Allow to dry to the touch in between coats.
  • For the second coat, only apply in certain areas, and use a rag hand towel or brush to blend the edges of the second coat into the first. This will make certain spots a bit darker than others giving a reclaimed wood effect by having a variety of colors and will give interest to the distressed areas.
  • Optional: Apply a clear finish to seal the wood from water.
  • Once the stain has dried completely, install the Ikea EKBY shelving ends according to the instructions on the package.
Cost: $40
KEYWORD: how to distressed wood

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50 Comments

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  16. Wow, these look spectacular!
    My wife is a big fan of the distressed wood look, she will love these.5 stars

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  27. wow, these are awesome! They look great and are a fantastic way to reuse old buckets. Love it!

  28. I bought the 11inch brackets and am having a difficult time finding wood to fit! Any recommendations on where to go? Everything at Lowes is 12″

    1. You’ll need to buy 12 inch boards then rip them to the right width, one nice thing about that is you can get whatever length you want. Plus you can get a thickness that is closer to what the brackets take than the boards that are too thin from ikea, they also make really cool stainless steel planks FYI.

  29. I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I saw these brackets and just happened to stumble on to this post!

    I think I’ll spray paint the brackets oil rubbed bronze or copper though… haven’t decided yet!

  30. This is exactly what I was looking for in my kitchen. Inexpensive & so stylish! Beats the ones from West Elm–thank you =)

  31. Thanks so much for posting this, this is exactly what I have been wanting to do! Do you mind me asking where you bought your actual shelves?

  32. I would like to point out that not only is this DIY pretty awesome, but I am even more in love with how you styled your shelves. I want every single thing you have on there. :D

  33. The shelves turned out beautifully. All of your white accessories look so pretty on the wood. I might have to try this project!

  34. haha, itsnt hard for me to be excited again because I have slowly faced short term memory moments and thought this was one great DIY…