How To: Installing a Floating Shelf with Recessed Lighting

Add architectural style and extra recessed lighting with this striking shelf.


A custom shelf with puck lights brightens the room and adds architectural interest.

A custom shelf with puck lights brightens the room and adds architectural interest.

Materials and Tools:

10 sheets of 3/4-inch birch plywood
84' of 1x8 cherry (or enough to go around the perimeter of the room)
ten 2x4x8 Douglas Fir boards (or enough to go around the perimeter of the room)
puck lights
laser level
tape measure
air compressor
pneumatic nail gun
screws and nails
screwdriver bit
table saw
safety goggles
paint brush
sand paper


1. Take measurements of the room. Measure from ceiling and use the laser level to determine where the shelf will go.

2. Measure and cut 2x4s to length to fit the wall. Use the nail gun to affix the 2x4s to the studs in the wall.

3. Measure and cut 5" strips of birch plywood for the top and bottom of the shelf. Paint the top and bottom sections of plywood to match the wall color, and let them dry. Nail the plywood pieces to the top to the 2x4s around the room. Repeat with the bottom. Screw the birch plywood sections into place.

4. Cut the holes in the bottom section of the birch plywood to install the puck lights. Have an electrician hardwire the lights into the plywood coves. Make sure all the lights work before installing the cherry cover.

6. Cut the cherry boards down to 5-1/2" wide pieces on the table saw. Lightly sand the edges of the cherry to make the polyurethane adhere better to the wood. Stir a can of polyurethane, and brush on two coats of polyurethane to the front of the cherry boards. Let dry.

7. To install the front, hold the cherry boards flush to the top to create a shadow line underneath. You may need a second person to hold the opposite end while you nail the cherry front to the 2x4s. Fill any nail holes with putty. Touch up with stain and paint if necessary.

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