DIY Window Plant Shelf

Thanks to BLACK+DECKER for sponsoring this post.


build a DIY window plant shelf: cat resistant!

I am a lot like Laura Ingalls.

Let me explain.

We used to live in a (relatively) little house in the middle of (relatively) big woods. Now we live on our own very tiny prairie. At least when we moved in it was like a prairie, because it had been empty for two years, and the bank that foreclosed on had never bothered to mow the lawn. This is why people don’t like banks. Anyway, so the grass was four feet tall.

Like a prairie.

And THEN we all got malaria.

Just kidding.

We don’t have malaria, but we also don’t have any trees, and, after a decade of living where it was nearly impossible to grow things (well, besides trees) because of the heavy tree cover, I feel almost an obligation to attempt to grow stuff here.

Sadly, we’re not very good at growing stuff (except boys).

But we’re working on it. We’re making slow progress on the garden in the backyard, and now we’re taking advantage of our super bright sunroom with some new plant shelves in the windows.

Dave and I sat and stared at the window for awhile to try to come up with a plan for cat-proof, baby-proof, dog-proof shelves, and the plan we ultimately settled on is really simple (and cheap!)

We knew we couldn’t have anything climbable from the ground. We toyed around with something hanging from above, but finally decided to pretty much just…hang shelves right in front of the window. The two main plant and window-friendly modifications we made (over just sticking some planks on some shelf brackets and calling it a day) were adding a little ledge all around the shelf to keep the pots safe from accidental bumps/rare Georgia earthquakes/etc. (okay, mostly just accidental bumps) and adding pieces of wood to bring the brackets level with the window moldings.

Materials to make two window shelves (obviously you’ll need to adjust the lengths to fit your own windows):

*8 ft 1×6 whitewood plank, cut to size

*8′ fill strip, cut to size (this is what we used to make the ledge around the shelf. Apparently it’s supposed to be used for repairing lattice, but it was exactly the size for what we needed….just a very thin, skinny piece of wood. We found it with the pressure treated lumber (at Home Depot)): you’ll need strips cut to go along the length of each shelf and smaller pieces for the ends.

*1×2 pine board to cut into small pieces to bring the shelf brackets level with the window frames

*pack of 3/4 inch wood screws

*5″ by 6″ shelf brackets

*wood glue

*paint or stain

The total cost for all of this at Home Depot was $18.30 (we used paint and wood glue we already had on hand).

Basically what you’re doing here is building a shallow box. Here’s what they’ll look like when you’re finished:

unfinished plant shelvesThe most important thing to remember is to be precise with your measurements. For example, don’t forget to include the width of shelf sides when you measure the ends, or you’ll have to go back to Home Depot for another fill board:

end measured incorrectlyBLACK+DECKER Lithium Autosense Drill to try out, and this was a perfect project to use it for. The idea is that the drill has an automatic clutch and monitors the torque needed to drive the screw, so that it’s perfectly flush on the first try. How does it KNOW?! I have no idea. Magic?

Anyway, though, this was great for this project, because we were working with really thin pieces of wood for the sides, and too much pressure would easily split the wood. Dave is really excited about the whole torque control thing, because this is how things usually go when I try to use our other drills:

“Gretchen? That sound it’s making? That means you’re doing it wrong! Gretchen? You’re stripping the screw! Gretchen? Maybe I should just do this myself.”

Power tools and I do not always get along. Or at least we didn’t back in the days before Automagic Autosense technology.

Okay, so first we cut all the wood after carefully measuring:

plantshelves05Then we attached the sides to the 1x6s. Dave clamped all the sides together to pre-drill four holes along each long side. This made me very nervous that they weren’t going to line up right, but it turned out fine.

clamping the sides togetherThen a line of wood glue for extra joining powers!

wood glue putting the side onAnd then we attached the sides with 4 screws along each long side and 2 on each end:

plantshelves07Then we sanded down the finished boxes:

sanding the shelvesAnd painted them white with a little roller (plus a brush for the places the little roller wouldn’t fit):

plantshelves12And then! Part 2! Hanging the shelves!

We cut the 1×2 into pieces just about the same length as the shelf brackets, in hopes that they would just kind of blend in and be unobtrusive.

Then we pre-drilled holes through them and hung them flush with the window frames with deck screws (making sure to leave space for the screws from the shelf brackets to go in next):

plantshelves13 plantshelves14

plantshelves15And then attached the shelf brackets to these little blocks and screwed the shelves into the bracket tops (after more pre-drilling! Pre-drilling is important for not splitting wood and such, even if you have a fancy drill that knows when to stop the screws):

adding the shelf bracketsadding the shelf bracketsAnd done!

Then you put plants on them. We’re still working on that part. I bought a bunch of cheap terracotta pots at Home Depot and painted them in various ways: some with white spray paint (umm, should have used primer), some I whitewashed, some I sprayed with Rustoleum “champagne mist.” And I brought out a few of my vintage planters, too, since they’re not going to have a finished master bath to live in anytime soon.

I plan to do mostly herbs in these, but I’ll have to do some research about other stuff that does well indoors and in containers, too. Right now we have basil (it looks very droopy in some of the pictures, but apparently it just wanted water. It’s fine now!), peppermint, and some succulents.
And now for the results of my attempts to get decent pictures of shelves hanging in a bright window:

shelves with plants plantshelves19And, in case you’re wondering how the curtains look pulled over the shelf (you can tell something’s back there, but the curtains are really more functional than aesthetic in here anyway: when we want the room to look its prettiest, we leave them open ;)):

curtains pulled closed over shelf


contest has ended

And now for the part where someone wins a drill! I have a brand new, extremely shiny drill to send to one of you. First go read more about the drill and its features here (like maybe you want a more technical explanation for how it works than “magic”?) and then enter to win by leaving a comment telling me what features you think are the most magical and/or how you’d use the BLACK+DECKER Autosense Drill, and I’ll pick a winner at random. Entries close at midnight on June 30, 2014. ETA: just found out I have to limit this to US residents only, unfortunately! Winner will be notified by e-mail and will have 24 hours to respond with a shipping address.

BLACK+DECKER drill giveawayBLACK+DECKER is sponsoring this post, but all opinions are my own.

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DIY Window Plant Shelf — 93 Comments

    • Just trying to keep things real with my lumpy curtains! That’s probably the picture someone will decide to pin now πŸ˜‰

  1. Cool shelves and mystical drill! Best feature has to be how they hide the magic without getting fairy dust on your project! Its time for a fun word… those edges you put on the shelf are called fids (short for fiddles) and on a boat they are used to prevent your dinner from landing in your lap when you hit a wave. (See definition #4 –

    • Well there you go, then….I should have added, “in case of massive flood and needing to use house as boat” to my list of reasons for putting the edges on the shelves πŸ˜‰

  2. I seriously snorted when you said you had malaria.

    I’m not sure it’s something I should have laughed at.

    But I do love the idea of plant shelves. If only we had sunlight in our house. It’s like we live in a dungeon.

  3. I would love to win this new drill to make some window shelves like these! I especially like the fact that the shelves are “cat proof!” Oh, and I will be going to South Dakota this summer and will see Laura Ingalls house! So excited!!

    • oh, fun! we have vague plans for a massive road trip in a couple of years, and we were just talking about how we should try to hit some “Little House” sites on it πŸ™‚

  4. I happen to be admiring some window shelves like this *today* in a friend’s house. And then amazingly, I read your blog about the exact same thing! What a major coincidence, and I think that means I need that drill so my husband can make some of these shelves for me too.

  5. I would love to have this drill and have all kinds of projects I need it for. I moved to another state two years ago, I had friends who were going to buy my house but needed me to hold the loan in my name for a couple of months which I agreed to do. Two years later the loan was still in my name and to make a long story short I got engaged found out I was pregnant broke of the engagement and moved back. I took my house back but my “friends” have really messed it up and I’m slowly (I’m a single mom so money is tight) fixing my house up. I love that this drill is cordless but also powerful. I need it for so many different projects around the house like putting selves in the laundry room back up that were torn down, making a closet organizer for my sons room and also for my closet. Hanging the shower curtain rod at the correct height( it’s currently too high for the life of me I can’t figure out why they hung it so high!). Hanging pictures throughout the house. Building window planter boxes for the front window. The list goes on and on

  6. I love your shelves, and I love that they display some of the vintage planters (hey, lil raccoon!) What a great idea, to put the lip so things don’t fall off.

    If I win, I would use the drill to finish up my bamboo flooring! It sounds awesome. πŸ™‚

  7. If I won, I would give to Craig for a birthday present. He is always stripping screws. As I am sure I would, if I were ever to use a power tool.

  8. It is a pretty cool drill! I like that it’s smaller in size; some of those drills are designed only for those who can effortlessly pick up refrigerators or small cars! It would also be much easier to lock up…my husband is always running off with or losing “my” tools, and nope, I wouldn’t share this tool! No more guessing about the charge status; that’s a dream come true. But mostly, I like the illumination; finally, someone realized that drilling in braille is never a good idea! Plus, you have light to locate the dropped screws! I admire the shelves you made. With shelves like that, I think that I just may be able to show off my giant chunks of colored glass without having to worry that the vibrations from the trains will knock them off the shelf.

    • It’s so funny to me that other drills don’t have a battery indicator! That really seems like something every drill should have!

      • Oh no, they ALL DO… It’s just not a visual indicator … It’s more like: when it’s full you hear “zzzziiiipppp” and then about 5 min. Later you hear, “rerereerreeiiippp”… And that means your done your project for the next 3 hours(unless you have a back up battery!!!) πŸ˜‰

        • LOL! With our old cordless drill the battery would hold a charge long enough for literally 2 or 3 screws, so we just always used the corded one for stuff the electric screwdriver couldn’t handle. I’m hopeful the lithium battery will hold up better!

  9. brilliant, i tell you. i love this solution. btw i just found you thru julia’s blog, specifically the living pretty with pets post. your post really spoke to me as we just officially adopted a beagle that we started out fostering and i kept saying, i dont even like BEAGLES! Well, needless to say, I LOVE THIS BEAGLE. baying, howling, following his nose and all. i am so thankful for people like you who do this tough job. thank you – you can never hear it enough.

  10. This drill is so cool. I love the Battery Status Indication feature. I’d love to give it to my brother for his birthday coming up in July. He loves using tools for things around the house and yard.

  11. Oh my gosh, that drill is fantastic! I have a myriad of DIY projects that I’ve had to put on hold since my drill broke. I love the shelves, they turned out great and look awesome πŸ™‚

  12. I have a kitchen window that is begging (seriously, every morning it whines at me) for shelving, and the thought of screwing in screws by hand has me really reluctant to try. I put up my son’s curtains using nothing but my own steam. I would love to win this drill.

    I think your cats are better behaved than mine. They’d probably try to jump up, just because they’re cats.

    • ha! I’ve caught one of mine eying these shelves a couple of times, but he hasn’t gone for it yet! I figure if he does jump, he’ll only try it once, because it’s going to be a noisy, terrifying disaster if he makes it πŸ˜‰

    • All 4 of my cats would be up there in no time so That is who I am building them for. Harley (I swear his father must be a Savannah hits his head on the ceiling(8′ high) when chasing a fly or moth. ???, will these support an 18 lb cat?

      • oh, cat shelves is a great idea! I’m not sure if they’d support that much weight as is (my cats have gotten on them occasionally, and they’ve been fine, but they don’t make a habit of it)…..but I’m sure they’d work with some minor tweaks (mostly I’m thinking you might need heavier duty brackets and make sure you use anchor screws and/or find studs).

  13. In the early ’90s, the San Francisco Giants had a pitcher named Bud Black and a catcher named Steve Decker. I don’t think I need to tell you that it was a magical time. If I were to win this drill, I would run a handful of perfectly flush screws into a Louisville Slugger in their honor.

  14. The shelves look great, Gretchen. I tried a version of this in our last house and it was not a bit successful. All my herbs died πŸ™ Sadness. But, our old house got terrible light. Your sunroom will be perfect for them! I also hung them instead of shelves… trying to easy-diy it, but it made for not-so-easy watering and when they got off-kilter it would make me OCD trying to fix them, lol.

  15. I’d love to have the drill. πŸ™‚
    Your shelves are really great…I have 3 glass shelves that fit my windows for tiny plants…
    Here from Craftberry…

  16. Sold! I’ve been looking for a cordless drill for a few months, but get overwhelmed when I’m out in the stores. This drill looks just PERFECT for what I’ll use it for; basic home improvement/DIY. Plus it’s sort of idiot proof, and I need that (don’t tell my dad).

  17. I would love to use this drill to hang curtains over the laundry room door so I just pre that the mess isn’t there.

  18. Hahaha! I just went to hang the plant shelves I bought (and didn’t build, but in my defense they’re plexiglass to let light through & I have no way to cut plexiglass safely ) and found that my cordless drill from 20 yrs ago is dead. I’m not even joking!

  19. I will use the drill to fix the deck our enormous maple fell on, and I will also use it to build wooden shelving in our bathroom.

  20. I love that vintage planter and your shelves look great! I also respect your lump curtain shot. I’d like to enter to win the drill but I’ll probably use it to build chicken tractors… maybe with decorative shelves!

  21. I’m pretty sure not having this drill is the one thing holding me back from starting my bathroom remodel. If only there were some way to win one . . .

  22. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a drill, I’d put up some coathooks and shelves at my little tiny shop so I could have some storage for spare fabric! Oooh, and I’d put hardware on my kitchen cabinets, because I’ve been staring at bare doors for years. Oh! And a light fixture above my stove! Damn… I guess I really do need a drill….

  23. The electronic clutch that automatically stops when a screw is in place is the most magical thing I’ve ever heard of!

  24. I really like how you put them in front of the windows – I’ve never seen anything like that before! That would definitely be more cat-proof then when I just leave my plants on the table and they are eaten before bedtime..

  25. I love the look of plant shelves in front of windows, have seen it now a few times, it seems to be a new trend in blog-land… My next apartment definitely has to have a window that I never need to open or look out of, so I can build my own!

    (And I don’t want to or even cannot win here, so ignore this one, when selecting ;))

  26. How would I use it? Oh let me count the ways. Remodeling my bathroom that is in terrible shape. Screwing in the molding on my ceiling in the living room, hopefully…building a tiny porch so I don’t fall of the steps anymore, building boxes for veggie gardening, building my greenhouse, putting in bookshelves because the cheap wally world ones are falling apart, and I could go on but I don’t want to bore you. I live in an old trailer (cottage) that I am trying to make liveable one day at a time. This would be perfect as I tend to strip screws a lot and have a hard time drilling in things with my current drill. I love the plant shelves. I have been trying to figure out how to put some in my kitchen window for herbs. Thank you πŸ™‚

  27. I have a drill, but it’s very old, like over 50 years old, or 60. Though it might be called an heirloom drill (I inherited it from my dad), the old cord on it makes me wonder. I think it’s finally time to upgrade to something safer and more versatile. My project: putting in knobs we bought for our knobless kitchen drawers and cabinets. And who knows what’s next?

  28. Love the shelves!! I love that drill…with something that awesome, I shall be unstoppable! Love all the features, drill all that needs fixing!! *fist pump*

  29. I watched both your videos! My husband has always been the type of person to fix or build anything! He’s handy with his hands, he has several Black & Decker tools! I love this one because it goes flush with the wood or you can press down & it will drive in the wood more! Like the light for the screw or nail you can choose! Would love to win this for my husband to add to his tools he would rather work in his shop with his tools than just about anything! This drill would be great to add to his tools! Thank you for the contest & great tools from Black & Decker!

  30. Really like that this drill has the light and is interchangeable with other Black & decker 20V tools. I love DIY projects and especially building bird houses! This would sure come in handy since my drill has broken!!

  31. We sure could use this drill because we are remolding our house and lots of cabinets that need fixing. I love the shelves it gives me a great idea for my kitchen windows. I like that the drill has a light and is interchangeable with other Black & Decker tools.

  32. I found out that this drill has a light and is interchangeable with other Black & decker 20V tools, which is cool because we own a few. I am remodeling, so this would be great.

  33. There are sooooo many projects I could use this fancy drill for! Hanging pictures (correctly), deck repairs, wainscoting, etc. New tools always make the chores more fun, too.

  34. love the shelves. The black and decker drill has so many great features it is hard to choose the best one. I like the lithium battery which makes it much lighter than the old drills. I build a lot of birdhouses and this drill would make the job so much easier!!

  35. Oh you know we would use this drill for all of our projects in the basement! We still lug around a corded drill, so we could definitely use an upgrade!

  36. The shelves are awesome and yea you for all those fabulous windows! I’m glad you showed the pic with the curtains drawn, I was wondering and it’s no big deal. Good job!

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