diy project: recycled leather & wood shelf

A hanging leather shelving project has been on my to-do list for a while; to be honest, the biggest delay was just finding the right belts. Has anyone else discovered that thrift-shop leather belts are often unreasonably overpriced? Regardless, a little patience yielded some great finds: one super long thick black belt and a couple dark brown well-worn beauties, all for less than $10, which makes the cost of this shelf less than $15.

What I love most about this project is that it is extremely unfussy: a mix of belts looks great; the more worn the wood, the better; and the whole structure is very easy to size up or down, customize (painted shelves, new or colored leather, etc.) and adjust as needed. The only difficulty is that it starts to get a bit heavy if you use thick wood as I did, so I recommend getting a helping hand for the installation, especially if you size the project up to a larger shelving unit. Happy crafting! — Kate

(P.S. There are several other DIYs shown in these images (occupational hazard: so many DIY objects everywhere). I potted some plants in Brenna’s paper clay barnacles (on the bottom shelf), and I love them! Also, the furniture below is the chair bench project I made for the D*S book. Lastly, hanging beside the shelf is the geometric 3D wall art.)

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • 2 wood boards (mine are 5″ wide by 30″ long)
  • 2–4 long leather belts
  • carpet tacks/nails
  • hammer
  • measuring tape/ruler
  • pencil



1. Mark both boards 2″ in from either side on the top and bottom. On the underside of the boards, you can draw a line along the 2″ mark to make for easier aligning.

2. Strap the belts together to create two identical loops, about 60″ in circumference. You may need to create extra holes in the belt to get the two straps to the same dimensions, but you can do this easily with a drill or an awl. Hold the first plank inside the two belt loops, with the loops positioned at the 2″ marks, and reposition the belt buckles to where you like, making sure they aren’t aligning with where you need to affix the shelves (which means at the bottom or 10″ up from the base).

3. When you have the belts in the right place, hold the first belt so it can’t move and turn the plank over so the underside is facing up. Hammer three nails into the belt, making sure the belt stays aligned with the 2″ line. Repeat with the other belt on the left side.

4. Flip the board so the front edge is facing forward, and hammer one nail into the front of each board, securing the belts in place.

5. Lay the shelves down on their sides and position the second board 10″ above the first board, aligned with the 2″ mark. Hold the belt taut and make sure the planks remain exactly 10″ apart. Hammer a nail into the front of the second board. Repeat on the other side.

6. Hold the second board in place so the backside is also exactly 10″ apart from the first boards (this ensures the boards are level) and hammer the nails into the center of the belt where it hits the backside of each board. Repeat on the other side.

7. Almost done! The boards are now secured in place. Pull the tops of the loops tight and measure each one to ensure they are exact. If you need to adjust, you can easily add a new hole in the belt to change the lengths.

8. Once your loops are identical heights, your shelf is ready to hang! If you use thick wood, your shelf could be fairly heavy, so I recommend getting a friend to help. Use a level (I love this level app) to ensure the shelves are straight. Use longer nails and hammer them through the top back of the loop (so the nails are hidden by the front of the loop). You’re done!

  1. tinajo says:

    I really like this, very neat!

  2. mes bijoux says:

    good idea and easy DIY. Congratulations!

  3. Puanani says:

    Awesome, but the three chairs turned into a couch, really awesome!

  4. RossLab says:

    Great project that leaves room for personalization… I can see those belts replaced by a simple leather strip or a neat canvas belt.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Aislinn says:

    Oh would love to give this one a go!

  6. Nice! I Love this project… I cant wait to build something like this for my shop! Super Smart idea, Kate.

  7. I’ve seen this before and wanted to try it. I love new and easy ways to do hanging shelves.

  8. Beautiful! I love that it repurposes everyday items and is totally en pointe with today’s top trends.

  9. yomaira f. says:

    love love love! cant wait to try this!

  10. I just love this!!! Such a cool, industrial piece that looks like a must try DIY! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Very igenious with the leather belts. It goes well with some marine ropes that wood shelf.

  12. stacy z. says:

    LOVE this………………

  13. What a great idea. I was going to make some shelves this weekend, I might have to change my initial idea. Using old belts, clever.

  14. Toni says:

    Beautiful! And so creative!!!!

  15. Ally says:

    Fantastic idea! And it looks great on a white wall – I’m painting my house white and have nothing to put on the walls….

  16. Tanya says:

    That looks awesome!

  17. hillary says:

    I really love this project. It looks beautiful and you’ve made it so do-able. Thank you!

  18. Silke says:

    Very lovely DIY. So simple and pretty, thanks.

  19. how2home says:

    LOVE THIS! Simple and with very affordable materials. I like that you added the white little bowls from your previous DIY project. Great post guys :)

  20. Britte says:

    Splendide ! Réalisé par 1 …”Grand Designer” …On peut le penser . Merci pour ce partage ! Super

  21. I don’t suppose there would be another way of attaching these to the wall besides nails…probably too heavy for any other way. Otherwise, this project is awesome.

  22. Caitlin says:

    Love them, and YES, thrift store belts are the worse. They are either way too expensive or just very “meh.”

  23. la leti says:


  24. I like this and I would use thrifted belts for the hanging loops. You could even color coordinate…say red with black shelves. Of course, I’d use mine to show off skeins of pretty yarn. Maybe prop up knitting needles too.

  25. Love this- but how will Santa hold up his trousers now?

  26. really cool! Definitely a great idea to remember !Thank you

  27. Susan L. says:

    Love it, and I love the bowls with plants in them!!!!!

  28. Ania says:

    With a shelf this heavy-looking, I would suggest using anchors to hang it. Nails may not be enough!

  29. PoppyMoore says:

    Really like this idea, looks fantastic. Love this tiny plant pots too!

  30. Great idea! I always wonder how people come up with DIY ideas? Could you please share with us this info :)

  31. KLR says:

    Great idea. Ingenious approach to art decor. This is very different and innovative.

  32. justme says:

    Easy to replace the leather belts with equestrian stirrup leathers. Search for used stirrup leathers on ebay–we can’t GIVE those things away…

  33. namni says:

    Awesome creativity!! Indeed very innovative.

  34. Wazura says:


  35. Lucian says:

    I just pint it! Superb

  36. Ula says:

    Dear Kate, I love this project and I shared it on my blog With a link to your project, of course :) I hope you don’t mind (by the way – is there on the website some “sharing policy”?)

    1. Amy Azzarito says:

      Hi Ula – That’s fine. We usually ask that people don’t reproduce the entire project and just link back. Thanks! Amy

  37. Great idea! Very artistic! A good leahter belt should be used for this. I will try to make like this one at home. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Barbara says:

    I’m thinking upholstery tacks on the front of the shelves would be pretty. They have so many different designs, it would add a little more character.

  39. Raymond Duke says:

    I live in California so if I were to do this I would have to add additional boards on the front and sides it make it earthquake proof. But first, I need to find some belts.

  40. jill says:

    Hi! This is so cool and so innovative! I have tons of scraps and belts laying around. Any other ideas for old belts? But WAIT-where is the blog for that sick looking settee in the picture. To die for! Super cool and I want to make one. BTW, will be making these shelfs this summer at my summer art camp job in woodshop. I want to email you pics when done and process while making…..:)~

  41. Ron says:

    That is really creative and it looks pretty easy to do. Thanks for sharing

  42. We’re making this for our bedroom this weekend–I’m so excited! Bought the belts used on ebay for cheap. Thank you *so much* for sharing the directions! I will be sure to link to this article :)

  43. Esther says:

    Wow! I am not “handy” at all but this looks like something even I could do. I will post again if I ever try. THANKS!

  44. Love this so much wish I’d thought of it! It turned out beautifully. Well done! …oh and yes, for some reason leather belts are always way to pricy from thrift stores!

  45. CASTILLO says:

    ¿Cómo lo sujetas a la pared, …?

  46. Matty says:

    How did you hang it? Wouldn’t it be really heavy?

  47. Morgan says:

    Just wondering what the maximum weight would be to put on them? This is so cool and affordable though! Thanks for the idea

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      it really depends on the wall you’re hanging on and what you’re using to attach it. if you’re drilling into a sturdy material and stud with the appropriate anchors, it should hold at least 50lbs.


  48. Marcie says:

    Just wondering how my landlord is going to feel about my nailing something to the walls. I guess this project might be better suited to a homeowner than a renter. Even drilling/anchoring into studs is going to leave enough damage to cost me my deposit. Otherwise it’s a cool idea.

  49. Fadzlon says:

    Great idea…thank you.


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