Design & DIY

Take a step towards organization with these DIY ladder shelves

Ladder being used as shelves in bathroom By Virginia MacDonald

Finding enough storage is always a challenge. This project focuses on a bathroom storage solution that will help you find a space-saving home for all of the must-haves at the cottage; the calamine lotion, Band-Aids, bug spray, and sunscreen, for example. It comes in the form of an old wooden ladder that has seen better days. A keen-eyed cottager found this one in a heap of curbside garbage in the city, and we transformed it into a handy storage shelf with vertical appeal that takes up very little space.


Wooden stepladder


Oil-based paint (alkyd) in two colours



Wood filler

Ladder with items found in a bathroom on it
By Virginia MacDonald

Step 1:

Remove the back and top “step”. Fill holes left by the hardware with wood filler.

Step 2:

Clean and lightly sand the ladder (leave a few ridges and bumps to add to the antique look).

Step 3:

Brush on a coat of paint in one colour (we used Nature Lover CC-726 from Benjamin Moore). Let dry completely.

Step 4:

To get the “distressed” look, add another coat of paint using the second colour (ours is Ancient Ivory OC-133 from Benjamin Moore). Avoid areas of the ladder that would naturally become worn, such as the centre of the bottom step, and parts of the side rails, allowing the original colour to show through.

Step 5:

Sand the edges where the two colours meet to create a more natural-looking transition and sand other areas to reveal the colour underneath.

Step 6:

Alternate dry-brushing white paint and sanding the surface to add to the distressed finish. This can be done on the sides and steps of the ladder.


Secure the ladder to studs in the wall with 2 “L” brackets. (The brackets can be bent to match the angle of the leaning ladder.) Prime and paint them to match the ladder or your wall colour.

If you’d like a nautical look, screw two eye hooks into the wall and then tie off the ladder using natural-fiber manila rope.

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