DIY Decorative Ladder Tutorial

Handmade Home features a slew of contemporary DIY ideas and inspiration for your home. With an emphasis on easy, affordable and down-to-earth DIYs, we love to deliver original and creative projects that empower you to give it a go and express your inner maker!



Elly Keen

A decorative ladder is a useful and unexpected way to introduce height and create balance in a small space. With its clean lines and minimalist design, this simplistic ladder functions as both storage and decor, and is perfect for areas where you want to add height but don’t want chunky furniture cluttering the space.

Because the wood ladder is made from pine dowel moulding, it is lightweight and mobile, meaning you can move it around to the different corners your home as needed. For now, I’ll be using the display ladder as a magazine rack, but during the cooler months, I can imagine it will also provide a handy place next to the couch to hang blankets and throws.

Dowel Ladder 001

To make this dowel ladder you will need a drill, but to save time (and if you do not have an electric saw like me) you can ask the hardware store to pre-cut the wood dowel for you. All in all, this project came in at around $40 for the dowel and other materials, which is considerably cheaper than buying brand new. Say ‘woo hoo’ to affordable décor and doing it yourself!

What I really love about DIY is being able to customise a piece of furniture to fit your style and space. Having the option to choose details like size and colour can make all the difference when decorating your home. For a point of difference, and to work with my existing colour scheme, I chose a charcoal grey with hints of reddish-brown. Even though it is still a neutral colour, it’s also noticeably warmer than a standard black and a great way to add personality into the room.

Dowel Ladder 002
“A decorative ladder is a useful and unexpected way to introduce height and create balance in a small space.”


The materials you will need to make this DIY dowel ladder are:


  • Two lengths of pine dowel moulding measuring 20mm x 1.8m for the side rails
  • One length of pine dowel moulding measuring 10mm x 1.8mm for the rungs, cut into four lengths of 450mm
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • 10mm spade bit
  • Wood glue
  • Paint roller
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Clear polyurethane
Dowel Ladder 003
1. Firstly, start by marking out in pencil the holes for the rungs. There will be four points per side rail and each point should measure 300mm apart.
Dowel Ladder 004
2. Next, using your 10mm spade bit, drill the pre-marked holes. Make sure not to drill all the way through the side rail.
Dowel Ladder 005
3. Fill all the holes with wood glue and position the rungs into the holes. This should be a tight fit and, if needed, wedge in fully using a hammer.
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4. Once all the rungs are in place, wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth and leave to dry for at least 24 hours. Keep pressure on the ladder by propping it up against a wall with some heavy books.
Dowel Ladder 007
5. When the glue has dried, you can use your paint roller to apply two coats of paint. If required, sand gently between coats.
Dowel Ladder 008
6. Finally, apply a final coat of clear polyurethane. This will make the surface scratch-proof and give your ladder a nice sheen (if using an enamel paint, this step will not be necessary).
Dowel Ladder 009

“What I really love about DIY is being able to customise a piece of furniture to fit your style and space.”

Dowel Ladder 010
All images by Elly Keen

Now you’re ready to find a spot for your new display ladder and decorate with plants, throws, towels, books, magazines – the options are endless!

I’d love to hear your comments about this DIY project and any other ideas + inspiration you might have!

Elly xx

Elly Keen

Eclectic Creative Blog Contributor

Elly Keen realised her love for interior styling while decorating her rental gem in New Zealand’s coolest little capital, Wellington. This enjoyment for styling objects and spaces led to Keenie / DIY, a lifestyle blog where Elly regularly contributes clever DIY ideas and home decorating inspiration. Elly’s styling and photography has a deeply personal touch, reflecting her own home environment that is eclectic, warm and constantly evolving.
Connect with Elly on Instagram: @keeniediy | Pinterest keeniediy | Website keeniediy.com

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