Shelving occupies a unique role in the home design sphere. Yet, both professional and amateur designers alike often overlook it.
First (and often foremost), we use shelves to store day-to-day items that won’t fit in a drawer or cupboard. These items can range from spice jars to books and everything in-between. Second, we use shelves as an out-of-the-way place to showcase small decorations.
But in the process of hanging and adorning a new set of shelves, it’s easy to forget that they are a form of home decor in and of themselves. Whether purely functional or for ornamentation, your choice of shelving will have a big impact on your home’s overall design.
Keep reading for the most versatile shelving ideas that are guaranteed to look great in any home.
1. Bathroom Shelving Ideas
Bathroom organization can feel like a never-ending battle. So if you’re looking for storage ideas, bathroom shelves are probably the best place to start.
Built-in shelves are the perfect alternative to a full-size closet or storage cupboard. Just one or two shelves offers enough space to store towels and other linens without adding clutter to an already small bathroom.
Hang an open shelf over the toilet to display decorative items and store toiletries out of the way. This is also a great way to keep toilet paper and other necessities readily available in a guest bathroom or powder room.
2. Boho Shelving Ideas
Bohemian, or boho, design has become so popular that it blends into nearly every contemporary decor trend under the sun. And boho design really shines when it comes to adding visual intrigue to empty wall space.
Geometric hanging shelves are one of the biggest trends to come out of boho design. You can easily find shelves shaped like circles, squares, and triangles. But you can also opt for a shelf shaped like a gem, crescent moon, or honeycomb. Either way, your new shelving will simultaneously serve as wall decor and a storage solution.
The handmade market has no shortage of fascinating shelf designs that double as artwork. You can find unique shelves made of pegs or feature interesting backdrops. Many woodworkers are even happy to make custom designs.
3. Cabinet Shelving Ideas
Pairing shelves with cabinets is an easy and space-saving way to maximize your home’s storage options. From a wine cellar to an entertainment center, plenty of situations call for more than one type of storage.
You can install permanent cabinets along with your new shelves or invest in a piece of furniture that features both. If you’re a fan of antique furniture, look for a hutch, china cabinet, or pie safe that fits your home decor style.
Matching cabinets are a particularly great addition to your favorite kitchen or garage shelving ideas. Since you can never have too much (or enough) storage in these rooms, supplementing your shelves with a few cabinets can really improve the space’s organization.
4. Full Shelving Ideas
You can create your own DIY shelf system that mimics built-ins with a few floating shelves and coats of paint. Or set up several matching bookcases side-by-side. Install cabinets below your faux built-in shelves for extra storage that helps sell the final look.
You can also achieve wall-to-wall shelving without going the built-in route. With the right anchoring hardware, you can install wall-mounted shelves that extend the full length of your room.
5. Hanging Shelving Ideas
If your shelving needs are more decorative than functional, consider a hanging shelf. Just be sure to respect the weight limits when choosing items to display on top.
Hanging shelves look right at home alongside bohemian, Scandinavian, or 1970s-inspired decor. These quirky shelves also work great in a nursery or kid’s room — just make sure the shelving unit is completely out-of-reach of little hands!
While the concept of hanging shelves is pretty cut-and-dry, the type of rope and wood used can make a big difference in the final product. For a rustic take on this trend, go with thick twine and reclaimed wood boards. On the other hand, macrame rope will lend your shelves a whimsical style.
6. Kitchen Shelving Ideas
If your existing cabinets just aren’t cutting it, kitchen shelves are an affordable way to add much-needed storage. Some home designers even forego cabinets altogether in favor of open shelving.
There are countless kitchen shelving ideas to pull inspiration from, so pick the option that matches your current decor. If you have a farmhouse-inspired kitchen, go with natural wood shelves. If you have a modern kitchen, sleek metal or glass shelves will suit the space better.
Kitchen shelving isn’t just for big items, either. Install a mini storage shelf under your cabinets to hold your favorite spices or cooking utensils.
7. Living Room Shelving Ideas
The living room is one room where it’s okay, even encouraged, to sacrifice floor space for a large set of shelves. Or you can pair floating shelves with crown molding to mimic the look of an authentic built-in bookcase.
Use living room shelves to free up space on your coffee table, mantle, or entertainment center. This room is the perfect place to show off family photos, professional awards, and souvenirs that would otherwise hide from sight in a closet.
Speaking of entertainment centers, a large wall shelf mounted under the TV is an excellent spot to stow your DVR, gaming systems, and other devices.
8. Metal Shelving Ideas
Metal isn’t just for closet shelves. In recent years, metal shelves have found their way into contemporary home design. Just look through a magazine or social media, and you’ll find countless examples of pipe or wire shelving.
When it comes to metal decor, choosing the right finish will make or break your final design. Jewel tones like silver and gold are super trendy right now. For a more masculine or industrial style, opt for a matte black or cast iron finish.
Metal shelving is also popular for its sheer functionality. With many standalone and wall-mounted systems, you can mix-and-match different wire shelves, containers, and hangers to meet your specific organizational needs.
9. Modern Shelving Ideas
Modern architecture is all about creating clean, geometric lines throughout the entire space. Few design elements accomplish this as well as a set of floating shelves.
Try using expansive shelves in place of a traditional banister or dividing wall. This adds storage and introduces one of modern design’s best-known features: sleek lines. Plus, it still effectively divides the space.
Even if the shelves themselves are quite basic, the layout you hang them in might be a completely different story. Installing shelves of different lengths and heights on a single wall is a great way to make the space feel multidimensional.
Exposed hanging hardware is another great design element to consider when buying new shelves. You can also install lights behind the shelves for a unique art deco twist.
10. Mounted Shelving Ideas
What was once a modern trend has now become commonplace in all home decor styles. Wall-mounted shelves take up less space than their freestanding counterparts. They’re also a great way to break up open sections of wall.
Mounted shelves come in all different styles. Floating shelves use hidden hardware to appear as if they’re part of the wall itself. Or you can choose shelves with decorative hardware that fits the rest of your room’s decor.
The average wall-mounted shelf can only hold a few lightweight items before getting overwhelmed. But if you’re willing to put in the effort to mount your shelves to a stud securely, you can get away with using them for all types of storage space.
11. Open Shelving Ideas
Open shelving makes a great alternative to traditional cabinets in almost any room.
For example, in the kitchen, you can use an open shelving idea to display items that you might normally store out of sight, like fine china dishes or dry goods. Or to show off keepsakes in a living or family room.
Large open shelving works great as workshop or garage storage. Since garage shelves need to be readily accessible (and it doesn’t really matter how tidy they look), open shelving is a perfect solution.
12. Simple Shelving Ideas
Simple shelving deserves some recognition. Not only do simple shelves allow the items atop them to stand out, but they also coordinate with all kinds of existing home decor themes.
Of course, there are some decor styles that work better than others. Modern design is an ideal match for these simplistic shelves. Shelves with metal hardware go well with industrial trends (both rustic and urban).
If you’re going to include simple shelving in your own room design, think carefully about what you’ll store on top. The downside to this shelf style is that it’s easily overwhelmed by clutter or mismatched items. To pull off this look, you need to be willing to spend time curating and tidying up your shelves on a regular basis.
13. Small Shelving Ideas
Are you looking for a way to decorate a blank section of wall? Or do you have a few too many items crowded on your kitchen counter or bathroom vanity? One of these small shelf ideas could be the solution.
You can hang floating shelves pretty much anywhere, and they come in a variety of sizes. For putting several items on display, a corner shelf is a sturdy, compact option. This is a great place to stow artwork, potted plants, or other small items.
A ladder shelf is another space-saving design that can serve as a bookcase or just day-to-day storage. You can find ladder shelves that stand on their own, lean against a wall, or hang on the wall for an even smaller footprint.
14. Wooden Shelving Ideas
No matter the room, natural wood shelves will never go out of style. Play around with ornate bevels, cutouts, and shapes when choosing a set of freestanding or hanging wooden shelves for your home.
Remember that there are many more options out there than just regular hardwood. Knotty pine and similar species add interesting texture to the most boring wooden shelf. You can also opt for a bamboo wood shelf for a modern or bohemian look.
Even if your shelves are plain and simple, you can get creative in how you mount them. The ladder bookshelf design is a fun trend leftover from mid-century modern furniture trends. You can also use metal shelf brackets or supports to contrast with the natural wood.