With so much tradition about the type of furniture to use in each room, it's good that the new trend to reuse what's old is helping us think outside the box. So before you start searching for new shelving, it's worth shopping your home because the ideal solution might be right under your nose.
You don't need to use prefabricated shelf units, book cases, or any other shelves that come in a box. With a little imagination, you can design and create something nicer, more interesting, and much sturdier than anything you could buy. And the more possessions you own, the more likely you are to need attractive and functional places to store and display them.
Here are a few ideas to get your creative side moving:
Rustic Beams Make Great Shelving
Beams are ideal for shelving. They’re sturdy enough to support nearly anything, and because of the hefty dimensions, they also serve as an artistic element in the room.
If you’re lucky, you might find reclaimed materials such as barn wood to create a beam-style shelf. But if not, you can either buy and mount a beam that’s perfectly milled, or distress and stain it on your own for a faux-rustic look.
Beams require a lot of support, and it’s best to anchor them to the studs inside the wall. To accomplish this, drill through the beam and studs and slip bolts into the drilled holes. The bolt heads will be visible on the face of the beam. If you prefer to hide the fasteners, you’ll need to use a cleat system.
You can read about installing cleats here.
Use Shelving Instead of Furniture
A long shelf mounted at hip height can serve the same purpose as a sideboard or small buffet. This is a good solution for narrow areas where you need a flat surface, but don’t have room for a large piece of furniture. This solution is perfect for small rooms like entryways, that are too small for a piece of furniture.
The choices are almost limitless for the shelf top. A natural slice of wood with an irregular bark border can look both contemporary and primitive. A slim sheet of tempered glass or perfectly milled hardwood looks modern and clean. Anything that's both sturdy and flat is suitable.
Mounting shelving like this is simple. Two or three shelf supports fit underneath, either plain metal or wood triangles or elaborately carved corbels, and the shelf sits on top but make sure the shelf is also attached to the wall or supports, so there are no accidents.
Boxes on the Wall
Shelves really can be as much art as function. Simple rectangular wood boxes add texture and interest to the room, and offer storage and display space for books, art and collectibles. Any box will serve as a shelf. Consider old wine crates, vintage produce boxes or build them using lumber from a home improvement center, or recycle wood from pallets.
A box shelf mounts to the studs like any other shelf. You can drive screws through the back of the box and into the wall, then fill the screw depressions with wood filler and touch up the color. The cleat method will also work with some box styles.
What if you want shelves, but don’t have a wall to mount them? Suspended shelves are the stylish and functional answer. They're great over kitchen islands, or anywhere you want storage or display options but lack a sturdy surface to hang them.
Mounting a suspended shelf means fastening it to the ceiling joists instead of wall studs. Joists are sturdy, and can support as much weight as a wall stud.
If you have a wall, you can probably have shelves. Even a small niche has space between the wall studs where you can carve out a built-in unit.
Recessed shelves let you store items without taking up any floor space in the room. You can create a small column of shelves for decorative items, or use the space between several studs for a wall of shallow shelves. This is the solution I often recommended to my handyman clients who wanted more storage in a bathroom. (Read: Tips 4 More Bathroom Storage)
Recessed shelves are best on interior walls. Because drywall is removed to expose hollows between the studs, the wall on the back of the shelf is thin. On an exterior wall, this would mean losing insulation.
Nearly every home can use more storage. (Read: Stairs that Double as Storage) Whether you need them for utilitarian purposes, such as storing kitchenware or books, or you just want more space to display collectibles or art, there’s probably a spot in your home and a shelf style that will work.
The interesting thing about shelving is that nearly any flat surface that’s mounted securely will serve the purpose. It might be a sheet of metal, an old slab of wood, or even a pre-made section of laminated shelf board. If you can hang it, you can use it.
We would love to hear about clever shelf ideas that you’ve seen or ones you have in your own home!