July 24, 2024

7 Unexpected Shelving Ideas (None of Which Involve Books)

There is a running joke (hilarious! ) in the office that I have a weird thing for shelves. And why not? Set aside the predictable – books and bookends mixed in with $50 objects designed to look nice and that’s about it – and consider the functional instead: A shelf is all possibility.

It can be secured at any height and many depths, from low and deep to shoulder-height and just wide enough to hold a tin of cinnamon, and is so utilitarian that it really can do – or, rather, be – anything. Hear that? This is a practical obsession! I am definitely not writing this article to justify my shelf fetish to our editorial team.

Consider that we all live in small apartments, wherein every piece of furniture has to be able to do about 100 things before it can justify a single square foot of floor space. A shelf, either inexpensively wall-mounted or part of a bookcase you already own, is basically a freebie; use it instead of trying to fit in a desk, or a bar cart, or instead of whining about the fact that the apartment doesn’t have a pantry.

Here are our favorite super-functional, unexpected ways to use a shelf.

Floating Desk

Many things inspired us about 19-year-old fashion photographer Chloe Horseman’s Brooklyn apartment, in particular this shelf-as-desk made from a bench topper she found at furniture warehouse. Wall brackets + any shelf-like surface + chair = desk.

Standing Desk

The confines of a studio apartment (such as this epic Amsterdam home) will lead you to do super-smart things – like set your laptop high on a shelf so you can use it like a standing desk (without having to purchase a big, ugly, expensive standing desk).

Pantry or Spice Rack

Peek at the next IKEA or Container Store catalog you receive and you’ll realize that open shelves can make for excellent pantries. You’ll definitely have to invest in some nice containers to make this work, but just look at how easy it is to see what’s ready for a re-stock!

Bar Cart Sans Cart

Stocked with pretty booze bottles and your coupe of choice, an open shelf works just as well as a bar cart. (Add those upside-down glass storage racks like Jesse DeSanto did in this Laguna Beach house and you’ll get double the storage space out of one shelf. )

Art Holder-Upper

In furniture designer Greg Buntain’s clever Brooklyn home a narrow shelf holds up art and decor in the bedroom. Good for those of us with commitment problems, since you’ll be able to regularly rotate frames and tchotchkes on it without deciding which way you like them best.

Media Console

Need somewhere to store your speakers, Apple TV, cable box, and WiFi router but aren’t really excited in investing in a big fancy console? Enter a few shelves, mix in some art amongst the electronics, and check that box.

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