When I first sit down to consult with new clients, I rarely hear, “We just can’t wait to show you what we have planned for the shelving…” Shelves are one of those items that fade into the background of renovating, selecting paint colors or wallpaper, re-designing layouts, flooring, and all the other “big ticket” items.
However, shelving is an integral part of most home designs. On one hand, as is the case with open shelves in the kitchen or bookcases in the living room, they are completely functional. On the other hand, their design has a big impact on how all the other parts of your remodel look as a whole.
Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself as you consider which type of shelving makes the most sense for each space in your home.
What Kind of Shelving Are You Looking For?
There are shelves that are required to hold hundreds of pounds worth of items, and there are shelves that are simply decorative in their own right and may only hold a picture or two. Therefore, the shelves’ function will drive the materials and support you need.
- Shelves with a job to do. If you are designing shelves that have a job to do, we’ll want to make sure they are sturdy enough to do the job. For example, bookshelves should be anchored via studs and internal structural support elements so they don’t rip out of the sheetrock. If they will house a collection, you’ll want to make sure they include an outer-edge lip, mid-shelf grooves, or other features that make the collection more secure.
- Shelves to continue or accent your home’s style. Then, there are shelves that are designed for decorative purposes. Perhaps you want some open shelving in the kitchen to open things up and add a bit of color via displayed dishware. If that’s the case, your shelves will be styled in a way that complements the kitchen cabinetry. You may want to install a shelf in a bathroom, bedroom, or living space to break up an expanse of empty wall. In these scenarios, your shelves may appear similar to the wood trim or other decorative elements in the space.
- Shelves add texture and contrast. On the flip side, you may want to use shelves in order to add a bit of texture or contrast. For example, a sleek, modern design might benefit from some rustic, reclaimed lumber shelves that add a little bit of rough-hewn texture and wood grain pattern. Look how these metal and wood shelving units add grounding, earthy elements to an expansive entryway. Maybe you are looking for an easy way to add color to a monochromatic design. Painted shelves are a great way to do this, with the added benefit that you can always change their color or integrate them back into a monochromatic palette with a fresh paint job.
- Shelves made from repurposed materials. In this era of eclectic design, even the highest of high-end home renovations are enhanced with repurposed shelving materials. I’ve seen many unexpected materials or gadget converted into clever and eclectic shelves including old wooden ladders, produce crates, or even the body of an old, dysfunctional piano box.
- Shelves that help you save space. Finally, you may find yourself in a bind if you live in a smaller home or apartment that doesn’t have much square footage to spare. If this is the case, consider recessing your shelving into the walls. Most interior walls have a good 12-inches of usable space in them. Work with a designer or contractor to determine which areas of the interior wall space could be used for this purpose. It’s a smart way to gain much-needed storage space without using the room’s existing air space.
Don’t just hang, purchase, or build shelves for shelving’s sake. Make sure you do it with a purpose and such that it enhances both the function and form of your design.