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Five Shelving Ideas That'll Save Space in Small Homes

Updated on November 26, 2016
Sylvia Leong profile image

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Five Shelving Ideas That'll Save Space | Small Homes
Five Shelving Ideas That'll Save Space | Small Homes | Source

Five Shelving Ideas That'll Save Space In Your Small Home

Have you carved out your home within in a small space? Do you enjoy it? Have you been successful with it?

Or do you find yourself constantly living in the middle of a mess? And even though you regularily declutter, you're either searching for belongings or tripping over them.

Many folks make the mistake of believing that because they live in a small home, they need to buy small pieces of furniture. Then they're surprised when the look is less than attractive & there's still not enough storage.

A room with too much furniture always looks crowded & cluttered & therefore feels small.

In a small space each piece stands out all the more. Therefore, a few well-chosen large pieces of furniture with storage & that can do double duty would serve you better. Especially shelving!

In a small home, shelving is an absolute necessity!

Example of Why Small Furniture Doesn't Work

Use your imagination to envision the following space:

A small apartment living room with the usual furniture ensemble (5 pieces) a two-seater couch plus two chairs with an end-table between & a coffee table in the centre. Now add to the same room:

  • TV & DVD player on a stand
  • DVD rack
  • Another stand with a stereo on it
  • CD rack
  • Small shelf with books on it
  • Wine rack
  • Small desk with a computer & monitor

These are all the items that one would want in their apartment's one living area, so it all needs to fit. However, altogether it adds up to 12 pieces of furniture!

You want your shelving to give the impression of one big piece of furniture

Shelving Down a Wide Hallway
Shelving Down a Wide Hallway | Source

1. The Wall of Shelves

Too often one bookshelf is placed in the centre of a wall leaving useless space on either side & unused space above. More shelving please!

Whether you use shelving that is built-in or free-standing, you want it to give the impression of one big piece of furniture. As well, your shelving must be extensive enough to be able to accommodate all the belongings you need in that room.

On the flip side, if you have furniture crawling up ALL your walls, your home will look like a furniture store. Furniture needs to be different heights in the same room.

Take your shelving both vertical & horizontal!

DaVinci Mdb Book Case, Espresso
DaVinci Mdb Book Case, Espresso

So, to maximize square footage, choose a wall & cover it with shelving. Then take the shelving up as high as possible.

Not only does a wall of shelving look stunning, you'll store most everything you need within a space of between twelve & fourteen inches along one wall. This alone will leave you much more room to live in.

IKEA LIATORP Storage combination with doors. Have even more wall space? Add more shelving units!
IKEA LIATORP Storage combination with doors. Have even more wall space? Add more shelving units!

Glass Doors

Use glass doors wherever you can. It saves a lot of dusting time. As well, shelving behind glass doors gives the illusion of being less cluttered.

In the places you do use open shelving, the items on the shelves need to be fewer & spaced further apart.

Shelves as Room Dividers

A low bookcase or tall pass-through bookshelf placed perpendicular to the wall can act as a room divider between the living areas meant for different purposes.

Using furniture to divide open spaces creates a cozy atmosphere.

Built In or Freestanding?

Built-in shelving will add resale value to your home. However, for some it’s unaffordable or not practical (possibly because you live in a rental suite). Here’s a trick. If the wall & the shelving are painted the same colour, it gives the impression of being built in. Otherwise, hang a store-bought shelf on a wall at baseboard level, construct a base & add crown molding at the top. Paint the whole thing to match the wall. There, you have budget friendly built-in shelving!

2. Headboard Shelves

According to home improvement magazines, the bed should be the focal point of the bedroom. So in as much as possible, the bed should be placed at the room's centre.

The headboard is important. With out a headboard, your bedroom will always look adolescent & unfinished. So if you must have a headboard, It's logical to try to make it as useful as possible… with shelving perhaps?

Or better yet, what about using a key element of artistic composition: the negative space! So, instead of a head board, build an entire shelving unit around where the headboard would otherwise be. Presto! Not only do you no longer have a need for a headboard, you've created something far more useful!

Shelving Around a Bed
Shelving Around a Bed | Source

3. High Shelves

Look up!

There are many unused spaces that are high up & over your head. There are two ways to make these spaces work as shelves:

  • Either store a large object that contains smaller items
  • Or store a group of like objects that are all the same colour

A wooden crate full of wine bottles taking up that useless space above the fridge
A wooden crate full of wine bottles taking up that useless space above the fridge | Source
Cabinets that don’t hit the ceiling? Store needed but not often used belongings.
Cabinets that don’t hit the ceiling? Store needed but not often used belongings. | Source

4. Narrow Shelves

Custom shelving can be put in the most unusual locations. Look around for these unused spaces.

Found a spot? Two things to plan out before you get started.

4 inches of unused space behind the bathroom door is turned into an incredibly useful shelving unit!
4 inches of unused space behind the bathroom door is turned into an incredibly useful shelving unit! | Source

Choose The Right Shelving Depth

There's no point in taking up more depth than the object to be stored needs. You may want to plan out varying depths for your shelving unit. Here are some measurements:

  • 18 inches – Displaying toys or large objects
  • 16 inches – Stacking sweaters & other clothing
  • 12 inches – Standard book size
  • 9 inches – DVDs – CDs
  • 4/5 inches – bottled products

Shelving Must Be Adjustable

Most of today's shelving can be adjusted to perfectly fit the height of the belongings. As well, it's now possible to buy extra shelves. Measure your belongings & plan out the best way to organize your shelving to maximize storage.

5. That Space Above the Toilet

Elegant Home Fashions Neal Collection Shelved Wall Cabinet with Doors and Cubby, White
Elegant Home Fashions Neal Collection Shelved Wall Cabinet with Doors and Cubby, White

Why is it that the smallest room in the house (the bathroom) must hold the most stuff? And it's unsightly stuff to boot.

Enter, "The Overjohn".

That wasted space above the toilet can be quite useful for your bathroom clutter.

Use the largest cabinet you can find & make sure it has doors.

Install an over-john cabinet that offers shelving closed behind doors to utilize the space above the toilet.
Install an over-john cabinet that offers shelving closed behind doors to utilize the space above the toilet. | Source

Organizing Your Shelves

It's one thing to have all the shelving you need, but it's quite another to organize them so they look attractive instead of cluttered.

Whether storing objects out in plain view or behind glass doors, use beautiful containers, boxes or baskets.

Your baskets (or other containers) will probably be different sizes depending upon the space & the objects going into them. However, in as much as possible, it is important that your baskets are all the same colour & hopefully the same style. Otherwise it will just look like a clutter of baskets.

Even your hamper (if it’s a basket) should match. If you are using boxes, same thing. If you’re using a mixture of boxes & baskets – a uniform color becomes even more important.

Store heavier items lower down & lighter items higher up so that you can lift the container easily.

Which of these shelving ideas do you already use?

See results

A Word About Electronics

Even if you bought all your electronics yesterday, all of it will be outdated before any of it is anywhere near worn out. If you can, plan your shelving system in such a way that every last piece is hidden behind a door. This way you only see it when you’re using it & you won’t be tempted to replace it just because of an outdated look.

Which of these shelving ideas are you most likely to incorporate into your home?

See results

Creative self-expression is the most satisfying experience you can have & often, in these modern days, your home is the only place you have to express it.

Go ahead! Fill your shelves with both useful & beloved objects & organize them in a way that satisfies your own creativity.

If you like this article, please share it!

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    • Sylvia Leong profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Leong 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      Thanks for your comment Susan Deppner.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love the negative headboard look - very nice looking! We have high ceilings in our house and built the kitchen and laundry room cabinets all the way to the top which gives us lots of nice storage area. Great ideas here - thanks!

    • Sylvia Leong profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Leong 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      Thank you GoldenRod for you comment & for voting my hub up!

      Thank you Iris Draak for your kind words!

      I sure wish that I'd purchased shelving for around our bed that would support glass doors. Dusting all those shelves is a real pain!

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 

      4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Sylvia, I always know I'm going to get really useful information from your articles along with gorgeous pictures. Shelves are one of my favorite things (except for the dusting!). I too have found that glass doors to cover shelves makes like so much better and they're attractive to boot.

    • GoldenRod LM profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      4 years ago from Superior, Arizona USA

      This hub contains good ideas for consideration when contemplating a shelf install. I never thought about glass doors maximized to cut down on dusting! Good hub, voted up.

    • Sylvia Leong profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Leong 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      Thanks for your comment Sheilamyers!

      Excellent save with the Walmart unit!

      We paid a company to come in & custom build the shelving around our bed. I will always have shelving around our bed, but I will never have it custom built again. Our bedroom carpet will need replacing soon & I have no idea how that will work as this shelving is built right on top of the carpet! As well, I cannot just go buy extra shelves.

      Next time I'll be getting the IKEA Liatorp units for either side of the bed & then come up with planks of wood (painted white to match) for above the bed.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      These are some great ideas. I've already used the wall of shelves for one area of my living room. I already had a few of those units like you buy at WalMart and put together yourself. They looked horrible placed against each other and one of them wobbled any time you walked by it. My solution was to by some wood wall trim and add that to the top and bottom areas so it connected all the units together, the add some trim molding where two sets abutted each other. Now it looks like it was built in.

      I love your idea about the shelving around the headboard of the bed. Perhaps, that will be my next big project.


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