Over the years, we’ve added tons of shelves to our homes – from floating shelves and built-in bookcases to decorative display shelves and heavy-duty storage shelves. So in this post, we’re rounding up some of our favorite DIY shelving projects for anyone looking to add smart vertical storage to their space. We’re going to cover:
- Floating Shelves
- Storage Shelves
- Decorative Shelves
- How to Style Your Shelves
Our Favorite Floating Shelf Projects
Floating shelves are a great way to display or store items with a clean, modern, and lightweight look. They can be hung just about anywhere – in a kitchen, above a TV, in a bedroom for books and toys, even in a dining room – and we’ve used both storebought floating shelves as well as custom DIY floating versions too.
1. Skinny Floating Shelves For Our Bonus Room
The angled niche in this bonus room required some custom-sized shelves, so we built our own floating shelves to the exact specifications we needed. Many floating DIY shelves can be chunky and thick, but we wanted something that wasn’t too visually demanding. The skinny versions were a great alternative and really let the objects on the shelves be the focal point. Read the tutorial for building DIY skinny floating shelves.
But shelves aren’t just for books and toys, which brings us to…
2. DIY Wood Floating Shelves On A Tile Backsplash
Using a similar approach to the shelves above, we built and hung floating wood shelves on the tiled backsplashes in our duplex rental property. By tweaking the skinny shelf tutorial, we not only created heavier-duty shelves that could hold the weight of plates, mugs, and other dishware – we also left the wood look, rather than painting them white.
This project did involve drilling into tile, which can be a little nerve-wracking. Thankfully this post covers the entire installation process for you.
You can also see how we chose different wood finishes for each of the two duplex kitchens.
3. Affordable IKEA Floating Shelves
Not every floating shelf has to be homemade! There are lots of great store-bought options, including the IKEA Lack shelves that we’ve used several times – including in our first home’s dining room (below left) and our previous home’s kitchen (below right). They’re affordable, easy to hang, and hold plenty of weight (hello, plates!). Plus, they have that classic, clean, and modern look – and come in a variety of sizes and finishes.
The photo (above left) is our first home’s dining room and was taken 15 years ago. We hung the same Lack floating shelves in our current home’s bedroom. So now we’ve had them in 3 of the 4 homes we’ve lived in!
4. Rustic Pottery Barn Floating Shelves
Before we renovated our current kitchen, we also used some substantial wood floating shelves from Pottery Barn to give us extra storage and display space. We started off with just one set, and later upgraded to two because we liked them so much. Although they were more expensive than the IKEA shelves, they were a perfect fit for the space and the exact style that we wanted for this small space (sometimes the right wood tone is hard to find). They were super easy to hang too!
These shelves were also a great upgrade from the temporary floating shelves we built quickly and cheaply right after we moved in. They looked like they were floating, but they actually weren’t!
5. Faux Floating Shelves With Metal Brackets
Another way we love to get the look of floating shelves with the sturdiness of traditionally supported shelves is to disguise the brackets. That’s what we did with these easy shelves in our beach house’s office. By choosing brackets like these iron ones that cradle the shelf, we could use the objects on the shelf to mostly hide the portion that is attached to the wall so they don’t dominate that back wall and steal any attention. It allowed us to create a floating-ish look with these DIY shelves while introducing a cool mix of materials with the wood + iron combination. Read how we made these shelves.
You can also see how we used the same method in that home’s laundry room.
Our Favorite Storage Shelf Projects
As much as we love floating shelving, sometimes you also need sturdy utilitarian shelving that will stand up to more heavy-duty needs. Here are some of our favorite DIY shelf solutions for when function is the main objective (these options can hold so much and still look good doing it).
6. Making Custom Built-In Pantry Shelves
We majorly upgraded our beach house’s kitchen storage with built-in DIY pantry shelving around the refrigerator. They were easy and inexpensive to create, plus we got to totally customize the configuration and color. They’re made entirely of easy-to-work with MDF plus some 1×2″ pine boards to make the shelves look chunkier along that front edge. It’s one of our favorite methods to create built-in shelves! See how we made this built-in pantry shelving.
Perhaps the most durable workhorse shelves you’ll ever need might be in another area of the house though…
7. Building Heavy Duty Shed or Garage Shelves
This storage shelf tutorial is a foolproof way to create super sturdy DIY shelves in a garage, shed, or attic. It uses 2×4″s and plywood, plus a pretty cool trick for getting everything square and level. They’re super strong and reinforced, making them great for storage bins, tools, paint, yard equipment, or other weighty items. We loved this step-by-step process so much we’ve used in two different sheds!
You can also see how we repeated this process to make shelves for our beach house shed. I’m even gearing up to do some again for our current tiny shed! Psst – if you didn’t know we had one here in our smaller home, you can see it in this post!
And as you can see, they can be customized to fit the exact space you’re working with. The one above is even holding heavy boxes of extra tile too. They are indeed very heavy-duty!
8. Wall-To-Wall Laundry Room Shelves
When we needed a quick way to take advantage of the room above our washer & dryer, we built these simple wood laundry shelves. These wall to wall DIY shelves make this closet much more functional for us. They’re made from basic 1×2″ pine boards and plywood, but are great for holding everything from towels, linens, and even extra holiday decor! We even made a matching countertop over the appliances that can lift off if needed.
This technique is great for adding shelves to any closet, like we did in our son’s closet too. We painted them white and used MDF instead of plywood for the version you see below (either method works). Read the tutorial for building these closet shelves here.
But wait, shelves like this can hold so much more than baskets or clothes…
9. Adjustable Toy Closet Shelves
If you want something like the closet above, but with a bit more flexibility, this solution we used in our former toy closet may do the trick. We used a Rubbermaid closet shelf system that was easy to install. It just involves hanging these metal tracks on your back wall. Then you can add solid shelves (not wire!) anywhere using these metal brackets. They turned out to be a great solution when we converted a spare coat closet into toy storage for our daughter. Read how we installed the adjustable closet shelving system
If you have an extra coat closet (or just one you never use) this is a great solution for family board games, craft storage, etc.
10. Creating Hybrid Built-In Shelving That’s Adjustable
Here’s a project where we used a combination of custom built-ins and adjustable track shelves to create a perfect, but flexible, fit for our former laundry room. We had a narrow gap next to our stacked washer and dryer, so we used wood to create storage between the appliances and the wall. But when it came to actually adding the shelves, we used an adjustable track system (similar to the one above). That way we could pull out the shelves and access the vent pipe in the back whenever necessary. Read how we built these custom laundry shelves.
So yeah, we have installed quite a bit of shelving. And if you think we’re done with this round-up… what’s that they say in all the infomercials? But wait, there’s more!
Our Favorite Decorative Shelf Projects
As much as we love the function of adding vertical storage, sometimes shelves are a great aesthetic addition to a room. Whether you’re talking about drawing the eye up and adding architecture to a room, or creating the perfect spot to display stuff that you love. So here are some of our favorite shelf projects that added a ton of style to our spaces.
11. Built-In Bookcases Around A Doorway
Using a similar technique to the built-in pantry shelves, we dressed up our living room with this built-in bookcase that wrapped around the doorway to our kitchen. We used stock cabinets on the bottom to incorporate closed storage. Then we used a combination of MDF and 1×2″ pine to build DIY shelves on top. They added so much architectural detail to the room while giving us lots of space for books an decorative objects. See how we built these traditional bookcases around the doorway.
And things don’t always have to be that involved. This next one was such an easy update.
12. Reclaimed Wood Kitchen Shelves
In the kitchen pictured above, we wanted to dress up an empty wall by making these decorative shelves that were just as visually interesting as the items on them. So we sourced reclaimed wood, stained it a vintage tone, and paired it with polished nickel brackets that matched the hardware in the rest of the room. These elegant DIY shelves were a fun way to mix materials and create a really beautiful place to display some of our prettiest kitchen objects in an otherwise cabinet-filled room. See how we made the reclaimed wood shelves.
It’s always fun to add plants and stacks of books to any shelves – from the kitchen to the bathroom to an office.
13. Statement Shelves With Painted Wood Brackets
In one of our prior kitchens, we wanted to create statement display shelves to pop against our penny tile backsplash. We used store-bought wood brackets that we painted a crisp white to make simple DIY shelving. Then we styled them with a mix of kitchen items and some cheerful decorative items for a fun colorful look. See how we built and installed these wood kitchen shelves.
In hindsight, we would have used fewer brackets on that project. Maybe three on that side would have been great.
14. Simple Butcher Block Display Shelf
We dressed up our cramped utility closet with a simple DIY shelf made from some store-bought metal brackets (spray-painted brass) and a leftover piece of the same butcher block we used for the countertop below. It earned us a narrow shelf that has become very functional for storing extra items, while also making this utility closet a lot better to look at. You can see the whole utility closet makeover.
Never underestimate the power of even one small, well-placed shelf.
15. Built-in Kid’s Bedroom Bookshelf
Our son’s room is small, so we wanted to squeeze every inch of function that we could out of that space, while still making it look nice and inviting. Enter a built-in bookshelf at the foot of the bed, stage right.
It makes such good use of a formerly useless sliver of floor space, and built-in cabinetry always feels so customized. This bookshelf gets tons of use and can be seen from the hallway. So we love that it’s both functional and good-looking. Read more about how we built it here.
We even snuck a hidden storage nook into the base of it. That rectangle of wood on the bottom that you see in the photo above pops out.
16. Multipurpose Metal Shelving Units
Last but not least, we have to shout out one of our favorite store-bought bookshelves. We’ve owned these two Fjalkinge metal shelving units from IKEA for almost a decade! They first appeared in our last house’s home office. We loved that we could customize the mix of open shelves and closed drawer storage. The drawers can house various office supplies and paperwork. And the shelves can be more decorative – which is how we used them back in Richmond.
When we moved to this house, we first used them in our kitchen to store food and dishes. The shelves looked pretty with stacks of plates/cups and the drawers were great as a little pantry. These babies are flexible! We later moved them up to our family room (seen below) and the bottom drawers hide tools and office paperwork. Meanwhile the tops remain largely decorative, with books, plants, frames, etc.
These shelving units have worked so well for us over many years and rooms. So they felt like a great way to end this post. Plus, they embody our favorite mix of functional and decorative. Hardworking, but still easy on the eyes.
How To Style Your Shelves
Let me end this by assuring you that there’s no right or wrong way to fill up your shelves. Some households need or want shelves to be purely functional and hardworking. And others just want to display things that they love looking at. Our favorites are often somewhere in between. And if you’re struggling for the right mix of items to put on your shelves – books? art? knick-knacks?!? – we have a timelapse video to help give you tips on how we style our shelves:
Note: You can also watch this video on YouTube.
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