The Top 74 Wall Shelf Ideas
Freestanding bookshelves and hutches have fallen out of fashion. In their place, home design trends have turned to floating wall shelves. Why? Wall shelves are simple to install with just a few household tools. They’re typically more affordable than standalone furniture. And they look great.
Keep reading for some of our favorite wall shelf ideas curated to fit any space or personal style!
1. Contemporary Wall Shelf Ideas
Contemporary design is hard to pin down, mostly because it’s constantly changing with the trends. If you want your wall shelf to look hip and current, play around with unexpected materials and unique shapes in your design.
Glass shelves are undeniably contemporary without being too trendy. Any shelf can be elevated with one-of-a-kind brackets. Skip a traditional black or silver finish in favor of vibrant yellow or rose gold.
Don’t neglect the wall behind your shelving, either. Painting a geometric shape around your wall shelf will turn it into the room’s focal point. Also, experiment with where you hang your shelving. “Randomly” scattering floating shelves across an open wall is a great way to strip your design of unwanted symmetry.
2. Corner Wall Shelf Ideas
Look for a floating corner shelf with a personality all its own — antique shops are a great place to start your search. Floor-to-ceiling corner shelves are a great alternative to a full-size bookcase. Cube shelving can be hung in the corner to hold decor or as extra storage space.
While corner shelving can be a stylistic choice, it’s also quite practical. Corner shelves are less likely to get bumped into or crowd the space as a whole.
Hanging your wall shelf in a corner can also add stability. If you want to utilize a free-hanging shelf in your room design but are a bit too nervous, place your new shelf in an unoccupied corner.
When you picture a corner shelf, you probably picture one tucked into a room’s inner-corner. But you can mount floating shelves around protruding corners, as well.
Choose low-profile shelving and keep decor to a minimum — the shelves are plenty decorative in and of themselves.
3. Decor Wall Shelf Ideas
Curating a beautiful wall shelf setup isn’t just about the shelves themselves. The whole point of hanging a set of shelves is to display and store items.
Books are a classic decor choice. If you’re not keen on using bookends, set each book on its side for more stability. Small potted plants can be scattered across shelves to bring the whole look together.
If your shelf is large enough, lean a framed print or mirror up against the wall. Place small items in front to break up the design without blocking the view. Store miscellaneous items in baskets to keep your shelves organized and looking their best.
On the other hand, opting for the most basic shelf option possible could be doing your home decor a disservice. Take the time to find the perfect shelf to elevate your room’s design as a whole. You can find shelves inspired by geometric shapes and motifs to fit any personal style.
4. Small Wall Shelf Ideas
When framed art prints and photos aren’t to your taste, it can be hard to decorate an empty wall. Use small wall shelves to fill up bare space and display your most cherished decor.
Floating shelves are a great way to tidy up furniture that has a tendency to collect miscellaneous decor. Layer several shelves to create a gallery wall — mix in other multimedia decor to give your design a professional touch.
Filling small shelves requires some careful planning. Place standalone items like candles, potted plants, and figurines on your shelves. While each shelf will only hold one or two items, you should still choose coordinating decor for a cohesive arrangement.
5. Cube Wall Shelf Ideas
Upgrade your floating shelf to a stylish cube. Cube shelving looks its best in sets rather than alone. Arrange cube shelves into a mismatched gallery wall or line them up single-file.
Cube shelving is best for showcasing one or two of your favorite items. Avoid cluttering up each shelf — if you have multiple items to display, hang multiple shelves. Remember to use the entire cube shelf to display your favorite decor. Put simple items on top of your cube shelving to accent the main attraction placed inside.
If you have a thing for vintage decor, check out your local antique shop for a wall-mounted cubby set. This is a great way to store odds-and-ends in any room. Use your one-of-a-kind shelf to organize fashion accessories, herbs and spices, toiletries, or something else entirely.
6. Free Hanging Wall Shelf Ideas
Free-hanging, or floating, shelves are a great way to supplement storage in awkward or hard-to-reach areas. You can hang just one or two shelves for a stripped-down design. You can also use an entire set to replace a bookshelf or other shelving unit.
If maximizing storage is a must, choose shelves with built-in organization solutions. Many shelves feature a coat rack, storage hooks, and more already built in. Wire shelves are a great choice for the laundry room or anywhere else you want to customize your storage options.
Free-hanging shelves are simple by nature. But that doesn’t mean you should throw design to the wind. Decide whether you want your wall-mounted shelf to stand out or blend into its surroundings. For example, a white floating shelf will practically disappear against a white wall. The same is not true for a dark, reclaimed wood shelf.
7. Modern Wall Shelf Ideas
Since modern decor is all about combining highly functional items with head-turning style, stay away from bare-bones shelving solutions. Instead, your wall-mounted shelves should be a statement piece all on their own.
Plain floating shelves work well in modern design because of their clean lines. However, don’t completely discount funkier shelf styles. Something like a ladder shelf can be both visually intriguing and packed with tons of useful storage space.
While you’re planning out your wall shelf design, think about the role lighting will play. Under-shelf lighting can immediately transform an otherwise basic design.
8. Kitchen Wall Shelf Ideas
Open shelving is a favorite in contemporary kitchen design. Whether you’re looking to show off your finest china or keep pantry goods close at hand, a floating wall shelf is probably your best bet.
Choose a deep storage shelf with plenty of room for bulky kitchen staples and decorative items. Hang a set of hooks underneath your shelving to store mugs, measuring cups, utensils, and more.
Use an open shelf to fill awkward gaps in your cabinetry. If you plan to use this open shelving for storage, make sure it’s within reach of your sink or stovetop. There’s also no reason not to extend your kitchen shelving idea into the dining room.
The kitchen is one room where you’ll definitely want sturdy shelving. Take the time to hang your bracket shelves in a stud. If no stud is available, your best option is to pick a different spot or install additional support.
9. Rustic Wall Shelf Ideas
Rustic-inspired shelving benefits from an eclectic mix of decor. Choose shelving with tons of texture and color variation. For a contemporary aesthetic, avoid clunky hardware in favor of streamlined floating shelves.
Natural wooden shelves can warm up an otherwise simple room design. You can also include leather and worn metal accents to give the space a more inviting atmosphere. Or place potted plants on a small shelf for a bit of life. Faux plants and wreaths are great alternatives — no one will know the difference if you put them on a high-up shelf.
As far as mounting your shelves, try to stick with a traditional layout. Hang a floating shelf over your fireplace as a makeshift mantel. Or mount several along one wall of your kitchen for an open-air pantry.
10. Living Room Wall Shelf Ideas
Every living room needs comfortable seating and an inviting atmosphere. Leaving your walls blank will make achieving the latter incredibly difficult.
Open shelving is ideal for holding framed photos and other family keepsakes. As always, ensure your shelves are securely mounted into the wall. Purely decorative shelving can be installed close to the ceiling to keep everything out of the way (and out of reach of grabby hands).
Many living rooms double as a work or study space. If this applies to your home, invest in a hanging shelf unit that also serves as a desk.
Don’t be afraid to use your favorite floating shelf idea as a fireplace mantelpiece. Or create an all-in-one entertainment wall with floor-to-ceiling shelves framing your fireplace or TV.
11. Bathroom Wall Shelf Ideas
When it comes to the bathroom, no amount of storage is ever enough. From a spare powder room to your master bath, shelving is an easy way to supplement the room’s available storage space.
Look around your bathroom for vacant walls. If you plan to use your new bathroom shelving primarily as storage, be sure the chosen spot is within reach. A few good mounting locations include above the toilet or bathtub. Hang multiple small shelves rather than one large one to avoid a cluttered appearance.
A floating shelf with a recessed design will keep small bottles and tubes from rolling off. If you’re going to store washcloths or hand towels, look for shelving with built-in hooks or bars. Of course, you can always install your own towel rack to the bottom of your favorite shelves for additional storage in a small bathroom.
12. DIY Wall Shelf Ideas
Chances are, you don’t need anything crazy to give your wall decor a stylish upgrade. Building a DIY shelf out of reclaimed wood or regular lumber is quick and easy if you have a few simple tools.
Technically, all you need for a DIY floating shelf is some brackets and a wooden plank. Keep your new shelf minimalistic or invest in some trendy brackets for support. Building wooden crates or honeycomb shelves from a few pieces of two-by-four will provide even more interesting wall storage.
For a rustic DIY project, display your favorite decor on a pallet shelf. There are tons of great build plans out there for beginners and experienced craftsmen. Pallet wood is affordable and easy to find. Look for reclaimed wood with lots of color and textural variety or give everything a uniform finish with some paint.
13. Office Wall Shelf Ideas
Adding a shelf to your office can help make the space more personal or more functional. When installing wall shelves in a home office, you need to ask yourself whether they will serve as storage or decor first and foremost.
Any shelving you plan to use for additional desk storage should be hung within easy reach of your workspace. Choose shelves that offer plenty of room for storing heavy hardcover books, desktop electronics, and more.
Decorative shelves can be mounted anywhere your office walls need a little livening up. Adorn small shelves with one or two pieces of decor each. If your office can accommodate long, wall-to-wall shelving, space items sporadically for a clean and organized aesthetic.
Wall Shelf FAQs
The general rule of thumb is that wall shelving should be hung at eye level. In most cases, this ranges from between four and six feet from the floor. If you’re hanging multiple shelves, average out the heights to this level.
Of course, you can play around with the height of your wall shelves to spice up your home design. Hanging shelves higher or lower than expected can freshen up your decor as a whole.
You should secure your floating shelves to a wall stud whenever possible. Even if you don’t plan to place heavy decor on your shelving, using a stud will prevent accidents from happening in the future.
If you cannot hang your shelves in a stud for some reason, use heavy-duty drywall anchors for additional support. Avoid placing even moderately heavy decor on drywall-mounted shelving.
A shelf’s span limit is the maximum length an unsupported shelf can be without bowing. Shelf brackets should be placed closer together than this measurement. If you’re building your own floating shelves, look up the recommended span limit for your chosen material.