Creative Shelving

This issue isn't just about unusual items that can be used to create shelves, but also about finding unused spaces that can be comfortable places for shelves. Operating on the theory that most of us need far more shelving than we ever have available, creative evaluation of your space for new places to put and use shelves will support better organization. Many people who think they have clutter problems actually have storage problems rather than excess belongings. This is especially true for people who work from their homes.

Let’s consider the different areas of home and office where there are opportunities for shelves in places that might go unnoticed. PLEASE NOTE: we live in earthquake country and all unsecured shelves and unsecured items on them are potentially dangerous. Most shelves should be secured to their walls with anchor bolts into the studs (not as hard as it sounds) and the items on them should be restrained so that they cannot go flying off. If you are not able to properly secure shelves and their contents, you are probably better off not having them. In all situations, safety should outweigh storage considerations.

* Underneath wall-hung cabinets is an area where very shallow shelves can be built, usually without impinging on usable counter space. These shelves are great for small items that you would want to keep handy, such as cooking tools, or ingredients that you use so often that putting them elsewhere wastes time. I use mine for boxes of tea.

* Above the sink you can install shelves that can keep often used items readily available, such as cleaning supplies, cooking tools, or a dish rack.

* Above a work island – giving up some of that most precious space may make it more usable. Of course, any such free-standing shelves need to be especially well-anchored to the counter below.

* Above doorway woodwork you can put very narrow shelves that are good for storing small items. I put up a small-three-shelf unit that allows me to get more of my tea collection out of the cabinets to free up space there.
* Above dressers is often a good place for shelves, particularly if your mirror is located elsewhere. In my bedroom there are two bookshelves that are situated above dressers.

* For the agile, building a loft bed with shelving underneath can create a tremendous amount of storage space, really almost another closet. For the not-so-agile, shelves in the form of a bookcase headboard or above the bed can provide extra storage and display space. Things stored above a bed must be particularly well-secured.

The high humidity in bathrooms prevents them from being good storage areas for anything that can be affected by mildew, which is most things. Still, if you prepared to clean things off at least annually or have a system for keeping humidity down, items in plastic can be stored in bathrooms. Shelves above the window, along the ceiling, below the sink and obviously, above the toilet are all possibilities for storing personal care and cleaning items.

Hallways / foyers
* In houses that have high ceilings, creating an attic-like space with shelves can painlessly add storage without impinging on living areas. As a bonus, if the shelving area is enclosed, the ceiling will be effectively lowered and thus reduce the movement of warm air upwards, keeping you warmer and lowering your heating bill.

* Above filing cabinets – most of you probably heard about this in the workshop, but for those who didn’t, large (4’ x 8’) bookcases can be placed atop two or three drawer lateral files (this arrangement needs a heavy board placed below the bookshelf to protect the filing cabinet top from collapsing, and again, the whole thing needs to be very well secured)

* Above a desk – these areas actually accommodate deeper shelves than most other areas. If you do not have room for a credenza for your printer, fax or other equipment, a shelf or several above your desk can be a way to find the space. Since this equipment may be heavy, good measures to secure them are especially important.

* Above a credenza – this type of furniture lends itself well to being the base for shelves, and solidly built ones can take a good deal of weight, especially if they sit directly on the floor rather than on legs.

* Along ceiling woodwork – the space between the woodwork and the ceiling can accommodate a well-secured shelf with a front barrier that can hold books, plants, or other small, light items

If you are a renter, you may need to get your landlord’s permission before doing some of these installations. They should be an easy sell as, done well, they may increase the value of the property. On the other hand, you may have to agree to take them out and repair the wall if you move out. A small price to pay for increased usability.

Previous | Next

Articles Index

Home | Newsletters and Articles | Services | Workshops | Resources | Contact

Office Organization | Time Management | File Systems | Hoarding

©2009 Gloria Valoris