No matter how much home renovations may get more modern or smarter or technology may advance, there are a few things that you most likely won’t be able to get rid of altogether. Different types of shelves are a great example of this, and they’ve been in use for hundreds of years. Shelves are a must-have in virtually any household because they help you keep your rooms tidy and neat by giving you a space to store your clothing, books, plants, and dozens of other items that would be scattered around the floor.
Along with giving you storage space to help keep the house organized, different types of shelves also let you decorate the house by proudly displaying your pretty adornments or ornaments that you would normally stash safely away.
We’re going to outline 16 sturdy types of shelves that you can put in your house. It’s not possible to cover every type of shelf in existence, but we’ve picked out the most common ones most people choose to have. You can find the perfect type of shelf for your space, no matter if it’s small or large below.
Virtually every home has at least one type of shelf or more to help hold belongings and keep treasured things safe and secure. Bookshelves by Nina Hale / CC BY 2.0
1. Adjustable Slotted Shelves
This type of shelf is a storage system that has brackets, vertical rails, and the shelf component. As the name may have led you to believe, it’s one of the most flexible storage options you can get as a homeowner. When you buy it, it comes in a kit form that has all of the necessary parts so that you can easily put it together.
First, you have to fix the vertical rails to the wall at a specific distance so that the shelf fits nicely between them. After you secure the rails to your wall, you can put the brackets in whichever slots you want as long as they’re in the same bracket on the other rail. The rails come with holes or slots that you can clip or insert the brackets in.
The brackets have an inverted L shape to them, and they’re very similar to a fixed bracket shelving system. You can think of adjustable slotted shelves as a sub-category of fixed bracket types of shelves. On a fixed bracket system, you can’t adjust the shelves once you install them. The adjustable variety allows you to move the shelf down or up on the rails as you need.
The adjustable shelves usually feature a light metal design, but you can source wooden slabs too. However, the rails and brackets are usually aluminum or steel to give the shelving unit durability and strength. Different manufacturers and designers have adjustable slotted shelving units in different sizes and styles to allow you to find the one that matches your needs. The parts aren’t normally interchangeable though.
The shelving systems work well in garages because the ability to remove, add, or move the racks individually allow you to be very flexible when you house items like gardening equipment, tool boxes, and smaller household items.
2. Bathroom and Closet Shelves
A nice way to add a lot of functionality and style to your room is to add types of shelves to the closet or bathroom. Closet shelves are a specialized unit that fits inside of your wardrobe or you can customize it in order to fit specific dimensions. The shelves can get divided more to create compartments to neatly store all of your smaller items like your wallet, jewelry, accessories, or watches.
Also, bathroom shelves get used to hold daily essentials like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, and soap. A typical type of shelf in the bathroom will get installed beside or underneath the wall mirror. However, if this isn’t enough space for you to store all of your items like washed towels, then you can choose different shelving units that fit your space requirements and taste. Modern bathroom designs with open types of shelves are a very common choice, so you shouldn’t forget to add shelves if you’re trying to create an inspiring bathroom.
3. Bedroom Shelves
Different types of shelves are important to install in the bathroom for several different reasons. First, they give you a space to store a lot of different accessories and odds and ends like books, a clock, magazines, and any decorative pieces that you want to have adorn your room to showcase your unique tastes.
There is a broad range of bedroom shelves available to choose from, and the most common type of shelves you’ll see in the bedroom include wall-mounted open shelves, standalone bookcases, headboard shelves, and floating shelves in a range of sizes. When you pick out a shelving unit for your bedroom, you should keep how large the bedroom is in mind, whether or not the shelving material will match your design, and what you want to put on the shelf.
Having a shelving unit or two in your bedroom is a great way to store some items out of the way while making sure that you can still keep an eye on them. Shelf by momentsinphoto / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4. Built-In Shelves
Built-in types of shelves are slightly simpler than many other options on the list, but they’re a highly functional piece that gives you ample amounts of storage space without having a cluttered look or feel. As the name suggests, built-in shelving units are shelves that get built right into empty spaces or corners of your home. For example, alcoves are popular areas to install these types of shelves because it takes advantage of what would be dead space.
This is one of the most simple shelving units you can get because, more often than not, all you have to do is install a few horizontal planks of wood in a recess in your wall to create them. However, if you want a more sophisticated and refined look, you can buy shelves that get specially built for this purpose, or you can order a customized one to fit perfectly into your indented walls.
If you want to maximize all of the storage space in your home, built-in shelves are the go-to option. You can put them in a recess beside your chimney breast, in alcoves, below or above protruding wall cabinets, or in any small open space that isn’t very practical to use for something else.
5. Corner Shelves
A lot of homeowners don’t realize it but corner types of shelves are a great way to capitalize on your home’s storage space. The shelves come in a wide variety of designs and styles, and they can be adjustable so that you can fit them into different areas with ease. In other instances, you can customize these shelves to fit your exact preferences.
Corner shelves can feature metal, plastic, solid wood, or they can be laminated or engineered wood for a higher durability factor and a longer life. They can also be a wall-hang style so that you can put them right alongside your cabinets, or they can be floor-based. This design means that you can install them in corners like those in a wardrobe to help increase your storage space. There are three main types of corner shelves, including:
Angular Corner Shelf
This corner shelf is slightly smaller and very similar to a curved corner shelf. However, angular shelves have well-defined and sharp cuts in the racks while curved shelves come with a gentle and smooth curvature. They usually feature an isosceles triangle form, and this means that the two front corners are 45-degree angles while the back angle is 90-degrees. This allows the overall rack to fit in the outside and inside corner for stability. It is possible to find a more asymmetrically angled corner shelf if this suits your tastes better.
Right-Angled Corner Shelf
A 90-degree shelf or a right-angled shelf is the most basic shelf in this category, and you create it by joining two racks or pieces of shelving at right angles to one another. This is a perpendicular assembly process that is very popular with homeowners because it’s one of the least expensive types of shelves to get. It’s also very easy to make with a few key tools, and this allows you to DIY.
Rotating Corner Shelf
Whoever invented this type of shelf knew how to take advantage of unused space while making sure that you could easily reach everything you store on it. The clever design is one way to leverage every square inch of space you have between two bigger items or in corners. The corner types of shelves come with a rotating surface or turntable that is very similar to a Lazy Susan design because it has shelves that spin on a fixed base.
These shelves don’t normally get sold as single units. Instead, they come as part of a bigger assembly that includes rotating shelves or a bulky shelving system that features this shelf in the corner. The unit typically gets divided into four parts, and you can spin in manually to reach different sections.
6. Floating Shelves
Floating types of shelves are one of the most stylish and classy shelving systems you can get. You may hear them referred to as torsion-box shelves, and they give you a very unique way to store your items in a very organized manner. They also double as decorative pieces on your wall.
These shelves are very similar to suspended shelves or fixed bracket modes in the sense that you can pick out different shapes and designs. You also have to secure them to your drywall. The biggest difference that sets floating shelves apart from any other type and that makes them the more preferable choice is that unlike fixed shelving units where you use screws and nails to attach the shelf to the wall that are clearly visible, floating shelves hide the hanging equipment. This is what gives these shelves the faux impression that they’re floating without any hardware attaching them to the wall.
Another important feature of this type of shelf is that they usually feature engineered wood that give them a fancier and more refined look. The assembly process gets supported by internal screws, brackets, or nails that hold the different racks in place. You use them to mount the whole system to the wall. LIke most shelf types, floating shelves come in a large range of sizes, colors, and styles. Along with being a nice storage option, they also work well as an interior decoration for your walls.
Floating shelves double as unique decor pieces in whatever room you choose to install them in, but they can be frustrating to get hung up. Stitched TV room pic by Gil Garcia / CC BY-NC 2.0
7. Free-Standing Shelves
Unlike a lot of the types of shelves on the list that you have to fix or mount to a surface in some way, free-standing shelving units don’t need to have attachment points to the wall at all. As the name suggests, the storage units are ready to use when you get it. It’s typically an open storage option, but you can find these shelves with doors attached to help hide whatever you’re storing on the shelves.
Depending on the availability and use, you can pick out free-standing shelves that feature both closed and open sections. Not only are these types of shelves very functional, but they also have a very modern look and feel to them. They allow you to proudly display your decorative accessories and small items to improve the whole look of your space.
The thing that makes this type of shelf the most popular storage option is the fact that they bring a huge amount of flexibility to your space in terms of placement and use. Are you planning on upgrading your desk and you need to make space in your room? Maybe your kids are all grown up and you don’t need bigger types of shelves to store all of their toys. No matter if it comes with wheels attached or not, it’s relatively easy to pick up this shelving unit and move it from one room to another at will.
You can get this type of shelf in a huge range of designs, materials, shapes, styles, and sizes. There are cube-shaped bookcases, shelves, and smaller cupboards available that are free-standing shelving units. So, no matter what your current needs are, you can find the free-standing shelf type that will meet your requirements and taste.
8. Glass Shelves
Glass shelves are nowhere near as durable as more traditional wooden types of shelves, but they’re just as popular for shelving units in the house because they have a higher amount of visual appeal. Glass shelves are very common in modern bathroom designs because they can easily bear lighter weight loads while giving you a shiny touch. However, it’s also possible to put glass types of shelves in living rooms or the bedroom to place varying ornaments and small vases on to create focal points.
9. Hanging Shelves
Hanging types of shelves are one way to display and store your items in a very eye-catching manner. As the name suggests, you hang these shelves from a high surface, including the ceiling itself, or from the bottom of another unit or cabinet that gets installed at a specific height. A lot of people choose to have these shelves installed with transparent glass doors above the kitchen island or in the kitchen to increase the storage space and create a unique look.
This is also a common type of shelf that you see in classrooms and garages because they allow you to house certain items that would otherwise clutter up the space or be laying around. Stationary, magazines, books, and other tools can easily go on this shelf and stay accessible when you need them. However, you should note that hanging shelves can’t go on lightweight walls. You also have to pay attention to the maximum weight they can safely hold so you don’t accidentally cause the shelf to fall under the weight.
10. Kitchen Shelves
No kitchen is truly complete with enough storage space. Kitchen cabinets and cupboards can go a long way with giving you space, a good shelving system with different types of shelves can help you take your kitchen functionality and design to a different level. A contemporary kitchen design is very popular, and they’re known for utilizing open storage shelving units.
Elongated and sleek shelves that take up a significant portion of the wall are gaining popularity in modern kitchens. They help to maximize your space, and they can add a large amount of shine or luster to the space. You won’t have to worry about keeping all of your beautiful crockery and china hidden away, and you can use them as chic interior decor.
A lot of open-style kitchen designs also have nails and hooks on the bottom where you can hang pans and pots to transform your kitchen into a modern space with fun character. Other popular types of shelves for the kitchen include hanging shelves, corner shelves, and wall-mounted shelves.
Having a few shelves in your kitchen gives you a nice place to store your pots and pans so they’re in easy reach. Pots and pans by Tim Dawson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
11. Metal Shelves
Metal and steel types of shelves give you resilient and tough shelving options that are a lot easier to maintain and clean compared to glass or wooden options. They can hold a decent amount of weight, and this is why they’re very popular to use in commercial kitchens or offices as well as warehouses and retail shops. In the average home, adding a metal shelf or two is popular in the kitchen to hold heavy pans and pots.
You should note that metal shelves are more common in different areas of your home than steel shelving units. You may have an ornamental and sleek metal shelf in your living room that look very trendy while it’s common to have adjustable metal shelves in store rooms, garges, and laundry rooms.
12. Pantry Shelves
Any pantry type of shelf is usually a pull-out shelf that looks a lot like a drawer. However, pantry pull-out shelving units are usually much more open to help give you much better visibility and ease of access when you need your seeds and nuts for your cooking. If you’re someone who routinely goes to get a specific food item in your pantry only to find that it’s expired, this is the type of shelf you want to consider. These shelves help to ensure that bottles, food cans, cereal boxes, sauce packets, and other food items stay in your view and don’t sit forgotten in the back of the pantry to expire.
Having these shelves allo the items to get neatly stacked while ensuring that nothing gets hidden in the back corners of the pantry. The shelves usually have scalloped edges or handles so that you can slide them in and out without any difficulty. Other popular pantry shelves include sliding and freestanding units or rotating fixtures and door shelves that you can put in the empty, small spaces in your kitchen.
13. Plastic Shelves
While most people prefer to have metal or wood for their types of shelving both large and small, plastic shelves are very common for use as storage units in children’s rooms and for different storage dividers and home organization kits. You can use plastic shelves in the house for specific purposes like a small bookshelf, shoe storage, or a magazine stand.
14. Pull-Out Shelves
This is a relatively lesser-known type of shelf, but it’s been around for a long time. These shelving units refer to a rack or a shelf that gets installed using sliders mounted on both sides. You’ll see them a lot in closets, tables, or in any other shelving unit rather than a standalone unit.
You can picture these shelves by imagining a flat surface with no side walls that you can easily pull out. For example, some office desks have a portion that you can slide back and forth that houses the mouse and keyboard. Based on the intended use and the construction, you can divide them into more categories.
15. Suspended Shelves (Fixed Bracket)
Fixed bracket types of shelves are one of the oldest shelves in use, and they’re just as popular today as they were decades ago. As you’d get from the name, they have individual brackets that you fix to a surface where you want to put your shelf. Typically, the brackets have an inverted L shape and are made out of metal. They get secured to the wall or any vertical surface you choose before adding the shelving by laying it across the brackets.
Some types of shelves can overlap, and this is the case with fixed bracket shelving. This category is often a catch-all that includes a range of open storage shelves, bookshelves, cube shelves, and anything you can attach to the wall using a bracket system. You can use it to store different items, and it can be considered one standalone unit or it can have a combination of two or more shelves put very close together to create a multi-unit storage space.
The reason these types of shelves are so common in living rooms, bedrooms, or offices is because they’re highly versatile. They come in a huge range of materials like wood, metal, plastic, and more, and they feature different styles. You can buy these shelves as is, and they’ll come pre-assembled and ready to attach. You can also purchase racks, brackets, and shelves of your choice and put them together by yourself.
16. Wooden Shelves
Wood is one of the most widely used and popular materials when it comes to various types of shelves to install in your home. The reason behind this popularity is that wood is very durable, and it can give your space a very sophisticated look that other materials can’t match. You can combine wood types of shelves with other materials or process it in different ways to match your needs.
For example, plywood has a reputation for offering a hard, strong surface that has a neat finish, and it’s a very economical option. Solid pine lumber has a reputation for being very sturdy and beautiful. Engineered wood is quickly becoming sought-after due to the properties that include a longer life with an attractive appearance. Wooden shelves are very popular in bookcases, but you can also find them used in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and other spaces in your home.
We’ve outlined 16 types of shelves that you can consider adding in your home. You can go with all of one type or mix and match in various rooms in your home to get enough storage space for all of your items.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.