Selecting Shelves as a Storage or Display Option

You may have an office, you need to get organized.  Or you may have a collection of items you would like to display in your home.  Using shelves is a reliable way of storing and displaying items.  You can easily see most items using various types of shelves.  You need to decide which shelf option or combination best fits your needs and is most cost effective for you.  The different type of shelves include built-in, freestanding (both closed-sided and open-sided), cabinets, and modular.

Built-in shelves
If you want shelves are built-in or on the wall, you must make sure shelf frames or brackets are securely attached to wall and shelves are correctly in place before putting items on them.  If it is not secure, it can easily be tipped and fall, which may break items or hurt people. Whether your shelves are wall-hung or freestanding do not overload them as this can cause shelve bowing of the shelf and potential safety problems.   To reduce errors or prevent yourself and others from using the shelves for purposes other than your primary need, consider labeling them.  You can group items on the shelves by category or title and then label the shelves with what should be stored on each shelf or section of a shelf.  

Freestanding – solid-sided shelves
If you want freestanding units instead of nails or screws in the wall, be sure to place heavier items on bottom shelves to anchor the unit and lighter items on top to prevent tilting.  If your freestanding shelves do not look very stable, then you should consider bolting them to the wall for extra stability.  An advantage of freestanding shelves, especially those with solid sides, may be placing them back-to-back as a way to create more storage space in a small area.  Additionally, shelf units with solid backs may be useful as room dividers.  Bolting freestanding units together may increase stability, but may reduce flexibility for moving them around later on.  If the shelves are far apart and items to be stored are short, consider getting an extra shelf to put into units that are adjustable. If shelves are not adjustable, creation of additional space may be possible with the addition of hanging or stackable shelving units or baskets and trays placed between the shelves.

Freestanding - open-sided shelves
If open sides are not a problem for your storage needs, metal shelving or a baker’s rack can make a nice freestanding shelf unit.  This is especially true where shelves will be holding other types of containers that may hold office or art supplies.  Purchased baker’s racks may have wider shelves at the bottom so they are more stable or they may include wine racks at the top.  Wider shelves make it easier to have larger storage bins or baskets beneath.  The wine racks work well for rolling and storing large documents that will not fit in a file folder without folding, such as drawings or posters.  Baker’s racks are often more ornate and decorative than wooden shelves.  This makes them especially nice in areas that are seen by others.  However, these racks are sometimes too wide open on the shelves for all types of storage use.  This can be fixed by putting a thin board or cardboard over the shelf that will be covered by the items being stored or displayed. 

Cabinets
Cabinets are merely shelves or drawer units with doors to cover the items you choose to store there.  When deciding where to place cabinets, be sure to allow enough space to fully open the doors.   If you cannot open the doors completely, it will make opening drawers or removing large items harder.  Using cabinets make labeling neater because the outside of the drawer or the edge of the shelf can have labels that are visible when a door is open and hidden when it is closed.  If cabinets are not available and hiding items is still desirable, you can create closed or hidden areas using wall or corner shelving covered by curtains, screens, dividers, or special panels. 

Modular (or Cube) shelving
If you find yourself moving or rearranging your work area often, then bolting things to the wall or each other will only hinder that process. For other shelving possibilities, may want to keep things modular for flexibility in use and movement.  Modular units may allow for growth or decrease in space or work needs.  Modular shelving includes wooden or plastic units and cubes.  These are very functional for creating a shelf or wall unit for quick customization of your storage space.  These come in a variety of sizes that can accommodate music, books, and other objects.  These modular units have the extra advantage of being easily configurable to an unusual space and are often portable if need be.   Be sure to check the stack of modules for security and safety before loading materials on them.  Then check them again after the units are full to be sure they will remain in place.


In post Options to Consider for Shelving Book Clutter basic books were discussed.  If you want to store more floppy items such as magazines, pamphlets, catalogs or other non-book items, these may be better suited to drawers.  However, they may be stacked on shelves or a better method is to use a magazine holder to keep them upright in shelves as if they were a book.  Another idea is to use boxes or bins to lay them in so the entire thing can be pulled out to allow for finding the magazine or catalog that you need.  See also Storing Items using Bins, Baskets, Boxes, or Plastic Tubs for ideas on how to arrange for storing loose items on your shelves or work surface.

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