The Long, Low Shelf Is a Designer Trick That Never Fails

The Long, Low Shelf Is a Designer Trick That Never Fails

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Nancy Mitchell
May 11, 2017

When you spend all day, every day, looking at pictures of interiors, you pick up a few tricks. Here's one of my favorites—something I've spotted in a few different interiors, and that always looks great. As an added bonus, it's cheaper than buying new furniture—and a super easy DIY.

The styling secret I'm referring to? A single long, low shelf. (You can also double or triple these up, as suits your needs and the architecture of the space.) The single shelf, floating a few inches above the floor, has the effect of a console, but with an added visual lightness. Above, you can prop (or hang) paintings and objets d'art. Below the shelf is a good spot for stacks of books (or shoes, or what have you), so you're getting added storage, too.

This particular example, which doubles the number of shelves, is from the Paris apartment of designer Vanessa Bruno seen on Interiors Magasinet a space that, although I discovered it many years ago, continues to be a favorite. The bottom shelf looks to be resting right on the floor, and in this way the two shelves form a sort of un-console, a cabinet without any doors. Besides adding welcome definition to a blank wall, the two shelves provide storage for books on the bottom, and a base for a rotating collection of art on the top.

(Image credit: Stadshem)

This room from Stadshem, via Inspirera Mera, incorporates three shelves, but the idea is the same — the console-that-isn't. The particularly nice thing about displaying art on a shelf like this is that you don't need to commit to any particular combination, and can change things at will as you see fit.

This instance of the long, low shelf, from Charlotte Minty via Interior Junkie, takes advantage of a short wall in an attic bedroom, where traditional furniture just wouldn't fit. Although the bottom shelf floats only a few inches above the floor, this helps to contribute to an overall feeling of lightness.

(Image credit: Char and the City)

This interior from Char and the City is proof that this doesn't just work in the living room. It's also quite nice in a small entryway, where the shelf creates a spot for shoes below and bags above. One thing to keep in mind, especially if you're only going with one or two shelves, is that this look will have the most impact if you pick a shelf with a thicker profile, and one with a concealed mounting bracket, so it almost seems like an extension of the wall. (IKEA's Lack wall shelves are a good example of this.)

(Image credit: Poppytalk)

From Poppytalk, here's another example of the style, although you'll notice, if you look closely, that the shelf has a support on one side, and is probably just a low bench. This is a great way to get the look if you're not allowed to make holes in the wall.

Another method, spotted in Kate Arends' Minneapolis home on The Everygirl, is to use magazines to prop up a shelf. You don't quite get the floating illusion, but the utility is the same.

(Image credit: Lily)

One further no-holes-in-the-wall solution, from Lily, is to pair together a few 1x Kallax shelves. Without hanging anything on the wall, you can still do the movable art display above, and, as a bonus, the Kallax makes a great spot for storing records (or even books).

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