Your Living Room Shelf Belongs in Your Bedroom, and Here’s Why

published Jul 7, 2024
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A pink and white hotel room
Credit: Chad Wadsworth

I never met a shelf I didn’t like — floating, built-in, installed up high or way down low, nestled into a corner. Many of life’s storage woes can be solved, at least partially, by adding shelving to the equation, whether it’s out in the open or behind closed doors. And just when I thought I’d seen it all, from shelving above a doorway to shelving above a radiator, I discovered yet another unexpected and somewhat stealthy spot for a shelf, thanks to a recent trip I took to Mexico City. There, at the Hotel San Fernando, the Austin-based hotel group Bunkhouse‘s super-stylish property completed with the design firm Reurbano, I saw something unexpected and new: A long, mostly hidden shelf installed right behind the bed’s wooden headboard.

Credit: Danielle Blundell

This is a brilliant design move for a few reasons. Shelves tend to be far less deep than benches, for example. So in a bedroom that’s tight, you probably can’t sacrifice the 12 to 18 inches you’d need to have a bench at the foot of the bed and still be able to walk around easily. And shallow benches don’t really do much. So placing a shelf that’s, say, 8 to 10 inches deep right behind the headboard allows you to eke out just enough space for things like a glass of water, a book, an alarm clock — really any bedside essentials you want to store or keep hidden without messing up the flow of a space.

The beds at Hotel San Fernando have a very modern, boxy, almost platform-like construction. So the team at Bunkhouse and Reurbano were able to seamlessly extend that shape with a hidden shelf that ran nearly the entire length of the bed wall of the room. It was just a simple slab of wood that was mounted at about the same height as the top of the bed frame’s headboard, which not only concealed most of the shelf for a clean, streamlined appearance, but also made it very easy to reach things on it when lying in bed. The shelf extended about 12 to 15 inches on each side of the bed, effectively creating very small space-friendly built-in nightstands for lamps. And its edge was painted green for a fun pop of color, but you could paint the shelf the same color as your walls if you wanted it to recede in space.

To complete this project at home, all you’d have to do is find some material for a shelf and then scoot your bed out its depth from the wall and mount it. Play around with the mounting height, knowing that the shelf is best fully concealed by your headboard, unless you want to use it for nightstands, as it was in Hotel San Fernando. It’d be a space-saving hack I’d be willing to try in any small bedroom for a bit of extra storage. As I said before, I’ve never met a shelf I didn’t like.