Small Space Secrets: Swap Out Your Bookcases for Wall Mounted Shelving

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

When you’re living in a small space, every detail counts. But sometimes those little things — the things that elevate a place from not quite right to effortlessly chic — can be hard to identify. Our first bit of advice? Swap your freestanding bookshelves for wall-mounted shelving.

(Image credit: Lovely Life)

It’s an approach that was recommended by Maxwell in his “Apartment Therapist” column for Better Homes & Gardens. Wall-mounted shelving systems, he points out, sit closer to the wall, so they take up less floor space. They can also hold more things than a traditional bookcase because you can install them all the way to the ceiling. In the photo above, from Lovely Life via Style Serendipity, wall mounted shelves pack a lot of storage into a corner of the living room.

(Image credit: Stadshem)

Built-in shelving also works well if you have baseboards that would prevent a free-standing bookshelf from sitting flush against the wall. In the image above, from Stadshem via Freshhome, wall-mounted shelves maximize storage space at the end of a hallway.

Searching for sources for shelving? Check out our shopping guide here.

(Image credit: La Maison d’Anna G)

There are other advantages to this approach, too. Shelves the same color as the wall (like these in an interior from La Maison d’Anna G) make for much less visual clutter than a freestanding bookcase. They have a “built in” feel, and add a little architecture to the space.

(Image credit: Source)

Wall mounted shelves are good for maximizing unusually shaped spaces where other furniture wouldn’t fit, like this little niche in Mireille and Simon’s Unique and Unified Berlin Apartment.

(Image credit: Skona Hem)

You can also use them to take advantage of the space above a piece of furniture, like a desk or dresser, or in this case, a sofa. Image from Skona Hem, via French by Design.

(Image credit: Petra Bindel)

The height of the shelves can be adjusted to accommodate whatever it is you want to put on them — shorter shelves for CDs and paperbacks, taller shelves for larger format books like reference volumes and art books. You can even make some room on your shelves for filing boxes or magazine files, as in this photo from Petra Bindel.

(Image credit: Source)

Here’s a creative shelving arrangement that uses a deeper shelf at bottom to create a sort of bench. The bench can serve as extra seating for parties, or as a display space, as in this photo from Domino.

(Image credit: Nordic Bliss)

In this space (from Nordic Bliss), the bottom shelf is raised above the floor so that the floor itself is the bottom shelf, maximizing storage space on the lower shelves. In this system books on the upper shelves are turned towards the room, so their covers become a part of the decor. Limiting the arrangement to mostly monochromatic covers keeps things from getting too visually overwhelming.

Of course, this is an approach that requires a little bit of commitment — and a landlord who’s amenable to you hanging things on the walls. But we think it’s worth it for the way shelves like these save space and create a minimal, custom look. (And of course, don’t forget to use a stud finder when you hang your shelves, or you may be in for some not so pleasant surprises later.)

Is this something you would try at home?