Explore five smart and stylish wall shelves for the hardest-working rooms in your home.
Photography: Ellie Miller1 of 7
Can shelves bring you inner peace? Of course not, but they can help you better organize your life so that having to locate a pencil doesn’t induce an all-out anxiety attack. The beauty of wall-mounted shelves is that you don’t have to be a furniture maker to install them. All you need, in fact, is planks in the material of your choice (wood, glass, stone—whatever strikes your fancy) and something to hold them up (brackets, standards, or both). So breathe easy—shelf-actualization is within reach.
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Adjustable shelves make it simple to create (and customize) an orderly home office.
This all-in-one piece is especially practical if your home office is little more than a desk nook. The workhorses of the unit are the three steel standards that run vertically on either side of the shelves and down the middle. Once they’re mounted to the wall, it takes seconds to raise or lower bracketed shelves according to your needs. To make this piece, we cut oak plywood planks in three depths: 12 inches for the top three shelves, 8 inches for the shallow shelf just above the desk, and 24 inches for the desk itself and the shelf below it. (The widths are 54 inches and 24 inches.) Then we upgraded the boards by edging each with a strip of leather and adding a copper tack to either end.
Shelving standards, by Elfa, 63", in White; brackets, by Elfa, 7", 10½", and 22½", in White; and Bigso Marten magazine files and boxes, containerstore.com.
Oak plywood shelves, 3/4", homedepot.com.
Heavyweight natural cowhide-leather strips, 3/4", tandyleather.com.
Copper tacks, vandykes.com.
Poly bookends, eggcollective.com.
Hotel desk lamp, atelierdetroupe.com.
Tre 3 chair, suiteny.com.
Photography: Aaron Dyer3 of 7
Show Your True Colors
A fresh coat of paint in an eye-catching hue adds personality to wooden shelves and brackets.
If you like the look of custom-built shelves but don’t like their price point or permanence, consider mounting wooden shelves and brackets. For this laundry-room makeover, we installed open shelves—held up by simple but substantial wooden brackets—then added a rounded wooden edge for a more finished look and placed a plank on top of the washer and dryer to create an even surface for folding. Each piece was covered with semigloss paint (easier to clean than matte) for a unified appearance. Extra touches like shelf dividers and a rod for storing hangers make organizing easy. The result: a bright and clean space that only looks custom-made.
MDF panels, 3/4" by 4' by 8'; and pine half-round moldings, 3/8" by 3/4" by 96", homedepot.com.
Lancaster Shaker brackets, osbornewood.com.
Plush bath towels, by Martha Stewart Collection, in White, macys.com.
9100 Series washer and dryer, samsung.com.
Photography: Aaron Dyer4 of 7
Find a Suitable Match
Allow the surroundings to dictate the materials.
For a seamless design in this kitchen, we chose marble shelves to match the countertop. Such shelving can be expensive when you factor in having the stone cut to size, but we were able to make ours affordable by using precut marble windowsills. (If you prefer slimmer shelves, marble door saddles are also a great option.) We paired the shelves with contemporary brass brackets and limited the items stored on them to a palette of black, white, metallic, and neutral tones for an effortlessly chic, pulled-together effect.
Large Strap shelf brackets, in Aged Brass, rejuvenation.com.
Polished-marble windowsills, 36" by 10", in White Gray, marblethresholds.com.
Kaikado tea canisters, tortoisegeneralstore.com.
Spices and salt, marchsf.com.
Photography: Aaron Dyer5 of 7
Get a Fresh Start
Sometimes all it takes is a tiny tweak to turn a common design into an uncommonly cool piece.
Glass shelves are popular in the bathroom for good reason: They’re a breeze to clean and can handle spills and steam with ease. For a more stylish take on clear shelving, opt for milk-glass shelves to match your tub and tile. Ours are nine inches deep—narrow enough that they don’t jut out too much from the wall, but deep enough to hold necessary toiletries. (Standard shelving sizes are between 8 and 12 inches.) If you can’t find the size you need, consult a local glass fabricator.
Shelves, 9" by 30" by 1/4", in Pure White With Polished Edges, capitolglassnyc.com.
Shelf hangers, by Ferm Living, in Gray, danishdesignstore.com.
Quick-Dry towels, by Martha Stewart Collection, in White Chalk, macys.com.
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This simple gridlike system is modular shelving at its chicest.
You needn’t hide things away in a closet when your entryway is this attractive and organized. We simply cut 10-inch dowels and screwed them into the wall, spaced evenly (each pair is 16 inches apart), then placed a few store-bought shelves on them. We also mounted five-inch dowels for hanging umbrellas and such. The beauty of this grid system is that you can add and subtract shelves as you please. Need more storage for mail? Pop in another shelf! Guests coming? Take away a couple for extra space to hang coats.
Sand melamine shelves, 8" by 24", containerstore.com.
Dowels, 1 1/4" by 72"; and Seneca 5-piece framed mirror set, by Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com.
Woven rush bench, by Smilow Design, suiteny.com.
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Find a Fastener
If you can’t attach the brackets or standards to studs, then it’s imperative to use anchors or bolts that spread out once they’re in the wall to create a strong hold. The type of fastener you should use depends on the type of wall you have. For lightweight shelving, like that on this page, use screw-in anchors for drywall, or plastic sleeves that accept #8 screws for plaster walls. For bookshelves and other heavy-duty shelves, like the ones we installed in the laundry room, use molly bolts or toggle bolts for both drywall and plaster. For more information about different kinds of fasteners, go to marthastewart.com/wall-anchors.