Shelves are the simplest, least expensive, and most versatile type of storage you can buy. Your choice should depend on practical considerations, such as strength and adaptability, as well as on good looks.

It’s tempting to imagine that the first item a caveman invented was a shelf. At the very least, he would certainly have utilized any fiat ledge in the cave to store his tools and cooking pots. Finding somewhere to keep all your possessions, and leave space for your future belongings, is still an ongoing challenge in any home. To solve any shortage of storage and space, a combination of functional and decorative shelving is an attractive solution.

There are basically two main types of shelving to choose from – fixed, wall-mounted systems, including self-assembly kits, all-in-one bracket-and-shelf units and built-in shelves, and freestanding, movable units. Shelving is made in a variety of materials to suit all tastes and budgets. The least expensive are the sturdy metal, wooden, and plastic systems designed for offices and garages. Medium-priced shelving is often made from particleboard with a wipe-clean melamine coating or hardwood veneer. Solid timber and glass or clear acrylic shelving costs a little more.

Before deciding on the best type of shelving for your budget, you should assess what you want to store. Your choice of shelving needs to take into account practicalities such as load-bearing capacity as well as how well the shelves fit in with your decor. Most manufacturers provide guidelines on this, but always ask for information if you need it.

Take a look around your home for any under-exploited spaces – alcoves, under the stairs, or over doorways or windows, for instance – where you could fit a shelf or two. Accessibility is important too, both in terms of where the shelves are situated and how you arrange items on them. Frequently used items need to be within easy reach. Deep shelves are rarely an advantage, as the last thing you want is to be constantly moving one row of things so you can reach another.

Wall-Mounted Shelves

There are three distinct types of wall-fixed shelving: self-assembly kits, lightweight all-in-one bracket-and-shelf units, and shelving built into alcoves. Most home supply stores stock a wide range of shelf boards, tracks, and brackets. Useful accessories include clip-on book ends, grooved shelves for displaying plates, and corner shelves that enable you to run a continuous length of shelving around a room. Wall-mounted shelving is either set or adjustable. If you are reasonably sure that the contents of your shelves won’t change, there is little point in buying adjustable shelving. However, if you think you may want to extend the shelving or alter its function over time, an adjustable system is the most practical.